Well, it’s been a long (but exciting) week over in Abbey’s Kitchen. I have officially completed all of my assignments for my internship, and while I’m still waiting to officially graduate, in my mind that means I’m done. So, what have I been doing? I have been cooking and baking (this week I made some watermelon lime frozen yogurt and a banana berry loaf with citrus glaze), shopping (accidentally, of course.. I tend to just wander out for a walk in the nice weather and get lured into Williams Sonoma), reading (this week I read “Fresh Eggs Don’t Float” by Lara DePetrillo and Caroline Eastman-Bridges- I will try to blog about it this week), and doing a lot of planning related to my cookbook and future projects (more on that later, hopefully). Regardless, Friday came (thank G-d), and that meant it was time for a fun night out. I have been wanting to check out Gabardine for a while now but they’re actually not open on Saturdays, so that kind of limits their weekend accessibility, but this weekend we had Friday evening open so I made a reservation for 8 PM.
The room is small, quaint with a good view of the kitchen and a bar up front. It was a bit loud in there for my liking but I loved the retro pub decor (in the washroom, they had an old 50’s advertisement for Tampax- I really, REALLY, want that poster for my washroom at home). Service was friendly, and very casual. Our server divulged that he was really looking forward to drinks after work, which we totally could appreciate, especially given the excessive heat and the nature of his work (in and out of a hot kitchen and on his feet all day- oy vey, I say that cold one is well deserved, my friend!)
We started with a couple cocktails, one Boulevardier (maker’s mark, campari, capano sweet vermouth) and a Classic Caesar (vodka, clamato, lea & p, tabasco, horseradish, celery salt, house pickled veg). The Boulevardier, though obviously pretty hard hitting, was surprisingly smooth. Definitely the type of drink that could creep up on you. And that Caesar? Well, y’all know I love my clamato-goodness, and this one was one of the better ones I have had lately. That horseradish added a really nice aromatic heat that takes it so much further than just straight up tabasco. And those pickled veg were a nice “amuse” for the meal (note to bartenders: always give me delicious pickled veg or olives with my Caesar, the acidity is such a nice enhancer to the drink).
Alright, well although we may try sometimes, a gal cannot sustain herself on pickles alone, so let’s talk about food. We had:
Rabbit Rillettes with Sour Cherry Preserve and Toast
This was a lovely starter served in a very appropriate portion (especially given the large main dish servings to come). I loved the mild gamey flavour of the rillette with the bright sweet and sour preserve, and all of those smooth and chewy textures against the violent crunch of those salted toasts. Oh and G-d bless the chef at Gabardine, thank you for actually providing enough toasts to eat this dish. I find that way too often, terrines, charcuteries or cheese platters are served with FAR too few toasts, crackers or breads. This hardly costs the restaurant anything, and makes the experience of eating these foods far less anxiety provoking (you know what I mean. It’s Friday, and I don’t want to have to carefully plan and portion each smear of terrine between the limited “carriers”), so just give me enough damn toast! Rant over. Thank you Gabardine for taking this worry away.
Deep Fried Beer Cheese Croquettes with Maple Mustard
This was my first affair with “beer cheese” and dear G-d, don’t let it be my last. We got three thick, large cheese sticks prepared from a mixture of cheddar, mozzarella and provalone that were coated in seasoned breadcrumbs and fried to (literally, this is not just a colloquialism) golden perfection. Encased within that light crust, the cheese oozed and melted just enough to yield a creamy mouthfeel, but not make a big cheesy mess on my plate (or face). The cheese itself was mild and comforting with a wonderful hoppy, smokey flavour that paired beautifully with the maple mustard dipping sauce on the side. The sauce was thick, aromatic with an undertone of heat, that had been reduced down so thoroughly that it had chewy, preserve like characteristics reminiscent of stewed dried fruit. In short, this was incredible.
Tuna Melt on Rye with Aged Cheddar and Tomato with Potato Salad and Greens
Talk about comfort food, I don’t know if I have ever had a tuna melt outside of a road-side diner, but I would do it again if Gabardine made it. The tuna was moist and creamy, and contrasted nicely with the pungency of the cheese. And surprisingly, even though the whole thing was probably pretty mayo-heavy, the bread remained a sturdy base. We both enjoyed the creamy potato salad, especially when eaten together with the citrusy green salad.
Philly Cheese Steak with Caramelized Onions, Sautéed Button Mushrooms and Melted Provolone with Potato Salad and Greens
Another comfort food classic. While I have never been to Philadelphia, I could recognize that this is not “authentic”. But I so do not believe in authenticity snobbery when the food tastes good. I loved the crusty, toasted bun that was moistened with a light smear of mayo, topped with a mountain of surprisingly tender beef and a generous layer of cheese. The only thing I was missing (which again, I know is not traditional), but is some kind of sweet or acidic component. The flavour, while delicious, and indulgent, was a bit one-note, especially because the provolone is not a particularly strong-flavoured cheese. Also, it was a bit difficult to eat, but with a fork and a knife, I was able to manage without any major bad etiquette offenses.
Goat “Icebox” Cheesecake with Rhubarb Jam, Graham Poppyseed Crumble, Honeycomb, Fresh Cherries and Strawberries
Wow. What a stunning example of how to celebrate summer in dessert. This uncooked cheesecake had a luscious smooth texture, with a much lighter consistency than the traditional cream cheese base. Perched upon a generous bed of graham cracker poppyseed crumbs, I loved the crunch and pop I felt as the cheese dissolved on my tongue. Having come from goats cheese, the cake had a pleasant savoury and tangy flavour that really helped balance all of the glorious summer sweet elements. The jam was bright and refreshing, the cherries and strawberries were seductively tender, and that honeycomb was like a nugget of sugary gold. Aromatic and sticky with a pleasing chewy bite, it was easy to slow down and savour the moments before it melted in my mouth alongside a spoonful of contrasting goat cheese goodness. Right now, I’m really into making ice cream and I couldn’t spot my mind from thinking of all the ways to incorporate these flavours into a batch at home. Delicious.
So, as you can see, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and the best part? We had all of the above (2 apps, 2 mains, 1 desserts, 3 cocktails) plus 2 (perfect) cappuccinos for $125 after tax and a generous tip. Will we be back? Yes. When? Hopefully soon.
Updated on May 8th, 2019
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian (RD), regulated by the Ontario College of Dietitians. She is a mom, YouTuber, Blogger, award winning cookbook author, media coach specializing in food and nutrition influencers, and a frequent contributor to national publications like Healthline and on national broadcast TV shows.