Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where to Eat Right Now

As if the choices weren't tough enough! But thanks to Ottawa Magazine, at least you can narrow down the choices – somewhat. And Shawna Wagman's delectable descriptions will have you running out the door to one of these culinary havens.

Ideas on the plate is the title that represents—what seems to be—the food places that really matter in this city right now. In saying that though, there's a few restaurants I'm surprised didn't make the list. Then again, if any of the 10 listed didn't, I'd be surprised as well. Sucks when you have to limit things!

Magazine hits the streets next week, (or Britton's in the Glebe right now). I'll bet a droplet of drool will hit the first page. Chris Lalonde's images are truly tantalizing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Best Poutine in the World

To say that we had an incredible weekend would be an understatement. As usual, our friends Marc and Zoya outdid themselves with their genuine hospitality. And Zoya even more so in the kitchen.

It all started out with this rich and comforting dish. Homemade poutine, in a healthier and more delicious format. First, potato, quartered and roasted to perfection. A layer of healthy greens made their way next, followed by slivers of red onion and large chunks of Quebec cheese curds. The topper (literally) - a heavenly gravy made solely of mushrooms (picked from their own backyard), grilled onions and red wine reduction blended until velvety. This is one dish that must be made again, very soon! Oh, and alongside was some roasted heirloom carrots.

Menus that followed were croque-monsieurs, complete with egg, avocado, arugula, tomato, a sprinkling of basil and sharp melted and crusty cheddar. We even added a dollop of Marc's family's Portuguese hot sauce. Amazing.

Dinner on day two was sesame crusted, seared tuna with a side asian salad of slivered beets and heirloom carrots.

And before leaving the next morning, savoury ploy pancakes in which we carefully wrapped warm candied apples and then topped with molasses and shredded sharp cheddar. Alongside, homemade beans that had been slow-cooking all night. Nothing could erase my smile after this.

To leave after a weekend of pampering like that is just, well, probably one of the most difficult things to do. Thanks so much you guys! Once again, you totally outdid yourselves!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pho Van Van

I love Vietnamese food. And I regularly daydream about rice noodles. Sounds odd I know, I'm just being totally honest here. So on a Tuesday, when a lot Vietnamese restaurants are closed and I'm having a major craving, Pho Van Van is there, ready to please.

I don't blog every time I go out for Vietnamese because I'd be doing it way too often and talking about the same thing every time. I rarely stray from my favourite rice paper shrimp rolls with peanut sauce and bun with either shrimp or spring rolls.

Everything was fresh and delicious. The one thing I do need to point out though was the crispness of the spring rolls. I don't think I've ever had a spring roll so perfectly crispy. Yum!

93 Holland Ave, Ottawa

Pho Van Van on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Menu at The Whalesbone

This past week a list of heavenly dishes was created. If you've not yet been to the Whalesbone, what the heck are you waiting for!? Not only are Charlotte's delectable creations absolutely amazing and worth the trip alone, it's also the last menu that will ever be put together by this culinary goddess. Yes, it's true, the big city of Toronto has finally come to scoop her up and whisk her away. And I'm super sad.

So for the next few weeks, I will be making my way through these seemingly last suppers of lobster rolls and chips, salmon and smoked mushroom pot pies, seafood paella, white bass ceviche and so many others. The one dish you must have though, the beef tartar with white truffle, toutans and gherkins – TO DIE FOR.

Monday, October 10, 2011


As I sit in my lawn chair, with the sun peeking through the trees, I think back to last night and the dinner I had. Man, am I ever lucky. My husband prepares amazing meals, we have a ton of outstanding friends, loving family and good health. In life, what more could anyone want!? And I do not take any day for granted, ever. Today I am thankful for all of life's little pleasures. And I am especially thankful for my husband, he completes me and I would not be the woman I am today without him. And my mother, who always did so much for me. The older I get, the more I realize how much that actually is and how she always hid her challenges with a big smile.

Last night my husband served up the most incredible spread. Mouthwatering and rich maple smoked ham (he first brined the ham for a few days and then smoked it all day), a juicy 20lb turkey – golden and crisp on the outside, heirloom carrots, potatoes, squash, heavenly homemade stuffing, almond green beans, beets, cranberry sauce, pickles, confetti squares and pumpkin pie. Oh! And a new addition to the spread this year – glazed onions. An absolute must for next year.

We got the cranberry sauce (sweetened with maple syrup and honey) and maple syrup (for the ham) from the Lansdowne farmer's market.

Thank you Charlotte for all the fresh veggies from Acorn Creek Farm, and for the beautiful flowers. Gina thank you so much for the pumpkin pies, chocolate and soap. Lara thank you for the delicious almond green beans and yummy homemade pickles. Alan, the confetti squares were to-die-for. Colinda thank you for the delectable beets and homemade raspberry gin. Donnie for the Amarone and Andrew, for the plethora of wine - and everyone for all the yummy wine! And of course my husband, for making it all happen.

As usual, we got our ham from Aubrey's. Thank you for making it so easy to get local meats. (But no thank you for the dirty little trick you pulled, not allowing us to use our coupon. There was no small text when we bought it that excluded Thanksgiving. It's ok though, I'll keep coming by.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hintonburg – My New Love

Went for a little walk in Hintonburg today. I normally drive past the eastern portion, or better known as Hintonburg-Mechanicsville, with my eyes closed. But it was obvious to me today that it must have been quite a while since I'd been in this area because the little restaurants and shops lining up the streets felt like I was somewhere else.

My husband and I had set out for a late afternoon snack. The destination? Back Lane Café. Unfortunately they were closed until dinner-time. But after peeking in the window and at the menu, I have a future date with them already planned out in my head. I can't wait!

A little further down was the new Burnt Butter. Another fabulous addition. And although the doors were wide open, I felt saving this one for dinner time was also a must. My husband and I were paired with the owners years ago when we went golfing. At the time Steve Wallace was at Anthony's on Elgin (or the old Ritz). Such a friendly couple. I'm so happy for them and excited to try out their new spot.

Of course Tennessy Willems has been open for a while now and doing great with their yummy pizzas.

Then a little further down in the very beginning stages and not open yet – Isobel's Cupcakes and right next door, the future home of Hintonburg Public House. So exciting!!

But for today, we ended up in a little gem of a place, Alpha Soul Café. The best thing about this place is the adorable little back patio. The perfect spot to hang out on an unusually warm October day. We even had live acoustic music from Amanda Cottreau wafting out the patio doors while we sipped wine.

A little Sauvagine and green grapes.

Also snacked on a mushroom soup and delicious greek orzo salad. YUM! What a great day!

Alpha Soul Café
1015 Wellington West

AlphaSoul Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hot Salad of Mushrooms, Spelt and Arugula

If you think the beginning of fall means the end of salads, think again. This amazing salad is the epitome of comfort food.

Taken from his La Mia Cucina Toscana cookbook, my husband whipped this salad up for dinner. Pino Luongo, the chef in the book, often replaces the rice in risotto with spelt because the hearty grain maintains its character in the finished dish rather than simply becoming a backdrop for the others. The combination of the spelt, pancetta and mushrooms is heavenly.

What you’ll need
6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups spelt, soaked in cold water to cover for 2 hours and drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed flat
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, cleaned with a damp cloth and sliced into thin strips
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned with a damp cloth and sliced into thin strips
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces slab bacon, cut into thin strips or small cubes
1 bunch arugula, stems trimmed, washed and dried

What to do
Warm 2 tbs of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the spelt, stir and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Lower the heat and cook, covered for 20 minutes or until the spelt has absorbed the water. Set aside.

Warm another 2 tbs olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the oyster mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, 1 tsp sea salt, and 1 tsp black pepper. Stir and sauté until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Place the bacon in a sauté pan and cook over low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is browned. Pour off the fat.

Transfer the bacon to a large salad bowl. Add the spelt and mushrooms and toss well. Add the arugula leaves, the remaining 2 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt, and 1 tsp black pepper. Toss well and serve at once.

Wash down this peppery salad with Traminer, a crisp white wine from Friuli or Trentino.