AUBERGE DU POMMIER (4150 Yonge, North of York Mills, 416-222-2220) Long a north Toronto dining destination for lovers, this faux stone cottage complex -- think Disney does French country -- surprises with its Gallic finesse, especially when chef Jason Bangerter gives old classics a contemporary spin. Complete meals for $90 ($60 at lunch) per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2 pm and for dinner Monday to Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's nearly Valentine's day, and I'm looking for Toronto's most romantic restaurant. We've Googled "romantic restaurant" and found one named exactly that on Dupont. It's not that romantic. And, yes, we checked out NOW's Readers Poll choices for best date restaurant. You chose Green Mango. Fabulous place, but not exactly romantic in the atmosphere department.
So the Literary Device and I hightail it uptown to Auberge du Pommier, a resto often cited as excellent for foreplay. From the underground parking garage ($5.75/90 minutes), we climb the exclusive Auberge stairwell to a winter scene straight out of a French country snow globe.
The modest facade, ostensibly built from two recreated stone crofters' cottages, fronts a foyer peopled by thin hosts in black cocktail sheaths slit up to here. Marking time while our specifically reserved romantic table ("They're all romantic, dear") is readied, we pop into Chez Sophie, the adjacent bistro-style cocktail lounge. Soon-like, we move on into the main dining room, a Provence-lite low-ceilinged space, all overly hewn beams, exaggerated stucco and recently plastered rock.
Sinatra croons inaudibly above the clamour of lunchtime suits sealing deals and impressing clients. Didn't Henry Kissinger say that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac? But, then, a troll like him would, wouldn't he?
We're seated beside a roaring fireplace that's so toasty I regret not bringing marshmallows and a stick. Service is smooth. Our orders are taken quickly and delivered alarmingly fast. Like some Oliver Bonacini eateries -- Biff's, Jump, Canoe -- Auberge is a well-oiled machine.
We start with a basket of multigrain that gets spread with smooth, tangy artichoke purée kicked with Dijon. The Device pronounces her cream- and butter-free Auberge Wild Mushroom Soup ($8 lunch/$10.50 dinner), thick with button, cremini and enoki 'shrooms, positively swoonsome, an intense essence of fungi swimming in fortified vegetarian broth daubed with truffle oil.
My fridge-cool ramekin of Potted Chicken Liver Parfait ($10.50) causes even more gasps, a boozy pâté topped with crushed pecans and sided with black cherry compote laced with port, two petit cornichons and three teensy toasts. Since it's a little early to be hitting the sauce, we shoo the sommelier (whose "Hey, how youse doin'?" actually makes him more a wine dude) and settle instead on a large bottle of fizzy water (San Pellegrino, $7.50/750 ml).
The Device tucks into her first-rate grilled Atlantic salmon ($18.50) plated on warm cauliflower and haricots verts bean salad with a golden savoury tomato coulis and crowned with ripe tomato jam and sage-leaf garnish. Meanwhile, I tangle with today's crêpe, a pheasant confit fricassee studded with caramel-sweet roasted Jerusalem artichokes. This delish dish rides a bed of cubed celeriac thickened with pommes purée and four incongruous folded flapjacks in a pool of Calvados-scented jus.
While we're chatting, mains finished, waiting for our plates to be cleared, our server starts to pour a second, unordered bottle of water into our still half-full tumblers. We point out that it's not wanted, and besides we're about to leave. It disappears as quickly as it arrived but is still on the bill that's presented very quickly. In the restaurant game, this is known as building the check.
For this weekend's Valentine's dinners, Auberge du Pommier is sticking to its à la carte menu of upscale eats like roasted pheasant breast with sweetbread vol-au-vent ($35) sided with optional creamed sweetbreads ($6.50). That's an awful lot of offal. New chef Jason Bangerter, a former apprentice to John Higgins at the King Edward, brings a fresh approach to the formal Auberge, lifting it above the merely lovely. But in between longing gazes at your loved one, remember to keep an eye on the guy pouring the Perrier.african action
Lovers of African and Caribbean cuisine won't want to miss Sunday's (February 16) fourth annual Taste Of The Caribbean/African Food Expo (T.C.A.F.E) food fair running from noon to 6 pm at Etobicoke's Club Paradise (220 Attwell, 416-213-1999). Admission's free to this Black History Month event, but a $10 donation gets a ticket to sample the wares of local favourites like Shanty's, Tipper, Slick Chick and Fancy Pride's pastries. Seminars, demonstrations and music, too.
JK ROM chef Jamie Kennedy was seen checking out the facilities at last week's $5 organic potluck supper and skating party that happens every Friday evening in Dufferin Grove Park.SD