Coffee and Food

Espresso Machine

For our espresso and cappuccinos, we still had the little cone-shaped aluminium espresso coffee makers (from Preston Street), and of course I had to buy a few more to keep up with the demand. Later, with the help of Pietro Pace of Caffe Italia on Preston Street, I was able to purchase a real, second-hand Italian espresso coffee maker from Montreal for about $700. Le Hibou became the proud owner of the second espresso coffee machine of all Ottawa. We offered espresso, café au lait (now called "latte") and the very popular cappuccino, a café au lait, with whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon.

The coffee machine became a source of constant worry as kitchen staff, despite being warned not to make cappuccinos during a performance, seemed without exception to wait until the performer was in a ballad and, perhaps tempted by the gods, then fire up the espresso machine to froth the milk, hoping in vain to beat the odds. They thought that by just opening up the steam valve a little they could control the noise, but it never worked—the loud gurgling could always be heard, followed by a shocking blast of noise, invariably terminating in an apologetic, loudly whispered "Sorry!" emanating from the kitchen.

Van Houtte CoffeeHouse coffee came from Montreal since at that time I could not find a good source of coffee in Ottawa. I discovered a very good Mocha Java from Gerard Van Houtte in Montreal (later acquired by A L Van Houtte). It became our house coffee for the duration of my eight years at coffee house. They would send it weekly by bus, and I would pick it up at the bus depot. The staff at the depot kept suggesting that I order it more often since they loved the aroma. For the espresso of course I had a good supplier in Ottawa in Little Italy. As for the teas (Earl Grey, Assam, English breakfast tea, Lapsing Souchon, green tea, etc.), they were purchased at Peter Devine’s store on the market.

As to food, we kept to the same menu. Although Paul Mostovac could not provide his delicious cakes anymore, by a stroke of luck the best French pastry establishment in Ottawa at the time, Constantine, happened to be located a few businesses away from Le Hibou, and they quickly became our pastry supplier. The food—sandwiches of smoked meat, or ham and cheese on Rideau Bakery rye bread, or Kaiser rolls from Tatra Bakery in Hull—remained the same, but there were no more candlelit romantic meals since I was now working full-time at CBC TV as a studio director.