Blueberry Tarts of 2011

Art-is-in Blueberry Tart Art-is-in Blueberry Tart
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Waking to deceptively warm sunshine these past few mornings, many Ottawa natives asked if it is “shorts” or “mittens” weather. Indeed, I found myself keeping three jackets at the ready, my down-filled winter coat, my flannel lined leather jacket, and my windbreaker. Some days I wore all three, alternating as the mercury rose and fell from morning until night.

Today, I woke to snow and the forecast calls for possible flurries throughout the week.

It is no wonder Canadians discuss weather foremost. We see it all, hot and humid highs and frozen and frostbitten lows. We have the most diverse wardrobes, clothes to both celebrate and protect against the elements. You can spot a Canadian by the fact we grill food in any weather, snow, sleet, and hail. After a long winter, when the snow banks finally recede, we’re out in shorts and t-shirts. It’s 10°C (50°F). You won’t meet more weather-adept or weather-defying people!

And so, even while I have to dig out the winter gloves, I am thinking summer. I am thinking blueberries.

First of the Season Blueberries, Last Year

First of the Season Blueberries, Last Year

It may have something to do with a conversation my better half and I had with one of our caterers for our wedding. She will be preparing bites to tide guests over until the reception dinner. Pretty dishes with summer berries came up.

What is my favourite blueberry indulgence in the summertime? Blueberry tarts, of course. Preferably with a little custard or pastry cream (which is essentially a custard) and maybe some lemonade.

Here are two of my favourite blueberry tarts from the past summer:

Art-Is-In Bakery
When locals speak of Art-is-in and its founders, former pastry chef Kevin Mathieson and his wife Stephanie Monnin, bread is usually mentioned. In Ottawa, the artisan bread served at most restaurants comes from the kitchens of Art-is-in. In fact, one of the foods we miss most when we visit Toronto or Vancouver for any stretch of time is Art-is-in’s freshly baked bread. Yes, Toronto and Vancouver chefs bake great bread, but it’s not the same as Kevin’s.

Art-is-in BreadArt-is-in Bread

Butter CroissantsAlmond Croissants

Art-is-in has come a long way since its days, operating a popular popup bakery at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, Mathieson and his talented bakers working like mad in a kitchen behind the Ottawa Bagel Shop in the West Wellington Village. These days, Art-is-in causes traffic mayhem in the parking lot of its permanent digs at 250 City Center Avenue (Bay 112-113). What was once the dominion of trucks, loading and unloading goods at the City Center’s warehouses, the parking lot now swarms with cars. There is often a line-up of people coming out of the unlikely storefront in the industrial building.

Art-is-in Storefront

Art-is-in Storefront

Besides bread, Art-Is-In has a team of cooks who serve up lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends. Think corn or clam chowders ($5-something for 8 oz); amazing grilled cheese sandwiches with artisan cheese and fresh “as only a bakery can make it” bread; and tourtiere that warms the belly on a cold day. Mathieson recently started offering double fried fries with a newly installed fryolater. A week back, he was serving foie poutine, in the Au Pied de Cochon tradition.

Sticky Bun and Coffee BrunchEgg Sammie Brunch

Tourtiere for LunchBread pudding for Lunch

This weekend, Mathieson broke out the big green egg, serving burgers again.

Owing to his pastry training, Mathieson makes killer blueberry tarts. Trust me, there is no sweeter, nor tastier, a blueberry than one eaten “in season”, especially wild varieties. “In season” blueberries are what Mathison’s tart showcased.

Blueberry Tart

Blueberry Tart

The glaze was sweet, but not cloyingly so. The pastry was rich and fatty. The pastry cream was light and luscious. The blueberries…well, they were sweet and glorious.

Bobbette & Belle
Last August, Jenn and I spent a week’s vacation in Toronto, staying with a friend. On the Saturday, fellow food blogger, Ottawa ex-pat, and now food truck operator, Bonita (@boneats) of Bon Eats took us for a tour of the culinary sites in the “Big Smoke.” In the trendy Leslieville neighbourhood, she took us to the “girliest” bakery she knows, Bobette & Belle (1121 Queen Street E.).

Bobbette & Belle

Bobbette & Belle

Founded by Allyson Meredith Bobbitt and Sarah Bell, both pastry chefs, the artisan patisserie opened in 2010, featuring cakes, cupcakes, cookies (including authentic French macarons), scones, and other delectables. Bell is a former executive pastry chef at Oliver & Bonacini’s Canoe restaurant. The duo started working together, selling custom wedding cakes and wedding favours. The popularity of their award-winning cakes eventually resulted in their opening a retail store.

CupcakesMeringues and Macarons

Drinks Made With Fresh Squeezed JuicesCookies, Marshmallows, and other Delectables

The breathtaking wedding cake gallery along one wall explains both B&B’s success and its beginnings. B&B bakes some stunning tiered cakes.

White walls with inset shelves, accented by earth toned furniture, the space floods with sunshine from the large front window. Both elegant and rustic, B&B is distinctly feminine. Instead of creating a purely retail store, B&B features a sitting room with comfy sofa set. There are glass counters, showcasing B&B’s treats and communal tables to encourage “indulging”-in.

Sitting Room and Communal Tables

Sitting Room and Communal Tables

At B&B, Jenn indulged in a very elegant blueberry tart, one she refused to share. Again, rich crust, light pastry cream, and sweet blueberries.

Blueberry Tart

Blueberry Tart

Luckily, Bobbitt and Bell shared a recipe for spring fruit tarts with House and Home Magazine.

What spring or summer dessert are you most looking forward to?

Aside: Artisan is a very overused word these days, especially when it comes to bread. Baking bread in an in-house bakery does not necessarily make it “artisan” or “artisanal.” When looking at artisan bread, look for the three C’s; Colour that comes from using quality unbleached flour; crisp and/or crunchy Crust that comes from careful proofing and baking; extremely well developed Crumb (bread interior) that is characteristic of a well worked dough usually involving a starter (pre-ferment). Everything contributes to texture and flavour. (Paraphrased from freshjuice.ca.)

Art-Is-In Bakery
250 City Center Avenue (Bay 112-114, from Scott Road)
Art Is in Bakery on Urbanspoon

Bobbette & Belle
1121 Queen Street E., Toronto
Bobbette & Belle on Urbanspoon

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.