Christmas presents have been exchanged. The New Year has been toasted with bubbly. By now, most have returned from their holiday excursions. Many took down the Christmas tree on the first, carefully packing away the ornaments. Ours came down after we returned from a brief escape to Toronto, but more on our respite in the Big Smoke in another post.
With a week to go before three chefs, Caroline Ishii of ZenKitchen (634 Somerset Street W.), Katie Brown of Beckta Dining and Wine (226 Nepean Street), and Sarah Allen of Union Local 613 (315 Somerset Street W.), pull out their knives and share recipes and techniques, tickets for the Red and White will soon be difficult to come by.
The event sells out every year.
Last year, Michael Blackie of MB Cuisine (formerly Executive Chef of the National Arts Centre (NAC)) and Lora Kirk of Toronto’s Ruby Watchco participated, demonstrating and serving two dishes each at St. Bridgid’s Centre for the Arts and Humanities (302 St. Patrick’s Street).
Chef Blackie served dishes with smoked sea scallops and lobster; and short rib and feta.
Chef Kirk served equally tantalizing dishes with prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin and bacon-wrapped trout.
This year, the Red and White will be held at Ashbury College (362 Mariposa Avenue) on January 16, 2013 (from 7:30 pm until 10:00 pm). Ashbury is a much larger venue than St. Bridgid’s. It has been donated by the school’s administration to host the annual fundraiser for Harmony House Women’s Shelter.
Harmony House is Ottawa’s only second-stage shelter. For 25 years, it has provided affordable transitional housing for women and children who are survivors of violence.
Besides creative food, the Red and White will also feature wine and beer from Eastern Ontario producers. Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co., Rosehall Run, Sandbanks, and the Grange will return to showcase their libations.
Tickets are $60/person (not including an online transaction fee). Click here to purchase.Now, Chef Charlotte Langley of Toronto’s Hooked (formerly of Ottawa’s Whalesbone Oyster House) was scheduled to participate, hence her name and photo in the original poster. Unfortunately, circumstances have made it impossible for her to attend. Sarah Allen of Union Local 613 (formerly of Beckta: Dining and Wine and Atelier Restaurant) generously stepped up to fill in.
Allen is an organizer of Clam Jam. Clam Jam is a group local chefs who come together to collaborate on themed events. This past fall, their inaugural event, consisting of cocktails, appetizers, a multi-course dinner, and a silent auction at Union Local 613, raised $5518 for Harmony House. Serving staff even donated their tips.
Red and White will actually reunite Allen, Brown, and Ishii, who worked together with Chefs Patricia Larkin of Black Cat Bistro (428 Preston Street), Anna March of Urban Element (424 Parkdale Avenue), Harriet Clunie of Navarra (93 Murray Street), Marysol Foucault of Edgar/Odile, and Sonia Marwick of Union Local 613 to prepare and serve seven courses, inspired by childhood memories. And yes, the menu that evening was printed on clam-shaped paper.
Ishii, who has been proclaimed the “Queen of Pickles”, created a plate that was inspired by Japanese home cuisine, incorporating comfort foods she grew up with: pickles, rice, and tofu. She dedicated it to her father who had just passed away.
Her plate consisted of kimchi with leek pickle (a beer pickle); a matcha salt dusted lotus root chip and orange teriyaki grilled tofu; a rice pouch (inarizushi) with bamboo and enoki mushrooms; and a yuzu spinach roll topped with miso and sesame.
Brown grew up in a busy household with a lot of French cuisine, so there was always a stock pot on the stove-top. But, when her friends came over, her mother would prepare pizza soup, something more accessible.
Her plate consisted of black olive confit king oyster mushrooms; bison pepperoni meatballs; tomatillo and green pepper salsa verde; micro basil; smoked tomato and Parmesan broth; and a “stuffed crust” cheese stick
Larkin grew up in a tight knit neighbourhood in Ottawa, her street having an annual lobster party. Her family always brought Caesar salad.
Her plate consisted of lobster crudo with a Caesar garnish (Parmesan, soft boiled Quail egg, pickled ramps), charred romaine, bacon and panko crumble “croutons”, and yuzu gel.
For March, mac and cheese is a staple comfort food, something her mother made best. Though, her mother claims she is capable of cooking much more.
Her plate consisted of breaded and deep fried mac and cheese, mushroom pickle, basil, scallion, and tomato ketchup.
When Clunie was growing up in Kanata, food allergies were emerging. There were “all sorts.”
While her friends’ parents packed ham sandwiches for lunch, hers sent her to school with a thermos of lamb curry.
[Apologies to Clunie we did not get a better photo of her in the kitchen. However, our friend, Justin van Leeuwen, who is a talented professional photographer, shot a great portrait of her at Navarra for her profile in Ottawa Woman magazine.]
Her plate consisted of spicy curried lamb, wilted greens, mango pickle, raita, and spiced roasted chick peas.
Foucault grew up with a fascination about rabbits. According to her, spotting one “made your day better.”
Her mother used to cook rabbit for her on special occasions.
Her plate consisted of stuffed saddle of rabbit, rabbit liver mousseline, and rabbit rillette cromesqui.
Marwick introduced herself as she who makes the desserts at Union Local 613. She used to spend her $5 allowance on candy. Some of her fondest memories were of going to the carnival.
Her plate consisted of funnel cake, candy apple balls, green apple “jolly rancher” caramel, and lemon “sour patch” cotton candy.
Natali Harea of Gezellig (337 Richmond) baked the bread served. Sarah Feagan of Union Local 613 prepared pre-dinner appetizers. Also in the kitchen (and a number of the photos above), Amanda Last of Union Local 613 and Caroline Murphy of Black Cat Bistro.
After the Clam Jam event, we caught up with Chef Ishii.
It has been several years since we last interviewed her. These days, the restaurant she opened with her husband and sommelier Dave Loan continues to draw mentions in travel books and magazines. Ishii won back to back silver medals at Gold Medal Plates (2010 and 2011).
Much has changed.
ZenKitchen has “grown up a bit”; something Ishii credits her regular customers and staff, especially her Chef de Cuisine Kyle Mortimer-Proulx (formerly of Perspectives at the Brookstreet Hotel (525 Legget Drive)).
“Our food is better than before,” she told us. “Dave and I had a dream and a vision. Then, we got a reality check.”
Having cultivated a reputation as a strong community supporter, Ishii finds it difficult to choose between charitable events to participate in. All charities tend to be worthwhile.
“I pick the neglected ones; ones, I can be most passionate about.”
This is why she agreed to participate in both the Clam Jam event and the upcoming Red and White.
“Women and children, fleeing from their homes, [isn’t something] many people want to hear about.”
About Harmony House events, Ishii points out the Board of Directors attend. They are approachable and happy to explain how the funds raised make a difference.
About the Clam Jam event and working with Chef Brown and an all female kitchen, she said it was quieter than other event kitchens she has worked in. It was more conducive to collaboration.
“At the end of the night, everyone scrubbed down the kitchen. If there was a job to be done, someone would step up to do it, even washing plates for service.”
About Chef Allen, Ishii said she was invaluable even though Allen was outside of her comfort zone, working as a member of the front of house. Because she has so much experience working back of house, she knew how to keep the kitchen informed.
Keeping track of food allergies was particularly tricky.
As a diner, I did not notice any hiccup. Food was served efficiently. Plates were tasty. Dishes were personal and heartwarming.
If anything, the kitchen seemed overly flexible, accommodating so many dietary restrictions.
Did you miss the inaugural Clam Jam event? Tickets sold out very quickly.
Consider the Red and White. It’s for the same great cause. Some of the same chefs are participating.
That said, Harmony House fundraiser Tracey Gainforth-Lafleche has generously given us two tickets to give away.
Here’s the deal: Leave a comment at the end of this post with your favourite food from childhood. We won’t ask you to follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook page. Just jot down what you most liked to eat as a kid, something that is likely comfort food to you now.
Supply us a viable e-mail address (it won’t be shared), so we can contact you.
One entry per person, please!
At noon (EST), next Tuesday (January 15, 2013), we will use Random.org to choose a commenter to receive two tickets to the Red and White event. We will contact the winner by e-mail and connect he or she with event organizers. Tickets will be held at the door for him or her.
Update: This contest is closed!
We received 19 viable entries. They follow:
- C. Chiu
- Kimberly Seguin
- Alexis B.
- Alison McDonald
- Jill Woodley
Congratulations Alison McDonald, an e-mail will be dispatched to you shortly!
Tags: Clam Jam, featured, giveaway, Harmony House, The Red and White