(N)oodles: Ottawa’s Sip N’ Slurp Noodlefest

Photo by MC Bennett

Based on the crowds and lineups at Privé Food Thought’s Noodlefest, Ottawa is super into sipping and slurping.

There were two rooms this time; Privé learned quickly from their overpacked first event, the Underground Food Market, that one room for vendors and one room for eating was the best way to go. Even then, seating was scarce and line ups were long.

Photo by MC Bennett

Crowds amass, awaiting their noodles

We took what we learned at the Underground Food Market and started to divide and conquer; MC took on the Phở Me? Phở You! line and I headed to Gongfu Bao. We waited about fifteen minutes in each line, though some booths had less and some had an even longer wait.

I got two dishes from Gongfu Bao, the shiitake mushroom and the maple charsiu pork. They’d actually suffered a severe noodle malfunction, but were serving the dishes up with their amazing ‘killer slaw’. Ok, confession: I hate slaw. But this? This I think I could eat buckets of. The pork was awesome too, but the shiitake mushrooms were beyond belief. I dropped my chopsticks and went for a spoon.

Photo by MC Bennett

Shiitake mushrooms and maple charsiu pork, with some seriously killer slaw.

MC grabbed Phở Me? Phở You!’s Báhn Cuôn with ground pork and mushrooms. The filling was good, the noodle itself left something to be desired. After a brief floor picnic we moved back into the vendor area and ended up next to Jonathan Korecki’s station!

Photo by MC Bennett

Gongfu Bao and Pho Me? Pho You! floor picnic!

The only season of Top Chef we ever watched was the one with Jonathan on it, and we’d finally gotten to go to his restaurant, Sidedoor, recently, and after loving nearly everything on that menu, we were totally psyched to see what he was bringing to Noodlefest.

Hint: It was bandanas!

Well, also duck. A bbq duck ramen, actually. We originally ordered one to share but quickly reconsidered and went back for a second one. And a bandana, because what better souvenir! Jonathan’s dish was the best one we tried; flavourful, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Photo by MC Bennett

Jonathan Korecki cooking up some duck ramen

We ended our night with elk teriyaki ramen from MSG Catering. The elk was tender and delicious, and we got the freshest batch, since we’d waited for them to boil the water to cook the noodles! We loved the little containers it came in too, it made for a great presentation.

Photo by MC Bennett

Some super signage from MSG Catering

All in all, Sip N’ Slurp was a success for vendors and eaters alike. Next up: Tacofest. Stay tuned.

Squad Leader Kelly sipping and slurping!

Squad Leader Kelly sipping and slurping!

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3, 2, 1, DRINK!

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Coke vs. Pepsi

Beatles vs. Stones

Athens vs. Sparta

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning

These are some of the greatest rivalries known to the world. We’d like to add one more:

Beer vs. Wine

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Restaurant International at Algonquin College is offering the opportunity for this rivalry to finally be solved, over a five course dinner specially prepared to match with five beers and five wines. A resident beer expert and sommelier will be on hand to help the diners decide on the ultimate food pairing winner.

The showdown occurs on February 27th, and Fat Girl Food Squad has ringside seats. Get your tickets and join us for the epic battle.

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Clear Eyes, Full Tummies, Can’t Lose: Texas Forever

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Fully loaded Cabo Tacos

Melty messy goodness. That’s pretty much all I need to sum up the dishes we tried at Lone Star Texas Grill this week. They’re premiering a new Tex Mex menu, focusing on freshness (an awesome thing to see in Ottawa in mid-January) and it was avocado and spicy sauces as far as the eye could see.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Southern Fried Avocado

We started with the creamy crunchy Southern Fried Avocado appetizer, which was perfect for two people, though we probably could have each used a trough of the sauce that came with it. Our waiter came back to tell us what was in it with a list: ranch dressing, tomatillo salsa, cilantro, hot sauce, jalapeno relish… It was a great spicy compliment to the crisp fried, rich avocado.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside (Southern Fried Avocado)

We also tried the Mexican Burger and the Cabo Tacos, both of which were the definition of messy and melty. The Cabo tacos were loaded, and the taste was a little overwhelming; too many things on the tacos made it hard to parse individual flavours, and the sauce didn’t really let the ingredients shine through. Where the tacos may have fallen slightly short, the burger took it up a notch. It was topped with the Southern fried avocado (you can also get fresh) and with the mesquite grilled flavour of the beef, the kick of the pepper sauce, and the freshness of the tomatillo salsa, any additional condiments would have been superfluous.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Apple Sizzler (aka butter rum heaven)

Throw in a sampler of the honey chipotle lime salad dressing, two Purple Rain shots, and an Apple Sizzler dessert (bury me in butter rum sauce poured over ice cream in a hot skillet) and I’m more than good with the kind of Southern hospitality you find in Ottawa in January.

Photo by M.C. Bennett

Squad Leader Kelly digs in

Sip N’ Slurp ‘N Ottawa

Sip N' Slurp

Sip N’ Slurp!

One thing we here at Fat Girl Food Squad can get behind is messy eating. Be it overflowing burgers, melting ice cream or sticky stringy cheese, we’re always on the look out for something that lets us really get our hands dirty. Or, in this case, our faces.

Sip N’ Slurp is Ottawa’s Noodlefest, brought to the city by Privé Food Thought, the same group who brought us the incredibly successful Underground Food Market.

Get your Noodlefest tickets fast; the Food Market sold out, and there’s no doubt Ottawa’s noodle craving will match it. And if you can’t make it, check back here for our fully, messy coverage.

Ottawa Goes Underground (with Hot Cream Holes)

photo by M.C. Bennett

Kelly enjoys some Hot Cream Holes

We spent the three weeks leading up to Privé’s Underground Chef’s Market trying to explain to people what it was, without truly having any idea.

‘I think chefs can come try their new recipes?’

‘Yeah, I think it’ll be booths with different local food!’

‘You buy a ticket, and then you can buy food from restaurants and chefs. I think.’

All of these are correct. And all of them are understatements.

The first (of hopefully many) Underground Chef’s Market was a success, both for the vendors and the consumers. At its core, it was a large hall with tables lining the edges and each vendor had a selection of tasting plates priced at under ten bucks apiece. You lined up, paid for the dish, and enjoyed your food standing at bar tables, sharing with equally food-enthusiastic strangers.

photo by M.C. Bennett

Rosie’s shows off paella; their signature dish.

Beyond that, it was a perfect example of Ottawa’s meteoric food scene. There is a call for this; people want new food, they wantgood food and they want Ottawa food. The market sold out of tickets, and the volume of people buying food probably could have supported many more vendors.

There were about thirty vendors present, with selections ranging from donuts and baked goods to chocolate sushi to paella and pupusas. The two most popular (based purely on length of lines) were Gongfu Bao’s dumpling food cart and 327 Wine Bar’s duck confit sliders. Line-ups were long enough that we didn’t actually get to try them.

That would actually have been our only complaint; long and confusing lines made waiting for some of the dishes frustrating, and hopefully the organizers can address this for future events.

The dishes we did try were amazing, though. Mitch’s Pork Station was serving up confit pork belly with smoked bacon perogies and a sassafras sauce, all of which just melted in your mouth. A lobster and mushroom risotto with a parmesan crisp was flavourful and delicious. We tried mustard and sausages, a honey sauced peach cobbler, and some waffles topped with jalapeno whipped cream. We also tried paella from Rosie’s Southern Kitchen and Raw Bar, something which is going to be a signature dish when they open in the Glebe later this winter. It was delicious, not too spicy and packed with seafood. And of course, Hot Cream Holes; small donuts sliced in half and lightly fried, with ice cream in the middle. Add on a variety of toppings (salted caramel, chocolate sauce, a cherry) and you’ve got yourself one of the messiest most delicious desserts we’ve ever eaten.

photo by M.C. Bennett

Pork belly confit and perogies from Mitch’s Pork

The Market was a kickass food experience that we can’t wait to see grow and improve as the food scene in Ottawa grows too. Up next from Privé? Sip and Slurp Noodlefest, a Taco Festival and a Slider Festival. Hell yes, we’re hooked.

Ottawa’s Underground Food Market

Privé Food Thought

So, maybe you have a great food idea. Maybe you’ve got the next cronut (the crookie?) or the next ramen burger (chicken chow mein sandwich?). Or maybe you have an ironclad stomach, a great eye for trends and a really strong opinion on your food.

Privé Food Thought’s Underground Chef’s Market is a social event where aspiring chefs, professional chefs and entrepreneurs can premiere their newest recipes and where the adventurous public can try them all out.

The Market is going to happen a few times a year, and for this month’s event, vendors can register for free! It’s ten dollars for the public to enter, and vendors will be pricing food for under ten bucks. The first one is going to be November 30th from 5-10pm at the Ottawa Convention Centre.

So get your creative flow going, and come up with that next big thing. (Maybe avoid the whole chicken chow mein sandwich.) Tickets available here, and the vendor application is here!

Elevating Ottawa’s Cafeteria Food

A menu board updated daily!

A menu board updated daily!

“A burger. Fake grill marks, I don’t even know what they were from, there was no barbecue out back. They must have been drawn on with marker. And then coated in brown gravy sauce. And they sold it as a six minute steak.” -Carley Schleck, Café Urban, Owner.

We can all relate to this kind of institutional cafeteria food. Reheated pizza, processed and identical dishes in every university or college we’ve been lucky enough to attend.

But for a good long time the food hasn’t lived up to the hopefully inspiring and intellectual education the school delivers.

Carley Schleck wants to change that. She gave me her six minute steak example when I asked her what the worst cafeteria meal she’d ever had was. Lucky for us, she’s determined to change that.

Granola on display for quick morning breakfasts.

Granola on display for quick morning breakfasts.

Café Urban is the new arm of Urban Element, a culinary cooking and event company in Ottawa. Café Urban is housed at Saint Paul’s University, a humanities and theological school. The school is smaller, sitting at about a thousand students, and the age tends to run a little higher than average, at about thirty.

The size of the school means that Carley and Matthew Brearley, Café Urban’s chef (formerly of Castlegarth Resturant) were able to pitch their menu at the school, move into their in-house kitchen, and start an experiment in institutional food that Carley hopes will spread to bigger schools as well as hospitals.

A trio of salads served fresh daily.

A trio of salads served fresh daily.

They’ve been serving up food since May, and this is the first month with a full student population, and they’ll continue to cater events for the school, the same way they did over the summer. The menu is fresh made, locally sourced (when possible) and has  vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options (the GF granola bar was incredible).

Carley sent me home with some of the food and my recommendation? Try the pizza. Squash, roasted peppers and olives. Dough from homemade starter. Now that’s cafeteria food.

Café Urban is open till 7PM, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to both students and the public. It’s located inside Saint Paul’s University, on Main Street.

Serving ginger beer and cream soda from local brewery Kichesippi Beer Co.

Serving ginger beer and cream soda from local brewery Kichesippi Beer Co.

Ottawa Isn’t Boring: Arboretum Festival 2013

photo by M.C. Bennett

I’ve been told by a lot of people in my life that they can’t understand why I’d ever stay in Ottawa.

I’m a theatre major, a foodie, an artsy indie hipster, and Ottawa is boring, right?! t’s small, and there’s no art or music scene. Why would anyone want to stay or live here?! I used to try and convince people they were wrong, but now I just sort of laugh. Because wow, do I know better.

I call Ottawa the biggest small town ever, and the people who love it here  <i>really</i> love it here. And we’re committed to making it a thriving, artistic, heartfelt community.

One of the perfect examples of this was last weekend’s Arobretum Festival, a boutique art and music festival featuring local artists, vendors and musicians.

Oh, and chefs.

This year Arboretum Festival also hosted the Chef Sessions, a showcase of seven chefs from seven of Ottawa’s top restaurants. Between them they served six courses over six hours, trading off after each hour to hand off the to the next chef.

photo by M.C. Bennett

The list of chefs and dishes.

Not only were the food choices spectacular, but the sense of community went above and beyond. Each chef stayed to help the other ones out, bringing food to vendors and chatting with the festival-goers trying the food. These are chefs who love their work, and love their city.

photo by M.C. Bennett

Supply and Demand delivered raw scallops with creme fraiche and crispy chicken skin. This dish blew our minds. Also, it was gorgeously presented.

All of the dishes are reviewed below, but a few highlights were the tomato and onion tartlet with smoked duck from Marc Doiron of Town and Steve Mitton of Murray Street KWC, who kicked things off by setting the food bar really, really high. Patricia Larkin from Black Cat Bistro hit us with a melt in your mouth piece of maple pork belly, and Supply and Demand’s Steve Wall nailed it with raw scallop and crème fraiche with crispy chicken skin. Salty and refreshing on a really hot day.

photo by M.C. Bennett

A tomato and onion tartlet, with smoked duck breast and microgreens. Delicious, rich and an amazing start to the sessions from Steve Doiron (Murray Street KWC) and Marc Doiron (Town).

Between devouring the dishes from the amazing Chef Sessions, we got to listen to local (or nearly local) bands like Her Harbour, Snowblink and Sarah Neufeld and drink some beer from our buddies at Kichesippi Brewing Company. We also met a few more amazing foodie and non-foodie friends that hopefully we get to talk about here soon!

photo by M.C. Bennett

Kichesippi keeps us cool with the Arboretum Brew, made especially for the festival.

Whatever some people’s impression of Ottawa might be, spend some time here and it doesn’t take long for the ever-growing and wildly passionate group of Ottawa art, music and food lovers to come to light.

Ottawa is definitely not boring.

Knifewear: FGFS Ottawa Goes Under The Knife

Rock and roll knifes

Rock and roll knives

“What kind of a knife shop doesn’t have their own guitar picks?”

Some of the first words I heard from Kevin Kent, while we both snagged a morning coffee. And really, he’s got a point.

What’s more rock and roll than a super sharp, sleek Japanese cooking knife?

Uh, nothing. No, seriously. Especially if you bought it from a Knifewear store, the newest of which just opened in Ottawa (Knifewear is also in Calgary and Kelowna).

We were lucky enough to attend Knifewear Ottawa’s opening event, where we got to listen to some good music (Tindervox and James Leclaire), drink some dark and stormy’s (hello, new favourite drink, thanks Harvey and Vern’s and Kichesippi Beer Co), drink some coffee (thanks Chris and Working Coffee) and cut some defenseless potatoes with some really, really sharp knives.

Kelly trying something sharp.

Kelly trying something sharp.

Check out Knifewear for knife sharpening classes, a classic shave shop, a collection of sharp (ha) tshirts and cooking accessories and, of course, the sharpest knives in town.

All photos by M.C. Bennett