Can­non Cof­fee Co.: The waf­fles are the bomb

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - ALANA HUDSON Alana Hudson has cooked at restau­rants in­clud­ing Vong, Le Bernardin, and Avalon.

There was no sig­nage to speak of when we went, on the first sunny morn­ing in days, to visit Can­non Cof­fee Co.

We drove and parked on Ot­tawa, and at the in­ter­sec­tion with Can­non was a build­ing with a big red Toy­ota ad af­fixed to the wall. The fa­cade was wall to wall win­dows, and just re­fur­bished, so I knew we were in the right spot when I glanced in and saw a bustling café.

Cosy is a word that ap­pears a cou­ple of times on their web­site/Face­book page, and it aptly de­scribes the place. Warm light flooded in and en­veloped the long wooden ta­ble in front; funky lights hang­ing over­head are made of what ap­pear to be large PVC joints. The dé­cor is mainly a mix of light and dark wood (light floors, medium ta­ble tops and dark for the front of the counter), sur­rounded by airy white walls.

Warm and wel­com­ing, but also a bit snug: the big ta­ble seats about eight, and there are six other ta­bles for two. I had heard from a friend that there is of­ten a lineup, so my din­ing com­pan­ion, our son and I got there at about 9:30 a.m. We didn’t have to wait for a ta­ble but within a half an hour, a line started that filled up the wait­ing area and re­mained con­stant for the rest of our stay.

When we sat, I bor­rowed an ex­tra chair from an­other ta­ble to make it three, and thought about drinks. A framed chalk­board listed cof­fees, teas and iced drinks, along with the Wi-Fi pass­word. We looked over the small menu and went to stand in line at the counter.

Low-key but com­pelling back­ground mu­sic made me feel as if I were in a mod­er­ately im­por­tant mo­ment in an in­die film. The vibe ex­tended to the clien­tele as well: mostly thirty-some­things — a tuque here and a beard or a mous­tache there, and a cou­ple of chil­dren tak­ing a trip or two to the re­stroom.

My com­pan­ion re­trieved one of the full bot­tles of wa­ter on the counter, and three glasses. Then we sat for just a mo­ment be­fore be­ing alerted that our drinks were ready.

I fer­ried a Lon­don fog and a kids’ hot choco­late to the ta­ble and my com­pan­ion brought back a cap­puc­cino. The fog was a sweet treat, creamy with flecks of vanilla bean on top; so­phis­ti­cated com­fort. The cap­puc­cino had a sim­i­larly milky rich­ness but with a deep, roasted cof­fee bean flavour and mildly bit­ter fin­ish, which I liked. My son en­joyed the hot choco­late, which I didn’t find re­mark­able but was easy to en­joy.

The Can­non is se­ri­ous about their cof­fee. On the counter at the reg­is­ter is a scale where their Che­mex (the hour­glass-shaped cof­fee fil­ter­ing con­trap­tion that pro­duces strength with­out the bit­ter­ness) sits. When­ever a restau­rant mea­sures its cof­fee, I know I’m in for a good cup. Their web­site shows fea­tured brands, in­clud­ing Rosso, Re­u­nion Is­land, and De­tour. They clearly care about where their beans are sourced.

Just be­fore the food ar­rived, one of the servers asked if my son and I could sit to­gether to make room at the ta­ble next to us. There was plenty of room on our benches, and I was happy to help out. The ta­ble was a lit­tle full once the food had ar­rived but as long as you ad­just to what I think of as an ur­ban sense of space (din­ing el­bow to el­bow), then it is not a prob­lem.

Waf­fles form a dis­tinct mo­tif through the menu. Be­sides the clas­sic waf­fle, there are nine other waf­fle op­tions. And as my com­pan­ion put it: if you also like your eggs poached and you like av­o­cado and ba­con, you will do very well here.

We be­gan with the clas­sic, or­dered for our son. If you bring kids here, they will be pleased with this one: the choco­late sauce over­flowed, and a gen­er­ous mound of whipped cream sat mid-waf­fle, all of it dusted with ic­ing sugar.

In some dishes the waf­fle was the “bread” of the sand­wich; in oth­ers, its role was sim­i­lar to that of cros­tini in br­uschetta. The waf­fles were a touch crunchy on the out­side, which al­lowed them to ca­pa­bly sup­port the top­pings, and a lit­tle dense with a slight chewi­ness, like a good baguette. Not airy, not su­per fluffy, but solid and sturdy.

I had the waf­fle ver­sion of a Cal­i­for­nia sand­wich with tomato, ba­con and av­o­cado salsa. Al­though the menu refers to these waf­fles as “jalapeño havarti,” nei­ther in­gre­di­ent popped out at me. But with a dot­ting of the Daw­son’s gar­lic jalapeño sauce of­fered on the ta­ble, the dish was a savoury, fresh hit.

My com­pan­ion or­dered the ‘Mer­i­can brunch, sort of a waf­fle-based ver­sion of a warm salad. Lay­ing on top were mesclun mix, roasted sweet pota­toes, av­o­ca­dos and goat cheese, all driz­zled with bal­samic vine­gar. They were served on pesto waf­fles and again, I thought the flavour­ing in the waf­fles could have been a bit more as­sertive. How­ever, the com­po­si­tion of the plate, each el­e­ment barely over­lap­ping an­other, made each bite dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent.

By now, with the amount of waf­fle I’d eaten, I was pretty full, so I took home some pas­tries (all made in house) to taste-test a cou­ple of hours later. Their ve­gan blue­berry pecan muf­fin was hearty with­out be­ing heavy, with plenty of fresh blue­berry flavour. The lemon scone was a bit over­worked and a lit­tle tough but the ham and ched­dar scone was made with a lighter hand. The choco­late chip cookie was right on, ten­der and bend­able, a sat­is­fy­ing fin­ish.

Look­ing at the lineup, Can­non Cof­fee doesn’t seem to need a sign, al­though we learned later that one is due to be in­stalled by year’s end, as the land­lord is ren­o­vat­ing the ex­te­rior.

In fact, I’m sure reg­u­lars want to keep it their de­li­cious se­cret — but it’s too late now: word is out.

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The cap­puc­cino was not for the faint of heart: full of dark, in­tense flavour.

ALANA HUDSON PHOTOS, SPECIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The ’Mer­i­can brunch was a wave of flavours from sweet potato to goat cheese, to bal­samic.

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