Articles Tagged ‘city bites’

CITY BITES INSIDER: Bruce Wood has big plans for Beau’s

By SARAH BROWN

Meet Bruce Wood. The brewery chef at Beau’s has big plans for the summer patio, which opens for business on the Victoria Day long weekend.

Never content to rest on their laurels, Beau’s has big plans for the summer patio at its Vankleek Hill base. The 50-seat patio opens for the season on the May long weekend (May 16-18) and will host lunches on Saturdays and Sundays (and possibly Fridays) all summer long. Brewery chef Bruce Wood, who joined Beau’s last September, has been hard at work all spring planning a short locally inspired menu whose ingredients pair well with the latest Beau’s offerings.

Steve Beauchesne and Bruce Wood

Steve Beauchesne and Bruce Wood

Summer’s just around the corner. What are you working on today?
Pairings. We keep a detailed flavour profile for every beer that Beau’s releases. Today, I’m working on food pairings — so what goes well with the beer. I tasted two new summer beers — Wag the Wolf, which is a wheat beer, and Festivale, which is our summer beer.

When I tasted the Festivale, I thought about lemon curd, and almond pastry, and duck breast and things like that. When I taste a beer, I try to think of a few mains and a few desserts that will pair well with it. And a cheese — every beer will have a favourite cheese that will pair perfectly with it.label-wag-the-wolf-1024x1024

Tell me about the Beau’s summer patio.
In the past, Beau’s used to have different food vendors come in each week to make food for visitors. Now that I’m here as brewery chef, I have created a patio menu for the summer. And the patio, itself, is going to be lovely. You can come for lunch and beer on Saturday and Sunday. We’re also considering opening the patio on Fridays because so many people head out early.

How big is the patio?
It seats around 50, with picnic tables. There are benches around the edges where you can sit and enjoy a beer. The tasting room is inside the brewery and the patio outside. You can take your beer outside on sunny days to enjoy it in the sun.

What’s on the menu?
It’s very summery. There will always be some kind of interesting sandwich — maybe a brined jerk breast chicken sandwich or a sausage from one of the local butchers or a pulled pork. It will be on a roll made by Natali [Harea] from Nat’s Bread, who makes fabulous bread. That will always be served with a nice coleslaw as well as the condiments and garnishes I’m working on.

There will also be a lovely charcuterie and cheese board and a dip platter that will have things like homemade feta spread, tzatziki, hummus, olives, and other spreads. And a substantial salad, with a vegetarian or meat option, so you can top it with, say, smoked tofu or with whatever protein we’re making for the sandwich — so maybe that jerk chicken breast if that’s the sandwich on that particular week.

Of course, everything will be paired with beer!

Tell me about your guests.
It’s interesting the different ways people enjoy the patio. There are people who come out from Ottawa for a few hours. Then there are visitors who stop in on their way to and from Montreal for a beer or a beer and a bite to eat. Last year, I noticed that there were packs of cyclists coming by. They’d arrive with their bikes on their cars, go for an extended ride, then come back to Beau’s for beer and lunch before they drove home. Very cool.

So you’ve been at Beau’s for just over six months in. Liking it so far?
Loving it! There are so many facets to this job and that makes it really fun. It’s not just about great beer and yummy food, I like that there’s a strong message of sustainability and responsibility that runs through every decision that gets made here.

 

 

 

 

CITY BITES INSIDER: Q&A with Chef Kirk Morrison of Restaurant 18 

This week, CITY BITES INSIDER welcomes guest blogger Marc Bazinet, an Ottawa-based food blogger who writes about restaurants, cookbooks, and food products.

After a company shake-up last fall, Restaurant 18 installed Kirk Morrison as its chef de cuisine. At the helm of one of the top restaurants in the city, Morrison showcases menus that display an impressive set of skills. Marc Bazinet aka Cool Food Dude, caught up with Morrison to discuss his culinary roots, his experience feeding hungry Olympians, and his stint as a butcher.

Chef Kirk Morrison of Restaurant 18

Chef Kirk Morrison of Restaurant 18

Marc Bazinet: Do you come from a family of foodies?
Kirk Morrison: My dad was actually a doctor, but he was an amazing home cook. He always had me on the counter when I was a kid— making breakfast or helping with dinner parties. I acquired a respect and passion for food at a very young age.

MB: What did you do after cooking school?
KM: I worked at the Four Seasons in Yorkville. I trained under Lynn Crawford who was the executive chef there at the time. I think I was 19 in this massive kitchen with all these talented people and this famous executive chef.

After my stage, I left Toronto to go to Vancouver. I bounced around and eventually landed at the official caterer for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. We worked with the IOC on everything, from building the cafeterias around the Olympic venues, to planning how we were going to feed the athletes and spectators and staff. During the Olympics, our kitchen was open 24-hours. Just straight open. It was crazy bananas.

MB: Where did you go after your Olympic experience?
KM: I stumbled upon a restaurant in Vancouver that had let their chef go. All the cooks left with him. It was just myself and a woman (who would later become my wife). We rebuilt the menu and relaunched the restaurant. I later became the executive chef and managed that for about three years. And then I got really tired of cooking.

MB: Was it a burnout?
KM: It was a hard burnout. I’d been working since I was about 17- or 18-years-old, and I was 28 at this point, and I had two kids and everything that comes with that. So I went to be butcher for a year. Looking back at that opportunity…priceless.

MB: After a year, did you miss cooking?
KM: I did, yeah. But we had to relocate outside of Vancouver to be able to afford our growing family, and we decided it was time to move. I did some research and the food scene here in Ottawa seemed to be going in an upward direction.

MB: How did the opportunity at Restaurant 18 come about?
KM: I walked into Sidedoor and Chef Johnny (executive chef Jonathan Korecki) came out. I had watched Top Chef, and I was like “Ah, you were on TV.” And he was like, “Yeah, that was me.” “Cool. So I need a job. He looked at my resume and said, “I need to hire somebody, when can you start?” I worked with Chef Johnny for about a month, and then the chef at [Restaurant]18 decided to move on. There was some restructuring in the company where the ownership had invited Johnny to be executive chef of the whole company, and he wanted to slot me in the chef de cuisine spot up here [Restaurant 18]. And it’s been good ever since.

MB: So how do you cook for a city of politicians and public servants?
KM: The magic is when somebody comes into your restaurant, sees something on the menu that they wouldn’t necessarily order all the time, orders it, eats it, and loves it. I am going to offer them something different from what they think they want.

MB: What are some of your favourite recipes from the Restaurant 18 menu?
KM: We make these little salt cod brandade fritters. So you have this little potato bomb on this dish, which is basically a salt cod donut wrapped in crispy potato strings. It has been the best received out of any dish on our menu.

MB: Do you follow food trends?
KM: Trends are one thing, but jumping on a bandwagon, I don’t think, is going to help push your creativity in any direction. As a city, we need to have a super diverse food scene to be able to thrive and push creative food forward. We all end up with a much richer food community than if everything was just the same.

MB: Do you cook at home?
KM: Yes, I love cooking at home. And my wife is also a chef. We always, on weekends, cook together. A large part of our home-life is spent in the kitchen.

MB: Are your kids too young to be interested in food?
KM: Oh no. With our oldest, he’s got his own little chair that he pulls up next to the counter. He seasons things, stirs pasta, does all that stuff. Once we were rushing to feed the kids. We made them pasta and we didn’t season it, and he pushed it away and said, “You didn’t put any salt on this.” We looked at each other like, “Did he just do that?”

MB: What do you do with your time outside of work?
KM: Usually something food-centric. When we first moved here, my wife and I would pack up the kids on my days off and go to the ByWard Market and walk around the stalls and teach the kids about the different vegetables.

MB: Food is obviously a passion. You chose the right line of work.
KM: It’s funny. It’s the one thing that I liked, and the one thing I was ever good at, and people have decided to pay me money to do it. I always have a little giggle to myself. It’s funny.

Read the full Q&A on Cool Food Dude

 

CITY BITES INSIDER: Connor McQuay to head up 150-seat Italian resto in Gatineau’s Hilton

By SARAH BROWN

At the end of March, Back Lane Café’s Connor McQuay announced his departure after two years as chef in charge. The 28-year-old’s new gig? Executive chef at DoubleTree by Hilton in Gatineau. He admits it’s going to be a steep learning curve, going from running a 40-seat café to launching a new, 150-seat Italian restaurant, as well as managing the hotel’s second restaurant and banquet facilities. As McQuay hustled to finalize the menu at Sopranos ahead of its May opening, Ottawa Magazine caught up with him just long enough to discuss his new direction.

Connor McQuay

Connor McQuay in the Back Lane Café kitchen

 

City Bites: How did this new job come about?

Connor McQuay: The owner of the hotel, Pierre Heafey, was a regular at Back Lane and got to know me and my cooking. He wanted to open an Italian restaurant at the Hilton. At some point Pierre asked George [Monsour, owner of Back Lane] if he knew of a chef who was talented enough to run his hotel operation and run a restaurant at the same time. That’s when my name got put in the mix. It all happened so quickly. I went into work one day this spring and George said ‘I think I should let you go and do this.’ Within a week I had a job offer from the Hilton. A week after that I was moving into this new adventure.

The Doubletree by Hilton in Gatineau

The Doubletree by Hilton in Gatineau

CB: You previously worked with Chef Michael Blackie in a large operation at the NAC. What did you learn from him?
CM: I still consider Michael Blackie and John Morris to be mentors. When I was going in for the interview for the Hilton job, Michael was the first person I called. I asked him what I was getting myself into and for advice on how to sell myself because as an executive chef I have never been in such a big company with so many different venues.

CB: What will you be running?
CM: There will be the new 150-seat Italian restaurant, Sopranos, which opens May 1 if all goes according to plan, as well as the casual Bistronome. And banquets and weddings. Oh, and the golf course. It’s a big jump from Back Lane Café!

CB: So it’s a huge learning curve.
CM: It is. But being the age I am — 28 — I see this as a stepping stone. Michael Blackie told me that opportunities in this industry are big stepping stones — it’s hardly ever a gradual climb. You get to one spot and you plateau there for a bit and then a big opportunity comes your way and you have to decide whether to go for it.

CB: What have your first couple of weeks been like?
CM: I’ve been figuring out staffing. Opening up Sopranos is top of my agenda. But I also have to get my head wrapped around banquets and we already have 30-odd summer weddings booked. It’s going to be a pretty big staff!

I’ve also been going full speed contacting suppliers — figuring out who I want to use and in which direction I want to take the food.

CB: Anything you can tell us about the menu at Sopranos?
CM: My background is Canadian-Irish-Italian so I’m really having fun. There are definitely ideas from Back Lane coming this way. We’ll be making our fresh pizza dough inhouse — I’ve got six different pizzas on the menu. Right now, I’m working on 15 different pasta recipes. Gnocchi will be definitely be made inhouse. And other pasta. The menu will be quite large. It’s hard to write a small Italian menu!

It’s broken down like a typical Italian menu: antipasto, then risotto, then pizzas, then pasta, then fish and meat dishes and, finally, dessert.

CB: What’s the price point?
CM: Pretty medium, especially the pizzas and pastas. The most expensive item is the rib-eye steak and that’s $28. We’re looking at $9-$14 for antipasto and $13-$22 for pizza, pasta, and risotto.

CB: Are you looking beyond the hotel crowd with Sopranos?
CM: Totally! Hotel guests alone aren’t enough to support a 150-seat restaurant. I want Sopranos to become a place where residents from Ottawa, Gatineau, and Aylmer come by for fresh, Italian food. I want Sopranos to be the Italian restaurant in the area.

CB: What are you most excited about?
CM: The opportunity for a broader audience to see me as a chef. It’s great to be able to put my food out there. Hopefully it opens even bigger doors for the future.

 

 

 

 

DON’T MISS OUT! Two more days only – WinterBites offers fabulous prix fixe fare at 29 restaurants

It started with two simple notions: that Ottawa winters are cold and that prix fixe menus are enticing. (Climatologists might tell us we’re having a mild winter, but my toes beg to differ!)

Indeed, once post-holiday hibernation sets in it can be difficult to fight. Difficult, but not impossible, especially with the kind of attention-grabbing menus on offer at the participating restaurants. Warm up with lobster bisque. Indulge in duck leg confit. Finish off a stellar meal with crème brûlée. (All the mouth-watering details are in, making it easy to plan a double date that will keep everyone happy.)

Most restos are offering two three-course lunch menus ($15 or $20) and two three-course dinner menus ($30 0r $40); drinks, taxes, and tip are extra.

With 29 restaurants joining in and only 17 days of WinterBites, best to start planning asap. So get out your dayplanner, call up your foodie friends, and make a date to visit an old favourite or that new place you’ve been wanting to try.

A few tips to start your eating expedition:

To see a full list of participating restaurants, visit www.ottawamagazine.com/winterbites-2012

Find detailed menus on the WinterBites Facebook page.

Reservations are required, so book directly with your restaurants of choice.

Dazzled by dinner? Lingering over lunch? Send us a tweet @Winter_Bites

WinterBites runs Thursday, Jan. 12 to Saturday, Jan. 28.

BEST OF CITY BITES: 2011 The Annual Digest

Looking back over the year, 2011 was particularly delicious for lovers of cupcakes, Southern-style BBQ, French pastries, wood-oven pizzas, gourmet panini and serious gelato. It was also a great year for the Chowhounds among us in search of unusual culinary treasures from around the world: there was a Balkan Big Mac, a Chinese hamburger, and at long last, Mexican tacos.

These photos are just a few of the outtakes from my year of eating for City Bites, and they still put a smile on my face. Thanks for tuning in to see what we’ve been eating each week. We can’t wait to see what’s on the menu in 2012. Happy New Year Ottawa!

ON THE SCENE: Five Spots for Tourtière

OPENING! Le Michel-Ange, a heavenly coffee lover’s hideaway

FOOD: Stirring the Pot. Six female power players on the food scene chat about what life’s really like under the hood

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Baker Street Café, home of the huge cinnamon buns

OPENING: Introducing Back Lane Café