Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Oh, Canada!

I took 2016 off from each of my blogs to focus on bigger projects.  I wish I could tell you I’ve sent a completed book to a publisher, but I cannot.  I made progress, but discovered a great truth…It’s really hard to write about something when you’re in the middle of it.  Writing about something well requires some distance, some time.  So in 2017 other writing projects will evolve, but I am back to my blogs.

I ended 2016 with a week in Canada visiting family in Ottawa.  As always, eating took center stage on the journey, so let me share some of what I ate.  I had never been to Canada before so eating some particular things was a must.  The first stop in Ottawa was the legendary Beavertails
This is sort of a flat donut meets a funnel cake slathered with a topping like chocolate and bananas, Nutella, garlic butter and of course, the standard bearer, maple butter.  Eaten outside in the freezing cold of late December, this is sure to make anyone smile, though a hot chocolate with it sure doesn’t hurt.  We hit the location in Byward Market, a great area for a stroll (as evidenced by President Obama’s own stroll here) some food shopping and a meal or drink. 
It lived up to the hype and was a great welcome to Canada.  Then we headed over to The Highlander for dinner.  Yes, the is a Scottish pub, and there are many pubs from the Isles in this heavily British-influenced city.  Dinner was excellent and included an excellent dish of haggis, a good introduction to poutine, a nice curry, a Newfoundland-style clam chowder, fish and chips made with haddock and an incredible scotch selection.  There’s a reason this pub has been a landmark in Byward for years.  This is a must-stop.   After all that heavy food and drink, the Byward Market offers some great food shops to stroll through.  Patisseries, cheese mongers, butchers, fish shops and small grocery stores abound.  I swung into La Bottega and fell in love.  Their selection of Italian foods was glorious, and I left with cuttlefish ink and my treasured Mon Cheris.  On another evening in the market we took The Clocktower Brew Pub.  Here I had the best poutine of my trip, a simple, reasonable bowl of fries and cheese curds covered in a simple brown gravy, topped with wild boar sausage.  Delicious!

On another night we celebrated the season with the family’s rendition of paella.  As usual, this was festive and delicious.  New friends, more dancing, and lots of laughed marked the night – a rare time when my wife and all her siblings were together.  One of the highlights of paella this year was shopping for it.  We checked out Canada’s T&T Supermarket.  There really aren’t words for this place.  All of East Asia was represented throughout this gigantic market.  Prepared hot foods, all sorts of fresh foods, live fish and shellfish of all kinds, every sort of noodle, dumpling, and produce.  If I lived in Ottawa this could be my main market. 

We took a day trip to Montreal and let that day completely revolve around food.  The first stop was Tim Horton’s for coffee, hot chocolate and a donut.  I understand why Canadians stuck in the States long for this.  Not much of a coffee drinker but an avid consumer of donuts, their donuts are far superior to what Dunkin’ Donuts has become.  Once in Montreal we headed for the Marche Jean Talon In Little Italy.  This place is reminiscent of so many food markets throughout Europe such as Barcelona’s Boqueria or Florence’s San Lorenzo Market.  It featured four covered halls, two filled with some of the most amazing produce I have ever seen.  Heads of cabbage the size of volleyballs, kiwis like baseballs, vibrant colors and endless varieties in every direction.  The other two arms were a combination of meats, fish, cheese, flowers, nuts, wine, honey and of course, maple products. I walked away with some pork fat mousse, pate and some young, unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese.  A delicious stop indeed.  After some very chilly wandering and a stop at the Cathedral we had dinner at Modavie, a French restaurant.  Dinner was superb and featured steak frites, beet salad, wild boar, duck, calamari, an amazing corn soup, panna cotta, a chocolate dome cake, great cocktails and wine that was spot on for all of us.  Best of all, service was truly excellent…even if they were all out of moules et frites.          

A few food-oriented podcasts kept me hungry while I traversed the continent, and I have to pass them along to you.  First and best known, was The Splendid Table, often heard on NPR.  Next, I enjoyed The Sporkful, a podcast for eaters, not foodies.  Finally, A Taste of the Past, a look at the history of certain foods and food traditions.
Finally, it was the holidays and a few gifts had a foodie theme.  Can you see it?

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