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Everything posted by Gourmando

  1. I think the thread title should be changed to "Flawless Customer Service at Hamel". I was so pleased to see the response from M. Picard. Every store, even a wonderful shop like Hamel, can make a mistake; it is all about the reaction once the mistake is uncovered. Bravo, Lesley, for getting to the heart of this, and bravo, M. Picard!
  2. Try the Bean Bar in Westdale (near McMaster University). I've had several good lunches there. I'll second the recommendation for the Rude Native in Oakville. Great Spot. Not too far away is the Bench Bistro at East Dell Estates Winery in Beamsville, which should definitely merit a stop. Also in Beamsville is Peninsula Ridge, but it's very high end.
  3. I'll second the votes for Ossie's Lunch in New Brunswick and Mimi's in Mahone Bay. I had a sesame-crusted scallop and baby green salad at Mimi's that was unforgettable!
  4. I'm looking forward to trying Au Pied du Cochon on Thursday night, but I'm afraid that I don't count as a celeb.
  5. I neglected to report on lunch at the Arc Lounge a couple of weeks ago, and I've forgotten the details (except for a lovely cauliflower soup), but it was very good again. Before my memory fades again, last night I went to Signatures with some good friends. This is the restaurant run by Le Cordon Bleu Paris at their cooking school. It was a treat. They brought a complimentary amuse of shredded crab in a truffle creme that was delicate and well-balanced. My appetizer was a warm foie gras terrine made with smoked bacon, served with a red wine reduction, and toasts with fig compote. Flavours and presentation were top-drawer. The main course was perfectly-cooked boneless lamb loin served on a "tian provencal" (a tower of very thinly sliced roasted tomato and zucchini) with pistou and a side of sauteed potatoes. It was heavenly. For dessert, an individual cherry clafouti was beautifully presented and again delicious. For those who weren't having dessert, they brought a complimentary tray of petits-fours that were just as good as the rest. The service was great: Solicitous without hovering. All of the breads (sourdough, baguette, whole wheat, and a multigrain roll) were very fresh, melt-in-the mouth. Both natural and sparkling water were offered freely, and regularly refreshed. One misstep: One of our diners told the server that he was allergic to mushrooms. He ordered venison loin which was advertised as coming with wild mushrooms, and specifically asked for a substitution. As soon as the domes were ceremoniously lifted, we all saw that the mushrooms were there. They were very apologetic, and offered the entire table a small dessert "surprise" of diced pear poached in port with freshly-made vanilla ice cream. All in all, not perfect, but very, very good.
  6. I think they ditched the membership thing; it certainly wasn't an issue when I went. I would describe the vibe as trendy, rather than exclusive. I'll be there for lunch again next week, so I'll try to give a more useful report soon!
  7. I'm sure that Jinmyo is correct about Rene Rodriguez. I had a superb lunch at the Arc Lounge a couple of weeks ago. Chez Jean Pierre has closed, but Cafe Henry Burger is still open (they had a fire a few months back, but remained open). Aix, from the restaurants that you've identified, it sounds to me like it has been awhile since you were in the area. Ever tried Domus? Les Fougeres? Laurier sur Montcalm? Juniper?
  8. I'll say it again: For a region of less than a million people, Ottawa-Gatineau does very well, thank-you. It's not Montreal, but then neither is anywhere else. Yes, there are some execrable places, but if you know where to go, you can dine very well at a fraction of the cost in any U.S. city. I also agree with maggiethecat with regard to the availability of good raw ingredients for home cooks. While I love to blast down to the Atwater or Jean Talon markets in Montreal, I don't always have the time, the weather is often crappy for driving, and it is not always necessary, especially when the Byward Market blossoms in summer. Jinmyo lives here, and I respect his opinions, even though they differ from mine. Those who base their scorn on hearsay, however...
  9. Is that Jinmyo or Confucious? I was at a business meeting in Toronto a few weeks ago, and asked a Jewish colleague at the meeting how any self-respecting Jew could live in a city that calls those "things" bagels. He agreed that most of the alleged bagels were pathetic, but claimed that there are a few good bakeries with decent bagels out in the west end (along Bathurst, I think) in an older Jewish neighbourhood, but I couldn't stand being in T.O. long enough to find out if this was true. As for the Bagel Oven on Greenbank in Ottawa, it was good indeed, but I think that the Ottawa Bagelshop, Kettleman's, and the Bagel Run are all good substitutes. There is also Bagel Bagel in the market, but the last time I was there I had some terrible food (about 5 years ago). I was so inspired by this thread that I went to the Bagelshop for lunch today (close to the office). The bagel was just as good as the last one I had at Fairmount in Montreal.
  10. The best that I can think of would be Nate's deli on Rideau Street (where Trudeau used to get his smoked meat during his exile in Ottawa ). Down the street from there is Rideau Bakery, which has excellent Rye, Challah, and Poppyseed Bread. As far as I know, you would be laughed out of either place if you asked for a blueberry whole-wheat anything
  11. The best that I can think of would be Nate's deli on Rideau Street (where Trudeau used to get his smoked meat during his exile in Ottawa ). Down the street from there is Rideau Bakery, which has excellent Rye, Challah, and Poppyseed Bread. As far as I know, you would be laughed out of either place if you asked for a blueberry whole-wheat anything
  12. I tried the Urban Pear at lunch last week, and had the same frittata as Maggiethecat. Beautiful, lively flavours! I do agree that the "pear" theme is a bit over the top, and I thought that the lunch menu was pretty slim on choice. There was a very nice selection of wines, all available by the glass (which is great). Everything I tasted was very high quality, and I would wager that it would be difficult to dine at that level for $18US including wine anywhere in the continental 48. (By the way, I asked for more bread and had no problem getting more )
  13. Kettleman's is a small Ottawa chain, with (I think) 3 locations: Bank Street, Carling at Woodroffe, and Orleans. Their bagels are quite good, but there are 2 other places in Ottawa doing "Montreal Style" that are worth mentioning. The Ottawa Bagelshop on Wellington Street has been around for a long time, and has a loyal following; although I'm sure the bagels haven't changed, I don't like it as much since it became a much bigger place selling "everything gourmet". At least as good is the Bagel Run in Orleans. A tiny little store selling excellent "proper" bagels hot from wood-burning oven, cream cheese, orange juice, and not much else. They are best fresh (somehow, the baker's dozen winds up being about 11 by the time I get home!), but they freeze well if you follow the correct procedure: 1. Allow them to cool to room temperature in their open paper bag. 2. As soon as they are no longer warm to the touch (and not 30 minutes later!), slice and put them in a plastic freezer bag (supplied by the bakery). 3. Suck as much air as possible out of the bag, enjoying the lungful of sesame or poppy smell, and seal with a twist tie. Freeze. 4. To consume, pop frozen bagels in a toaster or toaster oven until lightly browned. Not the same sensory "wow" as fresh, but pretty good on a weekday morning.
  14. No sweat off me. Every conversation needs balance, and maybe I'm a tad too optimistic about our surroundings in Ottawa. I haven't eaten at Signatures in about a year. It used to be Le Cercle Universitaire, a private club which went bankrupt. The building (an old mansion) has been beautifully renovated, and the food, service, and surroundings were all equally impressive, and on the level of Michelin-starred restaurants in France. My main recollection of the dishes was the delicate sea bass en croute, and the whole roast veal loin that was presented at the table before being carved and served. Here is the bulk of a review that I posted on another board at the time: Recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Signatures in Ottawa. The Cordon Bleu Paris cooking school (as I understand it, the only location in North America) has moved to the former location of Le Cercle Universitaire, once a lavish private club. They have lovingly redecorated this beautiful old mansion, and have opened Signatures, which is a formal French restaurant in the traditional style. Two restauranteur friends were with us, and they agreed that the school's students will benefit immeasurably from the experience of working in a restaurant kitchen while they train. We unfortunately were rushed that evening, but this is a place that deserves to be the evening's event. The food and service were both splendid, from the scallop soup to the perfect rack of lamb, and sea bass en croute. My wife had roast veal, the whole of which was brought to the table and presented prior to her portion being expertly carved and returned under the requisite silver dome, along with the other mains. The wine list was a pleasant surprise, with excellent selections from around the world, and many wines in the $30-$40 range (although plenty of $300 bottles adorned the list as well). So many French restaurants ignore the world's bounty in favour of an all-Gaul wine list, that it was refreshing so see such open minds at work.
  15. I think that Toque! is unique in Canada, and even in Montreal, there is not more than a handful of restaurants that are "half the restaurant that Toque! is". I like Domus, and I even like the fact that is is adjacent to a good kitchen store of the same name, but it's not the only show in town. There are several other places (such as Juniper, Zingaro, Les Fougeres, Laurier sur Montcalm, Bistro 1908) that offer creative, product-driven cuisine, and that compare favourably with what you found at Domus. Plus, none of them are trying to sell you egg timers as you leave . It's actually Cafe Henry [pronounced and spelled as in "King" rather than "Roi"] Burger [as in "King" too!], and it is still around in Gatineau [as in Hull]. Once upon a long time ago, it was Madame Burger's, and it wasn't the top restaurant, it was the ONLY restaurant. The bad old days. It is now a Grande Dame sort of place, with Chef Robert Bourassa [as in ex-Premier, but not so much] at the helm for several years now. The menu is classical French, with an impressive wine list. I think it holds its own, but I also think that it has more stiff competition among "high-end" restaurants in the region, such as Le Baccara at the Casino in Gatineau, and Signatures by Le Cordon Bleu Paris in Ottawa. You should hit them at their peak; they've just started to change this week. Enjoy!
  16. I think Jinmyo is a curmudgeon. There is unquestionably quality here, and much of it is indeed on the "Quebec Side", but I think we have to include that in our consideration of the area. There is also a lot of crap, which is unfortunate, but anyone who remembers the age of Madame Burger's would have to agree that for a region this size, we're doing pretty well here. Enjoy your visit, maggiethecat, and don't forget to report back: Good, bad, or indifferent!
  17. maggiethecat: You're right about the location; it's on Second Ave. just west of Bank where Wringer's used to be. Fratelli is also very good, and near the corner of Bank & First. I haven't tried the Urban Pear myself yet, but two reliable friends have raved about it, and there was a recent glowing review in the Ottawa Citizen (the reviewer had gone back several times). Sorry, but I couldn't find the review online for you. I like Kamal's falafel shop and the Arrow & the Loon pub in the Glebe, too. If you want to get a little bit out of the city to decompress, especially with the beautiful fall colours coming into full swing, definitely head for Les Fougeres in Chelsea: Les Fougeres Homepage. It's my favourite restaurant anywhere (including Montreal )
  18. Lesley C: With respect to your friend, I think she must not know where to look. Like anywhere else, there are plenty of mediocre places here, but there are also some real gems. Yes, Montreal is my favourite restaurant city, but some of my favourite restaurants are right here. Maggiethecat: I've heard nothing but great things about Baccarat, and still haven't made it there yet, but it's certainly on the list!
  19. I'm in Ottawa, and I'm looking forward to hearing more details. I would echo Lesley C's comment, but add "more"; i.e., Ottawa could use MORE good restaurants! Lesley, for a city this size, Ottawa (and I'll include the whole National Capital Region in this) has a wonderful variety of quality fare. Why not hop on the train and check us out some weekend? Fratelli! Domus! The Urban Pear! Trattoria Zingaro! Les Fougeres! Clair de Lune! Laurier sur Montcalm! Signatures!... Would make a wonderful piece for the Gazette travel section...
  20. In Ottawa, we have the only Cordon Bleu Paris cooking school in North America to offer the "Grand Diplome" cycle of courses. The school used to be in a nondescript office building in the south end, but moved about a year ago to a beautiful heritage building on Laurier Avenue, where they now run both the school and an exquisite restaurant called Signatures. According to friends in the trade, there used to be a criticism that graduates had no restaurant exposure, and had trouble adjusting to the real deal; this has changed with the addition of the restaurant. Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa
  21. Thanks, Steve, for the tip about old fashioned smoked meat at Snowdon! I'll definitely give it a try. I have to agree with Lesley about the atmosphere, though. Could use a little cheering up! Maybe a take-out sandwich on the side of Mount Royal is the answer...
  22. I have been to Snowdon, and it is very good, but I find that the smoked meat is very much like Ben's or Dunn's (which I understand is no longer in Montreal). There are two things that set Schwartz's apart, IMHO: The meat is very different in both flavour and texture, and the atmosphere is truly unique. Having said that, Snowdon is also a favourite stop on the way home to Ottawa from Montreal. I know that this is an insoluble point, and as a mere Ottawan, I hardly even have standing to comment, but let's agree that further testing at both Snowdon and Schwartz's is warranted!
  23. I'm glad the protesters didn't muck up your visit to our fair city, and the weather was just about perfect, too! I'm pleased to hear a good report about Vittoria Trattoria, but the Byward Market is just scratching the surface of the wonderful choice of restaurants that we have in this city. I would say by far that "most of the best restaurant action" is outside the market, rather than inside. Kinki is very new; somewhat ironic that you found Kinki to be a favourite of the ladies from BareFax! Hope it holds up over time. As for smoked meat, there is nothing in Ottawa that compares with Schwartz's in Montreal. Of course, there is nothing else in Montreal that compares with Schwartz's either! Biggs is just O.K.; I would much prefer Nate's up the street, or Dunn's on Elgin or Bank. As a Canadian travelling in the States, I am always dismayed at how little bang I get for my measley Canadian buck; it must be wonderful for Americans travelling here to see how far your dollar will go for good food and wine in our country! Ottawa has, in the past, had a bad reputation for restaurants, but in the last 10 years, a brilliant restaurant scene has flourished in the entire National Capital Region, which includes Ottawa in Ontario, and the Hull/Gatineau region in Quebec. As you noted, you just have to know where to find the good ones.
  24. All of the suggestions so far are excellent. I'm a Beavertail lover myself! No-one has mentioned the Macintosh apple, which goes particularly well with a chunk of 3-year-old Balderson cheddar cheese: Both are Eastern Ontario originals! I'm also a fan of the chevres of Woolwich (Ontario) and Floralpe (Quebec); a well-placed lardon; and Brome Lake duck. I never have been able to figure out scruncheons, though!
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