Lineups for a good brunch in Ottawa aren’t necessarily atypical, but to see one at 6:30pm might be. By the time the doors opened at the Bridgehead Roastery on Saturday evening, folks were ready to stream in for Night Brunch, billed as “the best Sunday Brunch on Saturday Night”.
Organized by Bridgehead and the Dominion City Brewing Company, Night Brunch brought together some of Ottawa’s top chefs to pair dreamy brunch dishes with “boundary pushing” beers from Dominion City, all to benefit the Ottawa School Breakfast Program.
The event was born out of a previous collaboration between Bridgehead and the brewers; Josh McJannett of Dominion City, had been brewing a beer with Bridgehead’s Earl Grey tea in his backyard, long before he brewed full time. Once McJannett and his team opened Dominion City, they partnered with Bridgehead again, this time for their Morningside Blonde Ale on Coffee Beans. In that way, Bridgehead’s Randy Hogg says that the idea for an evening of brunch all began over caffeinated beers. Both parties describe their mandates as community-oriented, and called the choice of the event’s beneficiary a clear no-brainer.
Carolyn Hunter, Director of the Ottawa School Breakfast Program, says she and her team were brought to tears when Hogg approached them with this idea for a fundraising event. Founded 25 years ago, the OSBP serves 13,500 students in 175 schools around the city of Ottawa, approximately 10% of the city’s students at both the elementary and secondary level. Research has proven that children who start the day with a nutritious breakfast are more attentive, get better grades, and have higher attendance records at school.
Once more prevalent in inner city schools, the breakfast program has expanded to include an additional 30 schools in the past two years, predominantly in the suburbs. With increasing food costs and an influx of new Canadian families in the region, funding is a constant concern as the program continues to grow.
The OSBP is on a mission to eliminate hunger as a barrier to learning, and Hunter emphasizes the the program is hand up, not a hand out. The OSBP relies on third party events like Night Brunch for a significant amount of its community fundraising, and so with Hendrix Restaurant Equipment and Supplies donating covetable raffle prizes, the Egg Farmers of Canada providing the many eggs required for a brunch this size, and the servers and chefs all volunteering their time for the event, all the proceeds went directly to ensuring that students can start the day with a healthy breakfast.
In charge of making breakfast for dinner were butcher David Wallace from Around the Block Butcher Shop, Chef Adam Vettorel from North and Navy, Chef Rich Wilson from The Pomeroy House, Chef Jess Fletcher from Bridgehead, and Chef Marysol Foucault from Edgar. Each of the five courses featured pork from Castor River Farms where their Large English Black pigs are fed with spent grain from Dominion City. Wallace butchered the pigs and each chef was able to choose the cut of meat for their dish, as well as the beer they wished to pair with their dish.
With flavour pairings like stouts and maple syrups, or hoppy IPAs and North African spices with poached eggs, McJannett said that a brunch menu naturally lends itself to beer pairings (and that he’s done enough drinking at breakfast to count as research!). Based on the applause throughout the evening, it would seem that the crowd of 130 diners agreed wholeheartedly. Great food, great brews, and a great cause — cheers to brunch and beers!