Tuesday, 8 January 2013

StoneHill - Vineland's Newest Destination

   After watching the outside of the building take on a new look over the last several months and anticipating a new restaurant option in town the time finally arrived to take a peek inside and discover what is StoneHill.

    First impressions: Warm, welcoming and elegant.  Stacked hewn stone (an obvious nod to the local quarry) and dark wood are in lovely contrast to the light painted walls, modern glass light fixtures and large windows - men and women alike will love the feel of this place!

    The servers are very pleasant and willing to offer suggestions as to what they have tried and enjoy - which is always a nice 'extra' when trying to make up your mind as what to have.  StoneHill is still finalizing their menu - they only opened 6 days ago - so they have a lot to offer in way of variety and it is likely that the chefs will be taking many notes on what people have ordered and found enjoyable and use that information to better the menu each time.  I have a feeling this farm to table style restaurant may develop an evolving menu with a few mainstay, signature items and other items that will alter and change with the seasons - nothing like using what is fresh and available when in a town like Vineland where fresh local produce abounds!!

    My sister and I ordered a few different things today: Baked Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos, Vik's 6 oz Burger (with a Julius salad on the side), and the Chickenini Panini (with sweet potato fries on the side).  Side note (pun intended): StoneHill offers lots of choice for casual side dishes - fries, sweet potato fries, StoneHill salad, Julius salad (their spin on a Caesar), soup of the day, or tortilla chips and salsa.

    We started out with the Baked Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos - one of my sister's favourite appetizers. The presentation was simple and clean.  The siracha sauce that it comes with should NOT be mistaken for ketchup, as it appears very like it - this stuff will cause a serious hum in your mouth - not for weak tastebuds!  As for the jalapenos themselves you receive 6 large jalapenos halved, filled with herb cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.  Initial flavour makes one believe that the bacon has been smoked.  After deconstructing the app we realized it was the flavoured cream cheese that gave its smoked flavour.  Although the bacon was nicely flavoured, the cream cheese definitely did not offset the heat of the pepper and left us gulping our water and asking for more.  We could not even imagine using the siracha sauce provided as it would have caused our tastebuds to take a lickin'!

    The Vik's 6 oz Burger definitely presents itself as a hand-formed, homemade burger.  It was cooked properly to a mid-well with crispy, caramelized edges.  One would think this had been created on a flattop but we discovered later that it was grilled.  It was served on a fresh bakery bun which was a nice touch, but it was nothing more than a basic, plain kaiser.  Maybe a onion, herb, or sun-dried tomato focaccia would have helped bring more flavour into the mix.  The Julius Salad was served with crisp Romaine, sliced fresh mushrooms, crumbled feta, croutons, and bacon.  The caesar dressing on the salad is toted as homemade and it mirrors the flavour of Renee's brand ( and we ♥ Renee's!).

    Now for the Chickenini Panini - which turned out to be not be what I thought a panini to be but rather a lovely flattop grilled style sandwich on a multi grain bread.  The overall appearance of this plate is very appetizing!  The amount of chicken you get in this sandwich is generous - at least 4-5 oz - making for a very hearty lunch option.  The avocado mayonnaise did not come through on flavour, maybe a garlic aioli or simply fresh sliced avocados would be nice in place of this somewhat redundant topping. The most prevalent flavour was the strong citrus note.  We're not sure if this was from the lemon chicken marinade because it came across as more of a lime flavour allowing for some unpleasant, bitter notes when combined with the char flavour on the grilled chicken. The chili jam did not lend as much heat and sweet as one would hope - just gave a few hints here and there of it's existence - maybe if the chili jam were served on the side allowing you to dip your sandwich in it would be a nice way to showcase the flavour it has to offer. The aged cheddar was nice but a sharper cheddar would have again added a little bit more flavour. As for the side chosen for this sandwich the sweet potato fries were simply A-MAZ-ING!!

    Our humble suggestion for making the Baked Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos better would be:
 1. Pan frying, the way bacon is meant to be cooked - crispy and chewy and perfect!
 2. Don't over complicate the cream cheese - it's there to balance the heat of the jalapeno, adding any flavour dimension to it defeats its purpose.
 3. Add a touch of sweet - either by panfrying them in a little maple butter or maybe a kiss of maple syrup after it's out of the pan just to nudge the flavour up a notch. 

End result: Sweet, salty, chewy, crispy, smooth, umami (that sought after 5th flavour on the taste buds), heat and cool!

    We plan on returning to see the evolution of their menu and we'll keep you updated!  We suggest you give StoneHill a try and encourage our new neighbour!!

    ♥ Cath-       

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