Well I had said that I was going to visit my race friend for the weekend and when you put two foodies together, nothing but delicious things happen.
I took the north route to Ottawa along the Transcanada Highway and while I had my camera in the front seat next to, I did not dare stop to take any photos as I would still be there on the side of the road TRYING. TO GET. THE PERFECT. SHOT. The fall colours are absolutely stunning this time of the year.
I arrived around 6:30 Friday evening and after a brief settling period, we went to Ginza Ramen on Somerset Street West. There is another Ginza Ramen that also serves sushi and sake but Somerset was closer. It’s a small menu and all we felt like having was a big bowl of ramen. I ordered the spicy tonkotsu ramen but with a 3/4 heat level. It was good with a flavourful broth and noodles that weren’t cooked to mush. The heat level was just right with a little bit of a tingle but not so spicy that it was unpleasant. I would have liked a few more vegetables and it wasn’t the best broth I’ve ever had but it was pretty good. It’s a small space so if you come at the peak of the dinner rush (which we did) expect to wait a few minutes which was largely due to the fact that there was only one person working the tables and cash.
With tummies full of ramen yumminess, we strolled over to nearby Little Italy for some gelato at Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana. The fact that the temperature was going down didn’t hamper our desire for a frozen treat and we walked back to my friends place; me with a cup of chocolate brownie and salted caramel and her with chocolate brownie (sensing a theme?) and coconut. I will say that the gelato in my cup didn’t make it back to her place while hers was mostly full. Yup it was just that good. They make more than gelato from what I understand. I know nothing of that as I was focused on gelato.
The next morning we walked to Art-Is-In Bakery. My friend had been raving about the bread there, calling it the best she has ever had. I decided to put this to the test with the egg, bacon, cheese breakfast sandwich on crazy grain bread with an americano. As I waited for my food, I chatted up the guy sitting next to me as we both seemed to catch the eye of a nearby baby. OK I’ll admit: he was cute too. Hey not every food experience is just about the food. Then my friend sat down and the two of us shared a pistachio and lemon cronut. Now I have heard of these creations but this was my first dealing with one in the real world. It was good but the pistachio seemed to be overpowered by the lemon. And then came my sandwich. There was a lemon chive mayo that gave just the right bit of extra flavour and the bread was sturdy enough that it wasn’t mushy but soft enough that it yielded easily when I bit into it. A dollop of homemade ketchup on the plate was nice for a few bites and I was glad that it wasn’t on the sandwich as it could have totally over powered it. WOW. Oh and the coffee was good too. I must have made a good choice because the cute guy beside me said that he always orders the sandwich. Today he had the gluten-free breakfast with toast and it looked pretty good too. This is another hopping spot so either grab to go or be prepared to vulture for a place to sit.
With breakfast out of the way, we then turned our attention to other matters of business; namely, the Ottawa Food and Wine Festival. I had been to the Food and Wine Show in Toronto a few years back and was curious to see how this stacked up. It was pretty much the same: as you enter you get a small sample glass. Tickets for samples can be purchased for $20.00 for a sheet of 20 tickets which you can go through really quickly as most items cost two to five tickets. I was a little peeved that you can’t buy partial sheets, especially as the time passes. Never mind the alcohol; the food offerings were tiny with the best value being the fish and chips. There were some interesting exhibitor booths and we spent an inordinate amount of time at the booth for The Unrefined Olive which sells both olive oils and vinegars. We sampled our way through various wines and beers and foods before the floor was closed for the show to reset for the late opening. It seems that you need a different ticket if you want to go at night. You also needed another ticket or to pay additional costs if you want to visit The Cheese Vault. Don’t get me wrong; I love cheese but I’m not going to shell out another $18.00 to wait in line for some cheese samples, especially since the vault was being done by a store in Toronto and I’m betting I can walk in there and sample a ton of cheeses for the cost of parking. One thing that I did find a little odd was how much some people dressed up. I saw sequinned dresses and little black dresses and mile high shoes. Then there was me in old holey running shoes, jeans, and a T-shirt with a sasquatch and an alien holding hands as they walk through a forest. Did I miss a memo about the dress code somewhere?
By the time they shut it down, we were good to go anyway and hopped in a cab to go back. With some time to kill, we walked around Hintonburg for a bit. I bought a coffee table. Which just goes to show that I should not have control of ANY means of passing money if there is ANY alcohol in my system. Now let me tell you that spending money is hard work so we went to Ola Cocina for dinner. No time was wasted in ordering the Taco Platter: rice, beans, and my choice of three tacos. I went for the al pastor, pork belly, and tuna tacos. The tuna was a bit mild with the flavour being buried under the other fillings, the spices of the al pastor were definitely the dominant flavour, and the pork belly was just right. The best part of all was the corn tortillas. They were amazing. We topped the meal off with an order of churros. The churros were very good even if they are bigger than I am used to and the plate had a tiny dollop of dulce de leches and drizzles of raspberry and mango coulis which I thought was a bit much.
We walked back to my friend’s place where we soon began a very different marathon than the kind we are usually involved with: Netflix. Damn Stranger Things.
In the morning we went back to Art-Is-In to grab loaves of bread and so I could get a coffee. And hoping to see cute guy again. He wasn’t there so I consoled myself with a loaf of crazy grain and we split a chocolate croissant. I had to have something to go with my coffee after all. The croissant was good and buttery which is how I like them.
Then we hopped in the car to go pick up the coffee table I bought the day before…after we went to The Unrefined Olive. We walked inside and were met by vats on either wall and lining both sides of a table that ran down the middle of all kinds of flavoured oils and vinegars. You pick your bottle and they pour it in while you’re standing there. And they also sell a few hot sauces and bars of Hummingbird Chocolate. This chocolate maker has won several awards from the Academy of Chocolate so I would have been remiss in not grabbing a bar before heading to Maker House Co. to pick up the table.
After putting the many hours of my misspent youth playing Tetris, we were able to get the table loaded into the backseat of my car and we walked around Hintonburg for a bit. It seemed odd that I had parked right in front of Beyond the Pale Brewery but since I had, well then I had to go in, you know…to support a local business and all. I had a few samples and even though my usual beer is a nice IPA, I ended up leaving with a growler of stout and a bottle of “My Bourbon Milkshake”. Not quite sure how I feel about it yet.
We stopped at the nearby farmer’s market to get some of the local produce before walking back to the car.
We were heading back to my friend’s when we passed by SuzyQ Donuts. Of course we stopped inside and grabbed a couple of Wundercrunch donuts before going back to her place for lunch and to try to finish up the Stranger Things series before I had to leave.
Using some of her new oils and vinegars, my friend whipped up a lovely lunch of salad greens with maple roasted heirloom carrots with a blood orange vinegrette and a broccoli/potato soup. We capped off lunch with donuts and chocolate. The donut was light and had a wonderful texture unlike some other donuts that seem really heavy and leaden. The bar of Hispaniola chocolate that we split was a nice dark bar of 70% cacao and even though there was nothing in it besides chocolate, you could actually taste hints of fruit to it.
Finally I decided to head out while there was still light even though it meant I had to miss the last few episodes. But hitting a deer on the dark highway trumps a TV show any day. I didn’t stop except to get gas so when I walked in the door, I was pretty hungry. Not to worry: armed with a fresh loaf of bread, I soon had a sandwich whipped up and I’m glad to say the bread was as good at home as it was in the bakery.