Chef Joe MacLellan offers a set menu, one that he dreams up each day. We asked him after our meal Friday night what we were having Saturday night and he didn’t know. We asked him again when we ran into him the next morning and he still didn’t know. We took a cooking class with him that afternoon, and by that point, he was starting to piece together what can only be described as his nightly masterpiece.
He told us that the process starts in the morning and builds with his day.
It begins with his morning coffee. Then he puts on a record and some ideas start coming out of the music. If a walk in the woods turns out a ton of chanterrelles they might find their way onto the menu that night. Once he gets into the kitchen, thats when the real magic happens. Joe seems to get inspired by the act of cooking itself, sometimes making adjustments to the meal right up until it hits the table.
On our first night, our four course meal started with a cucumber shot, a chilled cucumber puree with a drop of olive oil and a touch of sea salt. This is the only constant feature on the dinner menu at Desbarres.
Course one was scallops on top of a cauliflower puree, chanterelles and roasted corn.
DesBarres Manor puts a lot of focus on presentation. This was most evident with course two, a play on seafood chowder. Two bowls with parsley puree, smoked mussels, charred scallops, shrimp sausage and butter poached lobster. Our chef came out to explain each ingredient, then topped the whole dish with a smokey lobster bisque.
Course three was beef tenderloin, red potatoes, pureed caramelized onion, broccoli and beets. It was our favourite (if we had to choose).
Our final course was a take on blueberry pie; blueberry butter, poached blueberries, mint granita, cinnamon ice cream and crumbled pie crust. He modified mine to include more poached fruits and no pie crust. The whole dish reminded me of this amazing little mojito bar I visited in Italy, but served with ice cream.
During our cooking class the next day, Joe gave us a few simple lessons from the items we enjoyed the most from the evening before, and then taught us a couple very cool tricks in preparation for the evening meal. We smoked ribs using a simple roasting pan, maple wood chips and a container of ice, and learned how to make eggless ice cream from scratch.
The meal turned out even better than the first. Course one featured the ribs we helped to smoke, albeit they had gone through a few transformations before hitting our table. The ribs were set on top of red cabbage and roasted corn.
Course two was our favourite of the evening. Similar to the night before, two bowls were set in front of us, this time with bacon, truffle oil, pine nuts and fois gras. This was topped with a fresh pea soup.
Course three was beef tenderloin, porcini, crispy garlic and swiss chard.
Finally, course four was a take on s’mores; Graham cracker pudding, chocolate wafers and toasted marshmallow ice cream (which actually tasted like a fire roasted marshmallow. Mine was modified with a coconut cream base topped with salted caramel.
Four courses rings in at a set price of $55 per person. You can also select a stay and dine option starting at $159 per person, or a cooking class package (also includes dinner and room night) starting at $169 per person. You can check out these packages and more by clicking here.
DesBarres Manor Inn
90 Church Street
Join us on Facebook: The Local Traveler NS