Posts tagged restaurant
Posts tagged restaurant
Lunch and treats at Holland’s Cake and Shake
I get so pumped when a new shop or restaurant opens close to my work because it means that I can get out at lunch time for some adventures and try some new things while I’m at it! This was just the case with Holland’s Cake and Shake, which I patiently watched and followed on social media since the spring when they first started getting the shop ready for opening day.
They finally opened their doors on July 15 of this year, and I was there within a few days! Owned by Chef Michael Holland, known for his work as the pastry chef at Ottawa’s popular Atelier, the shop offers a selection of mini cakes, tarts, muffins, scones, cookies, in-house made soft serve ice cream, milkshakes (including the cake shake: take one of the mini cakes and blend it with soft serve and milk), sundaes and sandwiches. But don’t let your eyes glaze over: these are not your average desserts. Chef Michael Holland’s specialty is to be quirky and playful. An example of one of the crazy cake flavours featured in the shop so far is the orange Kool-Aid cake with Red Bull pastry cream, lemon icing, streusal and raspberries (see here).
I have tried a few of the treats from the shop (a future post), but today I wanted to tell you about their lunch special. Each week, the shop offers two different sandwiches two times a week (Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday to Saturday), which can be purchased alone or bundled into a brown bag lunch combo by including a drink and your choice of a cookie or a brownie for $8.50. So far, the sandwiches have all looked so amazing, and all have been served on in-house made bread. WOW! I have only tried one sandwich so far, but it was so great: simple, fresh ingredients that made for a delicious lunch. The sandwich I tried was a combination of roast chicken, gravy mayo, mozzarella, spring mix, and potato chips on their homemade bun. I made mine a combo, and chose the brownie. and house made lemonade. The brownie was mind blowing: rich and soft, almost like fudge.
I highly recommend Holland’s Cake and Shake: everything is made in-house, which I love, and you can really see the love in all of the treats and food items they produce. Bonus: there is currently a pop up Ministry of Coffee counter, offering everything your caffeine dreams are made of. I wish this little shop all the best and I hope that it sees success!
Stay tuned for a future post on the wild and wacky treats of Holland’s Cake and Shake!
Dinner at Tennessy Willems
It had been quite some time since the husband and I had been back to Tennessy Willems since our first visit last January (see here), so we thought it was time to return. I also thought my mother would really enjoy their pizza, so it was a good excuse to take her there while she was visiting recently.
I was happily surprised by TW’s new tapas menu, which is in addition to their regular menu. There were so many things that I wanted to try! It was tough to choose just one to share with my mother. In the end, we couldn’t resist the chicken liver and foie gras paté, which came topped with a maple jelly and three pickled cherries. Talk about amazing! The paté was absolute perfection, with the salty/fatty/creamyness of the foie gras and chicken liver being cut ever so gently by the sweetness of the maple jelly, and the tartness of the pickled cherries. Also, pickled cherries?? Wow - a pure delight. As well, I can’t forget to give a shout out to the accompanying toast points: they were crusted with salt and pepper, and tasted incredible. The perfect vessels!
A visit to TW would not be complete without having their mac and cheese, so we shared it among the three of us as an appetizer. It wasn’t quite as delicious as I remember it (I remember the tarragon flavour in the sauce being way more pronounced last time, which I loved, whereas it was much more subtle this time), but it was still solid: rich, creamy and oh-so-indulgent.
For our mains, we decided to share two pizzas: the wild boar (with local wild boar sausage, caramelized apple, sage oil and two-year-old cheddar), and the Capricciosa (with fire-roasted tomato sauce, fior di latte, cremini mushrooms, artichokes, Kalamata olives and Pingue’s capicola ham). Let’s start off by saying that TW’s crust is one of the most amazing in the city: that wood-fired smokiness just can’t be beat! The crust is thin, yet light and fluffy (not a thin papery crisp, which I find dissatisfying). The toppings on the wild boar were lovely, with the caramelized apple adding sweetness to the sausage’s saltyness. My mother and I thoroughly enjoyed the Capricciosa, as we are partial to toppings like olives and artichokes, which were ample and tasty.
Overall, it was a great meal (with lots leftover to enjoy the next day!), and the husband and I can’t wait to go back to try even more of their delicious pizzas…I still want to taste the pulled pork pizza!
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.
Dinner at Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar
While my mother was visiting one recent weekend, we decided to try somewhere new for dinner. I had read about Juniper’s recent menu overhaul (see here), and thought it would be fun to give it a try. The husband and I had been to Juniper once many, many years ago, so it was also time for us to return.
I had forgotten about Juniper’s great the atmosphere. It is so big and bright from all of the floor to ceiling windows. We were promptly greeted and seated when we arrived, and that great service continued through the evening.
We decided to order a couple of appetizers to start, but before that came an adorable and tasty amuse bouche, a meaty strudel. I love amuse bouches; they are such a treat and I find that very few restaurants do that anymore. For my appetizer, I ordered the crispy lamb dumplings, which were so rich and delicious. The husband had the inverted poutine, which he liked for its unique take on the classic Canadian dish. My mother had the gazpacho, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
For our mains, I absolutely had to have the scallops with bacon-garlic scape risotto. Wowsers - this was magical! The dash of chimichurri added an insanely fresh and tangy flavour to the whole dish. The scallops were perfectly cooked, of course! The husband had a few of the small plates for his main dish, including the pulled pork grilled cheese with onion rings and the sous vide pork ribs with fries. He enjoyed both - the ribs were very tender and flavourful. My mother opted for the cornish hen, which came with a very spicy slaw and rice. She enjoyed it but the spicyness of the slaw was a bit of a challenge.
For dessert we decided to share the brownie with ice cream. Juniper’s menu overhaul included switching out expensive, large desserts for smaller, reasonably priced dessert bites (most are just $5). Indeed, the brownie was small, but it gave each of us two bites or so to satisfy our sweet craving, and that it did!
Overall, we enjoyed our dinner, and would return. The food was delicious, the service excellent, and the ambiance lovely!
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!
OMG a fancy spork! How cute! At Juniper.
Dinner at the Rex
I first went to the Rex a while back for lunch, and totally loved it (see here). I knew I had to go back to try their weekend dinners, which feature a different themed menu each Friday and Saturday nights.
The husband and I happened to stumble on a perfect night for our taste buds, which was a World Cup theme, featuring all the great flavours of South America. The weekend menu at the Rex features two appetizers, two main dishes and two desserts: the three course meal for one is $35 - a great deal for such amazing food!
Considering there is only two choices for each course, the husband and I ordered one of each and shared everything. The appetizers were the perfect start to the meal: an Albacore tuna ceviche on sweet potato chips for me, and black bean, corn and cheddar empanadas for the husband. Both were amazing!
Next were our main courses, which we shared equally. My favourite of the two was the spice rubbed chicken breast served with grilled baby red potatoes which were tossed with chorizo, goat cheese and baby spinach, all drizzled in a roasted garlic jus. The chicken was ridiculously moist and tender, and I adored the flavour that the chorizo imparted in the mixture with the potatoes and spinach. The second main course was the striploin steak served with frites and a mixture of grilled king oyster mushrooms and zucchini, all with a side of chimichurri aioli. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the frites were crispy and light. My favourite part of the steak dish was the chimichurri aioli - wow!
I couldn’t wait to taste dessert; the words ‘dark chocolate,’ ‘dulce de leche’ and ‘coffee’ all in one description make my heart (and my taste buds) sing. Obviously my favourite dessert of the two was the dark chocolate cake with dulce de leche frosting and coffee ice cream. The cake was rich and moist, and the frosting and ice cream added sweetness to counter the gentle bitterness of the dark chocolate. I also enjoyed the second dessert, a rum and strawberry sorbet with candied lime zest and fresh mint; it was like an explosion of fresh flavours on the tongue.
Overall, we had a great time at the Rex for dinner. Service was excellent and attentive, and while the portions are a tad on the small side, we both left feeling full. We can’t wait to go back!
Brunch at Izakaya
Ok, ok, so I promise that, even though it may not seem like it, I DO INDEED cook at home every single day, but I’ve been so busy lately that our meals have been made up of mostly the same things that we tend to eat all the time, like grilling some chicken breasts and steaming some veggies. Pretty much not a lot of blog-worthy cooking! I finally got around to trying out a couple of new recipes this weekend, so I’ll have some fun stuff to share soon!
But who can resist weekend brunch on the patio on a late spring morning? I met some friends for brunch at Izakaya on Elgin Street one recent weekend, wondering what brunch at a Japanese restaurant might be like. I was pleasantly surprised!
Many of Izakaya’s brunch items have a Japanese/Asian twist, from the togarashi (chili pepper) seasoning on the home fries to the sweet soy sauce on the yakiniku beef, which is what I decided to order. The yakiniku (which translates to grilled meat) beef and two eggs was a 6 oz grilled striploin steak topped with mushrooms and a soy drizzle, served with two eggs any way (I chose over easy), togarashi-dusted home fries and toast. It was delicious! The steak was tender, the eggs perfectly drippy, and the togarashi on the home fries provided a bit of heat to spice up my brunch.
The service at Izakaya was also great - our coffees were kept filled and hot, and the staff seemed totally ok with us lingering on the patio (it wasn’t too busy). Overall, the brunch wasn’t anything mind blowing, but it was tasty and fresh. I’d definitely return!
Dinner at Aperitivo
It has been a while since the husband and I had been to Aperitivo, a great spot for delicious eats in our own back yard. We decided to take a chance and go for an early dinner sans reservation one recent Friday night, and we lucked out and got a table.
Aperitivo changes their menu often enough so that you will never get tired of their offerings. Everything is quite creative and will leave your tastebuds begging for more!
We decided to do our usual and share a few plates, and rich and earthy seemed to be the theme for us that night. I started with the bone marrow and escargots appetizer, which was three bone halves with the succulent marrow waiting to be devoured, plus a handful of escargots scattered on top. This was a very unique dish, and I was glad I went out on a limb to try it: but it is not for the faint of heart. It was incredibly rich!
The husband and I shared the braised beef shoulder with fried Brussels sprouts and cauliflower puree, which was amazing. The beef was perfectly tender, and the sprouts and cauliflower made rich with earthy flavours. We also shared the beef tostadas, which came topped with chimichurri sauce and sheep’s milk feta. Wow! These bite-sized tostadas were fantastic, and the edible flowers made for beautiful presentation.
I ended my meal with a cappuccino, and we both sat back and relaxed and enjoyed our Friday evening out. I can’t wait to see what Aperitivo has planned for their summer menu!
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/
A drop-in treat: SuzyQ Doughnuts
It had been a very long time since the husband and I had visited Ottawa’s favourite locally made doughnut shop, SuzyQ, so we dropped in one recent weekend to treat ourselves to some doughnut deliciousness!
We always like to try SuzyQ’s new flavours, so on this outing, we shared the Boston (creme - top left), the peppered pineapple (top right), and the Brass Monkey (not pictured). The Boston was amazing, with a vanilla custard on the inside (I could see the vanilla beans!!), as was the pineapple, but my favourite had to be the Brass Monkey, with its banana-flavoured glaze and chunks of soft peanut brittle. SuzyQ’s glazes are mind blowing!
When you’re in Ottawa, skip over the Tim Hortons and make the trip to SuzyQ - you will never regret it!
La Sandwicherie, South Beach, Miami, Florida
I know what you’re thinking: sandwiches - no big deal, right? Wrong! As someone who is head over heels in love with GOOD sandwiches, I was pretty excited to discover La Sandwicherie while researching restaurant and food options for our recent trip to Miami Beach.
Known for it’s fresh ingredients and its huge and affordable sandwiches, La Sandwicherie has been serving South Beach, Miami since 1988 from their take out window/counter-only shop on 14th Street. You get a full view of the sandwich-making action while waiting at the counter for your order to be prepared, and it’s pretty fantastic to watch! Never have you seen faster hands whipping together sandwich perfection.
The menu explains all of your sandwich options, including choice of bread (fresh daily baked baguette - both white and whole wheat - and croissants) and the toppings that come with each sandwich (lettuce, tomatoes, green and hot peppers, black olives, onions, cucumbers, cornichons, mayonnaise and their house-made French vinaigrette).
The husband and I visited La Sandwicherie twice during our stay in Miami Beach. The first time, I ordered the SoBe Club, which comes with turkey, brie cheese and avocado (along with all of the toppings above), and the husband had the Italian, which comes topped with ham, salami, proscuitto and provolone (and also all of those other toppings). These were fantastic! The baguette was fresh, as were the ample toppings. As well, having eaten these at lunch time, we were full for the rest of the day!
For our second visit, I had the ham and turkey with provolone (and all the toppings, but on a croissant, which was amazing! One of my favourite things in the world of sandwiches is croissant sandwiches. They just add that special touch! The husband had the roast beef, which he also thoroughly enjoyed.
La Sandwicherie also offers fresh smoothies and juices (we tried one of the smoothies but I forgot to take a photo! It was delicious), soup, salads and breakfast sandwiches. There are even a few options for toasted or hot sandwiches.
I would definitely add La Sandwicherie to your itinerary if you’re looking for something that is fresh, delicious, and won’t break the bank, especially in South Beach. Plus, who doesn’t love a portable meal? Get your sandwiches and head right back to the beach for a picnic lunch.
Dinner at Umami Burger, South Beach, Miami, Florida
As a person who loves to read about all things food related, I was familiar with Umami Burger, and was interested in finally getting to see for myself what all the hype was about. I live very, very far away from any Umami Burger, so while vacationing in South Beach, Miami, recently, I decided to take advantage of my close proximity to their only Florida location to give it a try.
Umami is all about the hamburgers (is that obvious?), and their simple and no-fuss menu reflects this mission. The beef that is used for the burger patties is ground in-house, and specially seasoned with ‘umami’ flavours for a unique and absolutely deliciously rich dining experience (read Umami Burger’s own description here).
Our server was fantastic, and took the time to explain the menu and make a few recommendations. I chose the Manly Burger, which comes topped with beer-infused cheddar, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, and house ketchup and mustard spread. The husband went for the Royale Burger, which comes topped with braised beef short rib, roasted garlic aioli and their own in-house made truffle cheese. The burgers all come as is, and you have to add a side dish for an extra cost if you wish. We chose to share the smushed potatoes, which are described on their menu as double-fried creamer potatoes served with roasted garlic aioli. Everything was amazingly delicious! Yes, they are just hamburgers, but these are seriously infused with some rich, tongue-tantalizing flavour. The beef patty really is uniquely delicious and I have never eaten a hamburger that tasted anything like it! The smushed potatoes were pretty delicious too, but the burger is quite rich as is - you really don’t need the side unless you’re really, really hungry.
Overall we really enjoyed Umami Burger: its simplicity and focus on quality ingredients and craftmanship really shine! We would not hesitate to return.