Monday, January 21, 2013

Smokehouse Chowder from the Chelsea Smokehouse

I don't know who makes the takeout chowder at the Chelsea Smokehouse near Chelsea, Quebec, but it is high quality and rich in flavour. While food tripping in Quebec yesterday, the stop into the Smokehouse was purely by accident as I was actually on my way to Le Resto for lunch.

Their coolers are brimming with anything smoked. Fishes galore and sausages too.


As I waited my turn, needing to beg for directions, impulse grabbed hold and I went for the chowder.  It was $15 for a litre and it was filled with salmon, cod, halibut, clams, bacon, fish stock, roux, celery, onion, red pepper, carrot, fennel, bay leaf, sambal, salt, pepper, chevril and cream.  And I swear I saw a piece of potato or two.

A container will yield 3 or 4 non-mansize servings.

The toasted bread resting on the bowl's edge came from Boulangerie Aux Deux Frères in Aylmer. It was their Gruyère and Basil. A decent alternative to my regular Art-is-in Bakery Dynamite selection. A day later it was still full of freshness.

The Chelsea Smokehouse is located at 706 Route 105. Chelsea, QC. The Boulangerie Aux Deux Frères is located at 146, rue Principale, Aylmer (Gatineau), QC. Both are worth a visit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The News Keeps Coming: Le Michel-Ange Café The Sequel - Opening Again

Late this afternoon I put up a post sharing my funk at finding out earlier this month that Le Michel-Ange was closed. No forwarding directions were at the location at 35 Laurel Street when I was last by. Social media and the web were quiet.  This fan of her double shot lattes has been moping a tad.

As quick as the post went up and I had shared it on Twitter and Facebook, I heard from Louise Rousseau.

BLOG COMMENT: "Hello, I am Louise from Le Michel-Ange. We are just moving! We will open next week in Hintonburg again! You will know the location soon! It will be possible for us to give you our new address next Monday!"

FACEBOOK: "Le Michel-Ange is moving to a new location and will we re-open on January 29th! We will let you know our new address next Monday. More coffee, more shows, breakfast, lunch and treats!! The same Le Michel-Ange in a new location at a walking distance from where we were located before!"

Hang tight, coffee drinkers. There is more to come!!

This news just in.  Le Michel-Ange posted on their Facebook page their new location and opening date.

FACEBOOK: "We are very excited to announce that we will be moving to a new location in the same sector!! We are moving a couple of blocks West into the GCTC at 1233 Wellington street (corner of Holland). Opening date: January 29th!"

Sad To See Coffee Shop Le Michel-Ange Café Shuttered

UPDATE January 15, 2013.: This was posted on Le Michel-Ange's Facebook page at 7:20 pm today.
"Le Michel-Ange is moving to a new location and will we re-open on January 29th! We will let you know our new address next Monday. More coffee, more shows, breakfast, lunch and treats!! The same Le Michel-Ange in a new location at a walking distance from where we were located before!"

One of my favourite coffee shops in Ottawa was Le Michel-Ange at 35 Laurel Street near Devonshire Public School. Sadly, after just a year and half, it is no more.

It was a destination stop for me. Located on the east edge of Hintonburg, it was not on my regular travel routes. But when I went, Louise Rousseau would make my small double shot latte with passion and care. No rushing. Selfishly, I liked when I was the only customer in line at that moment. No one to mess with her concentration. Because Louise loves to chat.

She once cheerfully shared the whys and hows about what she did to make that latte so tasty for me.  Had I stayed longer, I am sure she would have had me pulling levers and turning knobs. When I knew I was headed that way, I looked forward to it. It was warming to know that the soon-to-be-sipped latte was going to be good. Really good. Louise had the skills to deliver consistently but she also took the care of an artisan barista.

I happily recommended Le Michel-Ange regularly, whether Twitter or Facebook, to anyone asking for a good latte. Particularly, out-of-towners needing a decent fix. I get that desire to not experiment with coffee when you're in a new city. In fact, I would specially meet up with out-of-town tweeps to share in the goods. (Decent internet coffee content thankfully got me safely and reliably around Denmark in October.)

I had just paid a visit to Louise late in November. Little did I realize that it would be my last.

To Louise, wherever you may be, bonne chance. Thank-you for making my coffee with heart.

Fighting the Winter Blues Greek Style - The Everything Salad

When winter is feeling long and we are craving our garden vegetables, our family makes this sunny salad with a Greek twist.  If we don't have olives, or fresh herbs, we go without.  But it must have the feta and avocado tossed in with the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and red onion or this crowd might say, why bother, call it something else.

The dressing is bright and goes well with steak or as a starter for a pasta meal.

For me, this salad today is successfully pushing out the winter blahs.

* Update: I submitted my leading photo in this post to The National Post newspaper for their Gastropost mission 'Win Friends With Salad'.  It was published in the January 26, 2013 paper. Here it is. Sweet!

Serves 4

6 small to medium vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 avocado, diced
100 gr (3 oz) mixed greens
175 gr (6 oz) feta cheese
olives (optional)

30 ml (2 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon
45 ml (3 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) balsamic vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 gr (1/2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper
15 gr (1 tbsp) granulated sugar
3 gr (1/2 tsp) salt
thyme or oregano (optional)

Monday, January 14, 2013

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Holiday Issue 2012

Confused? The Holiday issue of LCBO Food & Drink Magazine came out at the beginning of November after all. I picked it up on release date and never really cracked the cover.  Did that happen to anyone else? The last of the Christmas decorations are being boxed up today. In and among the piles to be tidied, I found my old friend.

Although the party season has passed, shouldn't I look anyway? Often the Holiday issue has gems that suit just any old cold frosty day.  No need for tinsel to make it complete.  So for those of you early readers that may have forgotten about it's hidden treasures, consider a re-read to pull out some of the winter's bests.

My page corners are turned down at:
  • Chèvre & Pistachio Polenta Soufflé (From Pistachios by Victoria Walsh)
  • Rich Oxtail and Orzo Soup with Madeira (From Strong Marriages by Michael Fagen and Julia Aitken)
  • Coconut-Spiked Squash Soup (From Spicing Up Christmas by Victoria Walsh)
  • Creole Seafood Gumbo and Thai Seafood Cakes (From Twelve Nights by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)
  • Lemon Grass & Lime Lobster Noodle Bowl (From Naughty or Nice by Jennifer MacKenzie)
  • Salad with Confit of Pears (From What's Fresh for dinner by Lucy Waverman)
I also enjoyed Flour Power by Robert Hercz. I did not know that the Romans produced the world's first white flour using fine sieves made of linen. Hercz's piece also includes a primer on a number of the types of flours.

And for those that like to know, the hefty Holiday issue, the biggest of the year, weighed in at only 855 grams.

Plan ahead: The Winter issue hits the stores in TWO DAYS on Wednesday, January 16th. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Odile in Hull - Sunday Brunch


It has taken me 6 visits to Odile to figure out that I go when I am missing my honey. Another habit of mine is to roll into Marysol's kitchen just before closing time.

Today they served 90+ covers and I was the last of the day. That seems like not a bad start to the new year on their first weekend open for 2013.

The twenty-seater is cozy and not too loud when it is full. I slide into the only empty table. Sitting alone I just soak it all in. A multi-generational family, good friends catching up, lovestruck couples whiling away their Sunday hours. Even on a grey, drizzly day (which I happen to love), the small eatery has a sunny brightness to it, with the big windows, light wood tables and white walls.

Brunch is usually a 3 choice offering. The duck was a hit and when it sold out, owner/chef Marysol  Foucault and her trusty kitchen partner, Justin Tse, developed the dish that I would come to select. Fingerling potatoes, smoked salmon, poached eggs, capers, Brussels sprouts and fennel ($14). My honey probably would have picked the same.

Sometimes I get lucky for being a lingerer and Marysol has a moment for a hello. I wow at all the attention she and Odile have been receiving in the local papers and city magazines, cookbooks and gal chef cook-ups, 'best of' and 'top 10' lists. She's cheffing February 8 for Takeover Weekend at Oz Kafe. We chat about the 'old' days.

I like the front ....? We don't know what to call it. Even in French. A portico? No that's not quite right. I guess it's a vestibule. It smells of cedar. And even on the inside, it has style with its bows of green. She confirms the Christmas lights adorning the side windows will stay a bit longer. They must.

It's habit to pitch in. I bring my plate to the back and help tidy the tables. Then bucket brigade dirty dishes across the small space. A mom thing perhaps, we wonder. Kindly, Marysol tells me I'm too young to be House Mom at Odile. It's closing time. The visit was short but restful.

Steely and determined in the kitchen, Marysol's tender-hearted self asks after the honey. How is he? Is he okay? I breathe a sigh of relief and say yes, yes he's fine.

Sitting outside for a bit, I reflect. It really is good food. Always so pretty. Perfectly plated. Flavours delicately balanced. It comforts. The way 'you can count on me' does when you seek out that strength.

No surprise, I suppose, that I go to Odile when I am missing my honey.

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

Wed to Fri: 5:30 - 9:30 pm
Sat: 9:30 am - 2 pm; 5:30 - 9:30 pm
Sun: 9:30 am - 2 pm

Odile on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 12, 2013

WinterBites Lunching at ZaZaZa Pizza with Pizazz

I've never dined at ZaZaZa Pizza before. Neither the east-end store at 143 Putnam nor at 915 Bank Street, just north of Lansdowne. Today was my day to lunch in the Glebe.

I have my 'want to try someday' resto list and it seems new places are springing up faster here in Ottawa than I can stroke them off. ZaZaZa is one of those destinations that has been lingering on this list since they opened.

Whatever one might think of the Ottawa Magazine's WinterBites food festival on now until January 26th, a primary premise of the offering is to have us consider dining out at a place we have never been to before. I dare say, we ended up at lunch today because of WinterBites. With 28 restaurants to choose from, location, hours and the desired experience quickly whittled our list down. I also want to put in a plug for having the three-course prix fixe menus available on-line. It made program participation a breeze.

The $20 WinterBites lunch option came with a small fresh salad, gourmet pizza and fresh gelato. They also had a $25 lunch for a bigger appetite than mine.

I fuss a lot over my lemonade.  I want it tart, lemony and with no extra frilly flavours. Usually I give this drink choice a pass, having had too many too sweet, too artificial and over-concocted attempts at 'refreshing'.  When our server described their house version, I took a chance on a good porch swing drink.  For $3.78 they certainly gave me lots of pucker. Thanks to ZaZaZa for the great start.

I chose the Feta Crunch Salad with tomato, cucumbers, peppers, red onions, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese with a lemon-lulu dressing.  BTW, I have no idea what a lemon-lulu dressing might be but it tasted fine, nonetheless. It is normally $5.69.

The vast selection of gourmet pizzas here can be mind-boggling. But the catchy titles draw you in and I knew that if I could pick any two that suited my tastes, our helpful server would be more than happy to break the tie. I wavered between the Crazy Horse and the French Kiss. Our server directed me to the former.  The Crazy Horse comes with pesto oil, spinach, mozzarella, mushrooms, chicken, caramelized onions, pine nuts and goat cheese. It normally sells for $16.97.

The pizza showed up unexpectedly fast. In this case, it turned out to be a good thing. I pushed my barely touched salad aside, declaring it a leftover for dinner tonight. I was anxious to dig into the pizza before it got cold. This is probably my only quibble of the meal, the pizza was not piping hot. My dining partner said the same of hers. It was our choice to push on as the pies were probably better off.  I opted for a drizzle of their chili oil and was glad that I did. My pesto oil was too mild to be noticed.  The even flavours of the spinach, chicken and mushrooms did well by the boost. Keeping dessert in mind, I left a few slices for home.

The fresh gelato was either raspberry or mango. 3 balls. Your choice. Normally $3.96.

When I saw 'fresh' on the menu, I had to ask if it was Ottawa local.  I know owner Ion Aimers had spoken well of Truffle Treasurers' founder, Lara Vaarré, who recently passed. The server said it was a commercial brand. Perhaps there is an opportunity to be considered. I have experienced some very respectable gelaterias in town.

So how did my WinterBites lunch wrap up?

One of my on-going dilemmas with programs like WinterBites is that a three-course prix fixe is not what I typically do.  Since I rarely order dessert, it takes away from the concept of 'saving' and 'deal'.

So here is the math on today's lunch.  On a regular day, those 3 courses would tally to $26.62.  A WinterBites savings of $6.62 and tax. I may have typically only ordered the salad and pizza for $22.66. With leftovers of salad and pie, it was still a big WinterBites winner.

915 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: ZaZaZa Pizza With Pizazz
Twitter:  zazazapizza

ZaZaZa Pizza with Pizazz on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Is CSA right for you? Season 4 with Roots and Shoots Farm Coming Up.

We have just received notice that it is time for returning clients to consider signing up for the next CSA season with Roots and Shoots Farm, located near Manotick Station, south of Ottawa.  So far, we have been participating in Community Supported Agriculture with this local, certified-organic farm for the 3 years they have been in production.

Will we be signing up for 2013? You bet. And here is why.

Robin Turner, Jess Weatherhead and their team are ambitious and customer focused. They constantly challenge themselves and their farm goals to produce the best product they can for us. It is a unique feeling to know your farmer and to feel a solid sense of trust.  It is something they strive for and do not take for granted.

Much care is taken to pick well and to store well so that produce comes to us with limited shelf time with them and longer shelf life for us. Produce is harvested the same day or the day before our pick-up. Vegetables sold at the large grocery chains just can't compete with that timing.

The price is reasonable for local organically grown produce.  As a CSA member, paying up front means that we receive a discount over market pricing.  As a returning CSA member, that savings is even greater. In our latest newsletter, Robin and Jess state that full shareholders received $605 worth of vegetables for an up-front payment of $530 for new CSA members. (We have just purchased half shares since we are a small household. This means we receive a basket every other week.)

Pick-up is convenient for us.  Although the farm is 25 kms from our home, our pick-up location in Westboro is just 1.5 kms away. There are a number of pick-up locations around the city, with a promise to return to Centretown.

There is a variety of produce throughout the July to October months and a pre-set basket invites us to explore new vegetables and varieties that we might not otherwise consider. (I have included pictures of all the baskets in 2012 at the bottom of the post.) Because we know the effort that was put in to provide for us, we feel a responsibility to use it wisely and to use it all. We actually find we have limited to no refrigerator 'rotter bin' waste. The long shelf life really helps with this too.

Communication is very good. Robin and Jess would like nothing better than to be outside 24/7 tending to the land. But they are very good at taking the time to send us a newsletter each week to let us know what is in our upcoming share.  This helps us in our meal planning and augmented shopping.  They also have been great to share recipes that they are finding work for them and are enjoyed by the crew.

We also have been told of new changes and improvements coming too.  The 2013 season will be 18 weeks long instead of 16.  They are implementing a system to allow for vacation time.  The farm will be offering more purchasing opportunity right at the farm and also on-line. And they are offering flower shares. Jess' new enterprise of beauty is really growing. 

The biggest plus that has us coming back - our produce each year has continued to improve in quality, with 2012 being notably tops.  This was due in part to Mother Nature's drought conditions throughout the summer that allowed the farm to strategically control their plentiful irrigation system.  Crop rotation and improved knowledge of the land, meant that crops were placed in fields that matched their soil requirements. Garlic is a good example of this.  Our garlic in 2012 was much improved over 2011.

Perhaps a CSA share just isn't for you.  It doesn't mean you will miss out. You can still enjoy buying their vegetables at the weekly local farmers' markets.  I would regularly trek over to see them at the Ottawa Farmers' Market at Brewer Park and in Westboro on the Byron linear park. They also attend other markets.

Here are a few pictures of our eye-catching vegetables from our CSA baskets in 2012.





Here are our 8 CSA basket from 2012!

Our 1st CSA basket in Week 2 - July 5, 2012
Our 2nd CSA basket in Week 4 - July 19, 2012
Our 3rd CSA basket in Week 6 - August 2, 2012
Our 4th CSA basket in Week 8 - August 16, 2012
Our 5th CSA basket in Week 10 - August 30, 2012
Our 6th CSA basket in Week 12 - September 13, 2012
Our 7th CSA basket in Week 14 - September 27, 2012

Our 8th CSA basket in Week 16 - October 11, 2012 We gifted to a friend since we were away.  She said there were also a brunch of beets with the basket.

Roots and Shoots Farm Vision
"Our long term vision is to create a dynamic farming cooperative that allows new producers to initiate and practice sustainable farming methods, while helping  Ottawa to become food secure."

If you want to learn more about the farm, the contact information for Roots and Shoots Farm is:
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