Eigensinn Farm: farm-to-table food sex (GUEST POST)

21 Jun

We’re excited to feature a guest-post from our foodie-at-large, MCyyz. Warning: it’s about to get hot in here!

A culinary orgasm is a priceless gem.  It can make paying $300 for a meal seem completely reasonable, and positively cheap when multiple orgasms are experienced in a relatively short period of time. Eigensinn Farm is a magical establishment where Michael Stadtländer and his team provide culinary ecstasy to twelve lucky people a night.

According to conventional wisdom, a great experience can elevate forgettable fare and a subpar ambience can all but ruin fine food.  When exceptionally executed food meets a fantastic atmosphere, the result can be life-changing.  Michael understands this adage and, together with his wife, son and crew of apprentices, he has created the perfect setting for experiencing the fruits of their labour.  The remoteness of his farm has no doubt helped him to build the perfect dining adventure.  It’s notoriously difficult to secure a seat, because they open when they feel like it and they only take reservations three months in advance.  If you do get one, getting there and back can be daunting.  The farm is located in Grey County near Singhampton, which is two hours northwest of Toronto and where Mennonites and livestock are the dominant population.  You either have to find a place to stay or pay a fortune for the longest taxi ride of your life.  These two factors, taken together, make the company in which you dine inevitably passionate about great food.  This collective passion means that the air is thick with the quasi-sexual satisfaction that comes from almost four hours of gorging on food and drink that stimulate every human sensation.  Even the most ardent non-smoker will yearn for a cigarette.

This carnal food-derived pleasure must be familiar to Michael, if the bathroom art is any indication.  The crude caricature of a woman pleasuring herself placed in perfect view opposite the toilet is a cheeky reminder of what you yourself are going through.  It’s one of many examples of the thought that’s gone into every little detail.  Michael has also managed to put together a number of secondary conversation starters that complement the inevitable discussion about the food.  He makes his own plates. You can pick your own whimsical, animal-shaped decanter.  The dining room is separated from the kitchen by a curtain made entirely of champagne corks.  Part way through our meal, one of the apprentices came in wearing a headlamp and started grilling the next course in the massive fireplace.  Every now and then, you notice something new, and you slowly begin to realize the extent of the effort that’s been put into Eigensinn Farm.

The buzzing atmosphere and stimulating decor do not detract from the star of the night: the food. Even before you get to the farmhouse, your taste buds are teased by an email from Michael’s wife. Along with the menu, she wrote of what the apprentices had dug up under the snow in the garden that morning.  Whether by accident or by design, what they found ended up in several dishes, an unmistakeable expression of how dedicated Michael is to freshness and to the proper seasonal use of ingredients.

The amuse-gueules set the tone for the rest of the meal by awakening all your senses, as any good first course should do.  From an impossibly fresh Quadra Island oyster to aged ham made from pigs raised so close by that you could almost smell them, the first plate ensured that we could appreciate all the different flavours that came our way.  It was the first indication of the masterful marriage of inventiveness and respect for ingredients, which became more and more apparent with every course.

Once we got past the amuse-gueules, our taste buds were treated to not one but three culinary crescendos.  The seafood, “pig” and dessert courses were skilfully punctuated by a palate cleanser and cheese board, both of which gave our senses just enough time to recharge before the next onslaught of flavours.  The perfectly pan-fried pickerel and perch showcased Michael’s depth of knowledge of his ingredients.  With a simple, clean and well-executed technique, Michael managed to push the texture and flavour profiles of the humble white fish much further than most chefs.  The bright and herbaceous salad of trout leaves, dandelion and other greens that were quite literally picked off the forest floor was a reminder of the kitchen’s innovative talents.

The “pig” course can have no other name in my mind, because we were served delicious representatives of every part of a piglet that, judging by the flavours, led a brief but joyous existence.  This is when we were treated to the fireplace grilling spectacle – an apprentice skewered and seared over the coals what turned out to be the silky, tender head meat of the little porker.  Elsewhere on the plate, the sausage had a velvety smooth texture unlike any other sausage I had ever encountered.  The pork chop was a study in contrasting textures, with an unexpectedly crispy sheath of skin, reminiscent of crackling, around the moist, tender meat.  This particular course was perhaps the greatest showcase of Michael’s ability to use every part of an animal and to bring to the fore the best that each part has to offer in terms of both flavour and texture.

In many meals, the desserts can easily play the role of wallflower, coming and going without much attention paid.  However, in this case, the two dessert courses were truly a reward for those whose palates had the stamina to survive six deeply satisfying waves of food and the wine that went with them.  The roughly hewn log of wood on which they were presented was a playful departure from normal plating methods (i.e., using a plate).  However, what was on the log showed that the kitchen’s commitment to flavour was just as serious as ever.  The highlight was the Macallan’s 12-year old ice cream.  As a lover of scotch, this item was the third culinary crescendo of the day, and perhaps the most welcome at the end of a long shift at the dining table.  For the first time ever, I was able to have my digestif and eat it too.

Eigensinn Farm is not for the faint of heart or the culinarily feeble.  If your idea of the perfect meal is a decent steak in a dimly lit old boys club, this place isn’t for you.  If, on the other hand, you have the passion and stamina necessary, you will be handsomely rewarded with a flurry of foodgasms and a sweet, happy ending that will make you completely forget the expense and effort that it took to get to the table.



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