Articles Tagged ‘Byward Market’

DESBRISAY DINES: Asian Alley

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 DesBrisay

Photo by DesBrisay

Here’s to the curative powers of a steaming bowl of fragrant pho. The head throb eases, the throat is soothed, the spirit lifted, and the wallet lightened (but just a little).

The trick is finding good pho. The sort that doesn’t lift the spirits temporarily and then keeps you up all night, jittering and guzzling buckets of water —  nor the kind that requires many squirts of hoisin and hot sauce to find flavour. Last week, deflated and defeated, post-Christmas shopping for man-boys, bags bulging with athletic socks, I discovered Asian Alley on ByWard Market Square. I plunked down at one of its three communal tables, ordered rolls and beef noodle soup, and within minutes I was a new woman.

Photo by DesBrisay

Photo by DesBrisay

It’s mostly Vietnamese on offer at Asian Alley, but they toss in a pad Thai (plus something they call a pad Thai summer roll), to be competitive, I suppose. Must. Have. Pad Thai. It’s the sweet noodle plate that is to south east Asian restaurants what butter chicken is to all Indian. The star player, the blue plate special, the must-have-for-the-occidentals dish. Why? I have no idea. But Asian Alley distinguishes itself from all other Asian fusion type places in this city by what it doesn’t offer — specifically, a seven page menu — and by the uncommon depth of flavour in its pho.

And I suppose, by its penny floor. One hundred and fifty thousand now-useless pennies, repurposed, laid out by hand, beneath a shiny lacquer, surrounded by a commissioned graffiti skyline by local artist Sssnakeboooy and friends. (Check out this post on the Ottawa Mag Facebook page for a peek at the mural.) “I gave them free rein,” owner Hoang tells me. The long, narrow room vibrates with colour and edgy-charm.

Photo by DesBrisay

Photo by DesBrisay

A steaming cup of Genmaicha tea (green tea with roasted rice) arrives with the grilled pork and chicken rice wraps. Clearly made to order, the meat is fragrant and warm (makes all the difference) within the soft packages. Lettuce gives them crunch, green herbs (basil and cilantro) lend perfume, and the peanut sauce is more savoury than sweet, clearly not made from the usual Skippy jar.

The food on the one page menu (hurrah!) was good enough to bring me back for dinner — Bun cha ca and lemongrass pork, firecracker shrimp, and vegetarian spring rolls. Plus another bowl of pho, the dark broth brimming with those warming spices, the chunks of meat from the flank clearly a cut above, the big blue bowl filled in with al dente rice noodles, shredded cabbage, carrot, bok choy, and Thai basil, served with a  side of chili oil. Full marks.

Photo by DesBrisay

Photo by DesBrisay

We like the housemade fish cakes — thin medallions of minced fish and shrimp, flavoured with dill and chili oil — soft but with bouncy chew, though the shrimp within their over-sized crackling covers were small and tough.

The grilled meats had marvellous flavour. Boned and flattened, with big grand hits of lemongrass, ginger and garlic, the pork and chicken both had good char, and came with rice, salad and a bowl of nuoc mam.

Hydration (for now?) is restricted to juices, pop, and tea.

Soups, rice and vermicelli plates, $11 to $14

8 ByWard Market Square, 613-860-9889 www.asianalley.ca

SHOP TALK: Lifeline Skin Care at Holtz Spa

This week, SHOP TALK welcomes guest blogger Ashleigh VanHouten. Ashleigh is a freelance writer and editor, as well as the force behind lifestyle magazine, milieu.

I recently attended a press event at Holtz Spa in the ByWard Market for a new skincare line and facial treatment (lucky me!). Holtz spa is wonderful: if you go for a facial, do yourself a favour and ask for Klara. She’s been in the business for decades and her sense of humour is just as awesome as her treatments. Under her knowing hands, I experienced my first facial treatment — complete with the always-uncomfortable extraction process — that didn’t make me think the aesthetician secretly hated me.

Photo by Ashleigh van Houten

The luxurious lobby of Holtz Spa in the ByWard Market. Photo by Ashleigh van Houten

Holtz Spa is now only one of two places in Canada to offer a new facial treatment using products from California-based Lifeline Skin Care (part of the International Stem Cell Corporation, a leader in stem cell research). The product uses proteins extracted from stem cells — and while that may set off some alarm bells in your head, it’s actually not in the least controversial.

The creams use proteins extracted from embryonic-like stem cells made from unused, unfertilized donated eggs (not from human embryos; no life is created or destroyed). This is possible based on a process pioneered by Dr. Elena Revazova, who figured out how to create stem cells without fertilizing the human egg through a process called parthenogenesis. I’ll try to explain this without getting too technical: they chemically stimulate the egg into thinking it’s fertilized so nourishing proteins can be extracted, but since no male components are ever introduced to the female egg, life is never possible. This new technology advances the field of regenerative medicine — and the parent company is hoping to use it to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease; revenue from Lifeline Skin Care go towards this research.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Breather brings ‘peace and quiet, on-demand’ to Ottawa

William Johnson is an Ottawa-based blogger who writes at notionport.org about creative people doing creative things.

You’re a professional on the go. You’re sick of holding meetings in coffee shops; you’re sick of taking phone-calls on the bus or on the noisy street; or perhaps you’re just looking for somewhere to rest — somewhere to take a break. Enter Breather, the latest firm to add mass to Ottawa’s sharing economy. Breather, founded in 2013, allows customers — including individuals and organizations—  to rent well-designed, quiet, Wi-Fi equipped spaces on-demand.

Breather offers

Breather rents out well-designed, quiet, wi-fi equipped spaces

Often referred to as an ‘Uber for private spaces’, the service launched here last night with three spaces, one in the ByWard Market (78 George St.), one in the financial district (162 Metcalfe), and a space in Centretown (356 MacLaren). A small party with cocktails and appetizers was held at the Market location, which can hold about 12-15 individuals comfortably; the Metcalfe and McLaren locations hold 4-5 people and 3-4 people, respectively, according to Eric McRae, Breather partner and Ottawa manager, who’d like to see the service expand to have at least six locations.

“I’d like to get another location in the downtown core,” he said. “And then look at some of the other areas like Preston Street, Hintonburg, Westboro as well, so that we can provide a network of spaces where people can access them.”

This

This Breather space at 78 George in the ByWard Market is a bright, chic place for meetings 

To use the service, users simply download an app (available on iOS and Android), pull up a map — similar to how other peer-to-peer economy apps, including Uber and Airbnb work — and reserve a space. “Grab your phone, open an app. Reserve a room near you, anytime, anywhere,” is how founder Julien Smith put when he announced the service over a year ago, which originally launched in Montreal and San Francisco, then made it’s way to New York City. Ottawa, perhaps unexpectedly, can now count itself among three of the worlds most sophisticated cities that have the service.

“They weren’t looking at Ottawa initially,” says McRae. “I approached them, and asked them, because I recognized that there’s a certain market opportunity in Ottawa. It’s a very different city, and it has different needs and different demands from some of the larger cities, but I thought that the market could still really support it…somewhere where people can just kind of stop, connect, take a break, relax, or just to focus on their work.”

The company describes its spaces as ‘agnostic’, as in noncommittal to specific uses. Breather does, however, assess certain city factors before selecting potential spaces, including urban density, traffic, and levels of pedestrian movement.

“What I loved about Breather is that it takes a centralized come-to-my-office type of space, and explodes it out across the city so it becomes local and close to where you want and need to be,” said McRae. “So it’s not necessarily prescribed to a specific location.”

“When I was discussing that concept with [founder] Julien Smith, that’s what really caught my attention,” he said. “It becomes what you need it to be.”

McRae leases and has revenue sharing agreements with Breather with the spaces he manages, and he sees appealing to diverse segments of the population from lawyers, to creatives, to regular people. “Lawyers, who are travelling from other cities, from other places to work in Ottawa, they need places to meet with clients. We look at psychologists and people who are in therapy—they need access to spaces that are close to their clients,” he said.

“Accountants who work from home, and need to meet with their clients once or twice a year—they can easily book a space for those things.  And for myself, what I liked about Breather was that the spaces were really designed in such a way that they can be used based on what your needs are, not necessarily prescribed based on the set-up of the design.”

Breather spaces in Ottawa are available for $20/hour, seven days a week, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

SHOP TALK: American Girl Boutique opens in Rideau Chapters

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven.

Do you have a young girl in your life that likes dolls? If you do, you have likely already heard that America Girl is coming to Ottawa. Not to be confused with the CanCon-approved Maplelea Girls, American Girl dolls are the biggest thing to hit the doll scene since Cabbage Patch Kids. I’ve heard the excitement at stores in New York City rivals Black Friday madness.

So will Ottawans latch on the idea of dressing up like your doll, booking salon services for your mini-me, and otherwise taking society’s fascination with dolls to the next level? Only time will tell. The store opens on Saturday, October 11.

In this edition of SHOP TALK, OM editor Dayanti Karunaratne explores the culture surrounding American Girl — and gets some tips on getting her own 2-year-old into independent play — through a Q&A with Lesley Nightingale, VP IndigoKids and a spokesperson for American Girl.

American Girls are coming to Ottawa!

American Girls are coming to Ottawa!

 

What makes American Girl dolls different from other dolls?
The American Girl brand is about a commitment to empower and inspire. The name was derived from the brand’s flagship line of historical dolls introduced nearly 30 years ago; today the brand has expanded into numerous product lines that reflect and celebrate the interests, achievements, and activities of all girls. American Girl is a perfect fit with Indigo — we’ve sold their kid’s books for years, our relationship was built on storytelling, and we’re proud to be their exclusive retailer as we bring the much sought after brand to Canada. — Lesley Nightingale, VP IndigoKids

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QUEST: Best bets for milkshakes and other cool sips

By CINDY DEACHMAN

I scream for ice cream — and hot summer days do too, dontcha know. Hike it up a notch with luscious ice cream drinks: bring on the ice cream sodas, smoothies, shakes, and malted milks. Anything goes! Start with your favourite frozen dessert. The classics, for instance — vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream. Then there’s nougat, peppermint, or peanut butter cup gelato. How about black cherry or sorrel sorbet? (Don’t exclude granitas, ices, frozen yogourt, frozen custard, or the Arab agraz, either, all of which come in innumerable flavours.) Now combine in one way or another with milk, Orange Crush, blueberry green tea smoothie, or mojito with fresh mint and lime. Imagination? You got it!

O.Mag_Zaks_RootBeerFloat_4.30

Zak’s Milkshake. Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photolux Studio.

 

Root Beer Float>>
The ice cream float was invented more than 130 years ago in the United States, likely for outstripping the soda fountain competition. At Zak’s, a 1950s-style diner in the ByWard Market, the classic can be had — root beer with vanilla ice cream, topped perfectly with a maraschino cherry. There’s something so satisfying about ice cream melting into the root beer fizz. Of course, you can order other pop too — orange Fanta and cream soda are popular. Ice creams include chocolate and strawberry. $5.49. Zak’s Diner14 ByWard Market Sq., 613-241-2401.

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DESBRISAY DINES: Introducing Fiazza Fresh Fired

By  ANNE DESBRISAY

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

A few weeks back I had come to the ByWard Market with my son to pay our respects to Domus Café. He had celebrated a thirteenth birthday there, along with another family feast to mark a university graduation. We noted the massive ‘For Lease’ sign, and we shook our heads and we sighed. We cupped our hands around our eyes and peered through the windows into the empty space. Then we smelled pizza — and I spied a face that was familiar to me, delivering the pizza to an outdoor table. So we crossed the street.

The last time I saw Luigi he was handing me a rabbit. A very nice stew, as I recall. I still have the 2003 review of the dish. That was at (the late) Zibibbo Restaurant on Somerset Street, owned by Luigi Meliambro.

I liked the short-lived Zibibbo; I liked its second floor lounge (TheCamarilloBrilloUpstairs) but the place closed ten years ago, and Luigi moved on. To Kanata, I believe. And then across the river. Friends in Chelsea and Wakefield were Friday night regulars at his pizza joint, Cheezy Luigi’s, though I’d never had the pleasure.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Meliambro has moved back to Ottawa now, and has a new venture. Pizza, fired in one of those crazy-hot ovens in something like 140 seconds. The pies are created to order, assembly line style (a la Subway) while you wait. Fiazza Fresh Fired is found on Murray Street in the spot where Pecco’s bike shop used to be.

It works like this: you queue up, read a lot, and hem and haw while the kids in their Fiazza Fresh Fired T’s and food service gloves wait patiently for instructions. You may order one of the dozen suggested combinations, or you create your own based on a lengthy list of toppings. There are two bases — regular and gluten free. The sauce, we are told, is made with (the lionized) San Marzano tomatoes. There are seven cheese options, including blue, feta, goat cheese, fior di latte, or the house blend. All cheeses, we are told, are locally sourced. Toppings come in two categories — the traditional (mostly vegetable, at $1.25 each) and specialty (mostly meat, along with organic mushrooms). The “After Fired” options — fresh basil, chilli flakes, oregano, evoo drizzle — are on the house. Once you’ve placed your order, you can watch them load it on and fire it up, or sit down and have it delivered.

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MOST WANTED: The Ottawa Fluevog

Photo by Luther Caverly

The Ottawa Fluevog. Photo by Luther Caverly

When celebrated Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog opens his first boutique in the national capital, one style is sure to sell out fast. The Ottawa shoe (above) is sensible and sophisticated, with an ankle strap and a short heel. Only 30 pairs will be made — and they’re available only in the new ByWard Market store at William and George streets. And to make the scramble just a little nuttier, that store opens its doors on Canada Day. Serious shoe lovers and city devotees, mark your calendars.

$270. 61 William St.
613-241-3202, fluevog.com

 

SHOP TALK: Profiling two sets of crafty duos — with retail stores in ByWard Market and Almonte

Shop Talk is written by OM senior editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Sarah Fischer, OM account executive and fashion maven.

At SHOP TALK, we’re always keeping an eye out for beautiful things — all the better if said products are made locally and support the chasing of a creative dream.

Sometimes this means connecting with vendors at craft sales; other times, it means watching the changing ownership of retail real estate. Lately, we’ve been seeing these two aspects come together as local crafters put down stakes and open their doors at permanent retail locations.

The Tin Barn Market during one of its pop-up shops last year. Desa Photography.

Later this month (March 16 to be specific), Tin Barn Market will open its doors in Almonte. As the name suggests, the store started out in 2011 as a flea market in a tin barn.

It was the brain child of Errin Stone, whose career in retail communications included a vision for her own smaller, independent shop featuring re-used and re-purposed goods.

It soon garnered the attention of Vicki Veenstra, a local set designer and artist who herself harboured a certain “store fantasy.” The two quickly became partners, hosting three pop-up shops before eventually deciding to set up a permanent store. The Almonte location was a given, as both reside in the area and the town itself has a youthful, creative energy.

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: For ByWard Market dwellers, the ‘Lunch Box’ at Social

The Lunch Box: On this day, a fine pea soup, an open-faced spicy beef sandwich, and a small green salad

Blessed with great bones, handsome lines and a very fine address, Social has been fitting the bill for many occasions for over a decade.

But it can be unpredictable — under-performing one meal, one month, and then razzle dazzling another. That’s its little issue, its capriciousness, and one that — notwithstanding its bones and lines and very fine address — tends to keep it off the list of the city’s finest.

I tend to like Social for lunch. You often bump into a parliamentarian in a back booth hunched over papers. And when the winter sun is out full blast, a table by the tall tall windows can be a pretty swell place to bask.

I’m here to check Social’s new-to-me ‘Lunch Box’ — soup, salad, and the sandwich of the day.

It took 40 minutes to arrive — the server was working alone, her colleague ill, the room busy, one table of four men all ordering cappuccinos, damn them. When the Lunch Box did show up, though, it was really very nice: a fine pea soup with a bit of creamy finish, an open faced spicy beef sandwich, the meat slow cooked and tender, a small green salad. It didn’t rock my world, but it was tasty enough and for the price, was a solid deal.

Cost: $14.

Social, 537 Sussex Dr., 613-789-7355.

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: The Courtyard Restaurant serves up fish and chips. Who knew?

Catch of the day: Anne DesBrisay waxes poetic over The Courtyard Resto's fish and chips, describing a beer batter that crunches, crackles, and oozes — in a good way

Here’s the question for all you competent cooks out there: hands up which of you makes fish and chips at home?  Exactly. Of course you don’t.

It’s dangerous work, messy to clean up if executed stovetop, and a pain to push aside the fondue sets and pasta machine to haul out the deep fat fryer from the back of the lowest cupboard.

Much more sensible to go out.

And many do: every faithful Friday to the local pub or fish market café for a basket of fish and chips (in my case, the Whalesbone Sammich is often the fish of choice). But who thinks to head to The Courtyard Restaurant when craving a chipper?

Not I. Until last Friday. But newish executive chef Murray Wilson is a Brit, you see — he took over the top toque job when Michael Hay moved to Back Lane Café — and alongside his lunch menu of mostly posh things like wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil and pan seared steelhead trout bathed in beurre blanc, there is the entry “English fish ‘n chips”. Other than the fact it costs $16, it is properly old school.

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