Over Easy helps break the fast
By John Gilchrist, Calgary Herald
For those of us who watch food television and collect glossy cookbooks, the life of the chef can seem rather exotic and exciting. But the reality is much different. How many of us really want to work every Friday and Saturday night and spend our weekends preparing for other people's enjoyment? (And how often do chefs get invited over to someone's home for dinner?) It's a part of the business that chefs accept, but it can wear thin after a while.
Many chefs look for alternatives to allow more time with friends and family. They move into catering or teaching or corporate daytime jobs. Or, as in the case of Mauro Martina, they open breakfast restaurants.
Martina, a native of Lecce, deep in the heel of Italy's boot-shaped peninsula, has toiled in the kitchens of Redwater Rustic Grille for the past three years. Before that, he'd trained in Italy and Germany, worked around Europe and in Toronto and caught the Calgary bug on a ski trip to Alberta. But eventually, he tired of days that stretched from 9 a.m. 'til midnight and decided to open his own breakfast joint-- Over Easy at 824 Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-278-3447.
This location has a long history as a breakfast cafe; it was Country Kitchen for years. And considering the lineups that clog the sidewalk in front of Diner Deluxe just a few doors south most weekends, it seems like a good choice to attract a breakfast crowd. Martina says that his first few days have been encouraging. On the initial weekend for Over Easy recently, almost 200 customers came each day.
After taking over Country Kitchen in August, Martina gave the place a thorough renovation. The kitchen was totally redone and the dining area now sports a cheerful, nouveau-retro diner look. Fresh wallpaper and glass tile carry a light, multi-coloured, geometric design that would be as at home in the 1960s as the 2000s. White Italian stools line a tall, central, communal table, while the Country Kitchen's old metal-backed chairs have been repainted and repadded and set around tables seating about 40.
Martina's menu features tried-and-true breakfasts of bacon, sausages, pancakes and eggs whipped into omelettes, Benedicts (four varieties) or any other way you'd like them. Martina adds the flavour of his homeland with Cappuccino King espresso and custom-made meats such as smoked prosciutto from Paolini's. For his drip coffee, he uses Frog Friendly from Mexico.
With Over Easy open Wednesday through Monday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Martina says that most days he's home by 5 p.m. Long days, but with some evenings to enjoy. At least for now. Martina plans to open two more Over Easys in the near future. That's bound to cut into his free time once again.
A reader alerted me that a new Vietnamese restaurant had opened in Shaganappi Plaza at 3224 17th Ave. S.W. So we took a drive to the Killarney area and spotted the bright turquoise sign for La Cochinchine (403-452-9696) from a couple of blocks away.
Owner Don Nguy dipped into Vietnamese colonial history to name his new restaurant. Cochinchine (Cochin-China in English) was the name given by the French to the southern third of the Vietnamese peninsula when they controlled the area from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.
Nguy took over a moribund sports bar and brightened the place from floor to ceiling with new tile, tables, wall decorations and a full kitchen. His menu encompasses the popular bun and pho dishes of Vietnamese cuisine, but also broadens into other dishes such as lemon grass chicken, battered shrimp and squid, and Vietnamese crepes. Like Over Easy, La Cochinchine has also been busy since it opened in early October.
Big congratulations go out to owner Lance Hurtubise, chef Justin Leboe, manager Anthony Chalmers, and all the staff of Rush for landing the No. 3 spot on enRoute magazine's top new restaurants of 2009 list. The grand 9th Avenue restaurant is perhaps the most ambitious restaurant to open in Calgary, with its opulent setting and local and global inspired cuisine--it well deserves the accolade. Finishing in the one-two spots this year were Vancouver's Cibo and
Toronto's Black Hoof.
John Gilchrist's latest restaurant Guide, My Favourite restaurants in calGary, BanFF, and Beyond-- 7th edition, is now availaBle. he can Be reached at email@example.com 403-235-7532