Blog

Roast Turkey with Herb Stuffing & Gravy

 

If you’ve never tackled stuffing and roasting a whole turkey before, or if you just need a refresher on cooking that perfect bird, this 101 cooking lesson is for you. A fresh turkey really does have a superior texture and flavour and it’s usually best to order ahead from your butcher or meat department to make sure you get the right size. If you are using a frozen turkey be sure to allow for plenty of thaw time to thaw in the refrigerator and never thaw at room temperature. The turkey for this recipe would take 2 1/2 – 3 days to thaw completely. Any stuffing you can’t fit in the bird can be cooked in a buttered casserole dish after the turkey comes out of the oven.

HERB STUFFING
1/4 cup (60 ml) butter
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh sage
1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp (2 ml) celery seeds
1/2 tsp (2 ml) dried savoury (optional)
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 ml)approx. turkey or chicken stock
14 cups (3.5 ml) cubed day old bread

TURKEY
1 Turkey, 12 – 14 lbs (5.5 to 6.5 kg) 
1/4 cup (60 ml) butter, melted
1 tbsp (15 ml) chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp (1 ml) chopped fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper 

GRAVY
2 cups (500 ml) approx. turkey or chicken stock
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp (5ml) chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup (80 ml) all-purpose flour
 1/3 cup (80 ml) dry white wine
salt and freshly ground pepper 

 1. For the stuffing, melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add celery, onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add sage, rosemary, celery seeds, savoury (if using) and 1/2 tsp (2 ml) each salt and pepper; saute for 5 minutes or until onions start to turn golden. Pour in about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the stock and scrape up brown bits.

2. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and mix with bread. Add enough stock to moisten stuffing (when you squeeze it, a handful should just hold together). Season with salt and pepper, let cool completely.

3. Preheat oven to 325F (160C).

4. Remove any giblets and parts tucked in cavity of turkey and reserve for the stock if desired. Rinse turkey inside and out with cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place breast side up on a rack in a large roasting pan. You want at least 1 inch  (2.5 cm) of space between the turkey and the sides of the pan.

5. Fill cavity with the stuffing, packing lightly, but not to tight, in order to leave room for expansion when cooking. Bring legs together towards the opening of the cavity and tie with kitchen string. Lift the flap of skin at the neck and stuff the smaller cavity, if desired.

6. Combine melted butter, sage, rosemary and about 1/2 (2 ml) each of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush all over the outside of the turkey.

7. Insert the probe of a meat thermometer between the leg and the breast with end of the probe into the thickest part of the thigh and without touching the bone.

8. Roast for 3 1/2 to 4 hours until meat thermometer reads 180 F (82C). Transfer turkey to a large cutting board and cover loosely with foil to “tent”.

9. For the gravy, remove rack from roasting pan. Pour pan drippings into a large liquid measuring cup. Let stand for 2 minutes. Spoon off the fat that floats to the top of the cup, (an idea to speed up this process is to add ice cubes which will solidify the fat faster). Reserve 1/4 cup (60 ml); discard remaining fat. Pour in enough stock to remaining pan juices to make 3 cups (750 ml) total liquid.

10. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Return the reserved fat to roasting pan and heat until sizzling. Add onion and sage and saute for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook, while whisking to make sure flour is incorporated with the fat, for one minute. Gradually pour in the wine, while whisking. Gradually pour in the stock, keep whisking to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer whisking often for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

11. To carve the turkey, untie the legs and spoon stuffing out of the cavities into a warm serving bowl, cover and keep warm.

12. Cut legs from turkey, inserting knife between the thigh joint and the body and using the knife to cut the meat while slightly wriggling the leg to loosen the joint. Carve meat from the thigh and serve drumstick whole if desired. To cut the breast meat position the turkey so the neck is farthest away from you. Make a cut along the breast down the centre of the turkey starting from the neck and working towards you an dkeeping the knife blade as close to the bone as possible, carfully cutting themat away from the bone in one large piece. Transfer the large piece of breast to a cutting board, then cut cross wise into slices. Repeat on the left side. Cut wings loose from the body, wiggling loose as you did the legs.

Finally you are ready to serve the turkey with the hot gravy and stuffing alongside. Refrigerate any leftovers within 1 hour.  Enjoy this meal with a nice Pinot Noir, the soft tannins and earthy, berry fruit notes provide the right combination of flavours for this dish or a nice Chardonnay, another favourite with a turkey dinner.

Enjoy!



Rosemary Lamb Loin Recipe

Rosemary Lamb loin recipe with rhubarb chutney served with fiddleheads, white asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, Jerusalem artichoke gratin.

Rosemary Lamb Loin Recipe

4 loins of Ontario Lamb approximately 5 to 7 ounces each
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
Olive oil for frying
Port wine for deglazing and reduction
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and brown loins evenly on all sides. Add chopped garlic and rosemary and transfer to the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes or until cooked to desired colour. Remove the lamb from the oven and allow to rest. Season to taste. Deglaze sauté pan with a generous amount of port wine and allow to reduce over medium heat until the liquid has reached a syrupy consistency. Set aside but keep lukewarm. Drizzle finished lamb dish with rosemary port reduction. Serve with prosciutto wrapped white asparagus, butter sautéed fiddleheads, Jerusalem artichoke gratin, and minted rhubarb chutney.

 

Sautéed Fiddleheads Recipe

8 ounces fresh Fiddleheads (may substitute with frozen)
1 garlic clove, minced very fine
3 tbsp butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt to taste

Trim any brown ends of the fiddleheads and pull off any remaining skin. Wash very thoroughly under cold water. Blanche in boiling water for approximately one minute. Pull from water and strain and pat dry with paper towel. In a sauté pan over medium heat sauté the fiddleheads in butter and garlic. It’s okay if the butter browns slightly. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Minted Rhubarb Chutney Recipe

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp Fresh spear mint chopped fine
3 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

Combine sugar and cider vinegar and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb and bring to a soft boil. Cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency. Cool, incorporate chopped spearmint, and serve at room temperature.

 

Prosciutto Wrapped White Asparagus Recipe

8 large spears white asparagus
4 thin slices of Prosciutto ham
Cracked black pepper to taste
Olive oil for roasting

Trim the tough ends off the asparagus. Blanche in boiling water for approximately one minute. Pull from water and apt dry with paper towel. Season asparagus with cracked black pepper and roll two spears each in a single slice of prosciutto leaving the tips exposed. Line in an olive oil greased roasting dish and roast until prosciutto has become browned. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

 

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin Recipe

1 pound Jerusalem Artichokes
1/8 cup butter cut into small cubes
1 tsp butter for greasing baking dish
1/4 cup 35% cream
1/2 tsp fresh sage chopped fine
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes and boil them in salted water until they are fork tender, about 10 to12 minutes. Drain, cool, and then cut into 3/8 inch slices and toss with chopped sage and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Butter an appropriate sized baking dish and fill with the Jerusalem artichokes. Dot the artichokes with butter cubes and drizzle with cream. Combine breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the artichokes. Bake at 400 degrees until the breadcrumbs are nicely browned, approximately 20 minutes.

 

 



Fifty Shades of White

It was the Ragtime era, when the phonograph became available to consumers. The first time guests were dancing at weddings; and in spite of high waists and high collars, long trains and long gloves it was the bopping head and flailing arms and legs of the Turkey Trot that was coveted by the youth and considered scandalous by polite society.

In 1914; the start of World War I the Toronto cityscape was dotted with horse and buggies as the population pushed 200,000. It was the year of the opening of the Old Mill Tea Room, the future venue for a legacy of weddings that would define the iconic Toronto landmark.

In 1929 the Old Mill Tea Room added a dance hall; and a nine piece orchestra that played six nights a week. It was the Depression so although couples continued to exchange vows brides were exchanging silk for rayon gowns or their Sunday dresses that could be worn again.

In the thirties with women supplying ¼ of Toronto’s workforce the world was introduced to mac ‘n cheese, instant oatmeal and canned soup varieties. The invention of kettles that whistled when they boiled and blenders for home use made it easier for women to go to work.

Amid World War II even more women were employed and weddings were planned with haste to young men in the forces. Vogue magazine wrote (1942) “Weddings nowadays hang not on the brides’ whim, but on the decision of the grooms’ commanding officer.”

Grooms were increasingly wearing wedding bands as visual reminders of their nuptials.

This era of rationing and practicality forced shorter hemlines (above the ankle for bike-riding ease) and lacy sweaters to get the most mileage out of a ball of wool. Brides were not exempt from frugality often using furnishing fabrics and lace curtains to fashion their wedding attire.

Life was better in the fifties. Toronto got a television broadcast system, TV dinners were on grocery shelves and portable dishwashers were being wheeled into kitchens.

Brides were wearing ballerina-length dresses with luxurious poufy layers and short fingerless gloves made of lace. Bolero jackets were in demand for ceremonies, covering strapless or laced dresses with sweetheart collars for the reception.

In the sixties women were making up 1/3 of the Canadian workforce and ¼ of the Canadian engineering profession. They were learning that ovens could (and should) clean themselves.

When they were grooving down the aisle brides were choosing short skirts or dresses and hair worn long, dotted with flowers or veils popping from pill box hats.

Toronto enjoyed architectural successes in the seventies, with Ontario Place, The Eaton Centre and The CN Tower being erected. Microwave ovens hit the Canadian market but the decade is generally associated with flower power and the peace movement.

Blame it on the hippies, but seventies brides had their own fashion senses. From pantsuits to smocked gauze gowns to Bohemian frocks this was an era of recreational duds.

O Canada became the official national anthem in 1980 kicking off an era of formality and tradition in wedding styles.

If one person can define the decade it was Diana, Princess of Wales who set the tone for puffy hair, puffy sleeves, long-distance trains and veils and the return to bodacious bouquets. Brides among the non-nobles dressed as princesses nonetheless.

The nineties were digital; as in cameras, answering machines and video discs. People were still using coin booth telephones but mobile phones were introduced to the marketplace.

In fashion, the ‘designer look’ was desirable. Brides were wearing strapless, sleeveless and sexy gowns. Cleavage was in (or out?) and dresses were form fitting.

At the turn of the century the vowels were ahead; with the arrival of iPhones, e-tickets, e-books, USBs and ATMs.

Drinks are frothy and wedding gowns more so. Pick-up skirts and asymmetrical hems fall from form fitting bodices.

Mermaids may be mystical in the sea but on the aisle the Mermaid dress is genuine and sought after, as is the Pandora, Princess, Sabrina or Tulip dress.

A century of changing styles, fashions and trends; yet the Old Mill Toronto is unwavering in their dedication to their brides and their special days.

You might say that the Old Mill Toronto will go to great lengths to seek perfection.

And as a toast to the brides, every 2014 wedding dinner package booking will be entered into a draw to Win 1 of 2 Romantic Cruises and, a first Anniversary stay in a luxury King Room at the Old Mill Toronto, as well as an engagement digital photo session Free!

 

 



Strawberry Creme Brulee with Rhubarb Compote

12 ounces fresh strawberries hulled and quartered
6 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
2 cups 35% cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl whisk the egg yolk and granulated sugar together to ribbon stage. In a medium saucepan combine the heavy cream, vanilla bean pulp, and the pod and bring to a boil. Remove vanilla pod. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes before slowly incorporating into the egg yolk sugar mixture.

Fill four 6 to 8 ounce ramekins with equal amounts for strawberry quarters. Carefully fill with the custard just covering the strawberries. Place ramekins in a deep baking dish and place on oven rack then fill dish with hot water half way up. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 325 degrees for approximately one to one and a quarter hour until the custard is set.

Remove the ramekins from the water and refrigerate. Pull the Brules from the fridge a good half hour prior to serving. Cover each Brule with a layer of Turbinado sugar and with a torch melt the sugar to a caramel state forming a crisp layer. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Top with a fanned strawberry, spoonful of rhubarb compote and a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Garnish with a nice sprig of fresh mint and icing sugar if so desired.

Rhubarb Compote Recipe

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

Combine sugar and water and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb and bring to a soft boil. Cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Enjoy! 

 



“An Artist in Your Midst”

The Old Mill Toronto has a special place in the hearts of Torontonians, and as it celebrates its 100th anniversary a visit to the website was timely. As I scrolled through the site looking at the old photographs and reading the history of the Old Mill I felt compelled to share pertinent information about an artist who lived “in your midst”.

Clara Isabella Harris was an accomplished, prolific artist who lived in close proximity to the Old Mill Toronto. For forty years (1930’s -70’s) Clara and her husband Frederick, a commercial artist, lived at twenty-three Valleyview Gardens.

 

Title: “Clara Perry” (Self portrait before Clara married)

The exterior of the house looked like any other on the street except for one difference: the inside was a “full blown” artists’ den and thriving business.

As described in Fred’s diary:

March 27, 1938 – Clara had W. Scott to sit in afternoon
October 2, 1938 – designing cards, cutting canvases, making stretchers
November 22, 1938 – Evie had 20 school teachers in to see work & get cards
October 14, 1939 – Don, Gloria and Jack for class
April 15, 1941 – Cleaned studio

Clara was well trained. She studied under J.W. Beatty, a colleague and major influence on the Group of Seven Painters; portrait painter Archibald Barnes, George Agnew Reid, Manly MacDonald and William Cruikshank.

She studied at reputable institutions: the Ontario College of Art, the Port Hope Summer Art School (Affiliated with the Ontario College of Art) and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Clara exhibited in Canada and the U.S. with such notables as A. J. Casson, Franklin Carmichael, Emily Carr, Clarence Gagnon, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Paraskeva Clark, Frank Panabaker and Edward Potthast.

True to the “plein-air” method of painting Clara travelled long distances, in all seasons, in Canada and the U.S. Considering the cars and roads of the 1930’s these were serious undertakings. And to “top it off” she often went without Fred!

But Clara’s favourite spot to set up her easel was in her own backyard: the Humber River by the Old Mill. Clara captured the Humber in all its glory as well as surrounding areas. Through careful documentation she has left a significant historical and environmental record before colour photography was commonly used.

From Fred’s diary:

May 14, 1938 – “out to Humber River in morning” 

Title: “Berry Road at the Bottom of the Humber River”, Toronto

 

Title: “Church St., The Kingsway, Toronto, Morning, May 16, 1934”.

 

Title: “Summer on the Humber River, Toronto Ontario”.

 

Title: “Autumn on the Humber River, Toronto, Afternoon, October 15, 1935”.

I now live in the NYC area but return to Toronto regularly facing the reality that change is inevitable. But all is not lost. Clara Isabella Harris and the Old Mill Toronto share a common advantage. Their respective values are appreciated in what exists today and preserved in what is recorded on their websites. A “win-win situation”.

Verna McLean
Curator, Clara Harris Collection
http://www.claraharrisart.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Isabella_Harris

 



Let Them Have Cake

Dorothy and Jim were married at the Old Mill Toronto in 1957.  When asked to describe their wedding cake, Dorothy remembered a two tier structure with a first layer of roses and the second with cherubs.  They both described the decorative piece on top.  “It was a bride and groom under an arbour” reflected Dorothy.

“I was going to say cage” giggled Jim.

The couple is but one of a number of couples reflecting on their wedding day at the Old Mill Toronto.  The iconic landmark near the banks of the Humber River in Etobicoke, is celebrating its own anniversary; 100 years and it still has the VOW factor.

Barry and Patsy exchanged their vows in the sixteenth century chapel at the Old Mill under the dappled light of the stained glass windows and candlelit chandeliers.

Most men might not remember the finite details of their wedding day 34 years later, but Barry was a banquet captain at the Old Mill and Patsy worked in catering. Barry remembers vividly.

“When the ceremony was finished, the wedding party was about to take their pictures, the Old Mill surprised us with a complimentary pre-reception for our guests.  I will always remember my cousin coming around the corner and yelling out ‘hey everyone, they’re serving sandwiches in the Mill Room.’”

The ‘sandwiches’ were in fact labour intensive canapés and hors d’oeuvres hand prepared by the chef for their 120 guests.

Barry reflects on a perfect reception in the Brule Ballroom (think hardwood floors and wood-burning fireplace). “There was a strolling musician; a violin player who went to each table playing requests accompanied by an accordionist.”  Barry’s request was Flight of the Bumblebee and he is still in awe with the memory of that performance.

Baked Alaska was always an event for weddings at the Old Mill. “Before serving, the lights would be dimmed, then the band would start up and the servers marched in with sparklers on the dessert plates and placed them in front of their guests at the same time.”

Henny and Leo’s wedding in the Old Mill Chapel was in 1988. Henny had been introduced to the Old Mill Tea Room by her sister when she immigrated to Canada in 1975 and it held a place in her heart ever since.

“We had the same minister as my sister did nine years earlier.  He was a really nice man.  He took his time and made us feel special.”

“We liked the idea of having everything in one place.  It was easier for our guests. After the ceremony we went to take pictures in the garden and our guests could get some fresh air and go for a walk as well.”

Henny described a European style reception; hors ‘oeuvres in the Mill Room for 60 people.

“They couldn’t do enough for us.  Everything was perfect.  On our first anniversary they sent us a card and offered us a complimentary cake to celebrate at the Old Mill.”

When Lori and Mauro got married at the Old Mill their cake was something of a showstopper.

Lori surprised her groom with a custom cake replicating his 40’ Silverton powerboat. She said “all the bartenders and servers wore captains’ hats.  My husband loved it.”

Lori and Mauro had 250 guests at their wedding in 2005. “After the ceremony in the chapel we went straight to a tent set up in the garden for cocktails.  It was April so there were heaters.  We had a martini bar and oyster bar.”

Dinner was in Guildhall with musical accompaniment by the Downchild Blues Band.

Lori said they stayed in the honeymoon suite, “it was gorgeous.  It had two rooms, giving us a separate bedroom.  And we had a fireplace!”

If there is one thing that the Old Mill has been doing the same for a hundred years it is making every guest experience unique.

Natalie Bauer, director of marketing and events for the Old Mill Toronto said “we are fortunate to have a selection of different banquet rooms to accommodate large groups or intimate settings. We have the beautiful gardens for picture taking and a patio for outdoor cocktails.

“There is a florist on site who can take care of all the flower details”.

“Our spa has been so popular we had to give it larger space.  Our brides like to come the night before the wedding with their attendants, get their aesthetic treatments and then go back to their rooms to enjoy a glass of wine.  It’s a lovely way to be pampered the night before the big day.”

Any couple booking their 2015 wedding at the Old Mill will be automatically entered to win $10,000 toward their wedding. This includes a wedding night stay in a King Suite. Contest details are at oldmilltoronto.com.

Isn’t that the icing on the cake?

Pam Stellini



Robert Home Smith

February 4, 1935:

Robert Home Smith dies at age 58. Smith established a real estate company in 1913 and opened the Old Mill Tea Rooms on the day World War I was declared, which remains a prestigious Toronto restaurant and event venue.

In 1878 the building housed a flour mill that accepted the first revenue freight delivery in Toronto from the Credit Valley Railway. Smith owned 3,000 acres of land in the Humber Valley and his prestigious Kingsway Park subdivision was built along the lower portion of the Toronto Belt Line Railway’s Humber Loop.

Robert Home Smith was also President of the Algoma Central Railway and chairman of the Toronto Harbour Commission during the time the waterfront was being redeveloped for the Union Station railway viaduct.

In this capacity, Smith was largely responsible for the establishment of Sunnyside Amusement Park.

 



New Year’s Resolutions

           

Promises, Promises, Promises… why do we do this to ourselves? Are we truly setting a realistic goal or are we setting ourselves up for failure? Do we tell anyone about our resolution because that would be making it official, which maybe isn’t such a bad thing as we might feel more accountable to following it through.

Do you know what the top ten commonly broken New Year’s Resolutions are?

Maybe the resolutions we set for ourselves are to general, maybe we should start by taking a good look at ourselves and changing little things that could make a huge potential difference. Like stop beating yourself up if you can’t make it to the gym because your ran out of time, but when you have time make sure you do go! Who care’s how many people like your photo on instagram or you had 302 people following you on twitter but now you have 300! Social Media anxiety is a waste of time and something you can change.

Cross something off your bucket list that you have always wanted to try. It could be something from riding a roller coaster to jumping out of a plane…stop making excuses and just do it.  

Perhaps the key to a perfect New Year’s Resolution is…ready…wait for it……. Enjoy Life more! It’s an important step to a healthier and happier you! Why not try a new hobby like water colour painting and tap your inner artist or pick up a sport like skiing or bike riding. Of course heading to the spa for some “You” time is a great way to enjoy life more… “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

I would be remiss if I did not mention, you should try a yoga class, who knows maybe it will be the beginning of a new you! It’s different for everyone, but ultimately yoga makes you feel great in body, mind and soul. Yoga removes limitations and provides clarity to enhance your experience of life.

And with that we wish you all a wonderful beginning to a New Year and an outstanding ending! And good luck with your resolutions! may you appreciate all the little things in life because that’s what truly matters in the end. It’s not about what what you look like or what you own but about the person you have become.



Tandoori Tofu Recipe

In November The Girls Great Escape enjoyed this dish for lunch at the Old Mill Toronto, so much so they asked us to share the recipe with everyone!

This recipe feeds 8 to 10 people

- Minced Garlic 2 Tbsp

- Minced Ginger 2 Tbsp

- Cumin Ground 1 Tbsp

- Nutmeg Ground ½ Tsp

- Cinnamon Ground 2 Tsp

- Tumeric Ground ½ Tsp

- Chili Powder 2 Tbsp

- Coriander Powder 4 Tbsp

- Cardamom 2 Tbsp

- Coconut Milk 1 can 437 ml

- Yogurt ½ Cup

- Salt and Pepper To Taste

- Paprika 1 Tbsp

- Lemon Juice 2 oz

- Chick Peas – 3 litres (approx 1 large can)

- Tomatoes 3 litres

- Tofu 30 oz Diced

- Tandoori Paste 2 Tbsp

- Curry Powder 2 Tbsp

- Canola Oil 8 oz

Method:

1. In a large sauté pan add 6 oz oil.

2. Saute onion, ginger, garlic until the onion is translucent (about 4 minutes)

3. Add tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes

4. Add Spices, let cook for another 10 minutes

5. Add chick peas and diced tofu

6. Let simmer for another 20 minutes.

7. Stir occasionally

8. Add yogurt and coconut milk. Simmer for another 10 minutes

9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This particular dish can be served with the side of your choice. We have done it with saffron basmati rice. You can also serve with warm naan bread or on its own.

 



The History of The Old Mill Toronto

As we round the mark leading to our Centennial Celebrations we thought it may be appropriate to share a little history on the Old Mill Toronto, a Toronto tradition since 1914.

The Old Mill and the Valley in which it sits, have long been a part of Canadian Heritage. Centuries before the coming of the white man, the Huron Indians roamed the Humber Valley.

In 1615 Samuel Champlain sent a young guide to scout the route southward from the Lake Simcoe region . So it was that Etienne Brule became the first recorded explorer to see the Humber and view Lake Ontario. Brule lived among the Huron Indians, learning their language and customs, becoming an important mediator between the Huron Indians and the French settlers. Brule travelled the Humber, part of a long established trading route known as “Toronto Carrying Place”. Ornaments, weapons and furs were popular trading commodities.   

During the 1600′s the Humber River was known as St. Johns Creek, but was renamed by John Graves Simcoe, the first Governor of Upper Canada, after two rivers in his homeland. In 1793 Simcoe ordered the Queens Rangers to build a saw mill, which he named the Kings Mill.  This was the first industrial site of what is known today as the City of Toronto. 

The days of trading along the Humber Valley had transformed the Humber River into a vibrant industry of Mills throughout the Valley. By 1834 many mills were in operation along the banks of the Humber River which became the hub of both business and social activities of the day.

The Kings Mill was leased and later bought by Thomas Fisher. The Mill was poorly constructed so Thomas Fisher replaced the original Lumber Mill with a Grist Mill in 1834 just a few yards to the north of the original Mill. Years later William Gamble, Etobicokes first Reeve, bought the Grist Mill and shortly thereafter built a new larger Mill in the same location. This new Mill was destroyed by fire in 1849.

Not to be deterred, Gamble had a 4th Mill constructed, the stone, lumber and the heavy beams for this Mill came from the Humber Valley. The upper loft of the Mill served as a storage area for apples. During the frigid winters the loft was kept heated by a wood burning stove in order to prevent the apples from freezing. During the cold winter of 1881 the stove overheated and fire destroyed this latest Mill.  

The introduction of steam power once again transformed the Humber Valley from an industry of bustling Mills to a backdrop of leisure and recreation.

By the early 1900′s one man’s vision began the transformation of the Humber Valley forever. Robert Home Smith, financier, railway builder, real estate developer and avid sportsman purchased 3,000 acres in the Humber Valley, from Lake Ontario to what was to become Eglinton Avenue. His concept was to develop a unique modern community.

The early prosperous years of the 1900′s were shattered with the out break of World War 1 on August 4, 1914, the day the Old Mill tea garden opened. The Tea Garden acted as the community centre for the residents of this new residential development, a place where news and events of the day were exchanged. Home Smith’s motto “A LITTLE BIT OF ENGLAND FAR FROM ENGLAND” epitomized his objective to create a Toronto suburb of grace and tranquility through English tudor architecture.  

During the war years the original bridge adjacent to the Old Mill was washed out. It was a tribute to Home Smith’s political connections and financial clout that a new bridge was quickly constructed in 1916, during the lean years of World War 1. 

As the popularity of the Old Mill grew, Home Smith began the first of many additions to the Old Mill building. The print room was built in 1919 and was one of the few places of the time that offered the enjoyment of dinner and dancing in an elegant atmosphere. Thus began the live music tradition at the Old Mill.  

By the year 1928 Home Smith centralized the hub of his activities around the Old Mill with his next addition the administrative office of “Home Smith and Company” later to be known as “Home Smith Properties.” The cottage was built soon afterwards and became a popular private entertainment spot for Home Smith.

In response to the ever growing popularity of the Old Mill, design and construction of the Dance Hall and the Garret Room began soon after. Home Smith paid great attention to carry over the design features of the familiar English Tudor architecture into the Dance Hall design.

Who could have predicted that shortly thereafter on October 25th 1929 the financial world was to suddenly collapse with the crash of the stock market.

Through the depression years the Old Mill continued to attract a regular clientele. By now the reputation of the Old Mill stretched well beyond the boundaries of the Humber Valley to include all of Canada. 

Groups became a familiar site enjoying the established afternoon English Tea tradition, which began in 1914. Home Smith continued to promote the Old Mill as a focal point of his development. The Old Mill management sent personalized letters to the residents of the area outlining many of the Old Mill’s attractions including dining and dancing, facilities for private parties  and special occasions with the emphasis on the quality of food prepared by their famous European Chef.

In February 1935, Robert Home Smith died suddenly in Toronto at age 58. He never lived to see the completion of his dream.  Home Smith willed his estate to his close and long time friend Godfrey Petit who assumed the chair of President of “Home Smith and Company.”

Monday September 10, 1939 then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie signed the proclamation of war entering Canada into the war against the German Reich. Canada’s entry into war changed daily life throughout the Country. The war effort drained the Country of it’s labour talents and other resources. 

An announcement by Home Smith and Company on October 20, 1939 stated: “Due to the uncertainty caused by the war it has been necessary for us to make certain revisions in our organization…” 

The attention to old world charm, exquisite gourmet dining and the dancing to the Big Band orchestras of the day made the old Mill a popular rendezvous for the armed forces during the war years. 

The Globe and Mail of Saturday October 16, 1954 reports, “Great storm hits after 4 inches of Rain”. Toronto residents were jolted by the fury of Hurricane Hazel.” Cars were overturned, homes and businesses destroyed and carried away by the torrential rains. Thousands of people were left homeless in the wake of her storm. Many properties along the Humber Valley sustained extensive damage or were lost all together.  The Old Mill bridge, the original Mill ruins and the Old Mill itself were spared from Hurrican Hazel. Only the road adjoining the Old Mill bridge sustained damage.

Barely two years later with the continued popularity of the Old Mill, it was expanded once again. The addition of the Humber banquet room became a new feature for private parties which was elegantly decorated with wood panelling and lead pane windows over looking the picturesque Humber Valley. Over the next two decades the Old Mill continued to function in the tradition of its past and became a well known landmark to the ever sprawling city for Toronto. 

In 1973, William Hodgson, an Etobicoke resident, reportedly saved the Old Mill from demolition to make way for a new residential development. William Hodgson closed the building for massive renovations. New sections were added, a Wedding Chapel built, rooms were restored and newly decorated.

In 1986 the Old Mill was once again under construction in response to the popularity attributed to the boom years of the 1980′s. An entire new wing of Banquet rooms was added. The Old Mill had grown to a 16 room function facility nestled on the banks of the Humber river.

 In June 1991, then new owners, George and Michael Kalmar became the latest proprietors of the Old Mill. In October 2001, the Mill “ruins” were transformed once again into a boutique Hotel that now stands proudly within the walls.

So begins the new chapter in shaping the history of the Old Mill.