Month: June 2012

Try this

Chipotle Tabasco Sauce is great for barbecue season. Its smoky flavour provides just the perfect amount of hotness. Check out this recipe for chipotle BBQ pulled pork. I got my bottle at the Ottawa Bagel Shop on Wellington Street for about $5.

According to its website, Tabasco Sauce has been produced since 1868 in Louisiana and is in its fifth generation as a family business. All shareholders inherited their stock or were given it by a living member of the McIlhenny family. Tabasco Sauce is made from tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), vinegar and salt.

Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco – Photo by

The peppers are mashed the same day they are picked and placed in white oak barrels to age for up to three years. Once the barrels are closed, a thick layer of salt is spread on top, creating an air-tight seal. This keeps out oxygen and allows fermentation gases to escape. The barrels are stacked to the ceilings in the Louisiana warehouses. They are kept there for up to three years until they have fully aged. A member of the McIlhenny family personally inspects each barrel of pepper mash and deems the aging process complete. The fully aged mash is then cleaned, drained and mixed with high quality, distilled, vinegar for up to 28 days in 1,800-gallon vats. The resulting sauce is sent to the plant’s floor to be bottled and distributed to over 160 countries and territories around the world.

Photo courtesy of brewer_doug

Back Lane Cafe

That’s what it felt like. Like I stepped into some dandyish Paris bistro for lunchminus the haughty ambiance. Walking into Hintonburg’s Back Lane Café you’re immediately transported into a different reality than whence you came. It feels like you’ve travelled, without actually travelling. The tables are adorned with mismatched chairs. Weathered window shutters grace the walls. The place is intimate, comforting, homey and well worn. It feels like it’s been here forever.
Gazing towards Wellington Street

I’ve read that the owner, having been inspired by a recent six-year stint in Paris, wanted to recreate a time where people lived their lives in the local back lanes, surrounded by neighbours, open air kitchens and vegetable gardens.

Homemade bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
I ordered the Chilled pan seared trout with cucumber salad, tomato and tahini sauce. I’m normally a burger/pizza kind-a-guy but I’m a sucker for trout or any fresh fish for that matter. The meal was fresh and very flavourful. The portion was a little on the smallish side for my appetite but the extra portions of homemade bread saved me.
Chilled pan seared trout, with cucumber salad, tomato and tahini sauce
My lunch companion ordered a margherita pizza. She noted that it was a bit chewy but delicious nonetheless.
I want to go back to try the Almond, garlic and mushroom paté starter. I hear it’s a speciality and has already garnered stellar ratings. As have the mussels. Next time I’m there, I am going to try the roast pork on baguette with mustard and pickled zucchini. Or I might even have a burger or a pizza. I like that the menu allows for alternatives. Parisian ambiance with decidedly French food or Parisian ambiance with unquestionably North American and Mediterranean fare. Regardless of the menu choices you make, sometimes it’s just nice to escape to another milieu. Back Lane Café offers you that option.
Be forewarned. It is hard to get a dinner reservation for this restaurant. You may want to pop in for a quick lunch like we did.

Back Lane Cafe on Urbanspoon

Five questions, five answers about Five Guys Burger

What is Five Guys Burger?

A U.S. burger chain first opened in the mid 80’s.

Who are the Five Guys?

They are five brothers from the Washington D.C. area.

Where is Five Guys Burger?

It’s in 46 states and in 6 Canadian provinces, including the Ottawa location at Train Yards. An Orleans Five Guys is coming soon.

What’s on the menu?

Hand-formed burgers, dogs, sandwiches and fresh-cut fries. For the burgers and the dogs, you can choose as many free toppings as you want. Munch on salted peanuts in the shell as your wait for your order.

Is the food any good?

It’s not terrible. I had the burger and it was tasty. The price was a little disconcerting. Over $14 for a burger, some fries and a fountain drink. You do get an inordinate amount of fries but it all gets thrown together in a paper bag that gets very greasy. I don’t think I will be going back. In my opinion, you can get this kind of meal at any food truck for half the price. Try FGB and let me know what you think.

If you’re travelling to the west coast of America or to Texas, go to In-N-Out burger. Sweet Baby Jesus that’s the best burger anywhere. How I miss that burger. It makes you weak in the knees. Say a prayer that one day In-N-Out will come to Canada.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

Father’s Day BBQ

I’m often sullen on Father’s Day. My dad passed away a few years ago now and even though I miss him every single day, this day in particular is more difficult. When my niece invited me over to her house for a BBQ to spend some time with the family, I was happy to oblige. Family time is always nice. Family time plus a BBQ meal is a no brainer. Grilled vegetables, a big ole steak, some time with the kinfolk and sharing memories about my dad made for a very good day.

The cooking beast
Flowers from my mom’s garden
Hot off the grill

The final product

Nicastro’s Italian Food Emporium

Ottawa’s a pretty small town. The hunt for annoto seeds, fresh dates, morel mushrooms or cabot cheddar can take you on a pretty wild goose chase. Nicastro’s on Bank street has bailed me out on more than one occasion in those times where I need to acquire a hard to find ingredient for my recipe. It’s a beautifully well-stocked market where you can find fresh produce, pasta, meats and sausages, deli items, cheeses, coffee, cookies and other gourmet foods. If Julia Child had lived in Ottawa, this is where she would have shopped.

Il Negozio Nicastro, 792 Bank Street (at Third Ave), Ottawa
A variety of olives in the deli case.
Find pretty much any mushroom you need for your recipe. Even those very expensive morels.
One of the best assortment of cheese in the region.
The walls are lined with oils and vinegars from all over the world.
Nicastro's Italian Food Emporium on Urbanspoon

Great Eggspectation!

I can have breakfast pretty much any time of the day. There’s something intrinsically comforting about breakfast food. When I was a kid I used to sneak Eggos into my room for a quick snack. Cereal is still a go-to for an anytime-of-day nosh. Croissants, bagels, donuts, marmalade, jam, grits, oatmeal,  omelettes, sausages, yogurt…I love them all.

My favourite breakfast place in Ottawa is Eggspectation. I go there fairly often with a friend and order pretty much the same thing. It’s always some combo of eggs, bacon and french toast or pancakes. If you want to check out Eggspectation, it’s on Bank Street near Laurier.

French toast, poached eggs, bacon, potatoes and fruit.

Eggspectation on Urbanspoon

Eating out of my hands

I’ve never been to Africa. I’ve never eaten African cuisine. So when my friend suggested Habesha Restaurant on Rideau Street, I was all in.

This tiny restaurant holds 7 tables at the most. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in warmth, friendliness and amazing food. Our server was the owner and he couldn’t have been kinder. He was a good-hearted, funny and well mannered kinda of chap.

My friend’s buddy comes to this restaurant frequently and so we were well armed with a list of his favourite menu items without really knowing exactly what we were ordering. For me, that’s scary. I’m not a dolt but certainly never the first in line for the tasting menu. I like to know what I am about to eat. In this circumstance, I relied on my trusty friend and his buddy. And man am I glad I did.

Habesha Restaurant, 574 Rideau Street, Ottawa

Before us appeared a circular platter not unlike a pizza pan that acted as the serving dish. All guests eat from this one platter. The platter held an injera, the pancake-like bread of Ethiopia. On top of the injera was placed an assortment of stews, meats and salads. Extra injera bread was served on the side. You take a piece of the bread, scoop up the food and then pop it into your mouth. Traditionally, Ethiopians eat most food with their hands, no utensils required. I was more than happy to oblige.

I foolishly didn’t retain the names of the dishes. Next time I visit, I’ll get it right. Apologies.
Injera is a yeast-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture.

The flavours of the food were outstanding. Ingredients such as red chilies, fenugreek and ginger enriched the flavours of the dishes. The bread was a standout for me. Soft and spongy, it reminded me of a crêpe. It took a little practice to eat with the injera but I eventually got the hang of it.

With a full belly and a kind handshake from the owner, my African adventure was complete. I will be going back to Habesha cause I am now a full-fledged fan.

Habesha on Urbanspoon

Beer, beer and atmosphere

More than once we looked at each other and said “this place is cool.” We were sitting on the patio of the Mill St. Brewery, surrounded by trees, the nearby river, what seemed like hundreds of people and a curious rabbit. If you like beer, this is the place for you.

Mill St. is housed in the 140-year-old former Mill restaurant out on Wellington Street near the War Museum. I met up with the crew a little bit late and they were already well settled into the palates of beer. Being a brewery, this place is all about the cold ones. They have 14 taps that include Tankhouse Ale and some brews designed especially for their Ottawa patrons. While you’re there, you may want to take a free tour of the brewery or drop by the retail store to take home some beer samples and Mill St. merch. It’s like beer wonderland!

Beer palate
The food is classic pub fare. Sandwiches and burgers, some flat breads, mussels, salads and wings. The food incorporates Mill St. beer into many of the menu items. I had the daily special, the ribs and french fries. While the ribs were a little on the ordinary side the fries were definitely a standout. They were soft which is not the usual texture for fries. They tasted sweet and spicy. And they were addictive. Maybe they were also cooked in beer. I forgot to ask. Next time. The gang sampled the angus burger, fish and chips and the club. No complaints and most everyone cleaned their plates. While the food is good, it’s definitely not the draw. And that’s ok.

The Mill St. Brewery is slick and screams atmosphere. There’s no other place like it in Ottawa and because of that, it’s going to do really well. Expect long lines to get in all summer long. I’l be there for sure.

Beer-B-Que ribs & chips
Angus burger
Fish ‘n’ chips

Mill Street Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Man chips

I live in a condo with a strict no BBQ rule so I’m forever looking to find anything that replicates the mouth-watering tastes of BBQ that I crave so much. And I found it in a chip. PC’s World of Flavours Canadian Burger Chips. These chips taste like a bacon double cheeseburger. No joke. They capture that grilled beef flavour that men love so much. In an informal taste test of the sexes, men thought these chips rocked. Women, not so much. Buy them and taste for yourselves.

Loblaw’s President’s Choice World of Flavours Canadian Burger Chips


Bite this

Food trucks are nothing new. You don’t have to stray too far from home to find a mobile vendor selling the standard fare of hotdogs, hamburgers, fries and poutine. While O-Town has yet to rival NYC for street cuisine, the capital has seen a steady rise in artisanal food trucks. Throughout the city, you can now find street food made by chefs who use quality ingredients.

At the corner of Scott and Tweedsmuir in Westboro sits Bite This. This hipster truck contains stylish visuals and trendy menu items. Sample the mango chicken curry with naan for $6.75. Or try the lemon-oregano chicken feta with grilled onions and tzatziki for $6.75. My friend and I both had the pad thai which was on par with any top thai restaurant, sold for only $7.75. Along with the above menu options, you can get burgers, sausages, fries and poutine if that’s what you’re craving.

Menu on June 11, 2012


Lots of groovy seating and cool drinks are available
“Thai-One-On” pad thai
A closer look at the pad thai

Bite This is opened mostly Mondays through Saturdays, 11-3 and closed Sundays. But be sure to read their fine print below:

Bite This reserves the right to close early and open late or remain closed any day for any reason. This includes but is not limited to bad weather, beautiful weather, bad bicycle days, good bicycle days, exhaustion, hangover or a good party.” 

Bite This on Urbanspoon