Italian by the Mississippi

We left cottage country near Ennismore at 3:30PM on a Saturday to drive to Ottawa. The route home took us through Lakefield and right by Hamblin’s for Kawartha ice cream (55 flavours to choose from).

As we were driving we realized that dinner time was quickly approaching and we weren’t close enough to home so we needed to find a dinner stop. My child wanted italian noodles for dinner…thanks to the iPhone, I was able to locate an italian restaurant on the west side of Carleton Place named Slackoni’s which is on Mill Street right beside the Mississippi River near the rapids.FoodWeek-IMG_2036

We were seated inside by the window overlooking the patio and water. Nice view and no bugs. My child ordered the adult size fettucine alfredo, my husband ordered the pasta combo platter (canneloni, lasagna, chicken parmesan (all half portions)) and I ordered the daily special which was prime rib.

Fettucine Alfredo

Fettucine Alfredo

Garlic Bread

Garlic Bread

I was very impressed with the waiter in the way he interacted with my son. My son was treated just like any other customer. The bread that was brought while we waited were warmed italian buns with garlic butter sauced over top.

The alfredo was rich and very tasty with a hint of garlic; the noodles were done perfectly a la dente. The meat in the canneloni was nicely spiced. The lasagna used their spicy tomato sauce that gave it a nice bite. The chicken parmesan was perfectly cooked; nice and juicy with a crunchy crust.

Prime Rib

Prime Rib

Pasta combo

Pasta combo

The prime rib was ordered medium rare and I got it rare to medium rare ….the size was very generous…It came with seasoned potatoes and beans. The meat was seasoned with montreal steak spice on the edges with a peppery gravy.

The waiter asked my son if he would like another bun when the entrees came; which my son replied not now, probably later….so later in the middle of the meal…a single garlic bun was delivered to our table. I thought that was great service…in addition, our water glasses were always kept topped up.

I was suitably impressed. It was getting late so we did not have dessert or coffee. But I can comment that the portions of the dishes looked to be very large and generous.

 

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Kidless (part 2)

Union 613 on Somerset near O’Connor is in one of those redone old houses that have been turned into a restaurant. The restaurant is not very big. with two rooms on the first floor and a room downstairs (more on that later). We were seated at the bar because I did not have reservations. Most of the tables seat 6-8 people…more like communal seating at large tables.

Bar taps

Bar taps

This place is a definite drink place with specialty cocktails, multiple craft beers on tap and a very good selection of wine. They also make their own sodas..rootbeer and ginger beer. The tap handles are eclectic using knives and other kitchen implements.

At 6:30 the downstairs speakeasy opens. It is definitely fashioned as a speakeasy as the door is a bookcase. If you didn’t know you wouldn’t know there was a room behind it.My friend and I turned the wrongway and were very confused as there were only doors to the washrooms.

SpeakEasy

SpeakEasy

The speakeasy is very tiny with low ceilings and 5 tables and a bar. The drink menu is different from upstairs…fewer choices in beer.It was very dark ..not for the old who needed the flashlight app to read the menu.Corn Bread

The menu is very eclectic southern style food. Our friends had the hog jowl and catfish. I had the catfish and my husband had the ribs. Sides are priced separately. I had the rainbow chard with chilis and smoked rabbit. Tasty with a nice bite. The catfish was perfectly cooked in a crunchy cornmeal coating. The ribs were dry rubbed with salty spice mixture which was complimented with the corn on the cob side that had chipotle butter and parmesan on it. We ordered corn bread to share which was very rich and soft served out of the skillet. Service was extremely attentive. Oh I nearly forgot…instead of bread to start, they bring you boiled peanuts in the shell…very yummy, slightly salty, peanuts were soft…had the flavour of natural peanut butter.

Ribs and corn on cob

Ribs and corn on cob

We then decided to go for dessert at Oh so Good in the market. I remember why I don’t like the market in the summer night. It was crowded and noisy with smokers hanging on the side walk. I think Ottawa does not have enough dessert places where you can enjoy a nice beverage and a piece of decadent dessert and enjoy interesting conversation.

Catfish with escarole and rainbow chard

Catfish with escarole and rainbow chard

Oh So Good is order at the counter place and take your goods to a table. The choice of desserts is very large … 2 shelves of cakes and one of cheesecakes. They also have cookies and squares. The pieces of cake are huge with a large dollop of whipped cream. There could be more wait staff as many of the tables  had dirty dishes and there was a long line for ordering.

Raspberry Chocolate Cake

Raspberry Chocolate Cake

For our last meal we went to Rice Pea, a northern Chinese restaurant. Looking at what other tables ordered, we settled for rice noodles in chili sauce, fern vermicelli in chili sauce, BBQ lamb skewers, shredded pork in bean sauce.

Rice Noodle in Chili oil

Rice Noodle in Chili oil

Lamb Skewers

Lamb Skewers

The rice noodles had a salty taste with a chili oil bite. These were cold noodles and every table ordered these as a start. The lamb skewers were spiced with cumin and had a choice of spicy or mild taste. The fern vermicelli is a dark noodle in a sweet sauce and chili oil. The shredded pork was stir fried in a salty bean sauce that came with thin egg roll wrappers and shredded green onion. We assume we rolled it in the wrap like you do with peking duck.

Shredded pork in bean sauce

Shredded pork in bean sauce

Fern Vermicelli

Fern Vermicelli

We were still hungry and ordered the dumplings in peanut sauce…about8 dumpling in a smooth coconut peanut sauce.

Two dishes to try next time is the candied sweet potatoes that look like fries in a sugar glaze coating and the beef noodle in soup.

Hunan dumplings in peanut sauce

Hunan dumplings in peanut sauce

Definitely the signature dishes are the lamb skewers and the rice noodles in chili sauce as every table had ordered these.

This is definitely authentic as my husband was the only non-Asian in the place for most of the dinner.

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Kidless cuisine (Part 1)

This week ( at least Mon to Thurs), we are kidless. That means 4 evenings of touring different cuisines that Ottawa has to offer.

DId you know there are lots of restaurants that are closed on Mondays and if not, most close by 9PM (at least in the suburbs) even in the summer.

Our first evening, we went for Thai food in Bells Corners…no not the usual Sukothai but a new little restaurant called Thai Flame. It is in the strip mall beside the Baron’s Inn and the Shell Gas station. Apparently the owners are from Laos so the taste and offerings are a bit different from other Thai places.

Chicken Satay at Thai Flame

Chicken Satay at Thai Flame

Pad Nard La

Pad Nard La

We ordered the chicken satay appetizer. Well worth the money…5 skewers of marinated chicken with a coconut peanut sauce for dipping. The chicken had a nice kick to it as well as the sauce.

The service was excellent especially since we arrived at 8:40PM. Our waiter was very attentive. Apparently I should have asked for hot sauce on the side as they make their own.

Basil Beef

Basil Beef

This is a place I would like to try again to see what the other dishes taste like.

Tuesday was the Italian night. We bought a groupon for La Cucina in Kanata on Hazeldean. This is a small Italian place. The groupon allowed us to try quite a bit of the menu. Warning…the dishes are large. For appetizers I had the mussels in spicy tomato sauce and my husband had the calamari. The mussels were cooked well. The tomato sauce wasn’t very spicy even if it did have pickled hot peppers strips in the sauce. I did find the tomato sauce over seasoned with salt. The calamari plate was large…perfect size for sharing. The squid was tender; however the batter was light but thick on the squid. My husband said too high of a ratio of batter to squid.

FoodWeek-IMG_2013

Mussels in Spicy tomato sauce

Mussels in Spicy tomato sauce

I had the classic veal marsala which came with fettucine alfredo. The alfredo sauce was sweet and tasty without the heaviness of the cream. My veal was tender and again the marsala sauce was over seasoned with salt…otherwise ok.

My husband ordered the veal gorgonzola. It was veal with a gorgonzola sauce with penne pasta in a tomato sauce. The penne was done perfectly. The gorgonzola sauce was rich. There was no skimping on sauce.FoodWeek-IMG_2017

For dessert, we both had the chocolate Fondant cake…man that was to die for…cake and chocolate ganache….rich and very yummy.FoodWeek-IMG_2018

The cappuccino that my husband ordered did not use good beans and not ground fine enough as he found coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup.

My green tea was Stash brand and very tasty…with a oolong flavour.

Service was very attentive. The bread was warm and fresh cut from french stick. There were bottles of olive oil and balsamic on each table and also a pepper grinder on each table.

Way too much food for one sitting. Their most popular dish is the homemade lobster ravioli in a saffron cream sauce. The pasta plates looked huge. Thinking of coming back to try their pasta.

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Robz

I finally made to Robz Bistro on Carling across from the Canadian Tire. My husband and son have had many a lunch there the last two weeks as they would stop by on their bike ride home from the computer camp. My son’s favourite sandwich at Robz is the pull pork sandwich which as he decribes it has just enough BBQ sauce for flavour but you can still taste the meat. My husband’s favourite is the slow top…the pulled beef sandwich. I’ve only tasted one sandwich…the beef au jus…slow roasted sirloin with a garlic jus to dip. The garlic au jus had a very good garlic beef flavour…definitely not from a can. The beef was thinly sliced and had a nice beefy flavour. The fries there are also very good as they are definitely handcut and fresh.

This place definitely caters to the lunch crowd but when we were there for dinner, it was still hopping up until closing time.It is definitely a takeout place with only a couple of chairs and a small counter for the few that choose to stay and eat.

The value is good for the money and so is the taste. I can see why people become regulars. Nice and friendly and they remember your name after only a few repeats (at least they remembered my husband). Definitely a repeater! (sorry no pictures…we were too hungry and ate it all).

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Cuban French

Last weekend we were in Trois Rivieres for the World Kona Championships. The windsurfing was tiring and we raced or tried to race everyday. We were never done until at least 6PM every day. It makes for a tiring week of windsurfing. There were 66 competitors from around the world. We had 8 races…the first 4 were in light wind and the last 4 were in heavy wind. I unfortunately was not very successful in the heavy wind and ended up in 51st position.  My son, who was the youngest racer in the Worlds at 8, made it to the first race and started. It was the most amazing start for him as he had a better one than both his parents. I’ll never forget seeing him sailing through the pack along the start line picking his way through all the competitors.

We had one evening where we went out for dinner in downtown Trois Rivieres at an authentic Cuban restaurant, Cafe-Bistro Le Paladar on Notre-Dame. It is a smallish restaurant that had a difficult time serving 20 people (we didn’t give them too much warning about the number). But the food was amazing.

My son ordered the Cuban club sandwich which was very good. I ordered the Rojas Viera which is a cuban version of smoked pulled beef …very tasty with the sweet plantains. Each came with a green salad that had a light lime dressing (very refreshing).

I would recommend this restaurant as the food is very authentic and tasty.

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Mill St Blue Illumes

This weekend we were all ready to try out Robz bistro but to our dismay it was closed on Saturday. Before we found out it was not going to open, we were early so we decided to try a new indie coffee shop, Illume on Wellington beside the Metro. The cappucinno was good and came from this unique machine that was imported from Europe. The coffee shop is spacious. There was a good selection of loose leaf tea. I had the Jasmine Green which had very nice flavour and aroma. They also sell Jones soda which my son had. Most of the desserts are gluten free except the Suzy Q donuts.:).

Since Robz Bistro was closed, we decided to go to the Mill St BrewHouse for lunch. Note to self, do not go during Bluesfest as you have to pay for parking. Parking was 20 dollars with a 10 dollar Mill St voucher and the 10 dollars going to CHEO. At least my money went to a good cause.

The drink: the beer is standard Mill St.It was interesting that I couldn’t order a half pint of the beer only a 15 ounce. So instead, my husband ordered the paddle where there were 4X6 oz beer samplers. One of them was a lemon tea beer that I wanted.July6IMG_1991

The food; since it was before 3PM we were able to order off the brunch menu. My son ordered the pulled pork eggs benedict, my husband ordered the smoked salmon frittata and I ordered the beef dip.

The eggs in the benedict were done perfectly. The hollandaise sauce was not as buttery as Cafe Cognac but still tasty. The pulled pork was tender with a nice BBQ smoke flavour that did not overwelm. The potatoes were very well seasoned. My son enjoyed his plate as the flavours melded very well.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

The frittata was good; nothing spectacular. The fried potato patty was good. Soft in the middle crunchy on the outside and not greasy.Fritatta

My beef dip was good. The beef was a chunk of very tender brisket that was slow roasted. The dip was tasty but seemed to have the canned beef broth taste. The onions were ok except the sous-chef used some of the papery onion so there were chewy onion parts. The strawberry salad was perfect with a strawberry dressing and crumbled goat cheese and almonds for crunch. I also liked the slaw which was a fennel slaw with apple.

Overall, the food was better than average. The timing was another story. The restaurant was not busy but we ordered right away. It took a very long time for our meals to arrive. The table beside us who ordered after us and had appetizers had their appetizers before our meals and their meals arrived just after ours. I seemed our meals took a very long time.

This restaurant definitely makes their money on drinks…the non-alcoholic drinks start at 3 dollars.

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Qui sont Ti- Pere and Edgar

A few weekends ago, my son had a birthday party to go to which gave us parents a chance to enjoy a lunch together. Before going for lunch, we needed our daily caffeine fix so we tried a new coffeehouse on Parkdale called BlumenStudio. I want to understand how a floral shop and coffee are related? The cappuccino was very well done. They had a very good assortment of loose leaf tea. I had the lychee black tea…very flavourful, fruity and aromatic. I could see how this would be a hit as an iced tea. The shop is small with a small patio.

We embarked on a trip to go to the restaurant Edgar in Aylmer. This little cafe is right along a bike route as there were many patrons with their biking clothes on. This place is very small but is very popular for weekend brunch. They have a tiny patio that seats about 20 people and the inside probably seats even fewer. The cappuccino is very decent and the sandwiches (panninis) are excellent. I had the Thai one with pork and my husband had the club. Both were excellent. The wait staff is friendly and bilingual. I saw that they were offering homemade ice cream sandwiches too.

For Father’s day we decided to try a new place for breakfast called Les Délices à Ti-père on rue de la Montagne in Gatineau. It is a little restaurant on the back roads route to Camp Fortune. They serve a traditional Quebec breakfast with meat choices including creton and roast pork. It is an interesting place with one short order cook. Unfortunately, we were behind quite a few tables and so our meal took a while to arrive. My son noted that the hollandaise sauce was made with butter and was not as lemony as Cafe Cognac. The eggs benedict looked good. The roast pork was tasty but a bit dry (it was the loin and needed something to dip in). Otherwise, my eggs were done well. My husband ordered the special…lots of food. Apparently, the Bunn coffee was not bad either. A good place to stop on the way to Camp Fortune for skiing.

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Beckta Beckons

After reading all the good reviews for Gezellig, I embarked my family to go there for Sunday brunch. Being in Westboro, it was the perfect distance to do the cycle with my 8 year old son (his first ride of the season). I had scouted the menu before hand to make sure there would be something my son could eat.

GesseligIMG_1938I was very impressed by the service and the food at Gezellig. My son ordered the breakfast poutine which was a poached egg with hollandaise sauce on top of fries and fried pork belly. The egg was perfectly poached and the hollandaise sauce was rich and very lemony which was the perfect foil for the fries. My son loved this dish…he even took some of my potatoes to soak up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.

GesseligIMG_1937My husband ordered the fried eggs (sunny side up) on top of bread layered with pork rillet and goat cheese with a small side of greens and sundried tomatoes. The pork rillet was the star of this dish. It had the richness and a full flavour reminiscent of a pate.

GesseligIMG_1939I ordered the frittata with wild leeks, fiddleheads, duck confit and goat cheese with fried fingerling potatoes. I enjoyed the frittata but I think it could have had a bit more duck; otherwise, the other ingredients were well distributed and contributed nicely to the overall taste. However, I think next time if I had the choice, I would go with the fried eggs.

The cappuccino was well brewed using Bridgehead coffee. The green tea was a oolong green tea and very flavourful.

The service was amazing…I was very impressed, the waiter addressed my son and talked to him with the same respect as any other customer. He offered him his choices of beverages. The drinks were prompt, the food advice was spot on. The timing was well done.

After such a good experience at Gezellig, it encouraged me to book our 25th wedding anniversary dinner at Play Food and Wine, another Beckta restaurant. It is a sister restaurant in the market that offers small plates.

PlayIMG_1941Again, looking at the menu online, I was able to see what dishes my son would want to eat. I was pleasantly surprised that there was more than 1 or 2 choices. We were not disappointed with the food. We ordered the 5 cheese plate, the mixed charcuterie plate (dried sausage, salami, prosciutto, chorizo), boar sausage, pork belly, scallops, and hanger steak.

PlayIMG_1944The hanger steak was marinated in a soy marinade whose flavour complimented the steak. Accompanying the steak was fries with aioli sauce which my son devoured.

PlayIMG_1942The pork belly was deep fried with a crispy outer skin. The accompanied beans had an amazing sweet maple flavour with the walnuts adding a nice crunchy texture. The scallops were seared perfectly. I think the boar sausage was the most disappointing. The sausage itself was normal. The accompaniments were the star. The squash puree had a sweet taste with a spicy bite at the end. The mustard was bold but it over took the flavour of the sausage.

PlayIMG_1951The desserts were excellent and a perfect size considering the richness. We shared the chocolate pate with lemon chantilly and almond cookie chunks and white chocolate creme brule. These desserts paired well with the green tea and cappuccino.

My only disappointment was the service was a little slow. Not sure if they were under staffed. When we ordered drinks, my husband and my wine were brought to the table quickly but my son’s special lemonade took quite a long time to appear. It appeared with the cheese and meat plates.  Our server did not seem too comfortable with interacting and including my son as part of the ordering experience. He neglected to ask him what he wanted to drink until I had to intervene and ask what drinks were available for him.

It also took a long time for someone to take our dessert order (at least 10 minutes). I give our server credit for asking Stephen Beckta to come and ask while he was still busily taking orders from a table of 8.

It seemed to take some time between finishing our cheese and meat platters to getting our hot dishes. The 4 hot dishes came out at the same time. I would have preferred to wait less between the cheese plate and be served the hot dishes as they were ready. As we were doing the small plate sharing, there was no need to have all the dishes out at the same time.

I quite enjoyed the small plate concept and being able to order a 3oz glass of wine that can match the dish. It allows me to be able to taste many different and orthogonal dishes in the same meal.

In the end it was still an enjoyable meal that the whole family liked and was still a good choice for the 25th anniversary.

 

 

 

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Been there, Scene it, Done it

Last Saturday was the annual Glebe garage sale where a large number of people gather to buy people’s used and unwanted stuff. It is a good excuse to go for a walk on a nice but cold morning and hone your bargaining skills. Officially starting at 8AM but realistically you need to be there at 7:30 to get parking. I would suggest parking out at the edge of the Glebe so you can leave easily at noon.

As always, one of the most interesting things to note is what items are passe. This year, it seems that everyone was trying to sell off the “Scene It” game. I saw it being sold from at least a dozen houses. Wii games and accessories were also very popular (or unpopular depending on your perspective) as was this particular coffee maker that we saw at 3 houses within the same block!

We started on Renfrew and worked our way into the middle of the Glebe. The most crowded zones were near the churches and schools that had multiple vendors and tables and of course Bank Street.

The sale was very useful the last couple of years when my son was between the ages of 3 to 7 where toys and more kid stuff was always of interest. It seems now my son has reached an age where he ignores most of the toys and is now looking at books and comic books. We still were able to buy a quality pair of ski boots for my son next year so maybe the sale wasn’t so much a bust.

Afterwards, we went to Pressed for waffle brunch; a place that my son wanted to visit since he saw it on “You Gotta Eat Here” Food network show. We had tried the previous week but we were too early (35 min too early). Apparently they open at 10AM on weekends. Would have been nice if they had their hours posted somewhere on the door. Brunch is served from 10 AM – 2PM on weekends. We got there around 12:30PM. It wasn’t too busy; there were still one or two tables open. My husband ordered the Pulled Brisket with curds and gravy waffle, I ordered the bacon,apple and cheddar waffle and my son ordered the eggs benedict waffle.

The portions are large but…the waffles were chewy…I was expecting light, fluffy waffles..you know the ones where they whipped the egg whites separately to lighten up the batter. The waffles we made from a mix (where you add milk, oil and eggs) were fluffier because I separated the eggs and whipped the whites.

I quite enjoyed the bacon, apple and cheddar topping on my waffle. This was the only one that came with syrup.

The poached eggs on the eggs benedict were nicely soft cooked but I think there was too much vinegar in the water as my son could taste the sour in the egg white. The hollandaise sauce was good…more lemony and acidic and not as buttery rich as Cafe Cognac but still good.

The pulled brisket had a lot of sauce with a strong taste of cumin which reminded us of a mild chili.

For a coffee shop, I still wish they had a better tea selection that just Bigelow’s teas especially at 2 dollars a pot. The cappuccinos were ok but nothing special.

The waffle menu concept is a good one and unique in Ottawa, however, we were very disappointed in the quality of the waffle which should have been the highlight of the brunch dishes.

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Beam me up Scottie

We were fortunate enough that this year the Scotties were being held in Kingston which is less than 2 hours away. It was our chance lots of curling being played by some of the finest teams from across Canada on beautiful fast arena ice. Luckily the weather on the first weekend cooperated. We were able to go see the first two draws on Saturday and one draw on Monday (family day).

A couple of comments on the venue. The arena is right downtown Kingston; right beside the Food Basics grocery store. It is a new arena. However, the “patch” was a good 10 min drive away. Yes, there were shuttle buses but it was hard to get people to go there when most of the hotels and restaurants and bars were downtown. Another problem was that the shuttle buses mostly only ran before and after each draw.

Tickets for each draw were advertised as 20 dollars…well if you tried to get tickets online, with admin fees and convenience fees…it added up to a whopping 28 dollars. 8 dollars on a 20 dollar ticket…that is criminal. Needless to say, we took our chances and got the 20 dollar tickets at the box office. The only draw that was busy was the first draw.

Merchandising at the Scotties could have been done better…it was mostly very expensive jackets and tops with two tables of knicknacks such as mugs, glasses. The hot item was the fleece curling rock hat  at 30 dollars which sold out the first Saturday night. Unfortunately, we heard that they were not bringing in anymore. I’m sure that they could have sold 3 times more hats during the week and the final weekend.

The best food for the money at the arena was the handcut fries at 4 dollars. Add cheese and gravy at 6.50 or chili and cheese at 6.50. Best to get them upstairs above the seats as you get a much larger portion for the money. The worst value would be the small popcorn for 3 dollars. Premium tall boys (Creemore springs etc) set you back at 9 dollars.

One nice thing about the venue is that it is close to many restaurants. Our first dinner was at Olivea at the corner of King and Brock. Rick’s lamb shank was excellent; my arctic char was done perfectly on top of puy lentils. Kai’s pasta with butter sauce was perfect. The service was excellent. For dessert we shared a creme brule.

lamb shankarctic charpasta with butter sauce

Our second dinner was at Le chien noir bistro on Brock street. The burger I had with an easy over egg was huge and extremely tasty ( a guy’s burger). The lobster meatballs on spaghetti was heavenly. The ice cream sundae with maple syrup and caramelized walnuts over homemade maple ice cream was great to share.

lobster meatballsBurger

Oh yeah..the curling was very entertaining. I enjoyed watching 4 games at once (really it was three games as we knew we were taping the tv game) and being able to hear many of the comments between the front and back ends. The different practice regiments were of interest to (coach) Rick.

 

 

 

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