Every neighbourhood needs a kitchen store. The heavily gentrified Westboro, with its yoga pant-wearing, titanium stroller-pushing, latest-smartphone-wielding, and Starbuck’s coffee-guzzling residents, has Kitchenalia (274 Richmond Road). Don’t get me wrong, we visit Westboro regularly. Jenn and I see it as Kitchissippi’s answer to Centretown’s Glebe, only without the history.
Jenn trains with the running club at Ottawa’s only MEC (355 Richmond Road). I frequent the newly renovated and re-opened The Piggy Market (400 Winston Avenue), an artisan butcher and delicatessen. Jenn and I adore and volunteer at Westfest, Westboro’s free and inclusive street festival that showcases local Canadian artistic expression. Kitchenalia is a frequent last stop on the way home after weekend brunch.
A community-oriented purveyor of many things food, from kitchen gear to preserves and spices, Kitchenalia is one of the few independently-owned retailers of vaunted Le Creuset in Ottawa. Most cooking enthusiasts will have heard of the French line of enamel-coated cast iron, whose pieces are passed down from generation-to-generation. Grandma’s iconic flame-coloured Le Creuset Dutch-oven is a treasured hand-me-down.
Hefty, “the 10-inch skillet doubles as a weapon,” laughed Paula Roy, Food Editor of Ottawa At Home magazine.
This past Thursday, store manager Robin Coull partnered with coordinator Karen Secord of the Parkdale Food Centre (105-89 Stonehurst Avenue) and Le Creuset to launch a fundraising promotion.
“We wanted to partner with local charities,” explained Coull.
“Parkdale runs cooking classes for its clients.”
“They’re a perfect fit!”
Parkdale Food, a food bank that partners with local businesses to give out whole food, sees an average of 730 people a month. Secord refuses to distribute “better-than-nothing” foods that “help perpetuate the cycle of poverty.” Diets with processed foods that are high in refined sugar and saturated fat can saddle already struggling families with obesity-related health problems.
The cooking classes are now held twice-a-month. Local chefs from Jason Laurin of Essence Catering (430 Parkdale Avenue) to Chris Deraiche of the Wellington Gastropub (1325 Wellington Street W.) lead the classes. The idea is to teach nutrition and basic cooking skills. Because many of Parkdale Food’s clients live in halfway houses with limited access to kitchens, Secord also gives away slow cookers to attendees.
On the other end of the cooking spectrum, Le Creuset has unveiled a luxury line of stainless steel cookware, called “Palette,” which will be retailed exclusively from small stand-alone kitchen stores. Produced in Portugal, the fry pans, sauciers, saucepans, stockpots, and inserts (pasta and steamer) are made from a high quality 439-grade stainless steel and titanium alloy.
“My favourite is the ‘Chef’s pan’ (the rounded bottom saucier)!”
“Each pieces has pour spouts, volume measure indicators… and heritage [triple] ring lids, so they will match your other Le Creuset pieces.”
According to Le Creuset representative Stephen Reinhard, the pans are “tri-ply” and will offer a “lifetime of high quality performance.” Tri-ply means there is aluminium between layers of non-reactive stainless steel. Aluminium conducts heat better than steel.
When I visited the back of the store, sales person Nicki Magus noticed my admiring the more recognizable Le Creuset pieces. I was particularly taken by the terrine dish.
Magus took it upon herself to show me the wok.
“It’s a beautiful wok with a satin black enamel base,” Magus explained.
Heavy duty, “It’s got the same ‘hand-made’ feel of every other Le Creuset [cookware].”
Accordingly, every piece of enamel-coated cast iron is “moulded in sand.” A large pot, called a “creuset”, pours molten iron into each mould, so “each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind.”
[Me, I prefer mass-produced carbon steel woks that can be seasoned to be non-stick. I actually have one made of seasoned cast-iron.]
Changing the subject, I learned Magus is a big fan of the Dutch oven, which she referred to as a “crock pot.”
“They’re great for one-pot dinners, slow cooking, and braising.”
Today, Kitchenalia will be donating 10% of sales towards purchasing everyday cooking gear to distribute with slow cookers at the Parkdale Centre: a vegetable steamer, paring knife, vegetable peeler, tongs, measuring cup and spoon set, and oven mitts.
We purchased a set of gear outright ($95.97) to donate.
Purchasing and donating any of the gear will enter you into a draw for a Le Creuset Dutch oven.
Regarding the Palette stainless steel pieces, Chef Norm Aitken of Juniper Kitchen (245 Richmond Road), Westboro’s highest-end dining establishment, was given a pan to test.
At the launch, Aitken demonstrated pancakes with the pan and a hot plate. The pan is not coated in teflon. The mini-pancakes were dressed in vanilla-pod smoked maple syrup.
According to the award-winning chef, who recently competed in an episode of Food Network’s Chopped Canada (and won!), “I’ve done everything on this pan from scallops to steaks.”
Aitken was issued the pan to “play with” in his professional kitchen for two weeks. He employed it during service on a commercial-grade gas range. While noticeably used, the pan was gleaming as if new.
“It has held up well. I’m impressed!”
“It’s almost as good as Paderno,” exclaimed the maritimes expat.
Regarding stainless steel cookware, Aitken recommends cleaning with water and baking soda. Never use a “steel scrubby.”
“Water is your friend!”
“Simmer for an hour if necessary…In extreme cases, I use [the cleaning] paste for ceramic stove-tops.”
What are you doing this Saturday?
Drop by Kitchenalia until 6:00 pm today! Secord will be on-hand. So will French-themed munchies by Melissa Katz of Cakes by Katz!
274a Richmond Road
Tags: featured, Juniper, Kitchenalia, Parkdale Food Centre, Westboro