Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vegetable Strudel

Vegetable Strudel

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup spring onions, chopped
2 garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup celeriac, finely diced
3/4 cup zucchini, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
salt and pepper
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced
1/2 cup roasted orange peppers, diced
1 1/2 cup asparagus, chopped and steamed
140 grams chèvre goat cheese, softened
1 egg
8 sheets of phyllo
1/4 cup of melted butter
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook spring onions, zucchini, celeriac, garlic, marjoram, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper, stirring often until softened. Approximately 5 minutes. Add roasted peppers and asparagus. Take off the heat.

In large bowl, beat eggs and cheese until smooth. Stir into vegetable mixture.

Place 1 sheet of phyllo, with long side closest, on damp towel on work surface, keeping remainder covered with another damp towel to prevent drying out. Brush lightly with butter; sprinkle lightly with some of the bread crumbs. Repeat layering with 7 more sheets.

Arrange vegetable mixture in strip 2 inches from long side of phyllo and leaving 2-inch border at each short side. Fold long border over filling; using towel as aid, roll up pastry, folding in sides. Place seam side down, on greased baking sheet. Brush with butter. (Make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Cut 7 slits in top of each strudel. Bake in centre of 400ºF (200ºC) oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Slice each strudel into 8 servings.

This recipe was inspired by one I saw in Canadian Living's Holiday Best Magazine 1999.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fontenelle Restaurant

If you wait long enough, your mid-century modern sense of decor will come back into vogue again. Well, at least the formica table tops, vinyl-covered booth seats and sit-up counter stools. I am not sure that the velvet wall art will ever be more than kitsch.

Such as it is at the Fontenelle Restaurant on 55 Montreal Road, across from the Bingo Hall. Frozen in time.

Breakfast starts at 4 am and the place closes up at the end of lunch hour at 3:00 pm. It is open 7 days a week.

Although, not quite 60's pricing, they are one of the cheaper breakfast deals in town. This morning, we were the only newbies. The regular patrons were given a familiar greeting when they made their way to their preferred pew.

I was charmed by the waitress's casual way of collecting all the order details without pen and paper, let alone repeating it back. She seems like the kind of gal that will ask me next time if I want the usual. Me thinks she has worked here a while.

I chose the one egg option with one meat (choice of bacon, ham, bologna and sausages) and two sides (choice of home fries, tomatoes or beans). It comes with a refill of coffee, toast (white or brown) and a jam. All for $5.60. I hear that if you want onions in your home fries, you just need to ask.

The plates arrived within minutes. (Crikey. An hour on the parking meter was way over estimating this visit.)

You won't find them on the internet. No website. No Facebook. No Twitter. None of that stuff was invented back then. So how are they still doing a steady business? The mid-century modern way - good old-fashioned word of mouth.

Fontenelle Restaurant
55 Montreal Road
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon - Sun: 4:00 am - 3:00 pm

Fontenelle Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Three Cheese Tart

Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Three Cheese Tart

7 tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 sheets phyllo
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 oz mozzarella cheese, grated (or slices)
2 oz Havarti cheese, grated (or slices)
1 1/2 oz fontina cheese, grated (or slices)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 225ºF. Cut tomatoes in 4 pies lengthwise. Lay out on parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Slow bake in oven for approximately 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be reduced in moisture but not dry.

When the tomatoes have completed roasting, increase the heat in the oven to 375ºF.

Mince garlic into 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

Cut 3 sheets of phyllo lengthwise and place under a damp tea towel.

Lay one sheet of phyllo on another damp tea towel. Brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet of phyllo on top. Using an offset spatula, smear 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard over the second sheet. Repeat with the remaining 4 sheets, ending with mustard.

Lift the prepared phyllo sheets into a long, rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Mine is 14" x 4 1/2".

Cover the bottom of the tart with mozzarella, Havarti and fontina cheese.

Lay the oven roasted tomatoes over the top of the cheese. Do not overlap.

Top with oregano and the minced garlic and the garlic flavoured olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the phyllo should be golden. The length of time will depend on your oven.

Let rest for a few minutes before cutting. Serve warm.

It can make for a light meal, served with a handful of mixed greens, tossed in a mild vinaigrette.

You may not need all of the slices of oven roasted tomatoes. Feel free to freeze the remainder for another recipe. How many tomatoes you need, depends on the size of the tomatoes. Plum tomatoes are my usual choice.

Use any combination of the cheeses if just want to use what you have on hand.

You can adjust the amount of garlic, oregano and cheese, depending on your tastes.

You can cut up the tart into 4 pieces for an appetizer plate or cut small squares for an hors d'oeuvres platter.

I will make oven roasted tomatoes in big batches and store in the freezer. That way you can just take them out as you need them. Saves a lot of time prepping for a dish such as this one. Minimizes the use of the oven on a hot day too.

This recipe was inspired by one I saw in Canadian Living's Country Cooking Cookbook by Elizabeth Baird from 1991 called Easy Cheesy Tomato Pie.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Odile is Habit Forming

Odile is habit forming.

Day 4 of Odile's opening week and I returned for lunch. If my Saturday brunch visit was any indication, this was going to be memorable. Again.

Odile is Marysol Foucault's second eatery opened 19 months following Edgar's arrival at 60 rue Bégin in Hull. She prepares high quality, local, seasonal food at both locations.

I quenched the high heat of the day with a Pamplemoussi - sparkling water, grapefruit juice and ginger syrup ($3.25) The serving size is substantial.

Then on to the lunch choices.

I picked the seared halibut accompanied with grape tomatoes, tapenade, capers, eggplant fondant, fiddleheads, black quinoa and of all things, daisy buds. ($16)

I had NO room for dessert but hoped to leak the house-made lemon gelato around and through the lunch crevices.

Marysol delivered the bad news that it was all sold out. She insisted that the the tarte tatin must be tried [at least that's how I remembered it ;) ] and I had this treat on the house. Pear and pistachio praline. Marysol whips her cream by hand so with muscles like that, resistance is futile.

I regret that I only saw her Rocket espresso machine as I said my good-byes and thank-you's. That would have made for a fine, fine finish. Next time.

Yep, Odile is habit forming.

47 rue Montclair (at the corner of Berri)
Hull, Quebec
Facebook: Odile
Twitter: chezodile

Odile on Urbanspoon

Bin 790 Tapas and Wine Lounge in Kanata - Shuttered

Bin 790 Tapas and Wine Lounge in Kanata's Centrum shopping plaza has been shuttered. The bailiff's notice of May 10 is posted on the door beside their empty patio area.

This was our go-to place when I did movie night with my west-end gal pals. The film flick would be dissected over a glass of wine and a few nibbles. My last time out, I enjoyed their fish tacos.

I looked on Urbanspoon this morning and of the 274 voters, 83% liked the place. There are two blog posts. One by Carie and she really liked it. One by FoodiePrints. They didn't like it. Other restaurant review sites seemed to be generally positive.

Bin 790 just celebrated their second anniversary December 19, 2011. They were voted Best Restaurant in Kanata for 2010 at the Kanata Chamber of Commerce People's Choice Awards ceremony in February 2011. They were nominated again the following year.

I am left wondering, so what happened?

Bin 790 stood apart from the multinational food chains dotting the asphalt of the Centrum acreage. They strived to share local fare. As an example, Seed to Sausage out of Sharbot Lake was on their charcuterie board, along with The Elk Ranch.

Kanata must be nearing 100,000 people. When not patronizing the food chains, where is this town going for their dining experience? Are they heading into Ottawa's downtown core?

We are reminded again that restauranteuring is very risky business and when a place closes suddenly, there is collateral damage.

Bin 790 Bistro Tapas & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 21, 2012

Childhood Days in the Garden

When I was a very young girl I would venture to the garden come harvest time, sit down in the dirt and eat right off the plants.

My favourite was the tomatoes and cucumbers. I would wipe them clean with my t-shirt first. Sometimes I brought the salt shaker to enjoy the tomatoes.

This heaping plate at yesterday's garden party brought back those big, bright, succulent memories.

Do you have any fond eat-off-the-plant experiences from yesteryear?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odile is Open

Odile is open.

When Marysol Foucault's vision of her first eatery, Edgar, came to fruition Halloween weekend 2010, who knew that this dynamo culinary queen of tastes, quality and presentation would dare to be on to a second location so soon.

Odile is larger than the 11-seater Edgar, though still somewhat compact. Along with a few floor tables, there is a full wall banquette allowing for a lingering sit-down visit at typical restaurant sized tables. High stools line up at a counter for those craving a view of the outdoors and the side patio scene. (A patio also larger than Edgar's.) A few high stools also give you a close up view of the open kitchen. Her overall feel is bright and inviting.

The Odile experience comes with table service. The brunch menu presented on this first day offered 3 mouth-watering choices.

Wanting protein, I picked the "Forestier". Two poached eggs, fingerling potatoes, double smoked lardons, mixed mushrooms, fiddleheads, brown butter, arugula oil. Slices of fresh bread on the side served with herbes salées du Bas-du-Fleuve. ($14)

As my dish was being made with tender loving care just steps from me in the high heat of the kitchen, I sipped away on my refreshing sparkling lemon soda with a sour cherry reduction. ($3.25) Waiting for me at the bottom of the drink were 10 flavour-soaked cherries for the munch.

Some might consider $14 pricey for a brunch outing. But Marysol will also fill this place too and likely with line-ups out the door. There are plenty of people that want the peace of mind that comes with eating local ingredients prepared flawlessly, with layers and layers of flavour so carefully placed in harmony. Marysol is one of the few eateries in the region that delivers on this consistently.

Odile is not just a bigger Edgar. When the liquor license comes through, she will be open for dinner service as well.

I, for one, am delighted to soak in the visionary goodness of Marysol's never-ending ambition.

47 rue Montclair (at the corner of Berri)
Hull, Quebec
Facebook: Odile
Twitter: chezodile

Odile on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Under Your Hat

As I stood behind your chair, I looked down at you sitting with your back so straight and your shoulders so square. I saw a spot on the top of your hat. It was hard to tell if it was a fabric feature or maybe a stain, of all things, flung from enthusiastic food enjoyed by one of your beautifully talented five children.

Was that spot a blemish or just part of the hat's style? That hat becomes you. Like so many of your well-chosen wardrobe pieces, you carry colour and unique lines well on your petite, fit figure.

Your eyes seem a wee bit tired this day but your smile camouflaged whatever story they might be telling. Your 'always' smile says confident, calm and caring.

And then you show me under your hat. You tell me about your 'male pattern baldness' that may take as much as a year to push 'north'. You show me your crown of soft, sparse chick fluff. You do the reveal with your confident, calm and caring smile still spread wide.

When you lift your hat, some will see the uneven short, short hair. But what is really under your hat, dear friend? A head that is full of great knowledge and wisdom which continues to make sound judgements. Eyes that see the future bright and colourful. Ears that hear the constant chatter of many family and friends near. And not too far south, a strong beating heart both giving and receiving the richest of love.

When you show me under your hat, I see you.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Tortellini Distraction at Absinthe Café Resto Bar

The hours following a private tortellini-making session at Absinthe Café Resto Bar were introspective for me. Many of my food experiences do not end up on the pages of this blog. Sometimes I just want to savour the event by myself. On that afternoon, so many thoughts were swirling through my head. It was utterly distracting.

If I thought there was a story to tell, what would it be? Share insights into one of Ottawa's well-known chefs? Reveal the techniques for making tortellini? Describe the power of social media for matching interests with the interested? Examine the premise that foodies can get so focused on the hobby of food, that they lose their connection with those who have so much less on their plate?

A tip of the hat to Chef Patrick Garland for turning my moment of play and learning into an act of purpose.

That Sunday's tutoring came about when a few days before, I was admiring Chef Garland's many halibut stuffed tortellinis laid out in military formation on an industrial kitchen sized baking sheet. He tweeted a picture of his hard work. Soft, pillowy tortellini is something I would like to learn how to make some day. Chef wasted no time in turning my wishful thinking into an opportunity by offering his teaching services that coming Sunday at Noon. A 'light' lunch would also be provided. In return, he asked that a donation be made to Ottawa's Food Bank. A Twitter handshake and I had a date. He opened the session to others. Same conditions.

There is likely nothing Italian about the name Garland. Chef told his 7 new students right off the top that he was not the 'Don of pasta'. And if any self-respecting nonna saw his tortellini making skills, she would likely eat him alive on Oprah. Despite the humble declaration of his talents, no one left.

A batch of dough was ready for us but he still took us through the paces of his modified Thomas Keller recipe.

As we worked together, the chatter of conversation filled the kitchen. Not too much about tortellinis. More about our inquisitive questions lobbed over to Pat. His beginnings. His influences. His food philosophy. The restaurant.

Chef Garland's own arctic char filling (with heavy cream, tarragon, preserved lemon skin and seasoning) made its way onto the almost perfect pasta squares in almost perfect proportions.

More questions and more disclosures. There are no romantic tales of finding his food passion at the apron strings of a grandma, like some. The ball-busting feminist in his young life had limited to no influence at unearthing an early love of food. He came into the food industry simply because he needed a job. He chose his place of study because it was local and they would feed him.

Then onto making the hat shape. You know your sailor's knots? Well, sailors take note. No 'right over left and under. Left over right and under' here. Pat shared his tricks of folds, turns and tucks.

After many attempts, I pushed my own near perfect 'hat' across the stainless steel counter to join the others already prepared by the teacher.

When the filling ran out and the shapes were made, Garland did sit the seven tortellini protégés down to his promised 'light' lunch.

We started with warm bread and his arugula salad with lemon thyme vinaigrette and a parmesan tuile crisp.

Next came our 'pillowy, soft' tortellinis. Chef looked after cooking them al dente in a beurre blanc sauce with artichoke, tomato concassé, ramps, chervil, fennel seeds, lemon zest, shallots, garlic and pea shoots.

As quickly as we intruded into Chef Garland's quiet Sunday afternoon, 3 hours later we were gone. My homework? Pay up. Time to get my cheque off to the Ottawa Food Bank.

How do you put a value on learning the fine craft of making artisan tortellini from a top chef? How do you put a value on the opportunity to relax with friends, old and new, and enjoy the surroundings and talents of one of the finest restaurants in Hintonburg? How do you put a value on taking precious hours from a hard working chef during his time off?

What lingered with me last Sunday afternoon was the way Chef Garland's deep commitment for helping those less fortunate defines him. His well-known Benevolent Burger converts $1 from each sale to Cornerstone Housing for Women. His restaurant is a destination drop-off for a food bank drive underway now in Hintonburg. Athough he serves the finest of local ingredients for a premium price, he is quick to remind you that a can of prepared food is not to be snubbed. For some, that is all they can afford. Without hesitation he put on our Sunday tortellini 101 session plus lunch, not for himself, but with the hope of putting food on the table of those in need.

As the afternoon waned and the memory of that wonderful afternoon tarried, it was clear to me that Chef's precious gift was large. I knew in that moment, mine needed to be too.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reminiscing The Great Canadian Cheese Festival Year One

The hardest part about planning a trip to Prince Edward County for a weekend is figuring out what to do. And not because choices are limited, but because there are too many. As the Great Canadian Cheese Festival approaches its second year, memories of our 2011 visit are stirring.

We chose to stay at the Hayes Inn, a short drive from Picton's downtown, in the hamlet of Waupoos. The idyllic country setting was a quiet getaway from the busy crowds of a very successful event. We enjoyed more than ample breakfasts and restful sleeps in a well appointed suite.

There were a number of festival events throughout the weekend, we participated in the cheese tour and the gala.

The Cheese Tour was held from 10 am to 4:00 pm on the Friday. The two well-known cheese dairies included on the tour were:

The Black River Cheese Company, who also celebrated their 110th anniversary that weekend.

Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. The LEED certified factory had just been open for a little more than 3 years at that time.

In fact, the two cheese companies shared a joint venture. Cheddar cheese made at Black River with goat cheese supplied from Fifth Town.

[Although Fifth Town has currently halted production and is undergoing financial restructuring, they will still remain on this year's tour as long as their retail store remains open.]

We enjoyed our mid-tour box lunch on the grounds at Vicki's Veggies. Vicki Emlaw is well known for her heirloom tomato seedlings and also her bountiful produce sold to local chefs and into the markets in Toronto. Our box lunch was provided by East and Main Bistro in Wellington. I did manage a sit-in visit at the bistro a few months later.

A cheese tour isn't complete without a look at where it all starts. Maypul Layn Farms, owned by Martin and Angela Miller, provides their milk to Black River Cheese Company from their 60+ milking cows. Imagine my delight to find out their hired hand is the son of a friend from my high school days!

Also on the tour was the County Cider Company. Besides sampling their award-winning products, their property affords you a breathtaking view of Lake Ontario from their hilltop setting.

The Saturday evening was the 'main event'. The Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala showcased the talents of 8 of the country's top chefs, well known in their regions. Each of the dishes featured a Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Winner. We were feeling the hometown pride when Chef Michael Blackie of Ottawa's National Art Centre took home the People's Choice Award. Read more about our wine-matched moveable feast.

Here is a peek at the chef line-up for this year's gala.

Despite the many food attractions at the festival itself, we still took in a few of the local eateries.

Blumen Garden Bistro
on the edge of town, Picton.

Pulled braised rabbit over house-made gnocchi with leeks, mushrooms, lardons and Parmesan cheese

Angeline's in Bloomfield.

John's Rabbit with Roasted Loin and Rack, Sage Flower Spaetzle and Mustard Sauce

Buddha Dog in Picton.

We even found room for a lick of ice cream at Slickers in Bloomfield.

It is hard to visit the County without visiting a winery or two. We made our way to three but touring the wineries could easily be a whole separate trip.

Before we left town, we headed back to see Vicki Emlaw to pick up a few young tomato plants. Although her May long weekend seedling sale wiped out the best selection, I was still happy with my choices, as the summer's harvest revealed month's later. [I just want to give a shout out to Yellow Perfection.]

Are you contemplating the 2nd annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival? If the first annual is any indication, you are bound to have a fabulous time. It was extremely well organized and had a strong contingent of dedicated volunteers. A hat tip to Georgs Kolesnikovs and his team.

The Great Canadian Cheese Festival is taking place June 1 - 3 at the Crystal Place in Picton, Ontario, Prince Edward County. Check out their website for program details and to purchase your tickets. In addition to the Cheese Tour and the Gala, they also have a Cooking Class, Tutored Tastings and an Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair. Some events are already sold out. As well, don't be shy to explore the County beyond Picton. Being a wee island, everything is within easy driving distance.
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