Author Archive

THIS CITY: Zebra Mussels Wreak Havoc With Ottawa River Ecosystem

This article was originally published in the May 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

Illustration by Michael George Haddad

Illustration by Michael George Haddad

By Matt Harrison

Stemming the flow of raw sewage flooding into the river after heavy rainfalls is one of the major problems being addressed by the Ottawa River Action Plan (ORAP). Indeed, earlier phases of the plan have already significantly reduced pollution entering the river. The final phase of the ORAP — building large storage tanks to contain overflow — is supposed to kick into gear this summer, but it requires provincial and federal funding, and so far, none has been promised. [Update: $65 million in federal funding was announced in April.]

But rethinking the Ottawa River isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, it may lead to a more holistic approach — one that addresses not only overflow but other factors affecting the health of the river.

The zebra mussel — and the herculean task of rescuing native mussel populations from its death grip — provides a perfect example.

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#TBT: Eight Years Later, Lindsay Ferguson Returns to the Black Sheep

This article was originally published in the April/May 2007 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Lindsay Ferguson appeared in our Pick 3 department in 2007

Lindsay Ferguson appeared in our Pick 3 department in 2007

A couple of weeks ago, singer Lindsay Ferguson sent us an email with the subject line “Good Morning From Switzerland!” We don’t get too much spam from the Alps, so I opened it.

In it, Ferguson gave us the update on her career — she now splits her time between Bern, Switzerland and Wakefield — and let us know she would be releasing her new record at The Black Sheep Inn on May 23rd.

She took us on a trip down memory lane by sending us a clipping of the feature we ran in advance of her 2007 release party — also at the Black Sheep.
Check out Ferguson’s new sound on Saturday, May 23rd at The Black Sheep Inn.
$12 in advance, $15 at the door
Herewith, Lindsay Ferguson’s 2007 Pick Three feature, in which she dreams up her fantasy concerts, dates, and favourite power ballads.
Photo by Christina Riley

Photo by Christina Riley

3 Favourite Possessions

  • My guitar
  • My fingers
  • My life

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EATING & DRINKING GUIDE 2015: The Ottawa Food Lover’s Guide to Everything



All around town, chefs are focusing their considerable talents on preparing comfort food. Many restaurants are striving to become neighbourhood destinations as knowledgeable diners gravitate to casual eateries and skilled home cooking, modestly presented. The trend is toward gathering in groups, sharing both plates and tables. We want to kick back, enjoy unpretentious dishes made with fresh local ingredients, and wash it all down with a seasonal craft beer or a new wine discovery from Prince Edward County.

The 2015 edition of Eating & Drinking reflects this sensibility, with Ottawa Magazine restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay paying special homage to neighbourhood destinations and tucked-away eateries as part of this season’s guide to 32 must-eat restaurants. As the desire for a more intimate dining experience takes off, so does the appetite for a more personal connection to the growers and makers of all that we eat and drink.

Small-batch foods, artisanal cordials, and craft beers are tempting because they taste great but also because we feel a connection to the farmers, brewers, bakers, and butchers who are preparing them just for us. Welcome to the table.

By Sarah Brown 

Ottawa’s most exciting new food businesses and best restaurants

New and Noteworthy
Fifteen of the tastiest new additions to the culinary landscape. By Shawna Wagman

Small-batch finds
The yummiest, the most sophisticated, the trendiest small-batch things you need to try right now. Our opinionated checklist for the discerning locavore. By Cindy Deachman, Anne DesBrisay, and Shawna Wagman

Some offer a boisterous evening at the bar; others are comfortable old-timers, innovating gracefully to keep up with the times. Ottawa Magazine restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay selects 32 restaurants for this year’s must-visit list. By Anne DesBrisay

Festive Gourmet
An overview of the next 12 months of finger-licking celebrations. By Matt Harrison

Adventurous Gourmet
Restaurateurs are devising all manner of inventive special events to satiate our hunger for novelty. By Amy Allen

The much-anticipated Fauna makes it onto Anne DesBrisay's "Eat Here This Year" list. Photo by Marc Fowler

The much-anticipated Fauna makes it onto Anne DesBrisay’s “Eat Here This Year” list. Photo by Marc Fowler

Briana Kim of Café My House talks about raw agave, Kitchen Nightmares, and other favourite things in the 2015 edition of Ottawa Magazine's Eating & Drinking. Photo by Luther Caverly

Briana Kim of Café My House talks about raw agave, Kitchen Nightmares, and other favourite things in the 2015 edition of Ottawa Magazine’s Eating & Drinking. Photo by Luther Caverly

A curated guide to satisfying your gourmet grocery and takeout needs. By Cindy Deachman

My Favourite Things

Rich Wilson of The Pomeroy House
Briana Kim of Café My House
Cyril Nebout and Leslie Yang of Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
Sara Pishva of Top Shelf Preserves
Kimiko Uriu of Kimicha Tea

Wines and craft beers to suit every event on your social calendar. 

David Lawrason details his 47 favourite bottles.

The Ultimate Beer Run. By Jordan Duff

Refreshing Craft Beers. By Jordan Duff

Back Page
Dinner With the Family: Erling’s Variety

Susan Phipps, owner of the Joy of Gluten Free, is highlighted in the Bakers section of the 2015 Eating & Drinking guide. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Susan Phipps, owner of the Joy of Gluten Free, is highlighted in the Bakers section of the 2015 Eating & Drinking guide. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen


WEB EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Judge Chef Michael Howell

Last week, Chef Michael Howell (of Devour Film Food Festival, among other things) stopped by our office with award-winning cheese from the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. We get a lot of requests for desk-side meetings and such, and most of the time we have to say no, we’re busy. And this Monday we were indeed busy … but it’s hard to say no to award-winning Canadian cheese!

The tasting served as an excellent introduction to the awards, which celebrated their ninth anniversary this year. Chef Howell was an entertaining and informative host, setting up a beautiful spread (complete with grapes and nuts) in our boardroom. It was afternoon, so we cracked some wine, and opened our minds (and our mouths) to experience the wonders of Canadian cheese.


Chef Howell and his team assembled a beautiful and delicious array of award-winning Canadian cheese


In addition to learning that “cheese should taste like what the cow ate” and that aged Gouda is an excellent stand-in for parmesan, our St. Joseph Media team gained a better appreciation of the cheese making world. Personally, I’m already looking outside the standard grocery store options and checking labels for MMI/MMS acronyms — keep reading for Chef Howell’s take on these and other nuggets of knowledge from the cheese industry.


Ottawa Mag: I understand you were a judge for the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix awards. How much cheese did you eat?
Michael Howell:
The jury of 11 tasted 268 cheeses over the course of two days in Montreal in February. We were put into two judging groups of five each, overseen by Phil Belanger (jury chair since 1998) who chaperoned us through the process. Each group tasted 150 cheeses to determine the finalists and then we retested the final 27 category champions multiple times to determine the grand champion.

Chef Howell judging what looks to be the Fresh Pasta Filata entries at the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix awards in Montreal earlier this year.

Chef Howell judging what looks to be the Fresh Pasta Filata entries at the 2015 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix awards in Montreal earlier this year.

OM: Do you have a favourite category?
I am partial to the smoked cheeses and the Blues. As a judge who is a chef, I like big, bold assertive flavours, that kick you and say “I am delicious.”

OM: What category/categories change the most from year to year? 
MH: The ‘cheeses with particulates’ (flavourings) seem to vary the most from year to year. Think horseradish flavoured cheeses, cheese with green peppercorns, etc.. Cheese makers are taking bolder and sometimes crazier choices with what they are adding to the cheese to make a unique product.

OM: How did you cleanse your palate between tastings?
MH: For me, a small piece of fresh baguette, followed by a swish of sparkling water does the trick to get me ready for the next cheese. The bread is like a sponge and the water like a refreshing bit of cleansing.

We were particularly proud of the 5-year-old cheddar from local cheese maker St. Albert, which was a finalist in the Aged Cheddar (More Than 3 Years) category

We were particularly proud of the 5-year-old cheddar from local cheese maker St. Albert, which was a finalist in the Aged Cheddar (More Than 3 Years) category

OM: How have the awards changed since they started nine years ago? Do you have anything special planned for the 10th anniversary?
The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix competition takes place every two years.  I‘ve only been on the jury for three editions so I can’t speak to the early days. I can atest to the calibre of cheeses made from 100 percent Canadian milk has increased every edition that I have been a part of, and the sheer number of entries indicates a willingness to make more adventurous cheeses across Canada; this indicates that cheesemaking is growing in Canada. The Dairy Farmers of Canada actually organize the competition and the gala. It’s been a wonderful experience so far and I assume that they will make it even more spectacular in 2017.

OM: Can you tell me about the upcoming changes that we will be seeing on cheese labels? What does it mean for the cheese lovers? What does it mean for cheese makers?
This question should be directed to the producers of cheese and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. I know that the winners and category champions all receive marketing materials to celebrate their victories at the grand prix, thus making then stand out all that much more at the cheese retail level. Look for the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix label and the little blue cow that indicates the product is made with 100 percent Canadian milk.

OM: What would you say to someone who says that they only buy inexpensive grocery store cheese? What’s the difference? What are they missing?
It’s important for people who buy cheese and are actually thinking about the impact of what they buy to remember that they are supporting Canada’s dairy farmers when they purchase cheeses that are made with 100 percent Canadian cow’s milk. People should be aware that when they buy some of the grocery cheeses, that they are often made with Modified Milk  Ingredients (MMI) and or Modified Milk Solids (MMS), of which most of the production of these additives are from outside Canada. This takes away the art of  cheese making in Canada. Eating a little bit less quantity of a quality product is what we all should be striving for — more flavour, more passion, less mass produced product, more support for cheese making excellence in quality products made in our own country.


MAY 2015: Annual Real Estate Guide

1_Cover.inddAs Laura Byrne Paquet writes in the opening of her annual real estate roundup (“Where to Buy Now,” page 39), neighbourhoods draw home buyers for a number of reasons — good schools, abundant green space, convenient transportation links — as well as something she calls soul. Paquet gives the example of a downtown wine bar and incorporates a list of attractive amenities for each of the highlighted ’hoods. From museums to parks, gelaterias to brew pubs, these places offer opportunities for people to connect. It’s a new aspect of our real estate feature that I hope you will enjoy.

But perhaps, when it comes to the soul of a space, we have a responsibility to take part in its creation. In last year’s real estate issue, I wrote about second-guessing my own choice to put down roots in the Carlington neighbourhood. For me, transportation — and plenty of parks — won out over the quaintness of Aylmer. But I have a confession: I’ve been sluggish in my approach to fostering my street’s soul.

Blame it on the brutal winter or my hectic schedule, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t know my area very well. The reality hit me when I started to consider schools. Soon my daughter will be entering junior kindergarten, and I am faced with the realization that the names of nearby schools mean nothing to me. Sure, I troll the internet looking for information on school districts and boundaries of the ’hood I drive through every day. Instead, I need to be talking with other parents and people involved in the community. Because I can’t trust statistics to tell me the strengths and weaknesses of a school — and besides, these are the people who will inevitably play a role in my child’s future.

Read the rest of this entry »

SHOP TALK: Brunch Bunch brings food + fashion together at Hintonburg Happening

By Dayanti Karunaratne and Kelsey Kromodimoeljio

Have you heard about the Hintonburg Happening? Yes, we all know that the ‘hood is a happenin’ place, but this week it really takes off in a celebration of art, music, food, and, yes, fashion.

Shop jewellery, home decor, and more at JV Studios.

Shop jewellery, home decor, and more at JV Studios.

On Sunday, May 3, our favourite little corner of boutiques comes alive with hospitality and spring fashion. In an event dubbed the Brunch Bunch, Muriel Drombret will host Dunrobin artist Mette Baker, she of the wearable gardens, while Twiss & Weber continues in their rock’n’roll vein with warm leatherette, moleskin, sparkle, and fringe — even a touch of paisley. Plus, following their Big Hair or Be Square event on May 2nd, T&W will be selling “air guitar inspired T-shirts” (i.e., “Bill and the Private Members” and “The Joiners”) by Winged Beast Outfitters.

Paisley dress by 3rd Floor Studio

Paisley dress by 3rd Floor Studio

Check out JV Studios for everything from bling to mugs, VAM Boutique for summer whites and pretty frocks, and Flock Boutique for cute dresses at Flock Boutique. Here you’ll find unique Canadian-made garments and styles perfect for work — and cocktail hour. We love this paisley print dress from 3rd Floor Studio.

The forecast for Sunday is calling for a high of 22 or 24, depending your source. Either way, we say get thee to a Hintonburg boutique for a satisfying and stylish start to spring!

WEB EXCLUSIVE: What the heck is Pedal Punk?

Last week, our friends at Centrepointe Theatre approached us about featuring Pedal Punk. It’s BMX bikes, acrobats, and steampunk style, they said. We said, we love those things, but all mixed together? What the heck?

Indeed, they conceded, Cirque Mechanics, the group behind the show, hasn’t been to Ottawa before, so it needs a bit of education.


Pedal Punk image courtesy Centrepointe Theatre

Pedal Punk image courtesy Centrepointe Theatre

Herewith, 10 reasons Cirque Mechanics will blow your mind!

  1. There are approximately 90 wheels on stage in Pedal Punk.
  2. The aerial Penny Farthing in Pedal Punk can also be used to ride on the ground. It is a real bike!
  3. Many of the bicycles in Pedal Punk were built from parts found in scrap yards. A great way to 
recycle and repurpose parts!
  4. The Gantry Bike featured in Pedal Punk as the Bike Shop is an original Cirque Mechanics 
apparatus, weighs 3,000 lbs. with artists on board, yet it can be pedaled by just 2 people.
  5. The Gantry Bike steers like a bulldozer or a tank.
  6. It takes a team of 4 people 1 1/2 hours to build the Gantry Bike. It also takes 1 1/2 hours to pack 
up the whole show.
  7. The Gantry Bike has a top speed of 5 mph and can be pedaled indoors and outdoors.
  8. The cast of Pedal Punk is made up of 10 artists: dancers, trampolinists, aerialists, a BMX rider, a 
juggler and clown, a rhythmic gymnast, a contortionist and a stilt‐walking stuntman.
  9. It took one year to create Pedal Punk.
  10. The entire show fits in one 26’ truck.

Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 7:30PM, Cirque Mechanics presents Pedal Punk at Centrepointe Theatres.
Tickets are $49.75 and are available on or through the box office at 613‐580‐2700.

Pedal Punk image courtesy Centrepointe Theatre

Pedal Punk image courtesy Centrepointe Theatre



CITY BITES INSIDER: Q&A with Chef Kirk Morrison of Restaurant 18 

This week, CITY BITES INSIDER welcomes guest blogger Marc Bazinet, an Ottawa-based food blogger who writes about restaurants, cookbooks, and food products.

After a company shake-up last fall, Restaurant 18 installed Kirk Morrison as its chef de cuisine. At the helm of one of the top restaurants in the city, Morrison showcases menus that display an impressive set of skills. Marc Bazinet aka Cool Food Dude, caught up with Morrison to discuss his culinary roots, his experience feeding hungry Olympians, and his stint as a butcher.

Chef Kirk Morrison of Restaurant 18

Chef Kirk Morrison of Restaurant 18

Marc Bazinet: Do you come from a family of foodies?
Kirk Morrison: My dad was actually a doctor, but he was an amazing home cook. He always had me on the counter when I was a kid— making breakfast or helping with dinner parties. I acquired a respect and passion for food at a very young age.

MB: What did you do after cooking school?
KM: I worked at the Four Seasons in Yorkville. I trained under Lynn Crawford who was the executive chef there at the time. I think I was 19 in this massive kitchen with all these talented people and this famous executive chef.

After my stage, I left Toronto to go to Vancouver. I bounced around and eventually landed at the official caterer for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. We worked with the IOC on everything, from building the cafeterias around the Olympic venues, to planning how we were going to feed the athletes and spectators and staff. During the Olympics, our kitchen was open 24-hours. Just straight open. It was crazy bananas.

MB: Where did you go after your Olympic experience?
KM: I stumbled upon a restaurant in Vancouver that had let their chef go. All the cooks left with him. It was just myself and a woman (who would later become my wife). We rebuilt the menu and relaunched the restaurant. I later became the executive chef and managed that for about three years. And then I got really tired of cooking.

MB: Was it a burnout?
KM: It was a hard burnout. I’d been working since I was about 17- or 18-years-old, and I was 28 at this point, and I had two kids and everything that comes with that. So I went to be butcher for a year. Looking back at that opportunity…priceless.

MB: After a year, did you miss cooking?
KM: I did, yeah. But we had to relocate outside of Vancouver to be able to afford our growing family, and we decided it was time to move. I did some research and the food scene here in Ottawa seemed to be going in an upward direction.

MB: How did the opportunity at Restaurant 18 come about?
KM: I walked into Sidedoor and Chef Johnny (executive chef Jonathan Korecki) came out. I had watched Top Chef, and I was like “Ah, you were on TV.” And he was like, “Yeah, that was me.” “Cool. So I need a job. He looked at my resume and said, “I need to hire somebody, when can you start?” I worked with Chef Johnny for about a month, and then the chef at [Restaurant]18 decided to move on. There was some restructuring in the company where the ownership had invited Johnny to be executive chef of the whole company, and he wanted to slot me in the chef de cuisine spot up here [Restaurant 18]. And it’s been good ever since.

MB: So how do you cook for a city of politicians and public servants?
KM: The magic is when somebody comes into your restaurant, sees something on the menu that they wouldn’t necessarily order all the time, orders it, eats it, and loves it. I am going to offer them something different from what they think they want.

MB: What are some of your favourite recipes from the Restaurant 18 menu?
KM: We make these little salt cod brandade fritters. So you have this little potato bomb on this dish, which is basically a salt cod donut wrapped in crispy potato strings. It has been the best received out of any dish on our menu.

MB: Do you follow food trends?
KM: Trends are one thing, but jumping on a bandwagon, I don’t think, is going to help push your creativity in any direction. As a city, we need to have a super diverse food scene to be able to thrive and push creative food forward. We all end up with a much richer food community than if everything was just the same.

MB: Do you cook at home?
KM: Yes, I love cooking at home. And my wife is also a chef. We always, on weekends, cook together. A large part of our home-life is spent in the kitchen.

MB: Are your kids too young to be interested in food?
KM: Oh no. With our oldest, he’s got his own little chair that he pulls up next to the counter. He seasons things, stirs pasta, does all that stuff. Once we were rushing to feed the kids. We made them pasta and we didn’t season it, and he pushed it away and said, “You didn’t put any salt on this.” We looked at each other like, “Did he just do that?”

MB: What do you do with your time outside of work?
KM: Usually something food-centric. When we first moved here, my wife and I would pack up the kids on my days off and go to the ByWard Market and walk around the stalls and teach the kids about the different vegetables.

MB: Food is obviously a passion. You chose the right line of work.
KM: It’s funny. It’s the one thing that I liked, and the one thing I was ever good at, and people have decided to pay me money to do it. I always have a little giggle to myself. It’s funny.

Read the full Q&A on Cool Food Dude


ARTFUL BLOGGER: Skinned animals, stuffed birds, and Alex Colville


Skinned animals at Museum of Nature

Photo courtesy Museum of Nature

Photo courtesy Museum of Nature

The skinned camel with its head neatly sliced in three is awesome. Ditto the skinless, almost featherless ostrich and the tall giraffe, its birthday suit removed to reveal all its inner workings.

But the star attraction of these anatomy lessons might prove to be human — just an arm, actually, with the skin peeled back to reveal muscles and tendons and slender bones. The fingernails remain intact. Somehow the nails, more than anything, tell us this preserved arm once was attached to a living, breathing body.

Visitors to the exhibition, Body Worlds: Animals Inside Out, at the Canadian Museum of Nature tend to gravitate to that human arm. You are allowed to touch it and shake its bony hand. Nearby, a real human heart rests, its pumping days long gone. You can hold it and speculate on whose life it once powered.

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ANNOUNCING! The winners of the Ottawa Magazine Short Fiction Contest

Earlier this year, we announced our first-ever short fiction contest. We knew there were writers out there, crafting great stories and dreaming of sharing them with a wider audience. We wanted to provide the audience — and tap into some of that creative energy. So we put the word out there and crossed our fingers. We got some great support from the local and national writing community, who shared our post through social media.

Illustration by Alanah Abels

Illustration by Alanah Abels

And the entries poured in! First it was a trickle, then came the flood. Over 75 entries in total were judged through a “blind” process — thanks rob mclennan for that suggestion, which helped us read each story with an open mind. Three members of the Ottawa St. Joseph Communications team read every story, and a fourth helped us whittle the long list down to a winner and a runner-up.

And the winner is…

Barbara Sibbald, for Waiting

And the runner-up is Theresa Wallace, for Camping at Mont Tremblant

You can read these two stories in the Summer issue of Ottawa Magazine, which hits newsstands in early June.