Articles Tagged ‘Urban Element’

CITY BITES LIVE: Highlights from Ottawa Magazine’s Joe Beef kitchen party

A Joe Beef sandwich: David McMillan, Shawna Wagman and Fred Morin (L to R)

On Monday night I hosted a sold-out City Bites Live event at Urban Element, a celebration of the cookbook The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. The book’s co-authors, Frédéric Morin and David McMillan — also the chef-owners of the restaurant Joe Beef — were the guests of honour. They were charming, irreverent, entertaining, and insightful and their good humour swept through the room, setting the tone for a fabulous night of eating, drinking, and gabbing.

From the food world perspective, it’s no exaggeration to say 2011 was the year of Joe Beef. Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood bistro is adored by everyone from Lesley Chesterman – the Gazette’s food critic who gave it a rating of 4 out of 4 – to celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and David Chang, who calls Joe Beef his favorite restaurant in the world. The Joe Beef cookbook has topped just about every best cookbook list in North America from Martha Stewart to Bon Appétit and recently even won over Alice Waters, the godmother of the farm to fork ethos.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Fred and David spoke a lot about their interest in staying connected to the history of the city in which they live and work. It was that desire that led them to resurrect the name Joe Beef, the nickname of the legendary 19th century innkeeper and working class hero Joseph McKiernan, and give it second and third lives in the form of their restaurant and now, as a cookbook of sorts. They have described Joe Beef as a cross between a food temple and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Anyone who has been there will understand why. There’s a unique playfulness, a sense of whimsy, and an unpretentiousness that permeates everything from its attitude and décor, to its charming service, right down to the food on the round—never square—plates featuring things like truffled beer-can chicken or their version of the KFC double down made with lobes of fried foie gras.

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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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CITY BITES LIVE: Highlights from Ottawa Magazine’s “Discover Umami” class

Chef Steve Wall and Matt Howell from Luxe Bistro demonstrated the magic of umami

Last week, I hosted another City Bites Live event at Urban Element — and it was literally a food geek’s dream come true. Years ago I began exploring the subject of umami, the so-called fifth taste after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, and started to fantasize about assembling an entire umami meal. Foods that are known to be umami-rich are best described as supremely delicious; they have a savoury roundness and depth that seems to make our brains happy. You know what happens when you eat a potato chip or a slice of pizza and you can’t eat just one? That’s your brain calling out for more umami.

So together with an enthusiastic group of eaters, we spent three hours exploring the wonders of umami. The goal was to discover how we might use this knowledge to cook with more deliciousness at home. Thanks to tea sommelier Daniel Tremblay from Cha Yi and Chef Steve Wall and his assistant Matt Howell from Luxe Bistro, our umami desires were indulged in more ways than should be legal in one evening! In between sipping spring-harvested pure leaf green tea, devouring mushroom-smothered parmesan custard, and discovering the unmistakable difference between dry- and wet-aged beef with blue cheese tater tots, everyone gained a greater appreciation for this marvellous and mysterious sense.

The truth is, I was having such a blast and was so swept up in the tasting and talking, that I forgot to photograph several of the dishes! I did however manage to distill some of the information discussed into a list to share with City Bites readers.

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CITY BITES LIVE: Highlights from our Mexican cooking class; Umami is up next

Chef Francisco Alejandri grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico. His mission is to prove his native cuisine goes beyond tacos and nachos

Last week, as part of Ottawa Magazine’s City Bites Live series, I hosted a special evening at Urban Element designed to introduce an enthusiastic group of home cooks, from armchair to serious, to the pleasures of genuine Mexican soul food. Expectations soared when Chef Francisco Alejandri  started the class by saying: “I am 100 percent sure you will never see food like this in a restaurant.”

Alejandri is the owner of what can only be described as a gourmet Mexican food stall, Agave y Aguacate, tucked away in Toronto’s Kensington Market. During the three-hour class, he introduced us to six simple, but spectacular Mexican dishes featuring beautiful fresh tomatoes, tomatillos, and cilantro from Castlegarth Restaurant’s farm in White Lake, Ontario. Alejandri was the guest chef at Castlegarth the night before — he and the owner, Matthew Brearley, happen to be good friends from their Stratford Chefs School days. (Here’s a secret: we can expect to see Alejandri assisting Brearley at Gold Medal Plates in Ottawa this year).

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Grilling, Glebe art, and Muslims?! Plus three more great weekend gigs

BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE

Remember Bewitched? Well, the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth is opening its season with the play that is said to have inspired the television series (and, ultimately, the 2005 remake with Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, for those of you who don’t remember!). First produced in 1951, the romantic comedy Bell, Book, and Candle by John van Druten continues to captivate audience with its mysterious female lead and witty quips. July 8 to 31. Wednesday to Saturday, 8 p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday 2 p.m. $30, youth under 30 $21. Mason Theatre, 13 Victoria St., Perth. www.classictheatre.ca.

Mombasa, Boxer, PhD Candidate by Asif Rehman. Click on the image for a gallery of other images from the show.

MUSLIMS?! (FREE!)
Ottawa photographer Asif Rehman has photographed Canadian Muslims in ordinary and extraordinary acts in order  to break down stereotypes held by both Muslims and non-Muslims about what it means to be a Canadian Muslim. By juxtaposing the various labels that any one person might take on — mother, athlete, scientist, artist, etc. — the exhibition illustrates that any label can only define a small part of a person’s identity. “I feel that by communicating the diversity and varied passions of Muslim individuals, we can learn how much we all have in common,” says Rehman, whose work has been shown in New York, Toronto, and Ottawa. June 30 to July 26, vernissage July 10, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Gallery open  9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Trinity Art Gallery, Salon A. Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd. www.asifrehman.com.

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APRONS & ICONS: Atelier’s Chef Marc Lepine hosts Ideas in Food authors

This book has been a huge inspiration for Chef Lepine, "Chefs learn from other chefs," he says.

Do you ever wonder where the really innovative chefs go to get new ideas for their restaurant menus? In the case of Chef Marc Lepine, owner of Atelier, the answer is: Ideas in Food. About four years ago, Lepine stumbled upon a blog of that name created by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, a pair of chefs based in Pennsylvania who delve deeply into how recipes work in order to be able to push the boundaries and make better food. Last year, they published their book, Ideas in Food, based on key findings gathered in the blog. It is divided into two sections: one for professionals and one for home cooks. The idea is to inspire everyone to be a little more daring in the kitchen.

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EGGVILLE: Breakfast with Urban Element’s Carley Schelck

Welcome to Eggville! In this series created for City Bites, I will attempt to test out some of my unscientific theories over breakfast with icons of the city’s food scene. The question: What does the way we eat our eggs say about us? I am also hoping to discover some of the city’s hidden greasy spoons and old-school diners while getting to know more about our food-world personalities. Each guest — be it a chef, farmer, or restaurant dishwasher — will choose their favourite breakfast joint and walk me through the choices, preferences, and rituals surrounding their morning meal.

The Eater: Carley Schelck, proprietor and culinary events director of the Urban Element. It’s worth noting that Carley is eating for two these days; she is expecting her first child in May.

The Place: Rather than picking an old-school diner, we settle on Stoneface Dolly’s because it serves Carley’s favourite locally-made hot sauce, Chamomile Desjardins’s Schooner, which is made with hot peppers, blueberries, lemon thyme, and lemon. “It gives you heat but it’s also tasty,” she says.

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INTRODUCING: Edgar, a one-of-a-kind foodie destination…in Hull?

Hull's newest gourmet sandwich shop is worth the detour

For those of us who share a healthy appetite for food blogs, it’s difficult not to recognize at least a pinch of Molly (aka Orangette) and a dash of Clotilde (aka Chocolate & Zucchini) in Marysol (aka She Eats Bears). Like her renowned online counterparts, Marysol Foucault transitioned from casual food-obsessed blogger into a real-life force in the food world, right before our eyes. Until recently, Marysol was coordinator for Urban Element, where she was immersed in a never-ending parade of food-centred events, featuring hungry clients, ego-driven chefs and so much beautiful food. When an opportunity came along, almost out of the blue, to open up her own little restaurant, Marysol pounced on it. The result is Edgar (named for her late father), an intimate retro-chic café/sandwich shop and prepared-food take-out counter that has the local blogging community in fits of giddy excitement and puddles of drool (in a good way). Now in addition to coveting her delicious recipes and reveling in her mouth-watering story telling, fans can actually eat Marysol’s homemade food!

Edgar's signature Vietnamese sub is sublime.

So, about the food. Edgar’s website describes it as “plats réconfortants gourmandises” which could be translated as gourmet comfort food—but doesn’t it sound so much better in French? The simple menu (salad, soup, sandwich) changes daily so you have to consult the double chalkboard at the entrance and then peruse the display counter for the daily baked goods. There’s also a chalkboard at the back that lists the frozen take-out dishes on offer. Edgar has been open for less that two weeks yet Marysol is already discovering her customers are demanding some items stay on the menu permanently such as her soon-to-be-famous edgar bars (made with oats, chocolate, and peanut butter), her sinful signature bacon date brioche, as well as the fresh ‘n’ crunchy grilled pork Vietnamese sub (I’m ready to declare it one of the city’s best sandwiches). The gooey grilled cheddar panini with sautéed apples, onions and raisins on Art-Is-In bread is another one worthy of raves. Marysol blogged about the 14 (!!) different varieties of soup she debuted during her first week in business — from chunky chipotle chicken to squash apple and cashew —evidence that inspiration, creativity and a good solid chef’s knife are not in short supply in Edgar’s kitchen.

So, what’s the catch? For many of us, Edgar’s a bit out of the way. It’s located in Hull. And not even in downtown Hull. It’s on a residential street across from an elementary school in the Val Tétrault neighbourhood, home to the Université du Québec en Outaouais’s Alexandre-Taché Campus. The good news is it’s a super easy, less-than-10-minute drive from downtown Ottawa and West Wellington (via Island Park Drive). Go check it out and tell me it wasn’t worth the detour.

Edgar, 60 rue Bégin, Gatineau (Hull sector), Quebec 819-205-1110

Hours:Wednesday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays.