TRENDS: Jalapeños make for a fiery hot summer

By SHAWNA WAGMAN

The 2013-2014 edition of Ottawa Magazine’s Eating & Drinking Guide is a food lover’s bible for everything local, with 80+ pages of restaurant, wine, food shop, and kitchen store recommendations. Look for it on newsstands or order it here

Photo by Giula Doyle

Café My House’s Jalapeño Mojito Photo by Giula Doyle

The recent craze over Sriracha hot sauce is evidence that spicy flavours are indeed hot. Fans of the put-it-on-everything condiment may not realize that the most popular brand used by North Americans is actually made with red jalapeños. In Ottawa, the humble green jalapeño is the pepper of choice. Art Is In Bakery ignited a passion for the flavour and relatively unaggressive heat of the pepper with its cheddar, chive, and jalapeño bread. Thanks to greater acceptance of spice in general and the instant addictive quality of dishes made with hot peppers, we’re happy to see that more chefs are willing to play with fire.

Café My House’s Jalapeño Mojito
When Briana Kim was preparing to re-launch her vegan-friendly and (mostly) gluten-free café in Hintonburg back in April, she decided to incorporate fresh homemade jalapeño-cucumber juice into a fun new cocktail. She came up with the jalapeño mojito, made by mixing the sweet and spicy elixer with muddled mint, gin, and celery bitters. The cool zip of the cucumber and mint contrasts with the kick of jalapeño to create a taste sensation that’s as warming as it is cooling. The smart, seasonal cocktail is part of a changing menu that is sure to attract and intrigue the new neighbourhood’s tastemakers.
Cafe My House, 1015 Wellington St. W., 613-733-0707

El Camino’s Tongue Taco
Matthew Carmichael once believed the ox-tongue taco would never fly. But it quickly became his most popular taco — behind the fish — at El Camino. “I was flabbergasted,” he says. “I’m so happy people have embraced it.” As for the jalapeños on top that accompany thinly sliced radish, basil, and avocado, he says buying them by the jar was never an option. He gets better flavour and texture by pickling them himself with a classic brine. That tasty liquid gets used again in other recipes.
El Camino, 380 Elgin St., 613-422-2800

Fraser Café’s Albacore Tuna with Jalapeño Poppers
While fresh albacore tuna is often treated delicately, as in sushi and sashimi, it stands up magnificently to powerful partners (think wasabi). Ross Fraser played with this dynamic when creating this appetizer at his café. He pairs lightly grilled tuna topped with olive oil, lime juice, and coriander with a hot-from-the-fryer jalapeño popper. The peppers are split and filled with scallion cream cheese before being breaded with a cornmeal-flour mix and sent to the fryer. Fresh tomato salsa and sliced green apple balance the heat.
Fraser Cafe, 7 Springfield Rd., 613-749-1444

Relish Food Truck S’Mac N Cheese
Parked on the University of Ottawa campus, Paul Bergeron’s gourmet food truck shakes up the classic student meal. His signature S’mac n cheese — named for its lip-smacking quality — has become one of his most popular dishes. Forget the reheated crusty baking dish — every S’mac is made to order. Real béchamel sauce is stirred together with elbow pasta, old cheddar, and tomato. Next come chipotle sauce, crispy onions, herbs, and a little buttermilk dressing. A tiny dice of crisp fresh jalapeño is the culinary kicker.
Relish Food Truck, Copernicus Street and University Boulevard, 613-266-0538

Spread Delivers’ “The Mexican” Sandwich
Julie Harrison says she’s a sucker for raw thinly sliced jalapeños — it’s a love affair that began with a plate of pupusas at a Salvadoran joint. Pickling these peppers has become another passion. For her sandwich delivery business, she wanted to capture the flavours of Mexico between two slices of potato bread from Nat’s Bread Company. Fresh pickled jalapeños play a starring role alongside queso fresco, a white Mexican cheese, and chunky salsa roja with a handful of fresh coriander. Not enough heat for you? She puts chili in her chocolate brownies too.
Spread Delivers, 613-860-3636

 

 

 

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Introducing Fiazza Fresh Fired

By  ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

A few weeks back I had come to the ByWard Market with my son to pay our respects to Domus Café. He had celebrated a thirteenth birthday there, along with another family feast to mark a university graduation. We noted the massive ‘For Lease’ sign, and we shook our heads and we sighed. We cupped our hands around our eyes and peered through the windows into the empty space. Then we smelled pizza — and I spied a face that was familiar to me, delivering the pizza to an outdoor table. So we crossed the street.

The last time I saw Luigi he was handing me a rabbit. A very nice stew, as I recall. I still have the 2003 review of the dish. That was at (the late) Zibibbo Restaurant on Somerset Street, owned by Luigi Meliambro.

I liked the short-lived Zibibbo; I liked its second floor lounge (TheCamarilloBrilloUpstairs) but the place closed ten years ago, and Luigi moved on. To Kanata, I believe. And then across the river. Friends in Chelsea and Wakefield were Friday night regulars at his pizza joint, Cheezy Luigi’s, though I’d never had the pleasure.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Meliambro has moved back to Ottawa now, and has a new venture. Pizza, fired in one of those crazy-hot ovens in something like 140 seconds. The pies are created to order, assembly line style (a la Subway) while you wait. Fiazza Fresh Fired is found on Murray Street in the spot where Pecco’s bike shop used to be.

It works like this: you queue up, read a lot, and hem and haw while the kids in their Fiazza Fresh Fired T’s and food service gloves wait patiently for instructions. You may order one of the dozen suggested combinations, or you create your own based on a lengthy list of toppings. There are two bases — regular and gluten free. The sauce, we are told, is made with (the lionized) San Marzano tomatoes. There are seven cheese options, including blue, feta, goat cheese, fior di latte, or the house blend. All cheeses, we are told, are locally sourced. Toppings come in two categories — the traditional (mostly vegetable, at $1.25 each) and specialty (mostly meat, along with organic mushrooms). The “After Fired” options — fresh basil, chilli flakes, oregano, evoo drizzle — are on the house. Once you’ve placed your order, you can watch them load it on and fire it up, or sit down and have it delivered.

Read the rest of this story »

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Is it ever too late to make amends? PLUS comforting apple cake

Conciliation

By Barbara Sibbald

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—   What about me? Fiona asks her dad.

—   Do you think I neglected you too? he asks.

—   Let’s sit down a minute. The dishes can wait. Would you like some Glenmorangie? Or Bowmore?

—   How about another wee piece of that apple cake*, says her dad. It’s really delicious.

—   I’m glad you like it, says Fiona. She decides not to mention that it’s her mother’s recipe.

She sets the plate in front of him.

—   Thanks, he says, taking up his fork. So, do you think I neglected you too?

—   It was a bit different for me, says Fiona. I was in my last year of high school when you left, so I was ready to go anyway. Though I did have to listen to Mom complaining about you for six months or so. She was such a mess when you left. She just couldn’t accept any responsibility.

—   And do you see her role?

—   Sure, I do now, in hindsight. But at the time, it was all pretty bitter and she didn’t hold back with me — probably because I was older than Neil and I was her daughter. She talked about everything: your sex life, your drinking, your flirting. All of it. I had to hate you. That was the choice she gave me: hate you or hate her. And since I was living with her at the time, I had to take her side. Besides, she was so pitiful.

—   And now? What do you think of her now?

—   She’d drive a saint to drink! She’s so negative. And it’s quite incredible how self-centred she is. You know, when Neil tried to commit suicide, all she could think about was getting to her bridge club. Oh and the cost of the taxi.

—   And what do you think of me?

—   I don’t really know you that well. I mean, I was surprised that you even did the dishes.

—   We really haven’t had much to do with each other for what, 25 years?

—   Yeah, she says.

There is a long pause. What am I supposed to say now? wonders Fiona. That he was a crappy father? That I’ll never forgive him? Her dad swirls his scotch.

—    And what about Gavin? he asks, obviously anxious to change the topic as well. You’d like him in the will too?

—   I don’t know about the will, I expect you’ll live a long time, but we could use some help with his education fund. We’ve saved a bit, but we bought the house and Gavin will have tuition, books…. It’s all really expensive now, not like when Neil and I were in school. Plus, if he goes to another city and needs living expenses…. Well, we won’t have enough. I’d hate to see him graduate with debt.

—   It would be nicer if he graduated with a little nest egg to get him started.

—   Well, that would be ideal. There are sometimes a lot of expenses after university: a car, moving, all that. But I’m more concerned about university itself.

—   And how much will Gavin contribute?

—   He’s already got summer work and he’s only fourteen. He’s got something lined up at the corner store, stacking shelves and cleaning and stuff. Plus he’s got a regular Saturday night gig, babysitting a little boy around the corner. That kid adores Gavin, and he’s so sweet with him.

—   Well, so long as he’s putting in some money too. You always did. I think it works out better when the kid is investing too.

—   Yeah. People appreciate things more when they have to contribute.

The thought of Lorelei’s lay-about kids flashes through Fiona’s mind, but she opts not to say anything. No sense in antagonizing Dad.

—   Don’t worry about Gavin, Dad. He’s a hard worker, a straight-A student. He doesn’t know what he wants to study yet, but I’m sure he’ll want to get his undergrad at least.

—   And what do you think I should do about Lorelei’s kids?

Ah, so he’s asking.

scrambled-eggs—   I’m not saying you should shut them out, says Fiona, cautiously, but if Lorelei stands to get the bulk of your estate, and if it’s well invested, there shouldn’t be a problem.

—   That’s not the way she sees it, he says in a soft voice.

Fiona glances at his profile, taking in the flapping jowls and pouches under his eyes. When did he get so old? she wonders. Lorelei’s really doing a number on him.

—   Maybe you could sit down with an accountant or a mediator and hash it out, she says. Find something that’s fair for everyone.

—   I like the mediation model, he says, suddenly brisk and professional, losing a decade in five words.

—   I wish mediation had been more mainstream when I was practicing full time. It can save so much time — court time and lawyer time. Plus money.

—   And it removes the emotional stuff. It’s logical and fair, says Fiona, but she wonders: is he truly going to stick up for Neil?

—   Do you agree that Neil needs your help? she asks.

—   Yes, yes, I know that living with his mom wouldn’t be healthy for him. It certainly wasn’t for me!

He chuckles, then catches himself, perhaps realizing that making fun of Fiona’s mother might offend her. He glances at Fiona: she’s grinning at him. He smiles at her.

—    And I’d really love to be able to help Gavin, too, he says. He’s my only grandchild, after all, and I haven’t actually spent much time with him.

No time, thinks Fiona, but she bites her tongue. He pauses.

—   That’s one of the things about getting old: all the regrets, a lifetime of regrets come home to pummel your heart.

—   Well, here’s your chance to do something about it, says Fiona.

—   And it’s because of you. Your courage in writing that letter and trying to put things right. Thank you, Fiona.

She pats his hand.

—   You’re welcome, Dad.

 

*Apple cake with hot caramel sauce

½ cup pecans

5 medium apples, to yield 1 ½ cups chopped (use firm applies like Northern Spy or McIntosh)

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup flour

 

Caramel sauce:

½ cup butter

1 cup light brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup evaporated milk

 

Garnish:

Whipped cream

Fresh unpeeled apple slices

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Place pecans in food processor and process until fine (or finely chop).
  3. Peel, core and quarter apples. Place in food processor and process until medium (or chop).
  4. Place butter in large bowl, add sugar and beat by hand or with mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until blended. Add soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and mix quickly. Add the flour and just blend, then fold in the apples and nuts.
  5. Pour mixture into greased 9-inch-round cake pan and bake 30 minutes (or until the top springs back when touched). Cool slightly. Centre may sink a bit, but don’t worry.
  6. Make the caramel sauce: melt butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, stir mixture with a whisk. Remove from heat, add vanilla and milk. Stir with whisk.
  7. Serve: Cut the cake into eight wedges. Ladle a large spoonful of hot sauce on to each wedge. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and two apple slices.

 

Note: The sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated over hot water. A refrigerated cake will keep for a week.

 

LUNCH PICK: Build a DiVino’s lunch — divine!

BY ANNE DESBRISAY

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Cauliflower and carrot soup. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

To celebrate their first year as new owners of DiVino Wine Studio, sommelier
Eric Diotte and chef Christian Lepore built a little sidewalk patio. The grand al fresco opening was Saturday. I stopped in for lunch on Friday, during the final flourish of construction mayhem, and got to witness the fun and the fretting while sipping an unoaked South Bay Chardonnay from Huff Estates.

I was here for the Build a DiVino Lunch! special — any antipasto and any primo for $22. I chose the cauliflower and carrot soup to start, sweetened with loop-de-loops of a sticky sweet balsamic reduction, and with a flash fried basil leaf — which limped up instantly when plunged into the pool. It was a fine bowl with good vegetable flavour, thickened with potato — creamless/flourless. Which meant I could splurge on a wildly rich second course.

House-made fettucine. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

House-made fettucine. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

This was a bowl of house-made fettuccine, perfectly cooked to al dente, swirled in a crisp bacon (lovely) and egg custard enriched with avocado, which turned the sauce khaki green and very creamy. It was a dish that startled at first —  the avocado, such a strong presence — and then one that grew on me. And though I remain unconvinced of the pleasures of hot avocado, of this dish — matched with the Huff chardonnay — I am quite convinced.

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Dessert wasn’t part of the deal, but I was told it was straight out of the salamander — a cool maple custard in a wee mug, with a rosemary infused meringue foam. A leaf of rosemary had been candied to crown the bruléed top. Very sweet to look at; very sweet to eat.

I trust the patio got finished and the launch party was a great success.

Congratulations to Diotte and Lepore on their first anniversary.

Cost: $22, plus $10 for dessert

DeVino’s 225 Preston Street, 613-221-9760

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Fiona tackles her father’s priorities. PLUS The definitive roast chicken dinner

  1. Father knows least

Fiona’s father fills the sink with hot soapy water, eschewing her offer to use Luc’s rubber gloves. She was astounded when he’d insisted on washing the dishes. Since when has he done household chores? she wonders. The possibility that maybe she doesn’t know him very well enters her conscience.

—   Great dinner, Fiona, her father says. I love a roast chicken. It’s been eons.

Doesn’t Lorelei cook? she thinks. Then checks herself for having such a politically incorrect thought.

—   I’m glad you liked it, Dad. It’s one of Gavin’s favs, too. Did you notice how he makes a well in his mashed potatoes and fills it with gravy? He used to call it a volcano when he was little, and he’d pour the gravy in it until it overflowed! It’s so cute that he still does it.

—   He’s at that half-way stage, one foot in adolescence, one in childhood, says her father. He’s a very nice boy. So like you at that age: studious, serious.

He begins washing the glasses then rinsing them under steaming water.

—   I’m glad we have this time, just the two of us, he says. Although it’s not good that Luc has to work in the evenings. Still, it gives us the chance to talk about that letter you sent.

—   About your will.

—   Yes. It was nicely written by the way. Believe me, I’ve seen lots of these.

—   Writing is my profession, says Fiona.

scrambled-eggsNo need to mention the mediator’s help, she thinks.

—   Yes. Well, I talked it over with Lorelei, because of course she’s affected the most. We had quite the discussion.

He pauses in his washing, turns the tap off and faces Fiona.

—   Actually, we had a big blow out over it. The upshot is that it’s not just about her; she wants to be able to look after her children too, which is understandable. But as I pointed out to her, they have their own father. They aren’t my kids, so I feel my responsibility is limited in that regard.

Fiona’s heart quickens, seems to expand to fill her chest. Her kids! What about us! she thinks. Is he leaving us a legacy of bitterness? She can’t look him in the eye, and concentrates instead on drying a wine glass.

—   She has how many kids? Fiona asks with an effort at calmness. Ask simple questions to buy time, she thinks.

—   Three. And they don’t really seem very capable of looking after themselves. Two went all artsy, but they don’t really have the talent, which has to be supremely disappointing to them. One’s a chronically unemployed actor and the other does weird digital photography — which costs a fortune to produce, what with the fancy computers and programs and giclée reproductions and all — and it never sells. I mean who’d buy something that can be endlessly reproduced?

He holds up his soapy hand.

—   Don’t get me started.

—   And the third? Fiona asks.

—   He’s a perennial student. Thirty-three and still working on his doctorate — nine years now. And of course the funding has long since dried up.

—   And you’re supporting all three? Fiona asks, thinking of all the years she and Luc saved for the house, all the compromises they made.

He shrugs.

—   To some degree. Mostly Lorelei takes care of them. She makes a decent salary teaching, and even if she has to take early retirement because of her arthritis, she’ll still have a good pension.

—   So, what’s the problem?

—   She’s worried that after I’m gone her pension won’t cover everything, propping them up financially, plus her own living expenses and travel and whatnot. I assured her that wouldn’t be a problem, that there would be plenty. Then it emerged that what she’s really worried about is what will happen to them later, after she dies. She wants to make sure they’re well taken care of.

—   And so her kids take priority over yours? says Fiona bluntly.IMG_4300

He pauses.

—   It’s not that simple, Fee.

—   Isn’t it? she asks, meeting his eyes. It seems pretty straightforward. You have a son who is mentally ill, who can’t support himself. And it’s not like he chose this. Like he wanted to be an actor, but failed, or a visual artist. He’s ill. Right now he’s living in a temporary half-way kind of house, but he’s only allowed to stay six months. That’s not long enough. And if he doesn’t get financial help he’s going to wind up living with Mom again, which would definitely set him back. He’s so isolated there. And I know him, he’ll just fall back into old habits.

—   If it’s so dire, why hasn’t he said anything to me? her father asks.

—   He’s not comfortable doing that. He doesn’t think you care.

—   I do care.

—   Well, look at it from his vantage point Dad. From mine too, come to think of it, she adds quickly. We get the annual phone call at Christmas and a cheque in the mail. That’s it. No call on our birthdays even. And it’s been like that practically since you left.

—   I had Neil out one summer.

—   Yeah, and you left him alone in your apartment all day while you were working and half the night while you out with Lorelei. Some fun for a fifteen-year-old.

He shrugs.

—   I can’t be responsible for entertaining him, he says defensively.

—   No, maybe not. Anyway, that’s all water under the bridge, she says. The fact is he needs you now.

—   You have to look at this from my perspective too, Fiona. Your mother didn’t exactly make it easy for me to see you. I was just the money machine. I was given one week a year with Neil. That’s it. And then that ended.

—   You’re the one who moved across the country, says Fiona.

—   Yes, I did. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have seen him more often. I offered to fly him out so many times and she always said no. She wouldn’t even put him on the phone so I could ask him if he wanted to visit. I admit I could have done better that one summer. I blew it, okay. Is that what you want to hear?

—   I don’t need to hear it, says Fiona. It’s Neil you should talk to.

—   And what about you? he asks.

 

*The definitive roast chicken dinner

Serves 6

 

Five pound roasting chicken (free range)

Salt and pepper

1 lemon, cut in quarters

½ onion, peeled and cut in thirds

Handful parsley, washed

6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

8 potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup butter

¼ cup (or more) milk

1 chicken bouillon cube

flour to thicken

 

  1. Take bird out of fridge two hours ahead of time. Get to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 °F.
  3. Wash inside cavity, pull out excess fat and other stuff. Dry inside.
  4. Shake salt and pepper inside cavity. Stuff with lemon, onion and parsley. Fold pinion (small part of wing) under the bird and tie legs loosely with cotton string (not plastic!).
  5. Insert thermometer in thigh.
  6. Position in a roasting pan and roast 15 minutes (turn fan on high; there will be smoke!).
  7. Meanwhile, parboil the parsnips and carrots for five minutes.
  8. Turn oven heat down to 400 °F. Add potatoes and carrots around the bird.
  9. Roast bird until thermometer reads 160 to 180 degrees.
  10. When the bird is nearly done, cover potatoes with water in large pot, bring to boil. Add salt and cook until tender. Drain, retaining water, and mash with butter and milk.
  11. Move the bird from the pan to a platter, cover with tea towel and let rest 20 minutes.
  12. Turn off oven. Put vegetables in an oven-proof dish and place in the oven.
  13.  To make gravy, drain fat out of roasting pan, keeping 2 or 3 tablespoons. Place roasting pan on stove, over medium-low heat. Scrap edges of pan, add crumbled bouillon cube and flour to thicken. Cook thick paste a minute or so. Gradually whisk in potato water. If the gravy is lumpy, strain it in a sieve. No one needs to know!
  14.  Carve chicken, serve with parsnips and carrots, mashed potatoes and a green vegetable or salad. Pass gravy at the table.

 

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Mamma Teresa in Chelsea

By ANNE DESBRISAY

 

The original Mamma Teresa on Somerset Street West may not be the power ristorante it once was, but the walls tell a tale. Framed, signed portraits of the movers and shakers who supped here still guard the vestibule and line the stairs — the ones that lead to the private dining rooms where, legend has it, much of the nation’s business was once conducted.

Pickled peppers to start. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Pickled peppers to start. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

When owner Guiliano Boselli retired, he sold Mamma Teresa to two long-serving employees who had worked their way up the ranks. And now Frank Schimizzi and Walter Moreschi have opened a second Mamma Teresa — out of province. On the former home of another long serving restaurant, L’Agaric, they’ve constructed a handsome wood- planked-chalet sort of place, green-roofed and red-trimmed, and they’ve brought Mamma’s portrait and stuck her in the front lawn.

If you are a Mamma Teresa Ottawa regular, you will know well the wide-ranging menu. Nothing trendy on it; black olives and pickled peppers to start; warm buns; a crisp and ample Caesar salad with a gutsy dressing. There was a soup du jour with an admirable broth and al dente vegetables, and we ordered a serving of calamari so generous is fed four, crisp and tender and not the least bit greasy.

Linguine pescatore. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

The presentation of the house carpaccio could use some refinement, and we’d have preferred the parmesan come in shards, rather than the pile of gratings we received. The dish was also missing an anointment of some sort — a drizzle of oil, a bit of aioli or a lemon wedge would have been welcomed — but the beef itself was clearly sliced to order, the meat rich and red and good, strewn with capers and bits of pickled onion.

Veal was disappointingly tough, though the clam linguine that came with it was perfectly judged. Indeed, pasta might be the way to go here. The linguine pescatore featured al dente noodles and lightly cooked seafood united in a rich creamy sauce. And the gnocchi were pillowy pleasures, bathed in a fragrant tomato-basil sauce. Portions invite doggy bags.

I have always had a soft spot for Mamma’s cake, so we ordered that, along with the tiramisu. Again, a no nonsense presentation, but fresh, tasty desserts.

The service we received was top notch.

Pasta/mains, $21 to $39. Open daily, lunch through dinner.  

254 Ch. Old Chelsea, 819-827-3020, mammateresa.com

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Gavin helps when a woman is hit by a car. PLUS elegant green beans on endive

By Barbara Sibbald

The Accident

—   That’s delicious salad*, says Trish, putting down her fork. I’m still starving all the time.

She pats her protruding tummy.

—   He’s insatiable!

—   You look fabulous, Trish. And you don’t seem to have gained too much.

—   No, I’m good. Hey, I’ve been talking about myself all through dinner. What’s up with you?

—   I’m in shock, says Fiona. I got an email from Dad today, telling me he’s coming to town next week.

—   Your dad? says Trish. I’ve never even met him. And I’ve known you how long? Twelve years?scrambled-eggs

—   More like fifteen. I can’t remember the last time he came here, says Fiona. I saw him maybe two years ago, when I went to that magazine conference in Vancouver. But now he’s been invited to a meeting here, all expenses paid, to be part of an advisory group on the Young Offenders Act. It was his specialty, even though he’s retired now.

—   So where are you meeting him?

—   Here. For dinner on Wednesday night. We thought that would be best so he could see the new house and spend some time with Gavin — although that’s never really seemed to be a priority for him. Plus, we can have some time to talk without waiters hovering.

—   Didn’t you get some nasty letter from him?

—    Yeah, his will. He basically left everything to his new wife, Lorelei. I talked to a mediator and sent him a letter saying that I understand that he needs to take care of her, but I pointed out that Neil’s in a bad way and that it would be great to have an educational fund for Gavin. There’s plenty for everyone.

—   What about you and Luc?

—   I left us out of it. We’ll pay down the mortgage eventually and Luc has a good pension coming.

—   Well, that seems fair enough, I wonder….

Gavin slams through the screen door; Fiona notices at once how pale he is.

— I need a mom hug, he says.

—   Honey! Fiona puts her arms around him, pleased at being wanted by her fourteen-year-old son, but alarmed too.

—    What’s wrong? Are you okay? she asks.

—   I saw an accident, he stammers. A woman. And she got run over. Her whole body. She screamed and screamed.

He is weeping now.

—   Sit down, sit down, honey.

Fiona sits across from him, holding his hand.

—   Start at the beginning. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened. Trish, could you get a glass of water?

—   I was coming home from the concert, walking down Albert to catch a bus, and this car comes whipping out of an underground garage, going way too fast, and hits this woman. Runs right over her. And I run to help, but all at once there’s a crowd of people. Someone’s talking to the woman, someone’s calling an ambulance on their cell. Then I see this man to the side; he’s crying and shaking and I think, that’s her husband, so I go over to him. I don’t know what to do, so I ask, is that your wife? And he nods and there are tears all over his face, so I tell him everything’s going to be okay. People are looking after her, an ambulance is coming.

Gavin takes a sip of water. Fiona squeezes his hand.

—   That was kind of you.

—   Then this little boy comes and tugs at the man’s coat: Dad, Dad! He’s crying. Then the boy just walks away. So I ask the man if I should go look after his son, because obviously he can’t. And he looks me right in the eyes and says, Please, please. So I go over to the boy and crouch down beside him, blocking his view of the accident. And I ask him questions to distract him: Where do you live? How old are you? — he was six. And then he yells: I want my mom! I want my mom! So I tell him, your mom’s okay. Everyone is looking after her. Then I start asking him other questions, like what’s his favourite subject in school and does he have pets. Then the ambulance comes and they load the woman in, and I’m still trying to distract Joel, the little boy. Then the father comes for Joel and they get into the ambulance and they just drive away. And I started walking really fast, thinking about Joel and what his life will be like if his mom dies. It could have been me that got hit. Another thirty seconds and it would have been me. Or Joel. He’s only six.

Fiona puts her arms around him.

IMG_4300—   Thank God, you’re alright, Gavin. And I’m so proud of you, helping like that. You did the best thing you could’ve done looking out for the little lad. It’s so horrible.

She looks into her son’s pale face, trying to assess the damage.

—   Mom, what about the woman? Do you think she’ll be okay?

—   Maybe there’ll be an article in the paper tomorrow. If she was talking and everything, well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But you did the right thing. You did all you could, and a lot more than other people would have done.

Gavin says nothing.

—   You’re mom’s right, says Trish.

Gavin looks at her, aware for the first time that she’s in the room and feels embarrassed by his tears, his reaction. Trish is his mom’s friend but she’s closer to his age, and he’s always felt a bit attracted to her.

—   I’m going to take a shower, he says.

Fiona nods. I’ll make you a cocoa, she says.

—   I’m not a baby, he says. I’ll be okay.

He stomps up the stairs.

—   He’ll be okay, Trish says to Fiona. It’s just the shock

—   I’ll go up when he’s out of the shower, says Fiona.

She pauses.

—   He’s right though, it could have been him. One minute you’re complaining about a dull concert and — she snaps her fingers — like that, your life can change forever. Good thing Dad’s coming next week.

 

*Green beans on endive

Serves 4

 

1 pound green beans

1 head Belgian endive

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon oregano

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ to ½ cup diced red onion (to taste)

 

  1. Wash and trim beans. Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water, in batches, until tender-crisp (6 to 8 minutes) Drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry. Refrigerate until serving time.
  2. Wipe and separate endive leaves. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate until serving time.
  3. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, mayo, garlic, oregano, sugar and salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in onion.
  4. An hour before serving, pour dressing over beans and gently toss.

To serve, arrange endive leaves around the edge of large serving plate, and pile the beans in the centre. Or, serve the beans on endive leaves. Beautiful either way!

ANNE’S PICKS: Gianduja at A Thing for Chocolate

By ANNE DESBRISAY

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Chocolate-hazelnut spread, otherwise known as gianduja , is made from scratch at A Thing for Chocolate. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Chocolate is having its day. Dark is best, and pure is super-best and a square (or three) of the dark pure stuff every day means you’ll live long and prosper. Or at least you’ll live what you’ll live but you’ll live it much happier.

There’s a new — to me — chocolate shop on Wellington West. I popped in to A Thing for Chocolate (such a clever name) for breakfast the other day. Had the bacon and egg made-to-order crepe, which was really very nice, though I’d have preferred it be served with fruit than greens (drizzled with what tasted like bottled balsamic), it being morning and all. But what really turned my crank was the stuff on the end of the spoon I was handed.

“Try this,” the charmer holding the handle said. The first taste was of rich, clean, creamy chocolate. And then the hazelnut hit me and my spirits instantly dropped, only to be lifted again once the purity of flavour sank in.

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of gianduja. Which does, I agree, make me a bit of a freak, but there you go. I like chocolate. I like hazelnuts, I just don’t like them together. Too many cheap gianduja fillings perhaps, with added sugar and emulsifiers and so forth, are to blame, but man oh man, I liked this stuff — really liked this stuff — which is, I believe, a tribute to its quality. It was so fresh, so pure, and so clean.

Chocolatier Omar Fares uses only quality organic hazelnuts and toasts them until they’re golden and fragrant. There’s a bit of cream in there, as well as chocolate and puréed nuts, so don’t forget to keep it in the fridge. Once mixed, the smooth brown goo is jarred with a fetching green rubber ringed lid. So you won’t get lost in the fridge. My jar has a small spoon imbedded in it. To facilitate the quest to live long and prosper.

Gianduja spread, $8.99; breakfast special $6.99

A Thing for Chocolate, 1626 Wellington St. W., 613-695-3533 

 

Looking for more ways to enjoy chocolate?

 

Beer-Chocolate-Rochef1

Click here to learn more about pairing chocolate with beer!

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Learn about Dick’s triple-chocolate hand-dipped milkshake !

 

 

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Find more OTTAWA MAGAZINE  chocolate listings here 

 

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Will Anne be able to forgive Fiona’s betrayal? PLUS rave reviews for this Caribbean shrimp appetizer.

Atonement

By Barbara Sibbald

 

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Fiona’s stomach turns. Do I need to go to the bathroom again? she wonders. Was it was a mistake inviting Anne over to the house? Maybe we should have met at a café. Neutral space. She sighs. But Anne agreed to come. Via email. We haven’t talked in nearly a month, Fiona realizes.

Her stomach flips again. What if Anne’s still angry? What if she thinks Luc was insincere, if he apologized to her just because I was so upset.

Her thoughts are interrupted by a tap at the screen.

—   Anne, with a tan! Fiona says with a big smile. She opens the door, beckoning her long-time friend to come in.

—   You look fabulous!

And she does. Her golden skin shows off her blonde curls and her green eyes sparkle.

—   Hi Fee, Anne says, stepping into the kitchen. Tuscany was spectacular!

—   That’s great. Have a seat. Red? It’s a Masi.

—   Thanks. Another taste of Italy.

—   So it was a good holiday?

—   It was a great holiday! We took it easy instead of our usual binge-tourism. Hung out in outdoor cafes, watching people, chatting. Walked for hours. Sat in parks and gardens. We did go to galleries and museums, but we limited ourselves to just a floor or a couple of rooms each day. You actually appreciate and remember what you see. It really worked well.

—   Where did you stay?

—   We were south of Siena, in a small old hotel plopped in the middle of a vineyard. We’d walk through it and on the other side there were these dusty olive trees. We had rented a car so we took in a lot of the sights: San Gimignano, olive groves, an old spa.

—   It sounds divine. Try some of the shrimp. Candace’s recipe.

—   Oh, I love that. And how are things with you, Fee?

 

Fiona hesitates but opts to plunge into dangerous territory.

—   I won’t pretend I haven’t missed you, Anne. And I’ve been horribly upset by how I behaved. Luc talked to you?

—   Yeah, he did, but it took me a while to process it all. Going away was a good idea in so many ways. I talked to Georges about it as well. He agrees he put Luc in a really awkward situation, and that telling him was a mistake.

—   Really, he said that?

—   Yeah. You know Georges is really making an effort. He was so kind and attentive to me on the holiday. He even bought me a guilt ring.

Kitchen-Chronicles

She flashes an emerald and diamond beauty.

—   It’s gorgeous, says Fiona, catching Anne’s hand. The green is stunning — matches your eyes.

—   Thanks, Fee, she says. More important, it wasn’t just a meaningless gesture. Now that we’re home — well, we just seem to be on a different footing. Early days yet, and we’re still in couples therapy and he’s in individual therapy, which is good, but things seem to be sorting themselves out.

—   Oh Anne, I am so glad things are on the mend. But I still feel horrible about what I did. I feel like I really betrayed you.

—   You did, says Anne simply. Fiona flushes with shame.

—   And I was furious with you at first, then mostly sad and disappointed. But gradually, I realized why you did it. Even if I still think it was wrongheaded, paternalistic….

—   I wanted to protect you, says Fee.

—   I know. I realize that now. And it’s because you care about me.

—   You’re my best friend. But, well, I made a big mistake. A big ethical error. And so did Luc. The right thing to do would have been to tell you the minute we knew. As you said, if the shoe were on the other foot, that’s what I would have wanted.

—   I nearly lost the two people who mean the most to me in the world, says Anne. If I can forgive Georges, I can certainly forgive you and try to move on. I mean, I may have a bit of trouble with trust and it may take a while to get fully back on track, but I think we’re up to the challenge.

—   So do I, Anne. There’s nothing I’d like more.

—   Here’s to a renewed friendship then, says Anne raising her wine glass.

—   And my atonement, says Fiona, clinking. Thank you for giving me another chance, Anne.

 

*Caribbean Shrimp

- Makes 10 appetizer-type servings

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 limes, juiced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon hot red paper flakes

¼ cup fresh coriander, washed and minced

2 pounds large tail-on cooked shrimp (thaw, if frozen)

  1. Stir together vegetable oil, ginger, juice of both limes, garlic cloves, soy, sugar and pepper flakes.
  2. Stir in finely chopped coriander and cooked shrimp.
  1. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Stir occasionally.
  2. Place in a shallow plate with toothpicks. Garnish with coriander sprigs.

Thank you to Candace Brookbank for this recipe.

 Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new installment — and a tested recipe.

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DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Café My House

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

The banh mi tacos topped the list of Café My House offerings for Anne DesBrisay. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

 

 

A few months ago, the vegan/vegetarian/raw food restaurant Café My House packed up all its grating/grinding/whirring machines and moved from suburban south Bank  to the happening Hintonburg neighbourhood.

The new place looks nothing like the old. I remember a green and white space, with a bright and cheery homespun look.  The new Café My House is none of that. A long, narrow room, it’s quite dark — black really — inside and out, which you either find edgy and contemporary or somewhat gloomy and oppressive. I must say I was in the latter camp. Worried, too, that if the feeling was a bit bleak in June, how would it seem in December?

For now, the back patio is open and quite sweet, and that’s where we found ourselves at a second visit. At our first, we sat as close to the front windows as we could.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Summer lasagna. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

The menu begins with a page of CMH Mixology — cocktails ‘without processed ingredients’ — and I gave the one called ‘Japan’ a go, intrigued by the description (anise pickled beets, dry sake, pear bitters, ginger beer). It was pretty, I’ll give it that, but the flavour was underpowered. Too much ice, perhaps, melting too quickly in the heat…

But underpowered pretty much sums up my feeling about the food as well. It certainly looks striking. Dishes arrive layered, multi-coloured, fussed over, very pretty. But with a few notable exceptions, the flavours were wan and the texture at times flabby, at other times unrelentingly crunchy.  And some dishes suffered from a general temperature trouble — sauces served only tepid when they should have been hot, for example. 

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