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Archive for February, 2010

We drove to Ottawa for a little R&R for the long weekend. It was anything but R&R! Lot’s of walking…so much walking. But it does keep the intake in check. And ‘in-take’ we did!!!

This was our adventure (Paul and T, we’ve already spec’d out a bunch of things to do when we do this trip!!!!)

Arrive noonish, drag our luggage into the hotel, the Indigo. Hotel room not ready. Drag luggage back to car. Head out to Ahora a Mexican Restaurant in Byward Market for lunch. Canada doesn’t have a lot of Mexican restaurants, so when we read about this one, we got excited! Not so much. Ahora: Overall rating: Decor 2/5, service 1/5, food 2/5 and Value 2/5.

Hotel calls, room is ready. So we drive back, drag the luggage back in and I check in while JT parks the car. 2nd floor room, facing the street (nice view), king bed, bathtub AND shower (check in lady mentions that this is a big deal!). Room next door to a family with three children. One screams at the top of their lungs. Not much sound insulation. Without even looking at me JT marches downstairs to change rooms. Bit of a hassle, but they finally find a room. Child screams 3 more times as I wait in the room. Teeth grinding. We chose this hotel because they tout is as a boutique hotel. Not so much. I would call it boutiqu-ISH, ISH being the operative. Cheap finishings, poorly insulated for sound AND it’s connected to the Mariotte which has a POOL. This place has FAMILY written all over it. Now I have no problems with families taking their kids on a hotel adventure, I just wasn’t expecting to be included – not really even having met them!

Hotel Ingigo Room 212

New room doesn’t have a view or a bathtub (only shower) but we seem to be the only guests on this side of the hotel, and it has a bed (it’s Valentine’s day after all!). It’s ultra QUIET. I am happy. Hotel Indigo Overall rating: Decor 2/5, service 3/5, Value 2/5.

We unpack and took a 25 minute cab ride (should have been 10 – Ottawa has traffic jams on Saturday????) to the Royal Canadian Mint. WOW! Wish it was running (they don’t work on weekends). They made all of the Olympic Medals, how cool is that? Each medal is completely and utterly unique, no two are alike! View this little video about Making the medals

Royal Canadian Mint, the Olympic Medals

Then we walked back to the hotel for cocktails! The walk wasn’t too bad, about 15 minutes and we were very fortunate that it wasn’t too cold (Ottawa can be as cold as -20° C in the winter!). There was a bit of wind, but we were shielded by the buildings! Along the way, we spec’d out our breakfast for the next day at Moulin de Provence. And we discovered that next time we’re in Ottawa, we will be staying on the Market side of the Canal!

Moulin de Provence

We had dinner at Restaurant Eighteen, also on the other side of the Canal!. They tried to seat us in a ‘private’ area which would have been amazing had their not been a family with 4-6 ill mannered rug rats (what is it with kids on this weekend?). So we sat more in the front, which was nice to be where the action is! I had 6 BC Kusshi Oysters (not as tasty as the PEI oysters, in my humble opinion) and the steak tartar (with a quale’s egg) and JT had the Caesar Salad and their braised veal special. Don’t get me wrong, everything was fine, just not exceptional! Restaurant Eighteen Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 3/5, food 3.5/5 and Value 3/5.

On our way back JT had previously spec’d out a bar that had live jazz and no cover at Zoe’s Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel, so we stopped in for a nightcap! It was lovely! We walked back to the hotel enjoying some of the Winterlude festivities.

Winterlude

Valentine’s morning we exchanged gifts. JT gave me some lovely perfume and I gave him a couple of CDs (Matt Dusk’s new CD and Michael Bublé’s new CD). JT also gave me a very touching card (I didn’t buy him a card – that was thoughtless!)

We walked to Byward Market for breakfast at Moulin de Province. We shared a ham and cheese crepe with bechamel sauce, bacon and potatoes and a chocolate baguette, we each had a unbelievably hot (Kim, you would have LOVED it) café latté – YUM YUM YUM!

After breakfast we drove to the Diefenbunker Museum, Canada’s Cold War Museum. I had no idea! Our PM Diefenbaker had a 20 million dollar, 10,000 square foot, four story underground bunker built in 1961-62 to hold 500 government personelle in case of a Nuclear War. Fortunately, it was never used, but we came pretty darn close a few times (kinda creepy HOW close we did come!)

Diefenbunker Museum Door

It was way past lunch time by the time we finished our tour (partly guided and party self guided) so we headed back to the Market. We selected another dud for lunch, The Fish Market. We shared the Luncheon Maritime Platter of over cooked rubbery lobster, ice cold drawn butter, skinny little crab legs, mini jumbo shrimp (also cooked to a rubbery texture) mushrooms stuffed with bread and crab crumbs etc, Not worth it at all. We ordered a 1/2L of wine and the waiter gave us a full litre and didn’t even charge! At least we were in a good mood from the vino!!! Cheesy décor just added to the short comings.  The Fish Market Overall rating: Decor 1/5, service 2/5, food .5/5 and Value -1/5. We should have stuck to our first thought, fish and chips (how can you go wrong with deep fried fish???)

We walked around the market. JT spotted an amazing little shop called Belle de Provence where I may have done a little shopping ;-). We also found a great little Asian store where I picked up some Goji Berries and dried Cremini Mushrooms (I have a weird idea of souvenirs!). We walked through Winterlude to enjoy the ice sculptures and enjoyed a little Snow Taffy! See the full gallery here.

Dinner on Valentine’s Day was at Play (recommended by a Facebook friend, Edward Pond, a Toronto photographer specializing in food). We had an EXCEPTIONAL experience. We shared two items, the waiter, Patrick was amazing (he’s in TO this weekend to see the Raptors at the ACC so we gave him some restaurants to try). We started with the mixed  charcuterie plate which was a lot of food, then we shared the mushroom blue cheese fritters / onion / grilled swiss chard – both were delicious and filling. Patrick brought us a dessert (on him) banana fritters / cardamon anglaise / chocolate sauce. A fantastic meal, only enhanced by the service! Good job guys. I filled out the comment card and the owner responded with an email: “I just wanted to thank you for dining with us at Play recently and for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.  I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the service and your meal so much and I have passed along your compliments to the team.” How nice. Play Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 5/5, food 5/5 and Value 5/5.

Monday morning we finally skated on the Rideau Canal. It was surprisingly smooth (they apparently flood it every night) and fortunately, not crowded or too cold – although there was a bitter wind which cut out skate down to 2 km!

Skating on the Rideau Monday Morning

Breakfast was at a really cool diner in the Market called Zak‘s. We didn’t share, but should have! LOVE their motto – Zak’s Don’t Starve! 

Breakfast at Zak's

I had a cheese omlette and JT had Zak’s Famous Big Breakfast and I had Zak’s Special Omlette. We both had the marble rye toast, I only got through half my breakfast and only one toast (HUGE).  Zak’s Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 3/5, food 4/5 and Value 4/5.

Cheese Omlette at Zak's

Zak's Special Omelette

On the drive back we stopped in to see my 3rd cousin Laura in Belleville. She and I used to be pen pals when we were kids (she is my mom’s second cousin on her father’s side). It was great to meet her four kids (3 adults in University)! All in all a lovely long weekend. I would definitely recommend Ottawa.

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Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big fan of watching sports on tv, particularly football. But JT has gotten into it because of our dear friends Paul and T in Chicago so when I suggested we have our own little super bowl party, he lit up. I’ll likely watch the opening ceremonies and the half time game!

Here is the menu, with photos. No recipes here this time as I did the entire thing on the fly, but I did post a couple onto Foodista, so check out the link. Please note that each portion is quite small, so don’t get the impression that we’re complete pigs!

  • Garlic Butter Baked Escargot in profiteroles (these turned out amazing – the profiteroles crisped up on the outside and the garlic butter melted into the insides making them crispy and soft and chewy – WOW!).

Escargot with Garlic Butter and Parsley in a Profiterole

    Garlic Butter Escargot in Profiteroles on Foodista 

  • Baked Mediterranean Natchos – I cut triangles of fajita shells and baked them until they were crisp. I made a smoked paprika cheddar cheese sauce and we topped it with slivers of Hungarian Salami, Roasted Red Peppers, Hot Peppers, sliced Kalamato Olives, cilantro and Green Onions.

Baked Mediterranean Natchos

  • Herbes de Provence with Panko baked chicken wings and creamy Stilton dipping sauce. OMG – way, way, way better than I could have imagined! We couldn’t stop which meant no room for the chili!!!

Herbs en Province Crispy Wings

Herbs En Province Crispy Chicken Wings on Foodista

  • 5 Bean Vegetarian Chili with French Stick. (I didn’t bother photographing this, because we ended up having it for dinner Monday night because we were too full. It was tasty!)
  • Lime Squares from the Barb and Kevin dinner last night.
  • Lime Squares

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    This was part of Barb and Kevin’s Indian night dinner party. I paired this dessert with the Lime Squares and Gulab Jamun on a beautiful rectangular plate.

    • 6 dried apricots
    • 1/2 cup yogurt
    • 1/2-1 cup milk
    • 2 drops rose water
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • 1 oz Grand Marnier
    1. Place all of the ingredients into a tall measuring cup that your immersion blender fits into. Blend until very very smooth, adding milk until desired thickness has been achieved.
    2. Serve in a shot glass.

    Spiked Apricot Lassi on Foodista

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    Lime Squares

    As another of the trio of desserts I am making tonight for Barb and Kevin’s dinner party, I decided to make Lime Squares. Not quite Indian, but it does fit the flavour profile I was looking for.

    Lime Squares

    I altered this recipe from my very old “Company’s Coming, 150 Delicious Squares” by Jean Paré. I also cut the recipe in half.

    • 3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
    • 1/4 packed brown sugar (I used Splenda Brown Sugar to help cut the calories)
    • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
    • 2 egg yolks
    • zest of 1 lime
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 2 egg whites
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1/2 packed brown sugar (again, I used Splenda Brown Sugar)
    • 1/4 cup Sliced almonds
    1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

    Bottom layer:

    1. Mix flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, butter, egg yolks, lime zest, baking powder, and salt until crumbly and mealy.
    2. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 4″ x 8″ loaf pan. Set aside.

    Top layer:

    1. Beat egg whites until frothy.
    2. Add the brown sugar and lime juice a bit at a time until stiff (should look like a meringue).
    3. Spread evenly on top of the bottom layer. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top evenly.
    4. Bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the meringue is set and lightly browned.
    5. Allow to cool completely. Take a sharp wet knife and run along the pan edge to loosen the meringue, cut into squares.
    6. Serve at room temperature.

        Almond Lime Squares on Foodista

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        Gulab Jamun

        For one of my trio of desserts for Barb and Kevin’s dinner party this evening I decided to make Gulab Jamun which are deep fried milk powder fritters flavoured with Indian spices and drenched in Rose Water Simple Syrup.

        Gulab Jamun

        I found the recipe on line, but I altered it, as indicated below. For the real recipe, click here.

        • 1 cup sugar
        • 1.5 cups water
        • 4 drops rose water
        • 1 tbsp orange zest
        • 7 tbsp powdered milk
        • 3 tsp self-raising flour
        • 1 tsp semolina (Sooji)
        • 3 tsp melted butter
        • 1 tsp ground cardamom
        • 1 tsp orange rind
        • pinch of saffron
        • milk to mix
        • 1 L oil for deep frying
        1. Put the sugar and water in a heavy base or nonstick pan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and boil for 10 minutes to make a simple syrup. Mix in the rose water and orange zest and set aside.
        2. Combine powdered milk, flour, semolina, melted butter, ground cardamom, and saffron in a bowl. Mix well with a little milk to make a soft dough.
        3. Using a teaspoon, make and roll balls until all of the dough is used.
        4. Heat the oil to 375° F and gently deep-fry the balls until golden brown.
        5. Remove with slotted spoon and put into the syrup.
        6. Bring the syrup to a boil, then remove from the heat.
        7. Transfer two to three balls to a small shallow dish, serve warm.

        Orange Infused Gulab Jamun on Foodista

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        No Kneed Pizza and Asian Slaw

        Last Friday JT made a batch of no kneed pizza dough which we didn’t use (changed our minds for dinner), so to slow the yeast process, I suggested we cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until we are good and ready to use. Well, that was last night, and JT made an incredible pizza. The base was his onion confit (sigh, that used to be my onion confit!), then there was a generous amount of crumbled goats cheese, slivered Hungarian Salami (PC already sliced has fantastic flavour), some fresh mushrooms and topped off after it was finished baking, some tasty arugula and spinach. Wow, it was incredible. The crust was crunchy, the flavours exploded in your mouth – the onion confit, the Hungarian Salami, the earthy mushrooms, the tangy goats cheese…YUM, YUM and YUM!
        We had some red cabbage and some other fresh veg, so I made an ad hoc Lee Slaw to use stuff up. Very tasty!

        Photos taken with the iPhone!

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        We invited Barb and Kevin for dinner on Saturday night. Since the last time they were over, we had a tapas night, I thought we would have an Indian night (JT LOVES themes) Here is the menu, recipes are linked.

        Let’s get this party started: Onion Bahjis with Sweet and Spicey sauce

        Appi: Mulligatawny Soup (Yes, the soup Nazi version!) I didn’t alter it this time. It makes a lot of soup, but it’s delicious!

        Main: Butter Chicken, Basmati Rice, Steamed Cauliflower, Naan, Pickled Onions

        Finale: Gulab Jamun, Lime Square, Spiked Apricot Lassi!

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