The Willow on Wascana

May29

We consider Regina and Saskatchewan like a second home.  D (my husband) is here frequently on business and I once made the jaunt from Winnipeg on a regular basis for business too.  When I was very little, I would come for the summer at my grandparents’ farm in the Assiniboia area and can clearly remember the whistling train cars full of wheat to be sent to places all over the world and distant rolls of thunder from promised rains that never came.  Do I bleed green?  Well no, I bleed a gorgeous blue BUT we were on our feet cheering for the Riders when they won the Grey Cup last season!   While here, we had the opportunity to meet up with old and dear friends. They lived for a short time in Winnipeg, we worked together and our children are all the same ages.

willow2

The trees were bursting with lime green leaves and the restaurant was perfectly situated right on the edge of the water.

willow3

We had a beautiful view across the water to the Saskatchewan Legislature.

willow4

We were perched on the extensive outdoor patio space that I understand can be reserved for outdoor weddings.  They were a couple of mosquitoes that could be detected in the sunlight.  On another night this might be considered a nuisance but basking in the setting sun, especially after the harsh winter we have all experienced, it simply meant one thing….summer had arrived on the Canadian prairies!

D acting as host, choose a Cabernet Franc for the table.  We love Cab Francs as they are lighter than Cabernet Sauvignons.  Although I do not recall which winemaker he chose, we are always surprized by the aromas of tabaco, bell pepper and violets of Cab Francs.  Our charming server added some European flair.  She was from the Czech Republic, where my Daddy was born. She was so patient with us when she kept returning to take our order and we could not stop chatting and looking at pictures of each other’s families and filling in the years since we had all been together.  But, to the food….

The food was sensational!  “Farm to Table” dining makes so much sense for so many reasons and whenever we travel, we consciously select restaurants that epitomize this style.  Our favourite Canadian restaurant is the famous Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the Lake and The Willow on Wascana rivals our visit there.  Here is an excerpt from The Willow’s website regarding their culinary philosophy.

We pride ourselves on the amazing and quite surprising bounty this great province has to offer. From every grain under the sun to the most flavorful vegetables you have ever tasted. We even have fresh fruit growing in the valley. The willow has worked very hard with countless families and individuals skilled in the art form known as farming. From our major meat supplier, Pine View Farms in Osler supplying us with an array of all farm animals. Our wild boar family Schneider Farm just 15 minutes outside of Regina. Local eggs, local flour and now even a local cheese artist. Our amazing produce from Heliotrope Farm in Craven, you name it chances are they grow it. All these great things we enjoy so much and transform into our own culinary masterpieces, and just picked fresh right out of the backyard. From Farm to Table, let’s face it, that’s the way it should be.

willow5

We began with an Amuse Bouche that definitely “amused our mouths” as the moniker promises. It was a trout mousse on focaccia bread crostini with a cilantro leaf and a scattering of sesame seeds. Steelhead Trout is related to the salmon family and is similar to a rainbow trout.  The fish are farmed in Lake Diefenbaker in southern Saskatchewan named for Canada’s thirteenth Prime Minister who I happened to meet when I was a teenager but not while he still held the position (now you know how old I am).  The subtle fleshed fish is so succulent that D ordered it for dinner AND when we went out for lunch the next day, we ordered it again!

wilow6

We shared Salt Spring Island Mussels that had been poached in a creamy blue cheese broth.  They were not quite as stellar as the bowl titled “Cozze Pepate” that I had enjoyed just the day before at Colesseo Ristorante in Winnipeg, but they were meaty and tender.

willow6

I was really intrigued by the name of our other shared appetizer: Bagna Cauda.  Take the time to click the link and read the story of the birth of this ancient dish.  Fascinating.  In The Willow’s case the fish was pan-seared pickerel cheeks, Pickerel (Walleye) being both Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s provincial fish. The nuggets of flesh found on the face of the fish (hence: cheeks) were tossed in a spicy anchovy sauce and then perched upon pickled radish and rainbow carrot salad, so that it was a delight to the taste buds and the eyes.

willow8

The trout which is listed as the “Catch of the Day” on the menu was brushed with a lemon preserve and then placed upon a bed of mixed lentil pilaf.

willow10

Chef Tim’s ode to the classic Korean dish Bibimbap was one of the selections that our friends made.  The Korean short ribs were accompanied by coconut lime wild rice, a crunchy slaw and crowned with a soft boiled egg.

willow9

Her spouse (a pork lover like me) chose maple glazed pork tenderloin which was perfectly cooked with just the hint of pink inside to ensure moistness and subtle texture and placed atop grilled vegetable selections including my favourite of Pitty Pat (sometimes called Patty Pan) squash.

D lovingly calls me his “Potato-loving Polish Princess” and with consistency my eye went directly to the Gnocchi.  It wasn’t the roasted organic mushrooms, chopped herbs and balsamic glaze that had me tempted but the truffle cream sauce.  I am a goner for a short list of foods: potatoes, artichokes, eggplant and truffles!  Now, I didn’t know this at the time but I was to get a special treat the next day when we tasted a heritage truffle cheese at Crave Kitchen + Bar.  What clinched my decision was when I shared my two options with our helpful server and she deduced that I would love the Italian Stallion (tee hee).

willow7

This dish hit it out of the ballpark for me: Sicilian (we’ve traveled to Sicily and love the region’s simple food) braised aubergine (eggplant) stew on pan fried cheese and herb polenta with toasted almonds and enormous shards of padano cheese.  The stew was dense (in  good way) with pungent flavours of the meaty, stewed aubergine, capers and olives.  I cut the veggie chunks into smaller pieces so that I could make the ingestion of the dish, take a very long time.

willow1

By this time the sun was kissing the horizon and we were off for a nightcap at the home of our friends.  For so many reasons, this was an evening that we will long remember and cherish.

The Willow on Wascana on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The best fertilizer is the footprint of the farmer.” anonymous

willow15

Love-that is all.

Can you see the heart image?

 

 

 

 

posted under Restaurant Reviews

Email will not be published

Website example

Your Comment: