With the opening of her newest culinary venture, Enid Grace, Prince Edward County’s own It Girl has moved across the street to a bigger space where she can dig even deeper into the food and culture of her beloved Italy.
It started in the third grade. “I was always a little bit obsessed with Italy,” says restaurateur Enid Grace. “We had to do a project, and I chose Italy. I made two dishes; one with beans and pasta; I can’t remember the other one.” What she does remember is, at the age of eight, her lifelong love affair with Italy had already begun.
At 15, on her first trip to Europe – a high school exchange to the Netherlands – Enid became fascinated by the food markets, and the people’s relationship to shopping, cooking, and eating. “I noticed the way the locals ate was so different to how we eat at home, and I could see the connection between how Europeans spent their days and the way food played such an important part in their lives.”
After finishing her studies, she was free to travel more, spending months at a time exploring Italy, eating and drinking it all in. “The outdoor food markets…” sighs Enid. “Everything is just drenched in history. I was amazed at meeting the farming families who came every week, and that nothing was in plastic, or boxes.” That’s probably still true for much of the Old World, but Enid recalls, “In Italy, the purveyors in the markets were just so passionate about food, and so willing to share…”
These were revelations and the culinary education that would lead her back home to Prince Edward County and to a beautiful life in food.
Raised in Rednersville, Enid returned in 2010, and this past decade has been a homecoming of sorts for her. “If you had asked a teenage me where I would be now, I never would have thought I could be doing this – living this life back here where I grew up – but here I am in this amazingly supportive community.”
From her tiny international food cart – Passport – to her eponymous café, Wellington embraced their girl with morning lineups out the door for her French and Italian baked goods, but Enid is ready to write the next chapter of her story.
Enid Grace Culinary and Piccolina Italian Bar is a bigger, more diverse space with longer hours, offering morning coffees and Italian pastries at the espresso bar, cooking classes at her teaching table that fronts the inviting open kitchen, dining at Enid’s Table, and a little al fresco seating, too. The Mediterranean experience begins for her guests when they enter her front door, passing between two potted orange trees, provided by friend and PEC gardening superstar, Carson Arthur. “In Northern Italy, oranges play a central role, in the foods, the décor, and the landscape,” explains Enid.
“The menu is seasonally driven, Northern Italian – my heart belongs to Piemonte – with sweet and savoury pastries in the morning: Piadina (flatbread sandwiches), focaccia, and cornetti (Italian jam-filled croissant), and cicchetti (think Italian tapas) at the aperitivo hour.”
For a cook without a drop of Italian blood, Enid’s passion and understanding is surprisingly second nature. “For an Italian cook, good food means using the best and fewest seasonal ingredients – three to five is ideal – preparing them simply. That’s what I’m doing here, with a focus on some of my favourite dishes: risotto, gnudi, egg enriched pastas, polenta and antipasti… Guests can come in every day and still try something different.”
As a self-taught chef – Enid’s degree is in marketing – the term “chef” makes her a tad uncomfortable. “I’m really a cook. I learned in Italian homes and kitchens while living there. In Italy, many professional chefs are self-taught, and they cook to feed their families and their communities. My mission, first and foremost, is to nourish and contribute to my community. This is my home, so I’m a cook, and I am so grateful to Prince Edward County for welcoming me back and supporting me.”
Enid supports her community by buying from local farmers, makers, and wineries. “I source most of my ingredients locally, but if it isn’t made here or doesn’t grow here, I’ll bring it in from Italy.” The wine list features wines from her two loves: Prince Edward County and Italy.
At 37, Enid is “…totally independent and happily so. I have the best community of friends and family here, with so many female entrepreneurs to encourage me. In fact, the majority of food and hospitality scene here is headed up by women.”
Enid Grace’s Focaccia Ripiena
“This stuffed focaccia is a typical recipe from Liguria – a springtime twist on the traditional Genovese flatbread. The region is well known for its incredible focaccia; it’s a little thinner than in other Italian regions and incredibly moist and salty, a reflection of its location along the Ligurian sea. I lived in a beautiful seaside town called Diano Marina for several weeks. On my first afternoon there, I walked into a small café in a tiny piazza and was offered two slices of focaccia – one stuffed with delicious stracchino cheese, the other with local wild greens and herbs. Both were perfectly soaked in local olive oil with minuscule crystals of sea salt sprinkled on top. I was hooked and indulged in it often! This version uses easier-to-source ingredients for the filling but the flavour is just as incredible.”
For the Dough
- 2 ½ c. warm water
- 1 tsp yeast (do not use instant yeast)
- 1 Tbsp liquid honey
- 3 c. bread flour
- 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp sea salt
- ¼ c. quality olive oil, plus more for a finishing drizzle
- Flakey sea salt for garnishing
- For the Salt Brine
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ c. warm water
For the Filling
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 small fennel bulbs, fronds and stalks removed, cored and thinly sliced
- 2-3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 wild garlic scapes, finely chopped or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp fresh marjoram leaves, finely chopped
- ½ c. freshly grated Pecorino cheese; use Parmigiano Reggiano if unavailable
- Zest of 1 lemon
To make the dough, add yeast, honey and warm water to large bowl. Mix gently and allow to sit in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until yeast becomes active and proofed.
Add the flour, salt and olive oil to the bowl and begin to mix with your hands until the liquids have been mostly absorbed.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and begin to knead with your hands. Work the dough for about 10 minutes or until a nice soft ball forms. It should be moist, a little sticky. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest 2 to 3 hours in a warm place or overnight in a cooler location – a longer proofing leads to a stronger flavour and better overall texture.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the sliced fennel, shallots, garlic, and salt to the skillet and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until the fennel has softened and browned slightly. Remove from heat. Stir in the fresh marjoram and set aside to cool.
Prepare a roasting pan or cookie sheet – roughly 18” x 13” – by rubbing it with a generous coating of olive oil, bottom and sides. Set aside. Transfer risen dough from bowl to work surface; pat and stretch it out to double the size of the prepared pan. Gently lift and place half of the dough snuggly in the pan, leaving the excess to temporarily drape over the side.
Evenly distribute the fennel mixture over the dough sitting inside the pan, sprinkle the fennel filling with the Pecorino and lemon zest, then gently flip the other half overtop and pinch down all the sides to conceal the filling.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Now make the brine, by mixing the salt and warm water in a small bowl; set aside.
Gently dimple the top of the dough all over with your fingertips to create little wells. Sprinkle all of the warm brine over the top and allow it to pool in the wells.
Rest uncovered in a warm spot for about 40 minutes for the second proof. Just before popping into the oven, sprinkle some flakey sea salt – I like Maldon – over the top. Bake on the top rack for 25-30 minutes or until the top is browned. Remove from oven and drizzle with a splash of best quality olive oil. Cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
Blue Wheelbarrow Farm
In 2010, Aaron Armstrong began a six-year odyssey as a Wwoofer – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – a volunteer farmhand working, learning, and seeing the world for room and board. By the spring of 2016, after sowing, weeding and digging his way around the world – across Ontario and British Columbia to Hawai’i, France, England, Scotland, Greece, Italy and New Zealand, Aaron was ready to launch his own farm, using all the best methods he’d learned along the way. Now in its fourth year, Blue Wheelbarrow Farm sits on 17 acres of fertile County soil in the town of Hallowell. “We mainly focus on baby greens and salad mixes,” says Aaron. “My mixed greens contain up to 10 types of baby greens, depending on the week. But, the one thing that is unique to our farm is our Spicy Salad Mix, which is a blend of mizuna and spicy mustard greens. The mustard greens have this wasabi-horseradish kick to them that’ll clear your sinuses! It’s one of our most popular mixes. We also grow arugula which not many local farmers grow. Enid Grace is counting on bushels of Aaron’s beautiful basil for the freshest pesto.”
John Battista Calvieri
Hubbs Creek Vineyard
At Hubbs Creek Vineyard, the vines grow atop a 500 million-year-old geological feature – the Lindsay Formation – and old rocks and soil result in complex wines. The family planted their first vines in 2002 in the vineyard that sits on six acres in Hillier, near Wellington. The vineyard is best known for its Burgundian-style grapes, growing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, as well as a tiny experimental plot of Dolcetto. Mother Nature has taken winemakers and brothers John Battista Calvieri and Joseph Calvieri on a rollercoaster ride since putting those first roots down. According to the brothers, “Growing grapes, especially Pinot Noir, has been challenging due to the harsh winter conditions in Prince Edward County. The winters of 2004 and 2005 were particularly severe, and a lot of vines were lost, but we are expanding our product line to include Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.”Enid Grace thinks pink: “Hubbs Creek makes mostly small batch and I think sells out every season; their rosé is unmatched!”
Honey Wagon Farm
Just outside of Picton, the season at Honey Wagon Farms begins in February when the days start to warm, the nights are still cold, and the sap begins to run. Ed and Sandi Taylor came to the County in 1993, with a dream of farming without the use of pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides, and to produce maple syrup the old fashioned way. Their first syrup production came in 1995, with just 50 trees tapped, but after expanding into a nearby sugar bush, the “retired” couple now tap 550 trees – and still with no lines, just spigots and buckets – then they reduce the sap into syrup in an evaporator over an open fire, finally filtering it through natural felt, powered only by gravity. That’s as old fashioned and natural as possible. That same slow food ethos extends to their market gardens, and although you won’t find Sandi and Ed’s syrup on the all-Italian menu, Enid Grace is a fan of what they grow. “Ed and Sandi are masters at several things and I know their fields very well. I always stock up on the Delicata squash and beets. Oh, and they grow the best kale too – Tuscan kale specifically – and sweet, red, Italian Tropea onions.”