Category Archives: my neighbourhood

Everything new is old

When I began this post, I was sitting in my bed, eating leftover birthday cake in a glass that used to hold Bonne Maman jam or marmalade in it and I am reminiscing about the first heritage building that I remember experiencing. My day-to-day work revolves around the historical relevance of places, people, and events, so it makes sense that I would reflect on my personal experience in this, but it only came about because two fellows whom I follow on Twitter commented on the building next door to this one, which I spend more time in today than the other building.

1458470_430393567086946_1517877451_nFor about five years, I took weekly theatre classes and summer theatre programs at a place called The Theatre School in downtown London Ontario. The place that has substantially more meaning and is extent today is City Lights book store, whose aisles I wander frequently in my returns to London for historical and antiquarian books, and for excellent copies of Chatelaine from the second-wave feminist era. (I’ll ignore the presence of one creepy CBC talent on the bookstore’s homepage.)

The Theatre School, however, was on the top floors of the Imperial Bank of Canada building at Richmond and King, on what I think is the southeast corner (London doesn’t have a natural inclination to landmark by water the way that Toronto and Ottawa do).

The building was constructed in the Italianate style circa 1880. (City Lights down the street is also a heritage building and was constructed three years later.) I remember the floors creaking under our feet as we rehearsed and the small, narrow corridors where we waited between scenes. I remember thinking that it was an old, noisy building, and wouldn’t it be nice if we had a better performance space so that we weren’t all crammed in the waiting area like sardines, despite being mostly petite girls of ages 7 to 14.

Now, I can’t imagine a more interesting space to perform in. I relish the chance to go and visit new old buildings and explore them and hear the stories of those who lived, worked, or play there. Now, I think: A hundred years ago, did Sir Adam Beck do his banking beneath where my feet landed twenty years ago? Maybe. That’s something.

It’s a really good thing that your tastes change as you get older. If not with food, then at least with buildings.

Montreal le slush, je t’adore

Bonsecours Market

My dad lived in Montreal when he was in his 20s and early 30s. It’s a good place to be young, living close to the bone, people say. I think it’s just a good place to live, to be.

(My mother hates it. I think it’s the driving. I like the fact that the drivers in Montreal know what they’re doing, even if it’s illegal.)

Required photo of the basilica

Andrew & I talk a lot about moving cities for a year or two. We said Toronto, Vancouver, somewhere more exotic. But, every time we go to Montreal, we come back and say for a week, or two or three, that we should move to Montreal.

Blue bench

When we moved into our new neighbourhood, we thought we would be closer to good street culture, a more walkable neighbourhood, more diverse retail, a different community than where we were. And it is different. Just…not how we expected. Transit access is ho-hum, worse than it was. It’s at least a ten-minute walk to any neighbourhood with good retail, and the closest neighbourhood was devastated by a fire that took away a good chunk of its street life. The Byward Market is lovely, and it’s close enough, but the problem is that the city stops after the sun goes down. Whereas in Montreal, shops downtown are open until 9 or 10 at night, just about everything in Ottawa shuts down at 6. There’s a lovely little spot in Hintonburg that is booked solid with reservations, and yet nothing much around it is open past 7. Same goes for the Byward Market. It’s rather tragic – people say that Ottawans won’t go out late, but part of the reason for that is that there’s nothing to do. It’s cyclical.

Why do I suspect this place isn't particularly good?

In Montreal, shops close at 6, but the jazz clubs and museums and art galleries are open later. There is so much to do, and so the streets are full of people. By converse, when the mercury hit the high 20s this week, it brought Ottawans out into the streets to enjoy the nice weather, but with naught to do. OpenFile asked its readers whether the lack of people is to blame for the lack of things to do in Ottawa’s urban areas, or if it’s vice versa. It’s neither, I believe. It’s cyclical.

In Toronto (where I was yesterday), there is such a critical mass of people living in a relatively densely populated space that it requires things to do. I suspect that the same is true of Montreal and Vancouver.

Patient Dog is Patient

But, why not of Ottawa? What is preventing us from that?

An ode to Pressed

The best Americano in the city.

I think I’m a bit late on the Pressed bandwagon. Kelly wrote about it two months ago and her collection of photos puts mine to shame. Lana has posted about her three or four trips in a similarly detailed fashion. And I normally don’t do reviews. So, why write about it?

Well, for one, the Americano. It’s the best that I’ve had in the city. The Pressed Americano has ruined me for my Monday-to-Friday coffee from that-local-chain-that-you-all-know-and-maybe-love. I can drink this Americano black. I don’t think that I ever thought that I would be a black coffee drinker, but there you have it. I genuinely wish that we had moved to Centretown, so that I could be in closer proximity to their espresso.

Smoked Chicken Sammich

For another thing, there’s a strong balance of homemade and let’s-not-fuss-too-much here. There’s something really fantastic about having EVERYTHING homemade, down to your mayonnaise. I can appreciate the level of commitment that this requires; as someone who has made pumpkin puree from scratch for pumpkin cheesecake, it takes tenacity and a good amount of heart. And most of what you will find here is made from scratch: The effort and love that goes into the smoked chicken, the homemade aioli, the hand-cut sweet potato chips, is completely appreciated in every bite. They know what they can do and they do it very, very well. Frankly, I love the fact that their bread is ACE baguette, because it’s accessible, and it’s not the same bread that every other sandwich shop in this city uses. In an era in which handmade is becoming the trend, it’s nice to see balance. It’s sane-making.

Waffle!

Also, the brunch. You know by now that I’m a sucker for good brunch. This Sunday, Pressed started serving a selection of waffles. I love that the waffles play on the idea of ‘pressed’, the sandwich press, the waffle iron, there’s a certain amount of imagery at play here that works well, if you care about that sort of thing. If you don’t, let me say this: The waffles are delicious. The ones that we ordered were perfectly cooked, and came with an apple compote, marscapone cheese, lemon zest and maple syrup. It was a great balance of yeasty, doughy, creamy, sweet and fresh. What I’m most excited for, however, are the savoury ones. I have this thing, about brunch, where no matter how much I want pancakes, or french toast, or a waffle, I will inevitably end up ordering eggs benedict or an omlette. Salty, smokey flavours win over sweet. Pressed has five waffle options at the moment, two of which are savoury: Waffles Benedict comes with poached eggs, in-house smoked bacon, and hollandaise sauce, while The Hangover sounds like waffle poutine, with its cheese curds and gravy.

Art

Lastly, it’s the atmosphere. It reminds me a bit of Edgar, if only because Jeff (Pressed’s owner) and Marysol are both incredibly passionate about what they do and are involved in the relationship between the diner and the kitchen. Pressed also gives me the same uncontrollable giddy, happy feeling that I get when I walk into Edgar, and that same resigned sadness when leaving. Luckily, I know that I’ll be back soon.

edgar.

usually i don’t review restaurants. or coffee shops. or other purveyors of food. that is all compiled nicely over on ottawa foodies. but this is an exception. you know marysol? of she eats bears? of swapping vegetables for cookies? of the life changing salad? she has her own place now.

it’s called edgar (her father’s name, i am told). and it is fabulous. it’s a culmination of all the wonderful, homemade, well-considered food that marysol has shared on her blog. except in a space that is as bright as she, and open and warm. let me tell you: when we went for breakfast this morning, i was completely blissed out. i could have stayed for hours. had more coffee. eaten a sandwich and soup for lunch. lingered. it’s that good.

cinnamon brioche bun with dates and bacon and lots of other yumminess. you need to try this.

it’s in gatineau, which for some people (myself included) might be a touch scary, since y’know, the street comes before the street’s name. but believe me: it’s easy to find. and it’s worth seeking out. so very worth it.

cupcake camp

the cupcakes are coming! the cupcakes are coming!

if you haven’t heard, capital cupcake camp is coming back! cupcake camp is an opportunity for our community to come together and share their enthusiasm for cupcakes with proceeds going to charity. this year, the funds will be shared between ottawa’s Woman Alive/Femme Active program and the youth services bureau!

everyone who brings cupcakes will have the opportunity to show off their creations and enter a contest to be judged by celebrity ottawa judges, including Chef Michael Blackie (NAC’s Le Cafe), Lynne Frappier (Whalesbone Oyster House), Alan Neal (CBC Radio) & Kady O’Malley (CBC.ca and Power & Politics)

if you don’t have your ticket (either to bake or to taste), it’s not too late!

flock.

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i want to step away briefly from the discussion of food this week to talk a bit about a loverly new shop in my neck of the woods. (if only my neighbourhood was so wooded). shortly after i moved here, i discovered workshop, an incredible store of treasures from wonderful canadian designers, mostly women. the owners, bridget and christina, are delightful as can be and know a good thing when they see it. they saw an opportunity to market such lovely pieces to women who have a more classic style of fashion, but still providing a unique twist and the awesomeness of handmade.

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on saturday, i had the chance to take a peek inside their newest endeavor, flock. the space here is cleaner and more modern looking than workshop; flock is workshop’s older, slightly wiser sister. the designs at workshop are more about taking risks, while flock is about having a carefully curated collection of pieces that speak volumes about your taste.

i would strongly recommend venturing to flock to (ahem) take a gander at their pieces. they have a lovely collection of not only clothing and accessories, but also housewares to boot.

guest post: the best thing amy ever ate

(this week is beyond busy for me, so i won’t be around much. however, i am delighted to share with you the thoughts of some fantastic ottawa women. these ladies know a thing or two about food in the area. first up is the incredible amy. amy boughner is a new mom, blogger and political junkie. (editor’s note: not to mention a wonderful cheerleader for things she believes in!) she writes her heart out at amyboughner.ca and tweets as @amyboughner. take it away, amy!)


a visual representation of the best thing amy ever ate (via epicurious)

I love the Food Network. I don’t like the actual cooking shows, mind you, but the cooking competition shows and the shows about food I find fascinating. When we got rid of cable it was one of the things I knew I would miss. And one of the shows I miss the most is The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Each episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate is about one type of food (sandwiches, dessert, etc) and a series of celebrity chefs talks about the best of that food they ever had. They visit the restaurant, talk to the chefs, and tell the audience everything they love about that particular food.

I got to thinking about the best thing I ever ate in Ottawa. I am not a gourmet by any means, I can cook but I’m not a chef, I like to eat but I don’t go to high end restaurants where they serve tiny amounts of food on fancy plates. When my husband took me to The Black Tomato for the first time I was a bit scared of the menu, but we both decided on an entrée and then we decided to split their Lime Chicken and Avocado Salad.

I didn’t enjoy whatever it was that I ordered for a main course, but that salad was unforgettable. Grilled chicken with a hint of lime flavour, wonderful greens, ripe plum tomatoes, corn chips for crunch, a wonderfully creamy and light avocado dressing.

I never expected to love a salad this much. I have never been good at eating vegetables, and for me to crave a salad – to really not being able to think about this salad without craving one – is a saying a lot. The mix of flavours, the crunch and the freshness. It’s a beautiful salad. The kind of dish that you recommend to people when they tell you they’re visiting your favourite restaurant.

When it’s a special occasion and we’re going out for a nice dinner, this is the meal I want. We’ve spent our first two anniversaries at the Black Tomato.

And it doesn’t hurt that the Black Tomato is right down the street from another place for great Ottawa food, where I can get one of the best desserts I ever ate. (The Raspberry Vanilla Charlotte at Oh So Good!)

chickpeas and a plea.

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about six months ago, my husband & i went to see ‘cold souls’. it’s a movie about a guy (paul giamatti) who puts his soul into storage. everyone’s soul is slightly different in shape, size and colour. his soul looks exactly like a chickpea. it’s a running joke throughout.

needless to say, i could not each chickpeas for months after that, lest i fear i was eating mr. giamatti’s tortured soul.

enter the roasted chickpea. because it’s roasted, it’s darker. it’s not as squishy as the raw chickpea used in the film. no longer did i have to fear that i was eating souls. plus, they were tasty in a way that chickpeas usually are not. and you can change up the flavours.

a propros not of the chickpeas, nor of mr. giamatti, i’m hoping some of you will be so kind as to support me in the terry fox run this year. as some of you might recall, my uncle passed away from liver cancer earlier this summer. my aunt has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. i’m running the 5k, which will be my first 5k race, partly because i need to feel like i have some amount of control over this, even if it’s only a drop in an ocean.

so, even if donating isn’t your thing (believe me, there are many occasions where i have turned people down), just a kind word to encourage me in this would be greatly appreciated. in the meantime, maybe eating some of these chickpeas will get me in shape for this.*

oven roasted chickpeas
adapted from the kitchn

1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon chunky sea salt
1 tablespoon choice of spice (see my recommendations below)

heat oven to 400F
spread chickpeas out on a cookie sheet
drizzle oil on top
sprinkle spices evenly
bake for 40 minutes in 3 intervals of 10-15 minutes, turning the chickpeas each time

if it’s not flavourful enough for you, add more spices when you bring them out of the oven
allow to cool and store in an open container
(pro-tip: in a closed container, the moisture will make them shrivel up)

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favourites flavours

  • 1 tablespoon schwartz’s steak spice
  • 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon saffron, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon honey (these need to be turned more)
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed, 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons oregano, 1 teaspoon basil

*why yes, i did think that was a good segue. didn’t you?

urban art with kids

Three Forms by the Sea

if you haven’t noticed by now, i post on public art from time to time.

my current job entails researching and cataloging information about some of the best urban art in ottawa & gatineau.

the lovely andrea asked me to offer my thoughts on urban art in ottawa, particularly the child-friendly. i’m guest posting over there today.

go take a peek!

image of three forms by the sea, by pierre bourgault
(ottawans, keep an eye out for this one when biking along the river near the war museum)