The County General is the Southern, free-spirited sister of Splendido.
Everyday of the week, the restaurant offers libations and good eats… including Mondays. To most, the first day is typically perceived as the black sheep and the least favourite child in the working-weekday family. However, at The County General (936 Queen Street West, Toronto), they’ve showered neglected ol’ Monday with love and affection. For $20, you can feast on a Bourbon-inspired brunch to chase away the work-week blues.
We start off with a Wild Turkey BBQ Bloody Caesar. Crafted by “Colonel” (Manager/Beverage Developer) Jeff Carroll, the addictive, spiced rim contains garlic salt, cayenne, and black peppers. The drink itself contains a medley of goodies: curry, cinnamon, pepper, lemon juice, horseradish, scotch bonnet peppers, onions, and garlic. Along with an ample swig of bourbon, the drink is completed with a dash of hoisin and BBQ sauces; the ruddy coloured concoction is strong enough to wake you up, render you wild-eyed with delight, and kick you into next Monday.
To follow is ‘the grub’: the first plate was a Wild Turkey cured pork belly with molasses baked beans; it was finished with nutmeg salted caramel, topped with crackling, and toast.
While it wasn’t the prettiest thing to look at on the plate, I still enjoyed this dish; there were heavy undertones of chicken stock and it had body–thanks to the use of duck fat. I liked the texture of the beans; it was hearty but not mealy or mushy. With hints of sweetness from the salted caramel, bites of heat from the flecks of black pepper, and homey warmth from the spices, it was a rich and tasty dish.
For the main, my dish was a classic eggs benny, County General style.
Housemade peameal bacon slices were draped over a quivering egg. Ladled over it was a brown butter hollandaise. The protein sat atop of a griddled, house made english muffin. The light, pastel pink meat was luscious and silky textured, something I’ve never tasted before with peameal. In fact, I fully expected a springy texture. Here, it had a soft, melting-moment quality. When I inquired about its preparation, I discovered that our friend, Mr. Sous-vide, lent a hand in cooking the meat. To finish the peameal, it was simply put on the flattop to impart some char, crispiness, and more flavour. I also adored the hollandaise sauce. Typically, a classic hollandaise includes white wine, shallots, and vinegar: making it overall more tangy in taste. Thanks to the browning of the butter, the nutty sweetness of the sauce was the perfect compliment to the meat. I’m pleased they make their breads in-house and content I got to eat one in the form of an english muffin. With a medium woven crumb, the bread was weighty enough to stand up to the moisture from the egg and peameal but contained enough volume to make it fluffy tasting–not the squat dense bricks I have in my nightmares about eating. The only technical flaw was the egg itself; it was not runny and instead, was more of a fudgy texture.
I was spoiled during dessert. I was given a strawberry shortcake and dessert 2.0 in the form of a panna cotta. Let’s get another technical error out of the way. I get the ‘rustic’ charm and theme they’re trying to impart, but when the juices from the strawberries land in my lap rather than stay on the cutting board they chose to serve dessert on, well that’s quite a large error. Aside from that, the strawberries in this dish were given a lofty treatment; they cozied up to a sliced tea biscuit- style shortcake. When I asked Sous-Chef Adam Alguire why they opted for a coarse crumb cake rather than a finer, tender one (which I usually choose when I make shortcake at home), he stated that the biscuit was more characteristic of the southern flair they were aiming for. Placed on top of a creamy, floral vanilla creme anglaise, the ruby red strawberries awaited their fate. Simple but beautiful to behold.
The panna cotta would be classified as more ‘camera-ready’ and ‘fancier’. It was a creamy, full-bodied dessert; made lovingly with copious amounts of cream. The kicker here was the use of goat’s yoghurt; so as you lap it up, you get the sweetness, but a bit of tang and sharp notes from the yoghurt. It’s the perfect dessert if you are not looking for something overly sweet. As if to worship the gleaming white idol in the middle, a trail of nectarines and orange segments came from both sides of the tasty path.
Would I eat here again? Yes!.. and moreover, in a heartbeat, if they started making cornbread and considered making sinful Mississippi Mud pies.