Dine fine minutes from Regina
In southern Saskatchewan, where flora is generally limited to food grains – one may not be used to seeing row-on-row of fruit trees. This is how one knows they have arrived at The Backyard and Over the Hill Orchards. The Backyard is the prairies’ only entirely locally sourced restaurant. Located off Highway 734, The Backyard is a dining experience off the beaten path and just minutes outside of Regina.
The Backyard is the creation of Regina’s Mariana Brito, a professional chef hailing from Tijuana, Mexico. In a landlocked city as small and saturated with same-old, same-old cuisine, and slow food restaurants serving calamari, Brito and her staff are looking to bring a fresh experience to southern Saskatchewan.
Over the Hill’s Dean and Sylvia Kreutzer provide the space and produce much of the raw food used at The Backyard. The orchard holds over ten-thousand prairie cherry trees along with peaches, saskatoons, blueberries, strawberries, local and exotic herbs, among dozens of other food crops. Much of these may be purchased in town at the Regina Farmers’ Market.
One is given a quick tour of the orchard and greenhouse prior to sitting down to eat, giving a degree of transparency rarely seen in the production of food. The presentation at The Backyard also emphasizes this element of transparency, being composed of largely whole foods with detailed descriptions given of what is to come prior to each course.
Our meal began with a sweet and sour kohlrabi with garden spinach, beet leaves, pickled garlic, candy cane beet carpaccio, sheep’s milk crowdie, with a home grown epazote vinaigrette. Seeing whole foods on one’s plate becomes something of an alien experience in this land of microwave dinners and biweekly CISCO deliveries. The salad was refreshing and a great way to start the meal and establish what kind of dining experience was in store.
A wonderfully savoury charred pepper puree came next. The puree was served with beans amandine, hemp seeds, a house-cured bacon, pickled garlic scapes, and sauerkraut. On paper, the puree sounds busy; in practice it was delicious and the flavours worked together, going far beyond what one may expect from a bowl of soup.
Saturday’s meal featured a special third course as a pallet cleanser. The apple-honey paleta takes the form of a frozen pop and tastes like an apple crisp. The paleta gave way to the main course with a fresh pallet, wild northern pike in tomato relish.
Saturday’s main was wild-caught northern pike with a Veracruzana Tomato relish and grilled pipicha-pattypan, millet pilaf, sorrel-sheep milk cream, and a pea shoot salad. While the northern pike is one of the world’s most common freshwater fish, the treatment here was certainly not common. The pike was great, with the sourness of the tomato relish working with the natural flavours of the fish and cream to create a very unique taste.
The meal was capped off with dessert, a buckwheat éclair with salted caramel, and saskatoon berries with a sheep’s milk sorbet. The éclair was a revelation in the shape of a dessert. The sweetness of the éclair contrasts with the salty caramel, giving the diner a measured and well-toned dessert.
Following the tour of the orchard, diners are sat at long, shared tables; not only do you get a great meal and some fresh air, diners may also come away with some new friends. The evening ended with a view of a spectacular Saskatchewan sunset over the adjacent valley, illustrating the term “land of the living skies” perfectly and offering punctuation to a lovely evening with friends. While a four-course meal may not be in everyone’s plans every weekend, you owe it to yourself to check out The Backyard while in and around Regina.
Reservations may be made through email at firstname.lastname@example.org