Sunday, October 31, 2010


You know that fuzzy feeling you get when something good happens to good people? I totally got that yesterday when I was watching Marysol in action during the first day of Edgar's opening. It's so great to see this long-time dream of hers finally become a reality. She deserves this café, and all it's success.

Tucked away on a little side street south of the entrance to the Gatineau Parkway, this treasure is home to delightful homemade baked goods, warming soups, teas and coffees, and satisfying sandwiches. Big bright windows light up the modest seating area, where you can sit back, sip your tea and watch as she prepares your meal with care. And in addition to the daily goodies offered, some frozen take-home dishes are available as well – very difficult to pass up once you've had a sampling of the fresh stuff.

On this particular occasion I started off with the chipotle chicken soup filled with black beans, corn, tomatoes, roasted peppers and cilantro. This combination of ingredients, along with a slight spice, provides an oasis of calm with every bite.

The best thing that happened to me that day however, was the Vietnamese sandwich. It is to-die-for. I want to eat this every day it's so good. Sweet and spicy marinated pork, so tender and yummy, fresh cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daïkon, all topped with a heavenly spicy mayo. A golden toasted baguette holds the whole thing together.

I wanted so badly to have dessert. But I was full. So two servings of apple and cranberry pie, two Edgar bars and two frozen pizza doughs came home with me. I had my heart set on one of her cinnamon brioche buns with raisins, bacon and orange glaze but she was sold out by the time I was ready for it. Oh well, next visit!!

Service was warm and oh-so-friendly. Prices extremely reasonable. And everything made from scratch. There's no doubt that this special spot will be a hit both with the locals in the neighbourhood, and anyone wanting a delicious coffee or scrumptious treat.

60 rue Bégin
Gatineau (Hull sector), Quebec

Edgar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meet a Gold Medal Plates Chef: Chef Steve Mitton of Murray Street

The following guest post continues a series of “Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef” interviews you will see leading up to the Gold Medal Plates Event in Ottawa. It's from the wonderful people at foodiePrints.

Consider you are the well traveled son of parents who were stationed around the world while you were growing up. You were born in New Brunswick where you learned to speak Acadian French (le français acadien). You earned your degree in Germany, having spent 16 years of your life there (in 4 year intervals). You graduated from the Culinary Institute of Canada in Prince Edward Island (PEI). Your girlfriend of 4 1/2 years and you are deciding where to settle in the world, she being a talented artist.

Ottawa was the lucky city chosen.

More than a decade later, it would be a strange twist of fate that Chef Steve Mitton (@murraystreetkwc) returned to the same building in which he began his culinary career. There, to open Murray Street Kitchen Charcuterie and Wine with fellow restaurant veteran Paddy Whelan. The restaurant would become very popular, offering Ottawa its first charcuterie bar.

Back in the day, 110 Murray Street was Bistro 115. A younger Patrick Garland (now chef/owner of Absinthe Cafe) was working for Chef John Taylor at the Maplelawn Cafe. The seeds for creating intelligent dishes from seasonal ingredients, sourced from local farmers were being sown.

Today, Chef Mitton's menu boasts an impressive array of farm-to-table dishes. Every one employs meat, fruit, and vegetable from a well researched community of local producers. Its fish plates are made with sustainable fin fish and shellfish from Ocean-Wise certified Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply (504-A Kent Street).

When we learned Chef Mitton had accepted the invitation to compete in this year's Gold Medal Plates competition, we were happy to volunteer to interview him. The wrinkle, local food bloggers have had a very difficult time, photographing Murray Street Kitchen's Executive Chef. He has an uncanny ability to shift, blurring photos. Very few of us have been able to shoot him smiling.

Enter Kym Shumsky (@relishing) of Le Mien. Kym, a very gifted photographer, generously agreed to let us interview him as she shot Chef Mitton for her 100-Strangers Project. He is number 39.

Here are our favourite shots from her shoot. his restaurant his restaurant's backyard patio

Kym is also a communications professional. Her supplemental questions made the photo shoot/interview very informal and a lot of fun.

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and your restaurant?
"Definitely head to", responded Chef Mitton.

Murray Street Kitchen serves "upscale takes" on family comfort food. It is food "your parents and their parents" should be able to recognize.

Accordingly, "'endearing' translates well on the plate."

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes you create?
"Seasons, farmers, and clients", said Chef Mitton.

He is passionate about farm-to-table. While he is extremely surprised by how successful his gamble on Murray Street Kitchen's menu has been, he believes the approach has "always been around." It is a way of life, not a passing fad.

In fact, it was Chef Mitton's Grandmother who imparted to him how to live sustainably. It was only when she passed away he realized she always had fresh vegetables in the house. She taught her grandson to shuck peas, peas that were freshly picked from the garden she tended.

I know your menu changes often. What's your favourite dish from the menu and why?
Murray Street Kitchen's menu is truly seasonal. There are actually few fixed entrees on the dinner menu. It is difficult to have a favourite.

Chef Mitton explained, "I used to love cooking duck. But, now I get [to play with] whole lambs and pigs."

Pressed, he admitted he enjoys just about "anything confit."

What's the ingredient you can't live without (other than basics)?
"Wood chips", said Chef Mitton.

He will smoke just about everything. He finds "[smoke] adds a familiar dimension to food."

In fact, Murray Street Kitchen is well stocked with apple wood from local Halls Apple Orchard.

During the interview, the kitchen received a delivery of several bushels of apples.

Is there anything you won't eat?
At first, Chef Mitton said, "There is 'nothing' he won't eat."

Then, after some thought, he added "Chef Boyardee...That, and dog food..."

Apparently, during her college years, Chef Mitton's wife, Sue, kept cans of Chef Boyardee lasagna in the household.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
Asking about guilty food pleasures resulted in a strange conversation about things mac 'n cheese.

Chef Mitton reluctantly answered, "Velveeta shells and cheese."

Seeing blank looks, he explained "pasta shells with 'squeeze cheese'."

Empirical evidence gathered by the chef himself has demonstrated a bowl is unusually effective in treating ailments related to "having one too many the night before", hangover food.

On that note, we asked Chef Mitton his favourite beer. Expecting something foreign, he surprised us with two Canadian beers: Beau's and Steam Whistle.

What was your most memorable meal and why?
All meals with friends and family are memorable.

Having turned forty recently, one dinner stands out. Friend and fellow chef Charlotte Langley (@charlotke) of the Whalesbone Oyster House came out to cottage country to prepare a 6 course meal to celebrate. It was spectacular.

The Whalesbone Oysterhouse is Chef Mitton's favourite restaurant in Ottawa.

Chef Langely is also competing in this year's Gold Medal Plates.

What would you last meal be?
"Anything but prison food", he laughed.

Chef Mitton then proudly told us his wife is a good cook, which is fortunate. He once critiqued her food, providing some constructive suggestions. She took it well when she started speaking to him again a month later.

That said, his last meal would be her lasagna.

He then jokingly added, "the one she learned to make from the 'canned stuff.'"

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
"Cleveland, Ohio or Portland, Maine!"

Chef Mitton spends a lot of time researching restaurants. Cleveland and Portland are home to a lot of the favourites he has yet to eat in.

Describe your perfect Sunday.
  1. "Wake up"
  2. "Bridgehead coffee"
  3. "Urban Pear or Fraser Cafe for brunch"
  4. "Catch a movie or sit on the patio with Sue and a beer."

Chefs Ben Baird of The Urban Pear (151 Second Avenue, Unit C) and Ross and Simon Fraser of the Fraser Cafe (7 Springfield Road) are competing in this year's Gold Medal Plates.

Speaking of which, Chef Mitton is no stranger to the Gold Medal Plates culinary competition. He has competed three times before, each time while he was Executive Chef at Social Restaurant and Lounge (537 Sussex Drive).

For those who are newly attending the Gold Medal Plates event, how would you describe it? What can one expect?
According to him, the competition is "entirely up to [the competitor] how it will go." It can be chaotic if the competitor chooses to put out restaurant-style plates to the hundreds of attendees. Winning depends on impressing only 4-6 people.

How do you prepare for a competition like Gold Medal Plates?
Chef Mitton is preparing by considering his existing repertoire of dishes. From experience, it would be a bad idea to compete in events like Gold Medal Plates with new dishes. "You should be thinking about what you do best", he advised.

And, what Murray Street Kitchen does best is translate endearing on the plate.
Here is one weekday's track 06 (untitled) ($14) from the lunch menu

A generous slice of country terrine, served with cheddar soup

Fittingly served atop a board, shaped like a pig

Also from the lunch menu, the duck club ($14)

Mariposa farms duck, roasted garlic, and duck fat mayo salad with smoked breast an cranberry jam on Rideau Bakery brioche

It is served with Bryson farms greens.

From the new weekend brunch menu, the quiche (aka: egg pie) ($13)

Bekings eggs, mushrooms, leeks, potato crust, house ketchup

Also from the brunch menu, the smoked fish ($13)

Hot smoked Whalesbone fish with, fennel, and Paul's Cheese Biscuit

Facebook Page: Gold Medal Plates Ottawa

To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click here.

Murray Street
110 Murray St
(613) 562-7244

Murray Street on Urbanspoon

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fuschian Open Again

So excited Fuschian's doors are open again after a terrible kitchen fire kept them out of commission for what seemed like forever. I don't blog about every visit I have at this quaint Vietnamese restaurant (weekly!). But every now and then I like to do a little shout-out. They're so friendly and in my mind, really do make the best Vietnamese in the city. I had my usual rice paper shrimp rolls today and opted for the pork wonton and egg noodle soup for a change. Delicious as usual.

Today was extra special though, as I got to try what may become a staple – homemade ginger and-or green tea cookies. Ann loves to bake and does a really great job. The big question now is, should she do soft ginger or a harder ginger cookie more suitable for dipping? The one I tried today was a little in between, perfect for tea or to grab on your way out the door. Very yummy!! I hope she keeps it up!

On another note, I think my husband got my fortune cookie by accident:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fire It Up! The Courtyard Restaurant Gets Ready to Reopen Their Doors

And man, is it hot in there! With a fresh new menu, new kitchen and all the original staff, this restaurant is definitely one of Ottawa's hottest spots. And they're reopening their doors October 27th.

I had the honour of attending the Courtyard's grand re-opening soirée this evening. What an event. Not only did a glimpse at the menu make me start drooling, they also had entertainment that was so perfectly suited for the occasion.

Sadly, 3 months ago, the Courtyard restaurant suffered a kitchen fire. One that closed their doors over the summer. But the new menu is more than fitting for the season, filled with dishes that warm your heart and your soul.

Upon arrival, trays of delectable little treats were floating around. Crisp, golden orbs of cod topped with baconaise (just that word makes my heart skip a beat), delicious beef tartare, and savoury-sweet strawberries topped with quinoa and mint. A sparkling wine was enjoyed by all with every mouthwatering morsel.

A fitting show of fire in Clarendon Court, just outside the restaurant, got everyone glowing as flames danced through our eyes.

Sophie Latreille from Fire Weavers performed some of the most graceful and mesmerizing moves I've ever seen done with fire. What a treat.

Back inside, the soft atmosphere of dimly lit tables and old stone walls awaited. Already, an alluring amuse-bouche was anticipating our arrival. Silky tuna tartar with crumbled foie gras torchon, so rich, yet my palate quickly refreshed with the tartness of passion fruit. And just like that, it was gone.

As the dishes continued to arrive, so did the wine. Without my even noticing, my glass never emptied. I was too enthralled by the visual presentation and care that had gone into every single course. The roasted beets had me in awe before the first bite even made it to my mouth. These fresh root vegetables, combined with the goat's cheese coulis, frosted walnuts, golden beet pickles and citrusy lime fluid gel that decorated the plate, created a spectrum of flavours in my mouth like no other. Can you say heaven on a fork?

Crispy pork roulade with celeriac remoulade, siracha and watercress was up next. This exquisitely presented plate was my favourite. The precision in each slice of celeriac was mind-blowing – at first glance it looked like an arrangement of thin, fresh pasta.

Before our main arrived, the lights dimmed until only the flickering of the candles lit the room. Melannie, one of the tour guides from the Haunted Walk of Ottawa, and probably one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met, had us at the edge of our seats. Taking us through details of the Courtyard's past, including 2 other fires and a suspicious ghost who still roams the upstairs of the restaurant after closing.

The chills I suffered from Melannie's story quickly vanished when our main course arrived. This comforting dish is all anyone would need to get through a spooky story or a cool fall day. Slices of rich, braised beef short ribs, cooked 48 hours sous-vide, rested on a giant pillow of velvety smooth cauliflower coulis. Hints of truffle, king oyster mushrooms, arugula and coffee spaetzle made it difficult to continue in any of the ongoing conversations. At this point, it was me and my plate of food. The world around – nonexistent.

Dessert you say? There's always room for dessert. Luckily I have a separate stomach reserved for that. Otherwise, I would have had to pass on this decadent treat. Bringing me back to my childhood, a generous creamsicle was the headliner to pistachio-fennel cake, creamy licorice namelaka, fragrant orange blossom, candied orange peel and sticky molasses. Wow.

I'd be surprised if you've made it this far into the post without quickly wiping the drool off your keyboard and running to the Courtyard. All of the marvelous people that made this evening (and the many more to come) possible are simply amazing. From their chef Michael Hay, pastry chef Quinn Davis, Miranda Forbes, Geneviève Rochon and everyone who worked so hard to make the evening a huge success, best of luck in your 30th year of business! They even did a live auction with the money raised going to the Ottawa Firefighters Memorial as a thank you to their quick response the day of the fire.

This is a place that you will get well taken care of (I still remember a friend's wedding being a huge success). Best thing I can say now is, yay! they're open again!

Courtyard Restaurant
21 George Street, Ottawa ON

Courtyard Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meet a Gold Medal Plates' Chef - René Rodriguez of Navarra

The following guest post continues a series of “Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef” interviews you will see leading up to the Gold Medal Plates Event in Ottawa. It's from one of Ottawa's most amazing food bloggers – Shari of Whisk: a food blog.

The following post continues a series of "Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef" interviews you will see on the Fridays leading up to the Gold Medal Plates Event in Ottawa.

For this installment of "Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef", we get to know Chef René Rodriguez from Navarra (93 Murray St.).

Chef René Rodriguez

Chef René was born in Ottawa, lived in Mexico and started cooking at age 12, according to the owner profile of his restaurant website. Before attending Le Cordon Bleu cooking school at age 24, he'd already worked six years in various restaurants.

Prior to becoming chef and owner at Navarra, Chef René was at the Black Cat Bistro when it was on Murray Street, was an executive chef at Luxe Bistro and before that at Ironwood Café, Luna Bar and Kitchen, ARC.the hotel, Social and briefly at Pelican Grill. Here's a video from last year of Chef René participating in a friendly chef battle with some of Ottawa's elite chefs.

Navarra focuses on Basque cuisine (from the Northern region of Spain) with wines from that area. It is a small intimate restaurant with about 30 seats and an open kitchen. And one I always suggest to people who ask for recommendations about where to eat in Ottawa. (Here's my review of it from Metro Ottawa.) It is also the restaurant that inspired Rachelle from Rachelle Eats Food to start her food blog! Where to Eat in Canada Guide 2010- 2011 awarded Navarra 2 Stars for the last two consecutive years, one of 80 restaurants across Canada to have the coveted 2 star rating (maximum of 3).

I was first introduced to Chef René on (what I think is still the best cooking show out there) Cook Like a Chef where he shared his passion for food.

His restaurant is a highly recommended destination, and I look forward to tasting his creations at Gold Medal Plates!

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and your restaurant?
I'm all about simplicity and choosing the best ingredients for our customers.

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes you create?
Sometimes it only takes a great tune to be inspired or to travel to another country to be inspired.

What's your favourite dish on your menu?
Right now, pig cheeks cooked super crispy.

What's the ingredient you can't live without? (other than basics)
Parmesan cheese

Is there anything you won't eat?

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
Pig cheeks and foie gras

What was your most memorable meal and why?
A bone marrow custard with black trumpet mushrooms and garlic foam at Clio. It was a revelation and pure heaven.

What would your last meal be?
Sea urchin and Bollinger champagne

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
It would be to El Raco de Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, just outside of Barcelona.

Describe your perfect Sunday.
Coffee, a stroll through the market and come home and cook beef short ribs with polenta and drink Barolo.

For those who are newly attending the Gold Medal Plates event, how would you describe it? What can one expect?
Expect pure excitement and fun.

How do you prepare for a competition like Gold Medal Plates?
I usually enjoy the anticipation and love the challenge.

Facebook Page: Gold Medal Plates Ottawa

To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click here.

93 Murray St.
(613) 241-5500
Navarra on Facebook
Navarra on Twitter
Navarra on YouTube

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax
Email Sue Holloway

Note: Thanks to Don from foodiePrints for taking the photographs for this post!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet Gold Medal Plates Chefs: Executive Chef Matthew Carmichael & Sous Jonathan Korecki and Jordan Holley

The following guest post continues a series of “Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef” interviews you will see leading up to the Gold Medal Plates Event in Ottawa. It's from the wonderful people at foodiePrints.

For this installment of "Meet a Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef," Don and I had the privilege to meet Chef Matthew Carmichael, winner of Gold Medal Plates 2009 and the bronze medalist at the 2009 Canadian Culinary Championships. Chef Carmichael is Executive Chef at Restaurant e18teen (18 York St.) and Social (537 Sussex Dr.).

Executive Chef Matthew Carmichael

Carmichael is an award-winning Chef who has worked with some recognized names in Ottawa and Toronto, including Chefs
John Taylor of Domus Café, Susur Lee then of Susur, David Lee then of Splendido, Kei Ng of KEI, and Michael Blackie then of Perspectives. Among his awards are ORHMA MAC Knife 2008 and Epicurean Awards Chef of the Year 2009.

Despite his successes last year, Chef Carmichael was quite adamant we meet his Sous, Jonathan Korecki of Restaurant E18teen and Jordan Holley of Social. They accompanied him to Gold Medal Plates and Canadian Culinary Championships. Chef Carmichael attributes his wins to the teams he formed for the competitions and feels his chefs and cooks deserve as much attention for their hard work and dedication. Moreover, he believes it is time the spotlight shine on a new generation of chefs, the upcoming ones.

And, what a treat it was to meet Chefs Korecki and Holley. Both, humble, genuine, and fun. Both, passionate about food.

Chefs Jordan Holley and Jonathan Korecki

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and the restaurant you work in?
"Local, as much as possible, seasonality, and simplicity", said Chef Holley.

"[Local] and simplicity," Chef Korecki agreed and followed up by pointing out how blessed Ottawa is in terms of having access to great cheeses, beef, foie gras, and duck.

Though Ottawa may not always have access to the best produce given its short growing season, both chefs mentioned that some of the best varieties of mushrooms can be found in our region.

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes that you create?
Dishes at Restaurant e18teen and Social are created through collaboration in the kitchen. Ideas are put forwards and developed through a back and forth between chefs and cooks.

For Chef Holley, there are three things that inspire him:
  • collaboration with the other chefs and cooks in the kitchen
  • cheese
  • his wife (who also works in the restaurant industry)
Like another restaurant couple we interviewed recently, he and his wife often "talk shop", discussing current trends and cutting edge cuisine.

While Chef Korecki mentioned similar inspirations, he also discussed how creativity and spontaneity go hand in hand. "When a product first comes in, I think, 'What can I do with it?'" he said. "I really enjoy undertaking the process, taking [products] from the start to the end [prep, cook and plate]."

What is your favourite dish on the menu and why?
After a short pause, Chef Holley replied, "The foie gras burger. You have to come see our foie gras burger!"

According to the Social dinner menu, the foie gras burger is a ground Alberta beef burger, topped with salt cured Quebec foie gras, grilled onions, and chili chutney.

For Chef Korecki, his love of seafood spoke when he enthusiastically replied, "The fish special. I get to have the most fun with it."

With a new featured fish dish every night, it is an opportunity for Chef Korecki to create something different using the ingredients he has on hand: tuna, oysters, honey mussels, sea urchin. A British Columbia spot prawn "duo" was a recent favourite. "It's pretty awesome," he said with a big smile.

What got you into cooking professionally? What keeps you in the kitchen?
As a kid growing up in the 1990s, Chef Holley first became interested in cooking from watching the popular CBC program,
The Urban Peasant, after school. Later in high school, he got a job as a dish washer and eventually enrolled into the culinary arts program at Algonquin College.

As for Chef Korecki, he also started as a dish washer when he was 15 years old, working at a golf course. From there, he attended university, but eventually dropped out when he realized his passion was cooking, not marketing. More often than not, he found himself reading more cookbooks than his textbooks. Not surprisingly, the rule of "no cooking" in his dorm room did not help matters. After attending Cordon Bleu, he went to Toronto to cook before coming back home to Ottawa.

What has been your most memorable meal and why?
Chef Korecki gave a huge smile and said, "Easter dinner this past year." While cooking dinner for his family, his wife and brother sat "at the bar", watching him cook. "The didn't get up once!" he said proudly.

Is there anything you won't eat?
Chef Korecki immediately replied, "Nothing endangered." Chef Holley agreed, "Same here!" He then added, "I won't eat a Big Mac. I'll try anything once, maybe twice, [but] I won't touch McDonald's."

Describe your perfect Sunday.
Given their work schedules, it was not surprising when both chefs said that their perfect Sunday involved their families.

For Chef Holley, his perfect Sunday would be spending it at home, cooking with his wife.

Chef Korecki nodded his head in agreement. "Same thing! Cooking with family, specifically with my wife."

For those who are newly attending the Gold Medal Plates event, how would you describe it? What can one expect?
Both laughing, they said, "Hard work and very little sleep!" Chefs Holley and Korecki also mentioned that it was an experience of a lifetime.

What did you think of representing the Ottawa-Gatineau region in last year's Canadian Culinary Championships?
Ever humble, Chefs Holley and Korecki stated, "It was an absolute pleasure, an honour."

Though, Chef Korecki did admit there was "a bit of pressure", as he and his executive chef had the responsibility to represent their city well. However, he explained that, in many ways, the Canaadian Culinary Championships was like "cooking with a bunch of friends." While they found themselves competing with people they had looked up to since they began cooking (including Chef Rob Feenie), everyone had won their respective regional competitions. They were among peers.

What is the worst thing that can happen at a culinary competition like Gold Medal Plates or the Canadian Culinary Championships?
This question drew some laughter before both chefs answered, "Your food not showing up!"

They then pointed out scenarios that would be extremely frustrating such as "faulty equipment" and "if something 'just doesn't work.'"

Towards the end of our interview with Chefs Holley and Korecki, Executive Chef Carmichael was able to drop by our table and graciously sat down to a handful of questions.

What's the ingredient you can't live without? (other than basics)
He immediately replied, "extra virgin olive oil."

What would your last meal be?
Without any hesitation, he replied, "a 'killer' seafood tower." Sharing his last meal with his wife, it would be a feast, consisting of "fresh 'raw stuff'" including sashimi, oysters, clams, scallops, and geoduck. "Lobster with warm drawn butter" would accompany.

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
"Malaysia," Executive Chef Carmichael said thoughtfully. More specifically, he would travel to the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur. There, he would take advantage of the street food. "It is a great mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian cuisine," he explained.

To celebrate Chef Carmichael's Gold Medal win at last year's Gold Medal Plates and Bronze Medal win at last year's Canadian Culinary Championship, we have launched a contest to "
Cook Like a Gold Medal Plates Chef." To enter, we ask you to prepare a "take" on the Chef Carmichael's and Korecki's "Black Box Dish", using the same ingredients they were given (with some allowable substitutions). Since this year's winners of the Canadian Culinary Championship will have the opportunity to stage in a series of Mater Chef Thomas Keller's restaurants in California, the winner will receive a paired set of Chef Keller's cookbooks, courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son, Ltd. Chef Carmichael has also generously offered the winner an evening observing a dinner service in the kitchen of his Restaurant E18teen. Click here for more details.

Prior to the interview, Executive Chef Carmichael mentioned Chef Korecki had a side business, designing "cool" clothing for chefs. Intrigued, Don and I asked Chef Korecki what his business was all about.

Mise En Gear
Mise en Gear (Etsy Store), Chef Korecki's business has garnered significant attention in the restaurant industry. Essentially, he designs his own custom printed whites and bandannas. Chef Korecki recently described Mise en Gear as a company that brings "badass bandannas to the cooks".

Mise En Gear

Badass Bandanna

His prints are so popular that, not only can they be found in kitchens like as e18teen, Social, Courtyard, and Foundation, but storefronts are now requesting to carry them, including CA Paradis.

Thank you gentlemen for your time. Don and I look forward to dining at both e18teen and Social in the near future.

Aside: Here are some shots we took at Restaurant E18teen. Chef Carmichael was kind enough to let us into his kitchen.

Facebook Page:
Gold Medal Plates Ottawa

To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click

Restaurant e18teen
18 York St.
(613) 244-1188

Social Restaurant and Lounge
537 Sussex Dr.
(613) 789-7355

Mise en gear

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax

Monday, October 18, 2010

Seared Duck Breast in a Port Reduction with Roasted Mini Potatoes and Shallots

Yay! We finally finished our week-long marathon of turkey and ham. Not that I minded though! Hot turkey sandwiches, croque-monsieurs and smokey split pea soups have huge soft spots in my heart. But a revised meat and potatoes dish was calling.

My husband and I visited the Chelsea Smokehouse this past weekend. Yes, the adult candy store. Where we picked up a mixed platter of delectable smoked fish for the perfect Sunday lunch. And of course, couldn't leave without visiting their freezer filled with local meats. That's where we got the duck breast – the main attraction on our plates tonight.

My husband seared the duck and then drizzled it with a delicious port and green onion reduction. In the oven, potatoes and shallots roasted away, making the perfect side for this mouthwatering meal. Beneath it all, a peppery arugula added a much-needed pop of colour.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ross and Simon Fraser – Gold Medal Plates Competing Chefs

left to right: Ross Fraser and Simon Fraser

From their passion for food, unusual and exciting food experiences, appreciation of authentic dishes and having worked alongside some amazing chefs, it's no surprise that Ross and Simon Fraser have been successfully running Fraser Café for over a couple of years now. It's also no surprise to see them in the lineup for this year's Gold Medal Plates event.

Simple, seasonal, homemade ingredients that are widely used in their restaurant will fill the plates presented to the judges at Ottawa's Gold Medal Plates. Yet another reason I am insanely excited about the event. I had the pleasure of sitting down with them recently to learn more about them and their passion.

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and your restaurant?
Ross: “It comes from seasonal and simple foods, like local and sustainability. But it's really to do with a relaxed way of dining out. We put a lot of time and effort into keeping things simple and concentrate on flavours.”

Simon: “Fun and exciting. The excitement is provided by the open kitchen and the fun is the menu that changes, and it's not all about a crazy presentation, it's about what you're going to eat.”

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes that you create?
Ross: “The idea of having something different to make. We do everything from scratch, which a lot of restaurants do, but it's a challenge that keeps us motivated too. We make our own ice creams, breads and puff pastries, and it's usually one ingredient that comes in whether it's with the progression of the season or finding a new producer or supplier. But we don't try and re-invent, we'll do simple things like a Pogo but make it with a homemade batter and sauces.”

I know your menu changes often. What's your favourite dish and why?
Simon: “Part of the thing about the changing menu is that we always have, I wouldn't say a new favourite, but when you cook at home you don't cook the same thing every night of the week. So here, being a neighbourhood restaurant, not that everybody would, but if you did come in every night of the week, you would have something different to choose from. And it's a fresh, simple menu that changes with the seasons. So as for a favourite, maybe it's a new ingredient that we get excited about because it just tastes good, or one that's a challenge and fun to work with, and at that particular moment it will become my favourite.”

What's the ingredient you can't live without? (other than the staples)
Simon: “Is bacon a staple? It should be by now. Every chef says bacon should be considered a staple, so you don't have to pick it.”

Ross: “I would say I purposely don't have one because it goes with things that are changing and if you run out of something it's ok, *laughs* ‘we don't run out of things’, but it's adapting to what you have around you, which is part of cooking and why I enjoy it.

For an actual product, I know it's broad, but a nice piece of fresh fish. It could be salmon or trout or black cod or anything – if it's nice and cooked well, you can eat that all by itself.”

Is there anything you won't eat?
Simon: “I'll try anything once but... I'm not a huge fan of beef liver. Every time I've ever made it I'll try a piece and just re-affirm the fact that I wouldn't be able to eat an entire portion.”

Ross: “Likewise. Organs, like liver and kidneys. You just don't grow up with it so I think that's the difference.”

Simon: “Tripe actually. I ordered tripe once. It doesn't taste like anything, it's purely texture, but it was like chewing on a seat cushion. It was weird.

And I'm not a big fan of hot, spicy things. I'm always telling the guys to tone it down.”

Guilty pleasure?
Simon: “I like a good treat once in a while, like a sweet something.”

Ross: “Yeah, you've got a sweet tooth!”

Simon: “Peanut M&Ms. I could have an entire meal of peanut M&Ms... chocolate milk... doughnut... *laughs* they all count but I'll probably just go with peanut M&Ms.”

Ross: “I guess a poutine some nights.”

Simon: “You don't really have anything.”

Ross: “I like sandwiches.”

Simon: “Peanut butter and marmalade!”

Ross: “But that's not really guilty. I don't feel guilty about that.”

Simon: “Well you should. For a chef to be eating a toasted peanut butter and marmalade sandwich!”

Ross: “Toasted is the only way to eat it, and with crunchy peanut butter.”

What was your most memorable meal and why?
Simon: “Being in the food business you tend to have a couple of them. You know, it's hard to pinpoint. I had one recently at Eigensinn Farm, I'll never forget that. But that's an entire experience on it's own.

I frequently reference when I was working at Domus and John (Taylor) cooked a tasting menu that was all fish. Not the items on it but just the fact that it was five courses of fish and how good it was.”

Ross: “An absolutely unique experience was when I apprenticed with Michael and we took this bus out west and I was cooking these dinners with people like Tojo and Vikram Vij, and it was outdoors. Like the same sort of thing when you go to the farm, it's so unusual for a restaurant to be that different.”

Simon: “It's more like a food-related experience, more than a meal maybe for people like us.”

Ross: “That's right. At any moment you eat something that you thoroughly enjoy and it's great but when you ask a question like that we're thinking of the experiences that make them unique.

At the fish market in Japan there's a sushi bar, and you line up for half an hour. When you get in the chef just puts the food across the pass without really talking. The place is packed with only 10-12 seats, and it's 2 sushi restaurants with a wall down and the father is on one side, and his son on the other. You enter in the front and go out the back. So as you line up, whichever door opens first determines who will serve you. Everyone wants to go to the father's side because the son's a little cheaper and tighter with the ingredients, but the father, you know, he's done his thing and is more generous. And just being there with Michael (
) and his wife, and seeing that side of the restaurant – I always had this picture of Japanese food being very pristine and detailed, and then I get there and it's this guy working in the fish market – that's memorable for me – you realize it's not always all the little details.”

What would your last meal be?
Ross: “Peanut butter and marmalade sandwich. *laughs* I don't know if I like it that much.”

Simon: “Something from childhood maybe, you know, at the time it probably wasn't that good and it's probably not that good now, but... (has that comforting factor) ...not beef liver!”

Ross: “They have those books out with 100 chefs being asked what their last meal would be and you read one talking about truffled eggs with caviar and things like that and someone else picking the other side of it and saying things like a sandwich. But it's just kind of what you feel like. (For me) It wouldn't be anything too extravagant that's for sure.”

Simon: “$5 breakfast. Deep fried sausage links. That's one of my favourites. But I was contemplating whether I'd want breakfast as my last meal.” Confused. “I can't pick anything. It's too morbid a thought.”

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
Simon: “Only because Ross has made it sound so good, I would contemplate going to Japan.”

Ross: “Deep sea fishing. I think it would add another connection to the mix. You know, you visit farms and things that are more accessible, but going out on the boats and really seeing what it takes to get the fish is the kind of experience you remember. Like Japan, Korea and Thailand, they approach food differently and it would be nice to have the real authentic flavours.”

Describe your perfect Sunday.
Simon: “A sleep in. And then a $5 breakfast. Maybe watch some cartoons with my son, although he's too old for cartoons now, so maybe I'll watch cartoons (by myself). And then if it was winter, I would play hockey with my son at the outdoor rink. Maybe a movie or a beer at a local pub. And dinner with my wife.”

Ross: “Sleep in a little bit (a lot a bit!). And then move to the couch for a nap. I haven't cooked at home in a while, and I'd go out for a lunch and dinner probably – not at the same time! Then a movie. Or sometimes I'll actually go have a nap in the park, which might be looked at a bit weird by some people but...”

What are your expectations for the Gold Medal Plates event?
Simon: “I've gone before with John Taylor's team from Domus, so if it's anything the same I kind of know what to expect, but more than anything I just hope it's a fun evening. We'll probably think we're making it simple but at the last minute our dish will end up more complex than what was originally thought of or planned out. Like the plating of it will be a little chaotic.”

Ross: “I've had a few different experiences with it. Last year I went just as a guest and another time, because I was with Michael Stadtlander and he was the national culinary advisor the first year, what he did was go to all of the events, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and cook a dish at a booth at each of them, and I went along with him. That was another good solid month of everything from borrowing people's kitchens in Toronto, to air shipments to Calgary... One night was in Halifax and I think the very next day was in Calgary – thank god we had the hour change on our side. So I kind of know what to expect little bit, but it'll be completely different actually cooking for our own restaurant. We're really looking forward to it.”

How do you prepare for a competition like Gold Medal Plates?
Ross: “Almost every chef who has been cooking for a certain period of time has things to draw from. From my understanding everyone makes their dish before the event gets going and those dishes are judged and the rest of the event you're just plating. So when you're making a dish for that, you want it to have a good mix of stuff that's easy to be done for 500 people.”

Simon: “Like our food here, I think we'll work more on flavour. It's got to look nice, but it'll be more about flavour, and a pleasure to eat.”

After the interview, I decided to come back for breakfast. I've had dinner here before and it was amazing. So I had the same hopes for breakfast.

I can't say I've ever been so torn by a breakfast menu. So many delicious options. I finally decided on the banana bread to start and the hot-smoked fish with mini bagels. Luckily my friend Gina was with me, which gave me another plate to try (you can never have too many things to eat!).

It was a chocolate banana bread, served warm and with toasty edges – not your typical moist, room temperature banana bread. We devoured every bite.

We shared our two mains, my heavenly smoked trout served with two mini sesame seed bagels, capers, cream cheese and onion, and Gina's huevos rancheros – two fried eggs covering a mound (sorry T!) of homemade black beans (or so we assumed they were so good) and a thick slice of fresh bread. And the slivers of pickled red onions crowning the top were a wonderful addition and very tasty.

Service was great and prices reasonable – ranging from $7 to $15.
7 Springfield Rd, Ottawa

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Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax