Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inn on the Twenty

On a lacklustre August day (why wouldn't it be lacklustre ... it is, after all, the summer of 2009), 3 colleagues and I trekked out to the Niagara region for 18 holes to be followed by dinner at Inn on the Twenty in Jordan.

Golf was, well, fun. It was not a great success, though there were shining moments. And as we usually play, it was relaxed and without pressures. We played the Escarpment and Iron Bridge courses, the former being slightly less imposing and equally as beautiful. We finished with smiling faces and empty bellies. On to Inn on the Twenty ...

After a short gander at the village of Jordan, we entered the restaurant for our 6pm reservation. The place was empty save 2 or 3 tables. Hmph. Not exactly what you want to see when visiting a place for the first time.

Nevertheless, we sat down and promptly got to choosing our meals. I opted for the caprese salad and ricotta gnocchi; the only other 3 dishes ordered were the tomato soup, scallops and capon. Capon, as I learned, is actually a castrated male chicken. I knew it was fowl ... I just didn't realize it was actually a term for what's done to the bird versus a breed. Nevertheless, Mark reported back it was delicious. The castrating, after all, is intended to create a very tender bird with less stringy meat.

The caprese salad, though not the most adventuresome of items, was delicious. The cheese was soft and fresh mozzarella di buffalo, and the tomatoes were local, ripe, and flavourful. We paired the first course with an extra dry Cave Springs sparking wine. It was tart and young; nothing like a French champagne, but crisp and bubbly and awakening to the palette.

Next came the gnocchi. They were 5 or 6 large dumplings resting atop fresh English peas and pea shoots, 'sugo crudo' (fancy for raw tomatoes), basil pesto and a hint of truffle. Sadly, I was not overwhelmed or even fully satisfied with the gnocchi. They were crisp outside, but rather than pillowy and smooth inside, they were slightly dry and verging on spongy. They lacked seasoning, which further compounded the textural issues. The flavours of the peas, truffle and tomato were a lovely accompaniment; I only wish the gnocchi were a bigger hit. We paired our dinner with a Syrah from Peninsula Ridge. I have to admit that while I am a fan of Ontario whites, the reds still need some time. The syrah lacked complexity, and was slightly too acidic for my syrah preferences. The out-of-country wine list looked decent, but was sufficiently over-priced (none less than $80, if I recall correctly) so as to encourage purchase of local wines. Not a stupid tactic when you are in the heart of Niagara wine country.

The service was impeccable. Attentive, knowledgeable and friendly without lingering on too much. Our final course was a plate of 4 cheeses. Three 'cow' and one 'non-cow'. Benedictin Bleu from Quebec, Thunder Oak Gouda, an ashy aged cheddar, and a tasty sheep's milk cheese whose name escapes me. The blue and the Gouda were by far my favourites, but the other two were definitely a delight.

I will conclude that although the restaurant was lacking in the vibe brought only by the company of others, by the end of our meal the room was sufficiently full. Despite my gnocchi experiences, I would recommend the restaurant to others, hands down. The menu is well thought out, full of local fare, and promises some excellent plates.

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