Posts tagged lunch
Posts tagged lunch
Easy summer supper: caprese salad
I love it when the ingredients for a dish you’ve been craving simply fall right into your lap when you least expect it! That’s what happened when I made this caprese salad while my mother was visiting recently.
I had been craving a caprese salad for a while, but I hadn’t quite figured out how I wanted to pull it all together. Well, my mother helped to clear it all up by bringing fresh tomatoes and basil from her and my Dad’s garden, and a bottle of amazing olive oil from her trip to Spain as a gift to the husband and I. All I needed was some fresh cheese, and I knew exactly what I wanted: President’s Choice’s new formaggio di bufala mozzarella!
The directions for making caprese are fairly self-explanatory, so I won’t bore you with how I did it. But I will say that I thought that interchanging the green and purple basil leaves made for an even prettier presentation! I also drizzled my salad with some balsamic vinegar and some of the olive oil from Spain. It was delicious! It is one of my favourite ways to enjoy the summer bounty of tomatoes and fresh basil from my parent’s garden. (P.S. - the zinnias in the background are also from my parent’s garden. So pretty!)
Brunch at Navarra
Having brunched at Navarra once before (see here - it was amazing), I was pretty excited to return. I thought it would be fun to take my mother there during her recent visit, so off we went.
As some of you may know, Navarra’s owner and head Chef, Rene Rodriguez, won Top Chef Canada earlier this year. I was wondering if the experience might be a little different at Navarra since my last visit due to Chef Rodriguez’s huge success on Top Chef Canada, but it was very much the same. I don’t think the fame has changed anything about this already fantastic spot, and I think it is a good thing. In fact, for a Sunday brunch hour in Ottawa (Ottawans love their brunch, let me tell you), I was kind of surprised at how quiet it was at the restaurant.
The menu had of course changed since my last visit, and I was excited to try something new (and perhaps try a few bites from the plates of my brunch companions). As you can see from my photos, it was a beautiful spread! I don’t feel my words can do this beautiful and delicious food justice, so I’ll let my photos do all the talking (if you click on the photos, I have added captions to at least give you Navarra’s description of each of the dishes).
I’d still like to get to Navarra for dinner: just reading the menu makes me drool! If you’re ever in Ottawa, this is definitely one restaurant I highly recommend.
Weeknight summery supper: pork and mango fresh spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce
The husband and I love to order fresh spring rolls when we go out for Vietnamese food, and our love of these delicious rolls inspired me to try to make them on my own. My sister had made them for my family a long time ago, so I had seen it done before, but I still wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I was also inspired by a few of the food bloggers that I follow who had made posts about them in recent months (see here and here).
I knew I wanted my rolls to have some sort of meat in them, along with mango. There is just something about mango that I think works so well in these savoury rolls. I also wanted to add some lettuce for texture and freshness, and vermicelli noodles to make them filling (and vermicelli is a pretty typical ingredient in these rolls).
After preparing my ingredients, I set out to start rolling. It took me a few tries on the first wrap, but I got the hang of it surprisingly quickly, and the rolls came together quite nicely. The husband and I both loved them! The flavours came together wonderfully, and we were so pleased with how they turned out. We have since made them again, and will continue to make them in the future!
Pork and mango fresh spring rolls
Ingredients - for two, to make about 6 small rolls
- 2 to 3 boneless pork chops, bbq’d, cooled and sliced into strips
- 1 Atalufo or regular mango, peeled and sliced into thin, long strips (you will have leftover mango)
- 4 to 6 pieces of romaine or red/green leaf lettuce, washed and de-stemmed
- 1/4 package vermicelli noodles, cooked, drained and cooled
- fresh cilantro, washed and dried (use as much or as little as you like in each wrap)
- 1 package of rice wraps (you’ll have lots leftover for future use)
Lay out all of your prepared ingredients. Fill a large, flat bowl (I had to use a frying pan as I don’t have a bowl that large and flat) with very warm water to use to soften the rice wraps. One at a time, soften a wrap, then fill with ingredients (be careful to not over stuff the wraps as you’ll have more difficulty rolling them up. Use a burrito rolling technique for an effective roll.
Once rolled, enjoy immediately or refrigerate. I recommend eating them within the same day, or the next day.
We love having our rolls with homemade peanut dipping sauce, and I can recommend this recipe that I have tried from the lovely How to Eat blog. Trust me, these wraps just LOVE this dip - don’t eat them without it! Enjoy!
Lunch at the Mill Street Brew Pub
When your acting manager asks if you want to spend an extended lunch on a beautiful patio on a beautiful day, your answer should always be a resounding YES! One of the managers in my group happens to love beer, a good patio and delicious food, which is what has brought us to the Mill Street Brew Pub on so many Friday lunch hours over the past couple of summers.
Feeling like something fun and different, my coworker and I split the pretzels as an appetizer: these in-house made beauties came with two dipping sauces, a marinara and a mustard aioli. They were soft, chewy, and oh so salty. Perfect pretzels, really!
I was craving something other than a sandwich or a big meal for my main, so I opted for the red thai mussels, with red thai curry, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and lime juice, served with their in-house made spelt grain bread (which is amazing) on the side. These mussels were tender and full of flavour! I preferred them over the Brewmasters mussels that I had eaten last time (see here).
It is moments like these that I have to keep in mind during the frigid winter months: the thought of a beautiful summer day on a patio with friends and good food!
Lunch at Fiazza
While doing some shopping in the Byward Market on recent weekend, the husband and I were in the mood for a snack. We decided to try the brand new Fiazza, a casual, custom pizza restaurant.
The restaurant is pretty big, occupying the space of a former bicycle shop. To order your pizza, you line up (in the manner of Mucho Burrito or Subway) to choose either one of Fiazza’s specialty creations or to pick your own toppings. For our first time, we decided to go with one of Fiazza’s specialty pizzas (which range in price from $7.95 to $12.95), the Sicilian, which came topped with local spicy Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and a mix of Fiazza’s cheese blend and blue cheese.
We watched our pizza being prepared right in front of our eyes, and then off it went for a quick bake in the incredibly hot oven (we could see the temperature gauge and it was set to around 500 degrees). As we proceeded to the cash to pay for our pizza, we noticed small containers of aioli (presumable for dipping) in the self-serve bottled drinks refrigerator, and added one to our order (for $2.95).
Our pizza came out beautifully: it was perfectly cooked for our taste, and the toppings were ample. The sausage had a bit of kick to it and the blue cheese added a fantastic tang. We realized as we were eating it that this was the exact same pizza we had shared in South Beach, Miami earlier this year, so we had some fun reminiscing about our trip and our delicious eats. But I can’t forget about the aioli: WOW! It was perfect! Super garlicky, creamy and everything an amazing aioli should be.
Overall we really enjoyed our pizza at Fiazza, and the ample open air seating area which was great for people watching. The self-ordering and pick up system allows you to have a quick bite if that is what you need, but there is still the option to linger. We can’t wait to return to try their other pizzas!
Lunch from the Red Roaster food truck
I finally got to try the delicious eats from Red Roaster, one of the new food trucks to come out of Ottawa’s revamped food truck rules. It was one of the trucks that I had been wanting to try, but circumstances had not yet allowed me to do so.
Red Roaster’s designated spot (at Bank St. and Clemow Ave.) is not convenient for me, so I had not yet had the chance to try it out. As luck would have it, the organizers of my annual work summer gathering/celebration decided to invite a number of Ottawa’s best food trucks to serve us lunch, and Red Roaster was one of them!
I knew I had to try their signature pulled pork tacos, and though I had been advised by a friend to try their sweet potato fries, the heat of the day led begged for a cooler, more refreshing side, so I went with the jhal muri. Both were delicious! I love love love a good pulled pork, and this one had all of the elements that make a perfect pulled pork for me: tender, sweet and smoky. The tacos were topped with a fresh, tasty slaw, which added a great crunchy texture, as well as a pineapple habanero chutney, which added some heat.
The jhal muri, which is an Indian street food snack type dish, was new for me. I had never tried it before! I loved it - it was also delicious, packed with many little different ingredients like puffed rice, tomato, peanuts, lentils, noodles and bean sprouts, among other ingredients. You can actually find Red Roaster’s recipe for jhal muri here (scroll to the bottom of the article).
I’d love to go back to try Red Roaster’s other menu items, like their Red Roaster sandwich (their in-the-truck roasted chicken on a bun with cheddar cheese, ranch dressing, bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato) or their roast beef on a bun. So many delicious choices!
Brunch for dinner: poached eggs, asparagus and smoked salmon on a scone (kind of like an eggs benedict minus the Hollandaise sauce!)
The husband had to work late a few nights recently, which gave me the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen and get a little wild with my dinners! I have been on a major asparagus kick lately, and I wanted to incorporate it into my dinner in a way other than grilling/roasting it.
Knowing that I had a pack of smoked salmon sitting in my freezer, I thought, why not go the simple route and have brunch for dinner? So I found this recipe (click on my photo above) from the Canadian Living website to use as my inspiration. For a special treat, I walked up to Thyme & Again (a wonderful food shop) on my lunch hour to grab one of their whole wheat cheddar and chive scones to use as my vessel for the toppings.
This is truly a dream meal for me: I could eat this every night! Instead of making Hollandaise, I opted to dress my open faced sandwich/Benedict with a simple drizzle of fresh lemon for some freshness and zing. Totally delicious!
Poached eggs, asparagus and smoked salmon on a scone
Serves 1 - adapted from Canadian Living
- 1 scone/English muffin/bread of your choice, halved to make two slices/pieces
- 2 eggs
- 4 slices smoked salmon
- 6 asparagus spears
- a few lemon wedges
Gently steam your asparagus and set aside. Toast your scone.
Poach your eggs (leave the yolks runny). Now build your sandwich: pile 3 asparagus spears on each scone half, then 2 slices of smoked salmon on top of each scone half. Lastly, top with the poached egg, then a squeeze of lemon. Make sure you pierce your egg yolks to let them coat your entire sandwich! Enjoy!
Took a break from shopping in the Byward Market this afternoon to finally try the soft tacos from Corazon de Mais. We ordered one of each kind of meat on the menu, which was chicken, beef and pork. They were delicious! The meats were all tender and flavourful, and we loved the fresh tomato salsa and the beans that accompanied the meat. There was also a mini self-serve salsa bar where we found some tasty salsa verde. A great stop for a quick refuel after a long day of shopping!
Brunch at Pressed Cafe
A fellow foodie and friend had texted me a photo a while back that got me really excited: an eggs benedict but with waffles! I immediately had to know where she had enjoyed this beautiful sight, and the answer was Pressed Cafe.
Funnily enough, I had been meaning to go to Pressed Cafe for a very long time, but with a long list of ‘must try’ places, it had continued to be shuffled lower in the list for no reason in particular. But with this new information (and my love for all things brunch) it had suddenly become very important to get there ASAP!
So the husband and I went to check it out one Saturday morning a few weeks back, and I can say with total confidence that it did not disappoint! I had a bit of trouble deciding between which of their waffle brunch items to order as they all looked so good. In the end, I opted for the Natasha, which is two delicious Belgian waffles that come topped with the Whalesbone’s smoked trout, two poached eggs and a whole lot of hollandaise sauce. So simple, but so totally delicious, this is brunch at its best for me! The smoked trout was plentiful and the waffles were tender and not overly sweet. The whole plate came together wonderfully!
The husband was feeling more of a lunch vibe, so he ordered one of Pressed’s sandwiches, which is what they are most known for. A fresh ciabatta bun came topped with smoked chicken, roasted red peppers and goat cheese, and was served with a side of in-house made sweet potato chips and a pickled green bean. He enjoyed it very much, but it didn’t necessarily top his list of best sandwiches in Ottawa.
I would definitely return to try other versions of their waffle brunch, which I forgot to mention comes with bottomless coffee or tea (they serve Equator, which is one of my favourite local roasters). It is a very relaxed cafe with self-serve seating and food ordering - a great place to relax and enjoy a delicious brunch any weekend morning!
Lunch at the Rex
Walking into the Rex for the very first time, I was on completely familiar ground. How is that possible, you ask? Well, the Rex is housed in a former not-so-special pizza/diner type restaurant that I frequented when I worked in a nearby office building. I was so excited to finally get to try the Rex, about which I had read so many good things.
I was amazed what a fresh coat of paint a little bit of styling can do for a restaurant space! We took our seats and I was overwhelmed by deja vu, but only by my surroundings: the food was about to be a million times better than that which I ate seated at that exact same table a million years ago!
The Rex offers a small menu, but you will still have trouble deciding what to choose to eat - everything looks amazing! For my first time, I went with their shepherd’s pie, which is described on their menu as overnight braised short ribs, caramelized onions, grilled sweet corn, and brown butter mashed potatoes. For my side, I chose the cauliflower soup. Both were incredibly rich and delicious! The braised short ribs in the shepherd’s pie were tender and moist, and flavoured nicely (not too salty). The soup was velvety and earthy, and I almost wanted to lick the bowl to get every last drop!
I can’t wait to go back to the Rex and make some more new memories! Check out their website for more information: http://therexottawa.com/
Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen, South Beach, Miami, Florida: Round 2
After our first delicious meal at Abuela’s (see here), we were keen to return to try out the more casual, diner-esque side of the restaurant, and to have a Cuban sandwich, of course!
We chose to sit at the counter, and were promptly greeted and happily helped by a number of staff. That was one thing we noticed during both of our experiences at Abuela’s - the servers are so friendly and happy to make your meal the best it can be! For example, the husband wanted to try another traditional Cuban/Latin American soda/pop after having tried Ironbeer and liking it and was hoping the server could make a recommendation. Our server suggested Jupina, a pineapple flavoured pop, and it was delicious!
We decided to share the Cuban sandwich and the tamal en hoja (a classic pork tamale). The sandwich came with all of the classic ingredients including shaved ham, pork, pickles, mustard and swiss cheese, and it was delicious (and huge!). I wanted to try a tamale, so we ordered the tamal en hoja, which is a classic pork tamale. It was dense, dotted with chunks of salty and tender pork among the corn mixture. I have learned that I am indeed a fan of tamales!
Sadly we did not have any room for dessert, but Abuela’s also offers a number of Cuban and other sweets to satisfy your sweet tooth. Perhaps next time!
Weeknight supper: curried sweet potato soup
Here we have yet another highly successful recipe from the fantastic Toronto Star Cookbook. The author, Jennifer Bain, promises in the introduction to this recipe that it will be creamy, yet there isn’t a single drop of cream (or milk for that matter) in this soup. Let me tell you: she is right. I don’t know how, but this is the most velvety, creamy soup, and it is completely dairy free! It is amazing! It is definitely going to be my go-to root vegetable soup from now on. The recipe is incredibly simple, but the results are wonderful.
Curried sweet potato soup - serves 4
From the Toronto Star Cookbook
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought, plus more if needed
- 1 tsp liquid honey
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
In a large soup/stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until softened, stirring often (about 5 minutes).
Add the sweet potatoes, 3 cups broth, curry powder, ginger and honey. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the sweet potatoes are tender, 3 to 40 minutes.
To blend, you can either transfer the mixture to a blender in batches or use a hand-held immersion blender (I used an immersion blender). Puree until completely smooth.
Return to the pot to keep warm for serving. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add a bit more stock until the desired consistency is reached (mine was great as it was).
Serve with cornbread if you like!
Lunch at Yardbird, South Beach, Miami, Florida
Out of all the restaurants we visited while vacationing in South Beach, Miami, recently, I was most excited to dine at Yardbird. After reading lots about the restaurant in advance of our visit, I was pretty sure we were going to have a great meal and a lovely experience, and we were not disappointed. Known for its down-home southern cuisine, we were excited to experience something that is pretty much impossible to find anywhere in or around Ottawa.
Located just off the busy Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in South Beach, Yardbird sits on a more residential street, but isn’t far from the action. As you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted by the relaxed, down-home, laid back decor, right down to the paper wrapped cloth napkins reminding you to “say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.” There is nothing pretentious about this place, and we felt immediately comfy and cozy despite the apparent buzz about Yardbird.
Having scrupulously perused the menu ahead of our visit, we were pretty sure as to what we would be ordering, but we were delighted when our waiter took the time to ask us if we’d dined there before, and to make some much welcomed suggestions and share some important info about the menu.
To start out, we sipped on a couple of Yardbird’s signature drinks: the peachberry smash (in the martini glass in my photo above) and the blackberry bourbon lemonade. Both were a unique mixture of fine alcohol and fresh ingredients: all you need to know is that they were delicious and refreshing! We highly recommend sampling their cocktails if you have the chance.
Most of their plates are perfect for sharing, so that was what we did. We started off with the buttermilk biscuits, which came hot and fresh out of the oven with a side of honey butter and strawberry jam. I am a sucker for fresh baked biscuits and I could have eaten these forever and ever! We had no trouble polishing off these tender, moist and flaky biscuits. These are what biscuit dreams are made of!
For our main, we chose to share what Yardbird is known for, their chicken n’ watermelon n’ waffles. Described on their menu as “Yardbird’s signature old school fried chicken, hot sauce honey, chilled spiced watermelon, cheddar cheese chow chow waffle and bourbon maple syrup,” this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten. First, the fried chicken, which was a full half chicken with two breasts, a wing and a leg, was ridiculously moist, and the flavours in the breading were perfect. Their hot sauce honey somehow made the flavours even better, if possible. Just when you needed a cool down, the chilled spiced watermelon came to the rescue. Have you ever had spiced watermelon? We guessed that there was a combination of spices, probably including some cumin, maybe chili powder, but, whatever they were, it made the watermelon that much more interesting and delicious. Lastly, the waffles. The waffles! How could something so simple like cheddar cheese and green onion make a waffle taste so amazing, I’ll never know. The bourbon maple syrup was certainly a treat! The plate also came with their in-house made relish, which added a lovely zest to everything with which I topped it. We both agreed that this was one of the most expertly executed dishes we have ever eaten.
Lastly, we also couldn’t resist trying their macaroni and cheese, which is made with torchio pasta, five artisanal cheeses and a crispy herb crust. This was very much your basic mac and cheese without any of the popular nonsense that is truffle oil or bacon, and we loved it! You could really taste the strong flavours of the cheese blend and the torchio pasta (just the name of its shape) held up superbly.
Sadly, we did not have any room for dessert (what a pity!) so that was it for our visit at Yardbird. The food, the service, the ambiance and the complete overall experience was fantastic. Check it out if you`re ever in South Beach and in the mood for some down home southern cooking!
See Yardbird`s website here.
Read this New York Times review of Yardbird here.
Weekday lunches: quinoa salad served over spinach
During the last few grueling weeks of cold, snow and general yucky weather, all I was craving was the fresh, bright flavours of salad. I think my tastebuds were trying to demand that springtime get its butt to Ottawa and fast!
So I turned to my newest cookbook (see here) for some inspiration and found this delicious quinoa salad. It has colourful veggies, seeds and quinoa, all tossed in a fresh, homemade vinaigrette. I decided to serve the quinoa salad on top of a bed of baby spinach to add some green goodness. This salad totally quenched my craving for the fresh and bright flavours of spring!
Quinoa salad - adapted from the Toronto Star Cookbook by Jennifer Bain
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup organic quinoa (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
For the Dressing
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp honey
- salt and pepper to taste
Make the quinoa: bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to medium and add the quinoa. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and keep covered for about 15 minutes.
Make the dressing: combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well mixed.
Toss carrot, bell pepper, cranberries and pepitas in another bowl. Add cooled quinoa and dressing and toss. Serve on top of a bed of fresh baby spinach or as is.
I ate this over a span of a few days for my work lunches and the flavours got better as the mixture had a chance to rest and mix together.
Lunch at Spris - South Beach, Miami, Florida
I did a heck of a lot of restaurant research before the husband and I left on our South Beach, Miami, vacation this year, and I was glad that I did. There are so many places to eat, I don’t know how one makes any decisions!
One of our first lunches was at Spris (pronounced “sprees”), a little Italian place on Lincoln Road (South Beach’s famed pedestrian walkway/mall) known for its thin crust pizzas. With more than 30 different kinds of pizzas from which to choose, it took us a while to decide!
I couldn’t help but start off my lunch with a cappuccino, which they made perfectly, and even served with two cute and delicious little almond cookies. We decided we wanted to try an appetizer, so we settled on the $4 fresh rosemary focaccia (thinking it would be a small-sized treat). We were blown away when basically an entire pizza arrived! We were pretty hungry, so we had no trouble eating every last delicious wood-fired bite!
For our main we settled on the Salsiccia Gorgonzola Dolce pizza to share, which came topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, Italian gorgonzola cheese and crumbled Italian sausage. This pizza was a delight! The crust was thin but not overly crispy, the toppings were ample but not overwhelming, and the gorgonzola added the perfect spike of flavour to the whole thing.
This is a great spot if you’re looking for authentic, wood-fired, thin crust pizza. Its location on Lincoln Road is also great for outdoor eating (they have a huge patio) and people watching!