Monday, August 30, 2010

Celebrating 45 Years on The Street Potluck Style

What were you doing in 1965? Maybe you weren't even born yet. In 1965 I didn't have a lot going on. My life consisted of keeping my wits about me with a house full of brothers. I didn't really know much, as I wasn't in school yet and at best, I likely had been dabbling with learning to read. I know that I didn't know that Canada's centennial was still 2 years away.

But in 1965 my neighbour 4 doors down was moving into his new house on the street where I now live. And for 45 more years this would be the place he would call home.

If you look up and down the street today, you see PODS, dumpsters and diggers. People are rebuilding, renovating or re-landscaping. Back in 1965, that house 4 doors down would not have had as many neighbours as exist on the street now.

This is a very special milestone. 45 years is a long time to live in one home. Moving after all these years has to be life changing. Imagine all the memories you would have accumulated. All the 'stuff' you would have collected! Although 45 years represents only part of his life, the time spent 4 doors down is 45 years of perhaps the richest part of his life. The time spent on career, growing the family and watching them move on to their own new homes.

We are a street of neighbours. We like each other. We look out for each other. We share tools, toys and advice. When someone is on vacation, we cut each other's grass, water each other's flowers and look after each other's mail. We aren't Wisteria Lane. We aren't desperate. We aren't all housewives. We do invest in the 'being neighbourly' that is about knowing enough, but not knowing too much.

And so when one of our own moves on to a new life chapter after 45 years, we celebrate. We honour 45 years of being 'married' to the same home. We rejoice in a good neighbour. And we send him the best of good wishes.

We do this kind of celebrating the finest way we know how. With food. The communal sharing that is traditionally represented with potluck. Bring your own item for the BBQ. One side of the street comes with salads. The other dessert. And always there is a perfect balance.

Me, I brought pies. Apple pies. When I think 45 years in the same home, I think nostalgic and I think apple pies.

To our great neighbour 4 doors down, your milestone becomes a reminder to us that having something in our lives for 45 years, be it a relationship or a home, is a symbol of what makes us full in character and just 'good people'.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Bagel Goodness

This morning's breakfast for the mister looked simple enough but when you get to know the ingredients, they are a few stories worthy of being told. I started with his most favourite bagel - sesame. This treat came from the Ottawa Bagelshop on Wellington Avenue, east of Island Park. I toasted it and then covered it with cheese from Serious Cheese on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South. On the left is Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co.'s Petal Luna goat cheese and on the right is Beemster's Graskaas, a Dutch cheese with a gouda-like flavour. I topped the cheese with gourmet jams from a local food artisan, Michael Sunderland. The two jams I chose from michaelsdolce were: Blueberries and Lavender and then Strawberry and Balsamic. I also picked up the jams from Serious Cheese.

And now for a little background on the breakfast creation.

The Ottawa Bagelshop is well-known for their Montreal style bagels. They say their bagels are "rolled by hand, boiled in honey water, then baked in an old-fashioned, wood-burning oven. They have no preservatives, no dairy products or by-products, and no salt." Their varieties include the two classics, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. They also have such specialty bagels as cinnamon raisin, oatmeal raisin, whole wheat, lemon cranberry, seven grain, flax seed, and lastly spelt. The Ottawa Bagelshop has been serving Ottawa since 1984. In addition to their retail store front, they have a sit down area to enjoy their coffee and foods. They also do catering.

Serious Cheese is a new addition to Old Ottawa South. In addition to their many cheeses, they also sell breads from local bakeries True Loaf Bread Company and Art-Is-In Bakery, baked goods from their own in-house bakery, gourmet food products and kitchen wares. I have to do a shout out for their in-store baked ginger molasses cookie. It is the best I have ever tasted. And I make a pretty fantastic ginger cookie myself. And only 99 cents. If that kind of pricing is meant to lure me back, that technique will work!

Beemster Graskaas cheese is a true delicacy. It is a Dutch cheese made from the first milk of spring when the cows are released onto the fields following their winter in the barn. The cows graze on pesticide-free pastures, 20 feet below sea level in North Holland. These canal-lined pastures are the most famous Dutch ‘Polder’ and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. The milk from this early spring grazing is considered the creamiest milk of the year. They collect enough milk from this short grazing period to be able to make only 2,000 cheese wheels. The history of the production of Graskaas goes back to 1901. The cheese is aged for a month.

The Petal Luna hard goat cheese is from Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. in Prince Edward County. This cheese took gold at the Royal Winter Fair in 2008 in the Goat Hard category and it took bronze at the Royal Winter Fair in 2009 in the Surface Ripened category. The milk has been infused with locally grown calendula petals! Fifth Town suggests that it is a good match with medium bodied fruity wines such as Cabernet Franc, so I was fine touching up their cheese with these delicious jams.

Michael Sunderland is behind michaelsdolce gourmet jams, new to Ottawa this year. The 125 ml pots of pure goodness come in 11 varieties and are being sold throughout specialty stores, as well as being used at some restaurants. Michael Sunderland uses local fruit for his product when available. In addition to his talents in the kitchen, Michael also has a love for photography.

As for pricing, the bagels are typical ($6.95/doz), the jams are 'treats' ($4.25 for a 125 ml jar) and the cheese is in the 'super treat' range ($63.75/kg for Petal Luna and $49.99/kg for Graskaas).

The mister had only good things to say about his Sunday breakfast. I suppose partly because it was made for him and delivered. But more than that, he just loved the taste of his toasted sesame seed bagel and both of the delectable cheeses. He was particularly fond of the Strawberry and Balsamic jam. No funny names in any of the ingredient lists helps to keep the tastes real. "It was all good."

Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli, Inc.
1321 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon to Thurs: 6:30 am - 7 pm
Fri: 6:30 am - 8 pm
Sat: 6:30 am - 7 pm
Sun: 6:30 am - 6 pm

Ottawa Bagel Shop & Deli on Urbanspoon

Serious Cheese
1189 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon to Sat: 10 am - 6 pm
Sun: 11 am - 5

Serious Cheese on Urbanspoon

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co.
4309 County Road #8
Picton, Ontario

Ottawa, Ontario

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pêche Brulée

Yes, you can have pêche brulée for breakfast!

Fellow food blogger @foodiePrints responded to my recent call on Twitter for all things peach. "How 'bout grilled, then sprinkled with vanilla sugar a bruleed?"

I liked the idea! This morning when we were seeing the end of our wonderful selection of Ontario peaches, I knew I needed to jump at this suggestion before they were all gone.

I moved passed the grilling part of the recipe and went right to brulée. I gave it a good coating of sugar across the open flesh and then went at it with our kitchen torch. The sugar bubbled and blistered and settled in to a deep caramel colour with that signature crackle that declared my pêche brulée complete. The smoky flavour that accompanies caramelized sugar is the perfect match for well-ripened, juicy peaches.

I thank you, foodiePrints. Yes, you can have pêche brulée for breakfast.

Twisted Kick It Salsa

Our lastest CSA food basket from Roots and Shoots Farm came with a Salsa Making Kit and 'fast' instructions:

"In order to enjoy your tomatoes to the utmost, we have assembled a Salsa Making Kit just for you all! It includes tomatoes, peppers, onions, a hot pepper, and cilantro. Throw the whole thing in the food processor for a great salsa fix, minus the plastic bag of course. You might want to give the onions a wash too!"

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."? Well that was me going blindly into salsa time. We were headed to a fun, fancy, food party in the early evening and I just wanted to get my kit into production before it was time to go. Paying no mind to what a balanced salsa might actually contain, I literally followed the instructions, plus a jalapeno pepper we had laying about, and minus the CSA cilantro as I had no idea where it was.

The food processor did a great job but I had pretty much an onion salsa that was high up on the Scoville scale of peppery heat. Perhaps this could be fixed. Right beside me was 4 non-CSA vine-ripe tomatoes on my counter. I beefed up the concoction using every single one of them. Now it was a bit closer to a tomato salsa but still big on onion. The thing with an onion salsa is that you could never find anything like that for sale at the grocery store because absolutely nobody would have any good reason to buy it. Feeling pretty defeated, I headed to the internet to see if there was something I could do with this 'soup', besides use it in soup! No luck. Time was running out. I stewed for an hour or so and then sent the mister to Produce Depot for rescue tomatoes and a bunch of cilantro. "You're just throwing good money after bad." He amused me though and headed out.

6 more tomatoes, 2 minced garlic cloves, a splash of lime juice and a half bunch of cilantro and we appeared to be in business. In business in the sense that I had a ridiculous quantity of salsa now. Far beyond the eating capacity of this home. But at least I had an edible product. The 10 extra tomatoes and the cilantro pulled the Scoville heat in check as well. An appropriate seasoning with sea salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper brought it to a proper finish. A bit runny but not bad.

Since taste seemed to be there, finally, I decided to begin perfecting this creation. Time to make it less 'wet'. I strained off a fair bit of the juice. This will go well in soups or sauces and headed right to the freezer.

I filled container after container with this reasonably awesome salsa. What a roller-coaster ride. I went from 'cockily slapping together a quick salsa' to 'in the depths of despair with a conspicuous quantity of inedible, high heat onion salsa' to 'stiff upper lip, we're not quitters, let's just fix this' to 'well I'll be darned, this stuff is pretty good and maybe we could actually sell this'. The mister just smiled and watched the hurricane move, knowing that eventually like all good hurricanes, they do end and calm returns.

We made it to that fun, fancy food party in good time and the teenager was left behind with all the salsa he could handle for his meal called supper. I tossed him a parting suggestion, "Invite some friends in. Invite them all in."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Roots and Shoots Farm - 9th week of CSA Food

The summer is ripping by and we are just starting into the second half of our CSA food baskets as we enter into week 9 of 16. We only invested in a half share. With food coming every other week instead of every week, we are still hopping with trying to consume it all considering our away time, invitations out and our strong interest in enjoying Ottawa's great restaurant.

It is intimating to think that 33% of our household is moving out soon and it happens to be the character with the biggest appetite. We will need to make a more concerted effort to eat at home, have people in and create dishes that can be tucked away for later. This great food cannot go to waste. How interesting that this becomes so, so important to us when we so well know the people who created it and the blood, sweat and tears that went into bringing it to us from Roots and Shoots Farm near Manotick. I am just loving the zucchinis! Grilled. Grilled and slathered with goat cheese. Used in salads.

Do you have a favourite local produce that you have been enjoying this summer? Is it from your garden? One of our many local markets?

And now for the photo montage...

BIN #1: Endive and Basil

BIN #2: Lettuce (in fact 2 heads)

BIN #3: 2 Yellow Zucchini, 1 Green Zucchini and a Delicata Squash

BIN #4: Cherry Tomatoes and Potatoes

BIN #5: Carrots

BIN #6: Tatsoi

BIN #7: Salsa kit! (Cilantro was missing)

BIN #8: Swiss Chard

BIN #9: Scarlett Queen Turnips

If you want to learn more about the farm, the contact information for Roots and Shoots Farm is:

Lunching at Town

After throwing responsibility for the lunch location selection out to Twitter yesterday, gastronomic pals rallied me and the mister to go to Town. Town is located at 296 Elgin Street, near Gilmour. It has a long and narrow footprint with a banquette down one wall and the bar down the other. There are a number of stooled seats at the front. Decorating the wall above the banquette is a shelf of fresh produce and flowers, artfully placed.

For our starter we decided to share the cod fritters on a bed of smoked pork ragu with lemon mayo for $11. We both enjoyed the solid preparation. Being big taste people, we had expected something more forward on the palette and guessed the best place to put that punch would be in the ragu.

For my lunch I chose the pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu, oyster mushrooms, arugula and pecorino romano for $16. It was very well prepared. The portion size was handsome. I liked the subtle heat that finished each taste. Considering the pappardelle was a dry pasta, I was pleased with it and felt it was cooked perfectly. Did I mention the lamb? So much lamb!

The mister had the sandwich with meat balls, fontina and grilled red onions for $13. The meatballs were very tender and when we asked, we were told that they were a blend of beef and pork. [It should probably state this on the menu considering some choose to not include pork in their diet. When I hear meatballs, I think beef or veal.] The sandwich was super messy and hard to eat delicately. Not food for lunch with the queen. The mister said the sandwich tasted great! Full flavoured. It was accompanied by a salad and some of their signature pecorino potatoes. Big thumbs up on those potatoes!

The mister had a Kichesippi beer for $6. And my can of sparkling San Pellegrino Aranciata Rosso (blood orange) was $3.50.

The service was very attentive and knowledgeable. We felt like we were in good hands right from the first greeting.

The place has a buzz to it. The tables are very, very close together. I felt intimated enough to not talk about anything but fluff stuff because I knew how easily I could hear the conversations of our neighbour tables. Boy, have I got some good stories for you! :)

Lunch was $56 taxes in, without tip. Not an everyday lunch habit for too many people in this town. For us, that kind of coin for lunch means it is a treat and it comes with very high expectations. We want to be eating the best that Ottawa has to offer.

For a new restaurant, they sure didn't seem to be experiencing any growing pains. Everything went so smoothly. I couldn't help but wonder if they had set themselves up for this success but having such a short menu. For me that was a bit of a problem. I was expecting more choices. At least a salad or two. Even soup. If you are not into sandwiches, then you may not have much of a lunch interest in Town. So as for going back, the jury is still out. Likely not for lunch but perhaps I need to explore their dinner menu. It is absolutely encouraging that the food was prepared so well and the service was spot on.

Although they do have a website, they have more content on their Facebook page.

296 Elgin Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Tues to Fri: 11:30 am - 2 pm

Tues to Sun: 5 pm - Close

Town on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vietnamese Chicken and Salad with Lime-Peanut Thai Dressing

Our house is about to lose one of its biggest appetites. And as the days dwindle, I find myself wondering just how on earth we are going to cope with the quantity of food still in our freezer. It is just a bottom-mount in our kitchen refrigerator, but the volume it holds is daunting. I have been on a mission to drastically reduce its contents. The thing is bottomless.

My bedtime reading of late has been a re-read of The Best of Fine Cooking 's Fresh & Quick 2010 Magazine. Every night I pick it up from my night table and go through it like it just arrived today. A bit of a Groundhog Day experience. You would think by now I would have it memorized.

Last night my eyes fixated on Vietnamese-Style Caramel-Braised Chicken. I liked its dessert-like name. I liked that it seemed dead easy. This was going to be a dinner that would help me unload that freezer. I found inspiration.

Today I discovered 2 lbs of frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It was a package of a reasonable size and I felt that focusing on the bigger packages in the freezer would eventually show greater progress for PROJECT EMPTY. Remembering the Fine Cooking inspiration recipe from the night before, out it came.

I chose to serve it with steamed jasmine rice and mixed greens with an Asian style dressing.

Adapted from a recipe by Adam Ried of The Best of Fine Cooking's Fresh & Quick 2010
Servings: 4

1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a measuring cup combine the fish sauce and 1/4 cup water. Set aside.

Put the sugar into a skillet (preferably not a dark one like non-stick or cast iron) with 3 tablespoons of water. Heat over medium to medium low heat, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a slow boil, swirling pan occasionally, until the sugar has a deep amber color. This may take 5 minutes or more. Let the colour tell you when you are done. Don't use a spoon or whisk; it just sticks to it.

Remove pan from the heat and carefully add the fish sauce mixture. Swirl pan to combine. Return pan to medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper and black pepper. Cook until the onions are soft. This just takes a few minutes.

Add the chick to the pan in a single layer. Reduce the heat. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. About 8 minutes. When you know the chicken is cooked through, sprinkle with fresh cilantro.


mixed greens

vegetable oil

lime juice
sesame oil
soy sauce
chili paste
peanut butter

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This Potluck was a Rembrandt

It is a mystery to me that any potluck party I go to has yet to have two dishes exactly the same. What law of the universe is that? The Food Timeline website had this to say about potluck:

The term "potluck" has two meanings; both practices are related and have ancient roots:
  1. Taking one's chances with what is being served (in the cooking pot) - Travelers and other unexpected guests took their chances (luck!) with whatever was being served that night.
  2. Community meal composed of food contributions. - Early societies often pooled food resources for special occasions (weddings, funeral, etc.)
Tonight's potluck of finger foods was no different. The table was filled with an array of proteins, temperatures, spices, colours and presentations. It is hard to imagine that something so random, so unorchestrated, can be so attractive.

Like art, this feast was a special cornucopia unique to this group of people, meeting on this day, in this particular location and can never be duplicated again. We sure knew it was going to be absolutely amazing food but did we appreciate the one-of-a-kind quality and rarity of this image in that moment?

Perhaps not. I know I didn't until I was home with the pictures. But there it was. The ah-ha. So many artists at work, contributing to the final food-painting. The eclectics of potlucks makes it one of the richest and most colourful food experiences we can have together.

That empty table each time is the same starting, blank canvas, but once it is weighted down, the canvas comes alive with yet another original masterpiece.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine Bar - Finally Paid It A Visit

Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine Bar opened Thursday, June 17 to much fan fare. It has taken me two months to finally get there to give it a try. The opportunity presented itself when 2 gal pals wanted a lunch out and left me to make the choice. I gladly bore the responsibility of trying to pick well.

As we darted out at the end of lunch to our long overdue parked cars, our parting comments on the experience were loaded with F-bombs. Actually repetitive F-bombs. You know the kind that foodie types like to lace through their vocabulary. Fresh! Flavourful! Fantastic! Fine! Filling! I really regret that it took me so long to make it to Old Ottawa South to see what owners, John and Sylvia Taylor were up to with their second restaurant. The same 'F-bombs' are probably similar 'expletives' that are coming from the patrons at their flagship restaurant, Domus Café, found in the Byward Market.

John Taylor is known for his passion for fresh, seasonal, local produce. And that passion came through loud and clear at Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine Bar today. It appears he has also made a great choice in having John Svasz on board in the kitchen. It is always a bit of a coup when ever single dish brought to a dining table is a stand out.

I decided to go for the soup of the day ($7) which was a chilled yellow bean with CPCO (cold press canola oil), basil oil and cider reduction.

I then followed with the Genuine Tomato Salad ($12). Blue cheese, lardon, buttermilk dressing and Crazy Dave's Greens.

Gal pal #1 went for the small, 4-item ($20) charcuterie & cheese board. She picked:
  • Duck and Foie Gras Rillettes
  • Elk Ranch Salami
  • Counting Sheep, sheep's milk cheese, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, Prince Edward County, Ontario
  • Wild BC House-Smoked Albacore tuna
It was accompanied by chutney's and rings of fresh zucchini.

Gal pal #2 had the Risotto ($18). Chanterelles, house-smoked bacon, peaches and cream corn, and parmesan. I tasted her risotto and it was eye-ball rolling. Just the right doneness and the flavours were deep. The richness of the broth came through. The texture was more moist than creamy. I really liked that about this dish preparation.

We started our meal with a plentiful bowl of fresh bread. Our drinks were white wine spritzers ($8).

The lunch portions were ample and no one had room for dessert. But one could figure that they wouldn't disappoint.

The location of this new restaurant is in the old Second Cup at Sunnyside and Bank. So the footprint is small. Barely room to swing a cat. (I often wondered where that saying came from because as a cat lover, it does seem mean.) But it is the perfect size to create the intimacy you would expect of a wine bar serving food. I liked the bar stools! The same as the ones we have at home. The colours are soothing. The setting is less dressy than Domus Café. No linen table cloth. Just the solid wood table top. No linen napkins. But a classy imitation paper version. I am not sure about the antlers though. Kitschy Canadiana? Something the Taylors can pull off I suppose.

The service was pleasant, prompt, informative and attentive.

Lucky for Old Ottawa South to have such a high calibre restaurant in their midst. I am sure their appreciation for this jewel means that the Taylors will be treated well.

Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine Bar
1091 Bank Street at Sunnyside in
Old Ottawa South

Mon to Sat: 11:30 am - 2 pm; 5:30 to 10 pm
Sun: 5:30 to 10 pm

Taylor's Genuine Food & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon
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