Three Ottawa husband-and-wife restaurateurs dish about how they juggle romance and family life with the demands of running a thriving business. Plus, they share three hearty recipes to try with your family tonight.
Charles Part and Jennifer Warren-Part have made beautiful meals together for more than 20 years. One might think the intensity of working together in the close and sometimes chaotic environment of a commercial kitchen would strain a partnership, but Charles and Jennifer seem to have settled into a groove that works deliciously for them, and for the thousands of diners visiting their highly-acclaimed Restaurant Les Fougères in Chelsea since 1993.
The couple met through Jennifer's brother while Charles was already pursuing a career in the food industry. It was he who lured Jennifer, already an enthusiastic cook with some professional training, away from her job in the trade policy arena. Les Fougères is their second venture together, earning them consistent praise for their ability to deliver top-notch meals based on fresh, local elements. Their warm, down-to-earth personalities seem a perfect match for the wonderful dishes on offer at Les Fougères - simple yet carefully-prepared food that lets the strength of the high-quality ingredients shine through. Highlights from the dinner menu include grilled wild Baffin Island Arctic char, confit of Québec duck and broiled par toutatis.
While the couple no longer lives above the restaurant, as they did for many years with their two now-grown children, their home is just moments away and, like the restaurant property, includes a lush garden full of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.
Jennifer attributes their shared success to having invested their hearts in Les Fougères. "I also believe that Charlie has a truly incredible palate - he has a real gift with food."
The recipe they've chosen is one of their favourites, and is included in their just-released book, A Year at Les Fougères. It's a dish they have enjoyed preparing and serving at the restaurant from the very beginning. "We chose it because it's something we often grab from our take-home food store to share for dinner at home, with a glass of wine and salad," says Jennifer. "It's a hearty dish that does a wonderful job of chasing away the winter chill." Culinary boutique
The duo at Les Fougères also operate an on-site store offering decorative items found in their dining room, as well as other gifts and gourmet products. For more information, go to www.fougeres.ca, call the restaurant at 819-827-8942, the store at 819-827-2837 or visit on route 105, Chelsea.
Ingredients: 4 cups dry white beans (such as Great Northern, Lingots or Tarbais) 1 goose, cut into pieces 2 large onions, chopped 2 sticks celery, chopped 12 whole garlic cloves, peeled 1 whole smoked pork hock, split 8 ounces belly bacon, cut into lardons 1 cup ale 1-1/2 cups dry white wine 1/2 cup Dijon mustard 2 tbsp duck fat 6 bay leaves, 1 tbsp fresh thyme 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns stock or water to cover 6 assorted Toulouse-style smoked sausages, quartered 1/2 cup maple syrup 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar 6 legs duck confit Method: Soak beans in water overnight. Rinse and drain. Place the beans in a large oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Place the goose pieces on the beans. Surround the goose with onions, celery, garlic, pork hock and lardons. Mix the ale, mustard and white wine together and pour over top. Add the duck fat, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Cover with stock or water and place the lid on the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then move into a 375°F oven for 2 to 3 hours to simmer gently until beans are tender. Halfway through, add sausages, confit, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Add more liquid (wine, stock and/or water) at this point if the mixture appears to be getting dry. To serve, ladle into large shallow bowls, top each serving with a leg of duck confit and garnish with goat's cheese toasts and orange zest if desired. Serves 6. Benitz Bistro It's not surprising that Derek Benitz and Meg McManus were drawn together by their mutual love of food. These two enthusiastic restaurateurs share a warm smile while recounting meeting 15 years ago while working at the same downtown Ottawa eatery. "I fell in love with Derek the first time he cooked for me," says Meg. "I can still remember the meal - he was testing dishes for a new menu - it was farfalle with asiago cream sauce. I was hooked after the first bite." Earlier this year, this husband-and-wife team launched their fourth food venture together, the delightful Benitz Bistro on Somerset Street, just minutes from their Chinatown home. The establishment has garnered rave reviews for its imaginative dishes, such as tagliolini gamberi, bison steak frites and Normandy chicken. They both admit the demands of raising a family while running a popular restaurant are daunting, but more manageable as co-owners. "We stagger our hours so one of us is with our two young kids as much as possible, and we've set up a room for them at the restaurant, where they can play, do homework, or just hang out for a while," says Derek. The instant success of Benitz Bistro is undoubtedly a testament to the strength of their relationship. "We've been best friends for so long. That really helps," says Meg. "We've also learned that it's crucial to separate business from personal life. At work, he's chef, I'm front of house and we try not to interfere in each other's work." But how do they resolve their occasional differences at the restaurant? "I back down," says Derek with a laugh. Meg and Derek offer this trout recipe as a great example of something they would prepare at home with their kids. Meg confirms that not only does everyone in her family enjoy this dish, so too did many in the restaurant when it was on the menu. Take home gourmet Every weeknight from 5-7:20 p.m. Benitz Bistro offers a choice of meals specifically designed to be enjoyed at home. Whether you're busy, or simply don't feel like cooking, they can provide a tasty alternative to your collection of take-out menus. Stop by Benitz Bistro at 327 Somerset St. West, call 613-567-8100 or go to www.benitzbistro.comBenitz Bistro Trout
Ingredients: 2 - 8oz. rainbow trout fillets 1/ 4 cup flour 1/ 4 cup semolina Heart of 1 leek, washed and minced 1 large shallot minced 1 garlic clove minced 4 oz. butter cubed 1 lemon, juiced 4 stalks tarragon, leaves removed 12 coriander seeds 12 fennel seeds 12 stalks asparagus, blanched and shocked in ice water 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 oz. chardonnay wine 6 mini potatoes (white or red), cooked Salt to taste Method: Preheat oven to 375°F. To make fondue, in a double bottom pot over medium heat melt butter, add shallots, garlic, leek, coriander, fennel, and sweat for 5 minutes. Add wine and cream, then let simmer until reduced by half. Adjust seasoning and finish with fresh tarragon leaves and lemon juice. Keep warm while you prepare the trout. To prepare the trout, on stove top at medium heat, warm a sauté pan and melt butter. Season trout fillets with salt, pat in combined flour and semolina. Add fish to pan and increase heat. Brown trout on both sides, then place pan in oven to finish cooking the fish, for about 5 minutes or until tender. Assemble plate artistically with trout on top of potatoes and asparagus, then drizzle leek fondue over the top. Serves 2. Galla Heritage Ristorante Food must be in their blood, considering that both Steve and Helga Galla grew up in the restaurant world. Steve worked at several establishments, including a stint as a cook at his parents' popular Carling Avenue Italian eatery, Capone's. From the age of seven, Helga could often be found helping at her parents' German-themed Gasthaus Zum Dorf-Krug. It was at this Industrial Avenue location that the couple first met more than 20 years ago. The Galla's Heritage Ristorante in Cumberland, which opened this year, is the duo's first joint culinary venture. Both admit that although having their own place is fun, it's very time consuming. "It definitely cuts into family time, but we really enjoy having our teenagers and their friends here helping us out," says Steve. Set in a beautiful heritage stone house, the restaurant boasts a quiet elegance that reflects their shared love of fine dining. "Whenever we went out, we used to head down to Preston Street for good Italian cuisine," says Helga. "Now I'd rather eat here or at home, because everything Steve makes is so delicious." She notes that it is not only the careful preparation that makes their menu shine, it is also their commitment to using only the finest quality ingredients. Specialties include dishes such as butternut squash lune, tagliatelle, fettuccini natashie and luscious veal scallopini. Helga says that while working together can be challenging at times, there are benefits to knowing each other so well. "I can see when Steve's under stress; I'll find a way to help him, or I'll know to back off and let him work things out. I believe the business is more successful because of all the time we've been together." "We've done other jobs, but we are truly in our element here," agrees Steve. Helga says both she and Steve love the recipe they've shared because it represents the kind of traditional Italian food they enjoy serving. "It's so tasty and easy to prepare; it's definitely one of our favourites to eat at home." Steve's choice of sweet Marsala wine, rather than dry, makes this recipe special. Party time The Galla Heritage Ristorante can accommodate groups of up to 80 people and is an ideal place to hold a small wedding reception. The restaurant, located at 2607 Old Montreal Rd. in Cumberland, also has a number of private rooms that can seat 12 to 16 people comfortably. For more information, call 613-833-3000.The Galla's Veal Marsala
Ingredients: 4 pieces of milk-fed veal scallopini (thinly sliced cutlets) 1/2 cup flour 4 oz. veal or chicken stock 2 oz. tomato sauce 3 oz. sweet Marsala wine 4 mushrooms sliced 2 tbsp butter 3 oz. olive oil Method: In a heavy bottom skillet, heat olive oil on high. Dredge veal in flour and place in hot olive oil. Sauté veal until it turns white and surface begins to brown. Discard any remaining oil in pan, then add mushrooms and sauté quickly. Remove pan from heat and add Marsala wine. Return to heat and cook until wine has reduced by half. Add veal or chicken stock, butter and tomato sauce and continue to simmer, reducing until sauce sticks to veal. Serve on a warm plate with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables or a pasta side dish. Serves 2. - Written by Paula Roy - Photography by Mark Holleron