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Ottawa Does Creative Lunches: Still Cool Enough for Soup

Chilly Morning Chilly Morning
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To everyone lamenting the slow approach of warmer weather in the Ottawa region, we would like to point to the receding ice and almost completely dissolved snow banks. We would like to point to the grass that is beginning to green. We would like to point out the windchill augmented subzero temperatures are limited to the morning commute. Spring has arrived.

Last year’s early onset warm weather was an anomaly. It also wreaked havoc with fruit crops, causing trees to bud and bloom early. When more seasonal temperatures returned, blooms were destroyed by frost. Winemakers had to be creative to protect their vineyards, deploying heaters and smoke; anything to prevent frost damage.

[Featured Image, courtesy of Paola St-Georges, Tour Services Coordinator at Haunted Walk of Ottawa and See Our City Tour Services]

For perspective, Ottawa regularly accumulates 200 cm of snow each calendar year. This average was calculated from 30 years of Environment Canada recording snowfall.

Moreover, Ottawa hosts Winterlude, which celebrates one of the world’s longest skateways, an iced-over Rideau Canal.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Rideau Canal Skateway

Winterlude

Winterlude

This year, the skating season was short, ending February 28th. Still, Winterlude hosted something noteworthy food-wise. Creative entrepreneur Marcello Karakouzian partnered with local 3 Brothers (366 Dalhousie Street) to serve soup from a 200 gallon cast iron cauldron. The cauldron was suspended over a pitted wood fire on a truck bed, parked directly on the ice.

SoupySoup at Winterlude

SoupySoup at Winterlude

Lineup at Beaver Tails

Lineup at Beaver Tails

Karakouzian, who owns and operates a sign-making business called Neon Empire, painstakingly restored the 150-year-old cauldron he found in Papineauville, Quebec. He created a chain suspension system for it and constructed a wooden shack to sell soup. Chef Matt Carmichael of soon-to-open El Camino restaurant consulted on the soup.

The Cauldron

The Cauldron

Flatbed with Mount and Cauldron

Flatbed with Mount and Cauldron

Karakouzian with his Cauldron

Karakouzian with his Cauldron

Wood Fire

Wood Fire

Sadly, as Jacqueline Jolliffe of Stone Soup Foodworks discovered when she used to park her food truck, Sweet Pea, on the ice, Winterlude revelers are not interested in soup. With knapsacks on their backs and skates on their feet, they line up for poutine, BeaverTails, hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and pop (sometime “Gatorade”-style sports drinks).

Karakouzian lamented as much when I purchased a bowl of French Canadian pea soup from SoupySoup’s service window. When I asked why his soup was so watery, he explained, with so little of his soup shifting, it cooked down; “steamed out,” he said. So, he added a lot of water to reconstitute. I happened to have arrived at precisely the wrong time.

SoupySoup's French Canadian Pea Soup

SoupySoup’s French Canadian Pea Soup

Thankfully, more consistent bowls of pea soup can be had elsewhere in Ottawa.

John's Quick Lunch Pea Soup

John’s Quick Lunch Pea Soup

The pea soup that is sometimes served at John’s Quick Lunch, a diner-style eatery in the Wellington West neighbourhood (1365 Wellington Street W.), is made with several variety of peas, including garbanzo beans (chick peas). Besides being satisfyingly thick, it is well-seasoned with salt pork.

Soup makes a warming lunch, especially with a sandwich.

Essence Catering

Last month, Chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering (430 Parkdale Avenue) in Hintonburg launched a Dinner Club and a “Lunchin’ & Munchin'” menu.

Subscription packages for the Dinner Club range from one to four weeks. They entitle subscribers to three dinners per subscribed week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays). Delivery is extra. Meals can include grilled radicchio, endive, walnuts, and goat cheese salad; coffee braised pork shoulder with apple & fennel compote; and chard and fingerling potato confit.

The “Lunchin’ & Munchin'” menu was particularly innovative as it allowed people to order catered lunches for pickup (and limited delivery) at Essence’s location in Hintonburg. Options included delectable unpretentious soups ($4), salads ($5-12), and sandwiches ($7.50-9).

Lunchin' & Munchin' Soups and Sandwiches

Lunchin’ & Munchin’ Soups and Sandwiches

Sandwiches: Asian spiced pulled pork on Kaiser with bahn mi vegetables & miso aioli; Shaved roast beef with caramelized fennel and onion jam, black olive tapenade, cheddar, horseradish aioli, mixed greens

Soups: Black bean with tomato, avocado, cilantro & crème fraiche; Curried apple & parsnip soup with caramelized apple compote

Unfortunately, due to low uptake, lunch catering is now only available for group orders by corporate clients.

I think it’s high time to convince my fellow cube dwellers to order lunch for the office from Essence Catering…

Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply

Speaking of soups and sandwiches, the Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply on Kent Street (504A) has offered a “brown bag” lunches since Chef Steve Wall worked the kitchen at the original Whalesbone Oyster House on Bank Street (430). When Wall first competed in Gold Medal Plates in 2009, he submitted a recipe for media packages entitled “Lake Erie Perch Fish Sandwiches.” Ontario line-caught Perch sandwiches are still served at the shop today. Wall has since moved on, recently opening a “food and raw bar” restaurant, Supply and Demand (1335 Wellington Street W.).

When we last visited the Oyster and Fish Supply, we tucked into smoked fish ($8) and “catch of the day” ($7) sandwiches with a New England-style chowder ($4.50).

"Catch of the Day" Brown Bag

“Catch of the Day” Brown Bag

Smoked Fish Brown Bag

Smoked Fish Brown Bag

Chowder

Chowder



Sandwiches
: Breaded and fried Pacific cod fillets with caper and roast garlic aioli, caramelized onions, spicy mango salsa, and ice burg lettuce; Hot smoked steel head trout served cold with caper aioli, light tobasco, caramelized onion, and ice burg lettuce

Soup: chowder, made with fish stock that was “enriched it with cream” and served with smoked seafood, potatoes, onion and celery.

The cod was incredibly fresh. The trout was gently hot smoked, moist, and not overcooked. The bread, now coming from nearby True Loaf Bakery (573 Gladstone Avenue), was wonderfully crusty, betraying a tender crumb. The chowder was rich, warm, and filling.

But, back to Soupysoup, where have you eaten a good bowl of pea soup in Ottawa?

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.