Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zangebak - Finding a Forgotten Memory

Six years ago I became an adult orphan when my mother passed away. For us, our mother was the nurturing soul that pulsated through the family. No matter what your age, when you lose your mother, it is a pain that stays with you as daily life brings its constant reminders of her. And with food being such a central focus of her life, the reminders are many.

Last weekend while at Edgar in Hull I enjoyed a "mini almond cake" with my tea.

Another recent visit to Art-is-in Boulangarie with a friend had me trying their wee 'financier'. A financier is a small French cake usually containing almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring.

Perhaps trying these similar treats so close together in time was enough of a jolt to excavate a food memory from my childhood that has long been buried. Maybe as much as 30 years? When I was young, we made a treat called zangebaks. They were very almond tasting dense 'cakes' made in muffin tins. The outside had a bit of a crunch to it and the inside a bit chewy.

I shared this jettisoned memory with the good people at Edgar and vowed to comb through my shoebox of old recipe cards to see if I still had this gem. I keep all my active recipes in Mastercook and go to the archives when I want to resurrect the past and officially include it in our repertoire. Many childhood recipes are in Mastercook now but some still remain without attention on 4" x 6" yellowing cards.

Bless my organization skills! I found it. Written out in what I call my 'high school font'. Always block letters. Always using a fountain pen. Although it appears tidy, it is missing some instruction. Like when to include the almond extract. Also missing is the source. I always put the source of the recipe in the top right hand corner. Not so much for attribution in the digital age but as part of the preservation of the recipe's genealogy. Where did this zangebak recipe come from? I assure you my four brothers will not be of help on this one. And again I am reminded of the finality of my mother's passing. No more going to her for details, memories and understanding. No more help in colouring in the finer details of the past. Again I feel the severance of time gone before me and my time now.

My father was the one who regularly made requests for zangebaks back in the days when I was still at home. But I do not remember them ever being around when I went home to visit. Did he tire of them and move on to a new favourite? Did she lose interest in making them? I too had forgotten about them and had never made them again since leaving home.

Despite the very fuzzy details, I loved meeting up with an old food friend this week. I loved 'spending time' with my Mom in the kitchen again. I would do anything to have her back.


In the second batch I put in 1/3 cup ground almond and then reduced the flour by that amount. It worked well.
I also tried them in a mini muffin tin yielding at least 24 mini cakes. Baking time should be reduced to closer to 15 minutes. Do not over-bake or you will not get the center chew.

1 cup butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
sliced almonds, optional

Heat oven to 350ºF. Cream butter. Beat in sugar. Add egg. Continue to beat. Add almond extract. Beat thoroughly.

Mix flour and baking soda today and then fold into butter mixture.

Divide dough evenly into 12 portions and fill into buttered muffin tins. Push a sprinkling of sliced almonds on the top of each cake.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let stand in muffin tin for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on rack.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event - Were You There? Who Should Have Been?

The first Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event held on Monday evening at the NAC had star power. Not just the well-known names playing on the Food Network, but also a select group of chefs from here in Ottawa that are considered on the top of their game. The idea for the event was the brainchild of NAC's Chef Michael Blackie. Host for the day was the ever energy-buzzed, Kevin Brauch, also from the Food Network.

The full day of culinary demonstrations gave us a hint as to what would be hitting our taste buds throughout the evening's reception. Were you there? Could you imagine it would be like this?

By the way, since you are asking, my favourite dish of the night was the presentation by Chefs Bear and Lyness of lobster and sweetbreads (larger description with picture below). No wishy washy answer from me that "I loved them all and just couldn't pick one". I know what I like. And I loved the balance of flavours, colour and texture. So complex. So bright. I did taste all 8 plates and hung in through to the very last morsel.

There has been quite a build up over the past few months in the foodie world as the details of Monday's event unfolded. There has been much attention for the NAC, the visiting celebrity chefs and the hosting chefs from Ottawa.

As I survey Ottawa's culinary landscape, it struck me that there really was a strong talent pool to pick from to make this a memorable first annual Ottawa event.

I reviewed Ottawa Magazine's Top 10 List of Best Restaurants for 2010 put together by Shawna Wagman last October and here is who was missing from Monday night's lineup.

The Wellington Gastropub
Fraser Café
Bistro St. Jacques
Taylor's Genuine Food & Wine Bar (same chef at Domus Café)

I reviewed the Gold Medal Plate contenders from last November's regional competition and here is who was missing from Monday night's lineup.

The Urban Pear
Zen Kitchen
Murray Street Kitchen
Les Fougères

I reviewed a running list I have of restaurants that have or have had 'buzz' that do not have mention on Shawna's list or GMP, and here is who was missing from Monday night's lineup, just to name a few.

Benitz Bistro
Farbs Kitchen *
Restaurant Le Baccara *
Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro
Restaurant Ei8hteen *
Black Cat Bistro *
Courtyard Restaurant

(* Participants of Juniper's upcoming Duelling Chefs competitions for 2011)

As the names of Brookstreet, Vittoria Trattoria, The Whalesbone Oyster House, Empire Grill, Atelier Restaurant, Beckta Dining and Wine, Juniper Dining and National Arts Centre continue to come to mind in the days ahead, consider that there really is a much, much larger list of great restaurants known for a top-notch dining experience in the Ottawa area. Create your own 'Must Try' list. Venture out. Savour the flavours. This town does have a lot to offer.

And now my question to you. If Chef Blackie tasked you with creating the list of 8 hosting Ottawa chefs, is there a particular name that you want to see on it?

** Monday night's food presentations in the order of my likes **

Ray Bear (MIX, Halifax, NS) | Clifford Lyness (Brookstreet)
Poached Atlantic lobster | Bridge sparkling wine beurre blanc
corn flan + watercress sprouts | black olive purée
Le Coprin mushrooms | sweetbreads with candied fennel
08 Eagle Tree Muscat, Jõst Vineyards, Nova Scotia

Michael Lyon (Hotel Eldorado, Kelowna, BC) | Michael Blackie (NAC)
Sweet grass cold smoked Charlevoix veal | crisp potato girdle
Clarmell on the Rideau feta + sage infused retention
firecracker spotted prawn crisp | Cloud Horse mead-­‐lychee sting
08 Cloud Horse, Meadow Vista Honey Wines, Kelowna, British Columbia

Anthony Walsh (Canoe, Toronto, ON) | Michael Moffatt (Beckta Dining and Wine)
Drunken squab + Newfie screech | tatin of sunchokes | foie gras crepinette
09 Cabernet Franc Sabrevois, Domaine Perrault, Navan, Ontario

David Rocco (Dolce Vita, Toronto, ON) | Cesare Santaguida (Vittoria Trattoria)
Beet risotto | crispy pig cheek | seared Qualicum beach scallop | Granny smith slaw
08 Archangel Pinot Noir Rosé Sparkling VQA, Angels Gate Winery, Niagara, Ontario

Paul Rogalski (ROUGE, Calgary, AB) | Robin Bowen (Empire Grill)
North country bison hash | Quebec goat cheese + cauliflower ravioli
Preserved lemon + rendered bacon hollandaise | ancho chili plum gastrique
07 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vine Dressers,Petit, Verdot Pelee, Island VQA

Mathieu Cloutier (Kitchen Galerie, Montreal, QC) | Marc Lepine (Atelier Restaurant)
Oyster | honey flavor roasted foie gras terrine | marrow bones + chardonnay vinaigrette |
bacon foam
08 Ice Cider, Domaine Pinnacle, Québec

Brad Long (Café Belong, Toronto, ON) | Charlotte Langley (The Whalesbone Oyster House)
Shiitake poached pickerel | beurre noissette | dressed grains + greens
Crispy crème fraiche oyster 08 County Cuvée Pinot Noir VQA, Rosehall Run Vineyards, Prince Edward

Michael Howell (Tempest Restaurant, Wolfville, NS) | Norm Aitken (Juniper Dining)
Transverse Nova Scotia sea bass
crispy seared | citrus cured
cool fennel + citrus salad | warm gold beet purée + hay
brown butter | dulse and beetroot coulis | applewood smoked mussel bridge
09 Reserve L’Acadie, Domaine de Grand Pré, Nova Scotia

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Cat Bistro - A Celebration Destination

Last weekend we were asked to join in on a birthday celebration at the Black Cat Bistro on Preston at the corner of Norman Street. Although I was thrilled to be going to this great bistro again as a keen foodie, I had no intention of blogging about it this time. It was a birthday celebration after all, and I am hardcore about making a firm delineation between my world of food blogging and the stuff that really matters in life - our family and friends and the people around us. They come first. Birthday girl was getting all the attention, not my camera. No food photos, no paparazzi shots of the restaurant and therefore no blog entry. (The website does have an extensive photo gallery.)

Well then, the main course hits and birthday girl's husband whips out his camera to document the event. His meal and maybe hers. The mister and I followed suit with our phone cameras so they would have a full account of the evening. I find out that he loves to take pictures of their wonderful culinary experiences when dining out! But no plans to food blog it seems. But it opened the door for me to consider sharing the good news. I don't have his pictures, as that was not the objective of their taking. I don't even have the mister's. The words of my account and the two shots I do have will have to carry the day.

The Black Cat Bistro is a great place to celebrate anything. Within eye shot of us there was another birthday gathering of 10 or so people and then a girl's night out of about 8! Lots and lots of 'happy' going on this night.

Owner, Richard Urquart kindly greeted us when we arrived and gave us a spot near the corner of their long wall of windows that face both streets. I worry about being near windows in restaurants in the dead of January's cold snap. Especially when you might be sitting for 2 or 3 hours. Richard had this place so toasty, that its winter comfort was noticeable. Thank you for a warm, cozy Black Cat Bistro on this night! I loved it.

We all shared an Argentinian Altodecreo Melbac picked by birthday girl. I didn't catch the year on the label but it was superb. And probably easily duplicated since I think there was only one selection of that kind on the menu.

To tame the appetite, we were first served bread with butter. I think this may be the best bread I have ever had at a restaurant. (I know readers must hate reading 'best ever' in food blogs as it seems to lack imagination in detail, but this time I really mean it!) The right denseness, softness, chewiness. What a pleasant surprise! I wonder if I can return and just eat bread? (When I went home that night I knew I had to ask Chef Larkin about it, since I loved it so much. And so I hit the Internet airways to get a few details.) Indeed, the bread is baked in-house daily and the sweetness I tasted was the maple in the butter.

Now on to the appetizers!

I went with the full intention of having the Local Heirloom Beet Salad. And I stuck to my plan! It was dressed with Homemade Ricotta, Pinenuts, Basil & Sticky Balsamic dressing.

The birthday girl warmed herself with the Winter Rutabaga Soup with Sour Cream and White Chocolate Espuma, Waupoos Cider Reduction and Gingersnaps.

The two misters took the appetizer special. A pork terrine with a pork belly confit centre. Accompanied by many toasts, apple butter, gherkins and other delightful yummies. (I asked twice about it that night and still forgot. The power of having pictures for recall.) They both raved about it.

Now on to the mains!

I had been craving seafood, so it was an easy choice to go for the Smoked and Pan-seared Escolar (a white fish from Equador) served with Fingerling Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts and Green Beans. The escolar was sourced from Whalesbone's Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply on Kent Street. Although it was fine enough to eat, it is an extremely difficult fish on your digestive system because of its particular oils.  I would never order this fish again for this reason.

The birthday girl went for a familiar favourite and chose the Seared Atlantic Scallops accompanied by Goat Cheese, Pickled Beets, Spaghetti Squash, Green Beans, Filberts and Vanilla Salt.

My mister has a gutsy palette and chose the Brown Butter Sweetbreads with Butternut Squash Puree, Roasted Cipollini’s, Romanesco, King Mushrooms and Kale.

Her mister took the French bistro classic - "The Black Cat Bistro Signature Steak Frites". The Black Angus Striploin comes with Maitre D’Hotel Butter, Sage Seasoned Frites and Bordelaise Sauce.

Dessert required some negotiation. Apparently there were only two servings remaining of the Classic French Lemon Tart. Of course, the birthday girl would have her pick. I considered it a good marital strategy to let the mister have the second.

The birthday girl's mister already had his sights set on the Carrot Bundt Cake. Served with Cream Cheese, Coconut, Rum Raisin Gelato and Pecans.

My backup plan to the lemon tart was to go for the Traditional Crème Brûlée made with Tahitian Vanilla and served with Seasonal Berries and Mint.

Everyone was very pleased with their meals. The pace was just as we wanted it for a birthday dinner. The atmosphere so suitable for celebration. I love the decor, particularly the modern hanging light fixtures above the tables (check out their website).

We were well looked after on service and appreciated the help in getting answers to our many questions.

I had a chance to pop in to the kitchen to say hello and thank you to the very capable, Patricia Larkin. As their chef for almost a year now at the BCB, the buck stops with her. So reassuring to meet her and feel the vibe - oozing energy and cool as a cucumber. Now that is who I want in charge of my meal prep!

It was nice to end our evening in conversation with Richard as we prepared our exit and reminisced about a night out that brought a special birthday to its close.

Black Cat Bistro
428 Preston Street (at the corner of Norman St.)
Ottawa, Ontario
Twitter: BlackCatOttawa

Mon to Sat: 5 - 10 pm

Black Cat Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Car Detoured To Edgar

Today my rental car detoured itself to Edgar for a late lunch shortly after 4 pm. How this happened can't be explained. Perhaps rental cars shouldn't be trusted?

Once safely there, I had many great choices.

Being an egg lover, it was easy to pick the egg salad on Art-is-in Boulangerie bread with red onion, apple, bacon and arugula. Slightly grilled.

I did a snack pack dessert of a mini almond cake with a chocolate sole and hat! It was a match for my very regular pick of Cha Yi's Rooibos Safari tea.

Rental cars can do unpredictable things and sometimes you just have to roll with it.

* all photos taken with Samsung's Galaxy S Android smartphone

60 rue Bégin
Gatineau (Hull sector), Quebec

Update to Brunch hours (effective Oct 1, 2011)
Wed 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 and Tues: Closed

Edgar on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mamma Mia! Alberta Knows Her Italian Meatballs

My walking buddy, is first generation Canadian. (Her parents immigrated from Italy in the 1950's.) Like many first generation Canadians, she has held firm to the culinary traditions that her mother brought with her from the Marche region of Italy. Cuccurano di Fano, Pesaro to be exact. Although that move was 54 years ago, the one dish that is still made the same way by mother and daughter is their Italian meatballs and sauce.

I had the privilege to sample this great snack dish one Saturday back in September. From the moment that these much talked about meatballs touched my lips I knew I had to learn to make them. One of the benefits of first generation Canadians from different cultures fraternizing, is that we don't think twice about adopting ourselves into other ethnic families. We so appreciate all the good foods that have come from our respective homelands and we know it is our responsibility to ensure that they transfer down through the bloodline. And so we try to support each other in these traditions. When it comes to food, she is my Sinful Sister ('SS').

I was delighted when 'SS' extended the invitation have a private tutoring in her home so I too could learn the tricks of the trade. This past Sunday was the said day. As it turns out, her very Italian mother popped in to visit on a spur of the moment whim. A treat for all of us since she actually lives 5 hours away! How perfect to have a full fledged Italian Meatball Master in our midst. And to my benefit, she didn't hold back.

She praised us on our pre-game prep: hair up, no long sleeves, apron, clean hands and clean fingernails. Something she doesn't always see she says on those fancy TV shows on the Food Network! She named names but I will leave that to your judgment, next time you watch!

We started with the sauce so it could have a chance to simmer away and pull all the flavours together while we worked on the meatballs. 'SS' was quick to point out that canned tomatoes were fine as long as they came from Italy. The longer growing season means all that extra sun makes for a richer taste. Mamma Alberta told me that she likes to include lard with her olive oil when sautéing the onions. She says it helps to thicken the sauce. Although we didn't have lard on hand that day, I was going to heed her tip. The sauce had a combination of ground beef and pork in it. Both 'experts' say they like to use ground veal to make up part of the beef portion when they can get it.

In addition to the bread crumbs, sometimes the Meatball Master will soak a slice or two of dry bread in milk and crumble it into the mixture.

Parsley is a signature ingredient in Italian meatballs. As is lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bread crumbs. Nutmeg is the secret spice. Again, the meats are a combination of ground beef and pork. Or veal, beef and pork if you have it.

The shaping of the meatballs were Meatball Master 'tested' to make sure they were moist enough. We were being evaluated on the amount of grated cheese as well as the proportion of egg to quantity of meat. Although we just used one egg and two egg whites in this batch, I chose to use two in mine and maybe could have used one more as my quantity of meat seemed to be about 30% more. In this batch we made 22 meatballs. In mine, I managed 28.

Once the sauce had simmered for a good hour and a half we could add the meatballs. Our Meatball Master checked to see that all meatballs were resting happily in the simmering sauce for the hour it would take to cook through and build the flavours. She says sometimes she cooks the meatballs in boiling water for two or three minutes before adding them to the sauce because then the "scum" comes off the meat. Who knew! But not something she does all the time.

Making meatballs is serious business! Barley, the meatball guard dog, patiently did his shift watching the pot while we took our wee breaks at the kitchen table.

And good breaks they were. Nothing like authentic Crostoli! Essentially deep fried sweet pasta ribbons.

We also enjoyed Crescia. A cheese bread full of Parmesan that is shaped similar to a panettone. Crescia is an Easter and Christmas treat from the Marche region of Italy. Alberta says that there are those who bake it including Romano cheese but she prefers to use only Parmesan.

And finally the end product. 'SS' serves it with a fresh loaf of Italian bread. It helps to soak up the leftover sauce!

As expected, the afternoon was pure delight. So delicious. So satisfying. I couldn't wait to fly solo and try it out for myself.

Being house bound today, I took the opportunity to satisfy my craving since I had all the ingredients on hand.

I decided to source my ground veal and pork at Brian's Butchery & Deli on Cobden Road just off of Iris Street. Here I also picked up Beking eggs. My bread crumbs came from Lavergne Western Beef Inc. My cans of Italian plum tomatoes came from Produce Depot. As did my garlic, onions, lemon and Italian parsley. My stick of Italian bread was made at Compiano Bakery on Preston and I picked it up at Misto Fine Food Emporium in the Hampton Park Plaza. In my second batch, I treated myself and used authentic San Marzano tomatoes! Expensive, but I just had to try. Of course, I loved them. I found these tomatoes at Il Negozio Nicastro.

Chianti makes for a neighbourly companion to meatballs and sauce, since you are asking.

Below is the recipe as I made it today. And here are my changes from the original.

Although I have been very exact in documenting my adapted recipe and changes, 'SS' was clear that there is not a lot of measuring going on when making meatballs and sauce. It is a combination of look, feel and quantities of what you might have on hand. Being loose when you make it is a good thing.

* My changes in the sauce: I used less meat. 3/4 pound in total versus 1 1/3 pounds. I used veal instead of beef. I also doubled the onion. I used 2 tablespoons of oil, instead of 4. I added lard. I used 6 cloves instead of 8.

* My changes in the meatballs: I used veal instead of beef. I used 1 1/2 pounds of meat in total instead of just a little over 1 pound. I used 3 cloves of garlic instead of 2. I minced my garlic instead of chopping finely. I used 2 eggs vs. 1 egg and two egg whites. (Move along egg whites if you have them.) I added 1/3 cup of homogenized milk. 1 added 3 tablespoons ricotta cheese. I used 1/2 cup of bread crumbs instead of 3/4 cup. I used Italian parsley instead of curly. I used more cheese.

Mama Alberta and Daughter's Authentic Italian Meatballs and Sauce

2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon lard
2 onions, diced
1/2 pound ground veal
1/4 pound ground pork
2 28-ounce cans of whole Italian plum tomatoes
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat lard and olive oil together over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté until soft. Add veal and pork. Brown the meat. Add canned tomatoes. Loosely cut the whole tomatoes into pieces. Add whole cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

1 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
zest from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3" x 3" cube Parmigiano-Reggiano finely grated

Put all the ingredients together and mix thoroughly. Form into 1 1/2" balls. I was able to make 28 balls with this quantity. Drop into the sauce that has been simmering for 1 1/2 hours. Continue to simmer for another hour until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve a bowl of meatballs and sauce with a few slices of Italian bread that can be used for soaking up the excess sauce!

Brian's Butchery & Deli
1117 Cobden Road (at Iris)
Ottawa, Ontario

Produce Depot

1855 Carling Avenue (at Maitland)
Ottawa, Ontario

Misto Fine Food Emporium

1387 Carling Avenue (at Kirkwood)
Hampton Park Plaza
Ottawa, Ontario

Compiano Bakery
306 Preston Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Lavergne Western Beef Inc.
3971 Navan Road
Navan, Ontario

Il Negozio Nicastro
1355 Wellington Street West
Ottawa, Ontario

Monday, January 17, 2011

Art-is-in Boulangerie Rolls

Some food journeys are a perpetual quest for the 'best'. The best butter tart. The best baguette. The best croissant. Perhaps you have your own addictions.

I sense that dinner rolls also rank up there with that Holy Grail style, forever searching, never satisfied, food foraging agony that we food lovers seem to put ourselves through.

If you are possibly people of this kind, you may find yourself making your way to the new location of Art-is-in Boulangerie at the City Center here in Ottawa. Their retail storefront at their new larger bakery allows you to try a much broader selection of bakery treats than just the wonderful baguettes that they have become so well-known for over the past few years. (Our favourite being the Dynamite Cheddar, Chive and Jalapeño.)

On our exploratory visit this past Saturday, I picked up 3 rolls - white with poppy seed, white full of olives with sesame seeds, and a muesli style. We enjoyed them with Jarlsberg cheese and the Raspberry & Orange michaelsdolce jam.

Sunday I was back and the selection had changed. This day there was just one choice in rolls. Potato buttermilk! These were eventually converted into chewy sandwiches of rosemary ham, Jarlsberg cheese and Dijon mustard. The perfect little lunch snack.

Plan ahead though and enter at your own risk. I suspect when you go, you will also be tempted by the breads, baguettes, croissants, tarts, morning pastries, cakes, cookies, brioche, macarons, lunch time soups and sandwiches.....

Art-is-in Boulangerie
250 City Center Avenue, unit 112
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: Art-is-in Bakery
Twitter: ArtisinBakery

Mon: Closed
Tues to Fri: 7 am - 6 pm
Sat: 8 am - 4 pm
Sun: 10 am - 3 pm

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Winter Issue 2011

The Winter issue of the LCBO's Food & Drink Magazine was released today. As always, I made my pilgrimage to be there for the 10 am opening of my local outlet. With all household vehicles occupied already, it meant going by bus! Now that is dedication! As it turns out, it was a beautiful winter's day for being outdoors and walking around.

My test for what is hot in the Food & Drink magazine is to dance through the pages just before Noon and see which ones make my mouth well up. Not a bad test actually. Consider giving it a try.

What got me salivating this time?

  • Vindaloo Meatballs (From Retro Revival by Heather Trim)
  • Wild Mushrooms, Pear and Gruyère in Walnut Crêpes (From A Craving For Crêpes by James Chatto and Nicole Young)
  • Warm Fruit Spice Cake with Brûléed Topping (From Dinners on a Dime by Monda Rosenberg)
  • Sticky Oven Ribs with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes (From Sweet & Savoury Molasses by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)
  • Port-Dressed Fig & Arugula Salad with Prosciutto Chips (From Table For Two by Michael Fagan and Julia Aitken)
Of course there are so many other delicious recipes full of temptations.

I always have a soft spot too for the music playlist. The Sunday Morning Playlist by Rick Shurman and Earl Torno is available for purchase. It features some of my favourite heartache songs like So Far Away by Carole King and Cry Me a River by Diana Krall.

The issues are scooped up in no time. You need to get yours fast and find out what is going to get you through the winter blahs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kings of Pastry - A pretty sweet movie

Last night I took in Kings of Pastry at the Bytowne Cinema on Rideau Street. It was their 4th and final showing and the place was packed! Fortunately there are two more showings in town. This time at the Mairfair Theatre on Monday, January 31st at 7 pm and Wednesday, February 2nd at 7 pm.

This documentary followed chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, and two other chefs, as they prepared in the final days leading up to the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF). There, 16 chefs were working to earn the collar awarded to the winners of the MOF - Best Craftsman in France. This event is only held every 4 years. A sugar Olympics of sorts. The competitors put in years of preparaton. It is a high stakes game to work towards total perfection, with everything riding on the sugary, chocolatey, buttery art forms created in those three long days of competition. Some 40 complicated recipes in all. Every move is surgically calculated to ensure that the highest calibre products with the most sophisticated details can be realized in the time allotted. There is no room for error.

The movie had scenes of high drama and suspense as at any moment a delicate creation could collapse into a million pieces with just one wrong move. And that spells g-a-m-e o-v-e-r. As we came to know a number of the chefs, we enjoyed the human and humorous side of their experience as well. An important part of competing internationally is finding your life perspective.

Tempted yet? Take a look at this clip on You Tube. Pure delight.

This movie is a must see for any foodie. Again, mark your calendars for the Mairfair Theatre on Monday, January 31st at 7 pm and Wednesday, February 2nd at 7 pm. Check it out.

Auntie Loo's Treats (Ottawa's first 100% vegan bakery) is planning on bringing lots of baked goods for sampling and for sale to the January 31st screening!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Urban Pear Food & Wine - Sunday Brunch

The mister invited another couple to join us for Sunday brunch this weekend and yesterday I was tasked with finding a destination. The Sunday brunch at the Murray Street Kitchen has been on my wish list for quite some time and I thought I was on easy street with this 'to-do'. But their phone answered with a recorded message suggesting that year-end beautifications were underway, and they were soon to re-open. But not for Sunday brunch. Sigh. I had set the bar high, only to be disappointed before I started.

Now where? I wanted some help with suggestions. This time I turned to Urbanspoon and Ottawa Foodies. It was Ottawa Foodies' Weekend Brunch section that came up aces. My short-list was Fraser Café and The Urban Pear. We had been to both for dinner with great success. We let our guests decide and that meant we were headed to the Glebe.

The Urban Pear has been around since 2002 and can be found at 151 Second Avenue, almost at Bank Street. It is a 40-seat restaurant walled in glass. A soft lemon lime green brightens the inside. Today, the sun was pouring in, making the setting cozy and bright. They use the modern Sunshades to control our comfort.

Award-winning chef and co-owner, Ben Baird is king in the kitchen. His culinary training took place at Stratford Chef's School. He recently was a contender for the Gold Medal Plates competition held in Ottawa in November. In both 2007 and 2009 he won bronze. We would be in good hands!

The menu for Sunday brunch was crafted just the day before. We all ordered off the Entrée menu. The Appetizer menu, also with 6 choices, was equally as tempting.

Along with our drinks ($2 coffee and juice were our choices), we were served slices of white bread along with soft butter, infused with rosemary and lemon.

Guest #1 had farfalle pasta with 'sweet mama' squash, pear and chipotle cream sauce. It was topped with slices of cubeb pepper and cinnamon dusted pork tenderloin, cranberries and wilted kale, fresh cranberries and a sharp cheddar (switched from the suggested blue cheese). $19

I decided to have the omelet loaded with double smoked bacon, brussel sprout leaves, diced pickled beets and St. Mary's soft goat cheese. It was topped with a summer basil pesto and served with a fresh green salad. $15

The mister picked the poached organic local eggs with sautéed sage and grainy mustard spaetzle with braised ham hock. It was served on roasted squash, kale and organic mushrooms, bathed in an apple, lemon and thyme infused braising reduction. $18

Guest # 2 chose the beef short rib and caramelized onion sandwich topped with turnip and caper remoulade and yam frites, served with a fresh green salad. The menu also said squash catsup. Maybe mixed in somewhere? $16

Only one of us broke down when seeing the dessert menu. The vanilla bean and white chocolate crème brûlée was served with a small dish of macerated blood orange segments hiding under a ginger snap. $9

We were each very pleased with our choices. The many flavours complimentary and complex. The ingredients so fresh. (The custard in the dessert was dreamy and creamy!) The service was attentive, pleasant and prompt.

One nice thing about Sunday brunch in the Glebe is that city parking is free and there is no need to worry about lingering over The Urban Pear's lovely food experience.

The Urban Pear Food & Wine
151 Second Avenue, Unit C
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon: Closed
Tue: 5:30 pm - 9 pm
Wed toFri: 11:30 am - 2 pm, 5:30 pm - 9 pm
Sat: 5:30 pm - 9 pm
Sun: 11 am - 2 pm, 5:30 pm - 9 pm

The Urban Pear on Urbanspoon
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