Food Bloggers Canada Conference -Ottawa 2017, Part One

November3

The highlight of Food Musings’ year has come and gone. I have attended the FBC conference every year since its inception with the exception of the year that it was scheduled on the same weekend as daughter Boo and the Frenchman’s wedding day. The direct flight from Winnipeg was a breeze and because I was watching downloaded episodes of The Night Manager, I actually wished that the flight had been longer.

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I arrived before my roommate Bridget and was pleased with the view from our 17th floor window.

The afternoon started with a lovely Cabernet Merlot from Peller Estates as we fetched our swag bags.

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I chatted with the wine server about staying right next to the Peller vineyards when we visited Niagara on the Lake a couple of years ago. I had to run my bag back upstairs as it was bulging with loot.

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Green lentil and roasted garlic humus

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Sundried tomato and split pea hummus

Lentils .org was to be the sponsor of our first dinner and kick off cocktail party and they apparently must have thought that we needed a pre-cocktail party nibble and glass of wine. I for one was grateful. It helped me shrug off some stress and allow others to take care of me (not something I usually do).

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Bacon Chocolate Cookie Truffles

The official Cocktail Reception was in the penthouse of the hotel. I did a lap and found the most delectable morsel from the Ontario Pork table. They generously shared the recipe with me. It is below.

Bacon Chocolate Cookie Truffles
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20-24 pieces
 
Bacon makes everything better, even chocolate.
Ingredients
  • 20-24 chocolate chip cookies (homemade or store bought)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 slices Ontario bacon, cooked, drained, finely chopped and divided
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Crush 2 dozen cookies into crumbs into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 6 slices of finely chopped bacon and cream cheese. Mix together until a ball of cookie dough forms. If dough feels dry, add 1 Tbsp. of cream cheese until desired consistency is achieved.
  3. Roll into 2 inch balls. Place rolled cookie balls onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. While cookie balls are freezing, place chocolate chips and coconut oil into a microwave safe dish. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between, until creamy and lump free.
  5. Dip balls into chocolate with a fork, allowing excess chocolate to drip off.
  6. Place truffles back onto cookie sheet and immediately sprinkle with a generous pinch of chopped bacon. Once all truffles have been coated, place in fridge to allow chocolate to set. Store truffles refrigerated in an airtight container.

Lentils.org also was the sponsor of that evening’s dinner. The organizers had assembled some of Ottawa’s best chefs. The intention was a dine-around atmosphere selecting small plates when we were tempted.

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Representing the Wellington Gastropub was Chef Chris Deraiche. He served a Lentil, Sweet Potato Pierogi, accompanied by Cider Pickled Cabbage and Crème Fraiche. I guess my Slavic roots were showing as I chose the pierogi as my favourite taste of the evening.

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A Lentil Sausage was created by Chef Kevin Benes of Carben Food + Drink.

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Chef Olivia Cruikshank of Pure Kitchen served a Green lentil Enchilada with Salsa Verde, Cashew Cheese and Split Red Lentil Garnish. Unfortunately, I missed out on Chef Joe Thottungal of Coconut Lagoon.

I was lucky enough to snag one of the few dining tables that had been set up. Because chairs were at a premium and everyone was pretty bushed from the day, we had a revolving door of visitors.

The beds at the Delta were divine and I was ready to settle in for the night.

Kath’s quote: “Lentils are friendly – the Miss Congeniality of the bean world”.-Laurie Colwin

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Love never fails.

 

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Wilfred’s at the Chateau Laurier-Ottawa

November2

On our final afternoon in Ottawa, we walked to the ByWard market and strolled around there. In spite of pledging to myself that I would get my eating back on track, I had to order my very first Beaver Tail: one of those Canadian food items that takes their place with Nanaimo Bars from BC and butter tarts from the prairies. As I approached the kiosk I got wafts of a cinnamony sugar aroma and knew that whatever I was about to eat, could not be a bad thing. It turns out that Beaver Tails come in a variety of enhanced versions, but since it was my first foray, I wanted to try the authentic deal.

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It turns out that a Beaver Tail is a flat, rounded item made from a donut-like batter that is deep friend and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. The taste reminded me of mini-donuts that are a favourite of D’s and can be purchased at Manitoba’s Red River Exhibition or in our own version of the ByWard Market at the Forks in Winnipeg.

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In spite of taking the time to photograph beautiful raw products

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and seeing a number of taverns and pubs offering classic fare, we were not certain where in the market to have lunch.

At my suggestion, we pranced over to the Chateau Laurier. Reminding me of Winnipeg’s Hotel Fort Garry or Saskatoon’s Bessborough Hotel, it was a lovely treat to walk through the grand lobby en route to the dining room. We took on an air of importance in spite of both being in blue jeans and comfortable walking shoes and me sporting a full leg brace as my torn meniscus had been acting up. Across from us were a couple of very sophisticated and well dressed women, I felt like a bit like a bumpkin in their presence. I don’t think my friend Marlene even noticed.

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But to the food! My lunch date chose a salmon burger and even before she took a bite we were duly impressed. The bun had been branded with a “W” for Wilfred Laurier, I presumed and then when I viewed the insignia from another angle I realised that it was an “F” as the Chateau Laurier is a Fairmont hotel.

Marlene actually did not eat the bun but tucked into the juicy looking salmon patty with relish. (Meaning she was enthusiastic about tasting it not that it was served with the relish condiment). In fact, the burger had a Mexican twist and was accompanied by guacamole, pico de gallo and crème fresh.

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I in turn was very impressed with my chickpea fritters appetizer. They were beautifully presented on baby greens with a lovely splotch of parsley lemon puree, tahini emulsion, crumbled feta and pita chips (also crumbled). I couldn’t make out the dressing on the greens but it was satisfyingly pungent and complex.

We washed everything down with a couple of Blanche Chamblays which I was certain was a locally produced craft beer. I was showing off to my son who is a brewer by sending him a picture of our beer choice. He set me straight on the origins of the beer which was delicious (wherever it was from).

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Since I had my dessert before lunch, we set out again, seeing the last lovely vistas of Parliament Hill.

Kath’s quote: “True patriot love in all thy sons command.”

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Love never fails.

 

 

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El Camino, Ottawa

November1

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The Sunday evening after the conclusion of the FBC Conference was a poignant one. It was like being at a family reunion and feeling so uplifted from seeing all your family but emotionally tired (from seeing all your family).

My old FBC friend Marlene had moved into my room for the night and we were like old slippers: cozy, comfortable and very, very relaxed. We chatted, spent some time on line, chatted some more and then we were faced with the most daunting decision….where to go out for dinner?  I had gotten some advice from Ottawa resident Vanessa and we got the choices down to a short list. Since we had certainly taken in more than our daily caloric content for the past couple of days, we decided on Mexican food at El Camino which included a nice long walk up and down Elgin to bookend the evening.

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A small group had gathered in front of the restaurant’s front door and we were initially concerned that there was going to be a long wait for dinner. It turned out that they were waiting on a single table to sit them all, so we were able to snag the last deuce available.

Our server had a jaunty accent and I enquired which part of Australia he came from. He replied: “New Zealand”? Oops, my mistake. He was definitely not offended and we were impressed by his jovial service style.

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We were surprised that they did not have a full array of Mexican beer available and settled for Tercate, forgoing the salted edge, but requesting lime wedges. The beverages turned out to be lovely foils to the salty chips and avocado salsa we were enjoying by that time.

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Considering ourselves food aficionados, we wanted to sample as many tastes as possible so we each ordered two tacos, creating four messy, slurp able tastes each. I chose the Japanese eggplant (I choose eggplant every single chance I get) and the cochina pibil. The latter being a favourite while travelling to Isla Mujeres as my husband and I do each year. Because the authentic Yucatan dish takes time to marinate and slow roast, the Isla locales typically share this tasty dish with island visitors on Sunday afternoons. Our server pointed out that the choice meat nuggets were taken from the face of the hog, i.e. cheeks and jowls and I knew that we were in for a treat indeed.

By my reckoning, the eggplant had been lightly dusted in flour and a pinch of sugar, producing a crunchy, moist, sweet surprise. The garnishes sealed the deal.

The meat of the cochinita pibil was packed with flavour from the marinade and the slow melting of the fat, which penetrated the meat to make every bite a delight. In Mexico they go to great lengths to produce the flavour.

Cochinita is a classic example of the fusion of early European Influences with the local Maya foods and cooking techniques. The Mayan name cochinita pibil means baby pig roasted underground. The pork was marinated with sour oranges and achiote, wrapped in banana leaves and roasted on hot stones underground. It is shredded and can be served in corn tortillas as tacos or on bolillos or rolls as sandwiches. Excerpt from the cookbook entitled: Cochina Islena

We also ordered a crispy fish taco and one other which I cannot for the life of me remember the name of. That was because Marlene and I were having such a wonderful visit, like two sisters that lived in different cities.

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When I spotted Churros on the dessert menu, I ordered them as well. One year when we spent Christmas on Isla Mujeres, we had the donut-like churros for dessert. Since they originate in Spain and Portugal, I look forward to tasting them again in an upcoming trip to Algarve in Portugal.

Kath’s quote: “Churros is the answer. Who cares what the question is.” -writer unknown

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Love never fails.

 

 

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Good Eats, Ottawa

October31

From our hotel window on the 17th floor of the Delta in Ottawa we could see Good Eats on its own little island surrounded by a sea for cars. We were curious about the vintage building but more than this…we were hungry for a lovingly made cup of coffee and perhaps some toast or pastry to start the day.

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We got both, but let me start with our entrance to the historic home. Walking up the worn steps I wondered who had previously lived there and what was the family’s story. We entered what I assumed had been their living and dining area complete with original fireplace in the corner.

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Marlene chose avocado toast and I the breakfast sandwich and we were able to share both. The former came on a lovely seed infused bread that had been lightly toasted. The smashed avocado was a wholesome taste but in my opinion needed the addition of a glistening of salt to enhance the creamy bite.

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The latter came with light and airy eggs on a toasted English muffin with a smear of something that tasted to me like red pepper hummus. The combination of the two was deelish. Marlene also had a beautiful latte. I found that I was already coffeed out and stuck to water.

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I loved the vibe of the place. The building was light-filled and just my style. We met a FBCer who had also spotted the café from our hotel. Good people gravitate around good food.

Kath’s quote: “I love things that are indescribable, like the taste of an avocado or the smell of a gardenia.”-Barbra Streisand

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Love never fails.

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Piazza di Nardi

October23

Have you ever travelled by car through Italy on the auto strata? If you have and you have stopped at one of their “auto grills”, you may recognise the food service counters at Piazza di Nardi. The food at these Italian rest stops is surprisingly excellent and so is di Nardi’s. You may wish to order a slice of pizza, a meatball sandwich or eggplant Parmigiano. On this occasion I decided to compile lunch from the vast array of cold items.

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While in Italy we sometimes would stop and purchase a baguette, some meat and cheese and fashion our own sandwiches. This can be done at Piazza di Nardi as well, but they make it simpler by having pre-maid sandwiches on hand. I chose ham and cheese on forcaccia bread. The fresh and hearty sandwich was enhanced by a cluster of grapes.

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I added the fig in homage to our time in Sicily where we simply plucked them from our hosts’ tree for our breakfast.

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I wanted to sample even more items that I had not enjoyed since our couple of Italian adventures so I also ordered a small seafood salad which was chock full of calamari and just the correct tartness from the vinegar marinade.

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Two kinds of arancini in Sicily.

I also chose what you might consider the strangest thing: an arancini (literally an orange) which is so named for its shape but is actually a fried rice ball.

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The dish may not sound appetizing but it absolutely was. Peas, meat sauce and mozzarella were stuffed inside a seasoned ball of rice (actually a cup of rice was hand-shaped and then the stuffing was placed in the cup. Then a second bowl shaped rice cup was added to the top). This all got sealed up, covered in breadcrumbs and fried. They can be eaten right out of the pan as a hot course in an Italian meal or packed away to eat as a cold snack. We ate ours on a train trip from Sicily to the Amalfi Coast.

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The bonus when you lunch at Piazza di Nardi is that you can purchase other grocery items while there to plan your next meal. I picked up artichoke bruschetta and spinach gnocchi.

Piazza di Nardi is located at 1360 Taylor Ave. They serve lunch and dinner features daily and also have deli items and a catering menu. They are open daily Monday to Saturday from 9 am until 8 pm. On Sunday they are open 11 am-6 pm. Hot items are served from 11:30 am-7:30 pm.

Kath’s quote: “Italian food is all about ingredients and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy”. -Wolfgang Puck

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

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