DesBrisay Dines

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dozens and dozens of yellow school buses brought us home.

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




DESBRISAY DINES: Chesterfield’s Gastro Diner



Chesterfield’s sandwich. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

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

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


Inside Chesterfield’s. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

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

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

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

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

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



DesBrisay Dines: Pasta Tavola



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

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

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

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

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

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

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DESBRISAY DINES: Vittoria in the Village

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

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

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

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

shrimp on puff

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

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

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


Wild salmon with beet risotto. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

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

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


Housemade tiramisu. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

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

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




Red House Honey. Photo: Anne DesBrisay

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

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

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

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

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

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


DESBRISAY DINES: Beau’s Patio For Beer Cuisine

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

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

As we bask in the final weeks of summer, it seems a bit mean to be telling you about a fabulous patio, this one in Vankleek Hill. But I believe Beau’s weekend-only front terrace, shaded and rustic, will stay open through the fall, when the hops that grow up the support pillars will be full and lush and bushy, the cones ready to harvest. That’s worth seeing. Smelling too. Though it might give you a bit of a thirst. Fortunately, there’s beer, all of it Beau’s, and all of it five bucks a glass.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Bruce Wood with the patio team. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Brewery Chef Bruce Wood has devised a menu of grazing friendly food, to pair with the certified organic Beau’s beers. Or with his Beau’s brewed iced tea. Always a sandwich on Nat’s Bread; always a plate of charcuterie and cheeses with house pickles, olives, and mustards; always a salad of some description. And then, well, there could be fish cakes, or grilled sausages on pickled cabbage, smoked tofu, a plate of dips and pita.

I was particularly taken with the terrine and housemade beer mustard, the caponata and feta tzatziki, the fattouche salad with sumac-pickled onion, the wee oatmeal crackers fashioned with Beau’s spent grains.

And for dessert, a berry square on beer shortcrust, or gingerbread made with Tom Beer. Check out Beau’s Brewery’s Facebook page for weekly menu.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay


And later in the season (what a good thing I’m late with this post!), on October 2nd and 3rd, Beau’s annual Oktoberfest on the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds.

Patio hours: Friday, noon to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 am to 5pm. Holiday Mondays.

10 Terry Fox Drive, Vankleek Hill, ON


DESBRISAY DINES: Aunt Thelma’s Peppered Pineapple Preserve

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

Aunt Thelma's . Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Aunt Thelma’s . Photo by Anne DesBrisay

It’s been my go-to jar all summer. On ribs, on chicken and duck, on grilled tofu, Aunt Thelma’s has come through for me. And I’m thinking in February, she’ll be even more of a welcomed friend.

The Scotch Bonnet Pepper, according to Aunt Thelma’s, rates from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units, which is really quite hot. In her Peppered Pineapple Preserve, the Scoville units hit you at the seven-second mark. The first flavour is pure juicy pineapple, left loosely chunky, its sweetness from unrefined cane sugar, balanced with a bit of lime. And then, just as you’re thinking ‘Hey, waitaminute … where’s the pepper part of these preserves?’ — there they are. Seven seconds later, they reveal themselves. And they pick up a mouth-gust and intensify for a further seven seconds, before slowly loosening their fiery grip. Somewhat — and only until the next bite.

This is a terrific jar of summer flavour, simple and balanced, found at The Zydeco Smokehouse where I first discovered it dolloped on jerk chicken. I bought a jar, along with Aunt Thelma’s Jerk Rub (dried scallions, Jamaican allspice, orange zest, hickory smoked sea salt, organic cane sugar, herbs, spices, ground Scotch Bonnets; very effective on pretty much everything).

According to the Aunt Thelma website, you can buy this good stuff at Zydeco, the Sausage Kitchen, La Bottega Nicastro, Oh So Good Desserts, Bananas Caribbean, and the Hill Butcher Shop in the east end of town.

DESBRISAY DINES: The Zydeco Smokehouse

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

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I’ve been cooking for my nieces this summer. They’re in various stages of veganism. One — the eldest — has gone whole hog, though bacon remains a stumbling block, and the younger ones are vegans with ice cream exemptions. And though I have been indulging in a bit of meat in their company, pig ribs seemed a bit too much.

But summer and ribs are like bacon and eggs, and I’ve been feeling a lack of them. So when the smell hit me walking the west side of Preston Street a couple of Tuesdays ago, and the sidewalk sign announced ribs were the feature, I waltzed into Zydeco and ordered up the special.

For twelve bucks, they were dinner too. Four big meaty ribs, rubbed and smoked over hickory (according to pitmaster/owner Greg Delair). The meat was lightly clinging to the bone, brushed with a fruity, smokey bacon-chipotle barbecue sauce, and served with two sides — cole slaw in an apple cider vinaigrette and a choice of a second. I picked the house potato salad, mayo based with chopped pickles and onion and a strong smokey presence. Add a drink from the cooler (bottled water or a can of pop) as part of the $12 (tax in) combo.

Zydeco ribs. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Zydeco ribs. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

In the kitchen, along with Greg, was Aaron Wong, formerly of Salt Lounge across the street, and now the head chef at Share Freehouse. Wong seems to be working mornings at Zydeco and then heads to Centretown once lunch rush in Little Italy is over, for dinner service at Share. Hat’s off…

There’s absolutely nothing fancy here, and nothing vegan — just perfect summer food, made from scratch, slowly, carefully, served up with a smile.

In short, Zydeco is the best use of an out-of-business barbershop I’ve found yet.

Combo packs, $12
432½ Preston Street, 613-230-5870
Closed Sundays

DESBRISAY DINES: On the road again – Ottawa STREAT Gourmet

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

The STREAT Gourmet truck, appealing painted and ready to serve lunch.

The STREAT Gourmet truck is as appealing as its food. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

We’ve grown up in this city with the notion that street food is cheap food – junky food (hot dogs, poutine, sausages of questionable origin, washed down with pop). But that is changing, in this town as in others. Some are miles ahead of us in the street food revolution, many more are trailing behind.

Ben Baird handing over lunch, Ottawa Streat Gourmet

Ben Baird, former Urban Pear chef, serves lunch from his new food venture. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

In the past two years, curb side eating options in Ottawa have exploded. Dozens of trucks and carts parked throughout the city hand out gourmet world cuisine delivered in a bun, on a stick, in a bowl, in a box. One of them, Ottawa STREAT Gourmet, was early out the streetvendor gate. STREAT is a food truck run by an accomplished chef, a two time medallist at Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates, now cooking as a vagabond with a year round parking spot on Albert Street at O’Connor.

Two years ago, chef Ben Baird sold his bricks and mortar Glebe restaurant (The Urban Pear, which, in its Baird days, plated Modern Canadian fine dining nightly for twelve years) and bought a truck – before he was granted a license. But he had sniffed the wind, lobbied hard (“No, dear City of Ottawa, I am not doing poutine…”) and the day City Hall announced it was opening up sixteen new food truck opportunities, he headed straight there for his application. That was in 2013 and Baird has not looked back. The short daily menu he was executing at The Urban Pear is now a short daily menu on the road. Same good food, same charming service (provided by Baird’s partner Elyse Pion), just packaged differently.

Photo Ottawa STREAT Gourmet lunch

Duck burger and butterscotch pudding from STREAT Gourmet. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

My Friday lunch was a duck burger. A soft and golden kaiser (from Second Avenue Sweets), closed around a boned duck leg confit-ed. It was crispy skinned, tender, rich meat with a pleasing fat layer, sandwiched between a chunky beet and pickled onion relish and a celeriac remoulade, sharp with seedy mustard. On the side was a generous salad, bouncy red leaf with parsley leaves, dill fronds, cucumber, tomato, carrot and celery tossed in a lively vinaigrette. Butterscotch pudding with blueberries and shortbread cookies for dessert. The only thing missing was a beer. Or a glass of Pinot. The Harvey & Vern’s Cream Soda wasn’t going to do it for me.

Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. $7 to $16 tax in. Cash only. Albert Street at O’Connor. Follow @streatgourmet


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


La Terrasse slider trio. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Ottawa summers are short and options for dining outside – though many – aren’t all splendid. For every geranium-trimmed terrace, there’s a cafe with al fresco tables next to rubbish bins. The gentle season is far too precious to waste our evenings on shabby patios.

La Terrasse at the Chateau is one of the good ones. Sure, if you’re looking for action, head to Clarence Street, but for peaceful dining, on above average food, with a very fine outlook, it really can’t be beat. Sheltered from the busy-ness of the capital, it affords truly lovely views of it – and of the sun lowering over the Gatineau Hills.

It’s not perfect. There are no bookings; it’s first come first served. And you’re paying hotel prices for booze – and perhaps a hefty evening parking fee if you aren’t up for further-afield parking options.

But the menu comes from the Wilfrid’s kitchen and it’s a thoughtful, family friendly, summery assembly of dishes, starting with a grazing section of Ontario and Quebec cheeses and charcuterie (some house made, most from artisanal producers like Seed to Sausage and Niagara Foods). The balance of the menu offers a strong selection of fish and seafood dishes, meal-sized salads, and fun stuff like gourmet sliders and Chateau ice creams.

A first course Caesar boasted a lemony dressing, a fine anchovy flavour, delicious bacon, and benefitted from a light grilling, such that the tips of the romaine wedge had begun to wilt, but the core remained crunchy. A main course Lobster Cobb salad with avocado, hard cooked egg, bacon lardon and grilled corn came together just fine with hunks of Bleu Ermite cheese and a dill flecked dressing crunchy with mustard seed.


Spicy tuna tartar. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The crab cakes were slightly on the salty side, but lightly packed and fish-dense, moistened with a caper-lemon-dill aioli. A trio of sliders seemed a good deal at 20 bucks. We chose the elk burger with pickled red onion and Glengarry’s Celtic Blue Reserve, the cod burger (battered, crunchy-soft fish, very nice) with an apple fennel slaw and a caper mayo, and the curried lobster and shrimp salad slider, which had no shortage of flavour. The buns were soft, sweet, and fresh. The spicy tuna tartar arrived missing the promised salmon roe, but not missing the promised spicy-heat, served with herbed crostini.


La Terrasse pickerel plate. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

A flaccid skin is my only complaint with an otherwise splendid plate of pickerel, the fish very fresh tasting, moist and well-seasoned, served atop a Panzanella (bread) salad, which turned out to be something of a reworked Salade Nicoise, with crisp haricots verts, semi-dried tomatoes (to concentrate flavour) caramelized onion and the umami pleasure of black olives and anchovies. The bread bit was focaccia, grilled squares of day old, infused deliciously with garlicked oil. This plate was the star of the mains. Seared trout suffered from an onslaught of surface salt, while the peas in the overcooked risotto were cooked to grey mush.

We liked very much the panna cotta with July berries, tart with buttermilk in the mix, the light pudding enhanced with an ice wine glaze above and a grape gelée below. Full marks.


Perfect panna cotta. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

For a more kid-pleasing dessert, look to the strawberry shortcake with house made strawberry ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries tucked in and around a scone.


Sunset at La Terrasse. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Part of La Terrasse is fully shaded beneath a canopy, and the other part, closest to the stone railing, is exposed to the sun and wind. Hold on to your hats… and to your fifty-dollar bills. (We felt your pain, dear neighbours, as your money went sailing out over the Rideau locks.)

We stayed to watch the sun set, it was a good one.

Mains, $19 to $42
Open daily, July and August only from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.
Fairmont Chateau Laurier, 1 Rideau Street,

DesBrisay Dines