It’s the perfect recipe for dinner and a show.
Panoramic views, expertly crafted cuisine, and world-class horse racing all combine to make for a unique and memorable night out at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
For Robert Bakular, Chef de Cuisine, who has worked for Woodbine Entertainment for 30-plus years, the opportunity to create a first-rate dining experience at Mohawk Harvest Kitchen (MHK) goes well beyond what’s found on the menu.
“Certainly, from day one, the goal was always to get the freshest products coming in the doors,” said Bakular, a graduate from Humber College’s renowned culinary program. “We want to give value to what we offer here. That has always been the philosophy.”
The diverse menu caters to a wide variety of tastes and palettes, showcasing traditional favourites, while also offering exciting new takes on dishes.
Those looking for exceptional food choices and the thrill of live action sports will have plenty on their plate at the racetrack that is home to some of the world’s premier horse racing events, a list that includes the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup (June 18), the Mohawk Million (September 24) and the prestigious Breeders Crown (October 28-29), a two-day event that brings several of racing’s biggest stars, equine and human, to the Milton, Ontario venue.
Bakular and his team are constantly testing out new food offerings for the thousands who annually attend the races at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
One item that has mushroomed on the menu… mushrooms.
“One of things I try to do is stay up on the trends, what’s going on in the business, where things are moving and try to jump out and be ahead of that. One of things this year is mushrooms. They seem to be the trend going forward, so we’ve included a few of those dishes. We did a nice flatbread, and a stuffed agnolotti pasta with mushroom. We just pick up on what’s happening and represent that in what we offer. A lot of that is going to food shows, to see what is going on there, and also looking at magazines and reading up on the newest buzz or looking online. We approach it from the standpoint of, ‘What’s going on in the world right now? What do people want?’”
It’s why the MHK food selection is constantly evolving.
Having a combination of familiar staples and new dishes is a hallmark of MHK’s identity, noted Bakular.
“Last year, we purchased a smoker and had a fantastic barbecue out here. We’ve been using that to smoke our chicken and making a beautiful pot pie out of it, a little twist on an old favourite. You want to make sure that everyone who comes here has something that resonates with them. It’s like putting a puzzle together. We share any new dishes with the chefs and sous chefs, we test it out, analyze it and tweak it here and there. We get to a point where we’re happy and then we enter it into the menu.”
Bakular has several current personal favourites on the menu.
“I’m a big fan of everything, obviously. We have a great smoked trout potato cake. We’ve taken some fresh smoked trout and nice local Yukon Gold potatoes. It’s a really nice appetizer, three of them on the plate. There are some great flavours to it. We have the candied spice bacon to go with Swiss chard kimchi, a Korean twist and modernized it up a bit, to make it a little bit different. That’s one I really enjoy. You can’t go wrong with the onion soup, which is braised in beef broth and has Oxford County smoked gouda on it. That one is very popular. I’ve had people come up and thank me for putting it back on the menu. We’ve added fish and chips, which is new this year. It has fresh cod that we bring in. We’re also utilizing the smoker too, offering some chicken and ribs. That’s the thing about here and at Woodbine – you get people coming year after year and you see familiar faces. But we also want to see new faces as well. It’s about making people happy.”
Desserts typically bring out big smiles and rave reviews.
“We utilize our relationship with Cheesecake Factory, which have great desserts. We feature those at both Mohawk and Woodbine. Those are always popular. We are doing a nice Bananas Foster, with a brownie, caramel and bananas. It’s flambeed, but not at the table unfortunately. It’s a really nice dessert. It comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and really shows off warm flavours. We’ve kept other desserts fairly light going into the spring and summer. Berries Cookies and Cream is one example. It’s meringue cookies with whipped Passion Fruit cream, and a fresh selection of berries around it. It’s light and refreshing. We also offer a selection of sorbets and ice cream as well.”
The commitment to locally-sourced food and vegetables remains a priority for Bakular and MHK.
“When we launched MHK about five years ago, that was a real mandate for us, to work with as many local suppliers as possible. We get a weekly, updated produce lists telling me who has what, and we can make our orders and have it delivered. That local food connection is very important, and we try to work within the local areas as much as possible.”
All of it adds up to a one-of-a-kind dining and entertainment experience.
Odds are it will be a memorable night out.
“It really is unique, the combination of great food and the best in horse racing. People that come out really enjoy themselves.”
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications