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CHEF'S TABLE: Holiday festivities on target

Food columnist and his family blow off some steam with axe-throwing in Barrie before heading downtown for some Mexican cuisine

“You do not find the happy life. You make it.” — Benjamin Franklin

The year 2022 was a wild ride, to say the least. Lots of ups and downs, new adventures and memories revisited for me. When I look back over the past year, I’m truly grateful to have been able to see and do these things and have had the opportunity of sharing with you.

Thank you for taking a few moments at the Chef’s Table and indulging with me in some of the best bits and bites that our region has to offer.

From fresh milk to farm markets, cookies to cold ones we have had a great year of nibbling and noshing our way across the culinary landscape of Simcoe County. I’m looking forward to what new and exciting things are to be found in 2023 and sharing them here with you.

Like many, this year our family kept close to home for the holidays. The weather certainly helped make sure we stuck to our plan. We did, however, get to participate in most of our usual holiday traditions, some festive cookie baking, and a Christmas Eve pyjama party are always a must.

With a bittersweet year ending, we were looking for a family fun night to help finish out our 2022 and usher in a new 2023. It was decided that we would try our hand at axe-throwing. Thanks to the kind and patient staff at Bullseye Axe Throwing in south-end Barrie, we were able to get a few solid hits in. I can’t lie, it was kind of soothing to focus the frustrations of the past year into the axe, let it go and to have it find its mark the target. It took a few tries, but by the end I think our whole crew was getting into the swing of it.

Now the only thing more legendary than lumberjack skills with an axe is their hunger, and ours was no exception. Our family has a few regular spots that we love in town there are so many great places to hit up. My daughter has been craving Mexican, so we decided to go to what we think is the best spot in town: The Mexican House in downtown Barrie.

Our family has enjoyed their delicious food and baked goods since they first opened in the Dunlop Plaza. Now the restaurant and Latin market has a new home in the city's downtown bus terminal in what was the old Burger King location, going back a few years.

This new spot with a full view of the waterfront, outdoor patio space and a décor that features beautiful Latin American art and culture its truly an authentic cantina experience right in the heart of Barrie. 

The menu offers a mix of traditional dishes from the central regions of Mexico and the more familiar Tex-Mex offerings you might be used to.

Some of our must-haves include: 

* Pozole — a savoury chili infused broth with pork and hominy corn, hearty and satisfying soup with a great kick.

* Tamales — a steamed bundle of masa dough and a tasty filling, all wrapped in a corn husk. Chicken, pork and the sweet chili ... we love them all. 

* Enchiladas — a corn tortilla rolled around a savoury chicken filling and covered with a salsa verde. This is my wife’s favourite dish and her regular order.

* Chimichanga – I mean, I just like to say its a deep-fried burrito common in Tex-Mex and Southwestern cuisine. The dish is prepared by filling a flour tortilla with rice, cheese, beans, and a meat and folding it into a rectangular package. It is then deep-fried and topped with sour cream and cheese. For my son and I, this is our pick. In our humble opinions, the campechano (beef and chorizo) is perfection.

Besides the dining area and cantina-style bar serving the best margarita this side of the border, The Mexican House features a Latin market where curious shoppers will find freshly made traditional baked goods, such as pastel de tres leches, conchas and churros. The stuffed churro donut is not to be passed up.

The atmosphere here is fun, energetic and authentic.

We were luck enough to travel to Progresso in Yucatan several years ago for winter break. Our memories of this trip are really happy ones and this is the next best thing to being there.

Family-owned and -operated, owner and Georgian College alumni Lety Murcer was one of our culinary management students and came to Barrie from Guanajuato, Mexico with dreams of sharing a part of her family and food traditions. Like me much of her culinary influence comes from her grandparents' kitchen. Together with her family, they have been able to build a successful business that is a true gem in Barrie’s culinary landscape.

And for those in the south end of town, the family also runs a second location, located at 12 Commerce Park Dr., with a Latin American market featuring imported products, a Mexican bakery and a small dine-in/take-out restaurant.

After a night of stress-releasing wood chopping and with our bellies full, I think our family was able to reconcile the changes that come with the end of one year and the start of the new. It's these sweet times that make the bitter bearable.

From our family to yours, all the best for the new year and making life in 2023 a little happier.

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Daniel Clements

About the Author: Daniel Clements

In his bi-weekly Chef's Table column, Daniel will be looking at everything from local crops and trends in the business to seasonal delights and the local restaurant scene
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