Ever wonder how independent restaurants survive the summer or winter lulls? Margins are already slim when your menu serves real food and not “doubled down” fare.
From January to February, diners are cash strapped post-Christmas. From July to August, regulars leave their cities for holidays, be it a luxurious cruise with family, a sojourn to the cottage, or a spot of camping.
Toronto responds with “Summerlicious,” a municipal program of table d’hote menus to “put bums in seats.” This year, the value-oriented offerings includes a “Polish scotch egg” from venerable Czehoski restaurant (678 Queen Street W.). Made with kielbasa and served with pickle shallots, pork syrup, and creme fraiche, it was a “photo-worthy” meal according to BlogTo.com. [BlogTo is analogous to Apartment 613 in Ottawa, an indie e-zine, celebrating the city.]
Well, did you know you could order scotch eggs in the National Capital Region?
What is a scotch egg?
Firstly, it has nothing to do with cooking eggs in whiskey. Secondly, it is picnic food. Originating in the 18th century, Scotch eggs traditionally consist of hard boiled eggs that are wrapped in a meat mixture, coated in crumbs, and deep fried. Modern scotch eggs present a challenge to cooks. It’s all about working the minor miracle, cooking the outer crispy layer and preserving a runny yolk.
It’s time for a “food fight.”
The hometown contender comes out ready to rumble:
Stephen La Salle opened The Albion Rooms in March 2013, serving “contemporary Canadian cuisine… with British undertones.”
“I love cooking in Ottawa, it’s so tight knit, there is such a sense of community between chefs, suppliers, bartenders, proprietors and even diners. Doing farm to table is nothing new in Ottawa but it’s something I think is so essential to having your food tell a story.”
Canada having British roots, I prefer to look at Chef La Salle’s country rustic menu as modern British fare with Canadian twists.
His scotch egg enrobes a chicken egg in house-made chorizo, serving the crusted treat on a bed of arugula with paprika aioli.
La Salle’s scotch egg is available throughout the day on his regular menu ($10).
The challenger responds with lightning fast moves:
Jonathan Harris took over the kitchen at Brut April 2013.Opened August 2012, Brut likewise champions farm-to-table showcasing a familiar map of Canada on one of its walls with its farm suppliers pegged. Like The Albion Rooms, every horizontal surface showcases preserved vegetables, pickles to extend the growing season.
Brut’s lunch menu reworks its original Spanish-inspired Cantina menu, offering combinations of mostly French-inspired small and medium plates for different values: in-house boar sausage; duck rilletes; chicken confit; tuna tartare; frites; cauliflower gratin.
Harris’ scotch egg employs boar sausage.
Formerly a lunch-item, Harris’ scotch egg is now only available for brunch ($16).
He serves it with hollandaise on frites with a house-made mustard and salad.
The hometown hero outmaneuvers a series of blows and lands a lucky jab across the challenger’s chin:
A graduate of Algonquin College’s school of hospitality, young La Salle was most recently Sous to Jason Duffy at the Arc Lounge, the Arc Hotel’s in-house restaurant.
He staged briefly with award-winning Chef Marc Lepine at Atelier Restaurant (540 Rochester Street).
Dazed, but not confused, the challenger counters, attacking his opponent’s lower abdomen:
Harris never studied in culinary school. More of a “journeyman,” he opted to apprentice in a number of kitchens.
“…I kinda just found the chefs I wanted to work for and learn from.”
Before Brut he worked at the Black Tomato.
“I was the Sous at ZenKitchen for 2 years and then I worked at the Hintonburg Public House. Then, Courtyard”
How does this bout end?
You decide! La Salle and Harris are planning a “National Capital Region Scotch Egg off;” themed takes; and rounds at each restaurant.
Soo…now I’ve a question, what cocktails go well with scotch eggs? Got a suggestion? Drop us an comment!
May the best scotch egg win!
The Albion Rooms
33 Nicolas Street
Brut Cantina Sociale
131 Promenade du Portage