Articles Tagged ‘Shawna Wagman’

WHY EAT OUT? Shawna Wagman on The New Rules For Eating Out

This article first appeared as part of The Encyclopedia of Eating Now in our Winter 2014 issue.

Why eat out? It’s a question that challenges assumptions and calls restaurateurs to make their pitch, which is exactly what Shawna Wagman was trying to do when she invited five insiders from the city’s foodie scene to gather at Urban Element earlier this year. As Wagman wrote in her introduction, cooking for chefs — and probing them with questions about the industry — was an exhilarating and frightening experiment. In fact, the same words might be used to describe running a restaurant. This past year was a particularly tough one for the industry, but hard economic times don’t appear to be stifling the creativity in our city’s kitchens. While many were saddened to see the end of Domus, this year also saw the opening of five new restaurants on Bank Street alone. So it would seem Ottawans have plenty of answers to the question on our cover.

In this story, Wagman rounds up some of the comments made by her guests for a tongue-in-cheek list of directives for restaurant-goers.

Stephen Beckta, Shawna Wagman, and Marysol Foucault discussed the local restaurant scene at a private gathering this past summer at Urban Element. Photo by Miv Fournier.

Stephen Beckta, Shawna Wagman, and Marysol Foucault discussed the local restaurant scene at a private gathering this past summer at Urban Element. Photo by Miv Fournier.

1. Before you write a negative review online, contact the chef or restaurant owner to give them an opportunity to handle the complaint. Stephen Beckta (Beckta, Gezellig, Play) says, “If someone chooses to contact me directly, I will turn around their experience.”

Marysol Foucault. Photo by Miv Fournier

Marysol Foucault. Photo by Miv Fournier

2. Do not be afraid to ask for what you want. If you want a table by the window, ask for it. If you want to be left alone for 20 minutes before considering the dessert menu, tell your server that you are in no rush.

3. Order something you might not normally think you’d like. There is no other way to develop and expand your taste vocabulary, and it’s a great way to encourage chefs to be more adventurous. Marysol Foucault of Chez Edgar says, “People are curious, and that’s the best thing you can ask for.”

4. Do not expect every bite of restaurant food to transform your life. The Food Network is a fantasy, and it is warping our expectations of what kind of religious awakening should be happening in our mouths.

5. Say goodbye to the super-size mentality.Recognize the value of a little less of something that is top quality.

Stephen Beckta. Photo by Miv Fournier

Stephen Beckta. Photo by Miv Fournier


6. Recognize that food, cooking, and hospitality are human endeavours. As Beckta admits, “Sometimes we screw up.”

7. When you spend money on food, think like a European and factor in the whole package. In other words, think of it as a fee for renting a tiny piece of real estate and some hospitality for a few hours.

8. Do not let parking or poor weather dictate where and when you eat out. Make dining out and socializing an important part of a balanced and civilized urban life. Sometimes the extra effort to make it happen makes the experience even sweeter.

9. Vote for hospitality with your dollars. Dine at the places that make you feel great.

10. Eat out early on weekends. If you go early, you get more attention from the server, the music may be quieter, and it’s probably easier to find a parking spot. Pat Garland says Absinthe has a no-7 p.m. reservation policy on weekends and adds, “The reason you can’t get a reservation at seven is because everyone else in Ottawa has a reservation at seven.”


OCTOBER ISSUE: The New Green + Money Talks


Ottawa Magazine’s October 2014 cover

This issue’s cover image — the iconic marijuana leaf — was not intended to be the cover story. But as we dug into the subject of money, we found that the topics — currency and investments and the like — were, frankly, not very photogenic.

Indeed, as the stories came in, the abstract, intangible nature of money continued to present a challenge. Plus, as Daniel Drolet asserts in “Stealth Wealth” (page 32), Ottawans seem to have a particular tendency to avoid ostentatious displays of wealth. In addition, many of today’s booming economies are without street presence. Ottawa’s own Shopify, which last year announced $100 million in new funding, is
a testament to the growth of web-based businesses.

That said, there was no shortage of awe-inspiring workplaces to feature in the “Office Crush” series (page 38). In fact, in the case of MD Physician Services, the success of their massive renovation lies, in part, in providing flexible workstations and lockers for staff who occasionally work from home. They’re offering the best of both worlds — the flexibility to work remotely and a stimulating space in which to collaborate with colleagues — in order to retain the best people. (And we can’t wait to see what those Shopify kids dream up for their new Elgin Street digs.)

It seems Bitcoin could serve as an apt metaphor for our current relationship with money. The cyber currency has yet to really permeate our everyday lives, but it’s catching on. There’s an ATM-type machine in the ByWard Market that lets Bitcoin users withdraw from their accounts, and Jazz Fest offered it as an option for ticket purchases this past summer. On the other hand, there is something special about coins and paper money, even cheques — not only the artistry of the physical objects but also for all that they symbolize in the evolution of civilization. Will piggy banks and ink signatures survive in the digital age? We’re in uncertain times when it comes to Bitcoin: it could be the Next Big Thing or something we’re laughing about five years from now.

But Bitcoin is definitely not cover-image material, and I think the marijuana leaf actually is a good representation of our economic future. Just 10 years ago, we would have scoffed at the idea of the government getting into the medical marijuana business. Times have changed. Justin Trudeau might be the politician openly discussing his post-dinner joints (for more on that, see “The Jester,” page 15), but it’s the Harper government that has ushered in a new — albeit controversial — openness about medical marijuana. No one could have guessed that, and no one can tell with any certainty what the next cash crop might be. So we’re having fun with our first Money Issue, mixing informational pieces with tongue-in-cheek humour, all in the name of bringing filthy lucre to the fore.

Coming Up: Our big food feature returns in the Winter issue of Ottawa Magazine. This time around, we’re rounding up the best dishes in the city, turning the tables on chefs and restaurateurs, and looking at the big picture when it comes to dining out. It’s sure to leave even the most fervent foodie completely satisfied.

Dayanti Karunaratne, editor

 This City

Reason to Love Ottawa: Back to (Forest) School
By Matt Harrison
Photo by Rémi Thériault

FOUND: A silo in the city
By Roger Bird
Photo by Jackson Couse

The Jester brings Frightening political predictions
By Chris Lackner
Illustrations by Alan King

Read the rest of this entry »

BEST OF CITY BITES 2012: The Annual Digest of all that was noteworthy and delicious

It was a very decadent year. Looking back at my food photos taken over the last 12 months, one sub-theme emerged beyond the explosion of “Young Cuisine”: it was the year of ultra-homey desserts. We said so long crème brulée and hello gourmet doughnuts, decadent puddings, cheesecake, cream puffs, and ice cream sundaes. Along with that “trifle” of an observation, I offer this photographic snapshot of food memories from 2012.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and a very sweet new year!! — Shawna



WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Pork souvlaki pita and Café Frappé cheesecake at the Nutty Greek Bake Shop

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Lobster melt and an “affogato” at Merivale Fish Market’s offspring, Luigi Panini

FOOD BUZZ: Back Forty Cheese is back in business! City Bites catches up with new owner Jeff Fenwick

FOOD BUZZ: Whalesbone’s 5th Annual Bytowne Oysterfest June 24, noon – 11pm

INSIDE SCOOP: Chef Mike Moffatt talks about gezellig, Steve Beckta’s third restaurant, opening in Westboro later this year

OPENING! Nutty Greek Bake Shop rewrites history with soon-to-be-famous baklava cheesecake

OPENING! Suzy Q leads Ottawa’s gourmet doughnut invasion with a move from market stall to sweet shack