With hockey reason in full swing, I figure I’d kick off my hip-inspired cocktails with one dedicated to Canada’s other national sport. I have been intrigued by the popularity of Pink Whitney, the ingenious product of podcast popularity. It’s not a great vodka by any means, but it’s won over even the most manly of hockey fans despite it’s pink hue.
Chosen 5th overall in the 2002 NHL entry draft, Ryan Whitney, the namesake of this potent potable, played defense for a handful of teams and racked up 259 points in 481 games while collecting 383 PIM. Currently, he is a co-host of the insanely popular Spittin Chiclets podcast which is boldly reflected on the vodka’s packaging.
I thought Pink Whitney would be a good base for a Hip/hockey inspired cocktail. There are no shortages of hockey references in the Hip’s repertoire but I figured “the lonely end of the rink” would be an ideal name for a cocktail that was a bit feminine . I envision some dude standing choosing to stand by himself savouring a pink cocktail while his buddies swilled pints of draft on the other side. In addition, I thought the addition of Fentiman’s rose lemonade would pay homage to ex-icon Don Cherry’s beloved wife Rose. The song itself appears on the 2006 World Container album. Some say the song is the Hip’s homage to the hockey goalie which, in some people’s eyes, might be the most important position on the ice….a fact hard to argue especially after Joonas Korpisalo shattered playoff records a few hours ago by making 85 saves in a single game (albeit in a losing effort).
The Lonely End of the Rink
1.5 oz Pink Whitney Vodka
0.5 oz of limoncello
3-4 oz of Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade
Mix vodka and limoncello in an old-fashioned or highball glass depending on preference, add ice and top with Fentiman’s rose lemonade. Garnish with mint.
Option: Muddle some mint in the glass first and then add ingredients.
“You won’t die of a thousand fakesor be beaten by the sweetest of dekes“.
I’m oblivious sometimes. Sure, I can navigate through a number of websites searching so what’s hot in the restaurant world but I often miss things right in front of my face. I was in Ottawa for a conference recently and needed a quick spot for dinner. As part of my search, I stumbled across DINR, a rather new app which revolves around last minute reservations at some of the most coveted restaurants in the country. Luckily, Ottawa is one of the featured cities so I managed to secure the chef’s table at North and Navy with a few hours notice. North and Navy is a relatively new restaurant which moved into the space left when Beckta switched locations. The concept plays on what the owners call similarities between the climates of Northern Italy and Eastern Ontario with a focus on local ingredients.
I was staying at a hotel down the road so it was nice walk to the Nepean street location. I noticed that the air was crisp indicating that fall was here. What I didn’t notice was that there were a number of black sedans outside the restaurant. We were quickly seated at the rail and waited for our last guest who arrived and immediately commented on the motorcade parked outside. I laughed and offered to look around the restaurant on the way to the washroom in case the beloved Justin Trudeau may be in the house. On the way back I made eye contact (well..maybe one way eye contact) which somebody who faintly resembled Sophie who was sitting with a man with flowing Pantene locks. I didn’t dare stop or make eye contact to confirm given I’m not sure of the Canadian rules around approaching a head of state in a dining establishment (although a shirtless selfie may have been in the cards), so I went back to my seat and mentioned I thought it was him. Another member of our party got up, walked past the table, did a 360 and quickly returned to confirm the sighting.
We were greeted by a pleasant employee who went through the description of the menu using the airplane safety speech that has become the norm for any shared plate eatery currently in existence. We were encouraged to try the cicheti (ie. Italian snack plate) which featured grissini, marinated anchovy, oyster, mackerel and a homemade meatball.It was served on a silver platter worthy of let’s say….a prime minister. We collectively destroyed the plate’s contents with good reviews.
There were four primi pasta courses on the menu and we ordered them all. The potato tortaletti with matching brodo was pleasantly plated with some pickled onions. The tender and unique pasta was spot on but the delicate but precisely seasoned broth stole the show. A bit more along the traditional path of Northern Italy, the bigoli con le vongole was another hit in its simplicity. Great pasta, great sauce and great seafood. I’m typically not a risotto fan but I thoroughly enjoyed the pancetta and corn offering. It provided cream corn comfort sprinkled with salty pieces of pancetta. The mint parpadelle with abundant mushrooms was an incredible concoction of earthy flavours. The mint leaves offered a unorthadox yet pleasant freshness. In the end, each primi choice offered textures and tastes that ranged from Harper conservative to flowing lock liberal.
Bigoli con le Vongole $15
Mint Parpadelle with le Coprin mushrooms $14
Potato Tortaletti with Potato Brodo $14
Corn and Pancetta Risotto $14
As an intermezzo, we went for the raw zucchini with olives, mint and pecorino plus cured eggplant with house yoghurt. I love chef’s tables, especially when dishes involve meticulous construction. Both this dishes were assembled with a pinpoint precision which made then as appealing to the eye as to the tongue. The zucchini cleansed the aftermath of the previous dishes while the eggplant foreshadowed what was to come.
Raw Zucchini with Olives, Mint and Pecorino $14
Cured Eggplant and House Yoghurt $12
Given the sizable amount of food we had already consumed, we decided on two of the available entrees; the trout with brussel sprouts and parsnip and the Quebec duck with fennel and pear. The fish was brilliant. Maybe it was my bias given the fact that I’m tired of every fish dish in a restaurant currently being served with some kind of tomato. Instead, crunchy sprouts and a rich and pleasantly pungent parsnip puree were the perfect compliment to the pristine pesce. The red cabbage and the pickled squash (which was addictive by itself) added colour and another dimension to the dish. Duck, especially Quebec canard, seems to be a staple in Ottawa and North and Navy was no exception. There is an emerging trend coupling fresh fruit with protein and in this case, it was sliced pear. It wasn’t my favorite dish of the night but still hit decent flavour and textural notes.
Quebec Duck with Fennel and Pear $30
Steelhead Trout with Brussel Sprouts and Parsnip (and pickled squash ($32)
Since we were sitting at the chef’s table, we were able to get some great reflections and insights from the kitchen. Adam Vettorel, North and Navy’s head chef, stopped his meticulous plating to chat for a bit. He had a confident yet awkward personality which is seemingly quite characteristic among those with the role of chief cook. We were treated to a story about a recent competition in which he opted for successfully pickling of squash instead of cooking it, a tactic which was transferred with some regularity to his menu soon after.
Dessert was classic Italian which nicely reflected the general theme of North and Navy; traditional tiramisu and playful panna cotta. Like the rest of the meal, the fundamental execution was brilliant and combined old and new world ingredients and flavours.
Peach Panna Cotta
Although I doubt Mr. Trudeau used nor needed the DINR app, it is a great tool for an unorganized, indecisive and whimsical food fan. I would personally argue that a culinary celebrity sighting if usually more exciting than a political one but dining with the prime minister (sort of) makes for a good story, especially when chatting with friends and colleagues who figurative bleed red or appreciate good hair. That said, North and Navy made its food, especially the pasta, worth throwing into the discussion as well. Adam Vettorel et al., unlike his famous guest,can effectively execute a plan. North and Navy’s campaign promised Northern Italy with local influence and they delivered. In the end, they get my vote even if I’m not a card carrying Liberal.
Fennel is quite common and has a great texture. It has a strong licorice flavour that can be dulled down a bit with a good dressing. It is low in calories and has a bit of fibre, folate, vitamin C and potassium.
It’s a tame slaw which complimented the spicy sausage I paired it with.
I took the recipe from the website “Simply Recipes” since I had some mint in my fridge I needed to use:
1 large fennel bulb (or 2 medium bulbs)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons minced shallot or onion
1 Make the vinaigrette. Put the lemon juice, shallot, mustard, salt, sugar and mint in a blender and pulse briefly to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until it is well combined.
2 Using a mandoline, shave the fennel into 1/8 inch slices starting from the bottom of the bulb. Don’t worry about coring the fennel bulb, it’s unnecessary. If you don’t have a mandoline, slice the bulb as thin as you can. Chop some of the fennel fronds as well to toss in with the salad.
If pairing with something less spicy, add a little cayenne or jalapeno to the dressing.
Don’t be shy with the mint.
Cut back on the oil a bit to reduce the calories. I used less than the 1/4 cup and it was fine.