Our Donna Hay Cookbook Night

The New Classics - Donna HayJust before Christmas I was given the Donna Hay cookbook titled ‘The New Classics.’

While browsing through the cookbook I was in awe of her food photography. One of my first thoughts was if the recipes were half as good as the pictures then this book would be fantastic!

My second thought was how simple things appeared (ingredient lists and the recipes themselves). It reminded me a bit of Michelle’s food shots and recipes at Bite by Michelle.

Two friends also bought the cookbook after browsing through mine and that is what prompted the birth of our Donna Hay Cookbook Night.

Our recipe for getting there…

  1. You have a wine meeting to go through the cookbook in detail (again) and flag all the recipes that appeal to you – most of them did.
  2. Determine any guests with food allergies or diets. (After Christmas, everyone is on a diet.)
  3. Narrowing down your recipes before your wine is gone is no small task. We would have been there for hours discussing the recipes without the wine time limit.
  4. Challenging the person who loves to bake to stay out of the dessert section and stretch themselves. Trying another chapter is always fun.
  5. Reading your recipe in its entirety is critical. Michelle taught me this. Well, actually I learned the hard way and she let me – I just like to dig in.
  6. Now sticking to a recipe is also very difficult (for me). I always want to tweak things before I’ve even tried the original recipe. (It may be confidence, arrogance or ignorance – or a combination of all three!). I hear my sister Michael-Ann’s voice saying ‘just make the recipe the way it should be and then tweak it’. So I did.
  7. We agreed to prepare our dish(es) at home, to the point of just being able to finish them at the host home.

We, the re-creators of the Donna Hay recipes, made a pact to not deviate from her recipe directions. Other than not being able to find yellow zucchini in the middle of winter, we honoured our pact.

Plus, once I fixed my problem of purchasing the wrong ingredients for the wrong recipe, I was well on my way to my chicken dish. (It’s that reading thing I was telling you about.)

These are the recipes we chose to prepare from the Donna Hay cookbook titled The New Classics and each of them was fantastic! 6 out of 6 wins!

Taking photos of our dishes and comparing them to her cookbook’s pictures was a lot of fun … as you can see (below). The cookbook pics are on the left side of the picture and our dishes are on the right. Just in case you couldn’t tell the difference. 🙂

  • Cauliflower Puree pg. 220 (was served with fish; however, we eliminated the fish)
  • Chinese Spice Pork Loin Rack pg. 156
  • Sticky Lime and Ginger Chicken pg. 127
  • Zucchinni and Mozarella Salad w/ Lemon Vinagrette pg. 268
  • Porcini Gnocchi with Creamy Mushroom Sauce pg. 52
  • Coconut Palm Sugar and Bananna Upside Down Cake pg. 343 (We missed this pic)

Where Did We Get the Book?

We picked up our copies of The New Classics at Costco. It is also available at Chapters/Indigo. (We couldn’t see it on Amazon except as used copies – and they were pricey.)


Smiles, Volunteers and the Saint John SPCA

On Christmas Eve day we had our annual fundraiser for the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue and it was a fabulous day! We had our volunteers in the Deli wearing big smiles and hustling and bustling and helping us to raise $810 through tips and donations! And in just a little over three hours!

We want to send a big thank you to all our volunteers and to our wonderful customers who helped us raise funds for one of our favourite causes. The pictures are below of a truly fun day filled with the spirit of the season. Thank you everyone!


Helping to Help the Saint John SPCA

SJ SPCA logoTomorrow, Christmas Eve day (24th), we’re going to do what we did last year — and the year before and the year before that and … It’s our fourth year of having some friends and regular customers volunteer to be our servers as we try and give our staff some time off. They’ll be on the floor starting at noon until we close at 3:00.

AND as they give serving a try, we’ll also donate all the tips to a charity — The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue. They’re great people doing wonderful work and can use help. So we’re hoping we can send something their way through the tips tomorrow (December 24th), all day, from opening at 11:30am to close (which is 3:00pm — see our holiday hours.)


If you are looking to find the perfect animal for your family the SPCA Animal Rescue can help!

If you’re in the Uptown tomorrow, drop in for a bite.

And keep in mind, any tip you give goes to Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue.

Happy holidays! And for the holidays, here’s a fun video of a dog and its owner performing a faboulous dance routine. 🙂


Meet our server, Lydia Reardon

Urban Deli’s Lydia Reardon.

Urban Deli’s Lydia Reardon.

Young, personable, energetic and a go-getter – that’s Urban Deli’s server Lydia in a nutshell. She remembers when she was vying for a job at the Deli and Liz Rowe, the owner, agreed to give her a test run. Lydia was 19 and needed a summer job, so she went straight home and memorized the entire menu overnight, including which aioli’s and breads the sandwiches came with.

“Obviously I was a bit of a keener. Liz told me a couple of years later that she was shocked and impressed by this since during my interview apparently I gazed out the window and she felt I wasn’t really taking it all in. Little did she know then…”

Lydia had been recommended by a family friend who was also a friend of Liz – it was one of those ‘who you know who knows a friend’ of the owner sort of introductions, more than three years ago now. Of course, memorizing the menu is one thing. Faced with a trio of hungry ladies on her first day was another thing completely.

“My first shift was stressful to say the least. I had the communal table and these three ladies came in (I still know who they are to this day) and ordered three turkey sandwiches. Well, we have a smoked turkey sandwich, plus we also have a club sandwich which has the turkey on it as well. I order the three sandwiches, add the white cheddar cheese and hold the reds (tomato and red peppers). I bring out the smoked turkey sandwiches to the table. WRONG SANDWICH. I was so stressed that I was going to be in trouble but Liz was great about it. Staff had smoked turkey sandwiches for lunch instead, and I brought the ladies the correct sandwiches. Everyone won, and that describes the Deli perfectly.”

Becoming a new server always includes memorable mistakes, like the time Lydia tipped an entire tray of pop bottles and glasses onto a table, which soaked everyone and everything. Part of the fun, yes? And likely just as memorable for the customers, too. Or how about the young guy who ordered six raw eggs in a glass for breakfast and you’re trying to keep the ‘ewww’ off your face?

Working in a deli environment is always hustle bustle hectic, and that’s just the way the servers like it. No one day is like the other. Consistency is in the customer service, and of course, the kitchen love.

“Customer service is Number One. Liz has always said the customer’s experience is everything. For example, although a customer may not enjoy their meal, if you go above and beyond and try to provide them with the best service and an enjoyable outing, then they will probably come back. However, if the customer service isn’t there, you won’t get a second chance to change a customer’s mind.“

Clearly, Urban Deli stands out in its level of customer service. The food is equally consistent and oh so delicious. Did you know that the Urban Deli’s sauerkraut is second to none?

“I could live off the sauerkraut. OH MY GOD. It is delicious! I dislike sauerkraut at any other location and only eat ours. It could be because there is bacon in it and isn’t everything better with bacon in it? Have you tried it?”

Talk to enough staff members and you’ll quickly learn it really is family. The Urban Deli Family. It’s 100% the people who make it what it is. Full of squabbles, loyalty, excitement, and always open to new ideas. For instance, Lydia likes to pride herself on introducing the ‘Red Pant’. Liz had chosen black and red for the deli colours, and one day Lydia breezed on in wearing her Deli shirt with bright red pants on. It was a bit hit with everyone and is now part of the Deli uniform.

And when Lydia suddenly couldn’t work?

“Liz and Gord are amazing. I actually love them so much – they have helped build me up and helped get me through the worst moments of my life to date. I need consistency when I am going through a life changing event or crisis and they provide that for me. A few years ago I had to have emergency surgery to have my gallbladder removed and was out of work for 6 weeks and they looked after me, concerned I would be struggling since I wasn’t able to work. How SWEET is that?”

And when we’re talking about people making it what it is, we’re also talking about the customers.

“I know so many customers – my parents tend to be socialites – so I knew a lot of people to begin with, but now that I work at the Deli people stop me all the time and say ‘You look so familiar, where do I know you from?’ and the answer is almost always from the Deli. I had lunch at another restaurant today and I saw these two ladies who come in and always order a pulled piggy and a burger and I said ‘Ladies! No pulled piggy and urban burger today!’ They laughed as they recognized me and we had a lovely little chat. I love saying hello to regulars whenever I see them. They are all so lovely.”

Lydia is a very busy gal. She’s currently in school full time at UNB for her Business Degree. She works at Urban Deli, plus at Irving Oil this fall while she attends school. In January 2015 she leaves for Hong Kong for four months, for more school.

Make sure you drop in and say hello before the end of the year!

(Written by Denise Wamsley of Wildhair.ca)


Introducing Liane Daigle

Liane Daigle, part of Urban Deli's staff from the beginning.

Liane Daigle, part of Urban Deli’s staff from the beginning.

There’s something really special about being a part of something from the very beginning, isn’t there?  Witnessing a dream come true as it were.  Liane Daigle is a funny and outgoing waitress at Urban Deli, who had no idea years ago that she would become part of the Urban Deli family.

Liane met Liz Rowe, the owner, while the Urban Deli building was still in its renovation stages.  They met at a Toastmasters meeting and hit it off.

“We were both from ‘away’ as the saying goes around here and shared some travel stories; that for me was a big score to find someone who shares my sense for adventure. I found myself dropping in to see the progress of the restaurant renovations and drink their wine, all the while putting my two cents in about the overall project as I have a background in construction. I can honestly say becoming a waitress again was NOT on my radar.

“I was a mother of a three-year-old and suffering from a major condition called ‘mommy brain,’ plus the obvious obstacle that it had been over 20 years since I was in that racket.”

Liane was sure that Liz would be hiring someone more ‘perky’ and perhaps less opinionated. However, as the hiring process began Liane offered to help out until Liz found the right staff to meet her vision. Long story short, Liane was kept on the work schedule.

The first few weeks and months were pretty nutty.  Liane reminds us that back when she was a waitress in the 80’s there was no fancy restaurant software to keep track of orders; you just wrote it down on your pad of paper and gave it to the kitchen.  Nice and simple and that was the plan in the early days of the Deli, too.

Liane’s sense of humour shines through.

“Well, that system worked for about a week before it became painfully clear Liz needed to invest in some ‘sanity software’ as I dubbed it – STAT.  Those first few weeks (months?) were brutal. I’m quite certain if we were writing a letter to our best friends it would look like art. But when you fill a restaurant with hungry customers your hand writing goes to $&! and it was up to the kitchen to decipher our chicken scratch that resembled a doctor’s shorthand. The poor kitchen would be getting yelled at by us like an I-95 truck stop, customers were reeling at the thought of having to sit at a ‘communal table’ and the Deli slicer would be whizzing like a high school shop class band saw in the background. It was all music to Liz’s ears as she saw her dream taking flight I’m sure.”

Over the years Liane’s been timed at how long she’s talked to a customer, teased about how long she talks to a customer, thanked for taking time to tell a customer about all aspects of the  business, tipped for exceeding customer expectations, as well as winning a service excellence award.

“I can’t speak for the others but I get asked almost daily if I’m the owner. My standard answer is always ‘No, I work like the owner but I get paid more’ and then there’s chuckles and I add there are days I work more and get paid less but it’s still a great job and I wouldn’t change a thing. I love working here and there’s always total agreement from the customers.

“Faking happy in a place with so many regulars isn’t an option. It’s part of why we have the success that we do. Customers love our staff and the ones they didn’t found another place to fake happy at. If there’s one thing Liz makes clear is if you’re not happy go find it elsewhere. There’s been a real core group since the beginning that has really raised the bar in the service industry around Saint John. I hear from the others in this industry around Saint John that we are very unique, but it’s all I know and anything less would be out of sync with the rest of the program. I have to laugh though at some of the characters that have come and gone both on the floor and in the kitchen. A real melting pot of talent that’s for sure.”

Isn’t she too much fun?  Come on in and say hello to Liane and the rest of the gang.  And stay tuned for more stories like this one in the coming weeks.

(Written by Denise Wamsley of Wildhair.ca)


Our Busy Summer and Changes to Our Saturdays

Breakfast sandwiches served on an English muffin and samosas

Breakfast sandwiches served on an English muffin (from Canada Day, 2010)

It has been almost five years that we have been serving up breakfast at the Urban Deli.

Effective June 21st, this will change as we line up our hours with the rest of the week. We’ll be opening the Deli at 11:30am on Saturdays. This means that the 9am mornings are behind us.

The great news is that we will still offer a BIG BLT and a Monte Cristo breakfast sandwich on our lunch menu for those of you with a breakfast craving.

The decision is made with mixed emotions because we will miss our regular breakfast goers who at first may have not known each other but over time built Saturday morning friendships.

Saturdays sitting with our regular customers always felt like we were solving the world’s problems. We talked about our week, latest travels, family, food and everything in between. When you got up to leave, you just felt good by talking and sharing stories. And for those great conversations and time spent, we sincerely thank you!

The opportunity that unfolds for us is to focus on a very busy summer of caterings. We are blessed and excited to have weddings and other caterings booked for nearly every weekend starting mid-July. We look forward to introducing both our Deli & Italian food to new customers, through those caterings.

I would like to thank our breakfast teams in the kitchen and in the front of house for doing a great, great job over the past five years! I also want to thank all those customers that enjoyed a Saturday breakfast at the Deli. It has been a wonderful five years of breakfasts!

Our updated hours:

  • Urban Deli: Monday – Saturday 11:30 – 3pm
  • Italian by Night: Wednesday – Saturday starting at 5pm
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