How come all the health movements in dining skipped kid’s menus? No matter the restaurant, it’s all chicken fingers and fries, pizza with pepperoni, or spaghetti…with butter. As a health-conscious parent, it’s frustrating. We want to educate our children’s palates; stimulate their imagination; teach proper etiquette; and feed them the most nutritious meals. It’s high time we elevate the kid’s menu.
Heeding the call, the Omni King Edward Hotel has created a “Culinary Kids Menu” that covers all the bases: simple dishes of quality ingredients presented artfully. Seated comfortably in the Consort Bar, the arrival of the first course is met with a “Wow!” Warm, thick “sticks” of French toast are stacked like a Jenga tower and bejewelled with strawberries and orange wedges. “I never knew French toast could be like this!” My son beams. His eyes light up as the waiter offers him a saucière filled to the rim with Ontario maple syrup. Proportionality is not yet part of his vocabulary, so a drizzle quickly turns into a flood. It’s okay. I love watching him try something new, or get excited about trying something in a new way. Never before was French toast as enjoyable as this.
Chomp chomp chomp. He devours bite after bite. There’s a bowl of tomato soup for dunking, and three dips: avocado ranch, barbecue, and local strawberry jam, but I can only coax him into trying one. After studying them all, he tepidly dips a corner into the jam. One nibble later and he’s scooping it all up. This is how grilled cheese is supposed to be: fun, crunchy and delish!
Not to be outdone, more dishes arrive. Panko crusted chicken skewers, tender and lightly seasoned, are served with ramekins of maple honey mustard, house-made barbecue and avocado ranch, and a side fruit cocktail. Lost in culinary heaven, my son is mixing and matching, and trying new flavours, which is what this is all about.
Chicken fried rice is served in a Chinese take-out box accompanied by orange wedges and grilled shrimp chips. First of all, everything is better in a take-out box. It reminds me of college, or a stakeout. As for my son, it’s a new way to dine that is fun, even rebellious. My inner Cliff Clavin emerges as I begin telling him that the Chinese take-out box, or “paper pail” was actually patented in Chicago in the 1890’s, but he’s already face-deep in light savoury rice, chicken and julienned veggies.
Each dish is as visually stimulating as it is savoury and nutritious. Nothing heavy, nothing oily, everything is light and fresh. I’m happy. He’s happy. Mission accomplished.
Rubbing his belly he admits defeat and says he’s too full for dessert. Excuse me? Well, the kid in me is not about to pass this up. In short order, two interactive desserts arrive that immediately entice a little more room. Warm doughy beignets are presented in a paper bag. The waiter instructs my son to “shake, shake, shake” to coat them with sugar, and then set them between two dips of chocolate and dulce de leche. OMG! These beignets, soft and warm, just saved me the trip to New Orleans. I know my son is enjoying them, but I’m in a doughnut daze, and am taking this moment for myself.
The finale, of course, is a paint palette set with one chocolate chunk cookie and one oatmeal raisin cookie surrounded by chocolate, dulce de leche, dollops of raspberry puree, vanilla ice cream, light whipped cream and one paint brush. Ok, so this may not exactly align with my “healthy” rant, but…this is fun! Normally I’d say, “Don’t play with your food,” but this dish really buttons the idea of “culinary kids” in an interactive way that enables my son to imagine, engage and experiment with the art of flavour. “Have you ever had a brunch like this, before?” I ask him. “Nope!” he enthuses, as he focuses on his masterpiece.
For more info go to: Omni King Edward Hotel, 1-888-444-OMNI
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.