When members of the public caught wind that the new Thyme & Again Kitchen + Food Shop might be ready for customers, they began lining up outside Friday morning and waiting for the doors to open.
It was a good sign for owner Sheila Whyte but, while on the subject of signs, it also meant she needed to get one hung up in the window right away — clarifying that opening day was right around the corner.
Thyme & Again had been busy that day preparing for its large Kitchen Party to celebrate its new second location, opening Tuesday at 1845 Carling Ave., next to Produce Depot.
What a party it was, with a turnout of some 250 invited guests.
Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Jeff Leiper came by for the official ribbon cutting. There was also the presentation of a framed letter of congratulations by the mayor, who declared Thyme & Again to be "everyone's favourite, and the best caterer in the world". (Oh, Mr. Mayor, I bet you say that to all the caterers).
It was presented to Whyte and new managing partner Michael Moffatt.
Several months ago, Whyte had decided it was time to launch a second location, knowing that Thyme & Again had outgrown its space at 1255 Wellington St. W. The expansion came together nicely after she found a suitable location with ample free parking in the same general vicinity as her other store, and after she was able to recruit Moffatt, who’d just left his long-time position as executive chef for Beckta Dining and Wine Bar, and its sister restaurants.
Building owner David Barstead had been looking for a new tenant that would complement his neighbouring grocery store, Produce Depot. When Thyme & Again came along, he knew it would be a good fit.
“We couldn’t have been any happier,” Barstead told OBJ.social. “They have such a great reputation. When we asked around about them, people couldn’t say enough good things. Everyone just raved about their food and their catering.”
Partygoers were encouraged to tour around the new space and go behind the scenes into the kitchen area.
“Who knew a beer store could look this good?” quipped Hugh Neilson, managing director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company.
The place did, indeed, formerly do business as The Beer Store. To honour its roots, the shop has hung in the back a framed black-and-white photo of an old Brewers Retail Store, with horse-drawn beer wagons in the foreground.
Workers managed to transform the vacant building, in very short order, into a fresh, welcoming and beautiful new space envisioned by interior architect and designer Tania Kratt. She and Whyte work together to help organize the popular Riverkeeper Gala held each spring to raise funds for Ottawa Riverkeeper, a local environmental group.
OBJ.social could detect the slightest whiff of fresh paint upon entering the store, before most of the other guests had arrived. The scent was easily explained by Kratt, who had made a last-minute decision to turn the bathroom’s white walls into a colour known as Iron Mountain (imagine warm grey, with brown undertones).
The new store has a timeless charm and comfortable feel, like a modern version of an old general store.
“We didn’t want it to feel minimal but we also didn’t want it to feel overstuffed,” said Moffatt. “It’s a nice balance.”
The party featured food stations with gourmet sandwiches, oysters, charcuterie and cheeses. Servers passed around such canapés as vegetable pakoras with a tamarind chutney, veal pozole with a caramelized cornbread crumble, smoked salmon pâté and pickled vegetable rice paper rolls. The mac & cheese tater tots (heck, you only live once) also got great reviews. Put to work at the party were Whyte's two teenaged sons, Adam and Teagan.
Attendees included Jeff York, co-CEO of successful Canadian food retailer Farm Boy, and his wife, Joanne. One of their daughters is getting married at the Canadian Museum of Nature this fall and they’ve hired Thyme & Again to cater the wedding.
Other notables included well-known entrepreneur, writer and 1310 News radio host Mark Sutcliffe, who had Thyme & Again on his mind (or, more specifically, its lemon cheesecake) when he ran the Boston Marathon last month, according to his Twitter feed.
The crowd was thick with recognizable faces, from Ottawa restaurateur Stephen Beckta and his new executive chef Katie Brown Ardington, to retired chef Robert Bourassa and Parkdale Food Centre manager Karen Secord, to Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon and cookbook author Margaret Dickenson, who recently lost her well-known and well-liked husband, retired diplomat Larry Dickenson, to cancer.
Also spotted were Carley Schelck, president and CEO of The Urban Element, with Laryssa Korbutiak of Oresta Organic Skin Care Apothecary, Kichesippi Beer Co. owner Paul Meek and former Ottawa mayor Jacquelin Holzman. She lives so close to the new store that she’s planning to make it her go-to destination for meals.
Other guests included representatives from Canadian northern airline company First Air, who hired Thyme & Again to provide meals for its flights between Ottawa and Iqaluit, two days a week, after tasting the caterer's venison stew at a fundraising event.