Sorry I haven’t posted for the last few days, folks. Raymond and I have both been über-busy, Raymond especially as he edits the quarterly magazine of our church here in Montreal, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul. But tonight I thought I had to post about fine dining – and yes, it does have a Manse, or at least an Elzevir Township, connection – because we were (exceptionally; we don’t dine out very often) out for a truly great dinner at the Montreal resto Tuck Shop. Since this is the Meanwhile, About the Manse blog and I’d be awfully hard-pressed to find a link between Tuck Shop in St-Henri, Montreal, and the Manse in little Queensborough, Ont., I won’t go on about Tuck Shop except to say: if you are (or or planning to be) in Montreal, reserve a table. Now. And sit back and enjoy an evening of fantastic food, topped off by the chef’s mum’s homemade desserts. Trust me: you will thank me for this.
Anyway, the other brilliant little restaurant that I want to write about tonight, the one that does have a near-connection to the Manse, is called Actinolite. And yes, you’ve heard of Actinolite before in this blog. Actinolite is the only other community (aside from Queensborough) in the very rural township of Elzevir, Hastings County. (Well, the only other community unless the ghostly hamlet of Elzevir, way off in the northeastern corner of the township, which has suddenly started showing up on recent area maps, proves to be real; I wrote about that here, and believe me, I will check it out and report back as soon as I can.) Here is a fun post (music video included) in which Actinolite features prominently. And here you can see vintage photos (taken by my grandfather, the late J.A.S. Keay) of the caged bears, Buster and Bandy, at a restaurant in Actinolite that once upon a time were the highlight of the place.
But Actinolite is also the name of a very fine new(ish) restaurant in Toronto, on a residential corner at Ossington and Hallam (not far south of Dupont). And it’s named Actinolite because the chef/owner, Justin Cournoyer, is from – Actinolite! This is a guy who grew up on the banks of the Skootamatta River (just a few miles from Queensborough) and who has worked in some of the finest restaurants in the world, and perhaps most notably with Susur Lee. Now he has struck off on his own, and he has a smartly and cozily designed space (replete with souvenirs of his hometown) where one dines very, very well.
Raymond and I chose Actinolite expressly for dinner on the night we were in Toronto last week for the Al Purdy Show. It just seemed right, on a night celebrating the poet who may be most famous for his poem The Country North of Belleville, to dine at a restaurant whose chef and inspiration are from that very country. And we were not disappointed. The welcome and the service were exemplary and friendly at the same time; the food and drink were splendid. Click here to see the menu (updated daily, as you might expect), and don’t take my word for how good it is; click here for a review from the Globe and Mail, and here for one from Toronto Life, and here for what the Toronto Star has to say.
Justin Cournoyer, a lad from Actinolite: making a name in the food world. It was fun to celebrate that on the same evening as we and many others were celebrating Al Purdy, a lad from Wooler who made a name in the world of literature.
Hastings County, especially its central and northern regions out there on the edge of the Canadian Shield, can seem a spare and stark and even lonely place. A lot of it is not only unspoiled, but almost undiscovered. But it is a place where creative people seem to come, and a place that seems to inspire creativity.
Like the creativity of good food. And good poetry. What a winning combination for a night on the town!