Doubly Sweet: Essence Catering Wins Another Judge’s Choice Award

March 12, 2014 1:35 pm
Essence Catering

Essence Catering won its second consecutive Judge’s Choice Award this past weekend at the 10th Annual Carefor Chocolate Competition. The event was a fundraiser for Carefor and it was held at the Centurion Conference and Event Centre in Ottawa on March 8.

Essence Catering entered the competition for the second time knowing that their efforts will go towards a good cause. Carefor’s fundraiser aims to help people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia access community programs. These programs offer day-long activities and personal care that allows the client’s main caregiver to take a welcomed break. At last year’s competition, Carefor was able to raise $32,000. This year, they surpassed their goal of $33,000.

“Chocolate and Cherries” took home the prize, beating out 11 other competitors. The dessert contained four different kinds of chocolate, including chocolate truffles, a cherry chocolate ganache, and whipped mascarpone on top.

Founded in 2006, Essence Catering has shown they’ve got that “wow” factor with their attention to detail in every dish. As a full service caterer, Essence specializes in wedding receptions, galas, fundraisers, and more. Find out more on their website:

Written by: Michael Myers and Alexa Batitis

The Zolas Valentine’s Special

February 12, 2014 12:45 pm

Available from Thursday, February 13 until Sunday, February 16, local Italian restaurant, Zolas, is giving you the opportunity to wine and dine your Valentine.

You can pick up and take home a romantic four course meal for two. It includes butternut squash soup, kale/ caesar salad, baked chicken breast stuffed with creamy brie and topped with their house pesto and toasted pinenuts, a side of sautéed yellow and green beans, roasted red peppers and truffle mashed potatoes and your choice of Zolas’ famous Semolina rolls. To finish off with a sweet dessert, you may choose between savouring their delicious Chocolate Whoopie Pie or a Lou Lou Electrique Lemon Cake.

In addition to all this wonderful food, the package comes with a red rose, scented candle, preparation instruction and a voucher to visit Zolas again!

While owners Gina Vacchio and her brother Tony always have to work on Valentine’s Day, they put in such an effort to make sure this day is extra special for everyone else celebrating.

“My brother used the analogy that this is like a box of cracker jacks. You get all the tasty treats and then a bonus too with the flower and candle,” said Vacchio.

They are also offering a dine-in special for Valentine’s Day but what has been a specific area of focus is their take-home options for which promotions like this serve as somewhat of a test-run.

“We recognize how busy families are and have been developing and advancing our take-home options similar to this,” Vacchio explained.

Order this special 24 hours in advance and for $69 you can treat your sweetheart to a dreamy and delicious, restaurant-quality meal at home.

For more information call 613-721-0227 or visit

LUNCH: A Fresh Food Experience in the Capital

August 8, 2013 9:58 am

When you are in a rush to grab a bite between meetings, it’s nice to be able to buy something on the go. The problem: not many places in Ottawa that serve food quickly also serve it healthy. Luckily, the new LUNCH truck on Albert at Kent can offer Ottawans a healthy and affordable alternative.

The LUNCH truck is the latest development for owner and operator Tim Van Dyke, who also runs four other brick-and-mortar LUNCH locations in Ottawa: on Bank, Metcalfe, Sparks and Lebreton, as well as a future location opening in Gatineau in early 2014. As I sat down with the Ottawa native, enthusiasm and commitment simply oozed out of him. And, it is this very spirit that enabled LUNCH to grow from one location to five (almost six) in 5½ years.

LUNCH was born from a genuine passion for good quality food without compromising on taste. No use looking for poutine or hotdogs at the Lunch Truck; instead, only fresh and local ingredients grace this recycled-paper menu, which includes salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups and chili. While their best-seller is said to be the Tarragon Chicken sandwich (which is very good), I prefer the Chicken Club sandwich (the double smoked bacon and aged cheddar have me hooked), or the Jerk Tofu sandwich (the tofu is marinated overnight and served with a pineapple salsa and arugula).

“It’s lunch time!”

“Only fresh and local ingredients grace the menu at LUNCH.”

But what is Tim’s favorite? “I love the shrimp salad roll, mostly because of the dipping sauce! I eat from the LUNCH menu every day. I never get bored with it. And that is important.” All food is prepared the same day and is then delivered to the truck and served in recycled packaging by staff members who extend the friendly and familiar atmosphere that Tim and his team have worked so hard to create.

The entire business is built on the premise of integrity and a sense of community. Van Dyke has nurtured relationships with all those involved in making his business a success: from the local farm that provides the chicken, to those who serve the customers, and the artists who designed, built and hand-painted the LUNCH truck.

Van Dyke’s commitment to uphold a business of integrity is greater than his need for a healthy bottom line: “Slow and steady wins the race.” He has fun with LUNCH and insists on serving noon-time meals himself at one of his locations every day. So why move towards the truck format? It all comes down to economics. The cost of the truck is much less than an actual building, but the food served from it is exactly the same: “What I am trying to do is create the best product I can market. People can smell greed.”

“It’s lunch time!”

“It’s lunch time!”

The added advantage to the truck is its mobility, which plays into Tim’s penchant for community events. LUNCH has been involved in charity functions, such as this year’s Dragon Boat Festival and the Roller Derby put on at Ottawa City Hall by the Capital City Derby Dolls and Kathy Ferguson of Ottawa Street Eats. A few years ago, LUNCH was at Bluesfest: “We completely sold out of the pulled pork and the quinoa,” demonstrating the reach that LUNCH has with its customers, satisfying meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. This year, LUNCH will participate in the Scotiabank Aids Walk, the Porsche GT3 Canada Cup in Calabogie and the Ottawa Food Truck Rally – so keep your eyes open for the truck!

As for regular business, the truck will remain open this fall serving up a full coffee, soup and chili service, closing only from December to March – depending on weather, of course!

Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Pistachio Pesto

July 31, 2013 11:33 am
asparaguspistachio 2

Special to OLM: Experience a taste of local favourite Italian hotspot Zolas Restaurant—right in your own home! Chef Tony shares his coveted family recipes and culinary tips to help you prepare real Italian food for your loved ones. Zolas is located in Nepean at 2194 Robertson Road. Call (613) 721-022 or visit

zolaslogo 1.1

*makes 2 cups

2 bunches of fresh asparagus

¼ cup of fresh mint

¼ cup flat leaf parsley

¼ cup Thai Basil leaves

¼ cup grated Parmigiano

Reggiano cheese

4 tablespoons of toasted


1 clove of garlic, chopped

juice of 1 lime

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and fresh ground pepper


  1. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus and rinse thoroughly before grilling.
  2. Lightly coat asparagus with olive oil and grill over a hot grill for five minutes, turning every 1 to 2 minutes until stalk is tender (e.g. easily penetrated with a fork). Note: This helps caramelize the asparagus by bringing out its natural sugars.
  3. Remove and cut spear tips and put aside. Chop the remaining asparagus and place in a food processor.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until the pesto becomes smooth.

asparaguspistachio 1.2

Try this exciting mix of flavors on your favorite pasta, pizza or drizzled on salad with the charred asparagus tips or as a spread on a fresh chewy Ciabatta sandwich.

Chef T’s Asparagus Tips:

Asparagus is freshest, sweetest and crispiest in the spring. Look for firm, even asparagus stacks with firm green or purplish tips. Asparagus has high levels of some very important vitamins, minerals and amino acids, plus it’s high in fiber, making it a super food!

Salmon Halibut Weave

July 23, 2013 10:49 am
salmonhalibutweave 1

Special to OLM: Experience a taste of local favourite Italian hotspot Zolas Restaurant—right in your own home! Chef Tony shares his coveted family recipes and culinary tips to help you prepare real Italian food for your loved ones. Zolas is located in Nepean at 2194 Robertson Road. Call (613) 721-022 or visit

*makes two 6-oz portions

6 oz boneless skinless wild salmon

6 oz boneless skinless wild halibut

8 slivers of pickled ginger

1 cookie sheet lined with parchment paper


  1. Preheat oven to 400º. Cut salmon and halibut into four equal strips (approximately 1.5 oz). Each serving portion will have two pieces of salmon and two pieces of halibut.
  2. On the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, lay two pieces of salmon horizontally side by side about 1″ apart.
  3. Place the two pieces of halibut vertically on top of the salmon. The top piece of halibut should have one end on top of the salmon with the other end under the other piece of salmon. The second piece of halibut is laid the opposite way, thus giving the weave effect.
  4. Tuck in four pieces of pickled ginger into each serving portion. Bake for eight to 10 minutes.


Coconut Curry Quinoa

*makes 1 cup

½ cup quinoa

1 cup coconut milk

1 tsp curry


  1. In a medium-size pot, combine and stir quinoa, coconut milk and curry.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes.
  4. Fluff with fork and serve.
Chef Tony

Chef Tony

Grilled Radicchio Salad

July 12, 2013 2:48 pm
raddicchio shrimp 3

By Chef Tony, Zolas Restaurant

Chef Tony shares his coveted family recipes and culinary tips to help you prepare real Italian food for your loved ones.

*Serves two

1 Fresh Radicchio
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chopped pancetta ham
2 tbs. basil dressing
2 tbs. crumbled goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Basil dressing
½ cup of mayonnaise
2 tbs. basil pesto


raddicchio shrimp 11. Cut radicchio in half and then into thirds. Place into shallow bowl with balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Grill radicchio over medium heat, about 1½ minutes per side.
3. Roast chopped pancetta in a hot oven until crispy.
4. Spread 1-2 tbs. of basil dressing on a plate in a circular fashion.
5. Place grilled radicchio on top of dressing (in circular fashion). Sprinkle pancetta on top.
6. Add crumbled goat cheese, wedge of lemon and serve.

Chef T’s Comments
This salad is a personal favourite. The grilled radicchio has a smoky bitterness and the basil dressing brings a sweet taste. Then, you experience a salty kick from the pancetta with a creamy goat cheese finish. You can also make this salad into a delicious meal by simply adding grilled shrimp.


Zolas is located in Nepean at 2194 Robertson Road. Call (613) 721-022 or visit

Say ALOHOG to Summer

June 26, 2013 10:44 am
HogsBack Alohog Coconut Pale Ale logo

You’ll Go ‘Coconut-ty’ For HogsBack’s Latest Limited Edition Seasonal Beer

A taste of the tropics comes to Ontario this summer with the release of ALOHOG Coconut Pale Ale – the latest in a series of Limited Edition seasonal beers from Ottawa’s HogsBack Brewing Company.

ALOHOG Coconut Pale Ale is spectacular summer beer infused with a hint of toasted coconut … just perfect to enjoy on a hot day. The beer pours a clear golden color, with the aroma first hinting of the delicious coconut within along with sweet pale malt, citrus and some piney hops. The taste is malty then citrusy and then a lovely coconut flavor finishes the beer off, ending mildly dry and slightly peppery. Mouthfeel is light-to-medium body and smoothly sweet with medium carbonation. Overall, this beer is balanced, smooth and exceptional for summer quaffing.

What would go great with a nice tropical tasting summer beer? – How about a LUAU!!!

Join HogsBack for the ALOHOG Coconut Pale Ale launch & luau party on Saturday June 29th starting at 3pm on the patio of Hooley’s (292 Elgin Street) to enjoy great beer along with a real “pig on a spit” ALOHOG pig roast luau dinner and pint special starting at 5pm.

Also on July 1st you can celebrate with a pint of ALOHOG Coconut Pale Ale or the award- winning Vintage Lager in the HogsBack beer garden at Canada Day in Kanata. ALOHOG will be available on tap at select establishments in Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto beginning Tuesday July 2nd – a list of locations is available online at in addition to Facebook & Twitter.

ALOHOG Coconut Pale Ale is the latest in a series of special small-batch, limited-edition seasonal styles of beer brewed locally in Ottawa for HogsBack through a colla-beer-ation with the Broadhead Brewing Company.





SATURDAY JUNE 29th, 2013

Sampling starts at 3pm – Pig roast dinner & pint special starts at 5pm

Hooley’s – 292 Elgin Street, Ottawa


HogsBack Brewing Company is a small, Ottawa-owned and operated company. Founded by four friends who loved the taste of good beer, HogsBack follows a traditional method and brews interesting, tasty small batch beers using the highest quality, all-natural ingredients such as hops, malts and local spring water. A member of the Ontario Craft Brewers, HogsBack is a recipient of numerous awards for brewing excellence, most recently winner of a GOLD award, People’s Choice Award & Newcomer of the Year Award at the 2012 Ontario Brewing Awards. HogsBack remains active in the community and local events, and is available on tap at establishments and in 473-ml tallboy cans at LCBO locations & select The Beer Store outlets in Ottawa and throughout Ontario. Visit Cheers!

The Far Away Flavors of Pâtisserie Les Galets: Sinfully Delicious

April 23, 2013 11:31 am
Les Galets - Photo 01

Pâtisserie Les Galets of Montreal brings you fresh and delectable oriental pastries from Tunisia!

“Our pastries are handmade, use only first-choice natural ingredients, and do not contain any preservatives,” says Les Galets co-owner Rached Maalej. “They are 100% handmade, 100% natural, 100% fresh and 100% delicious!”

Les Galets - Photo 04The recipes for these unique pastries are a family secret passed on from mother to daughter. In 1977, Manna Kabani founded Les Galets pastry shop, and decided to offer to the public her unique pastries, the recipes of which were passed on from one generation to the next in her family. In the 1970s, Manna was an employee at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and participated in organizing several social events. Generous and passionate about cuisine, she often brought to these events pastries that she prepared with love in her own small kitchen.  It’s only when she noticed the excitement that her pastries elicited among her colleagues that she decided to take the plunge and open her own pastry shop. Thirty-six years later, clients from around the world can at last order these pastries online and taste them from the comfort of their home.Les Galets - Photo 05

“Our pastries are fresh, light, refined and come in several flavors,” Maalej says. “We offer several varied assortments to satisfy all tastes: Dates Extravaganza, Nutty Nuts, Royalty Nuts, Honeyed Temptations, Honey Bliss, Pleasure Nuggets, Yummy Delight, Hazy Hazelnuts, Baklava Feast, Arabian Nights and Ultimate Pistachio. Our pastries are all shipped in a prestigious gift box, decorated with a beautiful ‘Fatma’s hand’ (or Khomsa), which symbolizes good fortune and protects against the evil eye.”

How does one order these scrumptious delicacies?

It’s quite simple, really. Visit the website at Select one of the assortments, order online and the sweet pastries will be shipped to you in the five business days that follow. Les Galets pastries are sold worldwide.

Les Galets - Photo 06

Les Galets - Photo 08

For more information, contact Rached Maalej at:; tel. 1.514.531.4806


HogsBack Declares APORKALYPSE NOW: HogsBack Brewing Company Brews OATMEAL BACON STOUT Beer

January 25, 2013 1:00 pm

‘Smell that? You smell that?’


‘Bacon, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that . . . 

 I love the smell of bacon in the morning’

–      Colonel Killpork, Aporkalypse Now


HogsBack Brewing Company is urging citizens of Ottawa to take shelter from the blahs of winter and prepare themselves for the impending Aporkalypse Now Oatmeal Bacon Stout – the brewery’s latest release in a series of Limited Edition seasonal beers.

Yes – You read that correctly – BACON!

Not your typical beer ingredient, Aporkalypse Now (5.5% alcohol by volume) is one of only a handful of bacon-brewed beers in North America …and perhaps the only one of its kind in Ontario.

“For winter we were thinking of brewing a nice smooth Oatmeal Stout and thought what would be better than that?,” says Paige Cutland, co-owner of HogsBack Brewing Company. “Then we thought … BACON – bacon makes everything better!”

This proves it: Everything tastes better with bacon… even great-tasting beer

Blending roasted malt and oatmeal, this smooth dark beer has a sweet caramel aroma and a rich and creamy unbridled taste that comes from a unique infusion of local bacon.

“We know all about the bacon everything craze – so why not bacon beer?,” says Ida Vaillancourt of Pork of Yore. “We thought it’s a great idea!” “We’re thrilled to be involved and what a perfect fit: Hogs Back Beer made with bacon from Pork of Yore.”

A lot of bacon was going to be needed. Over 13kg of high-quality bacon would be needed for every 780-litre batch of beer brewed. That bacon would be fried up personally by Jerry, Paige, Mark & Frank – the owners of HogsBack, who looked no further than Pork of Yore. Pork of Yore pasture raises Tamworth and Berkshire pigs in the Douglas area of the Valley (about 100 km west of Ottawa) – and the bacon produced there is second to none. 

Aporkalypse Now is the first in a series of special small-batch limited-edition seasonal styles of beer brewed locally in Ottawa for HogsBack through a colla-beer-ation with Broadhead Brewing Company.

Aporkalypse Now is a Limited Edition beer available ONLY on draft and ONLY for February. For locations and availability, check and Facebook & Twitter.

Join HogsBack for the ‘Aporkalypse Now – Oatmeal Bacon Stout” launch party

Friday February 8th 5pm-7pm at Heart & Crown (353-B Preston Street, Ottawa).

HogsBack Brewing Company is a small, Ottawa-owned and operated company. Founded by four friends who loved the taste of good beer, HogsBack follows a traditional method and brews interesting, tasty small-batch beers using the highest-quality, all-natural ingredients such as hops, malts and local spring water. A member of the Ontario Craft Brewers, HogsBack is a recipient of numerous awards for brewing excellence, most recently winner of a GOLD award, People’s Choice award & Newcomer of the Year award at the 2012 Ontario Brewing Awards. HogsBack is available on tap at establishments and in 473ml tallboy cans at LCBO locations in Ottawa and throughout Ontario. For more information, visit


Dining that rises above

November 27, 2012 1:40 pm

At the NAV CENTRE, there is something for every taste when it comes to dining. The NAV CENTRE recently opened The Propeller, a licensed buffet restaurant with an aviation theme that includes three aptly named seating sections: North Runway, South Runway and the Tower – each with a view of the river or inner courtyard.

The popular Jet Set Pub has delicious pub fare at an unbeatable price. Groups can also enjoy a banquet reception in one of the centre’s dining rooms, or still, a five-star private function at the Stone House, a heritage farmhouse come cozy manor.

Planning a meeting or getaway? NAV CENTRE will help you be the hero.



Real Sports Bar & Grill Grand Opening: The Ottawa Chapter

November 26, 2012 12:00 pm
Real Sports Bar 2

Now open in Ottawa is the second Real Sports Bar & Grill in all of Canada. It is similar to the one in Toronto but has its very own elements of excellence. The opening night celebration started at 8pm on Thursday, November 15. The 14,000-square-foot sports bar was packed. Located at 90 George Street in the ByWard Market, this is the perfect location for a new, classy establishment.

The bar is two floors with the main focus an enormous TV screen surrounded by many other smaller screens. A total of 99 HD TVs! The largest screen towers over the bar which has 85+ beers on tap! Having such a large inventory practically guarantees the customer that his favorite beer is served on the premises. Along with the multifarious drink options, appetizers and snacks were served all night. There were six different sliders, oysters, wings, deep-fried macaroni and cheese, and a personal favourite: deep fried Nutella and banana sandwiches. Another decadent treat was a cascading chocolate fondue fountain surrounded by an assortment of delicious options to dip in: strawberries, marshmallows, brownies, bananas and donuts.

This intricate ice sculpture was one of the first things guests saw as they entered Real Sports Bar & Grill Ottawa for the first time. PHOTO: Denis Drever

The servers were all friendly and attentive. Watching them waltz around with trays filled with glasses in that mad swirl of activity was a spectacle in itself.

I highly recommend a visit to Real Sports Bar & Grill. It’s another milestone in Ottawa’s evolution towards becoming an exciting city where the sidewalks aren’t rolled up at 5pm.

TOP PHOTO: Denis Denver

Crafty beer makers brewing up something different in Ottawa

August 17, 2012 11:50 am
Mill Street Ottawa joins a growing number of craft breweries in serving up locally made beer.

Ottawa, this ain’t your grandfather’s beer.

That’s the message the surging craft brewing industry in the capital is sending to beer drinkers as they turn heads and flip taste buds.

The days of automatically ordering traditional beer from big brewers like Molson or Coors are gone as more local choices hit the shelves and fill taps at bars and liquor stores across the city.

“We’re getting to the generations now where people want to experience local, something with more flavour and something that’s different than their father’s and grandfather’s beer,” says Adam Rader, the head brewer at Mill Street Brew Pub in Ottawa.

“The younger generation for the most part is a little bit against big corporations so they’re definitely going to go towards the smaller and more creative brands and don’t just grab a case of Bud or Blue off the shelf,” adds Rader, who has been brewing for Mill Street for more than eight years.

Mill Street's Ottawa location brews up many varieties of craft beer including three beers exclusive to the city.

The interest in craft beer has skyrocketed in Ottawa recently and the growing number of breweries in the city shows it. Mill Street and soon-to-be-opened 3 Brewers and Beyond the Pale are set to join the Clocktower brew pub as mainstays in the capital.

It is a chicken and the egg scenario that is causing a spike in the popularity of locally made beer, says Clocktower brew master Patrick Fiori.

“Sales of craft beer in the LCBO were up 53 per cent last year. As more craft breweries open there is more exposure, more people like it, more people become interested and with more demand comes more breweries.”

As Ottawans flock to these craft beer brands, the products are starting to reflect the character of the city. Fiori says the Clocktower has always been the measuring stick for the changing tastes of Ottawa beer drinkers. “You can track what we have done with the colour and flavour and bitterness of beer with the evolving tastes of people in Ottawa,” says Fiori.

“You can use us a barometer for the way people’s tastes have changed and how they are more willing to experience new things.”

Rader says Ottawa’s Mill Street makes three beers that are only brewed and sold in the city, including an amber beer that uses local maple syrup.

“What these beers are saying about the city is that Ottawa was waiting and ready for the craft industry to become a lot bigger, more accessible and more relevant to the people here,” says Rader.

Hintonburg based Beyond the Pale will open its doors in November and Rob McIsaac, director of business operations, says that the new venture shows the changing tide of tastes in the area.

From left: Rob McIsaac, Al Clark, and Shane Clark, the co-owners of the Beyond the Pale Brewing Company. Photo by Trevor Pritchard.

“I think Hintonburg is a community ripe for craft beer. There are a lot of craft beer lovers in the area and we want to provide a high quality option for them,” says McIsaac.

With the explosion of unique craft breweries in Ottawa, space in the market is filling up. But those in the industry say this competition is more than welcome; it’s encouraged.

Even with the tremendous growth of craft beer sales in the past couple years it still accounts for only four per cent of Ontario beer sales, says Rader. With these figures it becomes about power in numbers for the craft brewers.

“The last thing we want to do is compete against other craft brewers in the same place,” says Rader.

“We want to encourage growth among everyone. The only ones we’re competing against is the big guys and even then we’re so different that it’s like comparing apples and oranges.”

McIsaac sees it the same way.

“In a growing market like we have now, increasing the overall size of the pie is more of an aim than competing against other breweries. The more craft breweries we have in the city, the more it exposes people to craft beer which can only help,” says McIsaac.

The Clocktower brew pub in the Glebe.

For Clocktower, a brew pub rooted in certain neighbourhoods like the Glebe, competition draws more people to their doorstep, says Fiori.

“If anything competition brings more awareness and legitimacy to our beer,” says Fiori.

“We can definitely reach the neighbourhoods we’re in, but for someone in Barrhaven who doesn’t have a Clocktower near them, they can go somewhere else, try craft beer and that could motivate them to come to a Clocktower.”

As more players join the craft brewing game, the future of the industry is just like the beer it makes: it can come out so many different ways. But for Rader he sees only growth on the horizon.

“I definitely see more growth, more breweries opening up,” he says.

“We’re trying to expand and explore every variety of beer and look for every option available because for us the possibilities are endless.”

Fable Dinner at Sidedoor

July 11, 2012 4:31 pm
yes (12)

By Dalal Saikali

Photos by Alessandra Gerebizza

We set out to write a critique of a culinary event that we attended. We expected to be able to write: “each delicious part of the duck was utilized to its best potential.” “The noodles were perfectly done.” “Flavours were especially selected to compliment the dish.” “The presentation was professional, creative and completely appetizing.” We’ll be completely honest with you; when it came time to write, we were stumped.

Here’s why:

The location: Sidedoor Kitchen, Byward Market

The event: A special tasting menu designed by Top Chef Canada participants

The Chefs: Jonathan Korecki, executive Chef at Sidedoor and Trevor Bird, Guest Chef from Fable in Vancouver

The Menu

Don’t get us wrong:

Each delicious part of the duck was perfection and complimented by what it was being served with. Never have we tasted such a rapturous peppercorn jam, which tied together each and every component of the dish. The interplay between the rawness of the breast, the salted crisp of the skin and the satisfying bite into the bun was a signal that this was going to be an experience, rather than a meal.

The made-onsite basil ramen noodles were not only perfectly done, but they also brought together the slightly oily consomme and the freshness of the cucumber.

The pork flank dish was extremely surprising in that it was covered with flower petals. The local honey was the finishing touch that made this course an eleven on a scale of ten because it hit every single aspect of culinary appreciation: flavour, texture, presentation, Wow Factor.

The little package, which is only perfected by the crispy skin of the fish, is an explosion of flavour and sends all inhibitions of lapping up the dripping juices out the window.

How can we not say that  the “flavours were especially selected to compliment the dish”? The main course was presented on a bed of boston lettuce leaves, which diners use to wrap up bits of this beautiful deep-fried fish. The fish is arched in such a way that you can flake away bits of flesh with complete ease, and add the different components present in the dish: pickled carrots, beats, potatoes, and fresh, fragrant basil. The little package, which is only perfected by the crispy skin of the fish, is an explosion of flavour and sends all inhibitions of lapping up the dripping juices out the window.

After being unable to finish this main, we were presented with a beautiful and complex dessert that felt homey and familiar at the same time. Creamy lucious berry custard and chocolate in both hardened ribbons and soft chewy bites.

Indeed, the meal was glorious and “the presentation was professional, creative and completely appetizing”. There, we said it. But we have come and gone and we are still at a loss for words. How can we accurately explain this experience, without cheapening it?

Creamy lucious berry custard and chocolate in both hardened ribbons and soft chewy bites.

You must have gathered by now, dear reader, that this was not your typical high-end meal. It was the result of two friends coming together to share their passion and bring delight to people, if only for an evening. Jonathan and Trevor spent countless hours together while filming Top Chef Canada. The complicity that they must have developed through that experience shines through not only their demeanour, but also their work. The menu they built screams both their names in a way that endears them to the taster. The fact that each and every component of the entire meal was fresh and as local as possible, combined with the unique viewpoint they bring to preparation was a fantastic start. The kitchen staff, upon observation, looked like a well oiled machine had fallen on a group of great friends. They were highly-efficient, as well as in good spirits throughout the evening. It’s no small wonder they had shared much success together before. Jonathan, Trevor and their kitchen staff created an experience where eating ceases to be just eating. Their poise in and outside the kitchen alludes to years of passionate work and study to be able to use food to trigger the human being’s different pleasure centers.

This was not your typical high-end meal. It was the result of two friends coming together to share their passion and bring delight to people, if only for an evening.

The devil, however, is in the details. Delivery can be a risky aspect of the restaurant business. We were astounded by the professionalism, albeit low-key and casual, of the wait staff. The lovely Simon, who, through his delicate attentiveness, made us feel like we were the only clients in a sold-out restaurant, knew absolutely everything about the meal, the restaurants, the chefs. People who are talented and work hard seem to attract others with similar traits.

The coming together of Jonathan and Trevor served also to highlight Trevor’s new Vancouver restaurant, Fable. If Monday night’s event is anything to measure by, Vancouverites are also extremely lucky.

At the end of it all, we can say that the perfect equation for an exquisite culinary experience is the following, as demonstrated by Jonathan and Trevor:

Experience and the continuing search for perfection multiplied by consistent hard work, topped with a good dosing of both confidence and humility made for a meal that was not only beautiful and delicious. It was like eating our way through Ravel’s Bolero, with a strong but subtle start that works its way through cannons of high notes, to finish in a boundless climax of drums, horns and bewilderment.

New Burger Place Opens Downtown

April 18, 2012 6:39 pm

Watch out, Ottawa; there’s a new burger place in town. Burgers on Main is located on Sommerset between Bank and O’Connor. Also referred to as BOM, Burgers on Main first opened in Manotick in October 2011. Since then, the restaurant has been quite successful and is quickly becoming an important member of the community.

Because of its success, owner Jonathan Crow decided to open a second restaurant in downtown Ottawa when the location became available. According to Crow, this location was too good to pass up: “I saw the potential to bring a good burger place in downtown Ottawa,” says Crow. “The location seemed like a good fit.”

For Burgers on Main, it’s really important to use local ingredients. “The idea behind opening the first restaurant [in Manotick] was for the community to support itself,” says Crow. “By serving local beef, we support local suppliers.” In addition, Burgers on Main serves local beer on tap, including Beau’s from Vankleek Hill. Another favourite on tap is Sommerby’s, a drink only available in Ontario.

B.O.M. Ottawa

The menu is simple and straightforward, which is what Crow was aiming for. Both locations offer the same menu and every item is also available for take-out. In the downtown location, Burgers on Main offers a daily soup and sandwich combo for patrons. The restaurant will soon offer a pasta special; it is also considering the possibility of offering a monthly “feature” burger.

In addition to their signature burgers, here are a few highlights from the BOM menu:

– Flour dipped onion rings, crunchier and fluffier than those dipped in beer batter.

– Hot dogs, made with great Angus Beef.

– BOM’s poutine includes their own, homemade gravy.

– Rib drumettes, bigger and better than wings.

– Side dishes, including sweet potatoe fries, chili fries, bacon mac & cheese.

– Vegetarian options are available.

– There is a large selection of items on the kids’ menu.

– All items on the menu are geared for take-out.


One of the unique features of Burgers on Main is the retro-style popcorn machine. As soon as you sit down, you are offered some popcorn to munch on, while you browse your menu. Crow wanted to offer something other than bread  to the customers to snack on. ” Popcorn seemed like a great idea” he said. “The machine looks great and it makes great popcorn.” You can smell the popcorn before you even enter the restaurant.

The restaurant also features a classic Coca-Cola refrigerator with soda in glass bottles. However, they still serve fountain drinks as well for those who prefer it. In addition to its entrees, the menu also includes treats for everyone. Other than desserts, there are various types of floats and milk shakes. For an extra little kick, adults can order an x-rated shake, which contains two ounces of alcohol.

Although Burgers on Main is still in its early stage, there are big plans ahead.  Management would like to offer live music a few nights during the week and host an open mic night once a week. Other than their great menu, Burgers on Main offers a private dining room upstairs. This room is available for private parties for all occasions. With the nice, warm weather upon us, BOM’s large outdoor patio is a great spot to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice, cold drink.

Full burger menu

Burgers on Main believes in getting involved in the community. In Manotick, the restaurant supports local hockey and sports teams, donating both food and money for various community events. The downtown restaurant will be one of the participating restaurant in “A Taste for Life“. Taking place on April 25th, 25% of the sales of selected products will go to Bruce House and the Snowy Owl AIDS Foundation.

So how does the restaurant describe itself? “We are a burger place first and foremost but we are also a family-style restaurant,” says Crow. The restaurant caters to all crowds and all ages groups. There is a social and fun atmosphere and the staff is quite friendly.

If you find yourself in the neighbourhood and you’ve gathered quite an appetite, then challenge yourself and order a platter. Portions are quite large so brace yourself!

Burgers on Main is located at 343 Sommerset Street West.

The New Hub is the Mill St. Brew Pub

February 9, 2012 4:08 pm

Marching through the snow on Wellington Street, making our way to the riparian Mill St. Brew Pub, mirroring a small castle with limestone walls, it was clear this route is off the beaten path. Perched on the banks of the Ottawa River, the new Brew Pub awaited conquering by our hunger for something distinct and new in the Ottawa Valley. Ensuring the trail was clear and diligently avoiding any hurdles, we hit the road less travelled.

Before entering within the historic walls of one of the first flour mills in the region, and discovering the past that lived within the 1842 Thompson-Perkins Mill, steep resistance emanated. Standing there, the large metallic black front doors seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Pulling the door, it squeaked open as we gracefully entered awaiting the enchantment from the mysterious elixirs we yearned.

Off the beaten path.

While roaming the halls of the massive pub, which can welcome about 400 patrons, the enchantment slowly wore off as several flat-panel TV’s played sports highlights. Sitting near the side windows, awaiting the unilingual server, dressed up with kilt and knee high socks, we scrutinized the interior, as piled up wet snow fell from the back bay-windows. Decoration depicting Ottawa’s history was a welcomed and tasteful addition. The exceptional view also produced a certain ebullience anticipating warmer days ahead spent on the patio, with the wind from the river cooling your face as the rays of sun strike down while you sip your refreshing beer.

The knowledgeable server explained the different beers Mill St. offered tempting our taste buds. After browsing the leather scented menus, we requested two flights of beers. Unable to provide us with two of their three distinct Ottawa brews, the Ambre de la Chaudière and the Portage Ale, the barman poured traditional Mill St. Brewery products into our glasses. Concocted in Ottawa, the Valley Irish-Style Red Ale was the best beer within both flights, as the thin Cobblestone Stout remained sidelined. The Vanilla Porter and Balzac’s Coffee Porter both had an aromatic start and delicious coffee-like finish, while the Pilsner upheld a nice hoppy taste throughout. The charcuterie and cheese board helped accompany our checkered beers.

Some of the available delicacies.

This appetizer produced mixed emotions as some products were interesting while others require improvement. The mild blue cheese was salty and savoury, as was the winner of the 2009 World Cheese Awards, the Alexis de Portneuf’s Cendrillion, from Saint-Raymond, which offered a more acidic taste. The odd man out was the St-Albert cheddar which tasted fine, but looked like an ECHL player in a NHL game, out of place.

The cured meats were appealing, nothing offbeat. The homemade beer mustard and house-made chutney were a good addition to the plank, contrary to the insufficiently dried toasted marble rye, making for a hard outside and chewy inside. Leaving the Brew Pub the charm of the location remained intact unlike the Wilson Carbide Mill on Victoria Island.

Walking outside the Brew Pub looking to the west, as powder snow dances on the large wasteland to the beat of the wind, you’re reminded of the failure of the Lebreton Flats development. It remains largely incomplete and hopefully Mill St. Brewery’s investment will spark some interest in an area destroyed by a massive fire in 1900 and by expropriation in the 1960’s.

Relics of the Past

January 9, 2012 4:20 pm

The Mill Street Brewery might tempt you to put a hold on your New Year’s resolution diet once they start tapping their kegs on January 27, 2012 at the historic limestone mill. Situated between Lebreton Flats and the Portage Bridge, this unique building once occupied by the renowned old Mill restaurant, offers a splendid view of the Ottawa River. Several extraordinary relics, built during the river timber trade boom, populate the riverside and some are in dire need of refurbishment.

The Ottawa Valley's economy ignited as settlers profited from this valuable resource.

Before the invasion of bureaucrats in Ottawa after Queen Victoria selected it to become the Nations Capital in 1857, it had a previous calling. First exploited by the Europeans for its fur, the region later attracted a wave of loggers, many of them being francophones. The adjacent lands to the Kichi Sibi, Algonquin for the Ottawa River, offered substantive lumber. The Ottawa Valley’s economy ignited as settlers profited from this valuable resource.

The first to settle in the area was Massachusetts native Philemon Wright, who set up camp near the Chaudières Falls. Wright was also the first to send rafts of wood to the port of Quebec City via the Ottawa River. The trip took two years to make, but with the global political situation the risk was worthwhile as it became Ottawa’s economic destiny.

As Europe struggled with the destructive Napoleonic Wars, the Outaouais and Ottawa region became productive settlements. Because of Napoleon’s Baltic blockade, the British looked west for their timber. As trees fell to the ground to supply Britain’s Royal Navy, entrepreneurs erected buildings from the ground up.

Wilson Carbide Mill

The timber boom varnished the banks of Ottawa River with the wood-working structures. Some of these buildings were timber slides to facilitate the passage of logs along the Ottawa and its tributaries. Ruggles Wright was the first to build these structures in Hull and the slides were among the first of Public Works Canada. Men would go down these slides handling rafts creating  quite the spectacle. They were so exciting, Prince Edward of Wales descended one in 1860. The Royal Family were reassured since Ottawa’s River-Men were unparallelled. In fact, they were sent to manoeuvre the rapids of the Nile River as part of a relief expedition to General Charles Gordon of Khartoum. Yes, the movie Khartoum starring Charlton Heston is based on a real person! The happening not only attracted Royalty, but courted capitalists.

Booth St. sign.

The lumber economy in Ottawa spruced up when lumber barons such as, John Rudolphus Booth and Ezra Butler Eddy, settled in the mid 19th century. They set up shop near the river and used the power of the falls to produce energy allowing communities to burgeon alongside. Ottawa and Hull prospered extensively from the development of the lumber industry with rafts worth over $100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. This led to the foundation of important industries such as, Eddy’s match factory in Hull. However, the industry slowly ebbed away.

After the World Wars and with the emergence of steel ships the industry disappeared leaving behind beautiful historic buildings. While some of these are occupied by Domtar and Hydro companies, several remain abandoned. The Mill Street Brewery is an ideal of what can be done with these relics of the past and a method to evince the National Capital Region’s rich history. It would be an admirable New Year resolution for the City of Ottawa and of Gatineau to make use of them.

Photographs: Alexandra Campeau et Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

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Around Town: Absinth Cafe

November 23, 2011 8:42 am
Named after the anise-flavoured drink that was made popular by French artist and writers in the late 1800s, Absinthe Café has a well-deserved reputation for its die-hard loyalty to local farmers from Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, since opening its doors in 2003. It’s one of the first few restaurants that sought to partner with local farmers. Using their home grown ingredients to create sophisticated, modern organic dishes. Tantalizing their patrons with rich and bold flavours in a menu that changes every day.

So with all this in mind we headed down to the Westboro restaurant to see for ourselves what this French-inspired bistro had to offer.

A gentle speaking manager greeted and guided us into a welcoming decor. With cozy brown leather chairs, solid wood tables, dim wall lighting and candles highlighting the large mural on the back wall, the atmosphere was inviting and unpretentious.  It is actually a perfect setting to tuck into dinner.

One of the many delicacies at Absinth Cafe

We were first served the House Cured Arctic Char Gravlax, Potato Salad with Chipotle Mayo, which is normally a part of the cafe’s famous Seafood Trio. This appetizer was an exquisite blend that melted in our mouths. The chipotle beautifully blended with the slight zesty flavors of the salad and the seasoning of the char, rousing our taste buds. The Butternut Squash with Chives came next, continuing the intriguing dance of the palette with a rich and creamy texture topped off with sweetness of the chives. For the main course we had the Seared Tuna with Coconut Foam on a Melon Salad, which played a scrumptious carnival melody to our appetites with its presentation and taste. Topping off our dining waltz was the delicately sweet Dessert Sampler, tasty bites of Chocolate Fondant, Lemon Tart, Profiterole and Crème Brulée.

When I hear everyone singing praises and complimenting a particular restaurant, I enter with great expectations. Not always do I walk away with the same opinion, but in the case of Absinthe Café, it definitely lives up to the hype.

Absinthe Café 1208 Wellington Street West

Tel: (613) 761-1138

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