Articles Tagged ‘Shawna Wagman’

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

Fast-food done right, but save room for dessert

The Place: When the Nutty Greek Bake Shop opened up on Rochester Street in Little Italy, I raved about the honey-drenched, (wal)nutty sweets, especially the baklava cheesecake. I was also impressed with the warm character of the place created by the Papadopoulos family. I have since fallen head-over-heels for their Loukoumades, traditional honey doughnuts, which are made fresh to order and served warm. ‘Nuff said. Oh, right, and they serve lunch too.

The Deal: Here is the place to find the ultimate combination of hot and homemade fast-food. There are various warm phyllo pastry rolls ready to go, including classic spinach and feta as well as a different soup each day — cream of leek and potato; beef barley; cream of chicken rice; cream of broccoli; and split pea. Fresh salads are made up and ready to go too. And then there’s the warm pita sandwiches that take just a moment to assemble: gyro, chicken, or pork. I believe Greek meatballs also make an appearance on the menu.

The Dish: The pork tenderloin souvlaki is super tender, nicely seasoned chunks of meat, flecked with oregano and wrapped up in a warm, grilled pita with homemade tzatziki (even the yoghurt is made here). Tomatoes and chopped romaine can be added, as well as onions and hot peppers. I ordered a Greek garden salad on the side (it has lettuce, while the Greek Village does not) and — feeling nutty — I crumbled some of the feta cheese onto my sandwich.

Saving room for dessert is a must; take your pick. I tried the new Café Frappé cheesecake made with dark Greek coffee on a thick nutty dark chocolate cookie crust. I will never be able to choose a cheesecake there again without a game of eeny-meeny-miny-moe. They are all fabulous.

The Cost: pork souvlaki, $5.99; Garden Greek salad $3.99; small cheesecake $5.

Nutty Greek Bake Shop, 490 Rochester St., 613-680-0806.

Hours: Monday to Friday (lunch served weekdays), 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.


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

Lobster overboard! Take a bite of this gooey panini before the lobster sneaks away.

A sweet new sandwich shop has popped up on Merivale Road, next door to The Merivale Fish Market that has been a fixture in this spot for almost 20 years. Luigi Panini is a great example of a “next generation” eatery, where the children of long-time Ottawa restaurateurs grow up and get into the business themselves.

In this case, Anthony Epifano is the son and nephew of the family-owners behind the fish market. He and his pal Andrew Fisher (both Algonquin culinary program graduates) run the new lunch counter that doubles as an espresso bar and gelateria (serving a limited selection from Pure Gelato).  The “Luigi” in the name is Epifano’s grandfather.

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

Jeff and Jenna Fenwick are the new owners of Back Forty Artisan Cheese, located in Lanark Highlands.

Local favourite Back Forty Artisan Cheese has two new owners at the helm: Jeff and Jenna Fenwick. Founded on a small sheep farm in 1999 by James Keith and his late wife Elizabeth Harker, the business grew into a favourite amongst cheese lovers and became a leading producer in Ontario. City Bites spoke with Jeff about taking over the business and where Back Forty is heading.

What did you do for a living before taking over the cheese business?
I’ve had a variety of sales and sales management positions specializing in water treatment, organic and free range foods, and most recently I was the Director of Admissions for a large private college. I’m also a professional motorcycle racer and have enjoyed many years travelling and competing in Canada. My passion has always been quality food and cooking great meals for family and friends to enjoy.

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

If you want to see what Ottawa looks like when she lets down her hair, mark your calendars for June 24.

Ottawa, the city that fun forgot? You can bet whoever uttered this famous phrase has never been to Oysterfest.

I can still remember bringing my then one-year-old daughter to the first Oysterfest in 2007 and watching her shake her diaper-butt to Rockabilly music with a posse of hipster offspring while the grown-ups in ironic T-shirts and ripped jeans slurped oysters and cold beer.

The memory is seared in my mind. I looked around at this parking lot, at all of these rowdy and relaxed revelers — more oysters and tattoos and piercings than I’d ever seen in one place since moving to Ottawa — and thinking: who are these people? As it turns out, a good number of them are the hard-working line-cooks, pastry chefs and dishwashers who toil away under fluorescent lights of restaurant kitchens around town. Oysterfest has become the ultimate staff party for the foot soldiers of our food industry. But everyone is welcome.

It’s quite a party (think: fire breathers and arm wrestling competitions). An intimate group of roughly 800 people are expected to show up; some years there are more, some years less. Tickets are $25; kids 12 years old and under are free. There will be clowns painting faces and animal balloon-art making. For bigger kids there’s the oyster shucking competitions — one for pros and the Chef’s Cup.

You can buy tickets in advance at either Whalesbone location or get them at the door. Admission to the festival includes 4 oysters or choice of a  Walleye burgers, tandoori salmon wrap, pulled pork, or vegetarian samosas. There will be plenty of Kichesippi & Beau’s beer, sangria, and Sailor Jerrys for the bar as well as pop, juice, and Freezies.

Check out the poster for details on the music lineup. See you there!


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

Executive Chef Mike Moffatt adds a third restaurant kitchen to his list of responsibilities. This one is set to shake up the Westboro dining scene.

The ink has barely dried on the lease for 337 Richmond Road and we are already clamouring to know what will be on the menu of the new Westboro restaurant — the third sibling to join the Beckta and Play family. Steve Beckta announced last week that his new place will be called gezellig, a tricky-to-translate Dutch word that refers to things (and people and places) that create a cozy, homey, quaint, and comfortable vibe — it’s also that warm, relaxed feeling you get when surrounded by great people.

It comes as no surprise that Chef Mike Moffatt will be the executive chef. He remains at the helm of the kitchen at Beckta, where he has been for nine years, as well as at Play Food & Wine, where he has been running the kitchen since its inception in 2008. We snatched a few minutes by phone with Chef Moffatt between lunch and dinner service to chat about the new challenges ahead.

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

The charming Papadopoulos family brings nutty sweetness to Little Italy

Warmth, sweetness, comfort, pleasure. These are the feelings inspired by three simple ingredients: lemon, cinnamon, and honey. Add a bunch of nuts and you are half way to understanding the magic of this new, big-hearted bakery in Little Italy.

In Greek baking, walnuts are revered in the same way that pistachios rule the kitchen in Lebanese pastries. So in the Nutty Greek Bake Shop (apparently Ottawa’s first Greek bakery in 26 years!) you’ll find walnuts that are crushed and rolled, layered upon, and sprinkled overtop many of the dozens of treats on offer. They are outstanding, for instance, as the crumbly adornment for a traditional moist, cake-like cookie called the Melomakrona (say it with me: meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah). Dipped in honey syrup and flecked with orange zest, I could’ve eaten a thousand of those things.

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

Fruit Loops doughnuts are among the wild & whacky flavours at the new Hintonburg shop. Photo credit (with permission): Mark Warburton,

With flavours like Maple Bacon, Cornmeal Cherry, Raspberry White Chocolate, Chocolate Frito, Salty Caramel, and Toasted Coconut with Kaffir Lime, you know you’re not in Tim Horton’s anymore. Upscale doughnuts featuring fresh ingredients and creative toppings are the latest trend in fried dough and so far the BeaverTail capital is eating it up.

The brainchild of Sue Hamer, a Canada Post letter carrier and mother of three, Suzy Q Doughnuts is Ottawa’s first dedicated indie-artisinal doughnut shop. We first spotted Hamer’s drool-inducing treats at the Lansdowne Farmer’s Market last summer and had a feeling her fans would rally to keep her in business. In mid-Febuary, Hintonburg residents — already spoiled with an impressive new crop of num-nums — saw Suzy Q’s “open” sign go up on the rustic little shack that was the original home of Hintonburger before it fled to the KFC location across the street a few months ago.

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EXCLUSIVE! Coming Soon — Edgar’s little sister Odile

The Edgar/Odile team (L to R): Marysol Foucault, Michael Lasalle and Katie Richard take a break from cleaning to pose in the new digs

Edgar fans, get ready to meet Odile, a second outlet for the creative culinary force led by Marysol Foucault. The new restaurant, which will open in about a month, will also be located in Hull, a five-minute drive away from Edgar.

In terms of size, the new spot is equally tiny, but the setup will allow for more restaurant seating (perhaps 20-25 inside) plus its large outdoor patio will seat at least 30 more in good weather. While the food will be consistent in both spots (the kitchen team will rotate locations to prevent playing favourites), Foucault plans to make Odile a dinner destination as well, once the alcohol permit is in place.

The instant and intense popularity of Edgar, which opened at the end of 2010, has been both a blessing and a curse. For all of the satisfied customers who rave about the wonderful baked goods, tasty take-out meals, brilliant sandwiches, and stellar brunch dishes, there are those who have been turned-off by the line-ups and long waits that they can often encounter — especially on the weekends.

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CITY BITES LIVE: The Art of Living according to Joe Beef (a dinner party of sorts) Feb. 27, 6-9 pm

Making their first appearance in Ottawa, Joe Beef's chef-owners-turned-authors are the guests of honour at our Joe Beef-inspired dinner

If you’ve been tuned into the food, restaurant, or cookbook worlds lately, there is one name on everyone’s lips: JOE BEEF. The larger-than-life duo of David McMillan and Frédéric Morin, co-owners of Montreal’s beloved bistro, are our guides to The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. Their cookbook (of sorts) — like their restaurant — serves up a dose of nostalgia alongside a modern vision of a world  in which you’d eat foie gras breakfast sandwiches with maple mustard at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.. Lucky for us, these guys are great cooks, inspiring storytellers, and wonderful company.

On Monday Feb. 27, Fred and Dave will hop aboard a train (of course! See Chapter 3 for Fred’s top train itineraries) from Montreal to Ottawa to join us for a one-of-a-kind dinner party in their honour. Ottawa Magazine and City Bites has partnered with Urban Element for another spectacular City Bites Live event, an evening dedicated to eating, drinking, and talking with our mouths full.

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