1 Comment

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Allegro Ristorante

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

Carpaccio salad. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Carpaccio. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

“New Owners, New Look, New Menu, New Taste!” This is the banner news outside the long running Italian restaurant Allegro. It got me pretty excited, I must say, because Allegro Ristorante needed a reboot. Not unlike other trad-Italian restaurants on the Preston Street strip, with probably one exception, Allegro was pretty dreary tasting, its long predictable menu seemingly stuck in 1990s aspic.

But here was a 20-year-old restaurant announcing it had made some serious changes. And certainly there is youth that greets you at the door. Toni Imerti (with his wife Angela) is the new owner. He tells us he’s related to the original owners of Allegro. In fact, Toni spent much of his growing up years in the restaurant. The couple has done some renovations — nothing drastic, just a fresh paint palette and the carpet seems new, plus the upstairs private dining room has been redecorated. But then Toni tells me they’ve brought back the ‘original chef,’ and his charming server delivers bread — here were the same warmed up, crusty rolls, scored, smothered in oil and dusted with dried rosemary I remember from 1998. They were nothing novel then, and they are really un-novel now.

Read the rest of this story »

LUNCH PICK: Holland’s Cake and Shake

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Beef in a Bun. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Tucking into the brown bag lunch at Holland’s Cake and Shake was like a chomp back to childhood, to the days when summer sandwiches came with a side of Humpty Dumpties. I’d pry open the sandwich — any sandwich, PB&J, bologna and ketchup, ham and cheese — and insert the chips. It drove my Manners Matter mother mad, but I loved the crunch and the added salt it delivered. So what fun to find potato chips (clearly of a higher quality than my HD’s) in my Beef in a Bun at Holland’s.

Located directly across the street from the Parkdale Market on Armstrong Avenue, this is a new business for former Atelier pastry chef Michael Holland. It concentrates on soft ice cream and dramatic mini cakes. On most weekdays, there’s a bagged lunch deal, with or without ice cream and mini cakes. I chose with.

Chips weren’t the only source of crunch in the construct. A relish of sweet peppers and onions also delivered acidic tang to the roasted-to-pink, thinly-sliced beef. The moisture came with a generous smear of housemade ‘cheez whiz’ and the guts of the matter were held together in Holland’s beer bread — a dark, malty, seedy bun made with neighbouring ‘Beyond the Pale’s ‘Darkness Beer.’

I upgraded from brown bag sandwich-with-a-cookie to sandwich-with-cake: Cherry Pistachio. And while I waited, was treated to a sample of the two ice creams on offer. Cinnamon and Chocolate, both soft serve and really quite exceptionally good, particularly when muddled together.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Cherry pistachio mini cake. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Holland’s mini-cakes are darling looking, designed to delight, particularly if you’re pint sized. I wouldn’t call them dainty, nor overly girly. But they are certainly one of a kind: layered,  about four inches high, with piping that looks like tiny turrets on a castle tower, dusted with unexpected surprises. They are also very sweet treats. Nothing ‘-free’ about them. And eminently shareable. Fortunately, I was alone.

Brown Bag lunch with cookie/brownie or drink $8.50 (upgrade to cake for $2 more)

Open Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

229 Armstrong St., 613-695-3311, cakeandshake.ca

1 Comment

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Segue

By ANNE DESBRISAY

 

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Fried chicken. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

 

One of the best restaurants to open this year is one that’s slated to shut down (Can’t remember when exactly — sometime this winter) to renovate.

The name of this new place might tip you off that it’s an ephemeral affair. Segue, it’s called (written with the gimmick of braces around the word.) Its tagline is “a kitchen in transition.” Which might suggest a chef that’s still working things out. Not, I would offer, a good message to send the paying public. Nor, as it turns out, an accurate one.

Two meals at Segue confirm that both the front and back of house are very good at their jobs. Service has been strong and charming, and the food delicious. The wine list is well chosen to match the dishes, thanks likely to Beckta’s former service manager (and “Cheese Whiz”) Steve Whittaker. As for the look of the place, I imagine the Segue folk are keen to be rid of the Fratelli feel. This used to be the original Glebe location of the once five strong — now two, for now — Italian chain, but the place, as is, is fully functional, warm, and inviting.

The Segue principals all have strong bonafides. There’s former Beckta chef Rich Wilson, former Fraser Cafe server Lindsay Gordon, and restaurateur Ion Aimers, who used to own The Works, and now holds a chain of ZaZaZa pizza eateries, along with interests in Fraser Cafe, Table 40, and Wilf & Ada’s.

The menu is a nice, manageable length. The opening move could be oysters, served with grated horseradish, a lively mignonette, and a spicy-thick ketchup. An elegant salad of yellow tomatoes in perfect September condition arrive supported with knobs of creamy burrata cheese, dressed with olives and buried with a rough chop of parsley and arugula nicely dressed. A softball-sized serving of fried chicken is soft and moist within a thick, crisp coat, anchored to the plate with a buttery cauliflower puree and (presumably to trick us into believing the decadent dish was healthy), a pile of wilted kale.

The puck of steak tartare, though well seasoned and classically served with an egg yolk topper, would have benefitted from a finer chop — its chunkiness made for too much chew.

Steak tartare. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Steak tartare. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.to

A backyard smoker is put to good use. Pillows of gnocchi, baby beets, and lengths of pickled fennel bring an earthy, tart balance to a smoked mackerel, while the assertiveness of the fish is tamed with a vinaigrette enriched with beurre noisette. A salsa verde, based on house-smoked tomatillos is fine on a lovely piece of trout, propped up on a cake of kohlrabi. Another night, a loin of pork is the star, the meat luscious, well cooked to pink, sliced and fanned on a smooth puree of squash, with purple cauliflower, pink beets, beans and shiitakes, and, to remind us that winter is coming, a pile of pickled red cabbage. And full marks for the vegetarian entry: scored and roasted King Eryngii mushrooms with blobs of goat cheese melting beneath, plus pickled, smoked and grilled elements — zucchini, yellow beans, broccoli, tomatoes, and gingered kale — each contributing mightily. Roasted filberts lend a crunch.

Smoked mackerel. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Smoked mackerel. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Lined with a tart lime curd and a buttery-good shortcrust, the tart on offer was lovely, but for the raw, under-ripe peaches. Salted caramel ice cream on a chocolate stout cake is so good we order it twice.

Get yourself to Segue before they close. (Then go again when they reopen.)

Mains $25 to $32

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

749 Bank St., 613-237-1658 segueottawa.com

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Mariposa Farm lunch required for local food devotees

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Terrine of chicken, served with pickled vegetables and crostini. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Some meals should be required eating: a learning lunch on a working farm, complete with a lesson on sustainable farming practices and a viewing of days old piglets.

Think that sounds too much like a school trip? To that i say, how many of those begin with foie gras and end with panna cotta?

This is the property that Ian Walker bought and built up when he was barely out of his teens. That was over 30 years ago. Today, Mariposa Farm co-owners Walker and his wife Suzanne Lavoie raise Barbarie ducks, Embden geese, and crossbred pigs on their pretty Plantagenet property. They keep chickens and a dairy cow, and have a thriving commercial vegetable garden. They used to raise wild boar, but quit that. They were, apparently, a “pain in the ass.”

Read the rest of this story »

QUEST: Raspberry Rhapsody

BY CINDY DEACHMAN

Originally published in the September 2014 edition.

RaspberryRhapsody

Heirloom Cafe Bistro’s smoked paprika and cumin spiced Berkshire pork tenderloin with grilled peach and raspberry-red onion jam. Photo: Christian Lalonde

Remember picking raspberries out in the countryside as a kid? The fruit, with its velvety feel, fairly burst against the roof of your mouth, didn’t it? Although perfection was right rare. Either a hard unripe berry would not come free of its white cone (the receptacle), or the fruit was dull red and past its peak, or birds had picked the bush clean. Thank goodness raspberries have gone commercial, then. (Not to say they’re not still prone to dampness, mildew, and overripeness.) So sweet when prime — sprinkle with sugar, pour a little cream over. And as Edward A. Bunyard in 1929 understated the matter in The Anatomy of Dessert, “I find the smallest drop of a fine champagne in [this] simple mixture is acceptable to many.” Although, c’mon, raspberries can be awfully fun to dress up even more!

Smoked Paprika and Cumin Spiced Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Peach and Raspberry-Red Onion Jam
Imagine cooking turkeys with raspberries in the combat zone! Yet that’s what 17th-century founder of French cuisine Pierre La Varenne suggested in Le cuisinier François in the chapter “Cooking With the Army.” On the other hand, Richard Kletnieks, chef and co-owner of the Heirloom Café Bistro, dreamed up a raspberry-red onion jam to accompany tender, juicy Berkshire pork tenderloin. Spicy sweetness — there’s ginger in the jam — together with the loin and its smoky paprika-cumin rub makes for one great combo. Grilled peaches add a surprise element to this well-thought-out dish. $26.
Heirloom Café Bistro, 7 Mill St., Almonte, 613-256-9653

Mozart Torte
Mozart Torte, an old German recipe, is “a balance of flavours,” says Margret Stubbe of Stubbe Kanata. That concept matches the well-tempered music of Mozart. Thus we have the harmonious notes of almonds, chocolate, and raspberries. Stiffly whipped egg whites give the sponge cake lightness. Then instead of flour, ground almonds make up this gluten-free number, giving not only substance but fine taste. Dark chocolate glaze enrobes the whole of it, while dark chocolate ganache fills the four layers. The raspberry filling in the middle?  Pure brilliance! Eine kleine Nachtmusik, indeed. $35.
Stubbe Kanata, 500 Hazeldean Rd., 613-435-4336

Raspberry Lemonade
Union Local 613 (finally a hip spot that doesn’t take itself too seriously!) produced its own pop from the beginning. Therefore it’s no surprise that they make their own raspberry lemonade from scratch. “It takes a boatload of work!” says co-owner Ivan Gedz. So is it worth all that bother of mixing juiced lemons with made-in-house raspberry syrup and mint syrup? We say yes! Lively, fresh, with a touch of raspberry. For a honey-caramel version, Union 613 adds Wild Turkey bourbon, which is cured in oak casks. The corn makes it sweet. $4; with whiskey $10.
Union Local 613, 315 Somerset St. E., 613-231-1010

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Clover Food and Drink

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Clover's corn chowder. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Clover’s corn chowder. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

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

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

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

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

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

Pea and lovage soup

Pea and lovage soup. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

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

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

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

Panna cotta. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Panna cotta. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

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

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

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

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

155 Bank Street, 613-680-8803, cloverottawa.ca

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Che Chartrand takes Muse Restaurant at Wakefield Mill Inn to the next level

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

King mackerel sashimi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Scoring a table at the Muse Restaurant in the Wakefield Mill Inn this summer had proven tricky. And sure enough, when one was found (“we could seat you at 6 or 8:45”) we arrived to a packed room, both on the more sought-after solarium side of the restaurant, the bit that juts out over the MacLaren Falls, and in the dining room proper. Every table was filled, staff was scrambling.

“We have a new chef,” our server explained to justify the full house. “He used to own Chez Eric and he had many fans. They’re coming here now.”  She was referring to the wee village restaurant on Wakefield’s Valley Drive.

Two years ago, Che Chartrand left Chez Eric and landed the job of chef de cuisine at the new Gezellig Restaurant in Westboro. But last February he moved back home, accepting the top job at The Wakefield Mill Inn and reducing his commute to three minutes. Six months later, Chartrand’s mark on the menu eats very well indeed.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Fresh pea and watercress soup. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Beginning with the bold amuse of garlic scape kimchi paired with a cool square of pickerel mousse, dribbled with herb oil and scattered with micro-greens. And then a marvellous summer soup — fresh pea and watercress, the bullying bitterness of the cress tempered with rich nuggets of local chèvre.

A salad of “jeunes pousses” proved to be a highlight. The greens seemed more days old than weeks, and yet had such grand flavour, caught in a ribbon of cucumber, scattered with crunchy wisps of shallot and dressed smartly in a classic honey-mustard vinaigrette sweet with raisins.  The “ Chef’s choice of sashimi” was King Mackerel – a bold choice, though its oily fishy flavour was cleverly tempered with creamy elements (an avocado mousse) with a rousing wakame salad and with dobs of a sweet carrot purée.

Read the rest of this story »

Lunch Pick: Moscow serves up great brews and terrific pierogies

BY ANNE DESBRISAY

Pierogies, photo by Anne DesBrisay

Pierogies, photo by Anne DesBrisay

The day was glorious and the Moscow Tea Room was barren — inside, anyway. The lavishly decorated, grand cafe room, which I imagine bustles with the Beautiful and the Young at night, did have patrons, but they were all on the patio. I walked through the room — admiring its many assets — and found their courtyard humming with a decidedly middle-aged crowd, plus a couple of exhausted mommies-with-babies. (It all made the server stand out as someone more suited to the nightlife at the cafe than during their midday service.)

The lunch had its moments, but was mostly mediocre. My tea choice — Kimicha’s Jin Jui Mei — was, however, splendid. I also loved the pierogies, which I believe are house made.

Much of what the Moscow Tea Room serves seems more assembled than cooked, brought in from elsewhere — I was told — and plated up. In this category goes the cheeses, charcuterie, smoked fish, baked goods, pastries, scones, and cakes.

photo by Anne DesBrisay

Borscht, photo by Anne DesBrisay

There was borscht, which was pretty thin on flavour, and then a salad for which the smoked sturgeon was the standout. I’ve had this product before (from New Brunswick’s Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar), but what a treat to see it again.

IMG_9674

Salad, photo by Anne DesBrisay

The salad was generous, a nicoise of sorts, with boxed greens, potato, onion, grated beet in a vodka dressing. It would improve with fewer dull greens, more guts, and less fridge cold.

But the pierogies were terrific and generously served for six bucks. Stuffed with cheese and potato, boiled then fried, topped with clean tasting sour cream, snipped chives, and roasted red onions. Bacon lardons would have made them even better, as bacon tends to do. But so be it. This was the best of the few things I ate.

I don’t know where they get their desserts (“a Market bakery”), but they should consider another source. The chocolate mousse cake tasted like an edible oil product, lacking in chocolate flavour with a too-sweet fake tasting cream. I didn’t want to finish it. (An occupational hazard, averted. Thank you.) Instead, I ordered more hot water for that great tea.

Pierogies, $6, Salad, $10.50; Soup, $5.50
577 Sussex Street, 613-723-6216
moscowtearoom.com

photo by Anne DesBrisay

Chocolate mousse cake, photo by Anne DesBrisay

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Celebrating one year of Kitchen Chronicles PLUS some acknowledgements

By Barbara Sibbald

After-mash 

Fiona walks into the kitchen, prepared to tangle with the mess of bottles and debris from last night’s party. Luc wasn’t in bed when she woke up so she assumed he’d gone to buy the paper. But there he is, sitting at the kitchen table, with his usual cappuccino. The kitchen is spotless, the dishwasher hums gently.

—   You cleaned up! she exclaims. And it was such a wreck when we went to bed.

—   Sleepy head, he chides with a grin. I’m not a total slug, you know. Besides you did the lion’s share of party prep.

—   It went well, didn’t it? she says, settling into the chair across from him.

Luc nods.IMG_4300

—   It was great! he says. Loads of people. I don’t think I talked to anyone for more than three minutes. Did you get a chance to talk to Georges or Anne?

—   Anne. I can’t quite face Georges on his own yet, after what he did. But then I keep thinking, if Anne can forgive him, who am I to hold a grudge? I think it’s the way it all went down. Anyway, Anne was gushing about how things were going so well with them, but then later in the evening she was steaming because Georges was flirting with Trish.

—   No way! says Luc.

—   Oh, yes. Trish does look fabulous. The short hair suits her and her breastfeeding cleavage is fabulous! She was flirting with him too.

—   What was she doing? asks Luc.

—   Oh the usual Trish stuff, touching his arm and shoulder, touching her face, flipping her hair. As I was passing, I heard her telling him how good he looks and guessing he’s like fifteen years younger than he actually is. She knows his age! Usual BS. Trish hasn’t lost her touch. Craig didn’t seem to notice at all. Or maybe he doesn’t mind.

—   Just as well if he’s going to stay with her, says Luc.

—   Yeah, well Anne should take a page out of his book. Georges is incorrigible. I think he’s grown up a bit this past year, but some things will never change. He’s a flirt to the core.

—   Still, he should be more considerate of Anne, says Luc. If he has to flirt, he should at least make sure she’s not around.

—   For sure. Anyway, they seemed okay by the end of the evening. Holding hands, laughing.

Luc takes a sip of his coffee.

—   Trish and Craig seem really happy together too, he says.

—   And Sunshine is adorable, adds Fiona.

—   But what a flakey 70s name, says Luc. What were they thinking?

Fiona shrugs.

—   Maybe it will suit her, Luc. Hey, could you please make me a capp too? she asks.

—   Oh, yeah, sure. Sorry.

Luc gets up and begins fussing with the machine. You’d think it was rocket science, thinks Fiona with amusement.

—   Jacen looked well, says Luc.

—   Yeah, you’d never know he has HIV. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. How’s he liking the geriatric gig?

—   So far so good. The patients — clients, I guess — they love Jay.

—   No surprise! says Fiona. He can be so entertaining. And he’s a good listener.

—   I’m sure the old guys love that, says Luc. We all need to someone to listen to our old stories. That’s what makes us who we are.

—   Did you know Neil phoned last night? says Fiona.

—   Oh did he?

—   Yeah. He was sorry he couldn’t come to the party.

—   And he’s doing well?

scrambled-eggs—   Finger’s crossed. So far, so good. He likes his new job, designing apps. And he’s out of his apartment, working in an office. All guys, but still, he at least has a social life. Plus he loves living in Burnaby. I have to hand it to Dad….

—   Speaking of which, did you talk to Don? I know he’s your gardening buddy, but this as the first time I’ve met his girlfriend. She reminds me so much of Lorelei.

—   Except she’s really nice!

—   Meow! Your Dad’s wife isn’t that bad.

—   Best thing about Lorelei is that she lives far away! I have to admit she’s being good to Neil though. And she did back down on the will.

—   After you stuck your big oar in!

—   Rightly so!

—   Oh believe me, I’m not being critical, says Luc, handing her a cappuccino. I couldn’t be happier about him paying for Gavin’s university.

—   I know, says Fiona. What a great break for us! And Gavin. Hey did you see him cadging a beer last night?

—   I figured he might, says Luc. He is fourteen after all.

—   Oh, I forgot to mention. Don and his girlfriend got engaged.

—   That was quick, says Luc.

Fiona shrugs.

—   Some people just like being married.

—   Would you? asks Luc.

—   What do you mean?

He laughs.

—   Would you like being married?

—   I haven’t thought of it in years, says Fiona.

That’s not entirely true, she thinks, remembering a year ago when they moved in. House and all, I thought it might be time to make it all official.

—   I remember you made a big fuss about it when Gavin was born, continues Luc.

—   Yeah, well, it’s different when you have a baby. I wanted more security, for him as much as for me.

—   And I was such a jerk about it. It would have been easy enough.

—   Luc! I never thought I’d hear you say that.

—   Yeah, well, I’ve grown up a bit. I’ve been thinking about us, about getting married. I’d like to celebrate, to formalize….

—   Why now? she asks. After all these years.

I can’t believe it, she thinks. Then again, everything’s always on his terms. Luc shrugs.

—   Georges and Anne were a real wake-up call for me. I wasn’t sure they were going to make it. And when I was talking to Georges about what it would be like to be single, well, it made me realize how sweet I have it. With you. And then Georges talked about how he doesn’t treat Anne very well, and I wondered whether I treat you well.

—   You do, says Fiona.

—   Well, I thought maybe I could show it by buying you some bling or something, but then I thought about what you’d really like, and I wondered if you’d like to get married.

She smiles at him affectionately. He really is trying, she thinks.

—   You’re so sweet, she says. Let me think about it. I don’t want to mess with something that’s working. Marriage might change the dynamics.

—   What do you mean?

—   I don’t know exactly, says Fiona. It’s just a gut feeling. Maybe we’d stop trying as hard. Like sorting out the control thing we both have going.

—   It’s sorting, says Luc. Well, except you want to be the boss.

—   Ha ha, she says, grinning. You know what I mean, Luc. If we were married, we might not work at the relationship in the same way. We might just settle in. Stagnate.

—   So you don’t want to? he asks.

—   Just give me some time to get my head around it, she says.

—   Another fifteen years?

—   It’s been working so far! Fiona says.

They smile at one another across the kitchen table.

THE END

Acknowledgements

Thank you to my thoughtful readers, Kathlyn Bradshaw, Stuart Kinmond and Jeremiah Bartram, for their excellent suggestions. Thank you to the friends and family members who shared their wonderful recipes with me over the years. They’ve become my favourites. Merci to Joelle and Danielle Dumont, the talented sisters who graciously and quickly corrected all my French language errors. And finally, I thank my beloved husband and cooking partner, Stuart Kinmond, for the illustration, encouragement and endless Chronicle-related conversation. Cheers!

 

 

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Rosie’s Southern Kitchen & Raw Bar

BY ANNE DESBRISAY

IMG_9820

Scallop ceviche salad: raw scallops served in fat juicy disks and plopped on a bed of superior greens, with rings of jalapeño and radish, and carefully sectioned lime Photo: Anne DesBrisay

After what seemed to me to be a rocky start, culinarily speaking, Rosie’s Southern Kitchen and Raw Bar, which opened in December 2013, appears to have settled comfortably in the southern bit of the Glebe.

The restaurant (its sister is the Big Easy on Preston) has positioned itself, pretty cleverly, just north of the massive Lansdowne Park development in the former home of the original Mexicali Rosa’s (from 1979). Where there used to be parking, is now a likeable outdoor patio, complete with a come-hither fireplace, thoughtful wind blocks, funky vintage-y fans, and great lights. It’s a great place to be on a fine night. Inside, the room is dominated with wood, tables are both high and low top, while most of the visual drama takes place above our heads, with chandeliers of clustered jars stuffed with Edison bulbs. The oyster/booze bar is zinc-topped, leggy, and lovely. During my visits, the room was loud and full, and while there are TV screens, they didn’t dominate.

When it opened, and upon my first visits back then, the food was largely unimpressive. Didn’t seem right to complain about a fun new neighbourhood place with southern comfort cooking, but the dishes I tackled — with the exception of the raw oysters and fried calamari — were decidedly mediocre. I gave it a few months and returned.

Quel difference! The menu has shrunk considerably, and the food has risen a considerable notch. Dishes were more daringly plated and southern flavours decidedly more pronounced.

IMG_9823

Crab cake: beautifully seasoned, lightly fried, and served with a powerfully green chimichurri featuring cilantro. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

Diners should be aware there’s some serious heat in the scallop ceviche salad. Here the raw scallops are served in fat juicy disks rather than the usual thin slices, and plopped on a bed of superior greens, with rings of jalapeño and radish, and carefully sectioned lime. The crab cake was a terrific rendition, the meat untainted with iodine, left in large, lightly-packed chunks, beautifully seasoned, lightly fried, and served with a powerfully green chimichurri featuring cilantro. Full marks.

A small salad of heirloom tomatoes and cucumber dressed well and served with a likeable guacamole felt a tad overpriced at $12 bucks, but still, it was pretty on the plate and lovely to eat, and if the quantity were bumped up a bit, the salad would make a fine lunch.

IMG_9830

Blackened catfish properly spicy and cooked, topped with juicy disks of chorizo, a few unseasoned shrimp, and served with well seasoned Mexican rice Photo: By Anne DesBrisay

Ribs were tender and meaty; the blackened catfish properly spicy and cooked, topped with juicy disks of chorizo, a few unseasoned shrimp, and served with well seasoned Mexican rice.

The only real disappointment was with the pork chop. It arrived overcooked, grimly grey, though supported with a fine Bourbon apple sauce, chunky and perfumed with thyme and cinnamon. We loved the fried potato dumplings, though the pile of vegetables — heirloom carrots, green beans, braised radish, baby kale — looked more promising than they ate, injured by a heavy hand with (what I suspect is jarred) garlic.

The chocolate pecan pie was perfect, though the whipped cream was icky sweet… but so what. At Rosie’s, there’s much more right than wrong now.

Mains, $20 to $43. Open for lunch, brunch, and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday. 895 Bank Street, 613-234-7674 www.rosiesonbank.ca