Monday, November 30, 2009

Treats from the sea at the Pelican Grill

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I was first introduced to the Pelican Grill by my friend Em, who bought sushi-grade fish there for a girls night.Then I sampled some of its wares again at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show. S and I have since checked it out for lunch and cooked fish from its shop, and we have become faithful patrons.

At lunch, I ordered a bowl of chowder for us to share. I am so used to small soup portions in restaurants so I passed up the "cup" portion, but lo and behold the waiter brought out a behemoth of a broth. It was delicious. I cast in my spoon and was rewarded by big catches of salmon pieces.

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Next, I ordered the "The Battle of the Smoked Salmons" (above). The menu describes it perfectly: In the hot corner, we've got a salmon served with crispy potato rosti smothered in crème fraîche. In the cold corner, grilled romaine hearts with crispy capers, aioli and parmesan shavings wait to steal the round. I couldn't resist and filled up on the hot salmony goodness first!

S ordered the halibut and chips, a hefty portion for a one-piecer, and very flavourful and good-looking to boot. I love the newspaper touch, so old-school English.

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Our meal of chowder, the salmon battle, fish and chips, soft drink and coffee cost $41.36 plus tip.

Afterward, we picked up some trout and cod to take home. The Pelican Grill has a fishery attached to the restaurant, with lots of delicious catches of the day. Their labels also indicate whether things are Pacific or Atlantic, and whether they're wild. (I've heard in terms of salmon anyways that wild Pacific is the best, which generally means it's not farmed.)

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The decor is very nice. The restaurant is filled with lots of copper tabletops and on the walls there are beautiful, professional photographs of the staff posing with feature sea creatures. There's even one of Ron Eade, the Ottawa Citizen's food blogger, who is obviously a big fan!

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fondue dinner chez PB and J

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Peanut Butter and Jelly had us over for a delicious dinner the other night. They made a cheese fondue using one of PB's family heirlooms, an ancient fondue maker from Switzerland (below), bought in the 1970s. Isn't it stylish? Four decades later it still works a treat.

They also served a heavenly salad that looked as good as it tasted (above) and easy-peasy to make. It's a border of mandarin segments around a spring mix salad with irresistible roasted pecans and sugar snap peas, all sprinkled over with pomegranate seeds. PB and J served it in a rectangular plate that accentuated the lovely presentation. We ate it with a sweet vinaigrette and I loved it!

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Parmesan fish and mashed potatoes

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Health Canada recommends eating fish at least twice a week, so I'm giving it a try. I already happily devour canned herring and sardines, two varieties Health Canada recommends, on a weekly basis. I love them on crackers and toast. Recently I have also added this breaded fish recipe to my weekly roster. It's my favourite way to cook white fish, such as sole, cod or haddock.

Parmesan fish and mashed potatoes
serves 2

For the fish
2 fillets of white fish (sole, cod, haddock, etc.)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Mashed potatoes
russet potatoes
butter (optional)

Prepare the potatoes first. Peel, cut into quarters and place in boiling water. Cook until fork tender. Remove from heat, drain and mash with some butter and/or milk. Place the pot of potatoes in a high-sided baking tray. Add some hot water to the tray (but not the potatoes ;) and put the whole shebang in a slow oven to keep warm until the fish and salad are prepared.

Prepare the fish. Place three large bowls in a row on your counter. Add flour to the first, egg to the second, and breadcrumbs, parsley and Parmesan cheese to the third.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan.

Dip your fillets of fish in the flour, egg and breadcrumb mixture in that order, then lay them in the frying pan. Fry briefly in a single layer, about four minutes on the first side and two on the second.

Serve the fish with mashed potatoes and a garden salad.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spanish Tapas in Ottawa

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My favourite Spanish restaurant in Ottawa is 222 Lyon Tapas Bar. I am tapas crazy, and the food here is really good.

It's a cozy hole-in-the-wall sort of place, all painted up in warm yellows, oranges and reds. It's very charming and reminds me of all of the little restaurants I used to frequent in Montreal when I lived there.

The service is very friendly and attentive, too. I have been lucky to always get the blond waitress with the sunny personality.

The last time S and I went, we ordered four tapas dishes. In the photo, clockwise from the top, they are shrimp Mona Lisa (in a brandy cream sauce with mushrooms and peppers), chicken al Ajillo (made with prosciutto, garlic, wine and chilli), artichokes in a vinaigrette and a ratatouille of eggplant and zucchini.

The tapas dishes are pretty big here. They recommended two per person and also give you unlimited bread for scooping up the delicious juices.

My favourite dish was the shrimp, so juicy and tasty. The artichokes were great, too. Artichokes are so intimidating to make at home — how do you get inside that vegetable, anyway? But they taste so good, and the sauce here does not overpower the wonderful natural artichoke flavour.

These four tapases, a small dish of olives, a glass of wine and beer, and a dessert that we shared, all came to $72.75 plus tip.

Does anyone else love this restaurant as much as me? :) Do tell!

222 Lyon Tapas Bar
222 Lyon Street North
Ottawa, Ont.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ottawa's Wine and Food Show

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I had a fantastic time at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show last weekend with S and friends, and my long-lost brother who I haven't seen since Thanksgiving! Some other highlights included (in the photo, clockwise from the top): a mackerel salad from Le Cordon Bleu, learning what's really in ground beef from local chef Duane Keats, smoked salmon from the Pelican Fishery & Grill, and meeting the leader of the Ottawa's Slow Food chapter, Peggy Hall.

First on the agenda was attending a food demonstration by Duane Keats, chef at Luxe Bistro in Ottawa's Byward Market. He taught everyone in the audience a great cost-saving skill: how to skin and fillet a whole fish. He demonstrated on a giant fresh halibut and an equally gargantuan fresh salmon. At 10 lbs, each normally yields 15 portions at his restaurant.

While his sous-chef showed us how to similarly fillet a big hunk of striploin, Duane told us something disturbing about ground beef, namely that it's made mostly from connective tissue called silver skin that's trimmed from cuts like this. It's tough and you can't chew it, like "beef bubblegum," he said. But if you remove it, your steaks won't curl during cooking.

At the demo, I had the pleasure of sitting beside Peggy Hall, the leader of Slow Food Ottawa, an organization that connects people who love to eat with local producers and their foods. She told me that one of her big challenges this year will be to raise the profile of Ontario wines by encouraging Ottawa-area restaurants to feature them on their wine lists.

My personal wine find of the evening was a delicious 2004 Spanish Rioja called Marqués de Riscal Reserve. We also spent a lot of time at the Argentine wine counter and sampled a few tasty Slovenian wines — Cviček and Refošk. I had no idea that Slovenia had such a big wine industry, but it stands to reason as it shares a border with Italy and also benefits from that Mediterranean climate that's so good for grapes.

And of course, the food was sublime. Em served us some mackerel salad at Le Cordon Bleu's booth — so fresh and tasty. She is Le Cordon Bleu's best employee ever. And we had a rich lobster mac and cheese from Foundation, and a wonderful smoked salmon appetizer with red onions, capers and a special sauce from Pelican Fishery & Grill.

As usual, it was magical and I can't wait until next year!

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