Sunday, August 23, 2015

Industria Brasserie at Lansdowne

Sweet or savoury? Netflix or friends? Pizza or Big Mac? While the answers to the first two of life's great questions may remain a mystery, the newly opened Industria Brasserie at Ottawa's ever-hip Lansdowne park resolves the third conundrum effortlessly: have both, at the same time!

This past week I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Industria Brasserie's newly opened Ottawa location, and I knew it would be a great night just by the looks of these gorgeous cocktails:

The place has only been open for a couple of months but already has that cozy glow to it - the glow of comfort, of a place you want to sit and hang out in, if not for the little glass jelly fish..

Then for the exposed brick walls, vintage lantern-style lights, or hot red booths...

But really, lets be honest: it's about the food.  Chef Sergio Mattoscio explained that his aim in this menu was keeping Italian tradition and roots strong in his cooking, introducing smaller style tapas called Sfizi, encouraging diners to bond over their food (or not bond, if you're not the sharing type and hide your portion under the table because fairsies and stuff).  Industria also boasts seven pasta choices freshly made in-house, one of which was this hearty, rich orecchiette pasta with Italian sausage, rapini, and tomato:

And if pasta isn't your thing, the fresh selection of pizzas is just as incredible. Have you ever cut a pizza with scissors? It feels so wrong, but so right...

And how could I have started this post with that terrible intro and not shown you why? Enter Industria Pizza, which is essentially a Big Mac pizza...

And speaking of fresh, we also got to gorge on try lobster tacos (!!!), shrimp, giant meatballs, a slow-roasted pork belly/shoulder burger, and a chocolate pizza:

so delicious, I had to put a filter on bae

The dishes that stood out to me were the lobster tacos and the prosciutto pizza, but I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone to venture into the world of Industria Brasserie's share-a-rific menu, if what you're looking for is fresh, authentic, and super cool Italian cuisine.

Oh, and did I mention the ample drink selection was a nice touch? 

Thank you Blackbook Lifestyle, Myriam Valcin, and Industria Brasserie!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Atelier Restaurant (I Ate a Balloon)

This week, I was taken to a surprise dinner and asked to wear something nice.  When it comes to places that call for 'something nice', I thought I had seen it all in Ottawa, but with this particular place receiving reviews such as "the most buzzed about restaurant in Ottawa" and "the wildest dining experience in town", I've clearly been missing out. They say you should be wary of entering an unmarked restaurant (do they say that?), but as we approached our mysteriously dismal dinner venue, I thought My feet are strapped into six inch towers of torture and I double conditioned my hair – I am not going back.  Sleek, delicate grates covered the windows of the little grey house, as the “540” affixed to the door seemed to suggest that yes, we have arrived at the right location, and did we have a spare mouth gag, by any chance? My date, having noticed the sprinkling of hesitation on my face, nervously joked that he was bringing me to a 50 Shades of Grey party.  Meanwhile, my mind raced through my inevitable expectations: were we walking into that infamous scene from Eyes Wide Shut? A speak-easy? Or perhaps Fight Club? Wrong on all counts. Instead, we walked into Atelier Restaurant:  “A tasting menu restaurant in Ottawa serving 'New Canadian' food based on hypermodern culinary technique and technology.”

Here is a picture of the outside I literally got from Google maps.  You tell me you wouldn’t be picturing Nicole Kidman in a cult robe.

We were seated into a very cozy dining spot, with soft, elegant chairs and a calm, pastel ambiance peppered with beautifully framed doodles, suggesting the chef/owner’s pride in his children or perhaps the beginnings of a side career in visual art. A very endearing detail.
Our waiter was impeccably polite, professional, and probably an elephant, because I don’t know how a human being can remember fifty details about each of the twelve (!!!) dishes we were served. (On that note, I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that I cannot describe the dishes aside from their main components, because I just don’t remember everything that went into them.) My date, being extremely classy, decided that we should opt for a wine pairing with our dinner, and I, being a fan of booze, agreed. The Sommelier (Steve Robinson, who was not coincidentally named ‘Best Sommelier in Ontario’ in 2014) poured our whites, reds, and rosés with every meal, detailing his particular choices in that adorable way someone speaks when they’re trying to contain their passion in a box with an ill-fitting lid.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if they served oysters?” my dining companion joked again, knowing my disdain for things that taste like the lake squeezed its armpit into a shell. Enter our first dish of course (is everyone familiar with how my life works, by now?), called ‘Aw Shucks!’ : Oysters with jelly, topped with horseradish foam.  I’m going to expand my horizons and be open to new possibilities! I thought, as I let one slither reluctantly into my mouth.  Nope. Not today. Not ever. That’s just me though, I don’t like oysters. They sure did look lovely, though..

The next dish was called ‘You’re Singing Out of Tuna’ and was a very tasty tuna tartare adorned with hints of crispy chicken skin, among other intricate details. 

Next came the ‘Shrimp Ring’, or the SOIHFDOIHF WJVPOD as I heard it.  A dehydrated turnip covered a bed of something at meaty but not very loud in taste. “I think this might be shrimp,” I observed. “Is there shrimp in this?” I asked the waiter, with the wonder of a culinary explorateur. “In the shrimp ring? Yes.” He answered.  Ah so.

 The next dish was particularly important to me because it marked the beginning of a very special bond between us and our waiter.  He called it ‘Strawberry Fields for Now’ and described it as a berry soufflé  (served atop a porcelain sphere) and suggested that we eat it in one bite because “…at the end, it pops in your mouth.”  At that, my raging possession by the That’s What She Said spirit took hold, as the words projectiled out of my mouth before I could stop them. To that, he stopped mid well-rehearsed sentence, laughed, and said “I’m not supposed to say that but.YES!” 

 As we ate this refreshing bite-sized delicacy, I noticed the waiter coyly peeking from around the corner. He was looking at our dishes, just waiting to surprise us with what we had already guessed was coming next, hidden inside the porcelain sphere.  "If you lift the top, you will find…” one of my favourite dishes: An aloe vera mousse ball sitting in a berry sauce.

Hey, have you ever eaten baby octopus and wondered why it was just soooo boring? Okay, then you must’ve tried adding a strip of Agar, a splash of squid ink, and oh, I don’t know, maybe some dehydrated Chorizo to it, as they did in this next dish, the ‘Squidgee Kid’ .  Wow.

Next came the ‘Abraham Lingcod’ which was a perfectly seared piece of fish full of flavour and colorfully complimented by flavors I can no longer identify.  If you look closely, I think that’s a tomato. Again, I’d like to reiterate that my failure in remembering the dish components is strictly because there were just so many (and…alright, so much wine too..)

Then, the waiter brought out a black vertical cylinder, on which was perched a steel spoon, to which a leaf was attached with a metal clip. The highlight of the meal (the ‘Belly Up’):  a cube of pork belly, balanced precariously in a little pool of cream sauce. I’ll say the words you shouldn’t say when describing food, because I just don’t care because this could not be truer: it was amazing. 

One dish that I found particularly memorable was the ‘Meat and Potatoes’: a surprisingly hearty portion of beef prepared with the sous-vide method. The result was a very savoury, juicy piece of well-brined perfection.  Salty, tangy, and sharp, it was (of course) thoughtfully contrasted by err…something green, and a tiny potato.

The waiter called this next dish ‘Pasta La Vista, Baby!’, and while it’s a fact that the dish was flavorful like all of the others, it’s also a fact that I requested that the waiter re-describe its entirety with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent. Fact #3 is that the waiter said he didn’t think he could do it. Fact #4 is that I told him to try anyway. Fact #5: he said he would practice it and come back later. Fact #6 the rest of the meals were presented to us in an Arnie accent.  Get to da next one!

 The following dish (the ‘Squabble’) had, as can be seen, roasted vegetables, a very flattering cream sauce balance, and something I found peculiarly soft yet squishy, not quite game-y, not quite poultry-ish, with a slight bitterness overshadowed by this sort of flat aftertaste. It had a rounded, voluptuous edge, but smoothly obeyed the knife blade when it was cut, the way an egg would. “Excuse me sir, is this sack?” I asked our waiter. “Pardon?” he asked. “Am I eating a testicle?” Like the professional that he was, he answered, without flinching: “That is squab.” “What is squab?” I asked, adjusting my monocle. “It is essentially a pigeon,” he explained.  “So street bird. I am eating street bird,” I confirmed. He laughed and nodded. Then, before walking away, he leaned in and added, “Iiiiiiz naht a peeeegeon”.

Wanna know what happens at the end, when you go to a restaurant that utilizes hypermodern culinary technique? You get three desserts, one of which is a helium sugar balloon (called the ‘Dino Egg’) that is handed to you on a fruit candy string.  We were told to put our lips on the sugar coating and suck the helium out, which, let’s face it, never gets old.  Diners of all ages were laughing as we turned into chipmunks, then into big messy babies with sugar balloon remnants covering our faces. Brilliant.

The second dessert, called the ‘Rhubarbara Walters’ (I cannot get enough of these names),  was a frozen orb of passion fruit sorbet, nestled atop a spongecake crumble, with berries, edible flower petals, and some sort of dehydrated magic bowing at the feet of its elegance.  The tropical-fruity shell was very thin and melted almost immediately, the flavours fusing perfectly with their dry, semi-sweet counterparts. 

Our last dish and the third dessert, which I assume was a continuation of ‘Rhubarbara Walters’ was comprised of what looked like a creamy snake topped with little meringues and dehydrated sugary… matter. Bits of jelly rested along its curvy spine, and once again, it had a light and fruity tone that didn’t make you feel like you’ve just eaten the conclusion to twelve dishes, which I really did not mind. 

As a side note, I’m not a wine connoisseur but you know how people who really want to convince you that they know about wine will tell you that they’re ‘picking up on’  ‘notes’ of ‘plum, Autumn, a sneeze, and a hint of Sunday morning’ and you’re like “yeah me too” but really you’re not even sure what colour the wine is? Well, for the first time in my life, I observed this lovely sweet passionfruit-like smell in this one particular Riesling, and was absolutely floored by its taste which was also very fruity, very rounded, not too sweet, and just delicious. I just felt like I got it, guys. That wine was a 2012 Studert-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese from Mosel, Germany, and if you ever find it, I would suggest you give it a try. 

The entire dining experience lasted almost four hours, and truly, I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun eating food. Each dish enticed the diner to experience it like a little story, and each triggered an entirely unique sensation,  whether by virtue of the crackling chorizo, the waiters’ and sommelier’s seamless dedication to providing incredible service,  or the mystique of the elusive street bird.  Highly, highly recommended.

Atelier is located at 540 Rochester Street.  Cult robe optional.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vertical Jewelry Boxes DYI (Do Yourself It)

A few years ago I found some branches, painted them white, and showed you how to turn them into jewelry hangers. Then, I moved, and in my next apartment I recreated the look but with a more minimalist approach:

Then, I got tired of having a forest on my wall and decided it was time for a new idea. I couldn't find anything in stores that would hold my jewelry without looking cluttered, so I had to come up with an idea of my own.  Enter: vertical jewelry boxes.  Hang everything you want inside them, then put the lid on and everything looks clean and organized. Here's what you'll need..

-photo boxes (try different sizes if you're feeling kinda crazy)
-mini utility hooks - you can buy these at any hardware store
-decoration for the boxes, which can be anything from feathers, to pictures of your grandma, to the marble print shelf liner I chose...
-ruler, but only if you're a measuring snob

Okay so lets get this thing done. You're gonna start by placing the boxes against the wall and seeing where the arrangement works best.  Do you want symmetry? Do you want a bit of avant garde in your design? Do you want to be ironic? Even a haphazard look takes planning.  Figure that out before you make a mistake, because you can't go back in time, amigo. Well, you can, but you'll have holes in your walls and the final product won't look as clean.

Next, you're gonna grab two nails, and nail the boxes to the wall. In the picture above, obviously the boxes aren't possessed but are already nailed on. This is how the hammer should look when it's hitting the nail..

So then you're gonna grab your utility hooks, but not these ones because these are from the year 2050 and were therefore very difficult to obtain.

And this is the part where you ask yourself what kind of person you are: the kind that likes to measure everything and have the hooks look perfectly aligned, or the kind of person who would rather use that time to eat an entire rotisserie chicken?  If you answered the former, use your ruler to measure out equal distances to screw in your hooks. Then, applaud yourself. You are the wind beneath our wings.  If you are just a regular person who wants a regular set of hooks, don't worry too much about it because it'll be covered by a lid anyway, ya turkey! Either way, it might help to take out some more nails and nail tiny holes before screwing in the hooks, if it's too hard to just screw them into the wall right off the bat.

Tip: think about what you want to hang there, how long the jewelry will be, how bulky the jewelry is, and how many pieces you want to hang in each box.  That should determine your hook spacing.

Here's how mine look. A little curvy but a) I did this while talking on the phone, so not too shabby and b) the curvy look is in right now..

Alright so the last part is the fun part, because it's the part where you get to decorate the boxes. Of course, if you're a minimalist, you should just leave the boxes bare. But otherwise, you could pick a solid color to paint them, adorn them with chalkboard paper or paint, cover them in rhinestones or broken twigs or photographs or slightly used cotton swabs. You could write on them, or string little twinkle lights around them. They're yours man, I don't know what you wanna do with them.
But if you want yours to look like mine, what you wanna do is find some shelf liner in a print you like and measure and cut it to fit the tops of the boxes.

Side note: Why do paper companies do this?

-"Hey, do you guys think they'll figure out what to do with the paper without us posting the redundant instructions in seventeen languages on the back?"

-"Trust me, they'll need those instructions much more than they'll need the measurements to cut the paper in a straight line."


 After measuring it and cutting it God knows how, your covers should fit the tops flush, and your jewelry should be tucked away into the cozy little boxes..

You can also use the box for your rings..

...and earrings!

And when it's all closed, the look is clean, polished, and doesn't interfere with the color scheme of the rest of the room..

Now go eat that rotisserie chicken. You earned it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

An H&M Dinner

Every once in a while, I attend a party that leaves me absolutely starstruck. This season, as the H&M Conscious Collection paired up with Olivia Wilde, and pieces like these magically made their way into my daydreams…

…an invitation to a private dinner with H&M magically made its way into my email inbox.
It’s been a while since I’ve clinked champagne glasses with fellow bloggers, so I was really excited to hear what everyone was up to.  Another thing I was really excited about: getting to wear my new H&M blazer!

The dinner was held at the Bayshore Shopping Centre, with the H&M Conscious Collection area shaped radiantly out of tropical green shrubbery, which was a bit of a challenge for the paparazzi…

And a challenge for me was keeping it together when meeting Emily Scarlett of H&M Canada, the lovely dinner host.  Stunning, with a seemingly effortless, impeccable style, Emily spoke about her work, her passion for the H&M Conscious Collection, and the secret behind her ultra on-point hair: finding a hair stylist who shares your vision, and keeping them forever.   

Having worked with H&M for eight years, Emily clearly knows where it’s at when it comes to picking the perfect blazer (yeah, that’s the one from my daydream above!)

You know who else I really loved at this party? The waiters.  I barely had time to finish a glass of bubbly when there it would be, the reaching arm of my best-friend-in-waiting, topping me up, again and again.  
I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not” said Coco Chanel.  I’d like to add a third occasion to that: when my glass is replenished without me even asking.  

Alright, so I’m sure you’ve been patiently reading, just waiting for me to tell you about what was for dinner, so here it is.  I’ve been to parties organized by Blackbook Lifestyle and Bayshore before and I knew they wouldn’t disappoint.  I mean, at a past event a few months ago, the catering included mint cotton candy and macarons sprinkled with edible frost so they clearly go above and beyond to inspire. And inspire they did…
“Miss, an appetizer?” the waiter asked, in-between champagne showers (that’s the right term for it, right?). “Oh yes, please!” I would answer, thinking that if I said it in a slightly different voice this time around, he wouldn’t realize that I’ve already eaten ten off his tray.  “My goodness,” I would add, “What an absolute delight!” …he totally thinks I'm someone else.   “These are scallops, seared in…”  Stop, my friend, you had me at scallops. I’m all in. 

After I indulged in a few hundred appetizer bites, we were called to the gorgeous table, decorated with warm, spring pastel accents and about fifteen million forks and knives.  Do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman with the elegant dinner? You know, that scene? Enough said.  

The starter was a warm pea soup that came with a tiny spoon. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was not gaspacho because I didn’t want to eat anything cold, and luckily, I had some assistance holding the miniature utensil from a pet moth I keep in my purse for this exact situation.

Moth not pictured

Next was (I think) a squash purée, topped with a refreshing zesty salad, and (hopefully) edible flower petals.  There were also petals on the little beads of butter that accompanied our bread, but I passed on scarfing those down, in an effort not to resemble a hunter-gatherer.

Then came the seared tuna, which I think is my new favourite trendy food, because every time I eat it, it’s got a slightly different ‘tone’ to the taste.  This one had a sea salt base, with a velvety texture the more you bit into the raw parts. It sat on a bed of asparagus, potatoes, and sliced egg, gathered together like jewels- fittingly.

As I expertly worked my way through the utensils, this gorgeous plate was placed before me.  On it: duck, artisanal carrots, and more duck wrapped in a soft, warm, savoury crepe, topped with two delicate sprigs of thyme. If you’re wondering, no I could not resist yelling, “Ain’t nobody got thyme for that!”  and yes, everybody laughed, and I was crowned Best Person on Planet, fourth year in a row, as a parade of celebratory elephants fell from the ceiling.

 Next came the moment I can never escape at events and parties – the moment I do something that is inherently me. This edition involved a question from a beautiful blogger, answered by me through a mouthful of duck falling out of my pie hole and onto the elegant porcelain plate it had once been meticulously arranged upon.   That’s okay though, because next came dessert, and my God, dessert was incredible:

“It’s a maple crème brulée,” the waiter whispered in a George Clooney voice as I stared at it, trying to hold back tears of admiration.  Indeed, it was a crème brulée with the thinnest shell, topped with a berry sauce and a tower of meringue. I’m going to pay homage to simplicity and say, in the simplest terms, it was exquisite.
And if that wasn’t enough, all of the gastronomic delights were sustainable and organic. Perfection.

Speaking of treats, of course H&M would go there: on each of our chairs sat a box with a gift that Emily had personally chosen for each blogger based on all of the “stalking” (her words) she had done to learn about us.  My gift was a lovely little number: a giraffe print dress I plan on wearing on my upcoming trip to Cuba! I was floored by Emily’s efforts and attention to detail. I really can’t praise her enough.

Lastly, perhaps the best part of the night was meeting so many new people and hearing what drives their passion for blogging.  I couldn’t type fast enough to take down the names of these incredibly fashionable, hilarious, and beautiful girls, but luckily when I woke up this morning, I knew it wasn’t just a dream because there was that much more colour on my Instagram and Facebook from the Likes, Follows, and Hashtags from my new friends.

Thank you to Bayshore Ottawa, H&M Canada, and Blackbook Events (and Liam!!!) for such a beautiful night!