If you've ever driven down St. Albert Trail, you've probably noticed a red Victorian mansion just overlooking the Sturgeon River. Sharing the grand space is a spa, a hair salon, and 12 Acres, a farm-to-table restaurant that takes the "local" concept quite seriously. Nearly everything, from bread to pasta to condiments, is made in-house, from scratch. Their philosophy is all about seasonality and sustainability.
Armed with a Groupon, GY and I made a visit to 12 Acres for a weekday dinner. The restaurant is easy to spot driving in, but a bit confusing to get to, coming in from Edmonton. You'll have to turn left earlier or later than when you'd expect to.
Walking inside, the dining room looked cozy and inviting, with warm wooden touches and comfy leather chairs. Since it was such a nice day out, we opted to sit outside on the balcony patio.
Because the menu changes so often, depending on season and ingredient availability, the menu is presented on iPads. Interactive and user-friendly, items are organized into appetizer, entrée, daily specials, and dessert categories. I quite liked the novelty of the iPad menus, since they also came complete with pictures (so important in this day and age of Instagram and social media).
Menu items are at a slightly higher price point, but certainly not anything outrageous. Entrées start at around $18.00, with the highest capping off at $35.00. It's pretty fair, and justifiable considering their philosophy and commitment to local.
GY ordered a bunch of small plates in lieu of a big entrée. She got the side portion of the warmed root salad, with spinach, roasted beets and parsnips, warmed buerre noisette dressing, and goat cheese.
Continuing with the beet theme, the Montabello beet soup (side portion) was next. A traditional Quebecois beet and potato soup, pureed with curry and finished with creme fraiche.
GY also ordered the King salmon and grass-fed beef tartare duo ($17.00) off of the appetizers section. The beef tartare was mixed with house-made pickles, shallots, parsley, and other seasonings. The salmon was done up pretty much the same way except with the addition of fresh dill and lemon zest. On the right was a rhubarb and Saskatoon berry chutney, and served on the side were simple slices of crostini.
The presentation was beautiful, with everything served on top of a wooden slab. I'm still on the fence with eating raw beef so I only ended up trying the salmon. It was a bit fishy tasting, but otherwise the flavours were okay. I'm not usually a fan of dill, but it wasn't overpowering in this case.
I wasn't in a meat-eating mood so I settled for their only vegetarian entrée option, the seared gnocchi with pesto ($18.00). A healthy portion of hand-rolled gnocchi, with roasted carrot, zucchini, and butternut squash, tossed in a house-made pesto. The dish is finished off with grated parmigiano reggiano and a drizzle of cold-pressed canola oil.
The roasted vegetables were soft and tender, while the gnocchi was equally the same. Not dense, not mushy, just the right texture. Despite being vegetarian, the dish was quite filling. What I thought would be a light dish ended up being quite heavy after more than a few bites. I'm not usually one to order pasta dishes, so I'd probably recommend sharing it and grabbing it with another appetizer or entrée. The same flavour tends to get old with me pretty fast.
We finished off with dessert and chose the earl grey panna cotta ($11.00) since it seemed like the most interesting choice. Earl grey-infused panna cotta served with a blueberry compote and house-made granola.
Interesting concept, but the execution was so-so. The earl grey flavour wasn't too prominent, and the texture of the panna cotta ended up being too stiff for our liking. We weren't really digging the granola accompaniment either since it was almost too toasted, veering close to the burnt end of the spectrum. There were also some pieces of dried fruit that were definitely too hard and not a welcome thing to bite into.
Overall, our experience at 12 Acres was just okay. Nothing mind-blowing or special, almost middle of the road really. I'm not one to turn down a good deal (it's the Asian in me), but it's almost telling if a restaurant has to offer a Groupon to attract patrons. I do think it's worth a try at least once, especially if the reason is to support your local farmers and producers.