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.
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 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.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Claire Boothe Luce
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.
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.
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…
Strathcona Park, Sandy Hill, Ottawa
Before going for dinner we took a walk through Strathcona Park adjacent to embassy row.
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.
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.
Macarons et Madeleines, Westboro, Ottawa
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.
Third World Bazaar, 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.
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.
Our high-end foodie Ottawa mini-vacation was absolutely delightful… albeit a bit high on calories.
“I can resist everything except temptation.” – Oscar Wilde