By Jane Heintzman and Tamara Miller (This article originally appeared in the April 2022 edition of the New Edinburgh News)
Red Door co-owner opens new café
Late last fall, Lauren Power, the energetic owner–operator of Red Door Provisions at 117 Beechwood Ave., opened a new destination in the region’s culinary world. Lauren joined forces with business partner and skilled barista Emmett Pavey to take over Café Palmier, a cozy eatery opposite the Gatineau Park Visitors’ Centre at 40 Chemin Scott in Chelsea, Que. Café Palmier is housed in a spacious, state-of-the art building, and boasts lots of outdoor patio space for the warmer months to come.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It serves a regular clientele of Chelsea locals along with hungry skiers, cyclists, and hikers visiting Gatineau Park from across the national capital region.
Café Palmier is closely linked to its sister operation at Red Door Provisions: its pastries are provided by Red Door’s production kitchen on Walkley Road. You’ll find many of your Beechwood favourites on the Chelsea menu, along with a similar repertoire of specialty coffees. Like Red Door, the café offers a lineup of preserves, pickles, maple syrup, hot chocolate, small-batch flours, and other products you can pick up when you visit for breakfast or lunch. And if you work up a thirst cycling or hiking in the park, craft beers and natural wines are also on the Café Palmier menu. The café’s freezer is well stocked with breads and pastries, and the team plans to stock a range of frozen meals as well.
The two eateries do have a few differences, not least the Chelsea café’s significantly more spacious quarters. The Café Palmier menu is also, in Lauren’s words, “more involved” than the regular Red Door offering. She describes the breakfast menu as “fun fare,” with a touch of the eclecticism that characterizes her baking at Red Door.
Breakfast options range from avocado toast to challah toast topped with peanut butter and jam; peanut butter and chocolate; ricotta and jam; and also beet and salmon gravlax. Try out breakfast bowls of all descriptions (several gluten-free): chia bowls; brown rice porridge; a “power” bowl; a “poké” bowl; and shakshuka, featuring poached eggs, spicy tomato and red pepper sauce, parmesan and ricotta cheeses, green onions, and greens.
Lauren’s immediate to-do list for the Chelsea operation includes a major update of the Café Palmier website. For the moment, you can call 819-827-1777 for more information. We wish Lauren and Emmett the best of luck in their new venture, and a long and successful summer in that sylvan location.
Back home in New Edinburgh, Red Door Provisions (117 Beechwood Ave.) continues to flourish as a hub for fine teas and coffees, and irresistible baked fare. Beechwood manager Kerry McRae also coordinates the supply links between Red Door’s production kitchen and Café Palmier, as well as the business’ catering operation. The store continues to operate on a take-out only basis, but looks forward to opening up both front and rear patios once the weather warms up. –JH
Dhruvees officially opens
We last spoke to Donald Wingell, founder and president of Wingell Hospitality group, in October 2021 just after his purchase of the former eatery Jasper at 18 Beechwood Ave., when his restaurant was just a concept. With Dhruvees now open for business, we caught up with Donald to learn more about his exciting new restaurant.
Dhruvees serves “North Star Cuisine,” inviting guests to experience various Asian cuisines in one location, with dishes carefully crafted by world-renowned Michelin Star celebrity chef Vikas Khanna. Dhruvees hasdeveloped its own signature spice mixtures – masalas – based on traditional recipes, with partners Arun Spices and Golden Roots in Malaysia. Every day they mix the masalas, using key spice ingredients to marinate locally sourced Ontario meats.
Dhruvees’ signature dishes include the Indonesian favourite lamb rendang, Sri Lankan pepper crab, salmon tikka, and chicken malai tikka. The biryanis (available in lamb, chicken, shrimp, and vegetable) are made with fragrant long-grain basmati rice. Donald notes that if anyone has a specific meat or seafood request for a biryani, they can simply place an advance order.
Dhruvees recently in introduced a daily “power lunch” menu that features a combination of steamed basmati rice, chapathi, chicken curry of the day, vegetable curry of the day, spiced baby potatoes, vegetable salad, and the daily dessert. This is in addition to a daily afternoon tea featuring Indian and Sri Lankan snacks, served from 3–5:30p.m. Their specially curated children’s menu with mini portions of select dishes has also been very popular with families.
Donald also plans to start a weekday lunch buffet beginning in April, and a weekend brunch special which will include sparkling wines and mimosas, and an eclectic choice of North Star Cuisines’ dishes. Be on the lookout for live jazz music on select evenings at the Dhruvees’ corner patio as the weather gets nicer!
Dhruvees is located at 18 Beechwood Ave. Learn more or place a takeout order at dhruvees.com – your meal will be ready for pick-up in 35 minutes. –TM
New bakery emerges from its shell
When architect and designer Maged Kamal undertook an award-winning restoration–renovation of a dilapidated former bakery on The Mews Lane here in New Edinburgh, it never crossed his mind that he might someday operate a bakery of his own, only a few kilometres away at 285 St. Patrick St. (between Cumberland and Dalhousie Streets). But that improbable coincidence has become a reality, and Maged is poised to launch The Orange Turtle Bakery in the coming weeks. “It’s a new kind of bakery,” he explains. “Small, community-based and offering specialty baked goods inspired by cultures from around the world, notably those of Europe and the Mediterranean.”
The links between Maged’s professional background as an architect and designer and his new vocation as a specialty baker and small-business operator may not be immediately obvious. But, he says: “it became clear to me with time, that I was able to bring the same creative processes to this new project, and apply them to recipes with very interesting results!” Maged is no stranger to the art of baking, having worked as a youth with his mother and grandmother, and later recreating many of their recipes. His plan is to start slowly at the Orange Turtle with a small assortment of baked goods – cakes, loaves (including several banana loaf variations), scones, and shortbread, – along with coffee and tea. Once the client base is established, he will gradually expand the repertoire to include unique cakes, specialty coffees and gourmet sandwiches.
Tasty baked goods have an obvious appeal. But Maged’s cosmopolitan background and extensive travels convinced him that bakeries also contribute to the fabric and vibrancy of communities. Much of his youth was spent in Norway and Germany, close to the Swiss border, where he was struck by the importance of the many bakeries thriving in those communities, each with its own distinctive fare and character.
Maged hopes to recreate that effect in the Ottawa context, via both the quality and appeal of his products, and the welcoming atmosphere at The Orange Turtle as a hub for sociability and community life. In the short term, Maged has plans for some modest outdoor seating as the weather warms up, and down the road, he intends to install a small indoor counter and benches where clients can enjoy a pastry and a cup of fine coffee en routeto or from the market. He is enthusiastic about the advantages of his St. Patrick Street location, where there is one-hour free parking, along with local bus routes. “And it’s within walking and cycling distance of New Edinburgh,” he adds.
Maged explains the significance of the bakery’s intriguing name: “The turtle was a logical choice. It’s a friendly, timeless, universal symbol. And I settled on the colour orange from the beginning, because it’s a cheerful and positive colour, and a contemporary one as well.” At this moment in 2022, cheerful, positive and friendly additions to our world are more than welcome!
While he is understandably reluctant to name a specific opening date, given the recent challenges of the pandemic and the recent downtown occupation, Maged hopes to launch The Orange Turtle by the end of April, operating initially on a farmers’ market schedule between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. “Maybe it’s apt that our logo is a turtle,” he says, reflecting on the numerous delays encountered in the fit-up of the premises. While the bakery’s website is still in development, you are welcome to call 613-562-2253 (BAKE) for the latest on the opening date.
We wish Maged success in his new venture and look forward to the day when the Turtle emerges from its shell to greet the spring! –JH
Tiny corner café a great meet-up spot
Spring has sprung at the Union Street Kitchen Café at 42 Crichton St.– just ask some of the loyal customers who, according to owner Christine Garand, have been like family. Since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, Union Street Kitchen Café has moved away from indoor ordering and eating to an outdoor-only model. This has led to an unexpected result – neighbours gathering and getting to know one another!
Christine tells us that although the café’s outdoor space is limited to a few seats and benches, patrons now tend to mill around the outside of the location while they enjoy their drinks and treats. Folks are congregating in a way that they never did when they were inside. In fact, some of their biggest gatherings happen on Sundays after church services when customers socialize after collecting their coffee orders.
And Christine is in no rush to change this model. She and her team have been able to remain open for the duration of the pandemic (except for a few months at the beginning) because of the shift to outdoor pickup. Her regulars really appreciate this new way of operating and she tells the New Edinburgh News that she is doing her part to make sure our most vulnerable remain safe.
And with the nicer weather just around the corner, this makes outdoor and physically-distant gathering even easier. Patrons can now enjoy favourites that are back on the menu, such as their popular iced drinks or their lavender lemonade, homemade with an organic lavender syrup that they make in-house from scratch – just like everything else on their menu! You can even get your order packed into a takeaway picnic box for convenient transport. And no need to worry about waste: all of the utensils and containers are compostable, including the coffee cups (though many regulars just bring their own mug for a fill up).
So if you are looking to get out of the house this spring and meet up with some of your neighbours, the Union Street Café has a bench waiting for you!
Union Street Café is located at 42 Crichton St. and can be found online at onunionstreet.ca/.
Their hours are: Mondays from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday to Fridays from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. and weekends from 9a.m. – 3 p.m. –TM
Keep calm and eat scones
Ottawa restaurants and small businesses can perhaps be forgiven for lamenting that the prevailing local law recently has been Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
Following two difficult years of dislocation and lost business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the downtown core were subjected to still more punishment during the three-week occupation by the so-called freedom convoy. Just as the relaxation of COVID restrictions offered the possibility of recovery, those hopes were dashed by another lengthy shutdown while protesters had free rein downtown.
Heather Matthew’s four SconeWitch outlets were among the many restaurants feeling the pain of this succession of calamities – not least the shop at 150 Elgin St., which was effectively marooned when Shopify abruptly departed the building at the start of the pandemic, and the lunch-hour crowd evaporated when federal offices shifted to a work-at-home model for employees. During the occupation, doors were closed altogether for the safety of SconeWitch employees.
But with characteristic resilience, Heather, her daughter Madeline, and the whole SconeWitch team have continued to do a brisk take-out business throughout the ordeal and introduced a popular home-delivery service for orders of frozen, ready-to-bake scones. In fact, the delivery service has been so popular that Heather has had requests for scone shipments to Toronto, New York City, and Chicago – clearly not an option, but a tribute to the stellar reputation of her legendary scones!
It now seems there may be light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. But eager as they are to welcome back customers for indoor dining, at press time in March, Heather and Madeline have opted for a gradual return to full service, bearing in mind the lingering presence of the virus and the need to minimize risk to both staff and clients. Heather thinks the picture should be clearer once travelers return from March Break, and when the effects of the end of mask mandates have been fully assessed.
Step one of the ramp-up to full service will begin April 1, when SconeWitch customers can once again take a seat in the café to enjoy their purchases. Until then, meals will remain in a take-away format, and limited to the current scone and sandwich menu. “After that, we will gradually expand the menu and allow more relaxed access once things look a little better,” says Heather.
When full indoor service resumes at SconeWitch, plans are afoot to introduce table service: a departure from the long-time cafeteria-style model. But this second step will be contingent on several critically important factors: COVID conditions in the community as spring unfolds; the pace at which business recovers after a long and painful slump; and the martialing of the financial and human resources required to restore normal operations. After two tumultuous years, Heather is understandably reluctant to name an exact date for these final steps, but she encourages patrons to check the sconewitch.ca site for timetable updates.
Despite the lingering uncertainty about timing, Heather and her team look forward to launching the new table-service model, which is certain to appeal to many regular clients. Heather has high hopes that a clear separation of take-out from in-house dining will streamline service for all concerned. The aim is to minimize long waits in the queue, when, for example, a large group takes its time resolving the weighty questions of scone flavour or jam type for each guest, leaving those at the back of the line in hungry limbo.
Based on her experience operating Domus Restaurant some years ago, Heather plans to steer clear of the competitive struggles that can occur between servers and kitchen staff over the allotment of tips. All gratuities will be fairly shared among all SconeWitch staff.
Some late-breaking news for scone lovers: SconeWitch’s menu has a recent addition! Date and fennel is shaping up to be a new scone favourite. To Heather’s amusement, one client who pretended to bristle at the store’s pressure to try this new item returned the very next day to purchase a package of six!
We wish Heather, Madeline and their team an early return to full operations, and smoother sailing in 2022. –JH
Epicuria under renovations April 17–May 8
Beginning in late April, Epicuria will launch a major spring renovation project to overhaul their storefront at 357 St. Laurent Blvd. (at Hemlock). It’s been a little more than a decade since the shop moved to its present location following the Beechwood Fire of 2011, and Tracey Black and her team have found that they need some changes to better accommodate their current brisk business.
They are cagey about precisely what the plans are but have shared some highlights in Epicuria’s weekly newsletter: “We will be bringing back our full-service pastry counter; expanding the freezer and grab-and-go fridges; and will be changing the layout to provide a better shopping experience.” NEN hopes to provide more details in a future edition.
Clients should take note that the shop will be closed from April 17–May 8 while work is underway. But renovation timetables can be notoriously unreliable, so look for updates on their website: epicuria.ca. The online shop will remain open throughout the renovation for both pick-up and delivery orders.
Here’s another exciting note for those with interest in the culinary world: Epicuria is now hiring new recruits for both its retail and its culinary teams. Top criteria for applicants are “genuine enthusiasm about food and people; high standards for their work and their workplace; and a love of working in a fast-paced environment.” Send resumés to firstname.lastname@example.org. –JH