Chef Bruce here-- I will hand the newsletter back to Carey in a second, but first I'd like to direct your attention to the end of this week's newsletter-- For those who have been on board forever you will recognize an old heading 'Story Time' is back from retirement for this week... It is a story of sorts as well as a letter from Nicole and me-- and even though it's title is 'The End', we would encourage all of you, our friends and fans to read it all the way through before you get too freaked out... Anyway, I did enough talking in the story, and... now it's out there. We love you all.
Now back to the regular BBQ + Music News... Carey, take it away!
Bruce (and Nicole)
It's almost patio season, despite what the falling snow might be trying to tell us. (April is the cruelest month, after all...) That means enjoying craft beers in the sun, right next to the intoxicating aromas of the big black smoker! It also means the Branch is hiring front-of-house staff - we need some help, especially on Sundays. Now that we offer a fuller menu (including our famous burgers and our $15.99 bbq plates), it seems an extra pair of hands are necessary. Come by 15 Clothier East and drop off your resume today! Availability to work Sunday is a must, but other shifts will be available as well. If you're interested, we can't wait to meet you!
Lots of happenings this spring and summer for local music and bbq (including the return of VegStock), and the Branch has a full slate of artists booked on its stage for May. But let's talk about the last week of April first! On Thursday night, we present the long-awaited rescheduled performance of Diane Ross + Jim Mattson (April 28th, 6pm, pay-what-you-can).
Then, on Friday, it's Kemptville music veterans the Al Wood Trio (April 29th, 9pm, $10) performing original blues tunes.
Saturday night, Doug Wallace joins Carey Graham for an eclectic mix of original and tribute songs on acoustic and electric guitars (April 30th, 8pm, pay-what-you-can).
For Sunday, Greg Kelly returns to host the Open Stage from 3pm until 6pm. Bring your instruments, your singing voice, or just your listening ears!!
Come on out any of these nights (or all of them) and show your support for local music, local food, and local beer!
Also: don't forget that Sunday May 8th is Mother's Day! The Branch will be putting on its annual Mother's Day Brunch fundraiser, from 9am-1pm. (No Open Stage that day.) Call ahead to reserve your table for your mother and grandmother, and if you feel inclined, all are welcome to volunteer their help to contribute to this great charity event! Call us at 613.258.3737 to reserve your table.
BRANCH SPRING HOURS:
Grill open 5:00pm - 8:00pm (bar service until 9pm)
Grill open 5:00pm - 9:00pm (bar service until 11pm)
Grill open 2:00pm - 8:00pm
(CLOSED MONDAYS AND TUESDAYS)
Thanks for eating, drinking, and being local.
Hey--do you need even easier access to your favourite brisket and craft beers? Move in upstairs!
~ the folks at the Branch
MUSIC THIS WEEK:
~ Thursday April 28th ~ Diane Ross + Jim Mattson, 6pm
ABOUT DIANE ROSS + JIM MATTSON:
Playing as a duo, their specialty is blues, jazz and pop ballads with a bit of country too. These musical collaborators met in 2014 while playing in an ad hoc jazz band during jazz Masterclasses. Diane is a classically trained vocalist who's unique style enhances the beautiful melodies and tempos of jazz, blues and Popular music. Jim started playing guitar as a twelve year old, and has performed in a number of bands over the years. His talent for jazz was developed and enhanced while studying with a prominent local Ottawa jazz guitarist.
~ Friday April 29th ~ Al Wood Trio, 9pm, $10
ABOUT AL WOOD:
Al Wood is a multi-talented performer and songwriter with a deep reverence for the blues and traditionally-based roots music. Born in Sault Ste. Marie (the Soo), Ontario, Al’s father first taught him how to pick out old country tunes on the harmonica. Now a virtuoso harmonica player, talented guitar stylist, and golden-throated singer, Al lives in Ottawa and Highway 17 is more than a song; it’s a road well-traveled.
Al has been playing and performing for over twenty years in countless contexts. As a teenager in the Soo he cut his teeth playing in blues bands to a crowd plugged into punk and “alternative” music at the time. This might explain how and why Al throws his whole heart and soul into every performance with the same exuberance and showmanship whether for a crowd of two or two hundred.
Out of this scene was born the Rhythm Rats, boys from the Soo with a passion for the blues, who took their energetic spin on the genre to the big city, Montreal, in 1992. The band played tirelessly in every venue imaginable to everyone imaginable. Al and Lindsay Pugh remain musical collaborators to this day (Lindsay is a key cog in the Mood Swingin’ Blues wheel) and the others remain among Al’s great friends. The five years in Montreal were something else. Hellish at times with unthinkable variables constantly surfacing and life lessons learned that later spilled onto blank sheets as songs. Over the five years, life happened to the young rats in different ways and it eventually became clear that it was time to move on. It was a good run and the band grew up quickly. When performing together today, Al and Lindsay continue to dip into the old Rhythm Rats repertoire - not just for old times’ sake but because they still love playing the stuff.
After the Rhythm Rats, Red Wood Central (RWC) formed when Al met Michelle “Red” April in the mid-90’s. Michelle’s clear and often haunting voice and unfailing rhythm on guitar blended naturally with Al’s deep, rich voice and melodic harmonica and guitar to create a unique acoustic sound supported by strong collaborative song-writing. The sound is roots and blues oriented with a country influence and a flare of Django-inspired zeal or darker Spanish elements. There are two CD’s out there: Red Wood Central (self-titled 1999) and Red Wood Central “Behind the Times” 2002. RWC has relaxed the extent of live performance but they still hit stage from time to time and may one day, re-emerge with a new arsenal of tunes.
~ Saturday April 30th ~ Carey Graham + Doug Wallace, 8pm, pay-what-you-can
ABOUT DOUG WALLACE:
From the small, but quaint village of Merrickville, Ontario, emerges a soulful story-teller named Doug Wallace. Delivering soft-spoken lyrics with the complement of a skilled acoustic hand, Doug reflects in his music the simple pleasures of rural life and family, drawing influence from the serene beauty of the Ottawa Valley. Beginning his musical career at the age of 13, Doug initially built his experience in lending his guitar and bass playing talents to several rock and metal bands growing up. He continued this throughout his twenties and now performs as a solo act under the name Ol’ Fog Eye. Doug’s song, “You and I,” carries the audience through nostalgic melodies, revealing relatable and carefully crafted lyrics to a new, traditional love song. Within the past two years, Doug has become a local favorite and frequent act at the Branch.
ABOUT CAREY GRAHAM:
Plays guitar. Sings. Sometimes makes jokes. Occasionally gets a haircut.
~ Sunday May 1st ~ Open Stage with Greg Kelly, 3pm-6pm
ABOUT GREG KELLY:
After years of writing songs in the Folk, Folk-Country vein, Greg finally decided to do something with them, and the result was the release in 2008 of “Broken Windows”, a collection of songs garnered over a period of over 35 years. This was followed by the 2012 release of “Slow Horses”, which contains songs written during the period between albums as well as some songs from way back.
Greg writes about life situations: Heartbreak, triumph, small town scenarios, and the odd love song thrown in for good measure.
Greg runs a weekly open mic on Tuesday evenings so that aspiring songwriters can get a feel for the stage and for veteran songwriters to workshop new material as well as for any person who just wants to get up and perform.
He also co-ordinates a monthly songwriters forum in Ottawa called “Writers Bloc”, in which a group of songwriters challenge each other to write songs and then play them in front of their peers for critiquing. Sometimes gentle….
~ Friday May 6th ~ Pat Moore + Nic Gauthier, 9pm, $10
~ Saturday May 7th ~ Lost For Words, 9pm, $8
~ Sunday May 8th ~ MOTHER'S DAY BRUNCH, 9am-1pm
~ Friday May 13th ~ Dan "Bentbeard" Walsh, 9pm, $10
~ Saturday May 14th ~ Allison Brown and "Uncle" Dan Henshall, 8pm, pay-what-you-can
~ Sunday May 15th ~ Open Stage, 3pm-6pm
~ Thursday May 19th ~ Jesse Parent, 7pm, pay-what-you-can
~ Friday May 20th ~ Riq Turner, 9pm, pay-what-you-can
~ Saturday May 21st ~ Kacy + Clayton ft. Ryan Boldt, 7pm, pay-what-you-can
~ Sunday May 22nd ~ Open Stage, 3pm-6pm
~ Thursday May 26th ~ Annie Sumi + Erin Rose-Stokes, 8pm, pay-what-you-can
~ Saturday May 28th ~ Carey Graham + Paulina Hrebacka, 8pm, pay-what-you-can
~ Sunday May 29th ~ Open Stage, 3pm-6pm
Please note, our in-house menu may change without notice depending on market pricing and seasonal availability...
Chips & Dips: house tortilla chips, fresh guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. Perfect for sharing! 8.99
Branch Caesar: bacon, parmesan, house garlic–tomato dressing, crisp romaine, croutons
small 3.99; regular 7.99
Soups of the Day: made from scratch using fresh ingredients; cup, 3.99; bowl, 6.99
Green Salad: greens, shredded carrots, tomato, onion, seeds
choice of house dressings: creamy yoghurt-dill ‘Branch’ or Apple Cider Vinaigrette
small 3.99; regular 6.99
TACO SALAD: choice of smoked beef brisket, house-roasted chicken, or smoked tempeh, with greens, cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, beans, and corn chips 16.99
GARDEN DINNER SALAD: greens, shredded carrots, tomato, onion, seeds
choice of dressings: creamy yoghurt-dill ‘Branch’ or Apple Cider Vinaigrette 13.99
MEAT + POTATOES: ask yer server about today's fresh cut steak selection...
TEXAS BBQ PLATE: our signature house-smoked beef brisket and slices of grilled local sausage, served with Branch bbq sauce, roasted potatoes, slaw, beans, onions, & pickles 23.99
CHICKEN BBQ PLATE: bone-in grilled chicken thighs, served with Branch bbq sauce, roasted potatoes, slaw, beans, onions, & pickles 20.99
THE WHOLE ENCHILADA: corn tortillas filled with your choice of house-smoked beef brisket, chicken, or tempeh, with onions, Portobello mushrooms, and peppers, baked with cheese and ranchero sauce; with beans, rice, sour cream, salsa and guacamole
tempeh 18.99 (vegan on request)
beef brisket 19.99
'GROWN-UP' MAC AND CHEESE: with mozzarella, Parmesan, and cheddar cheeses, smoked beef brisket, garlic, caramelized onions, cream, and garlic toast (gluten-free available) 19.99
COCONUT-LIME CHICKEN: stir-fry of chicken morsels, fresh vegetables, garlic, & ginger, served over rice with creamy coconut-lime sauce, scallions and cilantro (spice it up as you like) 19.99
BRANCH POUTINE: with St Albert’s cheese curds, house-smoked beef brisket, herb-roasted potatoes, and red wine gravy 19.99
ALL ABOVE ENTREES include house cornbread as well as a small soup or small salad to start
OR substitute a small Caesar salad to start 99¢
BRANCHBURGERS AND BBQ SANDWICHES:
Branchburger: 100% local, grass-fed beef, thick & juicy, on a toasted Kaiser with rémoulade, grainy mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato; with roasted potato wedges, rémoulade for dipping, and a pickle 14.99
how about some:
sautéed onions: .99
sautéed Portobello mushrooms: .99
blue cheese: 2.99
fried egg: 1.99
please note: our famous burgers are fresh ground locally, in a small facility; as such, we are comfortable serving them medium, a.k.a. ‘a little pink’. If you have another preference, please let us know and we will prepare it to your liking.
Paleobranchburger: as above, but served on a housemade paleo Kaiser with Caesar salad (with no croutons) 14.99
Veggie Burger: marinated and smoked tempeh patty, served as above, but with bbq sauce (vegan) 13.99
substitute housemade gluten-free Kaiser 1.
The Brisket Sandwich: 4 oz house-smoked beef brisket, sliced & served on a toasted kaiser with bbq sauce & slaw 12.99 (add roasted potato wedges 2.99)
Gluten-Free or Vegan? Treat yourself! Ask your server…
Nicole’s Magic Mousse (GF, V): rich chocolate mousse, orange-cherry compote 4.99
Warm Apple Strawberry Crisp (GF): served with caramel sauce & whipped cream 4.99
Sticky Toffee Cake (GF): served warm with caramel sauce & whipped cream 4.99
What’s The Scoop? house-made vanilla bean ice cream a la mode add 1.50
KIDS: (includes a small drink and ice cream)
5.99 (choice of)
Pasta and Cheese with a toasted kaiser bun
Open Faced Grilled Cheese with ketchup, carrots & a pickle
7.99 (choice of)
Chicken Melt: toasted bun, roasted chicken, mayo, melted cheese, & carrot sticks
KidBurger: toasted bun, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, carrot sticks & a pickle
Wednesday & Thursday:
Burger Bonanza!! Join us this and every Wednesday and Thursday between 5pm and 8pm for a Burg-o-rama! We chargrill a big pile of burgers over real hardwood on the Big Black Smoker, serve them (with all the usual fixings, including lettuce, tomatoes, onions, roasted potato wedges and housemade pickles, mustard and tomato-garlic aioli...) It's all for just $11.99, with any of our add-ons (cheese, bacon, blue cheese, onions, mushrooms, even a fried egg!) for just 99 cents each! Dine in or take it home, but remember, the special price is only on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 5 and 8pm… (as always, gluten free, paleo and vegetarian versions are also available…).
Wednesday through Saturday:
Family Takeout Dinner, $49.99: Designed to feed a family of four, our takeout dinner comes with an herb-roasted half chicken, 3/4 pound of our famous 100% hardwood smoked beef brisket, a side of seasonal veggies, a tub each of black beans, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, our own zippy BBQ sauce and cornbread… The full dinner is hot and ready for pickup between 4 and 6pm, Wednesday through Saturday, if you call before 3pm. Add some Pasta n’ Cheese for the kiddos for just $4.99.
Nine years last November… Our dream was to open a little organic and local foods restaurant in a small town—my favourite part of my life in food has always been supporting small farmers, so, well… we did. And now it’s been nine years of building and working; nine years that we’ve loved this little restaurant that could: we’ve nurtured it, learned from it and grown with it and with all of you. We’ve watched your teenagers come through our dish pit and graduate college, we’ve watched couples turn into families, babies turn into kids, we’ve cheered from the bleachers and we’ve been there to cook for your weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, your family reunions and Christmas parties. We’ve opened the doors to be a place for everyone to gather after the wake… We’ve raised money for every charity we could think of whenever we could, even when we’ve needed charity ourselves, maybe even because we’ve needed it ourselves.
We often say that we knew a lot more about running a restaurant nine years ago than we do now. We were so sure of ourselves back then, positive that we could break every rule and still succeed; now that we know how hard it really is, we often question how anyone succeeds at all. We are lucky, we’ve worked hard and we have been successful; we’ve succeeded in opening an organic and local foods restaurant in a small rural town, we’ve succeeded in keeping it open for nine years, we’ve succeeded in keeping our marriage together, in raising a kid, in making friends and family out of strangers, in being a part of building a community, in finding love and lifelong friendships…
In 2006, we opened the doors—2 weeks after we got the keys… one coat of paint, a sign out front and bam! Manic raging energy alone kept us alive; lunch and dinner every day back then, three full time owners and a new challenge every five minutes. It was a good thing we had catering experience, those early years sometimes felt like an extended on site catering. Brent served tables, booked the art and music and ran the floor; I cooked and ran the kitchen and Nicole did it all; cooked and served, she was and is the brains of the operation, she kept the books and the budget.
In 2007 we got a great review in the Citizen, and full page write up for Thanksgiving… we were working! It was working! And oh yeah, just for fun we started a Farmers’ Market. You know, like ya do.
In 2008, we even traveled… like three or 4 days off in a row, holy smokes! We also started VegStock in 2008… You know that music festival idea that joined up with the Dandelion Festival idea that became a downtown thing for a few years? That was cool, I’m glad that happened. There was also a pretty big financial crash that year, if you’ll recall… I can show you the month it happened on a chart… I bet most restaurant owners that survived that year could as well—kind looks like an upside down ‘V’. But we’re still here so…
In 2009, Abigail was born. Nicole and I found out that we could fall in love all over again… we also bought a condo and quit living ‘at work’. I drove to Ottawa once a month to be a part of ‘Savour Ottawa’, a local foods initiative… (That came in handy later…)
In 2010, we built the patio at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. and hosted ‘Beau’s & The Branch’ events with BBQ, live music and beer, lots and lots of beer. Yummy…
In 2011, Brent and Jenn (our partners) left the business—We made some changes… I took over booking the music, we changed the name and added ‘Texas Grill’ because people kept thinking organic meant vegetarian. Which we weren’t. Now we cook BBQ, lots and lots of BBQ. We always did, but now more people know it… The community responded to the new changes and things got better.
In 2012, we sold the building; mainly to get out of the partnership. And Danny Michel played here. Lynn Miles too, and Rose Cousins… But did I mention Danny Michel? We also found out Abigail was autistic. I’d be lying if I said that was no big deal; I mean, it didn’t change anything… the love is the same, the girl is the same, and every parent, heck, every person has challenges and, without question, we both signed up for the full ride, no matter what. But it still changes things. I mean, I know that she will be happy, that’s her personality—but it’s almost impossible to know if she will ever experience an independent life... And that is a big deal, whether we want to think about it or not… Oh yeah, and there was definitely some serious construction in downtown Kemptville that year; I don’t think anyone parked closer than a block away for most of the summer… There’s another one of those upside ‘V’s’.
I quit drinking in 2013. It was time. I like to say that I didn’t quit, I just started early, worked hard at it and got finished before everyone else… Honestly? It just wasn’t as much fun anymore, it felt like an obligation. If I could stop at one, or just drink on the weekends, I’d still be drinking. It just turns out that I’m not that guy. I have to admit that things improved… my health; our relationship… my comfort with management and responsibility… And gosh! We were on national TV! You Gotta Eat Here! We still get a bump in business every time our episode airs.
In 2014, Nicole lost her dad. It feels like 5 minutes ago. We had a lot of long drives back and forth to Moncton that year, and a lot of long conversations about life and time and how to spend them both. My knees started giving me grief, my legs, my feet… 25 years on the line is a long time. Cooking is a physically demanding job—it requires a strength and stamina that favours youth and energy. I held out longer than most, but the knees were the last straw—I sought medical advice but the x-rays came back ‘not quite bad enough’ to merit a replacement. “Don’t use them as much” “Try to avoid strenuous activities” “Have you considered over the counter pain medication?” This is all well and good if your job doesn’t require you to squat down 20-30 times a shift.
In 2015, I got offered a job at the Two Rivers Food Hub… I thought I was going to sit on the board, but… Did I mention my knees? They thank me every day for saying yes. And I still get to do most of my favourite things… play music at the Branch, hang out with my daughter and support small local farmers—that last one more now than ever… Nicole took over as head chef.
In 2016… I realized that what I really want is go to the Branch with Nicole and Abigail. As a guest. That what I really want is for someone else to do it so that Nicole and I can hang out with our girl now while she is at this critical moment in her development… That what we really want is to pass along all this good will and effort to someone who has the youth and energy or at least the fresh set of eyes to take over and run it for the next nine or nineteen.
We’ve loved it and learned from it, we’ve built it, but it’s time for us move on. Blame my knees if you like, blame me quitting drinking… blame the weird winter, blame Abigail, she can take it, blame whatever. The fact is, it is time. This may be a shock to some of you, and I’m sorry about that, but we’ve seen it coming for a while.
We are not closing the doors this week, we are not firing the staff or cancelling any shows. We are definitely not cancelling any caterings—Nicole plans to keep catering no matter what, it has always been her passion and she will continue with that work indefinitely—I think she’s got weddings scheduled into next year. Let’s call it winding down, for now. Our lease expires in a year, and that is the longest we will be here. The shortest? Well, after much discussion and soul searching we’ve decided to leave that up to you. Our deepest hope is that The Branch continues. Our deepest hope is that one of you, one of our fans reads this and says, “Hey, that’s me!” “Hey, I’m the one who is going to step up and take this wonderful thing over, I’m the one who is going to keep supporting local farms and live music!” Maybe it’s more than one of you, maybe it’s a dozen or 100 or something.
Nicole and I don’t want much—we’re not asking for a million bucks or anything, but we are open to all of your ideas. Crowdfunding, vendor take-back, co-op, if you want this and think you can do it, we’d love to meet and talk about how it could happen.
And if you want it but don’t necessarily want ‘this’, we can talk about that too. What we don’t want and won’t do is to start winding down without consulting with any of you first. So this is it. Think long and hard. Is this The End… or The Beginning?
We had and still have a mission: create great food and be a force for positive change in the world. What we didn’t expect, and what is glaringly obvious as we look back over the years, is just how much WE have been touched by our local community. You, our customer, our guest, our friend, have had a profound and positive impact on us, simply by choosing to come eat with us. For this, we are honored and tremendously grateful. We have been lucky to have met you. Thank you.
Bruce, Nicole and Abigail
ADDITIONAL NOTES: like great food and music? The Branch is always looking for the best of the best folks to come and join our team... consider dropping off your resume today!