CITY BITES INSIDER: Bruce Wood has big plans for Beau’s

By SARAH BROWN

Meet Bruce Wood. The brewery chef at Beau’s has big plans for the summer patio, which opens for business on the Victoria Day long weekend.

Never content to rest on their laurels, Beau’s has big plans for the summer patio at its Vankleek Hill base. The 50-seat patio opens for the season on the May long weekend (May 16-18) and will host lunches on Saturdays and Sundays (and possibly Fridays) all summer long. Brewery chef Bruce Wood, who joined Beau’s last September, has been hard at work all spring planning a short locally inspired menu whose ingredients pair well with the latest Beau’s offerings.

Steve Beauchesne and Bruce Wood

Steve Beauchesne and Bruce Wood

Summer’s just around the corner. What are you working on today?
Pairings. We keep a detailed flavour profile for every beer that Beau’s releases. Today, I’m working on food pairings — so what goes well with the beer. I tasted two new summer beers — Wag the Wolf, which is a wheat beer, and Festivale, which is our summer beer.

When I tasted the Festivale, I thought about lemon curd, and almond pastry, and duck breast and things like that. When I taste a beer, I try to think of a few mains and a few desserts that will pair well with it. And a cheese — every beer will have a favourite cheese that will pair perfectly with it.label-wag-the-wolf-1024x1024

Tell me about the Beau’s summer patio.
In the past, Beau’s used to have different food vendors come in each week to make food for visitors. Now that I’m here as brewery chef, I have created a patio menu for the summer. And the patio, itself, is going to be lovely. You can come for lunch and beer on Saturday and Sunday. We’re also considering opening the patio on Fridays because so many people head out early.

How big is the patio?
It seats around 50, with picnic tables. There are benches around the edges where you can sit and enjoy a beer. The tasting room is inside the brewery and the patio outside. You can take your beer outside on sunny days to enjoy it in the sun.

What’s on the menu?
It’s very summery. There will always be some kind of interesting sandwich — maybe a brined jerk breast chicken sandwich or a sausage from one of the local butchers or a pulled pork. It will be on a roll made by Natali [Harea] from Nat’s Bread, who makes fabulous bread. That will always be served with a nice coleslaw as well as the condiments and garnishes I’m working on.

There will also be a lovely charcuterie and cheese board and a dip platter that will have things like homemade feta spread, tzatziki, hummus, olives, and other spreads. And a substantial salad, with a vegetarian or meat option, so you can top it with, say, smoked tofu or with whatever protein we’re making for the sandwich — so maybe that jerk chicken breast if that’s the sandwich on that particular week.

Of course, everything will be paired with beer!

Tell me about your guests.
It’s interesting the different ways people enjoy the patio. There are people who come out from Ottawa for a few hours. Then there are visitors who stop in on their way to and from Montreal for a beer or a beer and a bite to eat. Last year, I noticed that there were packs of cyclists coming by. They’d arrive with their bikes on their cars, go for an extended ride, then come back to Beau’s for beer and lunch before they drove home. Very cool.

So you’ve been at Beau’s for just over six months in. Liking it so far?
Loving it! There are so many facets to this job and that makes it really fun. It’s not just about great beer and yummy food, I like that there’s a strong message of sustainability and responsibility that runs through every decision that gets made here.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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?
MH:
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?
MH:
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?
MH:
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.

 

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Great British Pasty & Pie Co.

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Grant. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Matt Grant of The Great British Pastry Company. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

He was quite right. I went home and Googled it. The Cornish Pasty, like Champagne or Parmigiano-Reggiano, has its own special designation, protected by the European Union as a special regional food. I hadn’t really believed him, but there it was.

“I didn’t much like pasties growing up,”  Matt Grant, owner of The Great British Pasty Company also told me. “They were made with minced meat, you see, not cubed steak like they’re supposed to be.”

But he likes them now. At least the ones he’s making. I like them too, particularly after learning more about their storied history.

Created out of necessity by thirteenth century Cornwall tin miners (or, more likely, by their wives) who needed hand-held lunch on-the-go for their deep dark work. And so the pasty was born. Essentially leftovers — cuts of meat, onion, potato, swedes (rutabagas) — wrapped up in a pastry casing that served as both container and handle.

Traditional British pastries are bought frozen and cooked for about 20 minutes. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Traditional British pasties are bought frozen and cooked for about 20 minutes. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Grant’s gone beyond the traditional Cornish Pasty, taking delicious liberties, making Steak and Guinness pasties (from his mum’s recipe), Sophie’s Cottage Pasties (Sophie’s his sister), and Pulled Pork pasties, which are particularly good. He even has a sweet apple pasty, though I didn’t try it.

“There’s no rubbish in our stuff,” he tells me. The vegetables come from Needham’s Market Garden, the meat is Alberta’s finest, the pastry is his mum’s secret recipe.

The Great British Pasty & Pie Co truck was parked at The Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne Park this past Sunday. You buy the pasties frozen and bake them off at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Or order them direct from Grant, 613-222-5121

 

 

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

 

FOOD & WINE: High Spirits — Ottawa is still crazy

BY TRAVIS PERSAUD

The article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

The booming craft-distilling industry is ripe with creative, hard-working, patient people who take a hands-on approach to making top-shelf liquor. Travis Persaud explores the scene


 

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Greg Lipin (left) and Jody Miall of North of 7 distillery on St. Laurent Blvd. Photo: Jamie Kronick

We’re experiencing a renaissance — at least Ian Smiley thinks so.
The Ottawa resident, who often consults with distilleries across the country, says Ontario is in the midst of a craft-distilling boom.
“While there hasn’t been much change in the way of legislation, the government has been quite co-operative,” says Smiley, whose 2000 book, Making Pure Corn Whiskey, is often referenced by people in the burgeoning small-batch liquor industry.

“The population in Ontario is becoming less tolerant of the alcohol monopoly, and because of that, the government is beginning to loosen the rules.”

But those wanting to start a distillery still have some significant hurdles to overcome, especially the requirements specifically created to keep out small distilleries. For example, in order to open an onsite retail store, a distillery must have either a 5,000-litre still (imagine a cauldron big enough to hold three grown men) or a continuous still capacity of 150 litres of alcohol per hour.

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Made-in-Ontario liquor, created using craft distilling processes. Here, Toronto Distillery’s Organic Whisky. Photo: Jamie Kronick

Ottawa native Charles Benoit, co-founder of Toronto Distilling Co., says the first option simply does not work for craft distilleries. “We have a 500-litre still, and that’s a good size for us,” he says.

Benoit, a lawyer by training, found a way to achieve the second option by feeding the still with absolute alcohol to meet the hourly requirement. It’s a creative work-around that Ottawa’s North of 7 also used to get their business started.

Once up and running, taxes are the next big hurdle.

“We pay eight to 14 times the tax and duty that breweries or small wineries do in Ontario,” says Greg Lipin, co-owner of North of 7. “[But] we have the Ontario Craft Distillers Association that’s pushing for reforms from all levels of government.”

So exactly what do wineries and breweries pay in excise tax, compared with distilleries?

It’s based on alcohol percentage and the volume output of the winery, brewery, or distillery.

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Made-in-Ontario liquor, created using craft distilling processes. Here, North of 7’s Leatherback Rum. Photo: Jamie Kronick

In general, wineries pay $0.620 per litre; breweries pay $0.312 per litre. Spirits, however, are taxed at a whopping $11.696 per litre.

“Then it’s the provincial markup,” Benoit says. “They don’t care about the alcohol content. They just mark up what you charge them. Our wholesale price is $12 a bottle — their markup is 140 percent.” By comparison, wine is marked up by only 70 percent.

Markup is something that every craft distillery has front of mind.

“Making a quality non-mass-produced spirit results in razor-thin margins,” says Sophia Pantazi, founder and owner of 66 Gilead Distillery in Prince Edward County. “But the spirits scene is definitely moving toward craft, as has happened for beer. People are now as concerned with the quality of what they drink as they are about what they eat.”

Indeed, that concern is one of the reasons more distilleries are popping up across the province. People are demanding the quality that makers such as North of 7 are able to produce.

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Made-in-Ontario liquor, created using craft distilling processes. Here, Toronto Distillery’s JR’s Dry Organic Gin. Photo: Jamie Kronick.

“I oversee every aspect of product development,” Lipin says. “From the drying and grinding of the grain, yeast pitching, barrel selection, distillation cuts [what part of the spirit run is kept], bottling, and labeling.”

This type of hands-on work and transparency doesn’t happen at larger outfits. Many in the industry were concerned about the lack of regulation concerning the use of such words as “craft” and “small batch”; big producers were taking advantage of the booming industry by using these terms on labels and in marketing campaigns.

But those lax rules are changing. In 2014, the Ontario Craft Distillers Association began lobbying the LCBO to create criteria for craft-distillery status. The list includes mandating that more than 50 percent of raw materials be fermented on-site.

Lipin notes that these regulations will avoid the situation in the United States, where lawsuits are being filed against upstarts — so-called craft distilleries — who sold “rebottled” product from a larger distillery. But the rules don’t address mash-bill mysteries. (A mash bill is the proportion of different grains used to create a wort, the liquid extracted from the mashing process, which is then fermented into alcohol.)

“Grains determine the taste of whisky, yet a lot of the big producers won’t tell you what’s in their mash bill,” Benoit says. “We put everything we use on the internet. Customers want to know. I want to know. The traditional industry has not offered it. The craft industry is doing it.”

Smiley, who has been consulting with North of 7 since 2013, believes the distillery will take off in coming years. He also says that in the next decade, we will see more distilleries.

“Some will go belly up, and others will get absorbed by big conglomerates. But then we’ll be left with a nice industry of medium-sized distilleries.

“If you have more businesses, it will be good for everyone. It happened with craft breweries. Same thing with spirits: as more distilleries open, people will want the craft stuff.”

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Wandee Thai

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

 The Wandee Thai queue snakes along the woody side of the open kitchen and out the door on this mid-week noon hour. The sleet has let up, so that’s nice for the hungry hopefuls.

We have done two clever things: chosen to eat in and showed up at 11:30. Other than a table of construction workers (pad Thai and Cokes for all!) we have our choice of the five tables. There’s space for about a dozen to dine in, on benches and chairs, but given there is no table service, water is only available in plastic bottles, food arrives in take-away containers, and the only tea served is in a cold can from the beverage fridge, it’s pretty clear Wandee works better for take away.

What’s also clear, once we start tucking in, is that the food is very fresh, very good, and generously served. The queue is more understandable.

Thai rice paper rolls. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Thai rice paper rolls. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Wandee moved in here back in late March, taking over the former location of the (short-lived) Beechbone Luncheonette (the fried-fish-in-a-bun, sandwich/burger shop run by The Whalesbone/Elmdale Oyster House folk.)

We over-order, as we do everywhere, and we like it all, as we rarely do anywhere: The freshly rolled, generously stuffed rice paper wraps with a peanut sauce of some depth; a first rate Pad Kee Mau, or ‘drunken noodles,’ which knocks any pad Thai out of the park; a garlicky stir fry of vegetables — lots of them — and firm tofu in a slightly sweet (but not too much) lightly fired up sauce. We like the snappy long beans and eggplant in the green curry but it’s probably the least memorable dish.

Pad kee mau or 'drunken noodles'. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Pad kee mau or ‘drunken noodles’. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The queue seems a bit chaotic from my vantage. The three women in the kitchen are juggling many demands. There is an option to pre-order for pick up, and this may be the way to go — particularly if April keeps raining ice pellets.

Welcome Wandee! Let’s hope she does well in a space that seems to suffer a bit from its tucked away location.

Lunch mains $8.50 to $8.75, combos $13.95

Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Delivery hours ($2 charge, waived if over $50) Monday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

40 Beech St., 613-237-1641

www.wandeethai.com

 

 

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes with Essence Catering Chef Jason Laurin

In this web exclusive, OTTAWA MAGAZINE editor Dayanti Karunaratne chats with Essence Catering Chef Jason Laurin about his menu for our April wedding feature, the life of a chef, and the allure of the standing meal.

For photos and details of the menu of braised beef short ribs, roasted beet and pear canapés, and dark chocolate pots de crème, as well as more great Ottawa wedding sources, check out this page.

Chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering

Chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering

Ottawa Mag: Tell me about your inspiration for this menu. Let’s start with the phyllo canapés.
Jason Laurin: The inspiratioan was just to come up with something we have in abundance. We’re on Parkdale, and I’ve been an avid support of the Parkdale Market forever — we have a lot of beets down there, and it pairs well with goat cheese. So in that you have a local product that’s visually appealing, that’s available year round. Plus, I’m always trying to come up with vegan and vegetarian bites. In Ottawa we have a lot of the population that would eat vegetarian most of the time if they could.

OM: And the beef short ribs?
JL: That’s the larger bite. You know, when we first started out it was either canapés or dinner parties. Along the way, people started to do more standing meals. To do it all in canapés is pretty difficult. We started translating plates of food into a Cosmo cup. And I don’t know anyone who eats meat that doesn’t like beef short ribs — the parsnip offers an interesting starch.

Menus are often about maximizing the product to the customer, in a format that’s portable and is also easy on the kitchen staff. The braised short ribs have a high taste impact — those cups come back licked clean!

Laurin's wedding menu. For more details on the dishes see http://www.ottawamagazine.com/society/2015/04/22/party-planners-guide-everything-you-need-to-know-to-make-your-wedding-extra-special/

Laurin’s wedding menu featured braised short ribs, roasted beet and pear canapés, and dark chocolate pots de crème

 

OM: And the dessert, sounds amazing. Is this a favourite of yours?
JL: Well, we won a chocolate competition with that one! People want something interesting. I grew up in the 70s, when pudding was a pretty common dessert. This is an an adult verion of Bill Cosby’s pudding. It has such a nice mouth-feel — crunchy, sweet, with a bit of acidity.

OM: How do you approach the process of building a menu?
JL: Everything is done via consult with the client, but I do have menu standards. Very rarely do we have a kitchen, so we start by looking at the event site to get a sense of what we can accomplish. The crew —  that is, the budget — dictates the time we can put into each component without creating line-ups, cold items, wait times … mensu are a lot about logistics.

And balance — if we go for the short ribs, we can spend more time on canapés. And there are always going to be some vegetarian items.

 

OM: How do you make guests feel comfortable to actually eat and enjoy the food?
JL:
I’m really, really fortunate that my service staff have been with me a long time. Some have been with me since the first day and they know how to use tongue-in-cheek names, explaining everything that’s in it. They have a disarming quality — I would make an awful server — not cajoling, but breaking down the barriers that people can put up when offered good food. And when we bring a new bite, they always taste it.

 

OM: I understand you have also worked as a restaurant chef. What is about catering that appeals to you?
JL:
I started working in kitchens in 1990 in Montreal and Toronto when I was in university. My former mother-in-law suggested the cooking thing — it was something I was good at. So I worked my way up from prep to line to sous chef, then  took a hotel restaurant course in Dallas. But my wife at the time really needed to get out of Texas, so we came back to Canada. We didn’t want to move to Montreal or Toronto, so we split the difference and settled in Ottawa. I went on to Le Condon Bleu and worked at some restaurants, but found there was a big difference between here and the United States, and wasn’t able to find a way to make the restaurant business work in Ottawa, so Essence was born. We do one thing, and we do it well: we do receptions.

 

OM: What advice would you give for a rookie in the catering business?
JL:
It’s really tough. It’s taken me nine years and I’m finally only making a living now. And that’s because my segment of the market is narrow. So I would say ‘narrow your focus. Choose a segment that’s important to you, and be the best at it.’

 

CITY BITES INSIDER: Career Change Sees Creation of Luxe Takeout Food

BY SARAH BROWN

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OCCO’s thing of beauty: their “premium” burger & fries. Photo: Courtesy of OCCO

 

Meet Mark Steele, the Marriott Ottawa’s former executive chef makes a big career change, launching a catering biz (and creating deluxe comfort food to go) at OCCO Kitchen in Orleans (OCCO stands for Orleans Catering Co.).

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OCCO’s “premium burger”. Photo: Courtesy of OCCO

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DESBRISAY DINES: Back with familiar ‘pow’, Flavours of the Caribbean

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Caribbean snapper. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Caribbean snapper. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

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Inside Flavours of the Carribean. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

He’s back folks! Chef Frederick White, who started his Caribbean Flavours restaurant in a little house on Somerset West more than a decade ago (then moved it, for a short while, to Carling Avenue after a 2006 fire ravaged the Chinatown location), has resurfaced after a hiatus from storefront cooking. He’s set himself up on on York Street in Lowertown, with a familiar menu and a back-to-front name.

The original Caribbean Flavours is now Flavours of the Caribbean! The corner restaurant is homey, cluttered, brightly lit, with a cobbled-together, bits and pieces sort of feel. The requisite Bob Marley poster and reggae tunes are here (do we ever get tired of “Buffalo Soldier”?) and so are the colours of the Jamaican flag on walls and counter. There’s also a roll of paper towel on every table, which you will find useful.

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TASTING NOTES: Celebrate World Malbec Day with four fine wines

1272062_74634759BY DAVID LAWRASON

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

April 17 is World Malbec Day. Just what every grape needs — its own day! Given that there are 10,000 varieties of grapes in the world, I suggest we call a halt to this idea.

Malbec, meanwhile, gets its day in the sun. Indeed, it is the marvellously sunny growing season in the high deserts of eastern Argentina that has brought this grape to prominence. It has become the face of red wine — the brand. It creates an expectation that one will be opening a bottle of full-bodied, fairly soft, rich, and plummy red wine that pairs nicely with beef in all its incarnations.

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