Eating & Drinking

Southern cooking — our new comfort food?

Who from Kentucky, Virginia, or Louisiana would want to immigrate to this godforsaken country? No one — it’s too cold! However if, say, 20,000 Southerners packed their bags for Canada’s capital, we could try their country cooking first-hand.

Witness the arrival of Vietnamese evacuees to Ottawa. More than 35 years later, a hot bowl of pho with medium-rare beef and fresh Thai basil has become comfort food.

As for Southern soul food, we adore their pulled pork but have no clue about Creole stuffed squab or lemon chess pie. And don’t even think about North Carolina catfish kamaboko — a cured seafood hybrid satisfying the Korean high-tech researchers in Raleigh. But hey, let’s enjoy what we have — for instance, shrimp and grits, suckling pig, biscuits with red-eye gravy, po’ boys … the list goes on.

Shrimp and Grits
“Shrimp and grits runs through the Low Country,” says Union Local 613’s chef Darren Flowers, referring to the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. Grits are broken kernels of corn — cooked, the consistency is of creamy soft porridge with slightly chewy bits. Flowers returned from an
R & D trip to Charleston in the fall to become better aquainted with fellow chef Sean Brock, who’s well known south of the border. Brock’s pushing to grow heirloom corn varieties for the best grits ever, and Flowers says he’s interested in the concept as well. The perfect accompaniment to his spicy, saucy Ocean Wise shrimp, made rich with Flowers’ own cured and hot-smoked pork, the peppery tasso. $18/brunch, $18/lunch, $23/dinner.
Union Local 613, 315 Somerset St. W., 613-231-1010

Chocolate Pecan Pie
“Chris is the pie guru,” says Sheila Lynch of business partner Christine Grenville. Turns out, making a chocolate pecan pie is finicky. At Three Tarts, temperature is very important throughout the process. Hot: the sweet, buttery filling (called goop) is cooked stovetop. Cold: the pastry is put in the freezer. Hot: before being lined with chocolate ganache, the now thawed pastry shell is baked blind in a very hot oven. Cold: the shell is lined with chocolate ganache and refrigerated overnight. You get the idea. Here’s gooey caramel in a short and flaky pastry. Did I forget to mention those crunchy pecans and the chocolate drizzle on top?
$17/19-cm pie; $34/28-cm pie.
Three Tarts, 1320 Wellington St. W., 613-729-9832

The SmoQue Shack’s bourbon glazed BBQ chicken. Photography by Ben Welland

BBQ Chicken
There’s barbecue, and there’s barbecue. Then there’s the way chicken’s done in Kentucky. That’s how Warren Sutherland, executive chef/co-owner of The SmoQue Shack, works it. Nothing like a combo of spicy rubbing, brining with sugar and honey, and smoking (apple wood) for sweet and tender flesh. Sutherland’s secret for the bourbon glaze at the end is vanilla, coaxing out vanilla notes originally imparted to the whiskey through the oak casks. $8/quarter, $16/half, $32/whole. The SmoQue Shack, 129 York St., 613-789-4245