A new adventure, this time at home

The last time I wrote to you, I was in a different world. Nepal – an intoxicating and exotic blend of new experiences and adventure.

One of several lessons learned during my travels is the importance of taking calculated risks. Decisions that are far enough outside my comfort zone that they’d make me scared and somewhat nauseous, but not so far that they are in the realm of dangerous or stupid. The line of calculated risk is a fine one to walk. While this was a mid-trip revelation, I have now come to realize that one of the biggest calculated risks I’ve ever taken happened not on my trip, but on the very night I left for Nepal.

Here’s what happened. On the afternoon of November 5 (departure day), my boyfriend Geoff and I went to buy him a kitchen table. He had seen an ad on Kijiji, and at 4:30 p.m. we found ourselves driving to this person’s house to pick up the new furniture addition. It turns out this couple, Pam and Carlos, were not only selling this table, but dozens of identical tables. And that’s not all. As it happens, Pam and Carlos had, for a year, owned and operated a Mexican restaurant in another northern Ontario community. The business went bust, and they decided to move back to Guatemala. That meant the garage, which did, indeed, hold that single table and chairs Geoff was looking for, also held a significantly large amount of barely-used kitchen equipment.

To make a long story of debate, concern, and spontaneity short, Geoff and I bought the kitchen equipment – more than $15,000 worth of griddles, cold prep tables, deep fryers, and ovens at a fraction of their original cost.

And that’s how an innocent trip to get a kitchen table slightly derailed my current life trajectory. Funny how that happens, huh? With my countdown to Nepal now sitting at around six hours, Geoff and I hustled to move the new kitchen equipment to his friend Honas’ garage. Somewhere between then and my departure, I casually pitched to Geoff the idea of opening an incubator kitchen.

Tangent time! What is an incubator kitchen, you ask? An incubator kitchen is a space for small food businesses to grow. It’s place where basement bakers and closet canners can expand and produce their food, in a kitchen that’s both well-equipped and commercially-certified. That means they don’t have to flesh out the thousands of dollars required for industrial kitchen equipment (especially the hood!), and can sell their goods in shops (something you can’t do in Ontario unless you are producing in a commercial kitchen). I was first exposed to the concept of incubator kitchens when I lived in Ottawa, and had three good food friends who were successfully expanding their businesses in the Capital’s first food incubator. I became obsessed, did tonnes of research, and eventually wrote this feature for the Ottawa Citizen about the city’s incubator scene. I think incubators in general are brilliant – spaces to foster creativity and build community. Places where ideas can go from paper to product. I have met so many people in Sudbury with so many incredible food ideas, and thought, “hey, why not?” this city is a place in need of something like this.

Back to the story. I left for Nepal. As you know.

Meanwhile, in the other dimension of Sudbury life that was existing parallel to my overseas adventures, Geoff was being a go-getter. This is something I like most about Geoff – he is a “do something” guy. Positive, energetic, and incredibly convincing, he took my talk of wanting to open an incubator kitchen and set the gears in action.

I’d get weekly updates during FaceTime dates with Geoff, and had the wonderful dilemma of having amazing opportunities happening both in Nepal as well as at home. The problem was that I didn’t want to miss out on any of them. I have learned that great amounts of opportunity/choice can sometimes cause the greatest amount of unhappiness – it’s the “fear of missing out” syndrome, I think. So, at the beginning of December I booked my plane ticket home, ready to jump into the exciting things happening in Sudbury. I arrived on February 10, and we’ve all hit the ground running ever since.

The Motley Kitchen logo, created by Over the Atlantic, a talented and generous local graphic design team.
The Motley Kitchen logo, created by Over the Atlantic, a talented and generous local graphic design team.

Our new space is called The Motley Kitchen, and we’re opening in an old restaurant space in the heart of downtown Sudbury. Myself and the four other partners, as well as countless wonderful friends, have been working tirelessly in the past months to renovate the space in preparation for an early spring opening date.

The thing is, this whole opening a business thing isn’t cheap. Our team has incredible ideas and a surprisingly large roster of varied skills, but all the money to-date has been coming out of our own pockets. So, here’s what I am very humbly coming to ask you, readers (if you’re still there…Bueller? Bueller?).

We have launched a crowd-funding campaign in order to cover some of the capital costs associated with opening The Motley Kitchen. We’re aiming to raise just a shade shy of $22,000, and have just passed the $10,000 mark, with a dozen days left.

The future site of The Motley Kitchen (this was post taking down ugly green awnings and a painted "restaurant" sign on the window...
The future site of The Motley Kitchen (this was post taking down ugly green awnings and a painted “restaurant” sign on the window…
Bye, bye, old sign! Steve and Chris approve of the change.
Bye, bye, old sign! Steve and Chris approve of the change.

If you support small food businesses, great ideas, and neighbourhood revitalization, I’m asking you to please click through and take a look at our crowd-funding campaign page, “An incubator kitchen for downtown Sudbury.” On this page you can find much more information about The Motley Kitchen, where the $22,000 will go, and more about me and my fellow talented partners.

Natalie and I with the freshly-printed posters advertising our crowd-funding campaign
Natalie and I with the freshly-printed posters advertising our crowd-funding campaign

This blog has seen me through a lot – university cooking adventures, travel journeys, DIY projects, and personal challenges. And now it has brought me here – to the doorstep of small business ownership, to the chance to make a real difference to people who are passionate about food. If you’ve been reading for a week or for four years, please consider helping us out. I promise to take you along on the ride through blog posts, but first I need your help to get us started.

One of The Motley Kitchen bistro menu items: fish tacos.
One of The Motley Kitchen bistro menu items: fish tacos.
Curried Joe sandwich
Curried Joe sandwich
Sweet PK soup
Sweet PK soup

 

Finding Sudbury’s past in Ottawa’s present

A pleasant surprise awaited me at the Ottawa Antique Show last weekend. I was back in town for a long-overdue visit with some good friends, one of whom (Christine) accompanied me to the antique show that was being held in the Fieldhouse at my beloved, former university, Carleton.

Entering the show, there were tonnes of great, one-of-a-kind (at least in 2013) finds, including ceramic busts of Mounties and daschunds, beautifully-beaded cardigans and blazers, and depression glass in a multitude of jelly bean colours.

Just one of my purchases from the day. You know I'm a sucker for all things paper craft-related
Just one of my purchases from the day. You know I’m a sucker for all things paper craft-related

Christine, always an expert on all things fashionable, vintage, and cool, strolled alongside, giving a fascinating history lesson at each table. I learned about how Vera Neumann, finding herself short of linen during World War Two, re-fashioned surplus parachute silk into her renowned, boldly-printed scarves. Christine also told me about her other favourite scarf brand: Echo, which was founded by Theresa and Edgar C. Hyman on their pre-depression era wedding day. Their site actually has a pretty cool historical walk-through, if you’re interested. I ended up buying an oblong Vera scarf, with a brightly coloured blue and grey pattern criss-crossing the silk. It reminded me of another scarf I already owned. Despite my new breadth of scarf knowledge, however, I still plan on wilfully committing the ultimate sacrilegious act. I wear not the scarves on my neck, but rather tie them around my waist, wrist and luggage in order to serve as belts, bracelets or identifiers in this otherwise far too monochromatic world. What kind of lady am I?

April 13, 2013-14

BUT right, I was supposed to be discussing how I got a little glimpse into Sudbury’s past while visiting an indoor recreation facility in Canada’s Capital. I do get sidetracked sometimes. When browsing the booths at the antique sale, I came across two whole tables of the most meticulously organized postcards. By meticulously organized, I mean they were sorted by each county in Ontario, by each province in the country, and by each country of the world (not to mention further categories classifying boy scout images, girl scout images, transportation (public), transportation (private), ETC). The images on each spanned decades, and every card was carefully contained in a thin plastic casing, as to not be destroyed by our modern, greasy little fingers. I awaited a spot at the  postcard drawers and, when it was my turn, darted towards the Sudbury section. Oh vey! Discovery abounds. Since moving back to town nearly a year ago, I’ve become fascinated with the history of this fine northern community, particularly its downtown core, which, in the most bleak of historical moves, has been reduced to a shade of its former glory. We were a mining boom town. The main stretch used to be alit with neon lights, people could stroll from department store to department store, perhaps stopping at one of the fabulous-looking hotels that are now a dental office and Shopper’s Drug Mart (the Balmoral Hotel which then became a Zellers, and the Nickel Range Hotel where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed, respectively).

Durham Street at Christmas, courtesy of a posting on the Sudbury's Fine 'Past & Future' Let's Reminisce Facebook page
Durham Street at Christmas, courtesy of a posting on the Sudbury’s Fine ‘Past & Future’ Let’s Reminisce Facebook page

Threads of inspiration and historical yearning were again tugged upon when I discovered the Facebook page, “Sudbury’s Fine ‘Past & Future’ Let’s Reminisce.” So great were the photos on that page that I tracked down the founder, Noella Church-Beaudoin, to interview for our morning show. Yes, I fully appreciate the irony of taking stock of a city’s past from the perch of one’s computer chair. (Coming back to this blog post now after spending an hour browsing the Sudbury library’s archives. Check it out! I particularly like the corner of Durham and Larch streets where I had never before appreciated that the SRO/Old Rock has maintained the magic of the former Eaton’s Department Store).

The Eaton's Building, circa 1930's. Courtesy of the City of Greater Sudbury Heritage Museums Collection
The Eaton building, circa 1930’s. Courtesy of the City of Greater Sudbury Heritage Museums Collection
CBC!!!!! The building still looks identical. Courtesy of the Main Branch of the Sudbury Library
CBC!!!!! Taken over a decade ago (1999), but the building still looks identical. Courtesy of the Main Branch of the Sudbury Library

SO, as I flipped through the yellowed images that sat in this antique show drawer in Ottawa (yes, we’re back to 2013 again), I was excited to find a few shots of downtown Sudbury, as well as of Bell Park (a central green spot near Ramsey Lake by my parent’s house). I even picked up a few shots of Creighton Mine and the Copper Cliff smelters because, what would a Sudbury postcard collection be without a few shots of smoke billowing out of concrete cigars?

My postcards (featuring a date stamp from 1936!). Click to see a bigger version.
My postcards (featuring a date stamp from 1936!). Click to see a bigger version.

I ended up buying seven of the cards, and would have bought them all, should they have not cost about $5 a piece. I am currently in the midst of framing them so that I can carry a portion of one of my hometowns around wherever I should go.

PS: I know this blog post will have only minimal significance to a select number of people. But come on, I can’t be the only one that has been fascinated by how development has eaten away at the history of a place. Right?

By the way, the rest of my weekend in Ottawa was just the absolute best.

A new (to me) Russian nesting dolls mural in the Glebe
A new (to me) Russian nesting dolls mural in the Glebe
Finally got to restock my coloured paper supply at the irreplaceable store, The Papery (this is now the background on my iPhone)
Finally got to restock my coloured paper supply at the irreplaceable store, The Papery (this is now the background on my iPhone)

As well as antique-ing and afternoon beer-ing with Christine, the two days brought about a fancy dinner with Ella at Play Food and Wine in the Market (beef tartar, tuna tataki, spicy lentil fritters, tender pork belly, WINE), brunch, gelato, canal walks and elbow balloon-popping (don’t ask) with my old roommate Freya, and a surprise, last-minute pho dinner and bunny play date with Iman. So much fun.

Freya and I in the Byward Market, halfway through beautiful spring walk
Freya and I in the Byward Market, halfway through a beautiful spring walk
Fred! One of Iman's darling bunnies, who doesn't love me half as much as he loves the yogurt drops I'm about to give him
Fred! One of Iman’s darling bunnies, who doesn’t love me half as much as he loves the yogurt drops I’m about to give him

Sudbury’s newest culinary creation: Rose Apple Asian Fusion & Bakery

Here I am, back with my first blog post in nearly two months. I’ll be perfectly frank with you – for the first time in almost three years, I didn’t miss blogging. As the initial days and weeks trickled by without an update, I did feel like a neglectful parent. But soon I was so absorbed by work and life around me that I didn’t think twice of Hilary Makes or blogging. Throughout university, blogging was an escape, an excuse to stay up late and bake a ridiculous amount of cupcakes to bring to class. It was a way for me to express creativity when frustrated with assignments (not to mention procrastinate) and feel like I was carving a niche for myself. “Oh yeah, you know Hilary – she’s the one with the  food blog!” was the general introduction at group gatherings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not sure where the blog fits into my life anymore. I don’t have a lot of dispensable time, and so it has sometimes become more of a burden than a blessing to have around. I’m going to keep posting here, just with less frequency (and likely less words) than before. I’m not ready to give up on this little home just yet. 

Anyways, here’s the actual post:

Today I discovered a new place. And by discovered, I mean I had been driving by the location approximately twice a month or whenever I was borrowing my parents’ minivan. I would cruise by and crane my neck over the passenger seat, focussing my attention for those two seconds on trying to peer through the glassy window to get a sneak peek of what upcoming treasures the place may hold.

Rose Apple.

The restaurant’s exterior sign (actually, I thought it was solely a bakery at first) has intrigued for months.

Rose Apple4

This weekend it finally opened. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to visit, and invited my mom along for what was planned as our cute mother-daughter date.

Mom!
My pretty mom!

Walking into Rose Apple, you could tell the owners had been assembly the place since September. The details were all there, something that can sometimes be lacking with newly-opened restaurants. Chalked full of interesting wall art (a giant whisk! bird decals!), it was charm at first sight.

Rose Apple literal
Some literal decorations, too

Transformed from the Indian restaurant and fish market of 1543 Paris St. past, Rose Apple’s decor is bright, peppy, and fun. Each of the walls are slightly contrasting in nature, but I suppose that goes along well with the fusion theme. The tables are a clean, cafeteria white, with most chairs cushioned in gumdrop colours.

Oh yes, and cupcake-shaped salt and pepper shakers. As you can imagine, these won me over.

Rose Apple1

My mom and I estimated Rose Apple has seating for about 50-60 people. We took turns counting the tables and seats under our breath, looking as though we were Professor Quirrell murmuring an incantation at a Quidditch match. There’s a diversity of seating options, too. My mom and I were at a two person table, but another larger party was seated comfortably in the opposite corner in a trendy-looking zebra booth that bore just the right amount of animal motif.

Rose Apple17

White walls section off the restaurant, and are thoughtfully placed to create an air of privacy while not interfering with the open flow of the space. The best part about those dividers is that they’re moveable, meaning I’m already fantasizing some intimate party being held here…buffet in the front, DJ in the back. While the seating primarily caters to the lunch and dinner crowd, there’s also a counter along the front window with bar seats – a sunny invitation to come back, drink tea, and write. Plus, iPhone told me there was a guest wifi account. If tea isn’t your thing, Rose Apple is also licensed, which means a solo afternoon date and an evening return to spend time with friends.

The restaurant is also a family affair.

Sumitta, Minil (19-months-old) and Mookie
Sumitta, Milin (19-months-old) and Mookie

It’s co-owned by two – Sumitta and her cousin Pipat (Mookie, pictured above, is Pipat’s wife). Mookie’s two daughters were also occasionally spotted behind the cash, 19-month-old Milin, and her other little girl. Both were wearing lots of Hello Kitty garb, which means I loved them even more. Mookie and Pipat are the duo behind My Thai Palace, a successful Sudbury restaurant where I have been going ever since I moved back to the city in order to satisfy my pad thai cravings.

This dessert case is where my mom and I hovered when we first entered Rose Apple. I crouched and took photos as my mom did her part to ask the new staff questions about every last dessert. Flaky green tea cake. A cake with layer upon layer of crepes stacked high with whipping cream as its mortar. Pumpkin and mango puddings. Spoons with a berry crumble lined in front of the cash register. That plate, and several more, were refilled throughout our lunch. We left our seats both before and after, hungry and stuffed, to sample more. My favourite was the crepe cake, delicately dripped with a tangy strawberry coulis. A dessert lasagna.

Dessert Rose Apple

Okay, but let’s talk main courses. Rose Apple markets itself as an “Asian fusion” restaurant, which is sometimes disconcerting since I once read it’s always a tad unpredictable how people decide to interpret the word “fusion.” In the case of Rose Apple, fusion meant Chinese-Thai-Italian. My mom got the crispy wonton pad thai ($14.95) which was a heaping bowl (seriously HUGE) of deep fried wonton papers piled high will pad thai noodles, shrimp, and all the fixings. I think I’ve been converted from a potato chip lover – please, just please, give me a bowl of deep fried wontons with a sweet chili sauce. Since some of the wontons were buried beneath the “all the fixings” part of the dish, some of them went from crispy to soggy. Still, I found myself frequently reaching across the table to clumsily take some of my mom’s dish.

Mom's dish
Mom’s dish

I got the massaman chicken ($15.95) – stewed chicken drumstick with a sauce of coconut milk, massaman curry paste and peanuts, served with a steaming bowl of jasmine rice. It was spicy. The dish had a single “chili pepper” rating on the menu, but I foolishly brushed it off. I can do hot, I thought. Oh dear. It was a building heat, one that made my forehead sweat, nose drip, and tongue burn.

Prices were a little high for lunch, but right on the mark for dinner. Plus the portions were huge, so you don’t have to worry about being skimped in value.

My dish
My dish

After dinner we basked in the contentment of our full stomachs. I drank a quick cup of coffee (I didn’t want to fall asleep in the movie my mom and I were going to see) in a mug that looked as though it were stolen straight from an industrial design student’s workshop.

Good design, good function
Good design, good function

I’m looking forward to my next visit to Rose Apple, and will probably pop by one day next weekend for coffee and cake. New openings like Rose Apple show progress in Sudbury – and not just any progress, but a move towards bringing something innovative and different to the city. Opening Rose Apple is surely a risk (as is opening any small business, I suppose), and I hope Sudburnians will learn to adapt, try new things, and swing by for a visit.

Hours: 
Monday: closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.