First morels at Two Six Ate


The last time I went morel hunting I was with Ottawa forager Ivan Roy. It was late May, and we combed the woods for hours, sniffing around decaying apple trees and in disturbed bits of ground, revisiting top-secret spots where Ivan had found morels in the past – he knowing exactly what to look for, and where; I cursing pine cones and their look-a-like edges.

After three hours, nothing. Not one. It had been a fine morning, but still, we were dejected foragers, returning to where we’d left the car, hanging heads and empty-handed. And there, five feet from the front wheel, right where the gravel met a pine needled-rutt… was a mushroom! Three morels. Whoops, four. Then whoopee… eight, no twelve. We laughed at how cunning fungi can be, collected all we found and ate very well that night: a simple sauté of morels in butter with herbs, topped with a poached egg.

I was taken back to that parking lot treasure at a May dinner on Preston Street. I was revisiting Two Six {Ate}, the little three-year-old charmer run by chef Steve Harris and his partner Emily Lenzi.

One of the day’s specials was a sauté of morels paired with pickled ramps and the little curls of pasta called cavatelli, and with dollops of pesto and a sunny fried egg. It was a splendid plate of spring, the pasta hand rolled and perfectly cooked, the ramps lending the plate some acerbic sharpness, and the egg yolk, once pierced, enriching what it touched.


There were other treats: a beet salad layered with fresh cheese, scattered with pickled hazelnuts and the crunch of boondi (those small, crisp balls of chickpea flour); and a board of the house made charcuterie and Quebec cheese, notable for the coppa and pear-studded poultry terrine. A smoked pork chop had admirable juiciness and smack, set in a simple ripe-yellow tomato sauce lightly fired with chilies.

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I hadn’t been back to Two Six {Ate} since it opened in 2013, and was instantly pleased to have returned. Pleased too with my cocktail – another spring charmer. It featured Buchipop, the fizzy fermented tea (kombucha) crafted by Ottawa chef and bee keeper Patricia Larkin, in a cocktail mixed with rum and lime juice, and filled in with chopped apple and cilantro. They call it Dr Greenthumb.

Which might be, come to think of it, mighty helpful in hunting mushrooms. Morels and Buchipop – quite the winning spring supper.






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