Sunday, November 28, 2010

Has This Always Been My Dream?

(photo credit Sylvain Lajoie)

Have I always dreamt of this?
I have been asked this question over and over again in the past few weeks.

This question required much thought.
If you had asked me when I was 22-23 years old, I would not have hesitated. Of course owning my restaurant is a dream. But then years go by and you are a bit more conscious of all the monetary risks, the long hours involved, the way you really want to do it and the sacrifice that comes with it. And if you are me, along the way, some people have disappointed you and now you are a bit more careful, scared and I hope wiser.

Let me share the week that has gone by (week 3!) and then a little story about restaurant dreams (for those who still are reading by then...)

*Well, I was on tv. I wasn't sure I wanted you all to see it, I couldn't watch myself, and I finally watched it, and you can too. Clicky clicky to see.

*There was a FANTASTIC review/article in the local newspaper. I guess I am doing something ok.

*I have incredible helpers. Meet Christal.

Christal is the sweetest, cutest, most positive classy lady ever. If you come to Edgar, please convince her that her French is adorable. But be warned that she is very very strong, so don't tease her too much.

She has helped me a few times this week in exchange for food and cooking/baking tips. Sadly, we have been so busy that she has not learned as much as I hoped. Last Sunday, the crowd took us by surprise, we rushed from open to close. Wednesday, ditto. Today, she had time to make some doughs and learn to make the perfect cappucino (for me!)

*I am notorious for not drinking my coffees. I usually drag out one coffee the whole day. 50% of that time my coffee gets knocked over... It happened twice this week. I drank Christal's coffee in 6 minutes flat, record time. No spill.

*The hits this week? Chocolate ginger cookies.

And any chicken sandwich (we had chicken avocado melts, chicken with spicy red pepper jam and oka, chicken bacon roasted tomato) - these sold out every day. Here are Christal and her sister Loretta makin' sandwiches with love... and spicy mayo!

*Today, I actually had time to sit down and eat. A first since we opened.
And I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, not leftovers. And I ate a chicken sandwich. With bacon. And avocado. AND crème fraîche. I made crème fraîche as a garnish for my roasted tomato, garlic and basil soup, I could eat it by the shovelful.

*Waffles still are my fave. And luckily, they are Miss K's as well. This lady has become a familiar face on weekends and she lets me coat her waffles with bacon caramel. And she let me picture her plate...

...and my mum is the most incredible mum in the world. For many reasons. Je t'aime je t'aime je t'aime mamie. She did a lot for Simon and I this week, sweet surprises that make life easier.
(And Simon's parents are incredible too. Et merci David. Et merci Johanne. Et merci Line. Et merci Rachelle. Et j'oublie certainement qq'un cette semaine, je suis morte.)

And now, the answer to the question, really...

I have somewhat always dreamt of this.

My mum said this week that she could remember me being very young and wanting to stir, mix, taste... I have very clear memories of the show 'Just Like Mom' and I wanted soooo bad for us to be contestants!!! My cake would be the highest one (baking powder and orange crush were the secret in my head...)

Owning a restaurant or becoming a chef popped in my head when I was about 22-23 years old. I was working 7 days a week in restaurants, and I thought I knew a lot... I certainly had a lot of experience for someone my age, but it makes me giggle today - I understand taste so much more now, technique, balance.

I wanted to share this tidbit because I lived a very emotional moment this week. The woman who crushed my dream when I was 23 actually came to the restaurant this Wednesday. And I simply cannot stop thinking about it.

I was so wide-eyed when this woman proposed that we open a restaurant together - she would follow whatever idea I had. It would be my show. My friends came to help, they even repainted the exterior of the house she bought for the bakery. My father and I redid the whole interior, installed hardwood floor, demolished walls, refinished walls. I researched, baked and baked. And then, not even a week before opening, she said: I think I cannot work with someone like you. We are not compatible. I was crushed. Lost. Someone like me. What did that mean?

It means that I worked hard for all these years and I finally have my own place. Mine. Not working for anyone else than little old perfectionist me. But I am not perfect, I have flaws. And I think I am fun to work with anyways. And I think I will make this work and grow for years to come. It will change, I might stumble, but I will always give it all I have.

So because I know I kick ass at what I do, I served her her roasted tomato soup and chicken chipotle wrap. And I knew all too well that she had read that newspaper article before coming - even though she acted all surprised when she saw me and asked: Oh! You work here? You own this?

Yes. And I will not be stepped on ever again. And I will be proud.
And no one out there should ever think it is ok to be stepped on if you follow your heart and have good intentions. Life will find a way to make it all sweeter, you just wait. (in my case, 11 years...)

ps. her friend told me they had read the article as she paid for lunch... Life is sweet indeed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slowly Adjusting

One kind lady told me that she was surprised about how much I shared on my blog.
I feel I need to, especially in this very crazy moment.
Some of you have been following me for years. A lot have tried my recipes at home.
Some have mustered up the courage to send me an email, leave a comment.
Some I have had the pleasure to meet in person.

I feel like I know all of you a tiny bit.
There are 229 of you who proudly say you follow me.
There are hundreds more who pop in for a visit daily - I see you!
Thank you. You keep me going.

Media has played up the fact that I was a food blogger. Like Molly from Orangette, they love the romantic idea that I just took my recipes, opened up a place and now it works. Reality is that I have worked in the industry for years - a little mouse in the back, doing what others hate to do, helping others look good, making everything more efficient. I am a work pony (not a horse, I am too small) and I am very stubborn. This is why it works.

We started our third week.
Again, it was full of surprises. We were much busier than we anticipated. Now people wait for tables. Some people come back almost every day.
Weekday lunches have been packed. Prep I did for the next day ended up being used the day of. I lock the door and I start over for the following day. And I feel like crying. Last Wednesday I called home and sobbed. I was tired, hungry, the place was so full of pots and pans, it was raining hard, recycling, garbage... Then there are days like yesterday. Even though it was madness until 3:30 pm, Simon and I were home 45 minutes after turning the key to close, that was bliss.

One thing I want to get out there is: Encourage chef owners. Encourage small businesses. Think about this every time you go out. There is a real person behind those pots and pans, they put love in the food. And they work hard. And they take out the trash. And they care that you stop by. I do.

Things we tried this week...

*Waffles! They need to be perfected a bit.
We made chocolate chip and bacon caramel.

*Frittata. Will do bigger pieces. People want a salty breakfast on the weekend.

*My favourite soup of the week: celery root and potato.

*Peanut butter cookies.

*THE hit: cranberry walnut upside down muffins.


*Combining the two most popular ingredients from last week: cranberries and goat cheese - in a chicken sandwich!

*Something chorizo. I want chorizo.

Things we discovered...

*I should label spices. Lynne had much fun figuring out what was what to make ginger cookies... And I would not win Top Chef sniff tests - I guessed garam masala 20 minutes later.

*Firemen love brioche.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What brings you comfort

(photo credit Sylvain Lajoie)

Yesterday, Simon asked that we have a real meal and some time together in the evening.
I zipped through my day as fast as I could and then came home to a clean and welcoming house.

In the midst of all this craziness, I know I can count on the love of my life to create a little cocoon, a soft pillowy place where time stops. And we watch 30 rock (Liz Lemon rocks). And we eat and drink good wine (a bottle we had been keeping for awhile...)

Even though I am surrounded by bacon at work, I can never have enough of it.
Ditto for butter.

In our plate: Tender beef, potato mash and Brussel sprouts with french shallot, butter and bacon.
And for dessert, my taste test for tv today: cheese cake with cranberry orange topping.

Here is another way too flattering blog post from the Ottawa Citizen blog - I am starting to wonder if someone is paying these folks to write nice things about me.

Omnivore's Ottawa review

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two weeks officially done...

...and this has been quite a ride.

What have a learned?

I have great friends, people are generous beyond belief.

Last week, I had help from Marc-André, Psychgrad, Nadia and my three moms. (My real mom, Simon's mom and Line, my adoptive mom) Thank goodness, because I would not have survived. (ummm, slept)

Also, I got a surprise visit from three extraordinary ladies on a Friday night: Asha, Rachelle and Lynne brought real food, sublime goodies, for Simon and I to eat. And we shared a delicious meal, and they helped out to prepare for the next day - which turned out to be busy as a radio interview aired in the morning. You can click here to hear it, probably for a few more days only...

Lynne and I have great fun thinking up sandwiches and brunch dishes. Can't wait for Art-is-in to bake new types of bread and sell croissants (soon!!!) Our fave this week was egg salad, with apple and red onion, on potato dill bread. I believe Lynne took a picture...

So far, the brunch items are not big sellers, I wonder why. Don't people love french toast? I am considering a waffle maker... Anywhoo, we did a Monte cristo - a mere handful of people ordered it - but it was delicious! Pear and caramelized onion butter, melty cheese, ham, french toast, maple syrup, how can you go wrong?

And we started serving hot chocolates and homemade moccachino-type coffees.
I am happy, see?

We have beautiful flowers from Bel Fiore in the shop, these are real pineapple! They had people talking quite a bit...

And these are not flowering asparagus... One day I will remember names.

...and I am trying to remember the names of everyone in the neighbourhood. I love how some are already familiar faces.

If you want a bit more to read (and more pictures!), some people came to eat and had something to say about it:
Eva's Food World
Grow Chew

I will be on tv tomorrow as well. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soups and soups and brioche

We have been so busy. Much more than anticipated.
Did I say that before?

How was this first week? Well, I made a lot of soup!!!
I offered two soups per day and sold out almost every day even though I made ginormous batches.
This is what I think I did so far:

Chunky chipotle chicken soup
Spicy butternut squash with lemongrass, galangal, lime leef
Sweet Potato and butternut squash
Spicy beet
Soft beet and goat cheese
Curried cauliflower
Potato, leek and bacon
Broccoli and cheddar
Tomato and roasted red pepper
Tomato, garlic and basil
Homestyle chunky vegetable
Another spicy butternut squash
Beef and barley with mushroom
Acorn squash, apple and cashew

Isn't this insane?
Below is the recipe for the acorn squash soup.

I have trouble putting the finger on how I am feeling. It is definitely setting in that I have a café/restaurant... This weekend was proof that I need to hire someone. So far, I have had so much help from friends and family.

This friend is pure gold

Meet Lynne. She is extraordinary. And larger than life (really, she is tall.)
She comes in and works for food on Saturday mornings (and Sunday this week too!) and we chat food, we make food, we serve food, we live live for food. Everyone needs a Lynne in their life.

Everyone needs cute kids in their lives too.
The hair, the hot chocolate mustache, the wool pants (I want those)

We finally got our business cards, they are screenprinted!

My fave dessert of the week, banana and caramel cream pie.

So, week two is a go. Shopping, making menus, fixing little things in the space. Trying to figure out how much food is needed (on Saturday, we ran out of most of the food!). Trying to figure out what will work on the menu as well - Lynne and I were sooooo happy to offer French Toast and it just did not sell as anticipated. Rethinking for next weekend morning food...

I changed the hours as well - days off are now Monday and Tuesday.
We put up a temporary website.

Acorn squash, apple and cashew soup (small recipe! not restaurant size!)

2 onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 acorn squash, roasted, pulp only
3 apples
vegetable stock
1/2 cup roasted cashews
fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cook the onions in vegetable oil (or butter) until slightly golden. Add the carrot and celery, cook for 4 minutes, stirring from time to time. If it dries out, add a bit of water. Add the squash, apples and enough stock to cover - simmer until all vegetables are tender. Remove from heat, add cashews, purée until silky smooth. Add fresh thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

not even one week...

It hasn't yet been a week since we opened.
I have to admit I feel a bit overwhelmed.

Some moments are great. I am getting to know the neighborhood people, and seeing so many smiling kids. Surprisingly, I enjoy chatting with the locals - this is what made me most nervous before opening... I am shy and very non-confrontational when it comes to small talk, I don't like politics and hard topics, so I tend to just listen. Keep my thoughts to myself, ponder on the subjects.

Customers seem to be enjoying their food, I hear a lot of spoons scraping the bottom of the soup bowls, so that makes me happy. The pastries are selling well. Paninis are a hit. More than a handful have come back a second time, that makes my heart all soft.

The problem: things are selling out fast. Faster than I thought.
I have no time to make the nice take-out meals that I wanted.
I am working long hours. 14-16 hours a day, no less in the past week.
I try to be as efficient as I can, and those who know me can attest that I am a little production machine. I think it is the first time in my life I feel this way - even while balancing food blog, work and art in the past years I have not felt as 'far behind schedule'. Maybe my expectations were too high?

Sleep will do me some good.

Here are a few links if you want to read what others are thinking about Edgar:

The Twisted Chef
If Music be the Food of Love, Play On
Rachelle Eats Food
Heartful Mouthful
Foodie Prints

ps. to all of you who emailed... again, this is a first in my life - I am sooo far behind. I read everything and will soon get back to you. Typing on my tiny Iphone is too big a test of patience these days, I will try to bring my computer to work. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry!
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