We’ve given a lot of grief lately to restaurants serving rustic comfort food. But recently we came across a new restaurant where it would be wrong for them to be serving anything else.
Hearth & Garden is located within historic Campbell House Museum (160 Queen Street West), and serves up a weekday lunch menu of classic dishes that not only speak to regional sustainability but also the historical foodways of the area.
Created by event planner and caterer David Vallee (you might know him from the TV show Rich Bride, Poor Bride), Hearth & Garden was originally the catering arm of Campbell House where Vallee and his team would organize weddings, tastings and other events. Working with Executive Chef Margaret MacKay (whose resume includes a long stint with Jamie Kennedy), Vallee moved incrementally to expand the business to a restaurant within Campbell House. After a trial by fire situation where they served 40 guests each night during Winterlicious, they proceeded to a soft opening a few weeks ago, allowing the signage in front of the museum and some flyers to local businesses to be their main form of promotion.
As a rule, Greg and I generally avoid the seasonal ‘Licious campaigns. We’d rather support our local restaurants when they’re not so busy, and ‘Licious is always crazy for most participating establishments. This year, however, we’ve been attending a few things in the Winterlicious Culinary Events Series, one of which was The Dining Room event at Campbell House.
Designed as a sort of two-step dinner theatre, guests first eat dinner in the basement dining room (two lovely rooms with fireplaces and period furniture) and then move up to the ballroom on the 2nd floor of the museum to watch Down n’ Out Productions perform the 1982 hit play The Dining Room. The play features 6 actors portraying 57 characters in 17 vignettes, all set around a formal dining room table. Playwright A. R. Gurney is said to have created an anthropological study of the WASP, and indeed, the scenes mostly feature well-to-do upper and middle class families throughout the 20th century, exploring the role that the dining room and the dining room table play in that culture. My only complaint about the play was that, for anyone not familiar with it, they’ll spend most of the first act trying to piece together the different vignettes to make sense of who is supposed to be who, and that’s quite distracting until they realize that this is indeed, vignettes, and not a linear play with recurring characters.
But of course, the food is why we were really there.