August 26, 2012

First Impression: Earth To Table Bread Bar

First Impressions will be a new series I am starting about guessed it! First Impressions!  

We are all a huge fan of The Ancaster Old Mill so we decided to check out Earth to Table Bread Bar on Locke Street. They are also the owners of Spencer's at the Waterfront, Cambridge Mill & Elora Mill. With such high end establishments we were expecting a great meal!  

Unfortunately, the start of the night was a little rocky (we'll get to that later). For now, lets focus on the food. My starter was the pan roasted octopus  with potatoes, chorizo, arugula olives, garlic and chick peas. The octopus was cooked to absolute perfection. It was perfectly cleaned so you didnt't have any tough chewy skin and I could practically pull it apart with my fork. The dressing on the poatoes and the olive oil and garlic made a perfect addition to the peppery arugula.

Kandi ordered the arugula, watermelon and feta salad . I know in the picture it looks like they really went cheap with the melon but Kandi reassured me there was plenty of melon under the mound of arugula. I had a few bites and will definitely consider ordering this if I return.

The drinks came shortly after the appetizers. We were a little shocked when the server walked over with half a grapefruit and a juicer. If we're expected to juice our own grapefruit juice for the grapefruit gin & tonic, why did it take so long to get to the table? Although I thought it was a cute idea, and a great way to guarantee you're getting the freshest juice possible (and the kitchen saves on labour cost too), I wish they had offered a wet napkin at the end, just so you don't have to continue the rest of the night with sticky fingers. My wasabi caesar was great though, you could definitely taste the wasabi! 

The three of us each ordered a stone baked oven pizza while Joanna ordered the mac & cheese.  She said she enjoyed this mac & cheese better than the one offered at the Harbour Diner.

I had the prosciutto & arugula, Kandi ordered the Meat Mountain - pepperoni, bacon, sausage, salami & hot peppers, and Nancy got the Fennel Sausage - red onion, fennel sausage, scallions & fried sage.

So, after those amazing starters we had high hopes for the pizza.  Sadly, we were disappointed. The dough wasn't even - too thin, in the middle  and the crust too thick.  I wish they had offered scissors (like at Bucca in Toronto) cause then you could at least cut through the pizza to make it easier to eat.  But with how soggy the pizza's were in the middle, that would have been a big mess too! We had trouble cutting slices of it to eat with our hands cause it was way too floppy and when we tried eating with a knife and fork, the knife barely cut through the crust.

I was looking forward to folding my pizza in half but it was just too soft, I ended up just rolling it up (literally) and smashing it into something I could fit into my mouth. A good pizza should be able to literally stand on its own and not flip over like an elephants trunk! Especially $14 for a pizza, you expected more.

The company is huge on farm to table cooking and Chef Jeff Crumb was one of the first to bring the slow food movement to Ontario so I wasn't surprised by the quality of the ingredients (we knew it was going to be top notch), just the execution.

Here are some of the issues we ran into in the beginning.  After waiting for about forty or so minutes we notice an empty table and with everyone else already seated we assume they'll come out and seat us right away. They didn't. I think, maybe they still need to clear it? It's already been cleared. I think, maybe all the servers are busy and can't seat us right away. In comes a server making the rounds looking for something to do. Hmmm okay, at this point we're all thinking, what the hell? It's been over thirty minutes, everyone else has been seated and there is clearly a table ready! At this point, we all decide to just look at the menu (displayed on the window) so we know exactly what we want once we're seated. 

My first drink choice, the rhubarb bellini, server says its no longer on the menu, same goes for my second choice, I finally settle on the wasabi caesar.  We quickly realize the menu on the window differs from the menu offered at the table. Not happy. When it came to the appetizer I originally settled on the locally cured meats - sold out. Okay, then how about some french fries for the table? - sold out. Alright,  pan roasted octopus it is! 

As for the main, I decided on the Smoked Salmon stone Baked pizza, but that was no longer on the menu as well so I opted for the Proscuitto & Arugula instead. 

I love the idea of offering local fresh ingredients, but please at least update your menu accordingly! At this point you can say we were all pretty peeved! 

Conclusions: I understand sometimes people have bad days and maybe I was wrong to expect some of the qualities of their higher end establishments to trickle down. Maybe the cook working the pizza station was having a bad day and it showed in the product? Also, for all I know, the person responsible for updating the menus could have called in sick that day! Either way, what I do know is the ingredients are fresh, the menu is creative (come on, rhubarb bellini?) and they go local and/or organic where ever they can - even on the dessert menu! The concept of this place is a great one and hopefully we'll have a more pleasant experience the next time we come in. Apparently they have a Fried Chicken Friday? - you know I have a soft spot for fried chicken!

Earth to table Bread Bar
258 Locke Street South
Hamilton, Ont
Earth to Table Bread Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. Looks like they could use a few more spices in the condiments section. Especially when it comes to pizza, simple salt and pepper just won't do anymore.

    1. Yes! Some chili flakes or garlic salt would have been nice.

  2. This is very similar to my experience with the Bread Bar that recently opened up in Guelph. It's an establishment that wants to appear higher-end, but has absolutely no experience when it comes to proper seasoning. I got a mac and cheese that desperately needed some salt (they used a maple bacon in it that made it way too sweat, but little to no salt or pepper). Then, a spicy carrot soup that was neither; it was seasoned with a mild indian-style curry which was nice, but definitely not spicy. You couldn't taste carrot at all, they'd used so much butternut squash as the base of the soup that it was the only flavour. It was okay, but not what was advertised. The pizza I got was lathered in so much olive oil that it rather ruined the ingredients and the rather nice pizza crust. I remember wishing for more salt on the pizza toppings too...

    The worst was the bread appetizer - the bread itself was very good (probably because the Bread Bar did not bake it, which was another disappointment) and came with a trio of spreads. Though the fresh butter and red pepper spread were nice, there was a lemon ricotta that was so incredibly bland (zero salt in it, barely a hint of lemon). The really ridiculous, offensively pretentious part was that they'd stuck a gigantic hunk of rosemary (at least 15 - 20 cm long) and had burnt a number of the leaves and stems so they were smouldering. Rosemary is a lovely flavour in aromatics and foods, but needs oil to draw out the flavour. When you char rosemary, all it smells is something that's burning. Rosemary does not burn aromatically the way incense does. I kept thinking what a waste it was, and how nice the rosemary would have been as a seasoning in things like the ricotta, on the pizza, in the mac and cheese...

    1. eek! sounds exactly like my first experience there. luckily i've given it a few chances since then and Its gotten much better. best of luck at the Guelph location - hopefully it gets better as well