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Ok. I’m more than a little bias when writing this post. But let’s face it, you aren’t here for journalistic professionalism. Fitting, since this blog has always been intended to be more of a diary than a news source.
As you know from several of my other posts, tweets and facebook updates: I have the best job in the world at C’est Bon Cooking. Honestly. The best. I spend my time there thinking about food. Writing about food. Talking about food. Sometimes even making food. It’s fantastic.
So obviously, when the opportunity presented itself, I weasled my way in to a lunch to test out our newest offering “Eat. Speak Critique.” Another perk of the job!
The idea behind ESC is that you get to hone your inner dining critic along with the help of the über talented former Ottawa Citizen restaurant critic and the mind behind Capital Dining - Anne DesBrisay. As well as your inner chef with the lovely Chef Andrée of C’est Bon Cooking.
The wonderful Chef Andrée
When you sign up for the experience, you get the opportunity to dine with these lovely ladies and talk about how their profession impacts their dining experience. What do they look for in a great restaurant? How are different dishes prepared? And have your say too!
In the end, you’ll have a great meal with some fantastic company and lean a great many things as well. And if you are lucky, your experience will end up on Anne’s blog – just like ours did.
Oh I am just awesome. I suppose that after reading this you might just want to learn more. Well – here is the C’est Bon website, or feel free to contact them at email@example.com – wow… epic fail.
On a grey and miserable Sunday, I had an amazing brunch. Living so close to the market, it takes a crazy good meal to get me to hop a bus on Sunday morning when there are so many wonderful spots just a few blocks from my bed.
However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this was more than worth the “journey” to 1087 Wellington West - Back Lane Cafe. By which, I mean a 20 minute bus ride. BUT I had forgotten my headphones so it felt like at least 30 minutes. Still… totally worth it.
Let’s start by saying that Back Lane is the cutest little cafe ever. I love the decor. Reminds me of sitting in an old farm house dining room… in Europe. Comfortable and friendly, with the promises of delectable home made goodies to come.
And the food more than lives up to that. My grandmother may have had the old farm house kitchen, but she didn’t make food like this!
I had the smoked duck and mango flat bread with sunny side eggs. The spicy spread was the nicest compliment to the fatty duck and the sweet mango. I’ve never had anything like it – especially not for brunch – it was fantastic!
My dining companions are regulars at Back Lane and rave about it every chance they get – take a peak at this post from the good folks at FoodiePrints.
Don’s scramble with goat’s cheese and house made sausage – if I hadn’t been so in love with my flat bread I would have tried to steal it.
I should also mention that the wait staff are wonderful. Friendly, attentive and they know their stuff! I had a chance to discuss various dishes on the menu with my server and her recommendations were bang on. It’s not a huge menu, but ever changing. It adds so much to the eating out experience to have a server who knows the food. They get that at Back Lane.
Top notch service, food, atmosphere and wonderful compnay all add up to a fantastic brunch!
It’s been a long while since the Ottawa food scene has so hotly anticipated the opening of a new restaurant, but Gezellig (337 Richmond Road) was worth the wait!
From Stephen Beckta and Chef Michael Moffatt (the duo behind Beckta and Play) comes a new venture that wants to be Westboro’s go-to neighbourhood restaurant. A place where you can relax at the end of a long day with family and friends. Where the food is as tasty as it is comforting.
White bean truffle spread
So far, I’d say they are doing a kick ass job. I went for lunch with some of the lovely ladies I work with and we were all happier than could be with our meals between the table of us we tried the mussels, the tagliatelle and the duck stew. Not to mention a few desserts including the infamous butterfinger (which is awesomeness in its purest form).
The restaurant itself is so much transformed from its former purpose (a bank), that if it weren’t for the vault in the basement (which is being used as a wine cellar) you wouldn’t believe that a space could be repurposed so beautifully. It’s bright, comfortable and elegant. Great place to bring a date, but an even better place to bring family and friends to enjoy a wonderful meal together.
I was so sorry I agreed to split this… so, so, sorry.
Much to my amazement, Chef Moffatt agreed to spend some time with me to talk about Gezellig, the restaurant business in Ottawa, and what little sleep he requires. Because he’s camera shy I agreed to stick to photos of the restaurant itself, but ladies do yourself a favour and google images of Chef Moffatt. You’re welcome.
Try as he might to distract me with those pretty blue eyes, I was still able to sputter out a few questions. I could try to pretend that I wrote down word for word what was said, but that’s just not true. So here is the summed up, in a nut shell version of our conversation. According to Chef, everyone deserves a great meal. And that’s what they plan to give their Westboro patrons every night. They truly want to be a neighbourhood restaurant where families come in every week or a few times a week. And luckily the neighbourhood is responding warmly. They are offering up feedback and suggestions so Gezellig can reach its potential.
There has been a few harsh words about Gezellig. But the truth is that they have just opened. And even though it is their third restaurant, every new opening had its own unique challenges. Chef says it took 5 years for Beckta to be exactly the kind of restaurant they wanted it to be. It took Play 2 years. It’s hoped that Gezellig will take even less time, but there are still some growing pains to be sure. On one hand having a reputation like Beckta’s and Moffatt’s means you aren’t given the leeway that many other opening restaurants are given. But on the other Moffatt says it is that reputation that pushes them to be better and to set their standards higher and higher.
What it boils down to is that they are here to make you happy, and they are good at what they do.
I’m already in love and hoping to be back soon.
One of the best parts of my life is getting to share my love of all things food with people who feel the same way. For me, there is truly no better way to spend an afternoon then talking endlessly while enjoying some tasty dishes.
That’s just what I got when visiting Vittoria Trattoria in the Market.
Fettuccine with bay scallops, tiger shrimp, P.E.I. mussels and red bell peppers in a marinara sauce. Go ahead… drool on your keyboard.
First off the space is beautiful. I had been before, but it never stops impressing me how lovely it is. The restaurant is broken into several smaller spaces so you can have an intimate gathering, or a room full of your closest 50 friends and family for dinner. It’s up to you. The brick work, art and stunning wood pizza oven make this a perfect spot for a date or girls night out.
The food at Vittoria Trattoria is splendid. Heartfelt and comforting. You can really feel the family influence in the dishes. I had the most amazing mushroom cannelloni with truffle cream sauce (I’m a sucker for all things cheese and mushrooms so this was a natural fit for me). I swear, eating this (or in my case, inhaling it) was as close to eating ‘happy’ as you can get.
Here is the scary part: it smells 10x better than it looks and tastes 100x better than that!
Then there is the wine… wow. With over 800 labels in their wine cellar, there is something for every taste and budget. If given enough time and resources I would vow to try each and every wine. But I would do it… and write about it… in the name of science.
To top it all off – kick ass service. Friendly, knowledgable and professional. It doesn’t get any better than Vittoria Trattoria if you are looking for amazing, authentic Italian in the Market.
Rideau Street is going through some changes as I’m sure anyone who has visited the downtown core has noticed. One of the big changes is the addition of Levante (180 Rideau) - a more up scale restaurant then this block of Rideau has seen in some time.
Seared Rare 7 Spice Ahi Tuna Sashimi and Wasabi Simple Syrup
I love the jazzy atmosphere of Levante. It’s comfortable but chic. The art is lovely, the wine is wonderful and the service is friendly. Definitely a place you don’t mind spending an evening in. The special nights of live music and bring your own wine options add to the laid back vibe that is so inviting.
The menu reads like a biography of Chef Kurt’s travels – at times that can make it a little confused. Personally I found there were some dishes better than others, but that’s to be expected with a new venture. I was really impressed with the Tofu and sprout sliders (so flavourful!) and if blue cheese is your thing they have a killer prosciutto, fig and blue cheese flat bread with smoked apple puree. But the reason I will return is for the freshly baked big chocolate chip cookie. Baked to order!
Freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with Balieys foam… drool worthy.
Crispy edges, warm, gooey centre. This cookie is destined to be the love of my life. The Baileys foam is just added goodness. Next time I’m book ending my meal with this cookie. And the main course may or may not be wine.
Like all new restaurants Levante is working on their menu and trying to find what works well in their new location. There are some hits and misses, but I’m hopeful that all will be worked out in time and this is the start of a new and classy Rideau Street. Something a nation’s capital can be a little prouder of than multiple tattoo parlors and smoke shops – not that there isn’t room for a little of everything in the Market!
3 out of 5 stars.
Odile (47 Montclair ) is the cutest restaurant. Bright and friendly, reminds me of home. It’s definitely relaxed so come in your work duds, jeans or anything else you feel like throwing on. But not yoga pants. If you aren’t coming to or from the gym, yoga pants are never appropriate – thought they do make your rear end look amazing.
So lovely I had to steal a shot of Claire’s Gazpacho.
I love the open design of the kitchen. In a small restaurant like Odile it helps fill the entire place with the wonderous smells that come from the first class food. However, that can make your decision in ordering that much more difficult.
The menu is small and changes frequently, reflecting seasonal ingredients as well as the changing inspirations of the kitchen.
It was one of the very few times I was happy to eat my veggies.
On the day I visited I had the most amazing chicken with grilled peaches and potatoes. So good in fact that I warned my lunch dates that I would be drinking the sauce that came with the chicken. They laughed a bit when I said it… then more when it happened, and more still when I spilled. Didn’t matter. That sauce was worth it, even as I sucked the last drop off my shirt.
Simple, honest and amazing food. Served by friendly staff in a cozy atmosphere. I heart you Odile.
5 out of 5.
The problem with having a list of 100 restaurants that you want to try is that sometimes you don’t get to them in time. Case in point. Joy Restaurant… which is now closed and has been replaced by Union 613 (315 Somerset West), an amazing restaurant featuring a Canadian take on Southern cuisine. I’m not sure how I would have liked Joy, but I can tell you that I LOVED Union 613.
It’s funky and casual. With large communal tables and an ever changing menu that features some of the best local ingredients in the city. One of my particular favorites – their house made ‘prohibition’ drinks like Ginger Beer. I should also point out that the staff were awesome! So friendly and knowledgeable. Very cool people working there.
On to the food. Well while you’re waiting for your order, the table gets some boiled peanuts which are way different from any other peanut I’ve had before but warm and tasty all the same. It was at this point that I was told that a peanut is actually a bean. But because it grows with some mould on it (that white stuff on the peanut shell), some people are allergic. That was news to me!
Pea-bean just doesn’t sound the same.
I opted for the Mac and Cheese, but I was feeling a bit guilty because I really should have tried to get some veggies. Then BAM! I’m presented with the most amazing mac and cheese I’ve ever seen. FULL of veggies. Not just any veggies. Veg that has been cooked with the cheese sauce so they are just as amazing as the macaroni bits. And of course, the most amazing part of any casserole type dish, the crunchy topping. In this case a corn bread crumble that stays crunchy even if you mix up the dish with your fork.
It was stellar. Not the heavy thick cheese sauce that we are used to, but one that is flavourful and amazing all the same. And the best part? It was just as good warmed up the next day. Which is a great thing, because the portions were pretty large. I ate all I could and with some clever re-arranging it looked like I had hardly made a dent.
I have a feeling this one will be around for a while. But I still say check it out as soon as possible! 5 out of 5.
Last year I went for a special lunch at Atelier (as they do not normally open for lunch) and it blew my socks off… never to be seen again. Last night I went for dinner and was wise enough to leave the socks at home. If you have never had the extreme pleasure of dining at Atelier you are missing one of the most fantabulous, spectacular meals you will ever eat. Seriously, if you are even slightly adventurous with your food you need to eat here. It is playful and sophisticated, and left me with a perma-smile the entire evening.
When you go, and I know you will, be prepared for the following 5 moments during your 3.5 hour, almost 18 course dinner.
Around the 3rd or 4th course you will start getting really excited for what is coming next. By now you have had a small glimpse into how amazing this meal is going to be and hysteria tends to take over as you see your server coming towards your table with the next plate. This will happen time and time again, especially after they inform you that from this point on it will be dessertS. That is right. More than one.
Tears will well up in your eyes as you eat. Honest to God tears of joy. You will find it hard to believe you have ever been happier than in that moment. But you won’t cry. Ok. Maybe a single tear. Then you will take the next bite and it will happen all over again.
There will come a time when you start to believe that Chef Marc Lepine is some kind of culinary wizard. Or perhaps an alien sent to Earth to teach us about how amazing food can be. Either way, you tell yourself there is no way that an ordinary man is able to create such wonders and be so dashing at the same time. And you would be right. You then start wondering if there is any way you can kidnap him and have him cook for you all the time without anyone knowing. You give up this line of thinking when the next bite of food has you forgetting your own name, let alone what you were just thinking about.
Mini Mozza - technically course 3, actually course 6
Your dining companions are going to laugh at you. They can’t help it. You are making the most hilarious and explicit faces and you have no idea. You might have even hushed those around you so that you could enjoy the moment more fully. It happens. Usually after taking a sip of wine that has been perfectly paired with your latest course. Just make sure to laugh at them when they do it too.
You are going to wish that sweat pants were classy. This may have never ever been the case before, but after 18 courses you are going to want an elastic waistband more than you did when you were 3 and doing up the button on jeans by yourself was a simply impossible task. Don’t worry, a slow waddle around the block will have you feeling good as new. Almost.
I’m calling it a mini review because I gave into my crap food side once again and had just eaten two IKEA hot dogs when I arrived at Big Rig. I know, I know… but seriously 2 hot dogs and a drink for $2!?!? What? Anyway…
That only left room in me for beer! But I did get a sneak peak at what others were eating.
Don’t let the name fool you… the sign is actually regular size. Kinda big, I guess.
Big Rig is located on 2750 Iris street – as you imagined near IKEA. It reminds me of a cross between Mill Street and Clocktower Brew Pub. The style and almost ‘borderline chain restaurant’ feel of Mill Street but the beers put me in mind of Clocktower.
I, of course, had to try a sampling of the beers! I checked out Big Rig’s Gold, Red, Brown and Stout. I gotta say – the stout wasn’t my bag (even though I’m a big fan of dark beers)… just a little too bitter and coffee like for my taste. The Gold was refreshing and awesome and the Red was my favourite. The brown was tasty, a bit nutty but also a bit bitter. Good, but not what I was craving that day.
The Red and the Gold were in a ‘DRINK ME!!’ competition
The food was your basic up scale pub fare. Prices were on point – hitting between $11 and $23 for the mains. I did find that the upgrade price of $2.50 for onion rings over french fries was a bit much – especially since my friend who took this option got about 1/2 the amount of rings vs. fries. But that’s just a personal pet peeve of mine.
I can say for sure that I’ll be back for a pint next time I’m in the area – maybe I’ll even go there first so that I’m not full of cheap hot dogs!
4 out of 5 stars
It was a nice night out with my ladies and we decided to strike one off my bucket list by visiting another new to me restaurant. Palais Imperial is located on 313 Dalhousie, between York and Clarence. The Palais Imperial is a Chinese restaurant which is also connected to Royal Thai, in fact they share a menu. It’s a little confusing to say the least. But if you enjoy both types of cuisine than that might not be a problem for you… however I didn’t find that they really made either style of food very well.
Right next door is a great Mexican spot… hint hint.
I’m not an expert in these types of cuisine, but this was hardly my first fried rice, spring roll, green curry or pad thai. I found the fried items greasy, everything lacked flavour (not necessarily lacking spice, but it was just heat no flavour), and I was just generally underwhelmed.
The service was extremely efficient. Maybe too much so. In a 10 minute time span we had 4 different servers asking us if we were done eating. I think they were politely trying to tell us to get out. At least they were polite about it.
It’s a large space, dated and not in that cute way. But there is lots of room if you are a big group.
Prices were fair – around $9 to $15 per dish depending on if it is veggie, beef, chicken or fish. But to be quite honest I’d rather spend that money elsewhere…
2 out of 5