This June will mark a year since Chef Danny Mongeon worked 72-hours straight with local contractors and Heidi Helm of Urbanomic Interiors to complete renovations and open Hooch Bourbon House (180 Rideau Street).
Mongeon and his then fiancé Shannon Hargadon pitched in to re-finish furniture, distressing tables and chairs. They painted. They put up dry wall. They worked on wall and ceiling accents, including the unique light fixtures. They scrambled to assemble knickknacks to fill shelves, adding character.
Hooch is Ottawa’s second bourbon bar to open and the city’s third significant whiskey purveyor since Petit Bill’s Bistro on Wellington Street W. (1293) decided to enter the fray. Together with Union Local 613 on Somerset Street W. (315), the national capital region is no longer want for the legendary fire water made from corn and finished in charred oak barrels.
A week before Hooch’s soft opening, foodiePrints was invited to preview dishes Mongeon planned for his modern-twists-on-Southern-Comfort menu. His is Kentucky-inspired fare with a nod to New Orleans.
Adam Bannerman has since rejoined Mongeon from their former Gatineau restaurant Brut Cantina Sociale (131 Promenade Du Portage). Bannerman is now Chef de Cuisine at Hooch and helps oversee the re-visioned gastropub menu at the Lunenberg Pub and Bar next door (14 Waller Street). Gone from its menu are the fried-from-frozen options. Lunenburg is slated its own renovations, shifting its maritime-theme to rum.
The menu at Hooch has changed quite a bit since the Sarah Doll added the restaurant’s “Hoochie-mama” to her prohibition-era caricature mural that wraps the back wall, starting at the 8-person booth and ending at the unfinished wood-accented bar.
“It’s a seasonal menu that changes gradually. We may change platings or components of one or two dishes a week,” explained Mongeon
The grilled octopus has been incorporated into a seafood gumbo ($26), which Mongeon attributes to flavours and techniques he learned from Chef Warren Sutherland when they worked together at former Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro.
[w/grilled octopus, clams, wild prawns, mussels, beans, trinity]
The gumbo is now plated on a large platter.
[Rich gumbo-esque roux flavoured with sweated peppers, onions, and celery. Earthy beans. Tender squid tentacles with cooked-to-order fresh shellfish from sweet clams to shell-on shrimp]
The in-house chorizo-stuffed trotter, a former signature dish, has morphed into the suckling pig option ($325). Just as Chef Steve Mitton of Murray Street Kitchen (110 Murray Street) has a roasted pig’s head option for larger parties that needs to be ordered with 24 hours notice, Mongeon opted for a 15-20 lbs of whole pork. Taking a half hour to de-bone, the pig is brined. Its bones are made into stock. It is stuffed with an in-house andouille sausage and ham terrine and then braised in the stock. It is finished in an oven.
To serve, staff connect together six deuces and chef and sous muscle in the crackled pig on a very large cutting board with chipotle creamed corn, potato hash, Brussels sprout granola “toss,” and andouille sausage gravy. Mongeon provides some instruction and begins carving and portioning. He then hands over the tongs.
Since introducing the suckling pig option, parties of 15 have been ordering it at least once a weekend. To date, no one has been able to completely finish the porky indulgence.
Two staples remain, the chicken (well Cornish hen) and waffles ($14 one piece/$24 two piece) with chipotle maple emulsion and the horse tartare on brioche ($8).
Hooch serves 200 portions of chicken and waffles a week. Patrons have traveled from Montreal for the dish, which Mongeon notes now appears on the menus of Heart and Crown Irish pubs, including the James Street Pub.
“Theirs is strangely familiar…OUR chicken is brined. There are 15 ingredients to our dredge!”
New dishes appear when inspiration strikes. A notable addition, an Ottawa bistro-menu standard like seared scallops and steak frites, is the gourmet burger, which Mongeon dubbed “The Greasy Bastard” ($14).
[w/andouille sausage, pimento cheese (made with 5 year aged cheddar), fried chicken skin, pickled tomatillo “chow chow,” avocado mousse, sweet potato and pepper brioche bun, and sweet potato crisps]
[A rich take on the bacon cheeseburger, the sharp and fatty pimento cheese carried flavours; the perfectly seasoned and seared pattie takes on the texture of the best burger; the salty chicken skin provides crunch.]
Yesterday, both Mongeon and Bannerman worked late into the night to prep components for three-hundred plates destined for today’s secret supper club event with several of Ottawa’s other chef-driven restaurants. Their contribution will be an edible cocktail, based on Hooch’s Ramos Gin Fizz.
[Ramos Gin Fizz: Hendrick’s, lemon, lime, vanilla bean syrup, candied orange zest, orange blossom water, cream, egg white – $13]
While we chatted, Bannerman, a pastry chef by training, interrupted that he discovered he could set the agar-gelled goose egg citrus curd by placing the moulds in the freezer for 10 minutes. #goAdam
Mongeon will bring 3-staff with him to plate their dish. It is rather impressive!
Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Dinner (this Wednesday!)
Event-wise, Hooch is gearing up for a Jim Beam “Small Batch Bourbon Dinner” this Wednesday (April 16, 2014). Starting at 6:30 pm, attendees begin with cocktails. Then, 5 courses paired with bourbon will follow. The bourbons include Basil Hayden’s, Knob Kreek, Baker’s, and Booker’s. One course includes the seafood gumbo (above). A tutored tasting with “Whiskey Chef” Matt Jones, the event costs only $50/person (before taxes or gratuity). There are only 40 seats.
Where: Hooch Bourbon House (180 Rideau Street)
When: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
How Much: $50/person in advance (before taxes or gratuity)
Call (613)789-1821 with a credit card for reservations.
Bon Appetit Ottawa
The last time Mongeon participated in Bon Appetit, he worked for Churchills (356 Richmond Road), which was almost 3 years ago. This year, he and Bannerman return, plating up an appetizer presently envisioned to include pork belly and watermelon. Reading off cribbed notes, Mongeon plans duck fat fried pork belly (which has been cured for 7-days), ginger syrup compressed water melon, pickled water melon rinds, in-house queso fresco, mint, burnt honey, and pork rinds.
“Some great restaurant are participating this year: Les Fougeres, Courtyard, Smoque Shack, and Seed to Sausage.”
“Expect good wineries! …It will be fun.”
Where: EY Centre (4899 Uplands Drive)
When: Tuesday, May 6, 2014
How Much: $85/person (including a $50 tax receipt)
Click here to purchase tickets online.
Freshly returned from his honeymoon, Mongeon also hints at a patio endeavor he plans with Lunenberg later this spring and summer.
When asked about his biggest lessons learned during his first year in operation, he laughed.
“Never work with your wife!”
He and Hargadon wed several weeks after opening Hooch. During its early months, she worked as Hooch’s floor manager and hostess. Eventually, she traded dining room for classroom, returning to teaching.
“But, if you do,” continued Mongeon, “Always listen to her!”
[w/goose egg-citrus curd, juniper meringue crunch, blood orange gel, Hendrick’s gin and sheep’s cream sphere, orange blossom water, sheep’s whey “air” (foam), candied orange zest pop-rocks, vanilla spongecake]
Hooch Bourbon House
180 Rideau Street
Tags: Bon Appetit, bourbon, Danny Mongeon, featured, Hooch Bourbon House, whiskey