Our fall trip was cut down from its usual week to a couple days (four with the weekend), but we made the most of it by leaving Friday afternoon, and staying in Ottawa until Tuesday afternoon. On both trips, we stopped for dinner in the Toronto-ish area around rush hour time, thereby successfully avoiding traffic tie-ups. The worst we experienced was just trying to get out of Kitchener Friday afternoon!
In Ottawa, we did our usuals of enjoying some of the city’s finer restaurants, visiting museums, walking around the parks, and shopping in the Market and other areas. But two things made this year’s trip specially special. The first was that we followed up on an idea from last year’s high school reunion and met up with friends there! And that was a total hoot.
The second I’ll get back to later.
When we first arrived in Ottawa, it was just the two of us for lunch. We were staying in a hotel right by the Market, so that’s where we headed. Jean recalled that we had really enjoyed Play Food and Wine last time we were in Ottawa, so we found that place again. They offer small plates, each optionally matched with a 3 or 6 oz glass of wine—two things we love (the small plates and the wine matching, that is).
I started with a nice pumpkin salad with goat cheese and cinnamon tempura (!), served with a really good red blend from Organized Crime winery (want to seek that wine out), while Jean had excellent seared trout, served with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. My next course, pictured, was pasta with littleneck clams, served with a Gruner Veltliner (from Austria, of course). Jean had the gnochi served with sage and mushrooms, accompanied by a New Zealond Pinot Noir (Appleby Lane).
And we finished by sharing a cheese plate, me with a French muscat, while Jean had an Ontario late harvest. Everything was very good. We sat upstairs this time, and still found the atmosphere quite nice, with good service.
It had been sunny when we arrived, but started to cloud over in the afternoon. It was still pretty nice, though, so we walked around, and Jean took some photos.
That night, for dinner, was our first occasion for meeting up with friends. Sylvie and Paul had driven up from Timmins that day. They had suggested we try Sidedoor. Saturday ended up being the only night that worked for that, and we couldn’t get reservations until 8:30 pm!
This turned out to be another “small plate” kind of place, but not with wine matching this time. We ordered a variety of items for sharing: fried tofu with veggies, buttered lobster tacos, tuna sashimi, sockeye salmon seviche with coconut, shrimp dumplings, pan-roasted duck, chicken in chili sauce. And steamed rice. We went with a bottle of Spanish tempranillo for the lot, and that worked pretty well.
Not sure what the drunken angle is about, but does indicate the variety of dishes being shared…
The food was, in general, very nice. Sylvie and Paul voted for the salmon and tofu as their faves; Jean and I were more inclined to the tuna and dumplings. But it was all worth eating. We didn’t order dessert, but we did all have ports to finish.
The place was… lively. It was reasonably sedate when we first arrived, but not long after, an entire wedding party showed up, and in no time, every seat in the place was filled. Mostly with people younger than us, which tends to be unusual, for your higher-end dining places. It made for conversation at our table a bit challenging; I had to fill Jean in after on some of the items Sylvie and I had discussed.
Sunday started out drizzly and was predicted to just get more rainy, so we decided this would be a good day to use our pre-purchased tickets to the Museum of Civilization. Jean had been there before, and I thought I had as well, but I soon concluded it was my first visit. It was quite interesting, especially the Canada Pavilion, where you are really immersed into Canadian history, east to west, old to new.
We had lunch at the museum, and that was pretty good. I convinced Jean that a one-course lunch would suffice; I had fish, he had duck, with the matching wines (where available). And we concluded with cappuccino.
Though we had considered walking to the museum, we finally chose to drive. This proved a good decision as it was raining harder by the time we were ready to leave. So we took the car to some more distant driving locations, such as MEC, and did some shopping there before returning to the hotel.
Dinner that night was at Murray Street. We were meeting with Sylvie and Paul again, but also with MJ and Michel. (We were also supposed to meet with Jacinthe, but she had to back out due to a badly timed asthma flare up.) Where we had seen Sylvie and Paul semi-regularly over the years, this was our first extended visit with MJ and Michel in a long time. We had a great evening! Though a pretty casual spot, the sound level at Murray Street made conversation much easier than at Sidedoor, and there was much merriment over our plates and individual glasses of wine or beer.
Despite the one-course lunch, given that Murray Street has pretty hearty food, I decided to go with two appetizers as my meal: A Po Boy of fried oysters (don’t always like cooked oysters, but these worked), with a sparkling Ontario wine; and a B, B, and J: Beets, butter and… I don’t know what the J is, actually, but it came with fried cheese. I had a red with that. Jean had an appetizer—I don’t remember what—then, as shown in the photo foreground, the duck leg confit with lentils.
I was the only one with room left enough for dessert, which was a take-off on s’mores, with graham, chocolate mousse, and marshmallow. Very good! And, most of us had port to finish. (Apparently Jean and I are quite the port pushers.)
Monday cleared up some again. We were meeting Sylvie and Paul for lunch, so we did some walking in the morning, and Jean got a few more photos.
Lunch was at Whalesbone, on Bank. It is a seafood place in general, but especially known for oysters. It’s small, with a really cool, casual atmosphere. A good place for our final “with friends” meal.
We’d had breakfast at Dunn’s Deli again, where it’s hard to get a really small breakfast, so we weren’t starved for our 12 noon lunch. Jean decided to have just the 18 oysters, but with willingness to share with me. I went for the Nicoise salad, which Jean also helped me with. We had a half liter of a white wine he recommend, that was really good with oysters—but I can’t remember what it was. But I do remember there were three types of oysters, one from BC (the biggest and meatiest; our favorite) and two types from the East Coast. They also had a variety of dipping sauces available, including Scotch! (We still don’t like Scotch.)
The salad Nicoise was also very nice. Paul had that as well. Sylvie went for the fish and chips, and reported that was good. Certainly looked like it.
Monday afternoon we did a bit more Market-ing. We had an early, fairly light (and wine-less!) dinner at a Thai restaurant across from Murray Street that was perfectly fine.
And then we were off to the Bob Geldof concert. Which was the second thing that made this trip special. But I’ll report on that part separately.