Plus City Bites: notable restaurant and food happenings
Beau’s Patio News Never content to rest on their laurels, Beau’s has big plans for the summer patio at their Vankleek Hill base. The 50-seat patio opened for the season on the May long weekend, with plans to host lunches on Saturdays and Sundays (and Fridays from Canada Day to Labour Day) all summer long. Brewery chef Bruce Wood has been hard at work planning a short, locally inspired menu featuring ingredients that pair well with the latest Beau’s offerings: think deluxe sandwiches made on bread from Nat’s Bread Company, rich charcuterie and cheese platters, a dip platter, and a seasonal salad option. While many first-time visitors combine lunch with a Beau’s tour, Wood says it’s inspiring to get to know an ever-expanding cadre of regulars, including an increasing number of cyclists who drive to the brewery with their bikes on their cars, head out for a 100-kilometre ride, then return for good eats and a cold brew. Sounds like a plan. 10 Terry Fox Dr., Vankleek Hill, 866-585-BEER. La Dolce Vita It is indeed the sweet life for Connor McQuay, the new executive chef at the 150-seat Sopranos Italian restaurant at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Gatineau. The 28-year-old was running the 40-seat Back Lane Café when he scored the new gig, which also sees him managing the hotel’s other restaurant and banquet facilities. McQuay says the first person he called before interviewing for the job was his ex-boss at the NAC, chef Michael Blackie, who ran the kitchens there before launching NeXT in 2013. “I asked him what I was getting myself into and for advice on how to sell myself, because as an executive chef, I have never been in such a big company with so many different venues.” McQuay, who has Irish-Italian roots, is psyched for the challenge ahead. “I want Sopranos to become a place where residents from Ottawa, Gatineau, and Aylmer come by for fresh Italian food. I want Sopranos to be the Italian restaurant in the area,” he says. 1170 Aylmer Rd., Gatineau, 819-778-0000. Dinner (and Lunch) Is Served Chef Mark Steele has a new gig — running his own takeout and catering company on busy St. Joseph Boulevard in Orleans. After close to a decade in executive chef roles with the Hilton hotel chain and, most recently, at the Ottawa Marriott, Steele says he was itching to get back into the kitchen. “I was spending all my time on administrative stuff, and I wasn’t happy.” Launched in March, OCCO Kitchen sees Steele preparing deluxe comfort food for the takeout crowd (“It’s so cool to do really, really good takeout,” he enthuses. “If you break down my burger, it’s a homemade bun, fresh-made patty, ketchup and pickles made from scratch … It’s a premium burger!”) and putting his hotel smarts to work running a catering operation for clients hosting large events and meetings. The Newfoundlander is also amassing a devoted following for his Beau’s-beer-battered fish and chips and crispy fish tacos. What’s on tap for summer? “No menus set yet, but I’m experimenting with a liquid-nitrogen milkshake.” 3018 St. Joseph Blvd., 613-424-7700. Tie One On Who better to design aprons than a chef? Dessert lovers will remember Matt Somers as the pastry genius behind It’s a Matter of Cake, which he gave up when things became too hectic with businesses managed by him and his wife, Erin Carmichael (she runs Full Bloom Floral Design). Now Somers, who calls himself a lifelong “fixer and putterer” has unveiled Wove & Grain, which sees him designing denim and waxed-canvas aprons for chefs (and flower arrangers and woodworkers) around town. Strong and stylin’, the apron features a hand-sewn, adjustable leather harness so that it fits just so. Given the trend toward open kitchens, a chef has to look good! Early adopters include El Camino’s Matt Carmichael, Kyrn Stein of Social, Steve Mitton from Murray Street, and Trish Larkin. Oh, and if you’re still craving his desserts, head to El Camino, where jack-of-all-trades Somers is in charge of baking signature sweets. Collective Fun It all started in January when two chefs — Stephen LaSalle of The Albion Rooms and Kyle MortimerProulx of Lowertown Brewery — began bandying about the idea of organizing a sugar-shack meal. They brought Paul Dubeau (Clocktower Brew Pub and Stella Osteria) into the loop, and he was quickly followed by Ian Reed (The Courtyard), Ian Carswell (KW Catering & Events at the National Gallery of Canada), Jesse Bell (DISH Catering), and David Wallace (Around the Block Butcher Shop). The Bytown Chefs Collective was born — seven young chefs (ages 26–31) shaking things up and having some fun. “We all love being hosts and embrace the hospitality side, so we wanted to create events — make it more than just dinner,” explains Dubeau. “It’s fun to be out there. It’s so different from a regular day at work.” They sold 100 tickets to their first event — the four-course Table Érable at the Proulx Sugar Bush. Since then, the group, which originally planned to host four of its own events each year, has been deluged with requests to participate in other festivals and happenings. So far, the collective is scheduled to host a number of creative events at the Ottawa
Farmers’ Market this summer and has signed on to provide the Saturday night feast at Two Islands Weekend — a gourmet wilderness escape for adults in the Haliburton Highlands — in September. Watch their Facebook site for announcements. QUICK BITES
Big changes at Black Cat Bistro, where the 35-year-old restaurant announced the hiring of Michael Farber as its ninth chef. Farber, best known for the former Farbs Kitchen on Beechwood, takes over from Trish Larkin, who held the top job for just over five years.
Always changing it up, Little Italy got a couple of new eateries this past spring. Opening in the old Beechbone spot on Beech Street is Wandee Thai Cuisine. And unrepentant lovers of fried food will be excited about The Joint, right on Preston Street, which goes with the tagline “rockin’ junk food.”
If you find yourself at the corner of Sparks and O’Connor, look for ambitious business grad Sifa Kalinda, who is aiming for a June launch of Plátanos food cart. Kalinda plans to meld her native Rwandan cuisine with Canadian favourites. We’re picturing exotic interpretations of plantain nachos and plantain fries …
Expectations are high for Share Freehouse, which opened this past spring on Somerset. It’s a collaboration between chef Danny Mongeon (formerly of Brut Cantina Sociale and Hooch Bourbon House) and co-owner Thomas McVeigh (former GM of Absinthe). Get there early for a patio seat.
Congrats to Restaurant E18hteen’s Jonathan Korecki and Beckta’s Mike Moffatt! The two local mainstays received four-diamond honours from the CAA/AAA. With E18hteen recently undergoing a reno and Beckta in new digs, it seems like a perfect time to revisit both.
Great olive oil is no longer virgin territory for locals, who have been lapping up the Mediterranean-diet trend for a few years now. West enders got their own store this past spring when The Unrefined Olive opened a second location in Kanata.
Chefs unite The Bytown Chefs Collective, a group of young Ottawa chefs, will host fun food events this summer and fall
Work-ready Wove & Grain aprons feature an adjustable leather strap and come in waxed canvas or denim