DesBrisay Dines

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sarah Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CITY BITES INSIDER: Opening soon! Étienne Cuerrier gets set to open Meat Press Creative Charcuterie and Sandwich Shop in Hintonburg

Meat Press owner Étienne Cuerrier stands in front of the door hiding his fermentation room — that's where the pickles, vinegars, and bread starters get made

Meat Press owner Étienne Cuerrier stands in front of the door hiding his fermentation room — that’s where the pickles, vinegars, and bread starters get made

By Sarah Brown

He ran his own successful catering business but, most recently, was known as the chef dreaming up the delectable dishes to complement Véronique Rivest’s wines at the critically acclaimed Soif wine bar. Now Étienne Cuerrier is teaming up with his wife, Myriam Campeau, to open Meat Press Creative Charcuterie and Sandwich Shop in Hintonburg. After a whirlwind six-week reno, the new business is set to open in time for the popular Tastes of Wellington West event on Sept. 19 — perfect timing!

A very busy Étienne Cuerrier took time out from his hectic schedule to show off his 16-seat charcuterie and sandwich shop — and to talk about some of the surprises he has in store for Ottawa’s more adventurous carnivores.

Who’s running the show?
It’s a family operation — me, my wife Myriam [Campeau], and our kids. My five-year-old daughter says she’s going to be the sweets advisor. She already makes fruit rollups and candies!

Take a seat: Étienne and his father are building a bench — a place for customers to sit and chat while their sandwich is being made

Take a seat: Étienne and his father are building a bench — a place for customers to sit and chat while their sandwich is being made

Why open up your own business?
When you work at a restaurant, you have impossible hours. It’s hard to find time for your home life. Owning Meat Press will allow me to set my hours better and to be truly creative because I won’t be restricted by a menu.

Any reason you chose Hintonburg?
I grew up in this neighbourhood and love it here, so when the city’s urban planners rezoned this building, I jumped at the chance to open Meat Press. The area reminds me of a little of the Bronx or Brooklyn — it’s part of the city but also not quite ‘of the city.’ It soothes me. There’s not as much pressure here.

Are you worried about being slightly off the main drag?
Not at all. We’re so close that you can actually see Meat Press from Wellington Street. And once people find us, they’ll be back. We’re launching at the Tastes of Wellington West event on Sept. 19, so that will be huge for us. Oh, and being almost right across from the PranaShanti Yoga Centre means over 150 people walk or drive by us every day.

There have been rumours – is Meat Press a lunch counter? A restaurant? A take-out spot?
I have so many plans! It will be all of these things. I’ll definitely be doing sandwiches seven days a week as soon as we open in September, but we have applied for a liquor license so we hope to begin serving dinner a couple of nights a week by December. On the retail side, I’ll be making sausages and charcuterie. We’ll sell our meats at Meat Press, but also through other retail food stores around town.

The storefront: With just a few weeks till opening day, boxes and supplies come and go into 45 Armstrong Street. The sign will arrive any day.

The storefront: With just a few weeks till opening day, boxes and supplies come and go into 45 Armstrong Street. The sign will arrive any day.

Tell me more about the charcuterie at Meat Press.  
Charcuterie is important, but we won’t just be focusing on dried meats and sausages. I am picturing selling whole ducks and stuffed chickens for takeout. I would love to sell sweetbreads — that’s something people don’t have time to prepare at home — and maybe marinated duck hearts and crispy pork belly. In the fall hunting season, we’ll be working with duck and venison.

Okay, we’re salivating. Now tell us more about the sandwiches.
We’ll work at a table by the window so people can see everything getting made. I plan to do two types of hot sandwiches a day — roasted meats like a thick-sliced porcetta or a pressed duck.

And the parts that aren’t meaty?
We make all our own pickles and vinegars and bread. I’ve been experimenting with apple yeast and grape yeast as bread starters. The apple yeast gives the bread a slightly acidic taste which goes really well with pork, while the grape is sweeter and matches with beef and duck.

Anything else?
We’ve been making our own fresh cheeses for fun, experimenting with the easier ones like mozzarella, ricotta, and cheddar. For drinks, I’ve been making my own grape soda and root beer.

Okay, let’s end the interview with a couple of sample sandwiches to get readers in the mood. Can you describe a few you have planned?
Porchetta with pickled brussel sprouts, crunchy barbecue sauce, and lemon-parsley; a smoked brisket with fried shallots, sunchoke chips, aioli, and celery leaf; and a smoked duck with creamy slaw, duck neck flakes, and ramp leaf pesto. A vegetarian sandwich might be tofu bacon with diced apples, soft cheese, watercress, and dry figs.

CITY BITES: Fantasy Food Trucks

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

*Yawn* It’s 9 a.m. on Friday, the last Friday of August, and oh how you wish it was 5 p.m. Soon my friends, soon. In the mean time, here are some Fantasy Food Trucks thought up by a few of our illustrators to amuse you while you drink your coffee. Can you think up any you’d like to roam the Ottawa streets?


Illustration by Michael Zeke Zavacky

Imagine, if you will, a food truck that allows you to take a sweet stroll down memory lane, back to a time and place where you enjoyed the best meal of your life — perhaps in the company of a loved one. Zeke’s Memory Lane food truck allows you to do just that. Put on the unique headgear, which will tap into your memory bank and project a visual of that special scene right on the side of the truck. What’s more, the truck also serves up the exact meal you enjoyed. Do you dream of that unforgettable night in Paris 50 years ago when you shared that amazing glass of pinot noir over a bowl of pasta with the love of your life? Voilà! Memory Lane recreates your incredible meal of a lifetime, allowing you to experience it anew. And all for a very affordable food-truck price. Think about it: if Zeke’s Memory Lane food truck pulled up outside your door, what would you order? —Michael Zeke Zavacky



Illustration by Kyle Brownrigg

Beeraoke: Two of my favourite things in this world are beer and karaoke. This food truck would provide specialty beers and a stage on which to perform your favourite karaoke songs. Don’t have the guts to sing? No problem. Have a few more! —Kyle Brownrigg



Illustration by Dave Merritt

LOTS OF LOX: Enjoy hot gourmet bagels with lox and cream cheese!
“There’s nothing like fresh cream cheese on a bagel topped with smoked salmon, fresh off the smoker. I wish this food truck existed so I could eat one of these satisfying treats whenever I had a craving. It would also be cool to look at.” —Dave Merritt


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CITY BITES: A Gourmet Guide to Ottawa’s Cheap Eats Scene

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

It’s always fun, always evolving. We’re talking about the cheap-eats scene. One day you might opt for an exquisite banh mi sandwich, the next you’re craving a meatball sub. In this, Ottawa Magazine’s gourmet guide to all that is tasty and economical, we eat our way around town, noshing on all manner of well-priced sandwiches, stews, and sweets to bring you our 43 finds. To round out the top 50, we called on seven discerning chefs to reveal their cheap eats of choice. At these prices, you can’t afford not to eat out.
By Cindy Deachman (CD) and Anne DesBrisay (AD), bolstered by staff picks (SP) and chef suggestions

Photo by

The Cheesus Crust Almighty starts things off. Photo by Christian Lalonde

1. Cheesus Crust Almighty

If you don’t get struck down for blasphemy first, you may still keel over eating the Cheesus Crust Almighty, The Joint’s unique and “mysterious” take on a grilled cheese sandwich. They take mac ’n’ cheese, roll it in a “secret ingredient” (Cinnamon Toast Crunch?), plunge it into the fryer, then “slam” it into a grilled cheese sandwich. This heavenly combo gobsmacks the palate with a jumble of salty, sweet, tangy sensations — the latter if you choose to dunk the sandwich into the accompanying house-made Bollywood sauce (think butter chicken gravy sans chicken). It would be “criminal” not to include a side of deep-fried Britney pickle spears. $7–$10.The Joint, 352 Preston St., 613-656-5849. ~SP

2. Hot chicken sandwich

Hot chicken sandwich from WIlf & Ada's. Illustration by Jeff Kulak

Hot chicken sandwich from WIlf & Ada’s. Illustration by Jeff Kulak

A long-running tradition on the corner, Ada’s Diner morphed into Wilf& Ada’s last year and serves diner classics with a twist — they’re made from scratch. We’re big fans of the hot chicken sandwich, a pile of moist pulled chicken on a root-vegetable mash, piled on house-made bread and smothered with full-flavoured onion gravy, well peppered and well made. Served with good fries and arugula salad.The taste of the 2015 diner? Bring it on! $14.50. Wilf& Ada’s, 510 Bank St., 613-231-7959. ~AD

3. Square Pizza Slices

Centretowners know that the best slice isn’t sitting under a heat lamp at a chain pizza joint. It’s made to order in a humble pizzeria that has anchored the Somerset strip from Bank to Bronson for 15 years. Pavarazzi offers white or herbed-flecked dough, and one order gives you two four-inch squares of satisfying ’za, which is usually plenty. But if you’re soaking up a night of beer swilling, go for two. Leftovers make perfect hangover food. From $3.Pavarazzi, 491 Somerset St. W., 613-233-2320. ~SP

Hung Sum shrimp dumplings. Illustration by Jeff Kulak.

Hung Sum shrimp dumplings. Illustration by Jeff Kulak.

4. Deep-fried shrimp dumplings

Hanbiao Lin learned the high cuisine of dim sum as an apprentice in his native Canton. So if you want the genuine article, visit Hung Sum, which Lin owns with his wife, May Lee. His shrimp dumplings are beauts. The crisp exterior of the deep-fried wonton yields to a sweet filling of shrimp and pork. And as for the feathery-light frilled edge — oh! $4.25 for three dumplings. Hung Sum, 870 Somerset St. W.,
613-238-8828. ~CD

CITY BITES: Tuesday Trolleys

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Who doesn’t remember Dickie Dee? Founded in 1959, Winnipeg Manitoba, Dickie Dee was the epitome of summer: rolling by after school as the last days of class approached, waiting patiently for soccer players to finish their game only to have them run over in a crazed, demanding pack, vying for their favourite treats. I still get a familiar rush of child-like excitement when I see one now (although it hasn’t been Dicke Dee since 2002). Today, there is a new kind of ice cream cart. And new food carts in general, for that matter. Cindy Deachman shares a few with us.


Dickie Dee, is that you? Photo by Ben Welland

Here’s the quintessential old-fashioned ice cream cart pulling up to the corner of Bank and Sparks. It comes from Old Ottawa South gelateria Stella Luna Gelato Café. Co-owner Tammy Giuliani is very proud of her freshly made gelatos and sorbets — after all, she did study at “gelato university” in Bologna, Italy. Known for her meticulous work, Giuliani is firm in adhering to the correct ways of production. At the same time, she gets pretty fired up when experimenting with new flavours, as you’ll see after visiting a few times (you will find yourself returning). Refreshing strawberry and champagne in the heat of summer, apple pie gelato as fall approaches. “If you can conceive of a flavour, we can create it,” says Giuliani. The old-world pushcart got its start last year, with the Carp Farmers’ Market proving the perfect pilot project. “We had so much fun working outside one-on-one with the people.” Another time, at a wedding, she offered gelato to accompany fruit pies the bride’s mother had baked. Evening now, and the pushcart, with all its twinkly lights, is downtown, still selling ice cream. Under the moon and the stars — magic! Bank & Sparks St.



Cooking up Korean. Photo by Ben Welland.

“We started making kimchi as soon as we arrived,” says Hana Jung of emigrating from Seoul, Korea, to Ottawa in 2009. “Without kimchi, we can’t eat a meal.” Not finding any locally that they liked, she and her husband, Iruk Cho, started preparing their own. In fact, Cho even ended up returning to Seoul in 2010 to study royal Korean cuisine. He and Jung launched Raon Kitchen in 2012 and started selling their homemade kimchi, along with their Korean sauces, at farmers’ markets. “Hey, why not sell Korean foods to accompany those condiments?” customers suggested. Jung and Cho got in just under the wire when the city put out the call for 2013 food-cart licences, not having seen it until 10 days before the deadline. “We couldn’t miss the chance,” says Jung. Their concept is simple — offer one dish with different toppings. That one dish is Korean fave bibimbap, a rice bowl to which an egg and meat (or tofu) are added, along with sautéed vegetables and soy sauce. The whole is thoroughly mixed — the meaning of bi bim. Add sesame seeds, extra hot sauce, and other condiments, along with some fabulous kimchi. Bank Street between Albert and Slater.



Chinese steamed buns stuffed with pizza? Yes please! Photo by Ben Welland

“I’m working on getting picnic blankets, but I’m really pernickety,” says Tarek Hassan. Picnic blankets? His cart is located at Confederation Park, so yes! Gongfu Bao Cart offers fluffy steamed Chinese buns, or bao, filled with goodness — Shaoxing pork, coconut saag chickpea curry, even pizza. And — as billed — Hassan’s killer coleslaw, best in the city. Obviously, his imagination knows no bounds. His novel ideas might be attributed to having lived on four continents, though maybe it’s that engineering degree that encouraged Hassan’s lateral thinking. All he knows is that his goal is to “break the paradigm of eating bad [street] food while on the way to your next meeting.” Smart guy — our kind of guy. Chefs like him too. Gongfu Bao has a strong following in the restaurant world, according to Hassan, who notes that Murray Street chef Steve Mitton once tweeted that Gongfu’s bao was some of the best food he’d ever eaten in the city. Dishes in the future? Here are a few possibilities: red-braised short ribs and daikon cake, fresh dan-dan noodles, mapo doufu, lion’s head bowl. Picnic blankets would be sweet. Elgin Street at Confederation Park.

CITY BITES Q&A: Moo Shu Ice Cream & Liz Mok


What is it? Liz Mok’s own Asian inspired ice cream recipes, scooped into two-bite balls, and dipped in a rich chocolate coating. After diving in to her passion, Mok is making it work with Moo Shu Ice Cream – hitting all the right marks on her way: starting at Privé’s Night Market, partnering with some of Ottawa’s coolest foodies, a sweet spot at Lansdowne’s farmer’s market, and a place on SEN asian cuisine‘s dessert menu as well as at TOMO Japanese Restaurant. We can’t wait to see what she’s going to bring us next!

Find Liz and her Moo Shu truffles at Clover Food | Drink, 155 Bank St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Monday, Aug. 17 for a pop-up shop!

Spicy Caramel Fuyu

Spicy Caramel Fuyu

How are you finding your instant success?

Haha, not sure I can say I’ve found success yet, although I’m always surprised when people come up to me at the market to say they’ve heard of Moo Shu! It’s still a struggle to get people to try ice cream in an unfamiliar format and in unfamiliar flavours, but with the rate of returning customers we see, I’m confident that we’re onto something amazing.

Is your family into food?
My mom wasn’t a great cook (sorry mom!) but my parents deemed food the most important thing to spend money on. Good quality, new food experiences, we didn’t have a fancy home, car, or clothes like some of our friends but we sure ate a lot fancy things. Living between two huge multicultural metropolitan cities, Hong Kong and Vancouver, and we ate out all the time. It wasn’t until moving to Ottawa for university that I realized that eating out, say, five dinners a week wasn’t normal.

Good Morning Yuzu

Good Morning Yuzu

What did you study in school?
Industrial Design at Carleton University. How does that relate to an ice cream business? I would say I use a lot of the soft skills that I learned, like developing your product iteratively, considering the holistic user experience, and thinking about how to scale production. Practice with graphic design and general “making” doesn’t hurt too!

You started planning in April, but when did it really start to take off?
We actually started off with a bang at Privé’s 613 Night Market. We had four people working the booth and none of us were able to take a break until 9pm. It worried me that we really petered off afterwards, but we just kept going to events and talking to people. I can’t identify when we “took off” to be honest. It’s been gradual growth as the word of mouth has spread. If I had to choose, July’s Ottawa Citizen article definitely made a significant boost!

Moolong Tea

Moolong Tea

How was Canada Day?
Cold and rainy. Not a great day for ice cream but I had a blast at Dominion City Brew’s Dominion Day. Those guys know how to throw a party. Amazing beer, kooky Canada-themed games, local musical talent, and great food from Town and The Rex. It felt like I was at an amped up backyard party.

What has been your most popular product so far?
Our best-seller is without a doubt, the Spicy Caramel Fuyu ice cream truffle. It has an intense flavour, and is very balanced. Sweet and bitter from the caramel then salty, spicy, and umami from the fuyu (Chinese fermented tofu), all packed into a creamy frozen truffle. I don’t think anyone’s ever put fuyu in ice cream! I’m proud to say it’s a Moo Shu exclusive. My dad thinks I’m a weirdo for concocting this and still doesn’t believe that it’s Moo Shu’s best seller haha.

It’s worth mentioning that Hong Kong Milk Tea has the most loyal following. The Hong Kong style milk tea drought in Ottawa really pushed me to make this flavour over the last few years and many people have come to us just for it.

Black Sesame

Black Sesame

What are your fall/winter plans?
I do have new products in mind for fall and winter. Something new and not yet done in Ottawa. I’m still testing and working on it, but I’m excited to share when it’s ready! As for ice cream, I’ll probably feel it out, see what the demand is like over the colder seasons. I’ve seen line-ups at Dairy Queen in February so you never know!

Why “Moo Shu”?
Moo Shu just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s taken from mu shu pork, which is a North Americanized Chinese dish. That’s kind of what we are doing, taking traditional ingredients and reintroducing it in a new modernized way. Plus, “Moo” for cows and dairy!

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Hong Kong Milk Tea

Are you looking for permanent housing (as in a store of your own)?
I would absolutely love to have a store of my own, but it seems to be a ways away unless an affordable hole in the wall opens up. I daydream about it all the time and it keeps me motivated. I have to remind myself to scale-up responsibly because it’s so easy to give in to the urge to just go big! In the meantime, I think Ottawa is pretty great for mobile vendors in the summer. With all the festivals, craft fairs, and markets there’s lots of opportunities for small start-up makers to showcase their stuff.

Who approached who about the beer partnering/how did it come about?
It was definitely me that approached Beyond the Pale and Dominion City Brewing about beer ice cream. I’m still an unknown compared to those guys, so it’d be highly unlikely that they’d come to me! Beer in ice cream is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m a huge fan of both breweries. There’s so much creativity coming from our local breweries. It’s a no-brainer to tap into that!

Breakfast Bite

Breakfast Bite

What are your next flavours?
I constantly have new flavours on my mind. Chrysanthemum, Lapsang Souchong, Thai-style salty coconut, sake-kasu… Too many flavours, too little time!

What do you do with your free time now (if any)?
Free time is really hard to come by nowadays. Ice cream making was my defacto hobby so now that I do it full-time I’m afraid there’s not much left to do! I guess you could say I am a Netflix potato when I’m not making ice cream.

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CITY BITES INSIDER: Opening next week! Rich Wilson gets ready to launch The Pomeroy House in the Glebe

By Sarah Brown

Rich Wilson xxxx xxxxx xxxx

Chef Rich Wilson (shown here at home) plans to launch the much-awaited The Pomeroy House next week. Photograph by Luther Caverly

After opening for a few months last summer “just to give people a taste of what was to come,” {segue} restaurant in the Glebe closed up shop for an extended reno. Renamed The Pomeroy House, the 65-seat restaurant is slated to reopen on Tuesday, August 11 (check the website to ensure the restaurant is open and reservations are available).

Chef Rich Wilson is promising that the new kid on the block will quickly become a neighbourhood gathering spot — comfortable and bustling, with casual banquettes and a welcoming bar. “It will be ‘come as you are’ but with high-end comfort food,” says Wilson. He took a break from overseeing the finishing touches to the renovation to tell us what’s in store for guests of The Pomeroy House.

You honed your skills as a sous-chef at Beckta. Why open your own restaurant?
At a certain point, you want to run with your own ideas. My fiancée [Lindsay Gordon] and I had been intending to open a restaurant for several years. The time was right!


When the weather is nice, the large front windows will open to the street.

Why the Glebe?
We love the neighbourhood. When we first moved to Ottawa [from Peterborough] this is where we lived. I believe the Glebe is on the rise again. There’s lots going on here, including Lansdowne, and the neighbours are very supportive of their local restaurants.

You closed a year ago and the renovation took longer than expected. What happened?
Yes! We were originally supposed to reopen in January, but permits took longer than expected and because this is such an old building, every time we opened up a wall we discovered another mess. The renovation basically turned into a demo job. But it’s been worth it. Having to do more than we planned actually allowed us to make this restaurant truly ‘ours.’

What have you been up to on your enforced year “off?”
Other than overseeing the reno, I’ve been planning the menu. Since last fall, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen and drafting a menu each month in the hopes that The Pomeroy House would open. I’ve now got my seasonal menus pretty much planned for a full year.


A banquette at the back of the restaurant features a window viewpoint into the busy kitchen.

Can you give us a hint or two about what to expect?
I would describe the menu as refined, modern comfort food. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen refining dishes from around the world, manipulating them to take advantage of local ingredients. So, for instance, I’ve been working on a really great recipe that’s inspired by Creole flavours, but it’s not like the whole menu will have a Creole theme.

I notice that there’s a huge window that looks into the kitchen. What’s that about?
There’s going to be an eight-seat table for groups right outside that window so guests can look in and watch us working. The plating station and pastry station are set up right by the window, so you can see everything coming together.

And the bar? It’s huge.
Yes, there’s a big S-shaped bar along the one wall, which means extra space for sitting at the bar. I want people to come and hang out here, mingle, and enjoy a good scotch or whatever. I wanted to make the bar a centrepiece to the room.


A sneak peek at the bar a few days before opening. In a nice touch, the lights were created using a range of decanters.

Sixty-five seats is pretty big. You’re obviously not working alone.
I’m working with a great bunch of people. My fiancée, Lindsay [Gordon], is the GM and wine director. Tyler [Uguccioni], the sous-chef, used to work at {segue} with me, and Brendan [Macfarlane] was chef de cuisine at Gezellig. Our pastry chef, Adrienne [Courey], has worked at Beckta and Brothers Beer Bistro.

What are you most excited about?
Finally opening! I can’t wait to serve people again. It’s so much fun to make people’s day if you can. I can’t wait to be in the space with my staff and engaged with our guests.

The coverings have finally been removed and The Pomeroy House takes its place along the Glebe strip.

The coverings have finally been removed and The Pomeroy House takes its place along the Glebe strip.

CITY BITES INSIDER: The Nguyen family gets set to launch SEN Asian Cuisine at Lansdowne


In 2008, the Nguyen family opened a tiny pho restaurant on Booth Street, turning it into a bustling local gathering spot popular with office workers and neighbourhood regulars. Seven years on, they have taken a huge leap, closing Pho’licious and going head to head with the big restaurant chains at Lansdowne Park. Their new eatery, SEN Asian Cuisine at Lansdowne, will feature a pan-Asian menu aimed at a cosmopolitan audience. CityBites insider caught up with sisters Kim and Ann Nguyen as they watched over the final details ahead of a planned August opening.

Architect Kris Benes (left) worked with Ann (centre) and Kim (right) Nguyen to design SEN Asian Cuisine

Architect Kris Benes (left) worked with Ann (centre) and Kim (right) Nguyen to design SEN Asian Cuisine.

Your family previously owned the popular Pho’licious Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown (2008-2015). Why the leap to Lansdowne Park?
Kim: The launch at Lansdowne Park was the right fit at the right time. A few years ago, we began looking to open a second restaurant — we wanted to expand beyond pho. Lansdowne is the perfect fit. It’s a new hub with a great history.

Do you think your previous clientele will follow you here?
Ann: A lot of our clients were from the Glebe, so we’ve had so much support. Some people have even been in touch to say they’ll hand out flyers to let their neighbours know we’re opening.

Tell me about the new name, SEN Asian Cuisine.
Kim: Sen means lotus flower in Vietnamese, but it’s a flower that you see throughout the region so we felt it represented the range of Asian cuisine that we’ll be cooking now. Also, the lotus often grows in difficult conditions — it represents adaptation and perseverance.

Ann: We didn’t want to be associated with just pho, since we plan to feature Japanese and Thai dishes as well. Initially, we weren’t even going to keep pho on the menu, but all our regular customers said we had to!

Architectural drawings sit on an empty table at SEN, which it set to open in early August.

Architectural drawings sit on an empty table at SEN, which it set to open in early August.

Can you describe the menu?
Kim: We’ll have a range of Asian dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan. For more adventurous customers — and people who visit regularly — we’ll also have changing house specials, which will feature less-known dishes from our homeland. We have a liquor license this time around, which is great.

Is your family’s background in the food business?
Kim: Yes. Before we came to Canada [in 1998], my parents had a large business making Vietnamese sausage. When they arrived in Vancouver, they did the same thing on a smaller scale.

Ann: They have always paid attention to every detail when they’re making food. At Pho’licious, everything was made from scratch. At SEN Asian Cuisine, the menu and style is totally different, but everything will be made from scratch, too.

Pho’licious was your family’s first restaurant, though?
Kim: Yes, we moved to Ottawa when my older sister came here for university.

Ann: We sold the restaurant this past spring and it has a new name. We have kept the rights to the Pho’licious name because we hope to open up another Pho’licious sometime in the future.

Bright idea: The billowy lights look like clouds above the tables. They also reference the shape of the Vietnamese sunhats that people would traditionally wear outside

Bright idea: The billowy lights look like clouds above the tables. They also reference the shape of the Vietnamese sunhats that people would traditionally wear outside

You’re not busy enough?!
Kim: It’s not going to happen anytime soon. But we do plan to bring it back when we find the right time and location.

Every restaurant opening is a huge challenge. How have you found the process of launching SEN Asian Cuisine?
Kim: It has definitely been a challenge. We had hoped to open in May, then it got pushed to June and then July…

Ann: We’ll hopefully grab a bit of summer!

So an opening date is imminent?
Ann: Yes! We’re planning for early August so keep checking our Facebook site.

It’s a beautiful design. How did you come to work with architect Kris Benes?
Kim: We found Kris online. We googled him and liked his style — it’s chic and modern.

Ann: The look is simple and clean. Everything ties together.

Ready to go: After months of prep time, the chefs can't wait to get started. The cooking setup includes (at far left) a double wok station.

Ready to go: After months of prep time, the chefs can’t wait to get started. The cooking setup includes (at far left) a double wok station.

Kris, can you describe the look?
Kris: It is not a huge space, so we knew we didn’t want to try to do too much. The pale wood and slats harken back to Asian culture. It’s a very clean and neutral look, but with a splash of red at the bar to add a little bit of spice. The seating with “canopies” on either side of the restaurant creates coziness.

And the lights?
Kris: They’re beautiful in their own right, but we chose them to reference the shape of the Vietnamese sunhats that people would traditionally wear outside.

Final word?
Kim: We can’t wait to open! This has been a long time in the works.

DesBrisay Dines