Dinner at Donaleigh’s Irish Pub

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My mother and I happened upon Donaleigh’s Irish Pub as we were aimlessly wandering downtown Barrie looking for somewhere new to eat. Now, Donaleigh’s is not an entirely new restaurant per-say, but it was new enough to us because we had never eaten here. Walking inside, we were instantly greeted by a friendly woman clad in a kilt. We were told to choose any table of our liking so we walked to the back of the pub and sat down where it was a little less busy. We went for lunch, but because it was a nice day out the pub was rather busy – both inside and on the patio.

Being a hot day, the first thing that we ordered were drinks: I ordered a Somersby apple cider (my favourite summertime alcoholic beverage) and my mother chose a Vodka Cranberry Spritzer. There is a large bar directly in the middle of the pub with tons of seating around it so you can watch the game on the overhead televisions. Mumford and Sons was playing for the duration of our stay and I did not mind in the slightest.

Our server was very warm and inviting, which made our stay very pleasant. The menu is much like what you would expect a pub to serve – a variety of burgers, steak, fish, tacos, salads, soups, sandwiches, and desserts are available – but Donaleigh’s puts a little spin on these favourites. Feeling like indulging ourselves, we decided to would order a few appetizers to share. We asked our server for the Assorted Cheese Platter, Nachos, and Sweet Potato Fries – she quickly advised us against ordering so many items because the portion sizes are very large, so we settled for Nachos and Sweet Potato Fries. I am very glad our server informed us of the portion sizes because, boy, was she not kidding! Our appetizers arrived on large platters that were loaded with food. The nachos were absolutely amazing! Instead of using typical nacho chips, this appetizer is prepared with kettle chips that we personalized to have only cheese, green onions, and black olives with salsa and sour cream on the side. The Sweet Potato Fries were delicious as well. The only concern we had was with the buttermilk dill dipping sauce that accompanies the fries – personally I would have preferred a chipotle dipping sauce because I feel like it compliments Sweet Potato Fries much better. Other than the minor sauce issue, we had an absolutely amazing time dining here. The service was impeccable and the food was even better.

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Donaleigh’s is also known for live music on weekends. Having come to the pub on a Saturday night I can vouch that the music is loud, the beer is cold, and the crowd is mature – all elements that guarantee an excellent night out. If you want to have a night surrounded by good music and happy people, Donaleigh’s is the place for you. Donaleigh’s also has a private room where you can host any type of function. Inside there is a bar with a private bartender, darts, televisions, and lots of seating around the room. On 28 Dunlop Street East, Donaleigh’s bright green panels are hard to miss.

Valerie Colangelo is a writer from Barrie. Read her blog at: www.accordingtovalerie.com and follow her on Twitter at @vcolang.

Le Maître D’ in Penetanguishene

Dear Editor; Have I told you lately how much I enjoy meeting with our area farmers, food producers, restaurateurs and then writing my reviews to share with our Simcoe Dining readers?

Do you know how pleased I am that you encourage me to explore the outer edges of our fine region to discover newfound food treasures. Yes you know, good, so please sit back and prepare to have your taste buds tantalized as I am about to share a recent dining experience with you, one that was not only an edible adventure, but an extraordinary history lesson too!

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Darling daughter and I made the trek to Penetanguishene recently, as I have been eager to return since sampling the delightful bites that Dave Brunelle and his staff at le Maître D’ prepared for us on the Huronia Food Trail media tour in early summer.

The menu items are influenced by his heritage; Metis and French-Canadian, thus creating a cultural mosaic worthy of great praise. Paintings by local artists adorn the walls, mingling antique photographs of Penetanguishene. Recordings of Local French Canadian musicians are played for gentle background music and live music occurs on some evenings.

Tradition wraps around us like a cozy knit blanket. We start our dinner with the traditional bread basket, but tradition here includes bannock, a Native staple, and accompanying chipotle aioli. We chose a variety of appetizers; the classic French onion soup, fantastic, the smoked Georgian Bay whitefish with lemon and capers, amazing and the specialty of the evening, Coquilles St Jacques, scallops and mushrooms in a rich sauce served in a scalloped shell, delightful!

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Tourtiere is a traditional Quebec meat pie, with as many variations as there are households that bake them. Dave shared that he and his mother bake these together for the restaurant, the spicing is defined but not overpowering and the pastry, simply the best I have ever had.

Darling daughter ordered the crepes with ham and cheddar, a simple but tasty combination. On both plates, were servings of glazed carrots and wonderful crisp potato croquettes. Having attempted to make crepes myself, I have a great appreciation for these, presented perfectly.

I ended my meal with a great cup of decaffeinated coffee, and crème brulee, while darling daughter chose the strawberry rhubarb pie, filled to bursting with fresh fruit, tucked into more of their delicious pastry. While sitting with our desserts I asked Dave Brunelle to join us, as I was eager to hear his story, and this is a man with stories to tell!

The table that had been reserved for us was specifically chosen, the reason was soon to become clear. The Brunelle family has lived in Lafontaine for four generations; his grandfather was a commercial fisherman, a hunter, a farmer and a maple syrup producer, his grandmother delighted in serving large family style meals to all her beloved kin. A side room in the restaurant is dedicated to his grandmother and includes photos and memorabilia in her honour.

When opening the restaurant in January 2013, Dave discovered a marvelous book, written by John Bayfield and Carole Gerow titled “This Was Yesterday, a pictorial History of the early days of Penetanguishene”, where it is noted that the Brunelle family can actually trace their ancestors back to the 1800’s as some of the earliest settlers to arrive in Penetanguishene. One of the pictures in the book shows the original main street of Penetanguishene and by turning my head just so, and looking out the window, Dave points out to me the same street that I have just admired in an ancient photograph. I am sitting in a spot with a clear view where history of this community unfolded!

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Apparently, the “Festival du Loup” held every summer in Lafontaine also has a direct connection to the Brunelle family. Legend has it that a large and ferocious wolf terrified the inhabitants of this small community and it was Dave’s great great uncle who in the early 1900’s shot the beast, which gave cause for great celebration, a tradition still honoured yearly.

Dave Brunelle is a natural and gracious host; he is inspired to bring families together for meals, to provide a community restaurant where people can enjoy the atmosphere, the history and the great food. For Thanksgiving he will be cooking and serving a family style feast for guests lucky enough to have made reservations!

Le Maître D’ is an outstanding restaurant, which has successfully combined the food of both the Metis and French Canadian cultures, this is heritage in our midst, and well worth the scenic drive to
Penetanguishene.

Le Maître D’
106 Main Street, Penetanguishene, ON. L9M 1T5
705-549-7000
www.lemaitred.ca

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Barrie’s Bohemia

Once the weather turns cool, after our weekly Saturday morning jaunt to the Barrie Farmers market, darling daughter and I make our way to Bohemia to have our traditional post market lunch. Soups at
Bohemia are served in two portion sizes; “lunch” and “I am very hungry today”.

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Jill Dyck, owner of Bohemia and I recently had the opportunity to talk in her newly renovated and expanded downstairs kitchen space at the main location, 125 Dunlop Street East.

I was charmed to watch her prepare another of my favourites, the yummy filling for the crabby croissant sandwich. This recipe is a classic, fondly recreated from Jill’s university years working at the Bistro Praha in Edmonton. It is real crab, not some imitation oddly coloured fish byproduct. Like every menu item on the black board at Bohemia, the first prerequisite is that the food must taste good. It is real food, as Jill would cook at home. Local and organic sourced items may be used, but Jill believes that fresh and tasty are the priority. Jill often purchases from her neighbourhood store, the Local Foods Mart, another one of my shops to stop at on a Saturday morning!

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Tuna used in Bohemia sandwiches is pole or line caught, this being the more sustainable and humane method. This is as Jill describes it, humble food, made fresh from scratch in small batches.
Fair trade coffee has always been offered as it is the most delicious and is “fairly” produced and prepared. Soups, salads, sandwiches and sweets create a solid, tasty and affordable menu.
The eclectic décor is part of Bohemia’s charm; With Jill’s strong visual sense and fine arts degree; she oozes style and originality. An original tin ceiling, stunning second floor railing, blackboard paint signage, combined with an earthy mix of tables and chairs, exudes comfort and dissuades pretension. Local original art displays regularly appear on the walls, creating an atmosphere in keeping with the food, it too satisfies the soul.

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Favourites from her own home create the cornerstones of the menu; meat appears as an accent, and cheese is well placed in the menu items as it is a personal favourite of hers. Gluten free options are available, their brownies are so tasty, one doesn’t miss the gluten!

Wine and beer are now available at Bohemia, and plans are taking shape for an evening dinner menu where they will be serving a simple but satisfying charcuterie tray, complete with cheese, olives, cured meats et al.

A long term customer once inadvertently provided Bohemia with their motto, “sanctifying the ordinary”, and Bohemia is about to satisfy more of us, as a little Bohemia is in the works, opening late this fall on Maple Avenue. This tiny shop will be filled to bursting with their fabulous selection of fair trade coffee and teas, fresh smoothies, and yummy baked goods…inserting a personal shout out for the scones here!

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This will be mainly a take-out spot, as table space is extremely limited, with the Dunlop restaurant being the place to lunch, this will be the location for grabbing your morning sustenance or late afternoon pick me up.

I highly recommend Bohemia.

125 Dunlop Street East, Barrie L4M 1A4
705-734-1683
@BohemiaAt125 on twitter and on Facebook
Written by: Penelope Morrow
Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets at @penelopejmorrow