ms. charlotte

Charlotte is leaving Ottawa today.

It makes me sad :0(

Don’t get me wrong … I am so incredibly thrilled that she is going to a new place – new challenges, new adventures, lessons to be learned … all that great stuff that a move to a new city entails.

But it doesn’t mean I won’t miss walking into the whalesbone and seeing her.  Pestering her with all sorts of questions … having our monthly scheduled industry night dinner @ Oz Kafe … listening to her crazy stories … hearing her laugh … just enjoying her joie de vivre.

I’ve known Charlotte since she was 18 … she’d just moved to Ottawa and was ready to experience anything and everything.  She brought a sarcastic wit and wicked sense of humour to the house (6 roomies that summer in a house that really only had 4 bedrooms and 1 bathroom … with a mushroom growing out of the bathtub).  I can remember her attempting to bring order to our little backyard garden (it didn’t happen).  I can also remember when she decided she wanted to be a bread baker … early mornings learning to make fresh bread.  You should ask Charlotte to make you bread … it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve followed her adventures over the years … culinary school in Prince Edward Island … working in Vancouver … working in Niagara on the Lake … coming back to Ottawa and taking the food scene by storm.  I feel like a uber proud big sister.

But I have to say it’s in the last few years that we’ve become closer.  It started because we genuinely enjoyed hanging out together … and then obviously a shared passion in food … and then Charlotte did the nicest sweetest thing ever.  She invited me to stage at the whalesbone.  She wanted to offer me the chance to see what working in a restaurant would be like.  And then she took the time to show me how to do the simplest of things … because although I can bake up a storm, cleaning mushrooms for 4 hours isn’t something I’d done before (and fyi … wild mushrooms can get pretty dirty).

But since friends tend to forget to tell each other how much they mean to one another … I’d like to take this opportunity to let Charlotte know what she’s taught me …

I learned that you should never attempt to plate ice cream on 6 desserts until all the components are already on each dish.  Otherwise … you have to start all over.

I’ve learned that manicuring shallots takes a really sharp knife … but that I can do it.

I’ve learned that I probably shouldn’t be hanging out on the line in the middle of a Saturday night rush … trying to get a perfect picture.  Lucky for me … Charlotte still let me do it :0)

I’ve learned that I can do anything.  As Charlotte told me every single weekI might never have done something, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do it.  It just means I have to try … and practice.  But that I can do it.

Charlotte taught me to trust my instinct when I bake.  To just go with what I think tastes good … and she applauded every single thing I have ever made.  Seriously … she was always the first person to offer me praise for anything I brought in for her to sample or told her about.

This past year has been a super difficult year for me … it’s still a struggle … but in the beginning it felt unsurpassable.  Charlotte always asked me how I was doing; we started a ranking system.  We applauded when I got to a 6/10 … and when I was having a 3/10 day … Charlotte let me stand in the prep kitchen and just cry.

And finally … Charlotte taught me to give 100% to everything I do.  That every person that comes into the whalesbone deserves to get the same experience – the same beautiful plate, the same standard of flavours … I shouldn’t just scoop ice cream on a plate and think it’s ok … it needs to be perfect.  People deserve that.  People deserve our best.

I think I echo lots of sentiments when I say it’ll be strange to walk into the whalesbone and not see our fiesty chef with the short-shorts and a kiss for everyone … But I think every single one of us are so proud of our little Charlotte … for everything she has done … and everything that is to come.

I don’t know if Toronto is ready for Charlotte.  But I know that she is totally ready for Toronto.

So without further ado … good luck Charlotte (the harlot).  Don’t think this is the last you’ve heard of me … I’m gonna come and stage with you in Toronto :0)

 

throw-down @ the whalesbone

There was a throw-down on Friday night.  Between Arctic Andrew and I.  Don’t worry… we’re still friends.

It was a date-square throw-down.  And … sigh … we tied.

You see … Andrew and I have gotten to know each other while we labour away in the Whalesbone‘s basement; cleaning mushrooms, de-boning fish, plating desserts, running up and down the stairs… talking food the entire time (or travelling… but it’s mostly food talk).

We both agree that the apple pear crumble is our favourite Whalesbone dessert.  We both love plating the cheese platter – aiming to out-do one another with our skills.  And we both LOVE date squares.  Andrew thinks his mother makes the best date squares, I obviously believe that my grandmother made the best – and therefore my version (based on her recipe) is the best.

It was time to have a throw-down.

Who would come out on top?  Andrew and his mother or me and my grandmother? 

It was intense.

I arrived with my squares already made – I think I should get points for being prepared.

Andrew brought along his recipe book; filled with his favourite recipes (mostly recipes passed down from his mother) and set about making the squares while also doing the work we had been tasked with: meanwhile I looked on, took some pictures (I promise I didn’t sneak a peek at his recipe), and plated cheese (yoshi!), desserts, whipped and piped brown butter and then… I de-boned arctic char – love that task (for reals.  It’s AWESOME).

Once baked and cooled (it would have been an unfair advantage to serve his warm and mine at room temperature), it was time for the taste-testing to begin.

On the panel:

Chefs Charlotte and Kshonze, Jen (front of the house, not in the picture), Krause (back of the house)

+ random diners.

I’ve served these guys before… 3 out of 4 picked my squares (yes!!!)

these two guys were randomly selected – and both picked my squares as well :0)

another table of 4 participated – all friends of mine.  They split down the middle: half liked mine, and the other half picked Andrew’s.

Then it was time for the staff to pick.

The result: a split down the middle.  TIE!

Yes… I am aware that you shouldn’t have an even number of judges … but we did.  And this is what happened … who would have thought that it would go that way? 

Both Andrew and I also tasted each others recipes – and we agreed that his recipe hits you in the mouth and that mine hits you in the throat … both delish – but I won’t lie – I like mine better. 

That probably has everything to do with the fact that every time I bake and eat one of them, I think of my grandmother … and she really, truly did make THE BEST date squares.  EVER.

wordless wednesdays: gold medal plates

Gold Medal Plates has come and gone. 

It was … intense.  And all I did was drag some spinach purée across a plate: I can only imagine how Charlotte must have felt.

That’s right – Charlotte (The Whalesbone) totally rocked it last night.  I was so excited to be asked to participate – Charlotte wanted an all-girl team (aka The Ladies) to assist her during the competition.  Under her direction we brought her plate from this…

to this…

to THIS

burnt honey cured mackerel with a foie gras mousse, atop a rye crostini, cream fresh, spinach purée, and a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts and espresso powder. 

Delish?  No kidding! (The foie gras mousse was ridiculously tasty… so rich and smooth.  Sigh worthy for sure)

The Ladies (Merrill, Chloé (both Whalesbone), Trish (the Black Cat Bistro), Anna (Farbs), Natalie and I) swooshed, dragged, sprinkled, slathered, gently placed, and drizzled our way through almost 400 plates.  Charlotte taught us well :0)

It was an amazing experience… no matter the outcome.  We all giggled our way through the service – and Charlotte – well she totally ROCKED it. 

So proud.  So so proud.

Oh yeah… and don’t worry… you can take the girl out of the Whalesbone – but you can’t take the short-shorts off the girl :0)