Ballygiblin’s Restaurant & Pub: Sheldon Says It’s Worth the Drive

A few days ago, Mrs. Sheldon and I were heading to the cottage for a little R & R.  Being kid free (he was already at the cottage with the grand-parents), we decided to stop for some refreshment along the way.  We’d heard good things about this little pub in Carleton Place called Ballygiblin’s, and stopped to give it a try.
I’m really glad we did.  The restaurant succeeds at presenting a pub-like atmosphere, while staying true to higher-end dining that follows the 100 mile principle.  The menu changes weekly, as Chef Roger Weldon tours local farmers markets for ingredients and inspiration (Ballygiblin’s is a member of Savour Ottawa).  While technically not “100 mile”, the wine list features only Canadian producers, and the well stocked bar taps pour predominantly Ontario craft brews.
Presentations were also interesting.  Mrs. Sheldon ordered the pulled pork, which was a generous serving of local, organic pork doused in Ballygiblin’s own Dr. Dusty’s homemade barbecue sauce.  The sauce was delicious.  Sweet, with a touch of heat at the end.  What made the presentation unique was that all the pork itself was tucked inside a phyllo pastry, and rolled into the shape of a pork tenderloin.  Served with hand cut fries and house made ketchup, it made for quite a meal.
I chose the beef ribs braised in Beau’s seasonal brew, also served with the hand-cut fries and some grilled vegetables.  The meat was fall-of-the-bone tender, with excellent flavour; while the veg was crisp yet nicely caramelized.
What topped the experience off for me was the opportunity to try some Ontario craft brews that I’ve been meaning to sample for a while.  I started off with a Beau’s Beaver River, an interesting take on IPA.  I followed that with a Hop City Barking Squirrel , an amber coloured lager with a lightly hoppy finish.  Delicious!  Other offerings included Kichesippi Blond, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and Beau’s Lugtread Ale.
The overall experience reminded me of a night at the Wellington Gastropub.  Ballygiblin’s hasn’t quite duplicated the experience yet, but they’re getting close.  If you want to go a little out of your way, this is a gem in the Valley that’s worth the drive.~SS

Laura’s Barbecue Stuffed Peppers

We just spent a great Canada Day weekend at a friend’s cottage.  It’s a love hate relationship when I go to a cottage, I love the time I spend with friends, love being outdoors, love the great meals, but hate the overeating.
This weekend was no different, however instead of a large meal on Canada Day, we shared many of our favourite appetizer recipes with our friends, Laura and Gary, and their neighbours.  It was a wonderful smorgasbord of veggies, dips, cheeses, and Laura’s tasty stuffed peppers:
Ingredients:
Small red, yellow and orange peppers (you can buy them in a package of four from your grocery store)
3 tbsp. red chili paste
3 tsbp. olive oil
1tsp. curry powder
Cheese (brie, havarti – one that melts nicely), cut into cubes
Clean and cut the peppers in half, removing all seeds and placing on a baking sheet (one you can use on the barbecue.  Combine red chili paste, olive oil and curry powder (to taste) in a small bowl.  Spread approximately 1 tsp. of the red chili paste mixture inside the peppers and two or three pieces of cheese on top.  Grill on a low to medium heat barbecue until cheese has melted.
A perfect summer dish that is sure to impress your guests too! ~kM

Beast Restaurant

This past weekend, Kelly and I spent a great weekend in Toronto.  A little unfamiliar with its restaurant scene, we turned to our fellow foodies (thank you @foodieprints, @momwhoruns, @AMWATERS, @savvykathryn, @kirstenduke) for their recommendations on “the” spots to go.  Ultimately, we decided upon a place downtown called Beast Restaurantwho on this particular evening was celebrating its one year anniversary (and we enjoyed a few extra treats because of it).
The menu changes weekly and  includes a number of hot and cold small plates, as well as, some larger entrée dishes.  There are a few signature dishes, such as the poutine, that has a permanent home on the menu, but similar to many of our own Ottawa restaurants, the change allows the culinary team (Scott Vivian, Luca Gatti and Rachelle Cadwell) to celebrate local producers.  In addition, Beast had a limited, but impressive domestic wine and beer list, tonight’s pick was Dead Elephant brewed by The Railway City Brewery in St. Thomas, Ontario.  A full flavoured ale, with a little too much bitterness to it for my liking (however I did enjoy the 6.8% alcohol content).

Scott - this is his good side 🙂

On this particular evening it was hard to decide, so we opted and were excited for a selection of hot small plates including the diver scallops, lamb ribs, poutine and sweetbreads.  Unfortunately, we were a little underwhelmed by our choices.  The gnocchi poutine with water buffalo and cheese curds was rich, but a little too heavy, and the lamb ribs just didn’t have enough meat on them.
However despite our disappointment, the service was excellent, the staff friendly and knowledgeable, which made our evening anyways.  Beast is a quaint restaurant with a charming feel and a nice patio out front.  It was too chilly for us to sit outside, but we enjoyed the inside confines and dinner by candlelight. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves, but unfortunately the food just didn’t hit the mark.~gL

Red Wine Sangria

I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend the successful and popular Summerlude this past Sunday, so after an afternoon of getting my garden ready for the season, I decided to create my very own.
What does it take exactly? Well according to the Summerlude Facebook page, it looks like a good sangria, some Latin sounds and socializing on the rooftop patio of the Hard Rock Cafe with those of us that love our great city.  I was going to have to improvise I little.  I have a little patio (on solid ground), I think I have “Red Red Wine” on my iPod (I know it’s not Latin), Greg and my golden retriever, Cooper, are home (so it won’t be a big party),  and most importantly I have the ingredients to make a sangria.
Ingredients:
3 cups red wine
2 oz (60 ml) apricot brandy
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 orange sliced in rounds
1/2 lemon sliced in rounds
1/2 lime sliced in quarters
1 cup ginger ale or club soda
Stir all the ingredients except the  ginger ale, and refrigerate for one to two hours if possible.  Once ready add ice, ginger ale and serve.
I might have missed the event of the summer, but on this particular Sunday I couldn’t have asked for better end to my weekend. ~kM

Sheldon Says: More Street Food Please!

The culinary scene in Ottawa has improved significantly over the past few years.  New restauranteurs continue to open fresh, vibrant places that feature local (often organic) menus that change with the seasons (or more often), and wine lists that favour smaller producers over multinational conglomerates.  They are a welcomed alternative to the chain restaurants where a large percentage of the menu comes frozen or from a can.
That being said, there’s one culinary area that hasn’t yet broken through Ottawa’s collective mediocrity – street food.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good sausage and poutine, but with a few notable exceptions (such as the Stone Soup Foodworks truck), that’s about all you can get from your local street vendors.
Food trucks have become the latest foodie trend.  I recently read an article about the street food scene in Portland Oregon, where offerings include: pad Thai, crêpes, tacos, bacon and eggs, and fried chicken.  In L.A., there are so many different offerings,  a website lists all the street vendor’s Twitter handles, so diners can stay up to the minute on where their local truck will be.
Earlier this month, Mrs. Sheldon was watching The Great Food Truck Race on The Food Network, which featured one of L.A.’s most renowned, the Nom Nom truck.  Nom Nom specializes in Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches, which are essentially baguettes filled with various spiced meats, and a variant of pickled coleslaw.  The sandwiches looked so good that I tracked down  a recipe to give them a whirl.
While it seems daunting, the recipe is actually quite easy.  After a trip to our local Asian food store to pick up a few of the ingredients (daikon and fish sauce aren’t usually hanging around my pantry), I was ready to go.  Shredded the daikon and carrot, to mix the slaw.  (A word to the wise:  pickling the slaw does take some time, and does smell up your kitchen.  You may want to crack a window.)  Mixed the pork meatballs, and prepared the sandwich dressing.
About 20 minutes before dinner, I browned the meatballs in the skillet, and finished them in a 300⁰ oven for about eight minutes.  Once finished, the sandwiches were easy to assemble with the prepared ingredients.  The result:  a flavourful combination of savoury, spicy heat, contrasting the sweet crunchy slaw, and the chewy fresh roll.  Would I make this again?  In a heartbeat.

By the way, if you’d like to see more variety in the Ottawa street food scene, the good folks at the Wig.ca have put together a petition for more options.  I encourage you to sign up and be heard.~SS

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Beside bacon, we’ve never been big pork lovers.  It’s not something we order off the menu when out, we tend to lean towards seafood or beef if given the choice, but lately we’ve decided to give the other white meat a fair chance.  If you’re as uncertain about the variety of pork options, how to cook it, recipes, etc. as we are, there is a great Canadian website putporkonyourfork.com that provides you with all the nutritional information you need and more.
For this particular Friday Date Night we’ve decided on nice pork tenderloin (I feel like I’m trying to convince myself still).
Friday Date Night #5
The food: Roasted Pork Tenderloin (recipe courtesy of Farm Boy)
The mood: Adele
I’m not going to lie, what drew me to this particular recipe was that we had almost all ingredients except the fresh ginger (didn’t even have any in the freezer) and light sour cream.  The marinade was simply to concoct, and we once again relied on our Magic Bullet to purée the ingredients together, little mess and easy clean up, everything goes right into the dishwasher.
Once the pork tenderloin was in the oven, we moved on to making the sauce.  It too was simple to make, however, I thought it would yield more and it certainly wasn’t going to be enough for the entire meal.

Cooked to a perfect 160 degrees, the tenderloin was succulent, moist and flavourful.  I wondered if we had marinated the pork longer than recommended 30 minutes would we have tasted more of the garlic and ginger in the meat?  Either way, paired with a side of steamed asparagus, listening to Adele (an artist I introduced Greg too that evening), is not too bad a way to spend a Friday night right?~ kM

Sheldon Says: Easy Grilled Pizza

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were faced with a rather perplexing dilemma.  We both had a craving for pizza, but it was just so darn beautiful out that a hot, greasy take out full of pepperoni just didn’t seem right.  The solution:  a fresh, homemade grilled, veggie pizza.
Confession:  it was too nice out to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and since I knew it would take some work cutting all the veg, I cheated and used Greek pita (the kind without pockets) for the crust.  I cut up some Roma tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, zucchini and onion.  I then marinated them all in a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice, along with some store-bought, pre-mixed Italian spice.
To assemble the pizzas I spread a little olive oil infused with roasted garlic on the pita, topped with a mixture of the grilled veggies and then some grated mozzarella .  On to the Q for about 10 minutes (until cheese melted) and then topped the hot pizza with a few fresh arugula leaves to add a little peppery taste.  Perfect with a deep earthy red like The Lucky Country Shiraz (Australia) we picked up at the LCBO. ~SS

Sheldon Says: Spicy Turkey Meatloaf Kicks It Up A Notch

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of turkey burgers, turkey meatballs, turkey meatloaf etc.  Ground turkey tends to be overly dry, tasteless and boring.  Kind of like a Pizza Pizza crust.  Did I mention I’m not a fan?
Last week, our local grocery store had some ground gobbler on sale, and since Mrs. Sheldon and I are trying to stay on a budget, we bought a pound.  The question was “what to do with it?”.   After searching some of my favourite foodie sites, I finally settled on a curried meatloaf variation.  I say variation because I didn’t really follow a recipe – just winged it based on some ingredient suggestions.  The result was spicy, flavourful and moist.  Served with some steamed carrots and brown rice, it made a tasty, healthy meal.   Much better than Pizza Pizza.  Hope you like it.

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 shallot, diced
1 small onion, diced
One red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup of milk
2 tbsp. yellow curry powder
2 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. white pepper (more if you like it hotter – I used a tbsp.)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Place mixture into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350⁰ C.~SS

Play Food & Wine

We had been meaning to try Play Food & Wine for some time now.  I think it was because like many men, Greg had some reservations with the idea of small plates.  But on this rainy Saturday in May, Greg threw caution to the wind as we crossed York Street and headed over just as doors opened for lunch at noon.
With a seat beside the window, the simple décor, sky blue paint and hardwood floors, was cheery and bright on this dreary day.  However,  we both wondered what the ambiance would be like in the evening, would it be intimate and cozy?
Unfortunately for Greg, on this particular day there was no gas for the draughts, of which the list is disappointingly limited to only two (Beaus Lug Tread Lagered Ale and Steamwhistle Pilsner).  Our server suggested a bottled lager called Czechvar (I’m sure you can guess where it’s from), which Greg had never tried before and  described as “light, refreshing and tasty”.
At lunch you can order two plates for only $20, the tough part is choosing which ones from a menu that changes regularly.  I knew Greg would order the grilled  hanger steak with mushrooms, frites and garlic aioli, and he paired it with the roasted beets with goat cheese, pickled red onion and truffled leek.
I had a harder time deciding, everything was so tempting.  I started with the local mushrooms on toast with Beaus rarebit and thyme, and my second plate was beef tartar with dijon, bacon aioli and chips.
Greg enjoyed both his dishes tremendously.  The beets were firm and tangy, perfect beside the richness of the goat cheeses.  He was equally pleased with his second dish; the generous portion of frites were delicious you hardly needed the aioli for dipping, and the hanger steak was grilled to a medium-rare perfection.
I loved my first dish of local mushrooms on toast.  It doesn’t take much though, as I have a deep admiration for fungi, put mushrooms on anything and I’ll eat it.  I don’t eat beef tartar often, I’m definitely not an expert, so for an amateur I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it and I’m not sure why.  The look, the texture, the idea of eating raw meat didn’t bother me.  The only thing I could really taste was the dijon.
The idea of small plates can be a little deceiving, neither one of us felt hungry after our meals, but we also didn’t feel too full.  I think we would love the opportunity to come back and play, perhaps in the evening with friends. ~kM

Be sure to check out wine director and service manager at Play Food & Wine, Grayson McDiarmid’s Wine Blog.

Salmon Fillets over Couscous

As summer approaches there is one thing we all think about and stress about (well I know I do), and that’s getting into our bathing suits.  So with maybe a month or so before beach weather, Greg and I tend to kick it into high gear, we drink lots of water, hit the gym and try to eat healthier, before we have to bare any skin.
So as I leaf through cookbooks and scour the Internet for healthier recipes , I came across this one on the FoodNetwork website by Bobby Deen. It had been awhile since I had made couscous and I always love working salmon into our weekly meal plans.  There were a few things however that I wondered about this recipe, the house seasoning for the salmon called for a one cup of salt, really? One cup?  Is that necessary?  And why is everything in the recipe measured in cups, etc. (metric) but the couscous in ounces (imperial)?
I definitely didn’t use a cup of salt in the house seasoning, I used maybe a tablespoon, and I cut the rest of the remaining ingredients for the salmon in half.  The quantity seemed like a lot, and even once sprinkled on top of the salmon, it created a coating or crust.  The estimated cooking time was exact and  perfectly timed with the couscous.
The couscous was super easy to make, I used water, not chicken stock.  It came out a little sticky, not fluffy like it does usually not sure why, but all in all it wasn’t bad, but nothing special.  I think we would make the salmon again, but would think twice before making the couscous again.~kM