I recently traversed along the Huronia Food Trail on the media bus tour, which availed me the opportunity to explore the north eastern tip of our fine County as a passenger, and as such I was able to completely immerse myself in the experience and focus on their motto, “Taste our roots”.
The Huronia Food Tour is an initiative of the Simcoe County Farm Fresh Marketing Association.
This self-guided tour provides families with a wonderful opportunity; introducing you first hand to local food, from farmer and producer, to restaurants, retailers and cafes, with a side order of accommodations too, which allows you a peaceful respite during your edible adventure.
I chose to return to one of the restaurants, Mad Michael’s, and I am very pleased that I did! The Sinatra soundtrack playing in the dining room was completely fitting; as Frankie’s dulcet tones rang out that he “Did it my way” I realized that no words could encapsulate better this southern bakery and smokehouse which is Mad Michael’s.
In his youth Michael choose to study commercial cooking as a way of meeting girls, must have worked well for him as he and his wife Kay, have travelled far, from the Western Provinces to Wyebridge. Along the way this former rock and roll agent, promoter and manager, took a couple of side tours. He discovered he had talent creating twig furniture, and Mad Michael’s Twig Art and Café was born.
Michael does good food; this is scratch cooking at its best, everything from condiments, pickled crudities and corn bread is original. Seasonal produce is a menu staple, from the spring asparagus, early corn, or the fried green tomatoes, which are based on a recipe he discovered in a tavern in Memphis. Michael is also one of the most natural story tellers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. His fall menu item of Caribbean fried pumpkin comes with a side serving of story.
When visiting Antigua he came upon a tin shack restaurant called “Momma’s”. After indulging in a beverage or two, Michael wandered around back of the shack and discovered that Momma was a hefty sized woman who hailed from Montreal, and as she cooked the pumpkin on an old electric stove, she would add a solid shake of Montreal Steak Spice to the glowing gourd.
Steak spice is the only thing Michael doesn’t make himself, and that includes the kitchen proper, which is a stunning smokehouse set between the cedar trees, just out back of the dining room. Nature inspired Michael to create the twig furniture and accessories inside, and he has chosen to surround himself by cooking au natural in this unique outdoor venue.
Lunch is lovely; my dining companion and I choose BBQ; I with the Bourbon BBQ sauced beef, she with the chicken, succulent in a confederation Ale BBQ sauce. Both were BBQ, but the tastes were completely different, both were wonderful. The sweet potato bun, saddled up on either side of the hefty portion of protein is made in house, and is amazing!
Potato salad and crunchy pickled dilled baby carrots round out the plates. While I don’t usually have dessert at lunch, the offerings were too enticing to refuse. My carrot cake was a very generous sized slice, rich, moist and covered in perfect cream cheese icing. The ice-cream a top my friends peach, mango crisp melted in delicious rivulets coating each bite to creamy goodness.
There are numerous menu items I am planning on returning to try, in particular the signature skillet corn bread. Michael explained that it is made with corn flour, not corn meal, is baked fresh daily in a cast iron skillet. As Mad Michael’s closes down for the winter season, there are many regular customers, who calculate the number of weeks until spring reopening, and will order an equal amount of the famous corn bread to freeze and enjoy all winter.
I asked Michael what he would like to share with my readers and his response was immediate; when it comes to food, “don’t dumb down” he said. He explained that he is concerned that many folks are content with chain food, the fast food, quick and empty and he wonders if kids of the next couple of generations will even know how to cook, or understand that eating quality ingredients will improve one’s life.
A passionate chef, a man with a vision, Mad Michael does it his way, and his way tastes great!
8215 Highway 93, Wyebridge, Ontario, Canada L0K 2E0
Telephone: (705) 527-1666
Our 2013 Season is May 16 to Oct 14, Thursday thru Sunday, 12 Noon to 8 pm
Written by: Penelope Morrow
Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets