The first meals back are a celebration, a reminder and a relief that we’ve made it. Cheers to all of us. While we’re not out of the woods yet, we’ve come a long way baby! And what better way to enjoy our first meal together than at Toronto’s most regal landmark, Casa Loma, and at the most coveted perch in culinary real estate, BlueBlood Terrace, overlooking our great city of Toronto.
Sara Waxman: There is a lot of glamour on the BlueBlood Terrace at Casa Loma during these first opening days. Those lucky enough to get a reservation dress for the occasion and the party ambiance on the wrap-around terrace was worth it. We’re led to our table, past the romantic, clear lucite tables and chairs aglow with blue lights; past the pretty private pergolas for six, to one of my favorite spots: a table with a full view of the splendid landscaped garden, fountain, and our majestic city skyline. A small “purse table” to rest my handbag is a thoughtful gesture. And now, with a glass of chilled Prosecco at hand, I lean back in my chair and appreciate my first “patio dining” experience of the summer.
Adam Waxman: Restaurant staff have been like doctors on-call for a while now, and the industry, similar to the theater or major league baseball, requires time to re-oil the machine, but after the third lockdown it seems this team has been able to get their groove back pretty quickly. This being my first dinner at a restaurant in a year, I’m just happy not to cook, but I really feel they’ve got things under control, so we can just relax and enjoy the evening. At check-in, all the protocols are in place, we scan the QR code at the front, fill in the form on our phones and presto: access granted. Each of the tables have room for diners to relax and enjoy their piece of real estate, and it all feels quite civilized.
SW: The message in the menu is like a puzzle to be deciphered. The beauty is that there are no wrong answers. After a careful read I’ve chosen my pieces of the puzzle: appetizer, main course, dessert, and they flow together beautifully. This kitchen has a special way with chilled jumbo prawns– the key word being jumbo. As our server walks to our table, shrimp bowl aloft amid swirling clouds of dry ice, there are murmurs from other tables, “let’s order that.” They won’t be disappointed. Each mammoth crustacean bounces with a freshness as if it were just scooped from the sea. And the saucier has managed to get just the right delicious balance in the lemon/gin cocktail sauce. While I’m almost sorry that this course is over, I must make way for the main event.
AW: Grilled octopus looks beautiful. A delicate assemblage of flavours, colours and textures. The octopus itself, generously portioned and gently seasoned, is tender and delectable on its own, but subtly accented by the balsamico and the spinach puree–and I alternate bites between them. The chorizo, complimentary in its texture, adds a welcome kick of spice. There are quite a few pairing options to compliment the versatility of the dish, but I have chosen the Rosé, Château du Trignon, Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhone Valley, France, which seems to have the right acid balance with the chorizo and is a bright contrast to the smoky and spicy notes. This is a delicious appetizer.
SW: The selection of steaks is dizzying. Who can choose between Canadian or American Prime, between dry aged, bone in or center cut, between different styles of Wagyu Japan, Australia or America? Our server, who is so happy to be back at work after a year, takes the time and shares his expertise to help me choose. My plan is to eat “local” so the decision is a Canadian Prime 16oz Rib Eye from Erin, Ontario, aged 28 days, Medium Rare. I’m ready to dig right in, but, not so fast. Food so simple needs to be expertly cooked and assertively flavoured. There are accessories to make good even better. A choice of luscious sauces: Bearnaise, Chimichurri, Cognac Peppercorn (my favorite), Morel Mushroom and Red Wine jus. Or, a variety of salts, three pretty crystal flavour enhancers: Black Hawaiian, Smoked Malden and Pink Himalayan.
It would be easy to lose control and order a variety of vegetables and side dishes, like sauteed hand-foraged woodland mushrooms or onion rings with saffron aioli, or maybe duck fat hand-cut fries. But I am staying cool and sticking with the classic baked potato.
AW: I like ordering something different each time, and the Short Rib Wellington stands out for me. The short rib cuts so neatly. Each luxurious morsel is enrobed in a rich layer of duxelles that is perfectly encased in a flaky crust. The portion is quite substantial and the juices are sealed in tightly. This might even be too much for me. I’m not used to restaurant-size portions just yet, but I am regaling in every bite. I choose the Felsina, ‘Berardenga’, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy to pair, because I feel it matches the earthy notes from the duxelles.
For a side, the creamed Welsh Farm corn with corn nuts is a medley of textures from smooth to crunchy that is a celebration of corn. Sweet, velvety and a decadent complement to our mains, it sings of summer. The toasted corn adds an essence of backyard-barbecue and the pearl onions add a sharp edge to cut the creamy mouthfeel.
SW: The experience is sublime, the steak perfectly done, the company and the weather cooperate generously, and I am one happy diner.
AW: I like contrasting temperatures and textures on a plate, and our dessert of Apple Pie, warmed, well balanced between sweet and tart, and drizzled with a maple whisky caramel sauce–my new guilty pleasure–co-stars with a playful scoop of sponge toffee ice cream that is crowned with mounds of crunchy sponge toffee. You didn’t think you’d want any, but now you can’t stop!
AW: I am most impressed by the service and hospitality. The hostess and wait staff are all attentive and on their game. I feel like we’re at a resort, overlooking a massive water feature and garden below, with the cityscape cleaved between the trees. It’s nice to be out again for a beautiful evening at the castle. This…is fit for a king.
For more info visit: http://www.bluebloodsteakhouse.com/
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.