Articles Tagged ‘anne desbrisay’

LUNCH PICK: Build a DiVino’s lunch — divine!

BY ANNE DESBRISAY

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Cauliflower and carrot soup. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

To celebrate their first year as new owners of DiVino Wine Studio, sommelier
Eric Diotte and chef Christian Lepore built a little sidewalk patio. The grand al fresco opening was Saturday. I stopped in for lunch on Friday, during the final flourish of construction mayhem, and got to witness the fun and the fretting while sipping an unoaked South Bay Chardonnay from Huff Estates.

I was here for the Build a DiVino Lunch! special — any antipasto and any primo for $22. I chose the cauliflower and carrot soup to start, sweetened with loop-de-loops of a sticky sweet balsamic reduction, and with a flash fried basil leaf — which limped up instantly when plunged into the pool. It was a fine bowl with good vegetable flavour, thickened with potato — creamless/flourless. Which meant I could splurge on a wildly rich second course.

House-made fettucine. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

House-made fettucine. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

This was a bowl of house-made fettuccine, perfectly cooked to al dente, swirled in a crisp bacon (lovely) and egg custard enriched with avocado, which turned the sauce khaki green and very creamy. It was a dish that startled at first —  the avocado, such a strong presence — and then one that grew on me. And though I remain unconvinced of the pleasures of hot avocado, of this dish — matched with the Huff chardonnay — I am quite convinced.

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Dessert wasn’t part of the deal, but I was told it was straight out of the salamander — a cool maple custard in a wee mug, with a rosemary infused meringue foam. A leaf of rosemary had been candied to crown the bruléed top. Very sweet to look at; very sweet to eat.

I trust the patio got finished and the launch party was a great success.

Congratulations to Diotte and Lepore on their first anniversary.

Cost: $22, plus $10 for dessert

DeVino’s 225 Preston Street, 613-221-9760

DESBRISAY DINES: Mamma Teresa in Chelsea

By ANNE DESBRISAY

 

The original Mamma Teresa on Somerset Street West may not be the power ristorante it once was, but the walls tell a tale. Framed, signed portraits of the movers and shakers who supped here still guard the vestibule and line the stairs — the ones that lead to the private dining rooms where, legend has it, much of the nation’s business was once conducted.

Pickled peppers to start. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Pickled peppers to start. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

When owner Guiliano Boselli retired, he sold Mamma Teresa to two long-serving employees who had worked their way up the ranks. And now Frank Schimizzi and Walter Moreschi have opened a second Mamma Teresa — out of province. On the former home of another long serving restaurant, L’Agaric, they’ve constructed a handsome wood- planked-chalet sort of place, green-roofed and red-trimmed, and they’ve brought Mamma’s portrait and stuck her in the front lawn.

If you are a Mamma Teresa Ottawa regular, you will know well the wide-ranging menu. Nothing trendy on it; black olives and pickled peppers to start; warm buns; a crisp and ample Caesar salad with a gutsy dressing. There was a soup du jour with an admirable broth and al dente vegetables, and we ordered a serving of calamari so generous is fed four, crisp and tender and not the least bit greasy.

Linguine pescatore. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

The presentation of the house carpaccio could use some refinement, and we’d have preferred the parmesan come in shards, rather than the pile of gratings we received. The dish was also missing an anointment of some sort — a drizzle of oil, a bit of aioli or a lemon wedge would have been welcomed — but the beef itself was clearly sliced to order, the meat rich and red and good, strewn with capers and bits of pickled onion.

Veal was disappointingly tough, though the clam linguine that came with it was perfectly judged. Indeed, pasta might be the way to go here. The linguine pescatore featured al dente noodles and lightly cooked seafood united in a rich creamy sauce. And the gnocchi were pillowy pleasures, bathed in a fragrant tomato-basil sauce. Portions invite doggy bags.

I have always had a soft spot for Mamma’s cake, so we ordered that, along with the tiramisu. Again, a no nonsense presentation, but fresh, tasty desserts.

The service we received was top notch.

Pasta/mains, $21 to $39. Open daily, lunch through dinner.  

254 Ch. Old Chelsea, 819-827-3020, mammateresa.com

ANNE’S PICKS: Gianduja at A Thing for Chocolate

By ANNE DESBRISAY

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Chocolate-hazelnut spread, otherwise known as gianduja , is made from scratch at A Thing for Chocolate. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Chocolate is having its day. Dark is best, and pure is super-best and a square (or three) of the dark pure stuff every day means you’ll live long and prosper. Or at least you’ll live what you’ll live but you’ll live it much happier.

There’s a new — to me — chocolate shop on Wellington West. I popped in to A Thing for Chocolate (such a clever name) for breakfast the other day. Had the bacon and egg made-to-order crepe, which was really very nice, though I’d have preferred it be served with fruit than greens (drizzled with what tasted like bottled balsamic), it being morning and all. But what really turned my crank was the stuff on the end of the spoon I was handed.

“Try this,” the charmer holding the handle said. The first taste was of rich, clean, creamy chocolate. And then the hazelnut hit me and my spirits instantly dropped, only to be lifted again once the purity of flavour sank in.

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of gianduja. Which does, I agree, make me a bit of a freak, but there you go. I like chocolate. I like hazelnuts, I just don’t like them together. Too many cheap gianduja fillings perhaps, with added sugar and emulsifiers and so forth, are to blame, but man oh man, I liked this stuff — really liked this stuff — which is, I believe, a tribute to its quality. It was so fresh, so pure, and so clean.

Chocolatier Omar Fares uses only quality organic hazelnuts and toasts them until they’re golden and fragrant. There’s a bit of cream in there, as well as chocolate and puréed nuts, so don’t forget to keep it in the fridge. Once mixed, the smooth brown goo is jarred with a fetching green rubber ringed lid. So you won’t get lost in the fridge. My jar has a small spoon imbedded in it. To facilitate the quest to live long and prosper.

Gianduja spread, $8.99; breakfast special $6.99

A Thing for Chocolate, 1626 Wellington St. W., 613-695-3533 

 

Looking for more ways to enjoy chocolate?

 

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Click here to learn more about pairing chocolate with beer!

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Learn about Dick’s triple-chocolate hand-dipped milkshake !

 

 

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Find more OTTAWA MAGAZINE  chocolate listings here 

 

ANNE’S PICK: Takeaway from Brampton Meats

Barbecued curried chicken from Brampton Meats. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Barbecued curried chicken from Brampton Meats. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

BY ANNE DESBRISAY

 

It’s called Brampton Meats because the two families that own this new business are recent transplants from the city of Brampton — wooed here by Ottawa friends, I was told, and to escape the glut of competition they felt from the suburban GTA.

I rather stumbled upon this place when gassing up. I was hungry, it was lunchtime, and as I was feeding the tank on the corner of Woodroffe and Meadowlands, I spied a red and white sign that that read Brampton Meats.  A new butcher shop? And then beneath that big sign, a second, smaller announcement that required closer inspection: Authentic Indian Takeout.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Chicken legs marinating at Brampton Meats. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The takeout I sampled — a vegetarian thali and a ‘non-vegetarian’ thali — though generous, certainly affordable, and with the exception of a fabulous goat curry, turned out to be pretty average. But in the display case were a half dozen trays of marinating chicken legs of various hues. A visual feast. I asked for an explanation and was led through the options.

I chose the darkest two:  Bhatti da murg and the Bengali dish murg (chicken) “chingari.” I took home my legs, let them marinade a few more hours, and then grilled them over low heat on the ‘cue.

The Bhatti birds were robed in a ginger-garlic paste with no shortage of red chilli power, and were fragrant too with cloves, cardamom, coriander seed and with a vinegar tartness. The Chingari was darker, soothed a bit with coconut milk, and tasted as though cinnamon were in the mix of spices. Still, both marinades tasted complex and both had plenty of lip tingling pow.

There were gentler versions — a so-called lemon chicken, say, and something called ‘mild BBQ chicken’ — but we were after authentic heat and flavour and feel we were delivered of both in immensely satisfying fashion.

They fed a family of four and cost $12.33

Brampton Meats, 178 Meadowlands Dr. W., 613-695-9915, bramptonmeats.ca
Open daily from 10 a.m.

LUNCH PICK: Lunch At Oyster Bay

BY ANNE DESBRISAY

Who knew a first-rate clam chowder could be had in a sushi joint on Merivale Road?

 
Chowder at Oyster Bay. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Chowder at Oyster Bay. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

 

I had come here for the (new-to-me) Oyster Bay Restaurant’s (new to them) lunch service.  My plan was to check out the sashimi/sushi combo platter at this Japanese replacement for the long running MHK Sushi and Asian Fusion Restaurant. But Oyster Bay’s menu’s has a funny mix of things, so along with the usual raw fish and rice snacks of various permutations, you find spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine with seafood sauce, Thai beef carpaccio, and clam chowder.

The lunch combo ordinarily came with miso soup. For three dollars more I had the option to upgrade to the clam chowder. So lunch at Oyster Bay turned out to be a classic, creamy clam chowder with a sushi/sashimi chaser.

I’ll have more to say about Oyster Bay in a few weeks once I’ve thoroughly mined its long and disparate menu. But for now, know that both the soup and the sushi were total winners. Possibly the shock of discovering a really good bowl of Boston style clam chowder in a Japanese restaurant added to the pleasure… still, here was a generous bowl of fat clams, firm potatoes, onion, celery, carrots and fresh herbs – cilantro, basil, thyme – in a thick, clean-flavoured broth enriched with cream. Full marks.

 

Sashimi, nigiri and maki at Oyster Bay. photo by Anne DesBrisay

Sashimi, nigiri and maki at Oyster Bay. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

 

The sashimi, nigiri and maki were pretty on the plate and cool and clean in the mouth. The cold fish was generously draped over perfectly calibrated, slightly warm and loosely packed rice. Again, top marks.

Looking forward to dinner… and the extensive oyster bar.

My soup and sushi/sashimi lunch cost $20.

Oyster Bay, 1519 Merivale Road, 613-680-5555
Open for lunch 
Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
http://www.oysterbayottawa.com 

DESBRISAY DINES: The Rex is now open for dinner

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne Desbrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Former Urban Pear sous chef, back when Ben Baird was in charge, Cody Starr named his new place in honour of his grandfather and has created in a former pizzeria on Adeline Street, an intimate, old world space with homespun charm.

I took the Rex for a lunch time spin six months ago, when it was pretty brand new. That was back when the noon crowd — Rex is close to the Rochester office towers — was the focus of the kitchen. Evening-opening was in the thinking-through process. And now the dinner gong sounds, but only on Friday and Saturday nights.

On our Friday night, the place was packed.

Rex offers a limited dinner menu, which is always a pleasure for those of us decisioned-out by end of week. There is some choice — between two starters on our night (Cobb salad or crab cakes) and two mains (trout or brisket) for the set price of $35.

Nothing rocked our world, but it was all pretty solid. If I had a quibble, it would have less to do with the quality of the food or the mix of flavours and more about portion and presentation. The Rex dinners seem to be trying on a simple, family style, come-as-ye-be sort of vibe. So modern, composed plates don’t feel quite right.

The Rex Fish Cakes. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Crab Cakes at The Rex. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The Cobb salad featured eggs, still soft at their yellow core, crisp lardons, a bit of Boston lettuce, avocado, tomato, and a sharp dressing, but the poster child for composed salads could have had a few more elements and been a bit more generous. The crab cakes were meaty, well seasoned, served on a few greens with a dill remoulade and pickled red onion.

Other than the odd choice of plate and fork (rather than bowl and spoon) to serve the fish and clam chowder, this was a lovely dish. It was just a bit tricky to eat.

The cooking of the trout was well judged and the chowder starred three meaty Quahogs, steamed to just-open, with traditional mates of corn, carrots, celery, and soft leek and with crispy rings of leek for pleasing chew, in a rich cream sauce perfumed with clam juice, fresh thyme and anointed with leek oil.

The second main was the ultimate Sunday supper comfort food — brined spiced brisket, slow braised to fork tender, with a sturdy caramelized edge, served with roasted carrots and brussels sprouts, and with horseradish spiked mashed potatoes. A whole grain mustard sauce finished things with an extra little zing.

Fish and Clam Chowder at The Rex. Photo By Anne DesBrisay

Fish and Clam Chowder at The Rex. Photo By Anne DesBrisay

For dessert, the Johnny Cakes combined a cornmeal pancake with ice cream and rhubarb-maple compote and the Boston cream pie — dark shiny chocolate sauce, solid cake, well flavoured pastry cream, bittersweet caramel sauce — gets full marks.

Three course table d’hôte, $35 on our night.

Open Monday to Friday for lunch, Friday and Saturday for dinner.

40 Adeline St., 613-695-9739, therexottawa.com

ANNE’S PICKS: The Real Thing at SuzyQ Donuts

A six-pack of SuzyQ Donuts last, taste-tested and photographed by  Anne DesBrisay.

A six-pack of SuzyQ Donuts last, taste-tested and photographed by Anne DesBrisay.

By Anne DesBrisay

Yes, yes. Much has been written about the temptations of Suzy Q, a bit of it by me. But when my youngest son, with his freshly inked learner’s license, rounded a corner on Carling Avenue and very nearly smashed into the snarl of immobile cars queuing up for a drive thru double double and a chocolate dunker at Tim’s — I saw red. How is it possible people line up for these ‘freshly frozen’ flavourless rings?

The kid then made the mistake of admitting he quite likes Tim’s donuts. It was a learning moment if ever I met one. I made him drive straight to Suzy’s for a taste of the good life.

We picked up a six pack for us, and one for the carpenters at our new home — Tim Horton’s fans all. When we arrived to deliver the treats, the tile guy had beat us to it. The Timmy H boys had turned into Suzy Q fans. It was the maple bacon that clinched it.

Six donuts $10. 

SuzyQ Donuts. 99 Wellington St. W. 613-724-2451.

 

LUNCH PICK: Comfort food and sweet service at Backdrop Food & Drink

Cornbread . Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Grilled cornbread with beer-spiked cheese sauce. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

By Anne DesBrisay

Lunch this week takes us to a brand new restaurant for the Centretown neighbourhood, in the place where the Italian restaurant Chianti used to be,and to a second project from the good people of Grounded Kitchen and CoffeeHouse on Gloucester.

There’s little of Chianti left. The look at Backdrop is more nightclub than restaurant, all cool in red and black with an odd sort of theatrical-space theme going on. And the sound was a bit much for lunch. The music on my visit was played at a level that required some shouting to chat.  But the service was sweet and the food I sampled, really good.

Backdrop is located at 160 Metcalfe. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Backdrop is located at 160 Metcalfe. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Particularly good was the crunchy winter slaw of Napa cabbage, carrot, and red onion warmed with sesame dressing; and full marks to the grilled cornbread with beer-spiked cheese sauce. I could eat this every day: moist, just sweet enough and with a fine corn flavour, spiked with jalapeño and drizzled with a nippy cheese sauce made with Vanilla Stout (likely from Ashton Brewing Company?) Next time, I’m having it with a pint.

Looking forward to returning at night. Maybe the space works better in the dark. I’ll let you know.

Salad and the bread were considered ‘small plates’ but together, they made a big lunch. Cornbread $8, salad $9.

Backdrop Food & Drink, 160 Metcalfe St., 613-321-4623

 

 

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Brothers Beer Bistro

 

Chestnut stuffed ravioli with .  Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Chestnut stuffed ravioli with currants, pine nuts, lemon zest, and cinnamon cap mushrooms. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

By Anne DesBrisay

This place continues to surprise me. Lunch last week was no exception.

It’s much about beer, of course — beer factors in every dish the kitchen prepares — which struck me as gimmicky when BBB first opened in 2012. Brothers and beer in the Byward Market … oh goodie. No doubt there’d be bacon ice cream. I was thoroughly prepared not to like it much.

But I was quite wrong. The food was very good, the breadth of craft beer on offer is impressive, and so is the service, which knows its food, its beer matches, and its booze.

 

There’s a thirteen dollar lunch at BBB, and I popped in to check it out last week. As you might expect from a beer bistro, there’s a burger on offer, and things like a ham sandwich and a steak frites.

But then there’s this little number: chestnut stuffed ravioli with currants, pine nuts, lemon zest, and cinnamon cap mushrooms. Beer’s in the butter sauce, ‘cause beer’s in everything’ — as I might have mentioned — but it’s remarkably light and elegant, and other than the unfortunate fact that the outer edges of the pasta were undercooked, this dish was brilliantly considered. The stuffing had great flavour and that meaty, nubbly texture of roasted, pureed chestnuts. The mushrooms continued the woodsy chestnut theme, the pine nuts gave crunch, the currants a bit of sticky-sweet and the lemon zest lifted the dish. I didn’t want it to end.

Dessert  . Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Pumpkin creme brulée with candied kumquats and smoked walnuts, served with gingerbread biscotti. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Thing is, I was still a bit hungry, given the uneaten pasta edges. Which meant there was room for two desserts: a lovely pumpkin creme brulée roofed with candied kumquats and smoked walnuts, served with white chocolate drizzled gingerbread biscotti (very nice dunked in tea as it turned out); and a not-too-sweet apple cake with cheddar cheese crisps, exemplary house ice cream, and Cortland apples cooked down in retro cream soda. (What? No beer?)

Cost: $13 for anything on the BBB lunch menu, served Monday to Friday

Brother’s Beer Bistro, 366 Dalhousie St. 613-695-6300  

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Chapitas at La Belle Verte

By Anne DesBrisay

“Fresh and Earthly Comforting Living Food” is its mantra. Tarot cards are displayed at its cash. The music is appropriately ohm-my, though typically drown out (not so bad) by the whirring of blenders and grinding of nuts and such.

La Belle Verte's Chapitas combine warm and cold elements, as well as . Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

La Belle Verte’s Chapitas combine various textures and tastes for a delicious, and healthy, meal . Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

This is an old time veggie and raw food haven, with decor to match. La Belle Verte’s floors are tiled and worn, its tables and chairs are an eclectic collection — some from grandma and some the side of the road – its walls are four shades of green. And if anyone out there is turkeyed out, stuffed silly, and looking to start the new year on a greener foot, I recommend you make your way to this little Gatineau restaurant for a “chapita.” Wrap Of The Year. And most of last year too. Two green thumbs up.

Building a great wrap is a lot like building a great taco. Attention must be paid to maximum flavour but also to textural contrast. And the bread has to matter.

La Belle Verte is a  . Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

La Belle Verte is an old school veggie and raw haven. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

This was called The Gong. It was spicy and smoky, sweet and sour, crunchy and soft. It had cool stuff (grated carrots, cukes, lettuce, tomato), warm stuff (sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onion), bright bits (fresh mint and basil), acidic jolts (pickled red onion) and soft, rich unctuous parts (mashed avocado). It featured smoked and spicey tempeh which is best eaten, in my carnivorous opinion, with a team of other things on its side. The moistening element — the house chipotle mayo and a Thai chili sauce — added some heat, more smoke and and a slightly sweet finish. It was all contained in an Indian chapati and it was damn good.

All on its own, it costs $9.75, but there’s an option to combine it with soup or salad. Salad struck me as green overkill.  And January struck me as a soup month. So a bowl of dahl soup it was — steaming hot, perfectly seasoned and shot through with ribbons of fresh ginger.

“Chapitas” with soup: $14.95

La Belle Verte, 166 Eddy Street, Gatineau, 819-778-6363