A Cozy Nook in Somerset West Village [327 Wine Bar - Ottawa Restaurant]





I never thought I’d be gushing and crushing so hard on Ottawa’s newest restaurants this summer, but here we are, with news of another new(ish) kid on the block, 327 Wine Bar

I had the complete pleasure of dropping by 327 about a month or two ago (I’m really behind, ok? IM SORRY!) and was so impressed with every aspect of this cozy, sophisticated spot. 

As I pulled back on the heavy door and poked my head inside the former Benitz Bistro, I was greeted with warm smiles from owners Tim Barton and Brad Henderson. Both have spent many years in the restaurant circuit building impressive resumes, most notably together at the Brookstreet Hotel’s Perspectives. Though Tim had previously left his position as sous chef at the downtown Ottawa Marriott to pursue a career in property management, he quickly realized that his passion truly laid with the fast paced food and beverage industry. And holy smokes, are we glad. He and Brad have created an intimate nook to linger over incredible, though limited, food and an impressive list of wines that both owners seem simply ecstatic over. 



Never one to turn down a glass of wine, I was quick to give into Tim’s eager urges to “try this!” as he filled a small glass with a slightly viscous looking 2008 Karlo Estates Van Alstine White Port. I’m not typically much for port, but found it to have a touch of acidity that I found much more palatable than it’s deeper crimson counterpart. 

There was hardly a moment after I pushed my port glass away from my reach before Tim enthusiastically asked what I might like to try next. This is what sets these owners apart - they are thrilled to share their knowledge of good food and wine with each and every customer. Moved, inspired and quite apparently fired up about the products they sell and serve, Tim and Brad want nothing more than for you to sit, linger and enjoy in their little corner of Somerset West village. 

The decor is simple, clean and blanketed in warmth from the bright red wall and honey-coloured wood accents. If they aimed to make a space that was intimate, inviting and even a little sexy - they succeeded through and through. 



As I sipped a glass of crisp, floral 2010 Ironstone Vineyards Symphony Obsession, a blend of  Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris (and a bottle that Tim enthusiastically offered when I asked what he thought I should try), Brad worked away in the kitchen preparing what was soon to be devoured by a room of hungry people anxious to see what these men have been scheming up for Ottawa’s food lovers. 

Before I even saw Brad, I could smell his presence in the room. He strode in carrying plates that smelled of HOLYSHITINEEDTOEATTHISIMMEDIATELY! Pardon my French, but there just isn’t any other way to describe it. It was euphoria! Warm spices, tempura vegetables, aged beef tenderloin, frites… every sense was considered and involved in these plates. 




After we all took our turn hovering anxiously over the beautiful, succulent looking plates to snap a few photos, we dove into the incredible food to see what this new restaurant was really all about at their core. If I wasn’t already impressed by the wines and the decor, I would have tipped my cap to Tim & Brad as I inhaled what 327 has quickly become known for - bold flavours, simple ingredients and classic techniques. 

We devoured plate after plate of succulence. My favourites were without a doubt the Seared Colossal Scallops with Fennel Slaw and Soya-Honey & the 5oz 28 day aged AAA filet served with matchstick fries and a St. Elizabeth Blue cheese melt over top (and yes, that little bottle of ketchup comes with every order - a surefire way to make most girls squeee!). Other dishes we sampled: charcuterie, antipasto and cheese platter with Niagara prosciutto, capicolo, olives, Le Riopelle Triple Cream Brie and Ile de Grûes four-year-old cheddar, Sesame tempura vegetable with sweet and salty soy dipper, Deconstructed 327 Rocky Road dessert with GF brownie, torched marshmallows, caramel butter sauce, toasted walnuts and strawberries, Vegan Chili with Braised vegetables & toasted vegan beer bread. 



I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that Brad and Tim chose to hang their hats so close to where I hang my own. I forsee many late-night glasses of wine, post-dinner desserts, afternoon bites and yes, definitely a whole lot of dinners. With hours that range from “4pm - Close”, this is the perfect spot to head for a night cap. Tim was adamant that he wanted this to be your last stop after a long, hectic day. Unwind with a hearty menu of expertly crafted dishes and the perfect wine, cocktail or brew to pair.



327 Wine Bar
327 Somerset Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 0J8 
613.695.WINE (9463)
info@327winebar.ca

T: @327winebar
F: http://facebook.com/327winebar   

Hours of Operation:
Tuesday – Saturday 4PM – Close




327 Wine Bar on Urbanspoon 

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Farmers, Chefs & Markets [Heirloom Tomato Tart w Lemon Ricotta & Cornmeal/Thyme Crust]



We rose, slower than usual, from our slumber Sunday morning, sipped our coffees as we rubbed our eyes, and had a small breakfast. We knew saving space in our tummies would pay off as we were in for a treat later in the afternoon. 

As we pulled into the parking lot of Brewer Park, the current home of the Ottawa Farmers Market, it was apparent that this was no regular day at the market. The parking lot swelled with cars and chipper market-goers toting bags spilling over with vibrant locally grown produce and fares. We parked, far quicker than we imagined, and set our sites on the white tent that stood taller and more elegantly than all the other vendor booths. This was where we would soon share a meal with locals food-lovers, farmers and chefs alike. This was Ottawa’s 2nd annual Harvest Table. 

Harvest Table is a much-anticipated yearly event, organized by Savour Ottawa, that offers patrons an opportunity to celebrate Ottawa’s ample harvest and culinary artistry by enjoying a meal with the hard working folks who both grow and prepared it. It brought some of the cities finest chefs, hardest working farmers and food-loving residents together under one charmingly decorated roof… err.. tent. 



As we wandered the market waiting for lunch to start, we happened upon the C’est Bon Cooking tour, offered with Cream of the Crop tickets ($75 as opposed to $60 for the lunch alone) and we listened in as Paola St George, tour guide extraordinaire, expertly navigated the market followed closely by a crowd of wide-eyed, eager guests hungry for every bit of information she had to offer… or maybe it was the tantalizing samples they were hungry for. Either way, people were happy. So happy. And it was lovely to see everyone so anxiously gobbling up the full market experience. We listened in for a few minutes as Andy Terauds, owner of Acorn Creek Gardens and vice-president of the market itself, spoke about his farm but trailed off when we spotted Somerford & Halls booth. [Side note: if you’ve not been to check out C’est Bon Cooking, I urge you to click through to the link above. Team building, cooking classes, Byward Market food tours, and so much more!] 

As we made our way to our table, Impromptu Strings setting the mood with their artfully performed classics, we took our seats, scanned the airy, outdoor space and breathed in the whole atmosphere. The tables were charming and simple, centerpieces made up of richly hued flowers and greens mixed with small tomatoes vines and kale, truly making use of every bit of summer’s harvest. Already present at the table was a platter of antipasti ripe with elk sausage, wild vegetables, edible flowers, soft cheeses and a deep purple blueberry ketchup. We passed it around the table as we acquainted ourselves with other diners over Kichessippi Beer’s Natural Blonde & a choice of either Chardonnay or Cab Franc from Casa-Dea Estates Winery. The Cab Franc was lovely; great acidity and a smooth plummy flavour. 



The antipasti platter disappeared as quickly as it came, and we were served course after course of exquisitely executed dishes; Chilled Strawberry Melon Soup with Goat Cheese, Grainy Potato Salad with generous hunks of egg, Harvest Table Farm Salad filled with local veg, Fresh Basil Ravioli with Tomato Sauce (easily my favourite - the ravioli were pan-fried similar to gnocchi and exploded with a warm, delicate basil filling), Roast Beef with Summer BBQ Sauce, Heritage Breed Pork Duo (pulled shoulder and belly), a vibrant Tomato & Zucchini Millefeuille with Goat Feta, Swiss Chard with Heirloom Carrots and Cinnamon Honey, New Fingerling Potatoes with Jalapeno & Onion Confit, and finally, a variety of tantalizing summer pies bubbling over with fresh fruit filling.

I’m not sure how we managed to avoid slipping into a food-induced slumber right there at the table while we digested our pie and applauded the work of restaurants, chefs, farmers & food producers, volunteers, organizers and sponsors for their magnanimous efforts in putting this event together. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. The honour of dining in the presence of those who have toiled endlessly (particularly after a hard, drought-filled summer) to grow and produce our food, and the chefs who work long, often-thankless hours to prepare dinner so we can sit back, relax and enjoy left me feeling an overwhelming amount of gratitude. When the option to attend rolls around next year, I hope you’ll join Savour Ottawa in celebrating our great city’s harvest, farmers and chefs - there are so few events that bring all of these together to truly tell a story of Ottawa’s food and people. 



After such a fantastic meal, I was inspired to create something with the beautiful heirloom tomatoes we grabbed on our way out. This tart is simple to make and so pretty to look at. I almost felt guilty cutting into it… but once I did, my guilt quickly faded away into the buttery layers of crunchy dough and sweet, warm tomatoes. 

 
Heirloom Tomato Tart with Lemon Ricotta & Cornmeal-Thyme Crust
makes 1 10” pie

Cornmeal-Thyme Pate Brisee
adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (stems removed) 
1 cup unsalted butter, frozen cut into small pieces
1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and thyme. Pulse the processor until butter pieces are about the size of a pea. Add water in 1 tbsp at a time until the dough starts to hold itself together. It should stick easily when pinched together. Dump the dough out and press together in a loosen ball. Divide in half and place each portion onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each in the plastic and press into a flattened disc. Refrigerate for 1 hour (Make ahead: can be made 1 day ahead and kept in the fridge). 



Remove 1 round of dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to approximately 1/4” thick. Press your dough into a 10 x 1 1/2” pie plate. Trim the excess dough off the edges and crimp the edges if you’re into that sort of thing (I totally am, but as you can see, I’m not the best at it as a result of my big clobber mitts - you can just leave the crust as it is…we’ll call it rustic. Shhh!). Place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes or until you’re ready to start prepping the filling. 



Filling
1lb Heriloom Tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup high quality ricotta
1 tbsp lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350. 
Remove the tart shell from the fridge. Prick all over with a fork and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. 

While the shell bakes, toss the sliced tomatoes and salt together in a colander. Let it sit in the sink or over a bowl, tossing gently every few minutes. 



In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, lemon zest and salt. Stir well to combine.  

Once pie is removed from the oven, turn heat up to 375. Spread the ricotta on the pre-baked pie shell. Arrange tomatoes around the pie plate in two layers. Give a few generous grinds of pepper and place in the oven until tomatoes are soft and reduced in size, about 40 minutes. If you notice the crust cooking too quickly, just lightly cover the pie with tin foil. 

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Eat Your Beer! [Brothers Beer Bistro; a review]

                               
Wait! Don’t count us out yet! 

The Ottawa dining scene has never been surrounded by such buoyant anticipation. The “city that fun forgot” is finally wagging an intrepid finger in the face of all the nay-sayers, starting first with a handful of admirable dining establishments in Hintonburg and continuing with the new kid on the block, Brothers Beer Bistro

366 Dalhousie St, which once housed a routine but somewhat lackluster Japanese restaurant, can now be called home to owners Patrick Asselin, Nick Ringuette and chef Darren Flowers. All gentleman come to Brothers B.B with an accomplished list of experience in and around the Ottawa dining scene and it shows in their attention to every detail. 



I was unable to attend the media event Thursday evening, so when I found out Mr. GL had plans to see a show in the Byward Market this past Sunday night, I took it as an opportunity to grab a pre-show dinner at Brothers…and to bring a few friends to share in the experience. After all, more people means more beers and better coverage of the menu so we were able to try a whole bunch of Brothers’ beerfully delightful dishes.

We walked in the door to an inviting fellow with a kind smile. Upon first glance, if industrial design and rustic charm had a spicy rendezvous, Brothers’ would be the resulting love child. Original brick, warm wood, clean white walls and exposed pipe beer taps give the restaurant a welcome, inviting feel, just as the owners had strived for. I found it hard not to feel perfectly at home in one of the 5 cozy booths. Had we not been rushing over to Mavericks to see friends play a show [shameless plug; Black Dogs!] I would have been perfectly happy to stay long into the night tasting beer after beer… which is serious work, guys. And, you know, someone has got to do the dirty work while you all sit around in your suits and boardrooms hogging all the fun. [snicker]

Now let’s get serious. The food. Oh my, the food. Chef Darren Flowers, who comes by way of Play Food & WineLuxe Bistro and Beckta, has quite obviously found a niche that he loves, because it truly comes through in his food. You won’t find Buffalo Chicken Wraps (which I shamefully admit that I love) or soggy french fries with a droopy, sad looking pickle at Brothers. What you will find, on the contrary, are artfully prepared takes on some classics. 



To start, we each ordered an appetizer which proved a harder decision than I had anticipated. I wanted them all. The Beef Tartare, which was recommended by numerous peers who had attend the media event, was everything I’d hoped and more. Great texture, a lingering bite from the ramps and an ever-so-delicate bitterness from the Maudite. The Tuna Crudo was brightly flavoured with a savoury kick thanks to the pigs ear crackling scattered generously around the plate. Both men ordered the Perogies, unable to resist their porky charm. Served with an ample slab of confit pig cheek and a savoury roasted potato brodo, each bite set mouths ablaze with salty, porky goodness and smooth earthy potatoes. As promised, they were a treat not to forget. 





For our mains, we each ordered something different to be sure we got to taste as many items as possible on our first visit.  A Kichesippi Fried Chicken (aptly referred to as “KFC”) and Waffles had me lustfully speechless (it was Mr. GL’s dish so I only had two bites…but could have easily eaten 2 servings) with it’s rich, savoury gravy, perfectly crisp fried chicken and tender waffles. The vegetarian dish, which I ordered, was a Parpadelle served with a bounty of spring vegetables, burly sliced olives, oven roasted tomatoes and, the kicker, an incredible smoked Parmesan that married brilliantly with the dish. The Charred BC Octopus arrived, looking oddly alien-like, but boasted an incredible, intense charred flavour that teamed well with the tender gnocchi and delicate fennel. Finally, the Arctic Char. Flawlessly crisp and golden skinned, topped with lemon zest, a welcome addition to fish’s mild flavour, and served with fingerling potatoes and Mad Tom IPA compressed mushrooms. 






We drank many a beer, most notably the Coopers Sparkling Ale. Mildly grassy and crisp in flavour with moderate carbonation - I would happily drink this any summer (fall, winter, spring) day. 

We came. We saw. We fell in love. What a treat our dining experience was! I am anxiously awaiting my next trip to Brothers Beer Bistro. An entirely welcome addition to the Ottawa dining scene, particularly in the Byward Market where mediocrity seems to run rampant (at least in the area of Brothers). I have no doubt that the beer lovers will find a happy home here, while the generally-beer-impaired will find themselves trying brews they never dreamed existed (banana bread beer, anyone?). There is something for everyone (yes, even a good selection of wines!) and then some. I have high hopes that Chef Flowers will continue to wow diners with his fresh take on classic dishes while expanding his menu slowly. 

 

 
If I may, I highly suggest you pick up the phone (or go online!), dial Brothers up and set a date to bring your favourite person to dinner - and then come and find me so we can rave about the experience together! 

Brothers Beer Bistro
366 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa ON
613-695-6300


 Brother's Beer Bistro on Urbanspoon



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Eating Your Science [Atelier Black Box Dinner]



Recently, I and a few of my fellow Ottawa bloggers had the outright pleasure of attending Atelier Ottawa’s Black Box Dinner. Before I go too far into the specifics of this particular evening, it’s necessary for me to tell you a bit about Atelier first. 

Every night, Atelier serves it’s guests, every single one of them, a 12-course gastronomic feast for the senses. I’ve yet to experience one of their regular services, and from what I hear, I’m nothing short of crazy for missing out on it. Chef Marc Lepine, owner and head chef, and his team take you on a tantalizing ride deep into the world of Molecular Gastronomy, which, in the most basic of explanations, is the application of science to culinary practices. Each plate thoughtfully, if beautifully, prepared and no sense left un-aroused, Chef Lepine knows just how to put on a dinner theatre that will leave you feeling satiated and filled with wonderment. 


Chef Lepine explains the evening to everyone with a big smile. I’m not sure if it’s a nervous smile, or a genuine one, but it’s a good smile none the less. 

Chef Lepine is currently preparing to head to Kelowa BC to compete in the Canadian Culinary Championships in February. In preparation, he put on a Black Box Dinner for whoever frantically got their reservation in before the 22-seat restaurant filled up. Thanks to a friend, we got the last table.

 

Now, what exactly is a Black Box Dinner, you’re wondering. Chef Lepine invited each table, 8 to be exact, to bring whatever ingredient they felt appropriate ( they were: kale, tapioca, mussels, yuca root, sticky syrup, crispy corn kernels, Chinese sausages, Earl Grey tea). The chefs would be unaware of ingredients until all guests were seated, at which point, the ingredients would be uncovered and the Atelier team of chefs would have to come up with a 4-course menu based around them. Now, I am no Jeffrey Steingarten and I don’t have the most refined palate (note: I eat Kraft Dinner with hot dogs every so often), but the dishes they created were nothing short of ingenious. Had I not known what was going on, I would have been pleased-as-pie, maybe even chocolate pie, to dig into the dishes provided. 
 

Claire, the wine blogger over at foodiePrints, provided the wine for the table. Doing so without any knowledge of what we would be eating was no doubt a daunting task, but as some of you know, Claire seems to rise to most challenges with the utmost grace and determination to make your already delicious meal even better with perfect pairings. And boy, she did not disappoint. Everything, from the Poema Cava to the ‘94 Hillebrand Late Harvest Vidal was spot.on. SPOT ON. So much so that kidnapping her and keeping her in my kitchen pantry for nightly pairing advice crossed my mind. Thankfully, more so for her, Claire offers pairings without my having to kidnap her. So it works out well for us both. 



All in all - this was a dinner I won’t soon forget. The food, the atmosphere, the company, the wine…. they all combined for the perfect experience. It helped that Chef Lepine and his team, including sommelier Steve Robinson who humoured our goofy antics all night, were gracious hosts and welcomed us into their home with open arms. 

Below are some photos of the dishes we enjoyed (many thanks to foodiePrints for providing me with their notes - I would have never remembered them all). My favourite was a toss up between the Elk dish and the Sturgeon tartar. Both were incredibly complex and left me wanting more. 


Colville Bay oysters served with mignonette gel (red wine vinegar, shallots, lemon, pepper) and horseradish foam 

 
sturgeon tartare (with crème fraîche, crispy shallots, lemon juice, and capers) served with radish, lemon rind and lotus root chip


roasted butternut squash soup with coriander seed, pine nuts, cocoa nibs, and roasted pineapple; served with a gingersnap cookie


sous vide elk tenderloin crusted in black truffle and trumpet mushrooms served on truffle pancake 


poached mussels, shrimp and lemon served with pickled ginger, chili dust, tapioca, kaffir lime infused coconut milk, dehydrated bacon, sesame powder; garnished with pea shoots


seared halibut (crusted with corn nuts) served with parsnip purée, kale chip, shrimp chip with togarashi, polenta chip; garnished with purple basil and mini tangerines


sous vide duck breast, served with Earl Grey jus, raw golden beet string (cut with a turning slicer), chestnut, roasted sweet potato purée, red beet sauce, yucca chips, Chinese sausage powder (frozen with liquid nitrogen and ground) 


tempura apple slice (Granny Smith) topped with eggless meringue (infused with Lyle’s Golden Syrup), and brown butter custard sphere; served with apple cider in white chocolate sphere, crumbled Pan di Spagna stale sponge cake, apple cider caramel, lemon balm and rosemary tapioca pearls

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Sandwich Love [Review: Pressed Gourmet Sandwich Bar]



I always get excited to hear of new café/restaurants opening, but what’s better, is when they open right down the street from you! 

Pressed is a gourmet sandwich bar devoted to all things local, organic and most of all, delicious. They serve Equator Coffee, adding to their list of local vendors that also includes Auntie Loo’s Treats & B-Goods Cookies



I had the pleasure of visiting Pressed this afternoon, just 2 days after their opening. As soon as Don, Krista and I heard they were opening this week, we started hatching a plan to visit for lunch. 



The first thing you notice upon entering Pressed is the cozy wood decor and warm colours. It feels as though you’re coming into a friends home rather than a restaurant. Some of the wood in the cafe was salvaged from joists in an old home that was being torn down, while parts of the seating were built using century old oak pews the Peace Tower Church was selling. Keeping things ethical seems to be important to Jeff, which is always nice to see in local businesses. The shop is teaming with vintage treasures like LIFE Magazines from the 60’s, Trivial Pursuit - Baby Boomer Edition, and kitschy cool lamps you might find in your great grandmothers living room, adding to it’s comfortable yet elegant feel.



We each ordered a different sandwich from their list of very-hard-to-choose from delights. Krista ordered the Flank Steak Sandwich with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and a red wine reduction. Don ordered the Smoked Chicken Sandwich (fresh out of the smoker 5 minutes prior to our arrival) with roasted garlic aioli, goat cheese and red pepper. Though I didn’t try either of their sandwiches, they both seemed to be quite happy with their choices. I chose the Sandwich Special, which was a Margherita Sandwich filled with smoked tomatoes, basil, black olive tapenade and big hunks of mozzarella. I took my first bite and was a little startled when the tomatoes exploded, oozing down the sides of both the sandwich and my hands. Startled in the best way possible, of course. The combination of the juicy smoked tomatoes, mild gooey Mozzarella, salty tapenade and fresh bright basil was so perfectly balanced and flavourful that I might have been able to eat 5 more. Jeff explained he’s still on the hunt for the perfect local bread, but the ciabatta he’s using now is wonderfully crisp on the outside, though not so crisp that it cuts your gums, and soft and smooshy (a very technical term, of course) inside. I thought it was delicious, but I’m looking forward to seeing what bread he does eventually settle down with. 





Krista ordered a side of the Sweet Potato Chili (vegan) and it was packed with flavour. Just a bit of sweetness, beautifully spiced and seasoned perfectly. I imagine it would make a perfect lunch while lazily flipping through the pages of your Holiday Food & Drink magazine. 



Don ordered a side of macaroni and cheese, made with fresh cheese curds (how very Canadian!), that was also pretty scrumptious. Not too gooey, but not dry and like everything else, seasoned well. 



All in all, it was a really great lunch. The food is delicious and exciting without being pretentious, the atmosphere is fresh and modern, cozy and comfortable. A place you could easily watch a few hours pass by without knowing it. 



I’m anxious to go back, try more things and get better acquainted with a good book in the cozy dining room. 





Jeff is working on getting a liquor license and eventually hopes to invite local artists and musicians in to entertain his guests both visually and musically a few nights a week. 

Don’t miss out on this new gem. It’ll be packed with excited patrons in no time at all! 

Pressed - Gourmet Sandwich Bar
750 Gladstone Ave
Ottawa, ON
613-680-9294

 

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