Articles Tagged ‘anne desbrisay’

EAT THIS: Anne DesBrisay stumbles upon tasty (and adorable!) Canada Day Cookies

Colourful confections decorated with oh-so-Canadian words. What do you think aboot that?

By Anne DesBrisay

I popped in for a loaf of bread. But there they were, arrestingly red, standing on guard, tall and proud on a Boko Bakery cookie sheet, and a dozen slipped effortlessly into a Boko box. Patriotic gems, they were, poking some fun at iconic Canadianisms, in the form of easily downed, utterly restorative sugar cookies. I just called. They’re making more.

Cost: $2.50 each

Boko Bakery, 264 Elgin Street, 613-230-2656

TRY THIS! Anne DesBrisay discovers the Bridgehead “porridge wedge”

Forget the ubiquitous breakfast sandwich. Bridgehead is now serving up steel-cut oats with fruit compote (plus maple syrup).

By Anne DesBrisay

With three days of exhaustive research into the best pain aux raisins in the city weighing on my conscience and my hips, I paid no morning mind to the usual things I pay mind to at my local Bridgehead. No croissant, no cheese scone, no triple berry muffin. Just coffee, thanks. No, not even a date square (how well she knows me…) despite the argument any sensible person could make about the fibre and the iron.

Still, I was hungry, and lunch a long way away.

And then I spied it: a new product? In a glass bowl, a square of porridge. Not just any oatmeal, this lump. These were steel-cut oats (also known as Irish or Scottish oats) and they came topped with either maple syrup or a fruit compote. Or…both. Done!

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Anne DesBrisay waxes poetic about her burger from Jak’s Kitchen

Burger delight: Anne DesBrisay raves about her burger from Jak's, with its roasted red peppers, fresh basil, zephyr light fromage blanc and, beneath the meat, a paprika aioli

By Anne DesBrisay

The view of Bronson Avenue from Jak’s Kitchen was never what you’d call remarkable, but now even the sky is obliterated by a small legion of sunny demolition trucks and a hill of rubble. To be precise, my immediate view is of safety fencing curtaining pedestrian traffic. I used to walk by Jak’s pretty regularly — during a kids-hockey phase — and the obvious bread baking going on was an aromatic advertisement for its well-known brunch. Lately, the scent of yeast competes with diesel.

But out of the rubble Jak’s has produced genius in the form of a nifty idea called a “Jak in a Box.”  (Ottawa Magazine food editor Shawna Wagman introduced us to it in her City Bites column.) It’s a never-say-die initiative that embraces the misfortune of months of major roadwork: rather than curse these guys in trucks, let’s feed them! The way to a man’s heart, as they say…

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Get initiated into Korea’s famous dish — a colourful bowl of bibimbap at Le Kim Chi

Before the merger: When the bowl of bibimbap arrives, you are meant to lunge in there with chopsticks and beat everything together lickety split or, cautions Anne DesBrisay, the staff will do it for you.

By Anne DesBrisay

Gifts in little white bowls from Le Kim Chi’s kitchen arrive first. These are not meant to be treated as an amuse bouche. You are to meant to be patient. My dining buddy had to be whacked when he began to scarf down the marinated potatoes, the sesame doused bean sprouts, the fermented, spicy cabbage called kimchi. “Wait,” I hissed. “These go with what’s coming.”

What was coming came a few minutes later: sizzling dolsot (stone pot) bibimbap, about which he was a greenhorn. If you don’t know Korea’s famous dish called bibimbap, you need to be initiated, and Le Kim Chi seemed a good beginning.

Bibimbap is that petal-like arrangement of sautéed vegetables, beef, crackling nori, and wiggly egg on rice, the raw yolk glistening at the head, the whole dotted with toasted sesame seeds. Stop too long to admire the still life at your peril: you are meant to just plunge in there with chopsticks and beat everything together lickety split, or the staff will do it for you. This I have learned.

But you have other options. You can reach way down to detach the rice still cooking on the bottom of the hot pot, or leave some of it still stuck, still sizzling, to savour later, when it’s bronzed and crunchy with a nutty flavour. You can customize as you wish from the little gifts of pickled vegetables – they change all the time, but always there is spicy kimchi. You can slather on the gochujang (hot pepper sauce) or just dob it on. Or leave it off altogether. No one will judge you. The raw egg cooks in the heat of its companions, and keeps the whole — veg and meat and the sweet pungency of sesame oil that weaves through it all — on the moist side. It makes a filling, flavourful lunch for $12.95, and at Le Kim Chi, it comes with miso soup.

Cost: lunch specials at Le Kim Chi are all $12.95

Open: for lunch, Monday to Friday, dinner daily

Le Kim Chi, 420 Preston St., 613-233-2433.


WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Savouring a taste of the tropics at Havana Café

A noon-time bargain, the Ropa Vieja came with Congris rice (white rice stained purple with black beans ), fried plantain, and steamed yucca logs

By Anne DesBrisay

I don’t know Cuban food very well. Have never been to Cuba (it’s on ‘The List’) and Havana Café is the first Cuban restaurant in Ottawa, at least of which I am aware. So I scanned the other five tables and all — including one of students from Hopewell Public School (being treated like the little princes that they no doubt were by the clucky server) — were chomping down on Havana Café’s $5 sandwiches. And though they looked good, I have sworn off eating bread on Thursdays. Sadly, this was Thursday.

I needed another idea. So I asked for help and was immediately steered toward Ropa Vieja. It means Old Clothes, she told me. I thought that sounded pretty good. Bring it on, I said, and braced myself for the stereotypically grim buffet experience of the Cuban monster resort.

As is plain from the picture, it didn’t look promising. When your traditional diet is mostly pork, rice, beans and shades of brown starch, the plate isn’t going to be pretty. Earthy, to be sure, but not what you’d call tropically tinted. But here we had thin strips of slow cooked steak, mingled with green olives, onions and peppers. I braced myself for boot leather, but it was not. Not at all. It was, in fact, remarkably tender and flavorful in an acerbic sauce piquant with vinegar. The Ropa Vieja came with Congris rice (white rice stained purple with black beans ) sweet, fried plantain (nothing greasy about them), and steamed starchy yucca logs. It was a noon-time bargain, this piled plate and much of it came home with me.

Cost: Ropa Vieja with rice and veg, $10.

Havana Café, 1200 Bank St., 613-733-1200.

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: A well-regarded chef resurfaces at Bistro Boréal at the Canadian Museum of Civilization

A pretty appetizer of a fish cake with shrimp features a fat dill-flecked cake topped with three shrimp, a toupé of micro greens, and a chive spear.

By Anne DesBrisay

The dining room of the Museum of Civilization has moved and been rechristened. It used to be called Café du Musée and it used to be housed in a separate, administrative building overlooking the River. Now the restaurant is in the museum proper, where the gift shop used to be. It has a less thrilling outlook, over Laurier Avenue, but it is inarguably more accessible, and the new location likely makes a lot more sense in terms of attracting both museum visitors and hungry pedestrians sauntering down the Avenue.

In the open kitchen of the new Bistro Boréal is Chef Georges Laurier, whose career on the Gatineau side includes — among other stops — the iconic Café Henry Burger and the lamented Laurier sur Montcalm.  My first taste of Bistro Boréal was lunch. And it was an impressive one.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Cuisine & Passion cooks up fare worthy of the Rolling Stones

Pandan-wrapped chicken with roasted cauliflower and squash, and a chick pea and smoked salmon salad.

By Anne DesBrisay

If I were feeling peckish and fond of the Rolling Stones, I might seek out the band’s former chef and see what’s cookin’. I’d have to go to Orléans to find him, to a strip mall on St Joseph Boulevard next to a Jumbo Video, where a bright yellow sign announces ‘Gourmet Meals to Go.’

Ordinarily, trolling Orléans for good eating can be a disheartening exercise. But Marc Miron and his wife, chef Chantal Gagné, have had cooking careers that have taken them to hotels and restaurants all over the world, (and, for a time, says Miron’s CV, to the kitchen of Mick, Keif, Ron, and whoever the other guy is). But they’ve now settled down in Orléans where they feed we commoners, grub that’s inarguably the best in these suburbs. They do this at their gourmet shop and cooking school “Cuisine & Passion.”

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Sampling the Sampler Plate at Sausage Kitchen

Anne DesBrisay describes the Sampler Plate as "quite brown, a bit messy, very tasty — and there’s enough of it to fill me for a week."

By Anne DesBrisay

In the queue in front of me they know exactly what they want and the line moves in obedient fashion at a good clip. The woman directly ahead of me, with whom I had been chatting, orders her weekly indulgence, a Falscher Hase (slabs cut from a loaf of pork and beef bound with eggs, tucked in a bun). She tells me it’s a chomp down memory lane for her, harkening back to her days as a Munich grad student, forever hungry, forever broke.

The Sausage Kitchen server working the lunch line overhears my questions about this Munich meatloaf and before I can say Menschenskind I have a fat forkful of the thing suspended in front of my nose. “Here, try it!” It’s probably three bites worth, but I manage to pop the entire generous hunk of it and am accordingly chewingly mute by the time it’s my turn at the counter. All I can do is nod as she points to the items that go in The Sampler Plate.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Succumb to the lure of lemongrass at Pookie’s Thai

Forget the calories! DesBrisay calls prawn toast a "happy making" treat

By Anne DesBrisay

Is there a longing more desperate than the one for lemongrass? Particularly when the day is dreary and the wind is numbing and a tickle in the throat suggests bothersome things are brewing? Let others crave a burger or a chocolate bar, my rumblings tend to be for Thai green curry, a spicy yum salad, a really good pad Thai.

I find that when you need Thai food, you simply need Thai food and no amount of pretending otherwise is going to work. Trouble is, in this city — indeed in most northern cities — Thai food isn’t all it might be. It’s full of subtle aromatics, layered complexity, mushrooming intensity, masses of bursting-fresh herbs, that don’t translate — poor us — to a climate where all those good things come from afar and everything gets refrigerated. It means everything also suffers from a diminished vibrancy.

A vegetable-filled stir fry with tilapia is a colourful main, with shredded cabbage and carrot on the side

Whatever. We take what we can get, and in Ottawa West, it doesn’t get much better than Pookie’s. Prawn toast is my weakness. Yes, it’s caloric, but still it’s happy making and what begins lunch here. Perfumed with lime leaf, scallion, cilantro, the chopped shrimp and egg mixture is spread on thin toast, fried to crisp and brown and served with a sweet chili sauce.

Next, a palate cleansing tom yum soup, with eye stinging heat, followed by a wet stir fry of tilapia with peppers, mushroom, garlic, Thai basil, and red chilies. It has less oomph than we want, but less sugar than we usually get in other places that overdo the sweet, and we find it totally pleasant, the fish moist and soft, the veg with crunch and colour. It comes with a mound of Thai sweet rice and a little bit of green and cabbage-carrot crunch and costs a respectable $10.50

Total cost: $17.50 for prawn toast we didn’t need and soup, stir fry, and rice we did.

Hours: Open Tuesday to Friday for lunch and daily for dinner.

Pookie’s Thai Restaurant, 2280 Carling Ave., 613-321-1733. 



Anne DesBrisay


WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: A generous “Super Lunch Special Combo” from Joy

Beyond the Super Lunch Special Combo, Joy's lunchtime bento box was also a good deal, featuring gyoza, California rolls, kimchi, salad, and bulgogi

By Anne DesBrisay

For just $12, the Super Lunch Special Combo at Restaurant Joy in The Somerset Street Village will fill you up well and fully and make you happy. The deal starts with miso soup, light and restorative enough. Then comes the tough choice of two items from List A or two from List B. ‘A’ offers eight options (the likes of Boston rolls, crunch rolls, and various tempura assemblies) while ‘B’ presents vegetarian options for rolls, plus things like udon noodles and fried gyoza.

The (very) small print reminds you that choosing from List A will cost you a buck more than a choice from B, and this turns out to be the only annoying thing about Joy. (Especially for a girl who finds herself joylessly without her reading glasses.) No matter. Even for $12.99 it seemed a bargain because my order — miso soup, a crunchy iceberg lettuce salad livened with a ginger dressing, a puck of well cooked rice, four fat shrimp tempura, a couple of onion tempura, and eight pieces of spicy salmon maki – was tasty and wildly generous.

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