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 Focaccia 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 focaccia buns to go along with a beef short rib and pasta casserole. Rosemary focaccia 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
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