In our 6 years in Hintonburg/Wellington West, Jenn and I witnessed the sale of our neighbourhood heritage landmark, Fire Station #11 on Parkdale Avenue. Afterward, we saw the building extensively renovated to accommodate commercial tenants. One space was eventually taken by Carley and Oliver Schelck, who had their 1700 square feet custom designed by Design First Interiors to be an open concept “event space.” One well equipped commercial kitchen and a 20 foot dining table later, Urban Element opened.
Together with an in-house catering team and resident chefs, Urban Element offers a venue to hold a wide range of activities and culinary events, including hands-on and demonstration cooking classes, post class sit down dinners, cocktail parties, wine tastings, and corporate meetings.
Alas, the foodiePrints team never attended any of the events. We have come across Urban Element’s catering team and chefs participating in community events, often fund-raising for charity. But, we never took the opportunity to take any of the classes offered. In the past, local chefs have organized many a tempting class from Wellington Gastropub‘s Chef Chris Deraiche explaining how to pair food with beer to Domus‘ Chef John Taylor demonstrating current trends in how to cook Autumn’s harvest bounty. As Urban Element advertises, theirs are unique culinary experiences.
When I discovered that Urban Element chose to celebrate its 4th anniversary with a sponsored wine and cheese, RSVP-only, I jumped at the opportunity, inviting one of Ottawa’s food luminaries, Paolas St. George (@paolasepicure) to join me.
Besides being given free run of its facilities, we got to watch two of Urban Element’s resident chefs prepare appetizers for guests.
Its well lit and spacious instructional kitchen is outlined with a marble bar for people to sit and, presumably, for pastry work. Separating the kitchen from the dining room is a half wall, fitted with a floor to ceiling book case, displaying things culinary.
We were very impressed. And yes, the top shelf holds decades of bound Gourmet Magazine.
Drink-wise, wine and beer were served.
Apparently, the two varieties of Beau’s beer being poured are exclusive to Beau’s distillery, Night MÃƒÂ¤rzen and Tommy Gun American-Style Pale Ale (APA), both seasonal brews. Restaurants usually have Lug Tread on tap.
Cheese-wise, threee resembling Grana Padano (hard), Stilton (blue), and a Camembert (soft) were served along side sliced Art-Is-In bread.
Accompanying the cheese was a chutney and a nut praline.
Finally, the appetizers:
My thoughts on the appetizers, the standout was the pattypan squash appetizer. It featured two varieties of squash, highlighting their strengths: green and fresh pattypan and sweet and creamy butternut. I found the pot pies so oddly seasoned that I originally thought the protein was canned salmon. The squash soup shooter was likewise overpowering with curry.
The biggest disappointment, the fondant brownies. While lusciously chocolate, they should never have been served as finger food. With their soft textures, the squares quickly melted when handled. They should have been served plated and come with a utensil.
Happily, the January 2010 class schedule was unveiled at the event. What interests me are the Bridgehead “Be a Barista” Coffee Seminar on January 11 and the Piggy Market’s Chef Dave Neil’s Artisan Sausage Making Seminar on January 18.
On our way out, I asked Oliver to point out one of my favourite Ottawa food bloggers, Rachelle of the Rachelle Eats Food blog. A lovely lady, she, Jenn and I chatted about blogging and having the opportunity to meet one another face to face. She also has a writeup on the Urban Element anniversary event. Do check it out!
424 Parkdale Avenue