Articles Tagged ‘food’

QUEST: 3 crave-worthy dishes enlivened by herbs

This article was originally published in the October 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine.


Costolette d'Angello. Photo by Giulia Doyle.

Costolette d’Angello. Photo by Giulia Doyle.

Herbs can be thought of as more than just a garnish for a dish such as Cephalonian hare. Find the unkempt vegetation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Oberon, king of the fairies, says, “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows.” This, the bed of Queen Titania. And what of medieval mystic Saint Hildegard of Bingen, offering her sage recipe? “Take sage and pulverize it. Eat this powder with bread and it will diminish the superfluity of harmful humours in you.” (Hildegard maintained one was healthy when the humours — bodily fluids — were in balance.)

Of course, it has been known forever that herbs will invigorate any dish. The volatile compounds are what count. Dill — well, we can’t help thinking of pickles. Holy basil, with its scent of cloves, elevates pad Thai to another plane. And where would we be without wormwood? Up the creek without our necessary glass of absinthe, right?

Costolette d’Agnello
Robust, spiky-leaved rosemary is pungent with minty pine. So what better match for the herb than lamb? Italian restaurant Giovanni’s offers a rosemary rack — the best in the city, I’ll wager. “If you treat it right, [the meat] shines through,” says chef Filip Szardurski. Rosemary, garlic, house-made demi-glace, and olive oil give this seven-rib rack of lamb superb flavour. So tender, so juicy! The sparkle comes from lemon. No fancy-dancey here, just classic cuisine at its best. “A dying art,” Szardurski opines. Best hurry down to Preston Street, am I right? $44.95. Giovanni’s Ristorante, 362 Preston St., 613-234-3156.

Matcha Black Sesame Caramels
For years now, the Japanese have been flavouring sponge rolls, ice cream — marshmallows, even! — with their ceremonial green tea. Well, why not caramels? Robin Coull, owner of online confectionery Morsel, says she “completely fell in love with matcha” while living in Japan. Coull’s matcha black sesame caramels are made through the slow cooking of cream and sugar. Bite into one — not too hard and not too soft. Butterscotch flavour is followed by the nuttiness of black sesame seeds and the grassy herbal qualities of the matcha. All flavours then roll into one. Sweet. $6.95/pkg. Morsel, 613-601-6764.

Chinese Chive Pancakes
Frank Pay, owner and chef at Harmony, calls these gems pancakes — they remind us all too well of calzones. Jiucai hezi (chive pockets) are popular in Pay’s hometown of Dezhou in northern China. “Some put meat in them, but we like chives,” Pay declares. These turnovers are pan-fried to a golden brown until the dough is as crisp and light as pastry — with a bit of tug and chew. The garlicky bright green Chinese chive filling, with traces of scrambled egg throughout, is piping hot. Feel free to down anytime. Two/$4.95. Harmony Restaurant, 769 Gladstone Ave., 613-234-9379.


DESBRISAY DINES: Elegant salads and splendid mains at new Preston Street resto Salt

Salt's pierrogi gnocchi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Salt’s pierogi gnocchi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

This big corner space of Preston Square has had two fairly short-lived restaurant tenants. The latest is called Salt, and I rather hope it’s third time’s the charm for this one.
Salt is a tall, dark, mod space, divided into bar, dining room, and patio. The design is generically industrial, though the  chandeliers and custom iron work lend lustre. One wall is all windows framed with dark drapes. It overlooks a corner patio with  fire pit, lounge furniture, and a nicely tended vegetable/herb garden in full swing. Another wall introduces a built-in of backlit spirits around a slick electric fireplace. The lounge at the front has a marble bar-top curved around a baby grand piano. The dining room proper is very dark, the walls and ceiling painted black. (Or possibly navy to match the drapes; hard to tell.) Outside the kitchen pass is a handsome shelving unit, loaded with carefully considered bits of culinary nostalgia (an old Joy of Cooking, a few ‘we love the whole pig’ cookbooks, many jarred preserves). It all looks designer-great.
Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Two problems marred my initial enjoyment of the place. One, was the pong of bleach, or some sort of industrial cleaning solution. (Not an unusual whiff at bars and restaurants these days, but a regrettable one: doesn’t whet the appetite.) And two, it was freezing cold. And quite dark. It was a welcome that had me bracing for a middling meal and a final bill that looked like it would be hefty.
The cold was dealt with by a gracious server. The smell faded (or we got used to it). The bill was indeed sizeable, but the food, as it happened, was disconcertingly delicious.
That may have to do with the fact that Salt, which is open 18 hours, seven days a week, has three chefs: Aaron Wong, most recently at Play; Jessica Hendren from Town; and Ryan Edwards, formerly of Taylor’s Genuine Food & Wine Bar. Three great restaurants.
The dinner menu is divided into small and large plates, and steaks. The pricing is a bit confusing. Small plates range from $12 to $39; large plates start at $16 and climb to $32.
Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

We began at the bottom, with an elegant salad starring house cured and smoked salmon. On a long plate were three moist piles of the fish on a bed of pea shoots, dill fronds, carrot tops, and spinach, topped with pickled pearl onion, fennel, and jalapeño, injecting a bit of heat. Piped blobs of a luscious avocado mousse lent richness, and oiled caraway toast, crumbled overtop, gave crunch.
And then a dish so rich and good I ordered it again for lunch. (Partly so I could see it enough to photograph.) Billed as ‘pierogi gnocchi,’ these were big, bronzed pillows of gooey smoked potato, seasoned with a whiff of garlic, the soft texture within offset by the crisp out. On top were scattered hunks of blue cheese and strings of caramelized onion, some young arugula leaves, while creme fraiche perked up with pink peppercorns was the moisture beneath.
We loved the dish called “Kraken vs Halibut” and though the name suggests the fish would arrive wrapped in the octopus tentacles, the two elements were kept apart. I’ve had lousy halibut of late. Dry and dull. But this was a splendid finger of the fish, with a powerful sear and soft, moist petals of flesh set on a carpet of minted summer peas. Other successes included the salt brick chicken infused with lemon and bathed in brown butter, and a dry aged 20 ounce striploin for two with choice of sides and sauce.
Salt has a climate-controlled, dry-aging room — the only restaurant in the city with one of those, our server tells us — and their cuts are reported to hang for at least 45 days. This was a very fine steak, the meat musky, grilled to rare, sweet in places, and with a pronounced flavour of ripe cheese.
The one dud came at lunch with a so-whatish bolognese, the fresh pasta overcooked, the basil puree served as a streak on the plate, rather than mixed in where it would have done more good.
The wine list offers lots of bubbles by the glass, which is very good of them, and a generous, well chosen list of reds and whites in two pours. There’s a good craft beer list and though I can’t vouch for the ‘craft cocktails’ the young women chatting up the bartender appeared to be happy with them.
Salt’s a fine addition to an ever more interesting Preston Street.
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Large Plates, $16 to $32
345 Preston Street, 613-693-0333


DESBRISAY DINES: Introducing Fiazza Fresh Fired


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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WEEKENDER: What to do on the (week) weekend of July 16 to 19

The Kestrels play at Pressed on Friday, July 18

Kestrels play at Pressed on Friday, July 18

Bad Ass Dash
So, you think you’re a real bad ass huh. I suppose, then, you’ve already signed up for the Badass Dash? It is yet another outdoor obstacle course challenge (a la Tough Mudder, Death Race, Cops and Robbers Run, Spartan Race) for competitive thrillseekers. On Saturday, July 19 competitors will hurl themselves through The Human Car Wash, The Claustrophobic Crawl, The Horrendous Heavy Bags, and the dreaded Australian Back Crawl challenges, which are just a few of the 30+ obstacles along the 7km course. Sadly, the event closes for registration by Thursday, July 17 (register here), but the bad ass you are means you’re likely already signed up. If you missed this year’s registration, come out anyways; spectators are welcome. More info — visit the website. The event starts at 8 a.m. and takes place at the Wesley Clover Parks (formerly Nepean National Equestrian Park).
Wesley Clover Parks is at 401 Corkstown Rd.

Pickled Turnips & More
Shawarma — it’s long been Ottawa’s go-to fast food. We love the stuff, which is why there’s so many shawarma shops dotted around the city. Then there’s the potatoes, the salads, the pickled turnips (insert drool) — these and other Lebanese culinary mainstays can be had at the 24th annual Ottawa Lebanese Festival, which takes place Wednesday, July 16 to Sunday, July 20 at the St. Elias Cathedral, directly across from Mooney’s Bay. Enjoy Middle Eastern food, musical entertainment, and even a midway! Admission is $5 opening night, $2 for remaining nights. Festival hours are: Wednesday to Friday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Musical Mormon Mummery
Poor Mormons — Marilyn Manson burned their Bible onstage at a Utah concert in the 90s; HBO cast a not-so-glowing light on aspects of their faith in the series, Big Love; and more recently, South Park creators (who proudly take aim at everyone and everything with their comedy) get their jabs in with the highly popular Broadway musical: The Book of Mormon. The story involves two missionaries who travel to Uganda where a warlord holds sway over the population — one which is less concerned about “God’s word” and more about everyday violence and disease. As such, the missionaries’ naivety is exposed and hilarity ensues — in song and verse, of course. The musical opened in Ottawa this week at the National Arts Centre, and it has showings on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — and on, until July 27. Check out the NAC’s website for times. Tickets: from $63.
The NAC is at 53 Elgin St.

Zainab Hussain’s Little Urban Myths (Derelict), 2014, one of her pieces showing in a group exhibit at Blink Gallery from Thursday July 17 to July 27

New Uses for Maps (FREE)
Maps, mostly replaced by GPS now, continue to function in ways beyond simply getting from point A to point B. Blink Gallery’s first summer exhibition features Ottawa artists exploring unique ways of “mapping” the city: Stephanie Marton uses audio and Polaroids to document a moment in a journey through the city; Jessie Raymond documents the waste/garbage (the archeology of the space) she finds in the Hurdman area; and Zainab Hussain examines re-zoning of nature, records tiny fairy communities, and displays the skylines of Ottawa/Gatineau through mirrors, while a stereo audio component is split between the two, so that in each skyline, a different side of the compensation can be heard. The show, curated by Anna Paluch, opens on Thursday, July 17, from 6-9 p.m., and continues until July 27. Blink Gallery is open Fridays, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m.
Blink Gallery is in Major’s Hill Park.

Kestrels Ride Chrome Waves
I may not be Allan Cross and this is certainly not The Secret History of Rock, but here’s my take on a little-known subgenre of music: shoegaze. It describes slow, distortion-heavy, early 90s music where, unlike the “heavy metal” or performance-based bands of the 80s, musicians (mostly English) would stare down — seemingly at their shoes (they were in fact focusing on their instruments) — focused less on the “show” and more on producing artful, fuzzed out, guitar-based music. The genre has continued to persist, and even more recently, is seeing a resurgence/reinterpretation of sorts. It’s unsurprising then to find a new shoegaze-influenced band emerge from Halifax — especially with its Sub Pop history. The band Kestrels are, perhaps, more explosive and bombastic than other shoegaze bands of old, and draw comparisons to the louder, faster, more melodic moments in the catalogs of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, or even Brooklyn’s Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Currently, they’re touring their newly released EP, out on Sonic Unyon, The Moon is Shining our Way. Kestrels play at Pressed on Friday, July 18, with Harsh Reality and Mnemonics. Tickets: $7.
Pressed is at 750 Gladstone Ave.

Amelia Curran, award-winning singer-songwriter from Newfoundland/Halifax plays at The Black Sheep Inn on Saturday, July 19

Amelia Curran, singer-songwriter from Newfoundland/Halifax, plays at The Black Sheep Inn on Saturday, July 19

Amelia Curran
Now that Bluesfest is over, The Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield is once again filling its evenings with talented musicians. Few are more worthy of the accolades heaped upon her (Juno-winner, East Coast Music Awards, etc.) then Halifax/Newfoundland’s Amelia Curran. Some have compared her to Leonard Cohen or Patsy Cline — but really, her songs are plainly heartfelt, musically deft, and poetic. She’s taking a break from recording her upcoming new album to play at the Inn on Saturday, July 19. Tickets are $25, and the show’s at 8:30 p.m. Note: if you’re driving into Wakefield for the show, Valley Drive is presently closed, so you either have to drive down Rockhurst or all the way around to the end of the highway and double back into town. Fun times.
Black Sheep Inn is 753 Riverside Dr.

LUNCH PICK: Head to Ginza for real ramen


Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Spicy Tonkotsu ramen. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I used to head to this address when I had a cold. There was a certain special something in a bowl of Jo Moon Ting congee that went to work on sore throats and self pity. And while I was there, I’d pick up a roast duck or slab of barbecued pork from the line of burnished meat hanging in Jo Moon’s street side window. But JMT shut down sometime in 2011 and Three Kings moved in, offering their particular gifts for a few years. (I recall  a scrumptious platter of pork cheeks in garlic broth and a disappointing crab soup.)

But enough with the history lesson. The Kings have gone now, and as of about a month ago, 832 Somerset St. is the new home of a second location for an Elgin Street restaurant called Ginza Ramen. Its downtown big brother sells more things — sushi, vermicelli dishes, pho, and a longer list of appetizers — and it has a liquor license, which is ‘in the works’ at this location.

But the Chinatown location’s focus is more on ramen. There are six varieties here — three based on pork broth, two on chicken, and one vegetarian broth that’s miso-based and a bit grainier. They were out of chicken broth — which seemed odd given it was early evening — so we ordered a spicy Tonkotsu Ramen (with enough pow of chili heat to make upper lips sweat) and the vegetable ramen.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Gyoza tops the list of snacks at Ginza Ramen. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Their presentation reminded me a bit of the Korean bibimbap, with quadrants of colour and texture that you gaze upon for a moment before plunging in chopsticks and mucking up the pretty surface. But you want to get at it before the soft boiled soy-marinated egg has over-cooked in the heat of the plunge. You want the molten yolk still to be free to run into the liquid, enriching the broth. Other than egg and the chewy strings of ramen noodle (not made in house, but fresh tasting) you find bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, scallion, nori, and thin shavings of crisp and fatty pork belly. The miso soup adds corn, bean sprouts, and bok choy.  Based on our server’s suggestion, we tossed in some of the pickled ginger from the pot on the wooden table.

I recognize a well made broth — one that begins life with bones in a pot and spends ages burbling away — and I don’t dispute its merits, but if you’re used to the sweet, fragrant pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) you will find this broth cloudier, richer, less sweet and certainly more piggy. The noodles used are the Japanese wheat noodles, rather than the rice vermicelli of pho. The flavour of the broth starts off heavy, and for me, a bit off-putting. But the flavour grows, the garlic hits, the richness lightens, and the porkiness becomes more pleasant.

Other than soup, there are a few snacks at Ginza Ramen: gyoza (best of the bunch), chicken karaage, and deep fried squid legs wrapped in the same crunchy, golden coat, and furnished with a wasabi mayonnaise. All are tasty enough but none memorable or, I would suggest, made in house.  There’s also two fried rice dishes, neither of which we tried.

But if your only encounter with ramen has been in a dorm room with a kettle, a Mr. Noodles package and its glittering silver ‘flavour pouch’ you might want to get yourself to Ginza and see what all the fuss is about.

In a post-Momofuku noodle-mad era, much has been made about the ramen rage, and Ottawa looks to be getting a taste of that, with Ginza locations leading the charge.

Ramen (generous bowl) $10.95 – $11.95

832 Somerset St. and 280 Elgin St., 613-233-2888,


By Anne DesBrisay

When Ben Baird, formerly chef-owner of the Urban Pear, turned away from the daily grind of restaurant running to the fun of the daily drive with a new food truck endeavour (Streat Gourmet), he promoted his sous chef Cody Starr to restaurant chef and left him in charge of running the UP kitchen. And then Baird sold the Urban Pear four months ago, and Cody left to pursue other things.

I had lunch at the ‘other thing’ last week. It’s called The Rex, so named in honour of Starr’s grandfather and just-open.  Rex is a modest place, on a small street called Adeline,

Sausage. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Sausage on a bun with caramelized onion and Balderson cheddar, served with slaw and soup. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

close to the government towers on Rochester, in a space that used to house a pizzeria. They’ve done a nice job with the design — it feels like retro diner meets modern bistro — and they’ve hired well, including a former long time server I remember from The Urban Pear.

Open to the public — for now — only on weekday lunches and weekend evenings, the noon menu is teenage-boy friendly. Mains include house made sausage sandwich with cheddar, sage, and caramelized onion on house made bread; a Reuben (house made short rib pastrami, smoked gruyere;) mac and cheese with broccoli (and four cheeses;) a wild boar shoulder and belly sandwich; Shepherd’s pie (featuring braised short ribs and brown butter mash, bless them;) fried eggs with bacon or sausage or boarchetta; poutine. Sure, there’s a salad, but it features duck proscuitto.

But breakfast had been steel cut oats for this eater. I was due for pig in a bun. The soup and sandwich options ($12) appealed, and we found ourselves impressed with them. Particularly with the soups.

If someone had asked me a few years ago where to go for the best soup in the city, I’d have suggested the Urban Pear. They nailed soup there. I still re-slurp in my imagination, a purée of roasted parsnip and apple I was served four years ago, served with a chopped walnut, blue cheese, apricots, and roasted garlic crostini, and swirled with an apple-basil oil. It ticked every box.

The Rex has a retro-bistro vibe. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The Rex has a retro-bistro vibe. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

As did The Rex’s roasted cauliflower-leek-potato soup with its toasted corn and scallion relish and a pea and ham hock soup crowned with a bittersweet mound of charred brussel sprouts. Fantastic bowls of flavour and texture. These came with the house grilled cheese with spinach and mushrooms and tomato jam on yummy bread apparently flavoured with Beau’s Lug Tread beer, and The Sausage Sandwich which was slightly less successful, the casing a bit tricky to pierce, the flavour a bit wan. A carrot-cabbage slaw and house made potato chips finished the tasty plates.

I’ll return any day for soup, but here’s hoping The Rex tempers the meaty-rich menu with a few lighter options for the lunch crowd. Looking forward to seeing what the kitchen might do in the evenings as well. For now, they’re starting out slowly… including the option of a well priced take-out menu for the grab and go crowd. Clever that.

$12 for soup/salad and a sandwich. 

Open weekdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 
The Rex, 40 Adeline Street, 613-695-9739.



BREAKING NEWS: Marysol Foucault wins top honours at Gold Medal Plates

By Anne DesBrisay

Marysol Foucault's winning dish. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Marysol Foucault’s winning dish. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

It’s tough to pretty up wild boar. And so you wouldn’t call Marysol Foucault’s winning dish the most beautiful of the evening. But it was, in the unanimous opinion of the judges at last night’s Gold Medal Plates at the National Arts Centre, the most thoughtfully constructed.

It was also brilliantly well executed — it had some charmingly whimsical elements and it tasted damn good. Plus, the Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay Niagara River 2011 worked incredibly well with all the persistent and subtle flavours.

The star of the dish was a tidy square of pressed rabbit loin and cured wild boar which Foucault had cooked sous vide and set on a roasted chestnut purée flavoured with espelette pepper and lemon zest. Next to the pig and bunny was a beignet of sorts — Marysol described it as a profiterole — made with parsnip flour and stuffed with a wildly rich brown butter rabbit liver mousse. A brunoise of pickled radish and a golden beet gastrique cut the fat nicely. A tangle of lichen she had fried with Sortilege (Quebec whisky with maple syrup) and mini celery leaves completed the plate.

“Where did you get the lichen?” asked one of the judges as the dish was being presented to our table. “In an enchanted forest,” Marysol replied. And then she giggled. “I built this dish around the wine I so love, and memories of my childhood.” (Presumably in enchanted forests with rabbits and wild boar…)

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Escape the cold at Mugena

By Anne DesBrisay

Jerk chicken from Mugena. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Jerk chicken from Mugena. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Next best thing to a winter holiday in the sun is transporting your tastebuds to a Caribbean restaurant. When my Jamaican-born buddy Janine is looking for the tastes of home, she heads to Mugena. One chilly afternoon last week, I followed her there. I had the jerk chicken — I opted for dark meat — served with rice and peas and a little cabbage-carrot slaw.

The jerk’s punch was there, to be sure, but the impact was somewhere between a poke and a jab. She had a goat roti — a Jamaican classic, the  slow cooked meat in a fragrant gravy with soft potatoes and chickpeas.

Goat roti at Mugena. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Goat roti at Mugena. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

We sipped ginger beer and listened to reggae, paid the bill, then shopped for plantain, scotch bonnets, and a bottle of Mugena’s hot pepper sauce in the neighbouring shop. We then zipped up our parkas and ventured back to reality.

$10 for both roti and jerk dinner

Mugena Caribbean Restaurant and Bar, 911 Richmond Rd., 613-722-8228 



ANNE’S PICK: Ottawa-Gatineau Gold Medal Plates 2013 is tonight!

By Anne DesBrisay

Roger Andrews, from Relish Restaurant in St. John’s, Newfoundland, chose to stuff squab with chanterelles and pistachios and cook the package sous vide. There were other elements on his competition plate, including a reduction of Labrador tea in his jus. It was a dish that secured the chef — quite handily apparently — a gold medal at the St. John’s Gold Medal Plates late last week.

St. John’s was number nine in the Gold Medal Plates cross country culinary competitions, in support of Canada’s olympic athletes. This makes Andrews the ninth contender who will be moving on to the intense duelling-to-come at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna this February. There he’ll face down regional champs from ten other cities — Vancouver/Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and St John’s, NFLD/Labrador.

Jason Duffy (silver) Jamie Stunt (gold) Jonathan Korecki (bronze). Photo by Greg Kolz.

Jason Duffy (silver) Jamie Stunt (gold) Jonathan Korecki (bronze). Photo by Greg Kolz.

Tonight, we shine the spotlight on our own. This is Ottawa’s night. I expect it will be quite the glittering party at the National Arts Centre — chefs and winemakers, small plates and matching drinks, along with a star studded cast of Olympic athletes, Canadian musicians, enticing prizes, merry auctions. Indeed, the event has been sold out for weeks, and tonight’s the night we wrest the title of Ottawa-Gatineau Gold Medal Plates Culinary Champion 2012 from Jamie Stunt (formerly of OZ Kafé) who went on to represent us so well at the national level, bringing home a silver medal from Kelowna.  

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WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Alirang’s dolsot bibimbap


By Anne DesBrisay

Alirang on Nelson Street serves up a warm and flavourful lunch. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Alirang on Nelson Street serves up a warm and flavourful lunch. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

There’s something about the comforting smell of sesame oil …  whenever I catch a whiff, I find myself longing for Korean food, for stone pot bibimbap. Heck, just saying ‘bibimbap’ puts me in a fine mood — and for those wonderful Korean side dishes, banchan, that come out as prelude to the main event.

The Korean restaurant Alirang has a fine version of dolsot bibimbap. It comes out sizzling in its stone bowl, the rice bed crusting happily on the bottom, the top a wheel of treats: spinach, carrot, zucchini, yellow bean sprouts, radish, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, meat (I chose the sweet, marinated barbecued beef, bulgogi) all crowned with a lightly fried egg and black sesame seeds.

Dolsot Bimimbap from Alirang. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

Dolsot Bimimbap from Alirang. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.


The contrasting flavours and textures, the garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili paste (gochujang) all contribute their parts to the whole. It’s a shame, but you gotta do it: take your chopsticks and attack. Muck it all up. It’ll look like the dog’s breakfast but the flavour is pretty wonderful.

Cost: $12.95

134 Nelson St., 613-789-222