Noel Coward, Bieber-stalkers, & Mercer Hall

28 May

I know it seems like I’m the grumpy gourmand who’s always unimpressed BUT I promise, this post  has nice things to say about (at least) one establishment in Stratford. Mr. HoM and I were in Canada’s capital of the-ater (aka: Bieber’s hometown … a moniker which throws water in the face of the city that has tried so hard to build itself around great plays!) this weekend taking in some Noel Coward (Blithe Spirit). I have always wanted to see some NC; something about the ornate costumes (swishy narrow dresses and tweed!) and clipped accents.

The ho-hum: The selection of food in the downtown core overall was unspectacular: bars, greasy spoons, and a a variety of different international themed restaurants. We tried to hit up Monforte Dairy’s new resto on Wellington (best cheeses in Ontario?!) but most establishments closed at around 10 (evening plays ended at 11:00). Post-play, we had a choice between Bentley’s (they do nicer pub fare like a grilled cheese on olive bread … but Mr. HoM cannot not abide by them) and Pazzo Pizzeria. We chose Bentley’s but it was only okay. They serve their glasses of wine in generous goblets. The brie fritters were delectable (served with a blueberry compote!)

The real star of this post is Mercer Hall – we read about this tiny resto/ inn a couple months back when we were planning our get-away and completely forgot about it when we arrived. We stumbled upon it accidentally after other restos on the main-strip (Ontario St.) boasted 30 minute waits!! Clementine doesn’t wait.

Mr. HoM ordered fried chicken and waffles (comes with a choice of 1, 2 or three pieces for portion control-freaks). I ordered PEI mussels in a roasted fennel and lemon cream broth and a side order of the coleslaw (made with green apples!). I was tempted by the MH Feature Benny – if I was gonna break my bad luck with mediocre eggs it would be here – but I asked our server for her suggestion and she suggested the shellfish. It would have been a jerky move to order the opposite, right?

The PEI mussels were tender and the broth was bright and rich. The toasted french baguette which accompanied this rustic dish made for a delightful crunch. The apple in the slaw was a lovely twist on a conventional salad-type dish. Mr. HoM’s southern classic was equally mouth-watering: featuring two pieces of boneless chicken (breast?) on two slightly darker than golden waffles. The BBQ sauce had a great tangy kick. Really, I could have just finished his meal but that would have been unladylike.

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La piece de resistance: the dessert of the moment — a meringue filled with rhubarb compote topped with a rhubarb sorbet. I never knew what rhubarb tasted like on its own — it’s usually a side note that accompanies other berries. On it’s own, it has a complex tartness. I’m a fan. The rhubarb’s varied shades of rose (on a stark white plate) also looked fantastic. I’m only sorry that you, dear readers, might never be able to taste this fine dessert as it was the special that weekend. If you’re in town, you should definitely request it from the kitchen!

The hilarious: No weekend in Stratford is complete unless you meet some Bieber-stalkers. We met ours at our B&B – a mother and daughter duo from upstate NY who visit every year in hopes of bumping into the heart-throb … as well as attend plays, they assured us. They even befriended locals for intel and planned to visit Justin’s home to deliver a 5-page handwritten letter! I hope they didn’t get arrested. They were sweet.

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