Charities operating food service businesses to generate revenue is not new. I remember the days when the CNIB operated cafeterias, canteens or concession stands in government buildings across Canada. Here in St. John’s, for example, the CNIB was responsible for cafeterias in the General Hospital, MUN, Confederation Building and other venues.
Two high-profile and fairly sophisticated examples these days are the Hungry Heart Café, operated by Stella’s Circle, and the Pantry, operated by the Autism Society.
Hungry Heart Café
Revenue earned by the Hungry Heart Café helps support the various social programs that make up what’s known as Stella’s Circle: Emmanuel House, Naomi Centre and New Beginnings to name a few.
Very exciting things are happening at the café these days. Topping the list is news that the Rawlins Cross eatery is open for dinner from 5-9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Lunchtime service continues and appears to be as crowd pleasing as ever.
The other significant piece of news is that the Hungry Heart Café has a new chef. His name is Sebastian Stroia. According to Stella’s Circle director Rob McLennan, Stroia is “dynamic and talented and capable of creating amazing cuisine while instilling new skills and pride in being a chef to Hungry Heart Café students.” (Stella’s Circle clients take part in a café training program.)
I stopped by the buzzing restaurant for lunch recently.
By the time I was sipping an introductory glass of wine, every table was full. The colourful, inviting room was no doubt partially responsible for the general feeling of contentedness I sensed from fellow diners.
Warm tropical colours blend with light stained chairs and hardwood flooring at the Hungry Heart to create an eye pleasing space.
Despite scores of customers, the competent staff managed to keep things moving smoothly. There was no paucity of smiling faces. While a number of specials were mentioned, we chose to stay with regular menu items. I had an outstanding pulled pork sandwich. Each bite of pork had the requisite slow cooked tenderness, as well as that unique deep flavour that comes from low heat cooking.
Another enjoyable dish was the Hungry Heart Café’s grilled salmon with honey, lime and soy glaze. The salmon was presented on a beautifully fresh, cold Asian salad of noodles, sliced zucchini and sweet peppers dressed with mandarin juice and oil. Soy and lime, that salty umami and astringent seasoning, goes particularly well with salmon. The robust flavour of the fish remains but becomes more exciting with the additional flavourings.
Our very fine lunch at the Hungry Heart Café ended with a piece of chocolate ganache cake. The cake was frosted with ganache, topped with chocolate curls and augmented with freshly whipped cream, crème anglaise and chocolate sauce. It was delicious.
We enjoyed our lunch and now look forward to returning to the Hungry Heart Café for dinner.
70 Clinch Crescent
The Pantry is located on Clinch Crescent inside the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism — behind the Health Sciences Centre. (It’s set back off the road so watch for the sign.) Revenue from the Pantry is used to help finance programs offered to the centre’s clients.
There’s news to report about the Pantry, as well. The restaurant is now offering brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday; and, weekday hours of operation have changed to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
While the restaurant will still mainly offer a lunch service, you will be able to drop in earlier in the day for coffee, tea and baked goods.
A change has taken place in the Pantry’s kitchen, too. Chef Sharon Snow is now in charge. Snow has more than 20 years of experience in the food service industry. Most of her career to date was spent on Vancouver Island working at the Cowichan River Lodge.
Chef Snow told me she believes “in the concept of farm to table because quality local ingredients equate to quality on the plate.”
In addition to cups of freshly brewed coffee, I tried one of the Pantry’s brunch items the other day. It was a brunch wrap filled with handmade maple-flavoured sausage and scrambled eggs.
I was amazed by the tenderness of the egg. The entire affair was made a little more sumptuous by an anointing pour of beurre blanc.
My wrap was served with a bowl of fresh berries grown by centre clients in an area near the building called the Edward P. Ronayne Berry Garden.
Plans are in the works to grow as much fresh produce for the restaurant as possible. Raised soil beds are currently under construction. The locally grown ingredients will no doubt make a Pantry dining experience even more enjoyable.
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For regular updates on Rogers TV’s “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene, please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells.
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of
Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute
Magazine. Contact him through his