Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Ancaster Mill’s “Best of the Best” invitational for the Landmark Group of restaurants, which includes Cambridge Mill, Spencer’s at the Waterfront, Earth to Table Bread Bar, and the host themselves, Ancaster Mill.
All of the proceeds went to the Farmstart program. We were treated to a very humble and passionate explanation of Farmstart: namely, helping to bring farming to Ontario and nourish new farmers who will nourish us. From the "Our Objective" section of their website it's clear that the focus is on supporting new famers who are both "entrepreneurial" and "ecological". This charitable organisation is an obvious fit for a restaurant group that proclaims "our chefs work under one philosophy–EARTH TO TABLE–locally inspired cuisine."
Even with a noble cause, the atmosphere was light and airy with lots of laughter and great food. To push the evening over the edge, accompanying each dish were both wine and cocktail pairings, a great departure from standard wine-only pairings.
By the end of the night, I was so full of food and drink that the winner of this friendly, in-house competition wasn’t really an issue. I'm reasonably sure that Ancaster Mill took the prize (while I still maintain that Bread Bar should have taken the honour with burgers, poutine and ginger/bourbon cocktails).
What was clear was that you don’t have to go to Mexico or California to get great produce – rather, you can rely on your backyard or neighboring farms’ produce to create a great menu and some great fun.