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!
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!
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!
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
Le Maître D’
106 Main Street, Penetanguishene, ON. L9M 1T5
Written by: Penelope Morrow
Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow