A small pot of carrot soup was simmering slowly on the stove, while roasted carrots, parsnips and turnips had just come out of the oven. Roberto showed me a three-potato trio with regular, sweet and purple potatoes, a variety I had not seen before. Most of the produce comes from Whole Village CSA Vegetables, a local community-supported agriculture business. Having grown up in an Italian family with a kitchen garden, Roberto has long been exposed to home-grown vegetables and has developed a real respect for how much nurturing and care goes into the growing of produce. Local asparagus, he said, is cut on the field in the morning, and it is still warm from the sun when it gets dropped off at the inn at noon.
Three different colours of potoatoes, all locally grown
A huge 60 litre pot of beef stock was slowly boiling away and Roberto explained that it contains 50 pounds of beef bones, 25 bones of chicken bones and carrots, celery and onion (the “holy trinity of cooking”). Usually seven to eight cooks work in this compact kitchen and it gets really hot here. Last week, Roberto said, the temperature in the kitchen clocked in at 125 degrees.
Fresh ingredients are waiting to be processed
Meat also comes from local producers, for example ducks come from a farm in Elora, quail come from the Niagara Region, venison is also grown locally. “Ted, the Fisherman” delivers organically raised Arctic char. Roberto and his team delight in producing unique dishes from farm-fresh local ingredients. Roberto himself loves to experiment and frequently draws his inspiration from the multicultural cuisines of his coworkers.
The east side of the Mill is where the kitchen garden is located
To continue my culinary education Roberto took me outside into the kitchen garden. He pointed out all the various herbs and vegetables: lemon balm, lavender, mint, parsley, chives and tomatoes. Edible flowers like nasturtiums and pansies were going to adorn many salads. Roberto does many cooking demonstrations, and his cooking shows have become an attraction in themselves.
Riding to the top of the Pinnacle in the golf cart
And to cap off my adventure on this beautiful day, Roberto packed me into a golf cart and drove us up the hill to the “Pinnacle”, the highest part of the surrounding forest, which can be accessed by the inn’s guests on various walking trails. After a bumpy ride over roots and stones in the forest, we reached the top and had an amazing view over the surrounding area.
Roberto at the top of the hill
Roberto mentioned that guests often come up here in horse-drawn carriages. Sometimes he serves them stews, soups and other hot food and warm apple cider up here in this serene forest hideaway that is only a 20 minute walk away from the Main Mill.
Beautiful flowers surround the Alton Mill