DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: The School of Bock, Beau’s Brewery’s Oktoberfest



Team Orkin at the Beer Pairing competition during this past weekend’s Beau’s Oktoberfest. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

The rain forecasted for the day never arrived, but thankfully the crowds did… by the thousands, with Beau’s re-usable beer steins in hands and green felt Alpine Bavarian hats obeer_291366n heads.

Spread across the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds, Beau’s Oktoberfest 2015 seemed to me — from the few hours I enjoyed it on a sold-out Saturday afternoon — a smashing success.

I was there for the “School of Bock,” to help crowd-judge the best one-off beer team challenge. It paired one Beau’s brewer with one label artist: four teams of two, four beers, four labels, and much-spirited debate.

In the end, the winning beers, by a democratic show of hands in a crowded hall, were the Baltic style porter ‘One Ping Only,’ and the Medieval-era ale with a large bouquet of medieval aromatics, called ‘Return of the Mumme’. It was my favourite and it tasted like

Following the beer team challenge was a food-based one. Beau’s Brewery chef, Bruce Woods, took the Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack and paired each of the four beers in it with four plates of food. The most striking combination for our group was the Bog Hopper: a hoppy amber-coloured wheat beer, which was matched with a Vietnamese style meatball (pork, shrimp, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, cilantro, chiles), that had, in turn, its own kind of symbiosis.

return-of-the-mumme-front-1024x1024The pork in the ball comes from the Pickle Patch Farm. Aartje den Boer’s heritage Tamworth pigs are raised on organic feed that includes Beau’s Brewery spent grain. They spend their days rooting around, and then show up (thank you) in a meatball paired with beer in which they have been somewhat marinating in all their lives.

The day ended with gingerbread. It was presented as a mini-muffin round with a salted chocolate caramel sauce (the salt from Vancouver Island Salt Co.). It was paired with the pumpkin wheat beer called Weiss O’Lantern, a pale, zippy beer spiced up with ginger, cinnamon and orange peel.

Dozens and dozens of yellow school buses brought us home.

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, 10 Terry Fox Drive, Vankleek Hill, 613-678-2799




QUEST: Pick a Peck of…


SOCA's scallop crudo with rocoto, avocado, and black olive power. Photo: Ben Welland

SOCA’s scallop crudo with rocoto, avocado, and black olive power. Photo: Ben Welland

Is the pepper a vegetable or a fruit? The latter, say botanists, although you would never eat the sweet ones out of hand or bake them in a pie for dessert, would you? Oddly enough, peppers are cousins of berries, classified in the pepos family of berry-like fruits with leathery husks. Included are squashes and — surprise! — watermelons.

Given the origin of the fruit, Spanish-speaking countries have enthusiastically taken up the sweet peppers in myriad variations when cooking. Find, for instance, turbot and txakolí (a sparkling white Basque wine) with green peppers. Then there’s the Venezuelan arepa de caraotas negras — corn cakes filled with black beans and anchos. Or the Mexican dish huevos en rabo de mestiza, left behind by Spanish conquistadors, which sees eggs poached in tomatoes and poblano peppers, though the name means “in the rags and tatters of the daughter of a Spaniard and an Indian.” And so the romantic stories of sweet peppers continue …

Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Salad
“This is a dish we even eat in the morning,” says Chantal Erdogan, co-owner of Turkish restaurant Topkapi. Although they do play second fiddle in this aubergine meze (appetizer), the sweet red peppers give lovely crunch. Co-owner Nail Erdogan (and husband of Chantal) is the one who makes the dish, grilling both vegetables (ahem! fruits), then chopping them very finely. A nub of garlic, a squirt of lemon juice, and there’s the salad, served alongside Chantal’s straight-from-the-oven pide bread, fluffy like naan. Respect to Nail’s father, who showed him all the tricks of the dish, traditionally known as közlemiş biberli pattlican salatasi. $7.95.

Topkapi, 484 Preston St., 613-230-8828

Scallop Crudo with Rocoto, Avocado, and Black Olive Powder
When inventing a dish, says Daniela Manrique, “I think about all the elements: sweet, sour, spicy.” Manrique, co-owner and chef at Soca, has certainly thought long and hard about the flavours of her scallop crudo. Since opening a year ago, the restaurant has offered ceviche in one way or another. Instead of lime juice, though, Manrique uses the acid of tomatoes to “cook” her sea scallops, turning them opaque. The brilliant burnt-orange sauce of sweet red peppers, with barely a sliver of the ever-so-spicy rocoto pepper, swirls ribbons around the seafood. Avocados, dense and meaty, provide sweet contrast to the slippery-smooth scallops. Fine flavours here. $16.

The Soca Kitchen & Pub, 93 Holland Ave., 613-695-9190

Beef-Filled Piquillo Peppers
“I’ve seen them stuffed with cheese, I’ve seen them stuffed with anchovies,” says Phil Lussier. These red beak-shaped piquillos, the size of jalapenos, are actually sweet. In the kitchen at 222 Lyon Tapas Bar, chef Lussier fills his with braised beef slow-cooked with Rioja wine, tomatoes, and saffron. The dish is smoky and so sweet. $15.

222 Lyon Tapas Bar, 222 Lyon St. N., 613-238-0222

City Bites Insider: Gold Medal Plates 2015 Warm-up with Reigning Champ


Gold Medal Plates Ottawa 2014: Chef Patrick Garland of Absinthe takes gold. He’s flanked by Steve Wall (left) of Supply and Demand and John Morris of the NAC’s Le Café. Photo credit: Greg Klotz


One night; winner takes all. The prestigious Gold Medal Plates culinary competition on Nov. 9 is a combo cocktail party (for guests) and a high-stakes evening of frenzied prepping and plating (for the 10 chefs).

The victor earns bragging rights — and a trip to Kelowna in February for an even more intense two-day showdown against the winners from across the country.

Last year, Absinthe chef/owner Patrick Garland took top spot with seared quail breast stuffed with foie gras, a braised thigh croquette, cinnamon cap mushrooms, frittered shallot, confit grapes, and a gewürztraminer reduction. This year, the reigning champ returns as a judge.

Here, the chef gives City Bites Insider a behind-the-scenes idea of what it’s like competing at Gold Medal Plates — and what tips he’d give to this year’s winning chef as they prep for the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna on February 5 and 6, 2016.

Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen took a series of portraits of Garland to publicize last year's Gold Medal Plates competition.

Photographer Justin Van Leeuwen took a series of portraits of Garland to publicize last year’s Gold Medal Plates competition.

Are you psyched to be a judge at this year’s Gold Medal Plates?
I’m really psyched to try all of the plates and to be part of the process. When I was competing last year it was so busy that I didn’t even get to see what everyone else was making. I’m glad! Some of those dishes were so amazing that it would have been intimidating. I’m a little uneasy about the judging part.

Why so?
I find it a little stressful to pass judgment on my colleagues who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into their plates, especially when on any given day some of them might be able to kick my culinary ass.

Once a winner is chosen, can you help them prepare for the Canadian Culinary Championships?
Definitely. There’s even a lucky suitcase that gets passed along to each year’s winner to take with them. It’s basically a knife kit and a first-aid kit. I kept all the information binders that I was given in Kelowna, as well as all of my preparation notes, so I’ll pass those along too.

Did previous Gold Medal Plates winners help you prepare for Kelowna?
They were a huge help. I picked their brains. One night I went for dinner with Marc [Lepine, Ottawa GMP winner in 2011], Marysol [Foucault, Ottawa GMP winner in 2013], and Jamie [Stunt, Ottawa GMP winner in 2012] and asked them everything I could.

Half-way through his photoshoot to publicize Gold Medal Plates, Garland and photographer Justin Van Leeuwen came up with the idea of lighting his hat on fire with scary, but cool, results.

Half-way through his photoshoot to publicize Gold Medal Plates, Garland and photographer Justin Van Leeuwen came up with the idea of lighting his hat on fire with scary, but cool, results.

And now that you’ve competed on the national stage, what are your key pieces of advice?
Be true to yourself. Don’t cook outside your comfort zone. When I competed in the wine-and-food pairing portion of the competition, I cooked a dish that paired perfectly with the wine, but it wasn’t something I would normally cook and the judges could tell. You don’t have to be too literal.

Also — and this is for the earlier Gold Medal Plates round as well — think about bright flavours that are high in acidity. Dishes with spark. Gobs of cream and butter are great, but at the end of a long night of eating, the judges just want a big glass of water!

What was the schedule like in Kelowna?
Up at 5 a.m. to prepare; compete each night; back to the hotel by 1 a.m. — for two days running.

Did you get to enjoy the town?
Yes, we were surprised by how overwhelmingly happy people were for us to be there. All the chefs were really made to feel at home. The one place that sticks out in my mind is Codfathers, which is a fish place. We went there three times — everyone was so accommodating and pleasant. Great food.

Was winning Gold Medal Plates last year good for business?
It certainly didn’t hurt. We felt busier and it was good for us as a team — working towards a goal and achieving it.

Having competed twice at Gold Medal Plates (in 2008 and 2014) and once at the Canadian Culinary Championships (in February 2015), would you do it again?
In a heartbeat! But it is incredibly stressful. I think if you invited the chefs who have done it before, about 50 percent would jump right in to compete again, while the other 50 percent would run screaming in the other direction.

A March 2016 renovation will see the bar, now at the back of the restaurant, move to the front. Photography by Miv Fournier.

A March 2016 renovation will see the bar, now at the back of the restaurant, moved to the front. Photography by Miv Fournier.

Change of topic. There are rumours that you’re planning a renovation of Absinthe. True or false?
We’re planning a renovation over March Break. I’ve always felt that our intentions aren’t totally in sync with people’s perceptions of Absinthe. I think a lot of people think of us as fine dining, but we tend to think of our food as more down to earth — it’s dining that’s fine rather than fine dining.

Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure, but we intend to do a better job of getting our vision across. I’m from this neighbourhood. I grew up in Hintonburg and went to school at Connaught and Fisher Park [High School]. I want people to think of Absinthe as a Hintonburg tradition since 2003 and that the people who work here are invested in the community.

So how will the renovation change perceptions?
For a start, we’re moving the bar from the back of the restaurant to the front so you can see it from the street. I want people to feel comfortable stopping in for a drink and a couple of appetizers. You don’t have to come for a full meal.

Right now, Absinthe is one really big room, which can get noisy. We’re going to add a panel that allows us to hive off large groups so that they can have privacy for their event. It also makes it less distracting for everyone else.

We’ve got plans for a couple of booths at the back, so people can hang out and look out over the restaurant — see what’s going on.

And you’re going to do all this over the course of a few days in March?!
That’s the plan. Everything is being built off-site so when the time comes, we can demo over a weekend and then move all the new furniture in over a few days.

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner



Chesterfield’s sandwich. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Somehow the people from Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner have managed to clone my mother’s ‘70s cottage couch. It now sits, in its floral splendor, at a communal table for six.

In the space that used to be the coffee house Illume, on the ground floor of a condo development in Westboro, Chesterfield’s serves breakfast/brunch/lunch on weekdays. About a month old and declaring this a ‘soft opening’ (which refers to the menu, not the relative comfort of the couches), I nevertheless plopped myself down last week for lunch in an effort to talk about how well their sandwich is made.


Inside Chesterfield’s. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

The menu leads with eggs (the very first item, actually, is the vegetarian ‘Benny’ with a bean patty and avocado standing in for the usual bit of pork. Sign of the times, when a breakfast diner leads with a veggie dish? Though I am quick to reassure that the next item contains bacon and sausage, which can be upgraded to pastrami for a toonie.

With news that the Rideau Bakery’s delicious challah was not available for the ‘Israeli breakfast’ (the bakery was closed for Yom Kippur), I settled for the chicken schnitzel. I had seen it go by my table en route to another, and judging by the happy chatter at the schnitzel table, it seemed to have been well received.

It was impressive. It starts with real chicken breast (not the usual pressed and seasoned product), which has a light crumb-coating and then is lightly herbed; it’s fried, then topped with a chunky, well-flavoured tomato sauce and a slice of provolone. Broiled to melt the cheese, it arrives tucked into a grilled bun layered with (tasteless baby) spinach, the cheese and sauce oozing out as they should.

Less delicious was the bean salad I chose as one of the ‘free sides’ served with the sandwiches. The elements were correct – tomato, black beans, corn, red onion, a bit of herb – but it was under-seasoned, under-herbed, and overall dull, which was disappointing given the season’s availability of fresh, delicious corn and tomatoes. If Chesterfield’s looking for advice during their soft opening, I’d suggest they work on that.

Open Wednesday to Friday, 7am to 3pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 3pm
111-1433 Wellington Street West, 613-680-8990



City Bites Insider: Chef Danny Mongeon’s New Gig at Brig Pub



Chef Danny Mongeon has recently launched a new menu at The Brig, changing the focus to homemade pub fare.

He burst onto the culinary scene three years ago as a first-time executive chef at Brut Cantina Sociale. There, Danny Mongeon quickly made a name for himself, wooing diners with dishes that combined creative with delicious. After that there were short-lived stints at Hooch Bourbon House on Rideau, then Share Freehouse on Somerset.

Now the Chef has shown up at The Brig Pub on the ByWard Market, recently launching a new gastropub-like menu that he has been fine-tuning since he took over the kitchen in May. Mongeon sat down ahead of a busy lunch service to talk about his latest gig — and his plans for the future.

How did you come to land at The Brig?
I heard in the spring that The Brig was looking for a new chef. I used to come here a lot when I was younger — about 10 years ago. It was always known for pretty good food. I met with the owner, who lives in Toronto, and we got along well. He was looking to start putting out funkier food so he invited to me get started right away, get comfortable, and build my team. I started in May, and the idea was to play around for a few months before launching a new menu.

The duck fajita has been super popular since Mongeon launched it on the "specials board" in July.

The duck fajita has been super popular since Mongeon launched it on the “specials board” in July.

So how did you “play around”?
I started testing out different ideas on the specials board, trying out things I wanted to make and seeing what people were comfortable with.

Did any dish stand out as a sure winner right from the start?
The duck fajita! It’s been on the specials board since Canada Day. I tried it out and sold 20 portions in the first two days. I called up Mariposa Farms right away and said “I’m going to start ordering lots of duck!” So the duck has basically been on the specials board ever since July and now it’s on the new menu.

So you launched the new menu right after Labour Day (Sept. 8). Tell us about it.
It’s still got a pub feel to it, but with lots of thought put into each dish. And everything is very fresh. Before I got here, not all the food was being made in-house; shortcuts were being taken in the kitchen. Making everything from scratch makes the workload more intense, but everyone here is passionate and on-board with the new menu.

Although it's a pub, the chef has included lighter items, including a colourful tuna nicoise salad.

Although it’s a pub, the chef has included lighter items, including a colourful tuna nicoise salad.

Some examples?
There’s the duck fajita, which comes with mango salsa, guacamole, peppers, onions, fermented habanero peach hot sauce, fresh herbs, lime, queso fresco and tortillas. A 10-ounce rib-eye steak has a peppercorn demi glaze and comes with cheese curd mashed potato. Fish and chips is a tempura-battered cod with ponzu tartar sauce, celery root slaw, and crispy fries.

But like any good pub, you can still get fries with just about every meal?
We prepare an insane amount of fries.

And the new-menu verdict so far?
It has been going really well. My plan is to see how people react to it and go from there. If they don’t love some dishes as much as I thought they would, I’ll tweak them. But that will be a few weeks down the road — maybe late in October.

Is it hard planning a menu for such a varied clientele?
You have to know your market, for sure. Here, I get a bit of everything. In the summer, there were lots of tourists and people in their early 30s on the patio and in the courtyard. But it’s a more local crowd now that summer’s over. Because we’re open late [until 2 a.m.] we see a lot of industry people [people who work at other restaurants around the Market] coming over after their shifts for beer and small bites. On weekends there’s a DJ so it’s a younger crowd.

Plus you have The Armada Lounge upstairs. Tell me about that.
It’s a really great spot for private lunches or dinner and parties. Right now, it’s mostly canapés and drinks, but with Christmas party season coming up I’m planning a table d’hôte dinner menu.

Enclosed on three sides, The Brig's hidden courtyard stays open until it gets too cold to be outside.

Enclosed on three sides, The Brig’s hidden courtyard stays open until it gets too cold to be outside.

Speaking of cozy spots, The Brig’s sheltered courtyard is a hidden gem. How long does it stay open?
Until it gets too cold for people to hang out there!

What else is in the works?
We’ll close down for a couple of weeks sometime in January for a full-on renovation. The owner is just working on the design now. That’s going to be exciting.

Are you involved with that?
Not really. I’m into food, not design! But they do ask my opinion. One thing I think would be fun is a takeout window so people could just walk by and pick up late-night snacks. I’m not sure if that will happen or not.

It’s obviously been a whirlwind this past few months — starting at a new restaurant, building a team, and launching a new menu. Are you having fun?
Yes! The staff are great and the owner treats me with respect and lets me be creative. I have felt taken advantage of at some of the other restaurants I’ve worked at in the past, but here I’m being paid well for the time I put in. It’s all good.

DesBrisay Dines

DesBrisay Dines: Pasta Tavola



I’ve worked my way through a heroic amount of frozen ravioli in my day, but this one tops them all. By a long shot.

The latest stuffing in the Pasta Tavola line has been out for a while, apparently, but it was new to me. It’s called Tuscan Bean. I wouldn’t have bought it but for the enthusiasm of the Seed to Sausage woman wrapping up my steak. And having tasted it, I think the sisters who run Pasta Tavola should come with a sexier name, for these are far more luxurious than they sound.

Mascarpone might be the key. Or the buttery leeks and sharp cheddar, which all keep fine company with the mashed, slightly gritty cannellini beans. But kudos too for their pouch womb. So often frozen ravioli boils up doughy and uneven, the thick seals still raw as their centres overcook. Not these. The pasta is remarkable thin but sturdy enough to hold together, and the ratio of filling to dough is bang on.

I first bumped into the Watts sisters, Victoria and Paula, at the Belleville Farmers’ Market in the pretty town square. I remember coming home with a tray of their lasagna and emu steaks from Naylor Farm. That was perhaps four years ago. So it’s a pleasure to see their business expand.

I ate the Tuscan bean ravioli topped with bacon, caramelized onion and sour cream one night, the ravioli boiled for three minutes, then pan fried, pierogi style. The next night, with a simple tomato sauce. Good stuff.

My 500 gm bag was found at Seed to Sausage. Check the website for other Ottawa spots to find this lovely Belleville product.

CAPITAL PINT: From Stockpot Ales to Stalwart Brewery


beer soon

If you’re taking the time to read this beer article, you’re probably already a fan of local craft beer, so I bet you’ll recall a small upstart nano-brewery that made amazingly flavourful brews in the kitchen of the Wellington Gastro Pub up until the Fall of 2014: Stock Pot Ales.

Gastropub servers by day, Adam, Nathan and Edwin, became innovative brewers by night, creating their liquid magic in the kitchen on a stovetop using a stock pot (hence the name). Brewing in 150L batches every Sunday, they took Westboro by storm.

However just as the nano-brewery began gaining momentum, they closed up shop and rode off into the sunset. When the news of the closure broke, many fans (myself included) felt their hearts sink and their livers breathe a sigh of relief.

Well, cheer up friends! It turns out the guys decided they would need to spend their time focusing on scaling up the operation to a full-blown brewery. Ottawa beer drinkers rejoice: They’re coming back, bigger, and better!
Reincarnated as Stalwart Ales and opening fall 2015 in nearby Carleton Place, the brewery is humming with activity and excitement. Though the name has changed, the full flavoured brews will deliver the same satisfaction we all love and remember. Old chums like Dr. Feelgood, Eddie Da Veto, Big PAPA, Fat Lip, and Bad Moon — plus new seasonals will all be available! In addition to the brews, the team has grown as the trio, adding Phil Kelsey, manager at Supply & Demand, to the mix.

After interacting so closely with their clients and then leaving on such a high note, I asked the guys how excited they were to get back into the local beer scene: “We can’t fucking wait! And we won’t be offended if you paraphrase that…” Nah. I think that captures it.

Starting a brewery is no simple task and involves taking on a great deal of investment, risk and work. The SA brewers insist the hard work is rewarded every few weeks once the delicious beer is ready for “testing.” The new 7BBL (barrel = approximately 100 litres) brewhouse, pieced together “MacGyver-style” will be a massive upgrade from the kitchen equipment used in the past. Plans are already in motion to have a canning line operating once the brewery opens.

Heat exchangers, before and now

Heat exchangers, before and now

Of course, while the beer is the same high-quality juice, the major change will be the location, as Stalwart will be located mere steps from the little Mississippi River in Carleton Place’s historic downtown. The brewery plans on being on tap throughout Ottawa, plus the Valley, while partnering with businesses and events in their new Carleton Place home.

City Bites Insider: Just Opened! Andre Cloutier launches Clarkstown Kitchen & Bar on the bustling Beechwood Avenue strip

By Sarah Brown

All of the furniture, including the cozy bar,  was prefabricated so that Andre Cloutier (at left) could do a full renovation in just under a month

All of the furniture, including the cozy bar, was prefabricated so that Andre Cloutier (at left) could do a full renovation in just under a month

After a whirlwind three-week reno, Clarkstown Kitchen & Bar opened in late August in the historic house occupied for years by El Meson. Chef Tom Moore remains at the helm, but oversees a completely revamped menu (only El Meson’s much loved paella remains) that focuses on pairing artisanal sausages with craft beers. It’s still fine dining, but with a more casual vibe and lower price point.

Owner Andre Cloutier, who also owns Beechwood Gastropub just down the street, took time out in his hectic schedule to talk about the new vibe and menu at the 140-seat Clarkstown.

How long did the renovation take?
Believe it or not, just under a month. We closed on August 1 and reopened on August 26. We totally changed up the walls, repainting and adding wainscoting; the floors; and the bar. It helped that all of the big pieces were prefabricated to fit.

The iconic El Meson house looks the same from the outside, but Clarkstown Kitchen & Bar sees the interior — and the menu — completely transformed

The iconic El Meson house looks the same from the outside, but Clarkstown Kitchen & Bar sees the interior — and the menu — completely transformed

El Meson was around for decades. Was it hard to say goodbye to a neighbourhood favourite and relaunch Clarkstown Kitchen & Bar?
It was time for a more casual approach to fine dining. Clarkstown Kitchen is more approachable and with a lower price point. It’s more comfortable. I wanted to change things up and fill the seats again.

Chef Tom Moore [from El Meson] is still in the kitchen, but he has completely renewed the menu. It’s all about artisanal sausages, all made inhouse, and with unique side dishes. The sausages go well with the many craft beers we’re serving.

Do any El Meson dishes remain on the menu?
Just the famous paella! We had to carry that over.

What have you noticed these first few weeks?
The people in this neighbourhood really support me and rally behind me. We don’t even have the website up and running yet, but it has still been really busy. It’s nice to see the energy back in this building.

A post on Clarkstown's Facebook page shows one of their new dishes, an artisanal Vietnamese-inspired chicken-lemongrass sausage

A post on Clarkstown’s Facebook page shows one of their new dishes, an artisanal Vietnamese-inspired chicken-lemongrass sausage

Tell me about the name.
I was searching for a name for the new restaurant so I started doing a bit of historical research to try to get some ideas. I was visiting with a guy at the Vanier Museopark and he told me about how this area was called Clarkstown in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It then became Eastview and, after that, Vanier. There’s an old map in the entranceway to the restaurant so diners make the link.

You opened the Beechwood Gastropub in late 2014. Do you get a different crowd at your two restaurants?
Honestly, no. I think guests choose based on what sort of ambiance and food they feel like on a certain night. The gastropub is a slightly more casual setting than Clarkstown. The chef [Colin Lockett] does a really great menu of small plates.

Some things never change. The popular El Meson paella remains on a menu that has otherwise been completely overhauled by Chef Tom Moore

Some things never change. The popular El Meson paella remains on a menu that has otherwise been completely overhauled by Chef Tom Moore

How many hours a week do you work?
The last few weeks have been 70-hour weeks, but hopefully things will slow down now that Clarkstown is up and running.

You’ve focused on this area ever since opening Arturo’s Market in 2006 [Cloutier sold Arturo’s two years ago]. Why Beechwood?
I moved here from Sault Ste Marie for school and ended up living above the old Danny’s Restaurant just off Beechwood. When the lease came up for an old clothing store around the corner, I opened Arturo’s. It didn’t even have a kitchen! I was a naïve 22-year-old at the time. I have lived in this neighbourhood ever since.

Any plans for a third restaurant in your ’hood?
No! Of course I say that now, but once things settle down I will probably get the itch.



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DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Vittoria in the Village

restoVittoria in the Village is chapter three for the ‘Vittoria’ chain. It’s a partnership, we read on the website, between Vittoria’s Dominic Santaguida and Geoff Vivian of Lapointe Fish. Opened in the spot where Lapointe’s Westboro Fish House used to be, the space is narrow, done over in greys and blacks, with a long red banquette. A garage door lets in light at the front and an open kitchen adds interest in the back.

The original Vittoria Trattoria has been a feature on William Street for just shy of twenty years. Before that, Vittoria started life as a deli in the Glebe. In 2003 a second location was opened in Ottawa South, just off Riverside, a modern room with an open kitchen and a commanding glassed-in wine cellar. Indeed, the Vittoria restaurants are both highly respected for their award winning wine lists and for the Santaguida family’s contribution to wine education in the city.

You won’t find that same thick wine list in the Village location. It’s a one-pager of mostly crowd-pleasers, though there’s a bit of choice for the big spender too. The food menu is a two-pager, and though smaller than the Market’s VT, it is much the same document, with fewer main dishes and with flatbreads in place of pizza.

I wouldn’t call it ‘Modern Italian’ fare, as the sign says. But if you’ve a hankering (and so many do for some strange reason) for an unchanging menu of standard Italian-Canadian fare (bruschetta, deli meats, fried calamari, penne Arrabiata, veal Marsala, chicken Parmigiano, New York cheesecake…) along with a few oddities (quinoa salad, curried mussels), you’ll find these largely unexciting dishes, fairly well-executed here. Though there have been some duds too.

shrimp on puff

Shrimp on a puff: a solid hit on the Vittoria menu. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Shrimp in Sambuca cream on puff pastry wasn’t one of those. It was a blast from the past, and a pretty compelling one. The shrimp were snappy, bathed in a white sauce that was rich, sweet and boozy, scented with tarragon. They covered a square of browned puff pastry, the edges crisped, the middle soggy. We liked the octopus salad well enough, with rounds of chorizo, soft cannellini beans and grape tomatoes united in a chipotle mayo.

You won’t find fresh pasta here. The section is long and all but one from a box. (Only the cheese tortellini in Gorgonzola cream sauce is made here.) There are options for whole-wheat spaghetti and for two bucks more, gluten free pasta can be substituted. I’ve tried one pasta dish and I don’t think I’ll try another. The fettuccine with seafood and red peppers was thoroughly disappointing, the mussel shells either missing meat or the meat shrivelled, the scallops rubbery and salty, the shrimp tainted with iodine, the pasta overcooked.


Wild salmon with beet risotto. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The special one evening was wild salmon. We’re asked how we’d like our salmon cooked. (That’s a first.) We reply that we’d like it lightly cooked. Our server looks a bit confused. ‘Not too much’ we add, helpfully. Medium then? Or medium rare? she asks. Sure we say. It arrives grill hatched and cooked as we figure we’d ordered it, the flesh still moist and wobbly. I wish she had asked how we’d like our risotto. Cooked with beets, it was prettily pink-stained and of good flavour, though well past al dente.

One night pounded veal was cooked to tender, spotted with capers and served with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables. It was fine. Another night, another veal (Marsala) and the meat was wildly salty, the vegetables unseasoned and soggy.


Housemade tiramisu. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Desserts are mostly brought in – New York cheesecake, tartufo, zuccotto. Made in house were an apple crumble, a crème brulée flavoured with white chocolate (my teeth ached thinking about it) and good old tiramisu, which wasn’t bad at all.

Mostly ‘not bad at all’ summed up Vittoria in the Village for me. It specializes in a set menu of recognizable dishes. It plates up abundance. Service is far from professional, but friendly and kind. The wine list isn’t up to Vittoria standards – nor does it come with service that can explain it – but it’s passable. If you’re in the village looking for ‘wow’, it’s not here. But for plates of North Americanized Italian dishes (updated with quinoa, whole wheat and gluten-free options), adequately executed (for the most part), this new place will do.
309 Richmond Rd., 613-680-7575,

DesBrisay Dines




Red House Honey. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Bees have been on my mind this summer. There was an incredible swarming, a dancing, buzzing colony, furiously attempting to make a home in a pine tree at a cottage in the Kawartha Lakes. I was at that cottage on their possession day. When the bees moved in, we all ran out. It sounded like the Snowbirds on the First of July.

It made me think about Patricia Larkin, chef late of Black Cat Bistro, and who is taking a sabbatical from active kitchen duty by instead turning to the trials and joys of beekeeping. And also about the lovely restaurant Clover on Bank Street, so named for the bee-food sown on chef West de Castro’s front yard to encourage production in her hives.

I returned from the cottage to find a jar of this on the doorstep. Red House Honey. From my sweet friend Joan. “Have you tried this stuff yet? REALLY good. Found at Westboro Pharmasave.” It wasn’t even my birthday.

So I Googled them. They are beekeepers who live in a red house on the St. Lawrence River and make unpasteurized honey, without preservatives, pesticides, or additives. They also make it by hand without the use of electricity. And they are poets to boot! “From Eastern Ontario’s full force gales to snow and sleet, to the sweet flowering of the apple blossoms and the whiskey scent of ripening buckwheat” — that’s how the story of their farm begins.

And now I have Red House Honey every day on my morning toast — toast made with Natali Harea’s whole wheat sourdough bread (she of Nat’s Bread Company), the recipe for which is stuck to my fridge door. I’ve become a bread baker this summer. Mostly because of Nat and because of the Red House poets and their honey bees.

Available at these fine shops: Westboro Pharmasave, Seed to Sausage, The Glebe Meat Market, Jacobsons, Ottawa Bagel Shop, Rideau Bakery, among others.