Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekend Brunch and My Lobster Benny at The Urban Pear

Jeff Frost, new owner of The Urban Pear in the Glebe says he wants his weekend brunch to be known as the best in the city.  Based on my Lobster Benny this morning, this goal is a distinct possibility.

Brunch at the Pear is targeted to a niche market that wants a high end experience, where you may come to celebrate, expect quality food and to spend time visiting your company.  It's not a quickie diner or a place to mop up your innards from your night before escapades. Neither is it uptight and stiff. Just civilized and cozy.

It's also one of the few places that offers brunch both Saturdays and Sundays.

Although the place is almost all windows, new art of bright colours adorn the freshly painted limonade walls.  Sunny on in the inside as well as out.

The brunch menu offers ample choices for a small eatery.  Their broad social media presence gives many hints to these dishes. Premium pricing meant that their pictures so far though hadn't lured me in.

Our visit this morning was impulsive. Shattered plans and the DST clock ticking, my gal pal and I took to Twitter for the save. No picture to distract me or the meaty price tag, I fell in love with the idea of mushrooms and leek stuffed crêpes.

Well, so did she. Bowing to her choice, I graciously executed Plan B.  As the most expensive item on the menu, the $22 Lobster Benny seduced -  'eggs over butter poached lobster meat and topped with matchstick peameal bacon'. In fact, all Bennies are promised as '2 soft poached eggs on buttered toast, topped with hollandaise and served with side house salad and hash'.

The eggs were just the way I like them. Exceptionally soft and jiggly. The whites just set.

The lobster pieces were chunky and supple. All bathed in a hollandaise with pronounced zip, keeping it light and hiding the true richness.

I welcomed the large mixed green salad and was relieved that they knew to downplay the dressing.  It's about that Benny, after all.

The potatoes weren't quite hash by my estimation. Worthy roasted chunks of soft creamy potatoes, there has to be a way more classy name than 'hash'.

The crispy matchstick peameal bacon nicely salted the proteins.

Suspecting I may have made the better choice, I nabbed a taste of my girlfriend's crêpes.  With the bonus of being a vegetarian option, the medley of mushroom filling was earthy, decadent and well sauced in its mornay.  Also a solid pick.  Our portions were ample.

Plate after plate of their stuffed french toast paraded through the dining room. Perhaps the most popular dish of the day.

The service was friendly and attentive despite the demands of a very full house. Our meals were well timed.

As I often do in restaurants, I skipped the espresso drink and opted for brew. It's a bottomless cup, but pricey too at $3.50. No locally roasted bean here. I'm told it hails from stock at Morala.

There are some that will find the pricing distracting. As is often the case, when I have thoroughly enjoyed a dish to its fullest, the time spent on the value proposition tends to fade, rationalizing that there are times to shower oneself with a treat.

Plain coffee aside, I have high praise for the Lobster Benny served today.  Apologies for scraping the porcelain from my plate.

As Jeff chases down the crown for Best Brunch in Ottawa, he will only ever know if you vote with your feet.

The Urban Pear
151 Second Avenue, Unit C
Ottawa, Ontario
Twitter: UrbanPear
Facebook: The Urban Pear

Mon: Closed
Tue to Thurs: 11:30 am to 2 pm; 5:30 pm - 9 pm
Fri: 11:30 am - 2 pm, 5:30 - 9:30 pm
Sat: 10 am - 3 pm; 5:30 - 9:30 pm
Sun: 10 am - 3 pm, 5:30 - 9 pm

The Urban Pear on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Spring Issue 2014

As I toy with whether to write up my Coq au Vin recipe with spring just a stone's throw away, the LCBO Food & Magazine's Spring issue sports a big fat roasty toasty stick to your ribs chicken dinner on its front cover.

Who hasn't said that this has been Ontario's longest winter ever?  Magically winter is the same length every year but as far as the conditions, we have endured more than our fair share of storms, deep freezes, and dark days.

This particular chicken photographed by James Tse, fronts Jennifer MacKenzie's article Chicken Coup. Jennifer helps us through the new chicken lexicon - heritage breeds, organic, free-range versus free-run, grain fed, chilling.  No quiz at the end but you might want to brush up on the chicken lingo popularized by our Small Flock Farmers in Ontario. Jennifer has included mouth-watering recipes for us to snack on while we study.

Fear not.  This issue is more than chicken.  Spring awaits you inside with colourful jam drinks, Easter feasts, and brightly coloured dishes, including the ubiquitous beet. You will even find tulips housed in glass.

The other must-read article is Better With Bitters by Charlene Rooke.  She says "bitters are often called a bartender's salt and pepper."  We recently purchased bitters (lemon and also cranberry) from Dillon's Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville since this seems to be a The Decade of The Cocktail. Lucy Waverman shares with us a range of recipes to make sure our bitters don't all go to drink. For Ottawa shoppers, the Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli on Wellington carries a decent selection of Fee Brothers bitters.

My Must-Try recipes have me seeing red. Rhubarb Red.  I have 10 pounds in the freezer I need to use up before the new crop sprouts forth this spring.  I welcome their ideas.
  • Rhubarb Raspberry Bundt Cakes (From Best Bundts by Joanne Yolles)
  • Rhubarb Custard Tart (From Easter Lunch by Lucy Waverman)
  • Bitter Orange Cake with Rhubarb Compote, Candied Orange & Goat Cheese Ice Cream (From Better With Bitters by Lucy Waverman)

Plan ahead: The Early Summer issue hits the stores in eight weeks on Wednesday, April 30th.

Chef Judy Dempsey's Rosemary Ciabatta Buns of The Hungry Planet Fame

It's been five plus years since Judy Dempsey closed her popular Perth eatery that served friends and fans alike for 12 years.  For this, she is still continually tag-lined as the acclaimed chef of The Hungry Planet.

Chef Judy Dempsey has been working at The Table, a community food centre in Perth, for a good two years now, and her reputation for cooking soul-filling, nutritious food has followed her.

The Table offers dinner service Monday, Wednesday and Friday under the care of Dempsey and her hard working team of volunteers.  These community meals are one way for The Table to "focus on meeting the needs of low-income community members in a welcoming and respectful environment", as stated in The Table's mission.

Often when I am at The Table volunteering for The Test Kitchen program on Wednesday morning's Judy has already begun prep for the evening service. I steal a moment to peek into pots and sniff out the ovens to see what creations she is in the midst of whipping up. If I can, I stay to help too.  Selfishly, I relish this time with her to talk food, recipes and kitchen challenges. For me, I come home inspired. Feeling I got, more than I gave.

Today Judy was making her famous ciabatta buns to go along with a beef short rib and pasta casserole. Rosemary ciabatta buns, in fact.  She said she used to make them at The Hungry Planet.  Over the 12 years that adds up to a lot of dough.

Is this a welcoming and respectful environment?  With buns like that, you betcha.

Chef Judy Dempsey at The Table, the community food centre in Perth, Ontario August 2013

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Audit of My 2013 Ontario Garlic

How is everyone doing with their Ontario garlic stored away for the winter?  This past season I purchased 58 heads and I am down to my last 19. Should I panic or stop cooking Italian and Greek?

This past evening I did an audit of my remaining stinky roses and they are all still in good shape.  I have kept them in the cool, dry basement since I first purchased them.  They have been in open short paper bags, a maximum of 6 heads to a bag.

Most of the garlic heads are forming a bit of their garlic germ.  This is quite typical for this time of year. Very few have actually sprouted.  I just cut out the garlic germ when I am peeling my garlic.  A recent post by David Lebovitz endorses this practice.

It is pleasing to know that heading into March, I still have firm, moist flesh in each clove.  Of course, the garlic is at its most flavourful and juiciest when it is first harvested and allowed to dry for a few weeks.  But I feel fortunate that I am having such great success.

One of the evils of storing garlic is mold.  Too much humidity in the air or poor circulation will quickly ruin a garlic. This is why I only store a few in each bag and leave the bag open for air to move freely. I am fortunate as well to have a cool, dry basement.  I have heard of others storing their garlic in the garage. I have too much moisture coming from wet cars to dare consider that. Plus my garage tends to hover around 4C.  Fridge temperature is too cold to store garlic.

Some will also experience cloves that just dry up and disintegrate. I felt that accelerated drying was happening with a set of 6 bulbs back in November so I used them up right away.  This was disappointing as I have had reasonable success with that variety and farm in the past.  It was a colder wetter growing season in 2013. Both factors affecting the quality of garlic crops.

Each bag has been labeled with the Date of Purchase, Number of Bulbs, Price, Grower, Variety and Place of Purchase. This has come in handy when selecting garlic for cooking.  Some varieties are stronger than others.  It also helps me to see which garlic I may consider repurchasing in the next season. My eye is still not trained well enough to just recognize a bulb's pedigree by its looks.

I have been particularly pleased with garlic from my CSA farmer Roots and Shoots Farm. That is now all gone.  Also Glengyle Garlic from the Ottawa Farmers' Market has held up well.  A farm that has been a star for me but I did not purchase in 2013 is Waratah Downs Organic Farm. Other farms I have tried and have had good success are:
Rainbow Heritage Garden
Bashert Farm
Upper Canada Garlic
Vicki's Veggies

My garlic was mainly purchased at farmers' markets and garlic festivals. On average, I paid $1.30 for each head of garlic.

 Most of my garlic was purchased throughout the months of August and September.  My first local garlic came in my CSA basket on July 25, 2013. That means I have to wait another 21 weeks for a fresh crop.

Will my 19 garlic take me to late July? I suspect not. Luckily Rainbow Heritage Garden from Cobden will be participating at Seedy Saturday this weekend at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, Britannia Beach, 102 Greenview Avenue.  It runs from 10 am to 3 pm. They have promised to bring along their certified organic garlic, potatoes, beets and carrots.

Did you store local Ontario garlic for the winter?  How has it weathered the winter?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Morning Getaway in Paris - Croissant From Chez François - Plaisirs de Provence

On a friend's very strong endorsement, I stopped in to Chez François - Plaisirs de Provence in Westboro at 427 Richmond Road to try one of those 'out-of-this-world-the-real-deal' croissants.

I have to agree, it was worth the trip.

The flaky buttery pâtisserie was neither greasy nor too dense.  It's tender interior gently held its pronounced layers. There was a distinct light sweetness that had me wondering if it actually came from the butter itself.

I hear this croissants are much sought after and felt lucky to still get one late morning.  It's freshness very much intact, I might add.

This treat will set you back $2.50. Recommended with a full-bodied coffee.

Perhaps next time the Pain au Chocolat. Research after all.....

Chez François - Plaisirs de Provence
427 Richmond Road

Tues to Fri: 8:30 am to 6 pm
Sat: 8 am to 6 pm
Sun: 8 am to 5 pm

Facebook: Chez François - Plaisirs de Provence

Chez François - Plaisirs de Provence on Urbanspoon

Live Now

As sure as we know the sun will rise and set, we know we can count on the comfort of egg salad sandwiches in our time of sorrow.

While we sip our strong tea or drink that weak coffee, it doesn't seem to matter whether there are crusts, margarine vs. butter, onions and celery, mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, brown bread or white. It just matters that they are there and in abundance.

The trip last week was a hard one.  Although she was an Ottawa friend, the service and burial were back in her hometown, clear across the province.

As I struggled with making the trip, I wondered why, as I am a funeral person.  But for some, choosing to go to a funeral is fraught with dilemmas. How well did they know the one who passed. The disruption to their schedule. The time away. The cost. The awkwardness of death. The shear sadness of it all.

For me, funerals are for the living.  For a life taken far too soon and so tragically, families need all the reinforcements we can muster.

The 9 month journey to this final day has been filled with ups and downs. Hopes and despair.  As much as a family rides the ride in the front seat, friends too are caught in the wake.  We gather to give comfort and also get comfort.  To celebrate a special life.  To celebrate a special someone.

With a generous care package of egg salad sandwiches, I started my long journey home. A few hours in and I detoured into Toronto's west end to a small shop on Roncesvalles.  Green Light District, formerly from Ottawa, had posted a picture of an elegant white vase three weeks earlier that caught my eye.  I was keen to see it in real life.

There was my usual humming and hawing.  How do I buy another vase when I had just let 3 or 4 go?  It wasn't terribly dear.  The height seemed perfect.  I almost left empty-handed and then contemplated my potential regrets. In my head a little voice was softly squeaking, "Live now."

I decided I wanted this vase as my reminder of a great lady.  Someone who liked fine things.  A caring, tender-hearted friend who was full of love and compassion for others.

Those comforting egg salad sandwiches from last Friday are long gone. There are no cures for sadness. Though this special keepsake sure brightens the day.

I am standing upon the sea shore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says; “There, she is gone! ” “Gone where? ” Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at that moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone! ”
There are other eyes watching her and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes! ”

And that is dying. 

* Many attribute this poem to Henry Van Dyke. I was not able to confirm this.

The Ottawa Bagelshop - Bagel Special Until February 28

There is new math this week at the Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli at 1321 Wellington Street West.  Buy a dozen bagels and receive 14.  This deal ends Friday.

When it comes to bagels, we prefers the Montreal-style bagel. Wood-fired baked, no salt and a light sweetness from being boiled in honey water. As it turns out, there is a family connection between our favourite bagel shop in Montreal, St. Viateur Bagel, and the Ottawa Bagelshop.  We can get the same chewy, dense goodness without leaving town.

The Ottawa Bagelshop's wood-burning oven was out of commission for a few days last week.  While it didn't cause full-scale pandemonium, faithful customers such as ourselves were feeling the withdrawal. Happily they are back in business.

The bagels freeze well. Cut in half first before packing.

Get them while they're hot!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chocolates For Your Valentine - Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers

If you are inclined to participate in gift giving on Valentine's Day tomorrow, you might find your point quotient soaring if you choose to share the gift of Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers' artful creations.

They are imaginative in flavours as well as beautiful to look it.

February 14 could possibly be their busiest day of the year. But these beautiful chocolates make wonderful presents for many other special occasions. As long as there are birthdays, weddings, dinner name it, chocolate will be flowing from their doors all year round.

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
204 Dalhousie Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
Twitter: cyliechocolat

Tues - Sat: 11 am - 7 pm

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 31, 2014

Who Writes Christmas Cards and Letters Anymore?

Today I put my last Christmas card in the post and I'm not feeling the least bit guilty.

I have given up on the December-something deadline because it is just an unnecessary pressure. Although I usually can get them all out 'on time', I don't sweat it if I don't.  We receive Christmas cards throughout January so I know I am not the only one liberating myself.

Christmas cards are a big deal on so many levels to me.

Symbolically, I slow down once a year to focus my thoughts on friends and family, to share news, to give care and concern for what has been unfolding in our lives.  No matter how brief the note, it is a gesture which says "you are someone important and precious to me".  In these hurried times, this maybe means more than ever before.

The special list I put together may include a neighbour I see each day, a friend I spend time with regularly, an acquaintance who has marked my life for life - like an old school pal, and most importantly my family - near and far.

On the lightest level, those cards of bright happy colours serve to decorate, and I hope you feel the same.  So even if I do know all your news and see you all the time, I so cherish your pretty card for what it does to make my home that much more ready for the season with all the red and gold and green.

Starting early December the cards trickle in.  I have seen elaborate ways to display cards over the years and we have tried them too.  The long string stretched across the living room wall for them to sling over. Special wire contraptions to tuck into.  Bookshelf space and end table space where they crowd out pictures and trinkets.

Although I drone on and on about trying to be more 'green', the physical Christmas card is something I am reluctant to give up.

The e-cards are coming to me now though.  As are the electronic newsletters.  Know that I am happy to hear from you, no matter how you send your love and care. But, I don't see an e-card future for me yet. Though never say never, I guess.

Each year I review the list to see who gets added and who gets updated.  It is always tough to say good-bye to sending out a Christmas card.  But when our connection is just a once a year thing as two people with bygone histories, I eventually with great reluctance let go. I do wonder. Did you go 'green'? Did you have a big life event? Has Christmas traditions changed for you? Do you feel sending all those Christmas cards has just become too expensive?

Today is also the day where I organized all the cards I received.  I reread the notes and letters. They were sorted alphabetically.  (I know, I know, I've have the OCD thing down pat.)  I put the list of who was sent and received on top and then they were parcel wrapped in butchers cord.  I keep my Christmas cards. Every single one of them.  I do go back to look at them, but it's rare.  So far they are well contained but when I am old and grey, you'll be calling me The Card Lady, not The Cat Lady.

Each year I ponder the future of the Christmas card.  It seems, fewer and fewer are sending them. With Canada Post's recent announcement of increasing postage from 63 cents to $1 for Canadian mail, I have to figure it will push others to close the chapter on a long held tradition. So far, I am not wavering.

I get my cards on super sale after Christmas.  They are cheery but by no means pricey, so the stamp is the biggest investment.

For now, I can say without hesitation, you are totally worth that one dollar to me.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Danish Puff - Is is American, French or Scandinavian? Or Just Delicious?

I first made this Danish Puff the summer of 1980 after reading about it in the Free Press Report on Family. (No, the recipe was not chiseled onto a stone tablet.) I had read that its origins go back to a Betty Crocker Cookbook and apparently everyone's grandmother baked it every Christmas.

As young as I was, I knew nothing of fancy terms like pâte brisée and pâte à choux - French baking techniques. Nor does the recipe make reference to these terms. They keep it simple.

We don't have this perfect coffee time treat often as it is deceivingly rich.  Today I used Stirling Creamery's 84% Butter in both components of the puff.

There is no sugar in the pastry.  It's only sweetness comes from the icing.  

In true Danish style, the almond rules.  There is pure almond extract in the pâte à choux and the icing.  The toasted blanched almonds are the crowning touch.

To share the joy and the calories, anyone who came through our door today was served a piece or sent home with one. 

Whether this pastry is American, French or Danish, it's still pretty good. Says those who came through our door today.

Source: Free Press Report on Family June 1980

1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
3 eggs

1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons water, or as needed

50 grams sliced almonds, toasted*

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Base: Measure flour into bowl. Cut in butter. Sprinkle with water and mix with a fork. Round into a ball. Chill for 30 minutes. Divide in half and pat dough onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Make two strips 12" - 13" in length and about 3 1/2" wide. Strips should be placed 3" apart. Set aside to chill while preparing the next layer.

Top: Put butter and water into a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn the heat right down to low. Add almond extract. Stir in flour immediately to keep from lumping. Continue to stir until a ball is formed. Remove from heat. When smooth and thick, add one egg at a time, beating until smooth. Ensure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once the last egg has been beaten in, continue to beat for another minute. Divide in half and spread one half evenly over each piece of pastry. Bake about 60 minutes until topping is crisp and nicely browned. 

Let cool completely before icing.

Icing: Add almond extract to the powdered sugar. Add the water slowly, testing the consistency.  The icing should be runny but not so runny that it can not be controlled off the end of a spoon.  If it becomes too runny, add icing sugar.

With quick movements, create lines across the top of the pastries by drizzling the icing off the end of a spoon. Try to avoid 'puddling' the icing.  Once it is well covered, sprinkle generously with the toasted almonds.  Continue drawing lines with the icing as a way of 'gluing' the nuts to the top of the dessert.

This is best served the day it is baked.

* To toast the sliced almonds bake them in a  350ºF for 5 minutes until they turn lightly brown.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Supply and Demand

One of Ottawa's top restaurants, Supply and Demand, celebrated their 1st birthday this week.

I can imagine it was a joyous day with much reflection on what many would consider a banner year with unprecedented successes, including being recognized on the national stage. Supply and Demand was chosen by Enroute magazine as #4 in Canada's Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2013.

Chef-owner Steve Wall has worked tirelessly with his partner and wife, Jennifer Wall, to make this the kind of restaurant that would have customers returning time and time again.

Their regularly changing menu has continued to wow me with bold flavours, new fresh ingredients and interesting combinations of tastes and textures.

I would be one of those clients that over the past year has returned time and time again. My first visit being days after they opened, the most recent being last week, and with many, many visits in-between.

What I share with you today could in no way be considered a review.  At best, it is my food diary for Supply and Demand.  You see, for their 5 major sections on the menu - RAW AND MARINATED; SMALL PLATES; FROM THE GARDEN; PASTA; MEAT AND FISH - I have really only spent time in Small Plates and From The Garden. Once have I strayed and ordered a fish dish for a main.

I, like many, anticipated their opening last January with much curiosity. I distinctly remember how much I was looking forward to having a decent seafood restaurant in the neighbourhood.  Seafood is, after all, my most popular main whenever we dine out.

But, in fact, Supply and Demand has been really more of a vegetarian destination for me.  I just can't get out From The Garden, often ordering all dishes in that section for my dining pleasure.

Justin and Jessie have been my most frequent servers.  Jessie has now moved on to Wilf and Ada's on Bank Street to provide leadership there in the front of the house.  They, along with Jennifer Wall, made me feel welcome as I often dined solo when the mister was out of town and the sign on my own kitchen said 'closed'. Jessie knew that a request for a 'quenchy', meant I really wanted San Pellegrino's Pompelmo.  If Justin forgot my coffee, his tip was still intact and gentle ribbing would ensue. Jennifer constantly asked about the dishes, keen to receive feedback.

The best seat in the house is at The Chef's Table, where Chef Wall happily shares his secrets as plates are constructed before your eyes.  Adam Vettorel works along side him and expresses a similar calm, cool and collected demeanor.  The Chef's Table is tricky business though.  You are likely at risk of ordering more than you planned as the smells wrap round you relentlessly.

Every meal starts with their signature Parkerhouse rolls.  The spread has varied over the year but is always high calorie - duck fat, chilled brown butter, butter and duck fat combined. You name it. As a nod to their good service, they knew that when I dined alone, it was only one roll for me.

They came out of the gates guns a blazing.  Everybody was talking about their Lobster and Bacon Tart. At $19 on the Small Plates menu it might have seemed dear but it was worth every bite. Says me and everyone else who ever ordered it. This was my very first bite of Supply and Demand that chilly night last January 24, 2013.

Lobster and Bacon Tart with Crème Fraîche, Pickled Onions and Fennel $19

I promptly went home and emailed a foodie friend that I knew would want such good news hot off the press. This is what I told her as I unfurled the pile of flavours I had just consumed.

"Lobster and bacon tart - loved it. Crème fraîche on bottom, then pâte brisée tart medallion, then béchamel sauce, then maple glazed sous vide slab of bacon, then lobster, then pickled fennel and pickled onion, then topped with pea shoot sprouts. Not too sweet on the maple. Dish was a bit rich but not too, too much. Tart nicely done. Overall, just loved it. So many flavours. Well balanced. Clever. Original."

I liked this dish so much I had it again months later.

Kale Salad is a signature dish.  I am not sure it has ever left the menu and if it did it would have been a brief vacation, as I know I have had it a half dozen times at least.

Kale Salad with Caper Vinaigrette, Manchego Cheese and Bacon $7

The salad is dressed with a caper and anchovy vinaigrette. If that's not a enough salty flavour, it is generously adorned with bacon. Many times it came snow-capped with Manchego cheese. Though my kale salad last week had a Pecorino Crotonese, an artisanal sheep's milk cheese aged in wicker baskets. The leaves are soft and tender, a texture owed to a regiment in the preparation of a supple massage for each and every leaf.  This is part of the prep earlier in the day but also just before putting the salad together. A kale spa of sorts.

A reasonable strategy is to save some of your Parkerhouse roll to wipe out the bowl. Do ask for one if you forget. Not a drop of this dressing should reach the dish pit.

Even in a darkly lit room, the kale salad beckons your fork with haste.

Kale Salad with Caper Vinaigrette, Crotonese Cheese and Bacon $8

I've already declared my love for From The Garden.  My most favourite dish over the year was the New Crop Potatoes with Soft Boiled Egg, Dijon, Lemon and Herring Caviar.

New Crop Potatoes with Soft Boiled Egg, Dijon, Lemon and Herring Caviar $7

I loved it enough to order it two more times before it left the menu.

New Crop Potatoes with Soft Boiled Egg, Dijon, Lemon and Herring Caviar $7

New Crop Potatoes with Soft Boiled Egg and Herring Caviar $8

Okay, I may have lied. Perhaps the cauliflower dishes From The Garden were my favourite.  There were a number of versions over their run. Pickled Cauliflower Fritto with Smoked Paprika Mayo and Padano Cheese stood out as one of my repeats. Then they switched it up for a Scallion Mayo.

Pickled Cauliflower Fritto with Smoked Paprika Mayo and Padano Cheese $6

There was also Cauliflower with Buttermilk Purée, Olive Pistou and Toasted Almonds.

During their short season I tried the grilled asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus with Berkshire Lonza and Pickled Ramp Gribiche $8

Other great From The Garden dishes included roasted beets, pickled beets, mushrooms, more potatoes, fiddleheads, sunchokes and Brussels sprouts. They have ranged from $4 to $8.

Desserts were constantly changing, so one couldn't get too attached. Here are a few I tried.

Arnold Palmer Trifle with Lemon Pound Cake, Earl Grey Custard and Sponge Toffee $8 [top left]; Chocolate Crema with Whipped Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel $8 [top right]; Lemon Pot de Creme with Toasted Meringue and White Chocolate Rocher $7 [bottom left]; Cherry Cheesecake Trifle with Cream Cheese Parfait, Graham Crumbles and Sundried Cherry $8 [bottom right].

I will warn you, I didn't find one that wasn't super sweet.  Once at The Chef's Table, I asked for a half serving of the Cream Puffs with Raspberry Curd, Liquid Cheesecake and Fudge Glaze. It was still more sugar than I could handle. Have a strong coffee on the ready before you dig in.

They do know me at Supply and Demand, so if you need more proof that they are one of our finest picks in town, read what others have to say:
Well, this is all a very long-winded way to say Happy Birthday Supply and Demand! May there be many more.

Supply and Demand
1335 Wellington Street West

Sun to Mon: 5 - 9:30 pm
Tues to Sat: 5 - 10 pm

Facebook: Supply and Demand
Twitter: SupplyOttawa

Supply and Demand on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Breakfast For Lunch

If you stare at my Breakfast For Lunch, you will see either: the portrait of a man - wild and wiry hair, weepy crossed-eyes, sharp pointy nose, droopy red tongue and a crooked smile OR you see a beautiful feast.

I choose to see a feast.

2 pieces romaine lettuce
1 half sesame bagel from The Ottawa Bagelshop, lightly toasted and lightly buttered
Morbier cheese -  a semi-soft cow's milk cheese from France with a wee bite
Avocado slices - ripened to perfection in a brown paper bag for a number of days
Oven-dried grape tomatoes - thawed and brought to room temperature
Soft-boiled egg cut in half
Basil pesto - homemade and stored in the freezer in 125 ml jars

Stack the ingredients and eat with a fork and knife.

Place large eggs(s) straight from the fridge into a small pot and cover the eggs with cold water.  Bring the water to a boil on high.  Reduce the heat to medium but continue to boil for 4 minutes.

Immediately immerse the eggs in ice-cold water to stop them from further cooking.  

Peel off the shell as soon as the egg is cool enough to handle.

Use right away.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Winter Issue 2014

So what's the skinny on the Winter issue of the latest LCBO Food & Drink magazine?  First off, the cover is gorgeous.  If blue is the new grey, which was the old beige, then I want some of that. Maybe it caught my eye because I am currently surrounded by paint chips. Or maybe it's because I love apples and oatmeal.

Rob Fiocca took the picture for the cover. Janice Poon designed the dish called Caramel Cran-Apple Stir Fry. Check out all her recipes in Food Entertaining's Stir Crazy!

The magazine this time is stuffed full of straightforward classics with the author's own personality shining through.  In fact, I have made some similar dishes already this winter.  But I am keen to try Jennifer Mackenzie's Coq au Vin.  She uses red wine. I use white.  Also, the Gratin of Potatoes by Julia Aitken uses Reblochon cheese. I used Gruyère. It's probably time I made an authentic tartiflette, rich as it is.

Brenda Morrison's Must Haves focused on grown-in-Ontario preserves. I was already familiar with Bumpercrop, Stasis Preserves, Pyramid Farm and Ferments, Rootham Gourmet Preserves and Hall's Kitchen.  But Manning Canning is new to me.  I hope Brenda will have a chance soon to try out Top Shelf Preserves from here in Ottawa.  They are worthy of keeping company with her fine list.  I currently have a thing for their pickled beets and their Sour Cherry Bourbon Jam.

Signe Langford takes us on a trip around the world in Games On! as preparation for the Winter Olympics viewing.  Now it's easy to host a party with Canada's Mini Lobster Rolls, USA's Southern-Style Chicken Nibbles with Simple Winter Slaw & Bourbon Dipping Sauce, Norway's Pan-Seared Lamb Chops with Lingonberry-Port Compote, Germany's Mini Wiener Schnitzel with Sauerkraut & Creamy Roasted Beet Mustard, and Russia's Mini Lazy Cabbage Rolls with Vodka-Spiked Tomato Sauce. Who will take home the Gold?

I am getting quite a list of Must Try's. Here are the other page corners that have been turned down:
  • Boudin and Mushroom Sauce with Celeriac Crème (From Nouvelle Once More by Lucy Waverman)
  • Grilled Beets & Peppercorn-Beef Roast with Gorgonzola Sauce (From Fire and Ice by Victoria Walsh)
  • Valentine's Chocolate Cake (From Piece of Cake by Joanne Yolles)

Plan ahead: The Spring issue hits the stores in seven weeks on Wednesday, March 5th.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Edgar Is Serving Up Their 2014 Calendar

Edgar re-opened yesterday after a much deserved holiday break and so I headed over specifically to pick up my 2014 Edgar calendar.

Flavour wizard and owner Marysol Foucault recently took Gold at the regional Gold Medal Plates competition here in Ottawa last November, winning her a spot to compete nationally. Ron Eade, food journalist and retired Food editor at the Ottawa Citizen, detailed that event.

The proceeds from the calendars are intended to defray travel costs for the Edgar team flying to Kelowna in February. Led by Marysol, they are going head to head with ten other top Canadian chefs at the Gold Medal Plates' Canadian Culinary Championships.

The calendar is a compilation of pictures that includes Marysol herself and also her colleagues from the wee eatery in Gatineau. What impressive team spirit and a great show of support.

Marysol is Miss July.  She looks quite confident in her high-style swimwear and go-go boots. I seriously doubt any of her other competitors will have employed that kind of spunk and ingenuity just to get their entourage out to the west coast.

But it won't be her swimsuit that will win this competition.  It will be her incredibly innate sense for understanding the complexity of flavours.  Marysol knows how to make them and she knows how to lay them down together.  Although the accomplished artist in her will help to create plates of beauty, in the end, flavour will be her secret weapon. Something the judges will not ignore.

Of course I couldn't have a mid-afternoon visit to Edgar without my requisite mug of Cha Yi Rooibos Safari tea.  I like the peace and quiet in the place at that time of the day. To sit, arms stretched out at the front window as the team behind me takes a breath following the lunch rush.  They are regrouping to get ready for the take-out crowd coming at the end of the day for their prepared meals.

I can't resist her chocolate dipped coconut macaroons.  A substantial mound it is.  I conquered it handily.

Cha Yi Rooibos Safari Tea $2.50. Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroon $2.

Marysol Foucault's food has been turning heads - those of her dining clientele and food critics alike - since Edgar opened October 2010 and Odile which opened in May 2012 (she has since closed Odile to manage her workload).

By all indications, her future continues to be bright. When her name is bandied about freely along with other well-known Canadian chefs, I'll be able to say, "I knew her when....".

The calendar is only $10.  A keepsake for sure.

So, do you want to get a glimpse at Miss July? Then get thee to Edgar. Help Marysol travel to Kelowna to represent the Ottawa-Gatineau region and bring home Gold.

Ten bucks. Just ten bucks. It's a steal.

60 rue Bégin
Gatineau (Hull sector), Quebec

Tues to Fri: 10 am - 6:30 pm
Sat: 10 am - 5 pm (Brunch 10 am - 2 pm)
Sun: 9:30 am - 5 pm (Brunch 9:30 am - 2 pm)
Mon: Closed

Facebook:  Edgar
Twitter: ChezEdgar

Edgar on Urbanspoon

There Is A New Bakery In Town - Bread By Us Artisan Bakery & Espresso Bar

The much anticipated new small-batch bakery, Bread By Us, opened just a day or two before Christmas.  It's located at 1065 Wellington Street West - almost across from the Hintonburg Community Centre.

The official GRAND OPENING for the sourdough-focused organic bakery will be this weekend on both Saturday and Sunday. Mark the date. January 11 and 12 from 8 am to 5 pm. You really must go.

The place has been selling their many temptations to rave reviews so far. Yesterday I popped in to pick up a loaf of their Country Sourdough.  Customers streamed in steadily behind me.

Their other bread offerings (though not every day) include: baguettes, focaccia, whole wheat, olive, burger buns, seed, ciabatta, brioche.

Their sweet treats include: cookies, croissants, cinnamon buns, almondines, scones.

Sandwiches are served at Noon.

The sidewalk sandwich board shares their daily offerings, including what time you can expect each option to come from the ovens and nestled in their baskets at the front of the house.

In addition to being an artisan bakery, they are an espresso bar - equipped with a shiny Rancilio machine. They are also well-stocked for selling bags to go of the Happy Goat Coffee Company's beans. Seating is limited. Really limited. One high-top with 4 stools, 2 slipper chairs and 2 stools at the counter.

The Hintonburg community has become well-known for looking after their own.  So it is no surprise to see that Bread By Us is participating in a Suspended Program.  Here's how it works. "When you make your purchase, you can buy another item and leave it in the store.  This credit will be available for others to claim, free of charge." Any suspended items not picked up will then go on to the nearby Parkdale Food Centre to be shared around.

Now about that sourdough loaf that I bought.  We dug into it as a late afternoon treat.  At $4.50 I thought it was well priced, considering its goodly size.  None of our bread knives are long enough to cut across the loaf. Practise your double-sided saw technique here. Our tasting crew sung their praises. And loud. Mainly by asking for more. Toppings included butter. Lots of butter. We also tried Jarlsberg cheese, ham, jam. All pleasing.

For my tastes, it is one of the top sourdoughs in the city.   The centre has both softness and pull, as well as balanced moisture.  Not in anyway dry.  The crust knocks hollow and gives a good chew, despite being quite firm and crisp.  But most importantly, Baker Jess got the 'sour' just right.  For me, breads with too much 'sour' are distracting and make toppings more of challenge.

A clear victory here. I bet you it would be just as stunning if it was toasted.

Grand Opening. This weekend. You really must go.

Bread By Us Artisan Bakery & Espresso Bar
1065 Wellington Street, West

Mon: 8 am - 5 pm * Baker's day off. Café is open.
Tues to Fri: 8 am - 7 pm
Sat to Sun: 8 am - 5 pm

Facebook: Bread By Us - Artisan Bakery & Espresso Bar
Twitter: BreadByUs
Instagram:  BreadByUs

Bread By Us on Urbanspoon
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