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.

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