On a mission to find a Christmas guitar for a kid, my husband and I headed to Kemptville, and a shop called The Class Axe, complete with a vintage vault of guitars dating back to the 1800s. It was open Sunday, and not far from another of my Kemptville destinations, the Branch Restaurant. I had long wanted to check out what chef/co-owner Bruce Enloe calls his “Rubber Boots Buffet,” offered every Sunday from 2 until 8 p.m.
But fate intervened to give me time for one more side trip before the Branch. Fate in the form of a wall of Fender guitars and an obsessed husband. I left him, happily perched on a stool, strumming Stairway to Heaven – in search of a good cup of coffee.
I found one in a mini-mall on Hwy. 43. Brewed Awakenings is in Kemptville’s Creekside Mall. Co-owned by Karen Brule (who also gave us a solid reason for being hungry in Merrickville when she opened her Elements bistro), Brewed roasts its own beans and bakes its own treats and you should leave with a bag of the house shortbread, swirled with cinnamon or espresso, scented with lemon or studded with chunks of chocolate. Very nice with a cup of tea. My only complaint was that the coffee shop was cold this Sunday afternoon – not great for relaxing in or for keeping my cappuccino warm.
An hour later, I dragged guitar man to the Branch with the notion they had Beau’s on tap. They did, along with five other brews, and a help-yourself spread of homemade food.
Housed in a stone character building, circa 1860, the husband and wife team of Bruce Enloe and Nicole LeBlanc opened the Branch five years ago, together with another couple. (The Kelahers have since left the partnership to do other things.)
My last review of the Branch was in 2008, based on an evening meal. I had then been intrigued by the Rubber Boots Buffet and the story that goes along with it, but it took me three more years to return to Kemptville. The story goes like this: When Bruce Enloe worked on farms in Europe (WWOOFing, as in WorldWide Opportunities, or Willing Workers, On Organic Farms) there was a nice tradition at a fancy restaurant in France. On Sundays, the chef would cook family-style comfort food and invite the local farmers, suppliers and their families. There were other similar thanksgiving offerings of food, from Enloe’s hometown in Texas and from his chefing days in California. All of these, the story goes, contributed to this idea of a Sunday drop-in for Valley locals. And though I can’t imagine the invitation would naturally be extended to a restaurant critic from the city, I felt privileged to be there.
Enloe’s Rubber Boots Buffet accepts no reservations, is come-as-ye-be, costs $13 for all-you-can-eat, and presents simple, homey, well-flavoured food. There’s also an open stage for musicians. The music starts around 3 p.m.
At our RBB, the choices were limited and the flavours strong. Best not bring your picky sister, though a vegetarian kid would eat well. There was a small salad bar featuring lovely greens, grated golden beets, a choice of three house dressings, along with a smoky potato salad and an apple-strong waldorf scented with dill. There were soups, including a yard-smoked pulled pork with kale and spinach, and a rich and robust pumpkin curry. And there were two main dishes – a hot and spicy jambalaya with superb house-smoked sausage, and a gentle phyllo pie layered with spinach and feta.
We ordered dessert off the menu, a best-ever chocolate cake.
Together, it was enough to make a man forget about a Fender.