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FOUND: The Chinatown Museum at Jackpine Digital

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.


There’s a little design shop on Somerset Street West called Jackpine Digital. Here you’ll find the so-called Chinatown Museum — a collection of large signs that once graced neighbouring storefronts. Part decor, part memorabilia, the signs represent the changing streetscape — and what CEO and creative director Liam Mooney calls the “destructive nature” of the design process. After all, the cone of a jack pine tree needs the intense heat of a forest fire to open and release its potential.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Dumpster Diving
Mooney was waiting outside the office — he had lent his keys to another designer — when he spotted a large bright red sign behind a dumpster. Wa Kiu had closed months before; Phuket Royal had yet to open its doors. “Maybe [Wa Kiu] wasn’t the best grocery store, but it was part of the landscape,” Mooney says. After getting the A-OK from the new owner, he hauled the 3-by-14-foot sign in through the fire escape and installed it in one of the main work areas. Upon close examination, it’s clear that the sign was hand-painted, the pencil lines from the stencils still visible after all these years.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Fair Trade
Last year, Mooney traded design services for office space — and furnished it with borrowed pieces from Highjinx, a social enterprise that sells used furniture. Eventually he bought some pieces, but the move to Chinatown called for a new aesthetic (or, as Mooney says, they needed to “break the space”). Enter Malcolm Cairns of FoundDesign and Ken McKay of Furniture Affairs. Cairns gifted a few mid-century modern items to Jackpine; others are loaned on a consignment basis (“We have a strict coaster rule,” Mooney says). McKay will get design services in exchange for a huge custom table and bar. “The generosity — I can’t even begin to understand,” says Mooney. 

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DESBRISAY DINES: Clover Food and Drink


Clover's corn chowder. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Clover’s corn chowder. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

There’s a spartan look about Clover. High school chairs, bare benches, caged industrial lights, walls of open brick and plywood (sanded and varnished, but still plywood) are either indications of a work in progress, or the carefully considered props for the homespun look this new Bank Street restaurant seeks. It makes the warming touches — the pots of sage on the tables, the white linen napkins, the amber glassware — all the more appreciated. Come winter, the addition of some visual drama, some colour, (and certainly some padding, ahem), might help.

But the frugal decor and the bum-aching-bench whinging evaporate once the food starts to arrive. This restaurant is taking interesting culinary risks. And the pleasure of Clover is that the risks taste very good indeed.

Clover chef West de Castro — bee keeper, honey farmer, and most recently sous chef of Zen Kitchen — chose to work with smelts as her fish. Sourced from The Whalesbone, these were big (boned, floured, and fried) guys, and they were absolute champs. She set them on a warm salad of tomatoes, zucchini, shaved fennel, leeks, and cucumber, with black olives, fennel fronds, and a marvellous avocado aioli. A big hunk of grilled sourdough bread finished the plate.

After smelts we had a puffball. Have you ever seen puffball featured on an Ottawa menu? Neither had I. Paired with grilled broccoli and roasted fingerlings, the outer bits of the big white mushroom find had been cleaned and diced and fried up. These were meaty textured. The inner bits were surprisingly soft and creamy, almost custard like. Beneath the mushroom was a pea purée, and strewn overtop bacon, almonds, fresh sage.

Some dishes were less out there and no less pleasing. The corn chowder was gossamer, a great rendition of the classic late summer soup, with chewy lardons of smoked bacon bumping up the pleasure factor. A gazpacho was like slurping up the September-garden. It arrived properly chilled, with good acidic balance and well seasoned. Having drunk up an assertive marinade, bison flank steak was grilled to rare, sliced in thick chewy strips and set on wilted greens. It came with a hunk of very commendable corn bread.

Pea and lovage soup

Pea and lovage soup. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Lovage is an unloved herb. I can’t recall the last time I saw it on a menu, or tasted its distinct flavour. But there it was, featured in Clover’s daily soup at lunchtime: fresh pea and lovage. It was a regal green, with a pretty swirl of creme fraiche and a bump of snipped chives. The flavour of fresh peas was clear and bright, but so too was the parsley-like, celery-ish and slightly anise flavour of the herb. A panini that featured zucchini was more on the dull side, and though there were parts of the grilled romaine Caesar we enjoyed (the egg mimosa, say, and the terrific dressing), the unwieldy hunk of grilled baguette and the bitterness of the wilted lettuce meant this dish was less of a thrill.

But we were grinning again by dessert time. De Castro’s panna cotta infused with thyme and lemon, and topped with stewed peaches and rhubarb was simply gorgeous, with edible flowers, fresh raspberries, and chopped pistachio crowning the glistening custard.

At my visits the restaurant had been largely empty, but this will surely change.

Panna cotta. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Panna cotta. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Wines are all Ontario VQA (Niagara and PEC) and beer on tap is from Beau’s, Kichesippi, and Covered Bridge in Stittsville.

Clover is open weekday lunches but only Fridays and Saturdays for dinner.

Lunch mains, $8 to $15; dinner mains, $18 to $23

Open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

155 Bank Street, 613-680-8803,

SHOP TALK: Holts out, J.Crew in as downtown shopping scene continues to evolve

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven.

Coveted handbags are a big draw at Holt Renfrew.

Coveted handbags are a big draw at Holt Renfrew.

Shopaholics were aghast at the news that high-end retailer Holt Renfrew would close its Ottawa location in early 2015. And while it’s always been one of those “aspirational” destinations, here at SHOP TALK we were pretty bummed. If shopping can be compared to art, then a visit to Holts was akin to stepping into the National Gallery — it wasn’t so much about filling gaps in our wardrobe as it was about stimulating our fashion senses. And for that, Holts will surely be missed.

That, and the stellar work they did with their window displays! I don’t know who is going into that retail space, but it’s safe to say that corner of Queen Street will never be the same.

From J. Crew's Spring/Summer 2015 ready to wear collection

From J. Crew’s Spring/Summer 2015 ready to wear collection

We reached out to our contacts at Holt Renfrew — ICYMI, Prada pumps featured in our September 2013 issue — and learned that the Sparks Street store that housed Holt Renfrew for 78 years was actually too small to accommodate it long-term. And so we say adieu to Holt Renfrew…

And allo! to J. Crew. One week later, On September 3, J. Crew opened its doors in the Rideau Centre. SHOP TALK attended the breakfast opening and got a better understanding of the brand we’ve heard so much about. And though it’s doubtful we’ll ever get to shop the pieces from that J.Crew showed earlier this week at New York Fashion Week, or even from it’s beautiful ready to wear collection (see left) we were excited to see the diversity of offerings — I had seen it as a preppy brand (no objections there!) but was happy to see some more casual pieces as well.

Sarah Fischer, who has shopped J. Crew before in the U.S., was excited about the fun prints. The Tick Tock blouse, which we spotted on a few staff, spoke to her love of classic pieces — that don’t take themselves too seriously!

Love this blazer!

Love this blazer!

And we loved this blazer — good to see camel staying strong for fall, it’s such a versatile and classic colour.




A DAY IN THE LIFE: Stalking Rhiannon Vogl, Alan Neal + Jill Zmud, and Aaron Cayer

In the print edition, this series gets a snazzy opening page.

In the print edition, this series gets a snazzy opening page.

Call them community builders, locavores, or simply passionate people who fill their days with cool projects. In the September issue of Ottawa Magazine, we tasked photographers Rémi Thériault and Jamie Kronick with keeping up with these fine Ottawans who are helping to revitalize the downtown area. Once the pics were in, OM special projects editor Sarah Brown, OM contributing editor Fateema Sayani, and OM editor Dayanti Karunaratne filled in the captions.

It’s always tough to know what elements of the print edition to share online. We put a lot of effort into making a great layout and — no offence, WordPress — but cutting and pasting for the screen reader just doesn’t do justice to the skills OM art director Jane Corbett and graphic designer Ryan Mesheau bring to a feature. (And that’s not even getting into the whole newsstand sales conundrum.)

So when it comes to posting print edition to web, we play it by ear. For this feature we’re giving online readers a peak — and our willing subjects something to share with friends and family outside of the city.

And if you’re looking for a newsstand or a subscription, just drop a line to

 Click on the thumbnails for a glimpse of A Day In The Life of Rhiannon Vogl, Alan Neal + Jill Zmud, and Aaron Cayer. And get the issue for the full story!

CAMERA: IntenCity conference brings downtown experts to Ottawa

SEPTEMBER 2014: Living in the Downtown Core

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Fiona’s mom has a hissy fit PLUS the recipe for Fee’s fabulous carrot cake

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: If only all disruptive colleagues would leave. PLUS summer bounty tomato and basil fusilli

SHOP TALK: Etsy Roadtrip comes to LeBreton Flats

SHOP TALK: Arrive in style with lightweight layers and colourful accessories