De­tour: go for the cof­fee, stay for the food

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - ALANA HUD­SON Spe­cial to The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor Alana Hud­son has cooked at restau­rants in­clud­ing Vong, Le Bernardin, and Avalon.

Usu­ally, when I hear the word “De­tour,” I think one of two things: I must fol­low that sign (usu­ally be­grudg­ingly) or I am headed to­ward an ex­cel­lent cup of cof­fee (not at all be­grudg­ingly).

This time, it hap­pened to be the lat­ter. My din­ing com­pan­ion and I were hungry for brunch and look­ing for a place to warm up. So we drove past McMaster Univer­sity into Dun­das and parked on King Street West, just past the li­brary.

En­ter­ing De­tour’s charm­ing Parisianstyle café tak­ing up the ground floor of an old, two-storey build­ing, we lucked out.

There was a party of three wait­ing, but a ta­ble for two was avail­able. Feel­ing barely a hint of guilt, I leapt for­ward to claim it and sat down on a taste­ful wooden ban­quette ac­cented by white and black striped cush­ions.

Tall and nar­row, darkly tinted win­dows dom­i­nate the front wall. Seat­ing is set up in an L shape: along the east wall, the long ban­quette an­chor­ing a se­ries of square tables for two; booths across the rear.

At the front, a tra­di­tion­ally styled wooden counter with pas­tries dis­played along with a La Mar­zocco es­presso ma­chine. Shiny and red, it was the only piece of flash in the place. Neu­tral wall colours and panoramic scenes of Hamil­ton by artist Paul Elia made me feel at home.

But the es­presso ma­chine did stand out, and right­fully so, since that is the rai­son d’être for De­tour, which sells its cof­fees to stores and restau­rants through­out the area. They also have a cof­fee sub­scrip­tion ser­vice through their web­site. (More about that later.)

I re­mem­ber that in 2009, they were only open on week­ends and roasted their cof­fee in the back of what is now the café that opened in 2011.

From speak­ing to the own­ers and check­ing their blog, it is clear that for this crew, cof­fee is right up there with wine or Scotch when it comes to com­plex­ity, va­ri­ety and re­fine­ment.

When the cap­puc­cino came, I was in heaven. It wasn’t just the cof­fee; the milk was also high qual­ity. The drink was full and soft.

The cof­fee that day, La Bolsa, was a blend from Gu­atemala, lighter than the Punch Buggy in the cap­puc­cino but still of­fer­ing plenty of char­ac­ter. De­li­cious.

We warmed up quickly and the server soon came to take our food or­ders. Gen­tle coun­try music played over the speak­ers (think Ali­son Krauss or Lucinda Wil­liams) to fur­ther re­lax us.

The menu of­fered ba­sic items such as a break­fast sand­wich, av­o­cado and toast, BLT deluxe. The key ethos be­hind the food: lo­cal, sea­sonal and from scratch.

I had to try the bahn mi pou­tine. Like the cof­fee, an in­ter­est­ing and tasty com­bi­na­tion. Mild curry gravy, pick­led car­rots and pep­pers, pulled pork and a creamy goat cheese, topped with spicy sriracha. It was meaty and creamy and the pick­led veg­gies popped out just right.

My BLT came next, served with a slice of av­o­cado in ad­di­tion to toma­toes — roasted to bring out their flavour. The let­tuce and ba­con added fresh and salty notes; the rus­tic bread had been baked on site. I would have pre­ferred less av­o­cado on my sand­wich to high­light the other in­gre­di­ents, but was still quite pleased.

Kale was a sur­prise in the split pea soup that ac­com­pa­nied the sand­wich. The soup lacked the typ­i­cal smoky ham flavour but had a light­ness that al­lowed the kale to shine through.

My com­pan­ion or­dered the su­per salad, which came with lentils and a crema dress­ing. What struck me was the raw in­tegrity of the greens. This was no or­di­nary salad mix: chopped napa cab­bage, chard and radic­chio, all tast­ing fresh from the f arm. The menu de­scribed the salad as “ridicu­lously healthy,” which it was, even with the dress­ing and the feta on top. If only all healthy food could be so sat­is­fy­ing.

From there, we were ready to de­part. Even I have a cof­fee con­sump­tion limit.

So we took pas­tries to go: a morn­ing glory muf­fin, which was like a car­rot cake with­out the creamy frost­ing (they do also of­fer car­rot cake with frost­ing) and a cin­na­mon scone.

The scone was f an­tas­tic. Like the other pas­tries, they are made in-house and, just like the milk stood out in the cap­puc­cino, the but­ter stood out in the scone. It rang true on my taste­buds and the tex­ture was per­fect.

So if you are hungry, take an alternate route (or a di­rect one) and head out to Dun­das.

If you just want the cof­fee and can’t make the trip, check out their web­site, full of in­for­ma­tion about de­liv­ery sub­scrip­tions and their trav­els to source their core prod­uct.

I like good cof­fee at home but hav­ing the pros make it for me?



The bahn mi pou­tine, with pick­led veg­eta­bles.


In­side the De­tour Café in down­town Dun­das.


Split pea soup, a light ver­sion with kale, came with the av­o­cado BLT.

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