WEEKENDER: 7 things to do in Ottawa this weekend (Aug. 21-23)

BY NICOLINA LEONE AND AMY ALLEN

Asinabka

Asinabka festival performers

Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival
Asinabka. It’s an Algonquin word that means “place of glare rock.” It’s also a word the Algonquin people use to describe Victoria Island and the Chaudière Falls in the Ottawa River — a sacred space where ceremonial offerings were once made. It’s a fitting name for a festival dedicated to indigenous arts in the capital.

Now in its fourth year, the festival begins on Wednesday, Aug. 19 with eight short films by Maori and Pacific Islander filmmakers, followed by a screening of The Dead Lands, a Maori film about a young man who embarks on a quest to avenge the slaughter of his tribe.

In the ensuing days, the festival covers a multitude of topics and issues facing indigenous peoples today. An anthology of shorts commissioned by the Embargo Project gives Canadian indigenous women the chance to shine, while a film by a Sami director explores the lives of reindeer herders in Scandinavia’s far north. There are also films based on the theme of displacement, stories told by survivors of residential schools, an examination of indigenous masculinity, a retrospective on the fight for political freedom, and a spotlight on indigenous arts.

Mikwenim, an exhibition at Gallery 101 that features installation work by Melissa General and Jo SiMalaya Alcampo, plays on the theme of remembering as a way to reclaim culture.

The festival ends on Sunday, Aug. 23 with another outdoor film screening at Club SAW. All events are free or pay-what-you-can. See website for venues and schedule. asinabkafestival.org.

ARBORETUM Festival starts tonight!

ARBORETUM Festival starts tonight!

ARBORETUM
Music Festival
“…embodies the transformation of Ottawa’s arts and culture scene…”
Is quoting yourself in bad taste? In 2012, this is what we had to say of The Acorn’s Rolf Klausener when he was a co-organizer of the Arboretum Music Festival. Now, the Arboretum Artistic Director, the quote reflects what has become of the Festival.

Not only will there be musical acts such as Ottawa’s own New Swears, there will also be talks about the relationship of the Algonquin to the Outaouais region, media and visual arts, and food and drink to keep you nourished during your stay (BBQ from the likes of Murray Street’s Chef, Steve Mitton, among others). Visit the website for the schedule.

Located at Albert Island, the event kicks off on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Advance day passes vary from $15 to $25 (HST extra) or you can get your weekend island pass for $40 + HST. Free entry for kids 10 & under. Tickets can be found at Top of the World Skateshop, Compact Music, Vertigo Records, and at ticketweb.ca.

But why “Arboretum”? And why not hold the festival at Ottawa’s own tree museum?

“We know it’s confusing. Latin for ‘Tree Garden’, the name Arboretum is a great metaphor for the diversity of artists we present and creative seeds we sow; more importantly, it pays homage to the natural resource honoured by our region’s Algonquin community and other First Nations. It’s also the title of a great book on the interconnectedness of ideas by Talking Heads’ David Byrne.”

There you have it.

Albert Island, 6 Booth St., arboretumfestival.com

Belly dancing performances will take place at midnight.

Belly dancing performances will take place at midnight.

1001 Nights: An Arabian Night
From the people that brought you Latin on Sparks, the International Group is presenting 1001 Nights: an Arabian night on Friday, Aug. 21 starting at 9:30 p.m.

From 10:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., enjoy a night of dancing to music from all over Arabia including baladi, dabke and khaliji music. There will also be some international hits and top 40s. Enjoy the bazaar with a variety of treats to purchase and performances such as a belly dancing show at midnight. Tickets are $40 each, $30 if purchased in advance at Bab El Hara Cafe (1818 Bank St) or online.

The International Group hosts events and festivals to celebrate all cultures in Ottawa. “We dance together, we feast together, and somewhere in between we make a whole lot of new friends.”
The Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Pl., 613-818-8787, theinternationalca.weebly.com/1001-nights.html

Jessica Bell uses her surroundings to create a different focus in art

Jessica Bell uses her surroundings to create a different focus in art

Jessica Bell: All things being equal.
Jessica Bell, MFA candidate in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Ottawa, created All things being equal. In this display, Bell addresses formalist concerns (the practice of adherence to external forms, such as religion or art) and turning to her surrounding environment, she mines the possibility in items that she sees around her: canvas stretchers, textiles and wood fragments – a tribute to the aesthetic of discarded objects. Her works in painting, collage, fibre, installation, photography and video function as encounters between these items and her willingness to engage with them. Using natural light and the effects of gravity, Bell also welcomes accident and failure as a party of her exhibit. On Friday, Aug. 21 to September 13, 2015, the Ottawa Art Gallery will host Bells work, with an opening reception on Thursday, Aug. 20, 6 p.m. Pay what you can – $5 suggested donation. Ottawa Art Gallery, Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave., ottawaartgallery.ca/content/jessica-bell-all-things-being-equal

Kate Voegele, One Tree Hill star, will be performing at Ritual this Saturday

Kate Voegele, One Tree Hill star, will be performing at Ritual this Saturday

Kate Voegele
They say life imitates art, but in the case of Kate Voegele, one might say it’s the other way around.

Shortly after releasing her debut album, Don’t Look Away, she scored the role of Mia Catalano — also a musician — on the television show One Tree Hill. It would prove a valuable opportunity for Voegele to propel herself into further popularity; after her debut on the series, sales of her album skyrocketed and she even got to perform her own music on the show.

She appears on Saturday, Aug. 22 at Ritual Nightclub, joined by Tyler Hilton, her former One Tree Hill co-star and a singer-songwriter in his own right. Tickets from $20. See Facebook event page for more info.
137 Besserer St., 613-680-7661.

North Lanark Highland Games
No one knows for sure when the Highland Games began. Was it in the 11th century, when King Malcolm III of Scotland presided over a footrace at Craig Choinnich to find the fastest runner to be his royal messenger? Or was it the Victorian-era Scots, who wanted to revive their culture after decades of suppression by the English in the wake of the Jacobite uprisings?

Either way, the Highland Games have come to signify the celebration of Scottish culture around the world. Dozens of games now take place everywhere from Bermuda to New Zealand, and the North Lanark Highland Games in Almonte (located an hour west of downtown Ottawa) is but one of them.

Athletes from around the country convene for events such as the caber toss, stone put, and hammer throw, but that’s not the only competition you’ll find — be sure to catch the dancing, piping, and drumming contests, too.

The games begin on Saturday, Aug. 22 in Almonte. Tickets from $14. See website for more info. N.L.A.S Fairgrounds, 215 Water St., Almonte, almontehighlandgames.com.

Wizard of Oz at the Drive-In
Drive-in’s with your guy (or gal) – used to be the thing to do on the weekends. The novelty and nostalgia has returned (as all things do, don’t they?) and people are lining up to partake. Saturday, Aug. 22 is not only an opportunity to enjoy the drive-in again, the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum is showing a classic (and one of our favourites), The Wizard of Oz on the big screen, outside, and under the stars. Just like old times, tune in and hear “Over the Rainbow” through your car radio.

Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch, and the Munchkins will be on hand to take photos (costumes are encouraged!) before the start of the film. You will also have the opportunity to learn about the technology that changed the film industry in the 20s and 30s and make your own animation flip book.

Vintage-themed concessions will be available to enjoy in your car. Fun starts at 6:30 p.m. and the pre-show starts at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $10 per person, free for children under 5.
Cumberland Heritage Village Museum , 2940 Old Montreal Rd., 613-833-3059 ext. 221, ottawamuseumnetwork.com

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

DesBrisay Dines

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.

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

BY NICOLINA LEONE

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.

QUEST: Summer salads to satisfy

By CINDY DEACHMAN

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

Your salad days are here and you’re in Nice, sitting next to the fountain in Place Masséna, enjoying a salade niçoise. Then off to Palermo, Sicily. On the steps of the grand opera house Teatro Massimo, early for the performance of — well, it doesn’t matter. But this does: your grilled-pepper salad with anchovies and capers. Now on to Istanbul for a little history. The Süleymaniye Library keeps an original manuscript of a cookbook written 800 years ago, when Baghdad was the largest and perhaps wealthiest city in the world. Writen by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi, Kitab al-Tabikh includes traditional pre-Islamic recipes from Iran. One describes a cucumber salad garnished with roasted fowl and dressed with verjuice pressed from sour fruits. The dish is spiced with cumin, cinnamon, and fresh herbs. Your salad days go a long way back, don’t they?

Caesar Salad
“Diners do come for the performance,” says head waiter Rad Daher. “They really do appreciate that the salad is made fresh.” Customers return many times to Hy’s Steakhouse just for that caesar salad, tossed tableside. The pleasure is so rarely seen: Hy’s is possibly the only Ottawa restaurant offering this quiet theatre. Of course, the mayonnaise is prepared properly, adding olive oil drop by drop. And, says Daher, “It’s important to toss the romaine before adding the parmesan.” Leaves are glistening, croutons light and crunchy — and the garlic roars out. Comfort me with a well-made caesar. $13.95.
Hy’s Steakhouse, 170 Queen St., 613-234-4545.

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Tomato salad from Fauna. Photo by Giulia Doyle

Mixed Seafood Salad
Near the city of Phuket in southern Thailand, you’ll find a tropical evergreen forest with a secluded beach. Restaurant Phuket Royal serves its version of yum talay, or seafood salad, full of tender shrimp, scallops, and squid. Perfect for sultry weather, it’s dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and fresh red chilies. This yam talay bites you – don’t say I didn’t warn you. $12.95.
Phuket Royal, 713 Somerset St. W., 613-235-3134.

Tomato Salad
Simple tomato salad: fine field tomatoes, peeled and sliced, dressed with lemon juice.  Or prepare it as Fauna owner/chef Jon Svazas does: use five different kinds of dehydrated vegetable flavourings, three fresh herbs, and one dehydrated grain. Such preparations may be difficult to replicate at home. Svazas says he likes to make things “simple, but not simply.” With the dust of capers, smoked peppers, and green onions, not to mention licorice-like olives and mild, creamy Persian feta, this dish charms. $14. Fauna, 425 Bank St., 613-563-2862.

DesBrisay Dines

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

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

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

BY SARAH BROWN

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

DESBRISAY DINES: La Terrasse

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,
613-241-1414