Monday, November 9, 2009

Savouring True Meat Flavours at Cowbell

We often rely on Toronto Life's best restaurant list for our adventures. Last year, we made our way to Cowbell and were excited to discover a unique bistro experience - the restaurant buys their meat locally, butchers their own animals and sustainably aims to use all parts. It's a small operation involved vertically in the entire food process. The feature there, of course, is meat, with a menu that changes constantly depending on what they have brought in. On our first visit, I had the Cowbell burger. Normally, I would never order a burger, but the lady next to us told me it was the best burger she had ever had, so how could I turn that down? As I recall, it was indeed an amazing burger, with bacon and topped with Quebec cheese. That experience had left me wanting another bite so we made the trek to far Queen West again last night with our friends James and Lisa.

The Cowbell menu is found on a chalkboard in the restaurant, with an assortment of appetizers and mains - I caution vegetarians that this is not the place for you, although there are some minimal choices! What I love most about Cowbell is that the chef really celebrates and highlights the natural flavours of meats - no fancy sauces, just delicate cooking and handling that brings out the best of beef, duck, pork and the like. Last night, Tony and I did the butcher's plate to start - an assortment of terrine, pate, liver and hearts. I had the angus beef with bone marrow as my main, served with a side of wild mushrooms and leeks - the beef was AMAZING. I can't tell you how disappointed we have been with beef in Toronto in general, but this was just perfectly medium rare and tender. Tony had pork, which again was very simple, highlighting the natural taste of pork, tasty, but less amazing than my beef. I miss the carpaccio we had on our first visit, very basic rare beef slices served with nothing and yet, tasted better than any carpaccio we have ever had. It is truly a sign of good fresh meat and good preparation. We had creme caramel with blackberry compote for dessert, which was rich and satisfying, but truly, the highlight of the restaurant is the meats, so invest your bellies in that!

Cowbell is a great place for anyone who loves food and loves meat. Don't think of it as a heavy "meaty" place - I made that mistake at first, delaying our visit there, but it really is a foodie destination, so you can appreciate fine preparation and simple yet delicious tastes.

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