Thursday, February 20, 2014

P&P's Restaurant Review #1 - Corner Bar & Grill

Feb 9, 2014


First night out on the Wellington/Westboro Restaurant Exploration.

After spending a couple of hours perusing Yelp and Urban Spoon, Pierre had compiled a list of more than a hundred possible three-star-and-up dining spots. Mapping the first 25 dinner houses, we scrapped our idea of one-from-one-end, then one-from-the-other, and instead decided to consult our taste buds. 

Our first choice: Naked Fish, a simple-sounding sushi house with an alluring name. Walking in the glass front door just before 8pm, we saw the two staff members sweeping up the snow-salty floor, and learned that they closed at 8 on Sundays. We were welcome to take home one of the last remaining Bento boxes, but the feeling I got in their austere, spray-it-clean atmosphere was fast-food, and Pierre’s blood sugar was nearing the red, so we passed. Life is too short to eat less-than-top-quality sushi. And, risking it could make life even shorter!

Back out on the icy-cold sidewalk, we turned left and then took an immediate left into another restaurant on our list: The Corner Bar and Grill... which is located, ironically, mid-block. Ottawa is peppered with pubs and sports bars, which, honestly, can get a little old. We’d deleted a number of them, but because of its rating, The Corner remained, and we’re glad it did. 

The Corner Bar & Grill - 344 Richmond Rd, Ottawa - one of three locations

Surrounded by soft fawn walls, not-too-loud music, and a multitude of TV screens, we had our choice of viewing the Olympics or -- you guessed it -- the Olympics, all of which were blissfully set to silent. Neither of us are big television fans, but we do sometimes enjoy watching sports. Pierre was a ski-jumper in his youth, so is especially keen on the fast winter games. We hit the jackpot: downhill skiing and speed skating was on, and the Canadians excelled!

It was a quiet night, so we shared the pub with around 20 other patrons. The bartender came out to wait on us with a warm welcome, impeccable timing, and a friendly attitude. The Corner is known for its extensive menu of local-ish brews, with three craft beers featured each day. Mine was delicious: Beyond the Pale’s “Pink Fuzz,” a grapefruit wheaten beer made right here in Ottawa. I’ve had many fruit-infused beers, and prefer a lemon- or lime- to a sweet orange-squeeze (which is more commonly served here), but this was my first beer made with grapefruit. I’ve added a trip to Beyond the Pale’s brewery to our list. Pierre chose a more commonly available Toronto beer, Mill Street’s “Tankhouse Ale”: a lovely, copper-coloured, spicy ale that he enjoyed. And even though I’m not a big hoppy-beer fan, I gave a thumbs-up to my sip. Not being a lover of the grapefruit, Pierre declined a taste of mine.

My standard pub fare is wings. Having been introduced to the real thing: Buffalo wings in Buffalo, NY (thank you, wasbundy!), I’m always on the lookout for excellent ones. The Corner’s Twice Cooked Chicken Wings (fried then baked) were some of the closest I’ve had to those across the border! The first plus was hearing that they were non-breaded (a must since I truly dislike that extra layer of flour and deep-fried fat.) Because it was slow, our server was willing to put in an order of half Cajun Dusted [a southern-style dry rub] and half Frank’s Red Hot [which was not too-hot, but oh-so-authentically-tasty]. Their dipping sauce was a blend of ranch and blue cheese, though finding the blue flavour was a challenge. That tiny detail was tad disappointing, but it was yummy nonetheless. The plate came with only one perfectly-fresh carrot- and celery stick; however, when requested, our server happily delivered more.

Pierre steered away from his normal pub burger to choose a Canadian pizza, made with molasses and black pepper bacon (which nearly made him choose something else: “Molasses on pizza? Ick.”) Mushrooms, pepperoni, traditional pizza sauce and mozza rounded out the pie. The crust was thin, just as we like it, and the oddly-cured bacon was quite tasty. He had the kitchen include his usual green pepper addition, so smiled throughout the meal... especially as his blood sugar began to rise.

Next stop: our gourmet dinner two days after Valentine’s Day: the next evening that was free.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Introducing: The P&P Restaurant Reviews!

I am a foodie. I love variety; taking my time with new flavours; talking about subtle spices, textures, and depths; discovering artist-chefs; and trying to determine just how that particular combination of tastes might be re-created.  And am pretty sure I have my parents to thank for that.
(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Mom & Dad, Sissy & me. 1968
  As a child, I was teeny and completely uninterested in eating. Probably afraid I might starve, my folks insisted that I not only try a huge variety of foods, but clean my plate, even when one bite of cold asparagus stared at me as I sat alone through an entire episode of Little House on the Prairie. Eventually I choked down the offending morsel and joined my family in the play room. Thank goodness, it did get easier. And I learned to savor asparagus.

David & me. 1983 (Thank you, too, D!)
  Fast forward to my early-twenties, post-university, San Francisco Bay Area... A dear beau, earning tons of under-the-table construction cash, spoiled me rotten with his favourite activity: gourmet dining. The freshest seafood, California produce, Napa Valley wine, and Bay Area chefs... there was a blissful plethora to choose from. My taste-buds came alive. And I’ve never looked back.

Wayno prepares something delicious
with our chickens' eggs
Another leap forward in time... My wasbund and I, together for eighteen years, ate like royalty. He was a fabulous chef, and ran a number of wonderful Western Washington kitchens, including ours. Silly though it was, I was intimidated by his skills, and avoided preparing meals. However, as we used to quip: “Nobody likes to come home from work and go back to work,” so we dined out often. We talked food and flavours in delightful detail, as did most of our family and friends, and as I assumed everyone did.


Pierre cuts a turn on Lac Rheaume. 1979
Across the continent, my dear Pierre was living in Quebec and Ontario, the eldest son in a traditional French Canadian family. His mom was a trained Cordon Bleu cook, and his childhood meals sounded deliciously rich and saucy. But Pierre was on the move. Football, downhill ski-jumping, competitive water skiing, and partying were his passions. 

Food was, and remains, sustenance

To be clear: Pierre loves good food. And he’s fine with ok food. Often he’s even alright with absolutely boring, just-fill-the-stomach food, the kind that I have to work to get over. Perhaps most surprising to me is he can eat the exact same food every day and be perfectly content. It’s actually a trait I admire, but cannot imagine emulating. It would be like turning my entire world beige.

Fourth giant batch of chicken & sausage gumbo:
my sweetie's every-day lunch
As I may have stated once or twice, I am the luckiest woman on the planet. Although Pierre eats to live, as opposed to living to eat, he does enjoy -- perhaps even crave -- adventures. 

With me as the main cook at home, he’s willing to consume my kitchen experiments—he’s actually my greatest fan—and is a good sport and wonderful company when trying new restaurants... even if all he really wants is a burger (no-onion-no-pickle-no-cheese-no-bacon) and fries.

In the midst of this seemingly never-ending winter, we decided to spice things up. 

We live, you see, rather near the trendy restaurant-dense neighbourhood of Wellington / Westboro. So, Pierre proposed that, over the next few months, we visit and review previously untested eating establishments. 
Just a couple of places to explore
We started last week -- not at the place we'd planned -- and I'll share that first experience within the next couple of days. 

I hope you enjoy our upcoming (possibly diverging? :) ) perspectives on Ottawa’s west-end eateries. If nothing else, it's bound to be delicious!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jan 27 - Feb 9, 2014 - Photo A Day Project

And life's pace picks up again! Back to the theatre I am, which means scheduling a group of fifteen fantastic (and busy) volunteers and helping my dear co-crew-chief, Nadine, choreograph the set moves in thirteen scene changes. Last week and this are rehearsals / trainings, and then we'll each be working two to three nights a week for the following three. As Nadine put it, "It's all coming together beyooootifully!"

Speaking of exactly that... Pierre and I are officially engaged! Although we have lived together for nearly five years, we are now able to take the next step: mehwij! ;) This is the second round for both of us, and since we've both experienced the big, theatrical wedding, we're choosing an extremely quick, sweet and simple civil ceremony with an officiant. However... there *will be* a celebration this summer! Stay tuned for announcements of the wedding- and the comfy-weather-party-dates. :)

Beginning this week, I'm also starting a new blogging project. 
Photo-a-day will continue, at least for now, but in addition, I'll be adding P&P's Restaurant Review. 

For now, though... here is a two-week gander into mid-winter life in Ottawa. 

27 - Something I Bought


[ Can not post until after Feb 14! ]

28 - Dinner

Orijen Regional Red + pumpkin-sicles + fish pill
= a very happy and healthy hound

29 - Window

That little window and the one across the stairwell
brings natural light into our middle-of-the-house bathroom.
Thank you, prior owners! Nice touch.

30 - Best Invention Ever

OK, maybe this doesn't compare to the wheel,
but un-tethering us from the wall? Sweet freedom!

31 - Polka Dot

Not one stitch of polka-dot fabric in our house, so
here's the closest we get: beautiful alcohol ink coasters
made by my lovely sister. xoxo

Next! :) #FMSphotoaday (first time I've ever used a hash-tag!)

1 - You

Cop and me selfie in the morning

2 - Favourite

One of my favourite foods: guac-and-chips made for
watching our favourite football champs, with a sign
designed by my favourite man!

3 - Something Orange

Kitchen countertop on its way!
[Goodbye fake wood counter!]

5 - Square

A tesseract made by props-master, Marti

6 - C is for ...

Ze Cop-top!


... who at almost 11 still loves to romp in the snow!

7 - Utensil(s)

A groovy new Japanese line

8 - Water

Lots of it in its crystalline form

9 - Details

The stage manager's notes get many revisions
before the final, perfected version emerges.