Tag Archives: good food

The Everyday Cafe

Rolling through the beauty of the New England states is a real treat, especially this time of year. I always find when in need of a break, sometimes turning off takes you down a twisting, winding road to small town USA.

This is exactly what happened when we took a break in Contoocook, New Hampshire. What I wasn’t prepared for was The Everyday Cafe, which was anything but everyday. Open every morning at 6:03am (yes, 6:03) until 4pm this precious little gem is a delicious small town win. I would like to say, “look what I discovered” for this one, but it was hopping when we entered and obviously has a tremendous amount of local love. On local, this place supports and uses a lot of local product, from locally roasted beans to the art on the walls.

We were hungry and ordered sammies, salads and a good cuppa’. I ordered the BBQ Ranch which was a pressed flour tortilla filled with chicken breast, smoked bacon, veggies and a delish ranch/bbq sauce dressing. Mums ordered the Butchie Brie, which was a lovely turkey sandwich with granny smith apples, creamy, warm brie with mayo served on a pressed croissant and Pops ordered the Tooky Bruin, a bagel with smoked salmon, cucumber, tomato and cream cheese. The sandwiches were served with a side of pasta salad (you had your choice of sides).

I also brought muffins home to my good man. He is happy that at least half of a pumpkin muffin made it to him safely.

Owners Christian Nardi and Lisa Porterfield left lives and jobs in another state to move back to Christian’s hometown and start the cafe. It really is a dream of many folks to be able to do this. It’s a risky venture and a lot of hard work, but I kind of envy them. There is something so good and soulful about small town life.

There is so much more about this place, the vibe, the friendliness, the excellent customer service. There is also a bit of sadness knowing I may not be there again for another year. Sigh.

Zolas

On our mission to expand our dining experiences beyond the downtown core, we jumped in the car Sunday and headed out to Zolas Restaurant in Bells Corners for a late lunch.

I had recently met Gina Vacchio sister to Chef/Owner Antonio Vacchio while planning an event. This bubbly, excitable soul encouraged me to stop by some time. So I did. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, good food, good wine, good company.

We started with the Porchetta Poutine topped with a perfectly cooked fried egg. The golden yolk really added warmth to this indescribable mouthful of complete and utter genius (with a Pelee Island red, perfection). Zola’s own delicious Porchetta. Heaven. That is all.

Next up, Chicken Gorgonzola. A gorgonzola cream sauce topped with roasted pine nuts served with seared vegetables and roasted potatoes, a creamy, dreamy dish. For the gorgonzola lovers out there this is a real treat. This sauce served with my personal favourites, pine nuts, over a moist, generously sized chicken breast.

We finished with, Penne with Hot Sausage (Grandpa’s recipe), pan seared calabrese sausage in a spicy tomato sauce. As you know I like a little heat, but really need the flavours to shine through. This dish did the trick, layers of tomato and spice with a nice kick.

Zola’s open style kitchen and funky atmosphere really lend to its warm, inviting feeling. The little Italian shop out front offers up pasta (both fresh prepared and packaged), a variety of canned goods, and take home meals. Soon to come sandwiches to grab and go, including the delicious porchetta.

Question….does porchetta trump bacon? Perhaps…..

As I said in the beginning of the post, my first experience with Zola’s is in planning an event for the Sunshine Foundation happening, Saturday, October 27th, 2012 at Ashbury College. The Sunshine Foundation is the only national Canadian charity to provide individual dreams to children with severe physical disabilities (such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy) as well as life-threatening illnesses. In fact, 80% of Sunshine Kids are challenged by a severe physical disability. Sunshine was the first organization to bring DreamLifts to Canadian children. Sunshine’s one-day, whirlwind DreamLift adventures transport approximately 80 children by plane to an exciting destination such as a Disney theme park.

This event, Bright Night, Big Dreams Masquerade Ball is being hosted by the National Capital Chapter. Some of the food I showcased today will be on the menu for the evening along with Pelee Island wines, a martini bar and some great big band music.

For ticket information visit Eventbrite.

For your added viewing pleasure:

Please plan on a visit to Bells Corners and Zolas soon, and if you want to support a great cause join us in October!

Murray Street Date

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon recently, my good man and I had a lunch date at Murray Street. It was a lovely way to spend some time off together.

Adrian ordered a diet coke (as always) and I opted for the Kichesippi Natural Blonde. I was looking for something light and refreshing and while this beer has a lovely, fresh flavour the bitterness at the end was a tad too much for my palate. I will however give it another try.

My Cry “Fowl” sandwich was a duck bacon club served with carrot soup. The sandwich was a great lunch size offering. The duck bacon was crisp, dark and smoky which made for the perfect club sandwich, and who was the genius behind that sweet, luscious soup? It actually inspired me to make carrot soup this past weekend.

My lunch date opted for fish, a nice piece of white, flaky pickerel in a lovely, crisp batter served with oven roasted potatoes. He found the potatoes a nice alternative to fries and was such a gentleman when I asked if they were like my roasted potatoes….

The wait staff here is always friendly. It’s warm atmosphere makes you feel really welcome and how can you beat Murray’s $14 lunch?

Love, love, love this place!

Ruby Watchco

Like a kid in a candy store, my level of maturity Saturday was so ridiculous. I could hardly contain my excitement the minute I walked through the doors at Ruby Watchco on Queen East in the Leslieville neighborhood of Toronto.

I was there for a few reasons. First, I have followed the career of Chef Lora Kirk for quite some time now. I know Lora through a very good friend and I am thrilled with her success. So, I wanted to be able to experience her genius in the kitchen. Of course the incomparable Chef Lynn Crawford who’s Food Network Canada show Pitchin’ In is so much fun! I loved when Lynn was part of Restaurant Makeover and helped one of my favourite restaurants Karma’s Cafe come to life.

Chef Lora Kirk

Chef Lynn Crawford

The Menu

RUBY’S ICEBERG WEDGE SALAD
Smoked Blue Haze, Oven Kissed Tomatoes,
5 Minute Hen’s Egg, 1001 Islands Dressing

SLOW ROASTED SIRLOIN WITH ARUGULA AND PARMESAN
Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese with Home Made Ketchup,
Grilled Broccoli with Lemon Butter,
Slow Baked Onions, Bacon, Spinach & Mushrooms

CHEVRE NOIR BY FROMAGERIE TOURNEVENT
Truffle Honey, Rosemary & Orange Biscotti

RUBY’S BANANA CAKE
Vanilla Cream & Chocolate Ganache

 

Photo Credit: Benedict Hillard

The starter salad was fresh and flavourful. Frankly, iceberg lettuce does nothing for me but this salad gave me new ideas. Homemade 1001 Islands Dressing was light and refreshing, sweet oven-kissed tomatoes were bursting with flavour and the lightly smoked Blue Haze cheese with its tangy blue cheese centre and was the perfect complement to this dish.

The main was a melt-in-your-mouth slow-roasted sirloin served with arugula and shaved parmesan. The beef perfectly pink and tender was the hit of the evening and the subject of conversation on the drive home and the next day. Served with a homemade mac n’ cheese, a comforting creation I was lucky enough to observe being created, when I popped in to the kitchen to say hello and snap some shots of Lora. She even made the lemony grilled broccoli taste like heaven…who does that?

The cheese course was a flavour-packed Chevre Noir, a firm but creamy aged cheddar from Fromagarie Tournevent (Chesterville, Quebec). It was paired with lovely orange-rosemary biscotti and a sweet truffled honey that pulled it all together. Flavour genuis in that little kitchen for sure.

Dessert was a lovely little banana cake, covered in a chocolate ganache and topped with vanilla cream. It arrived not by our wait staff but by Chef’s Lora and Lynn themselves. I managed two delicious bites before handing it over to my good man, I was just done.

Wait staff was efficient and courteous and knew what they were doing. One of the other diners suggested that the main came too quickly following the starter, I tend to agree. I find that lingering a bit after each course, especially with such good food, gives you both time to digest and discuss. I also understand that there are two sittings and we opted for the first, so there may be a bit of urgency for some of us who like to sit around too long. I think next time I might reserve for the second sitting.

Special thanks to Photographer Benedict Hillard who shot an excellent photo of Chef Crawford for me!

I have only one wish now that I have been, that I can go back as much as I can and share it with all the people I love!

Ruby Watchco, 730 Queen St. East.  For restaurant reservations please call (416)-465-0100 Tuesday through Saturday, between 10:00 am and 9:30 pm.

The Giggling Jerks

I knew I would eventually get to The Giggling Jerks a new Caribbean style restaurant in my neighborhood opened by brothers Devin and Dylan MacLeod. I was excited about the upcoming Food Network Show, “The Opener” with David Adjey that documents their early days (Adjey=secret crush). I knew I absolutely had to go when I heard they were having difficulty on their street with neighbours petitioning against them having their liquor license between 11am and 5pm (the brothers have requested a license to run between 11am and 11pm). I live in this neighbourhood too, not on their street, but on a street with a corner pub so I think I have a bit of insight. I also think I am within my rights in voicing my concern about restaurant owner’s who feel they are getting pushed out. A recent Ottawa Citizen article explains it well.

Don’t get me wrong I am all about safe neighbourhoods, but I also think that trying to get this stopped is hindering someone’s livelihood and doubting their ability to be responsible to their liquor license privilege before we even get a chance to get to know them. Sandy Hill has a big void when it comes to really great eating establishments, there are only a few, and we are missing out when other neighbourhoods like New Edinburgh, Hintonburg and Westboro are thriving in that department. Good eating establishments add value to neighbourhoods, they normally contribute to the community they are in (Giggling Jerks have already done this in their few short months), they bring people from other neighbourhoods in which allows us to showcase our neighbourhood, and contrary to popular belief they add value to properties (hello have you watched HGTV?).

I am not even going to talk about the students, there is no relation to students here. The students will continue to make loud noise and exist, because we live in the same neighbourhood as a major Canadian university, and please to those of you who do, stop calling it the student ghetto, this area is abundant with families, couples and singles not attending school. ‘Nuff said.

So on to the good stuff. This is a colourful, vibrant space with lots of good music. Let me tell you what I know so far about the food at The Giggling Jerks, it’s good, not just good enough, but really good. I ordered the Cod Fish Fritters with Homemade Mango Chutney and the Jerk Chicken Quesadilla.

The fritters came piping hot with a dark, crispy outer coat (apparently one of Adjey’s ideas… blush). Inside was moist and tender, not at all fishy but just the perfect amount seasoned nicely. The homemade mango chutney was lovely, sweet and full of flavour, it reminded me of biting into a fresh mango. I brought the rest home for toast in the morning.

The quesadilla were nicely grilled, loaded with lots of tender white chicken breast painted in the Giggling Jerks own barbecue sauce, laden with fresh peppers. The homemade salsa was fresh, fresh, fresh and packing some heat!

Other menu items included Coconut Spiked Seafood Ceviche, Island Style Pepperpot Soup, Jerk Chicken and Pork Tenderloin. They also serve all day breakfast.

Devin MacLeod is a nice guy. He is a good neighbour who chose Sandy Hill because it represented to him a similar neighbourhood he once lived in and all the good memories that go with that. He is also an Ottawa boy who grew up in the south and west end. Lets applaud him for having enough wisdom and insight for bringing something fresh to his hometown and providing employment and pleasure for the folks who live here.

The Giggling Jerks
332 Wilbrod St.
Ottawa, ON
613-695-5375