Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is a year-round destination that celebrates the colder months with an elaborate Winterlude Festival, three-week long festival reflective of a winter wonderland .,/p>
On a recent visit to the city, I spent much time exploring Winterlude 2015 by partaking in activities, including a stroll down the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway. It is famous for providing more than 70 rest stops/concession stands complete with coffee, hot chocolate, and deliciousCanadian beaver tails, a fried dough pastry topped sprinkled with sugar and additional toppings.
For those looking to explore indoor activities, check out the top notch food movement sweeping through Ottawa. There are a variety of places to dine, sip, and savor all the city has to offer. The scene includes everything from traditional fine dining to farm-to table-restaurants to an exploding craft brew scene. Many of the restaurants in town are part of a local food movement known as Savour Ottawa that ensures that stores and restaurants are using local food in their products, to the tune of $25,000 per year directly from local farmer.
Coffee and tea culture is also booming with places like Bridgehead Coffee House and Tea Store in the ByWard Market area. At Tea Store, thirsty patrons an try their hand at making their own blend of tea leaves with the added help of their friendly staff to guide them through the process.
When it comes to hotel cuisine, Zoe’s at Chateau Laurier offers a killer afternoon tea (both a traditional and “Canadian” version). At the Westin across the street, try the Shore Club Restaurant & Bar for indulgent cocktails like the Apple Pie or Twisted Cesar.
Elk Burger at The Albion Rooms: The Albion Room is a restaurant tucked inside the Novotel Ottawa Hotel that prides itself on being part of the Savour Ottawa movement. It carries local meat, game, seafood, and vegetables from local purveyors.. Given the sub-zero temperatures outside, I was craving something warm, filling, and comforting. I turned to the elk burger made with the “Elk Ranch” elk patty, old cheddar, the molasses bacon, lettuce, and tomato in between two slices of gluten free bread (normally served on a soft bun). The elk wasn’t overly gamey and was the perfect complement to the bacon and iceberg wedge that was served alongside of it. The honorable mention of the meal goes to the roasted cauliflower side dish made with saffron, mayonnaise, raisons, parsley, and pine nuts.
Chicken Soup with Rice Noodles at Sushi Zone, Byward Market: After a morning of Winterlude activities that included watching an ice carving contest with more than 13 countries represented, I decided to stroll through the ByWard Market for lunch. The market had some enticing options: soups, hearty Indian dishes, and beautiful baked goods. What caught my eye was the lunch special at Sushi Zone that showcased its chicken soup with vermicelli noodles and vegetables. The soup was fresh, and filled me with the warmth I needed to go outside and brave another day. The name of the restaurant would imply a menu filled with a variety of sushi and sashimi options, but my gut was telling me to stick with the soup packed with light rice noodles to satisfy my needs. I was happily proven right.
Canadian Tea at Chateau Laurier, Zoe’s Lounge: One of the highlights of my time in Ottawa was sitting down for afternoon tea at Chateau Laurier, a beautifully constructed turn-of-the-century hotel that often services politicians, heads of state, royalty, and entertainers. One of the main attractions of the hotel is having tea at Zoe’s, whichboasts great views of the city. When I sat down for tea time, I was presented with two options: the traditional English afternoon tea complete with tea sandwiches, or the Canadian afternoon tea with its own twist. When in Canada, I thought, and opted for the latter, noting that I needed the gluten free option, to which they happily obliged. We began the meal with a glass of champagne and a cup of ice wine-marinated strawberries topped with Devonshire cream. Next, came the breathtaking three-tiered tray. It was filled with gluten free scones; mini-sandwiches topped with curried chicken, salmon, and cucumber and the roasted sterling silver striploin; and two slices of banana loaf cake; and strawberry cream. But perhaps the most special moment was when the server wheeled over the massive tea cart with more than 20 tea selections.. I was torn between maple tea and the vanilla hazelnut. After a thorough smell test, I selected the vanilla hazelnut full of flavor with a hint of sweetness.
Winter Fig Salad at Play Food & Wine: Play Food & Wine located on the outskirts of the ByWard Market region is drawing crowds for its seasonal two-course “small plates” lunch menu that allows diners to sample a variety of their inventive dishes. I had the pleasure of watching the chef plate an exquisite winter dish comprised of figs, pistachio, chèvre, vanilla honey, and Boston scarlet that was crisp and elegant. It happens to be one of the lighter dishes on the menu, compared with other options such as the gnocchi with short rib and Swiss chard or the boar sausage with bourbon mustard and sauerkraut.
Escargot Gratin at Absinthe: I began my meal with this decadent, cheesy luscious appetizer. There were more than a few pieces of escargot served in a warm, stainless steel serving tray topped with melted cheese and parsley and cracked black pepper. Each bite was warm and flavorful and wildly addicting. The escargot was my first dish of a three-course dinner, which led me to contemplate putting down my fork and to patiently await my next dish. While that would have been the smart move, I couldn’t help with multiple forkfuls before offering a friend the last morsel. With that being said, it is more than enough portion-wise to make this a great appetizer to share for the table.