Ottawa: A Gourmet Paradise

Ottawa’s food scene is like Paris or New York without the price or attitude. This is due to the intersection of seven important variables.

  • The city is home to some of the finest gourmet cooking and sommelier programs in the world including amongst others the Le Cordon Bleu and Algonquin College. As a result there are many exceptional chefs and sommeliers working in even the grungiest dives.
  • Ottawa is right at the border of the two largest alcohol monopolies in the world: the LCBO and the SAQ. As a result the Outaouais (the greater Ottawa region) has the world’s largest choice of wines, alcohols, spirits and beer.
  • Thanks to government dairy supply management, Ontario and Quebec have some of the finest dairy production in the world and therefore some of the most amazing cheeses. And the Outaouais has the best of both provinces.
  • As a multicultural city, including diplomats from around the world, the best foods of the world have been added to our epicurean collective. We take the best and lose the rest.
  • The Outaouais has a well-educated and well-travelled population that has resulted in a high level of refined and adventurous pallets, and where there is a market there are suppliers.
  • In recent years, there has been an explosion of farmers’ markets, specialty agricultural producers (plants and animals), and craft beer and wine makers. Fresh and novel products are always available.
  • The Outaouais is where upper (English) and lower (French) Canadian cultures intersect. This cultural fusion has resulted in a unique gastronomic foodie evolution.

Gourmet Mission

A recent Boomer Traveller tweet request got us thinking about taking a high-end foodie-centric mini-holiday in some of Ottawa’s lesser known neighbourhoods.

Atelier, Little Italy, Ottawa

We started our Ottawa mini-holiday Friday night by going to our favourite local epicurean haunt Atelier. Hosted by the Winner of the 2016 Canadian Culinary Championship master chef Marc Lepine, Atellier is simply éblouissant (dazzling).

We have blogged about Atelier before and will likely blog about it again. It is our go-to place to celebrate pretty much anything.

Atelier restaurant
The French say: “A bon vin, point d’enseigne” – where the wine is good, there is no need of a sign.

Atelier is located in a tiny non-descript renovated grey house with black iron grates over the windows and rocky landscaping. It is in the untrendy edge of Ottawa’s Little Italy where decrepit mid-century industrial federal government buildings and construction sites for new high-end condos form the architectural backdrop.

Interior of Atelier restaurant
This minimalist chic restaurant is at once comfortable and intimate with a unique point of view.

smoked dish at Atelier restgaurant

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Claire Boothe Luce

complex dish at Atelier restaurant

As always owner and Chef Marc Lepine created edible magic. A three-hour hedonistic gastronomic symphony featuring a 12 course modernist meal. The meal was supported by a nine glass wine pairing chosen and served by Atelier’s charming, fabulous and knowledgeable wine geek Steve Robinson, two-time winner of the Best Ontario Sommelier competition.

tie-dye strawberry dessert at Atelier
Well before the Tie Dye Strawberries dessert we managed to ease into a vacation state of mind.

We avoided forbidden topics of conversation which include work, house, family and politics (we do live in Ottawa) and held hands in between courses.

Stella Luna, Old Ottawa South, Ottawa

Suffering from a touch of “indulgence” from the night before we decided to go for a “light” festive Saturday brunch at Stella Luna, the best ice cream joint in Ottawa, located right in the heart of the antique district in Old Ottawa South. We both indulged in a double scoop of Rich Chocolate, KOVAL Single-Barrel Organic Bourbon, Ganache Swirl and Maple Candied Pecans Gelato. This decadent dessert won the Bronze Medal for The Americas, Gelato World Tour, 2016. Yum. Absolutely not diet food. ‘Nuf said.

Stella Luna gelateria in Old Ottawa South, Ottawa
Stella Luna gelateria in old ottawa south, ottawa

Antique Hunting, Old Ottawa South, Ottawa

One of our favourite pastimes when we travel is going to antique markets. We are always on the quest for interesting art pieces. We went to Ottawa’s antique district in Old Ottawa South on Bank Street. We spent a leisurely morning searching through the knick-knacks of the ages at the Ottawa Antique Market, Champagne dit Lambert Antiques Ltd, Logan Antiques…

Yardley's Antiques, Ottawa
We found our mini-holiday treasure at Yardley’s Antiques, Old Ottawa South, Ottawa.

Shipibo pottery from Yardley's, Ottawa

Shipibo textile from Yardley's, Ottawa
Mid-20th century Peruvian hand painted Shipibo pottery and a swath of textile (wrap around skirt).

Strathcona Park, Sandy Hill, Ottawa

Before going for dinner we took a walk through Strathcona Park adjacent to embassy row.

Lord Strathcona fountain, Ottawa
19th century Beaux Arts Lord Strathcona Fountain, sculpted by French sculpter Marhurin Moreau, Strathcona Park, Sandy Hill, Ottawa.

Lord Strathcona (a.k.a. Donald Alexander Smith) was a Canadian businessman, politician and philanthropist who drove the “last spike into the CPR Railroad in 1885.

Strathcona Park play structure, Ottawa
Stephen Brathwaite’s play structure which is reminiscent of a Victorian ideal of a romantic ruin, Strathcona Park, Sandy Hill, Ottawa.
geese in Ottawa
A gaggle of Canadian Geese, Strathcona Park, Sandy Hill, Ottawa.
Rideau River, Ottawa
Rideau River, Strathcona Park, Sandy Hill, Ottawa.

Signatures, Sandy Hill, Ottawa

Feeling a bit peckish after our twilight constitutional we headed off to dinner at Signatures the nearby in-house restaurant of the Cordon Bleu school. Located in a lovely Tudor Revival-style mansion that had once been the Ottawa University Alumni private dining club called Le Cercle Universitaire d’Ottawa. The ambiance is both elegant and relaxed. Very old world French.

Signatures Cordon Bleu restaurant Ottawa
Signatures Restaurant, Sandy Hill, Ottawa.

interior of Signatures Cordon Bleu restaurant, Ottawa

For over three and a half hours we enjoyed an eight course tasting menu prepared by Chef Yannick Anton. The wine pairings were simply exceptional. The service wonderful.

Duck at Signatures Cordon Bleu Restaurant, Ottawa

Tortellini with truffles, Signatures cordon bleu restaurant, Ottawa
pot pie at signatures cordon bleu restaurant, Ottawa

Macarons et Madeleines, Westboro, Ottawa

macarons et madeleines pastry shop Ottawa

pastries at macarons et madeleine in ottawa
Cordon Bleu Grand Diplôme Chef Stephan Ethier creates Ottawa’s best viennoiseries and classic French pastries in town, and that’s saying a lot.

Saturday brunch for the overindulgent: Paris-Brest, a wheel-shaped of choux pastry filled with praline cream created in 1910 to commemorate the Paris-Brest –Paris bicycle race that later became the Tour de France, at Macarons et Madeleines.

paris-brest pasrty at macaron et madeleine pastry shop in ottawa


Third World Bazaar, Manotick Station, Ottawa

third world baxaar, manotick station, ottawa

We spent the better part of the afternoon visiting the Third World Bazaar. Located in a large barn, the Bazaar has become an Ottawa institution where for a few weekends a year a smorgasbord of luscious products from the developing world are on offer.

colorful interior of third world bazaar, manotick station, ottawa
We picked up a few bags of exotica that will soon find a home in Christmas stockings.
northern spy apples
Northern spy apples, the best apple for making sauce and pies.

Outside of the Bazaar was an apple stall. Always on the lookout for the elusive Northern Spy Apples, we timidly asked the vendor if she had any. And she did! This late ripening and extremely finicky regional cultivar is very hard to find. While not a perfectly pretty apple, nor a particularly great eating apple – the tart heirloom Northern Spy is the world’s best apple for baking and sauce. It has been about three years since we have seen Northern Spy Apples for sale so we decided to buy the entire bushel that the vendor had available.

An end to a perfect Ottawa mini-vacation..

While it was not originally what we were planning on doing– we spent the better part of the late afternoon and evening making applesauce.

Amidst the aroma of cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom scented apple sauce, we made a romantic dinner for two.

David Rocco’s lemon ndunderi. With a bottle of Norman Hardie chardonnay that we bought during the summer in Ontario’s trendy wine district Prince Edward County, Ontario. Dinner rocked big time.

Ndunderi look like gnocchi but are  made with fresh ricotta, flour and eggs yolks. The simple sauce is made with butter, cream, lemon zest and juice. Basta.

Our high-end foodie Ottawa mini-vacation  was absolutely delightful… albeit a bit high on calories.

“I can resist everything except temptation.” – Oscar Wilde

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