About Kate Lalumiere

After studying wine and spending years in the food service industry, Kate is nutshell's designated food and wine aficionado. Her posts take on the foodie-sphere one restaurant at a time, exposing some of the hottest spots to satiate the ol' buds ! Her favourite restaurants usually include: innovative menus, sustainable & local produce and unparalleled hospitality. Although Kate has a keen ear for food buzz in the National Capital, you'll also find her weighing in on fashion, music and anything that peaks her interest! ** Favourite Restaurant (Ottawa) : Supply & Demand • Wine of Choice: Every wine • Favourite Band: The National • Bad Habit: Being a backseat driver• Favourite Song: Wild Horses • Fashion Icon: Olivia Palermo • Favourite Movie: The Sandlot • Favourite TV Series: Gossip Girl (sue me!) • Sport: Football (to watch and play) • Team: Arizona Cardinals • Blackberry or Iphone: Iphone • Favourite Book: The Sun Also Rises, The Cat's Table, The Bell Jar, On the Road... • ** To ask Kate a question about food, wine or anything else contact her at : inanutshellca@gmail.com

Hair How-To: 50’s Chignon

With the end of September also comes the end of wedding season.

After four months of having my Facebook news feed littered with wedding photographs and actually attending a wedding myself, I’ve had the opportunity to view some gorgeous up-do’s that are easily translatable to any fancy affair. As the years go by, we will all be attending weddings by the dozens and it’s by no means affordable to have your hair styled by a professional each and every time.

I played around with a few different looks this summer and after deciding to channel 50’s glamour, I ended up with a low, twisted chignon that looks beautiful from the from the front and back. The style takes about half an hour to accomplish and is extremely easy.

You will need:

A curling iron

Hair spray

bobby pins (galore)

Two medium sized alligator clips

Follow below for a quick fix to your hair how-to woes:

1. Curl your hair backwards, starting from the front and working your way to the back.

2. Separate your hair into two sections

3.Pull forward front section and leave. You will clip this piece back later.

4.Twist the right side over the left. Repeat until hair is almost completely twisted, leaving ends loose.

5.Clip each of the two sections underneath the chignon. The loose chignon should be able fall over the clips to cover them.

6. Pin back the front section

In a nutshell, it’s really quite easy! Happy hair-styling nuts!

Barbour, baby.

As some of our readers may know, my mother and her mother and her mother before her have all been descendants of the British Empire. In other words, I’m from England. Not just from England  but from South Shields: a tiny town of seaside fare, simple pleasures and small town nature. But South Shields has made a name for itself in a brand that has yet to entirely penetrate North America. This brand is known as Barbour.

Born in 1894 in South Sheilds by John Barbour, its classic wax jackets are still manufactured in the flagship shop located in Simonside. Described as bringing “wit, grit and glamour to its beautifully functional clothing”, it is surprising that Barbour hasn’t been the next big thing in Canada. Designed to reflect the countryside, the huntsman and the outdoorsy type, this clothing (and particularly their jackets) are a potential staple of the Canadian wardrobe, for both men and women.

Despite it’s meager beginnings, Barbour has really found its niche in hipster Britain, with many indie folk donning the garments, sporting national pride and shunning Burberry’s elitism. One U.K. journalist put the Barbour trend simply,

“Barbour is succeeding where Burberry went wrong by inviting everyone to wear one of its jackets rather than vainly trying to limit them to just an elite few.” – Lanre Bakare

And that’s exactly what Barbour offers: accessible, high fashion. And what’s more is that, I think, Barbour is a perfect match to Canadiana. Our lifestyles encourage this type of style and it surprises me that more Canadians haven’t adopted the trend. Although, Canada has been known for being slightly behind the times once or twice…

When first spotted as a fashion statement almost 20 years ago, Barbour went from the farmside to the high streets when Princess Diana sported a rainproof Barbour in the 80’s. Since then, Barbour took the back burner until more recently when celebrities (and monumental fashion movers) such as Alexa Chung, Olivia Palermo and Kate Middleton were spotted wearing the rain proof fashion statements….

In a nutshell, here’s hoping Canada can catch on to a practical and fashionable brand, fit for fall, spring and Canadian style.

10 rules of social media etiquette

From an early age, the various forms of social etiquette are drilled into our heads: Say please and thank you. Don’t chew with your mouth open. The list goes on and on.

But when it comes to etiquette of the social media sphere that now inhabits our daily lives, we are relative newborns and some of us just haven’t quite figured it out yet. Not to fear, after perusing multiple blogs, online forums and magazines, I have compiled 10 of the most outrageous social media faux pas and how to best avoid these breaches of social media etiquette.

1. It’s social media, NOT solo media: The first and probably most important courtesy while firing up twitter, facebook, instagram and anything else under our gigantic social media umbrella is to remember the essence of what you are doing. Social is the first word in this new age catch phrase “social media”. Avoid the solo conversations with yourself over your various platforms. Avoid being a glory seeker. The purpose of this new tool we have been granted is to  facilitate connections and dialogue with other people, businesses and brands. No one wants to read/see/retweet a monologue of your life’s inconsequential details.

2.Communication: Ultimately, Social Media is a tool for connecting and communicating on our vast and glorious information highway. Thousands upon thousands of people are able to access the content you share on social media platforms; therefore, the things you share should be said/posted/tweeted eloquently. There is nothing worse than reading someone’s facebook status that is littered with short forms (“lol” “nvm” “brb”). If you’re communicating a sentiment, a whereabout, a passion,  please do it clearly. Cut out the MSN lingo, unless your 140 characters is running out quickly. That is the ONLY time an “lol” is acceptable. Maybe.

3. Instagram foodies: As the self-proclaimed foodie of inanutshell, this  particular social media no-no tugs at my heart, but simply cannot be ignored.

Simply put: STOP POSTING PHOTOS OF YOUR BORING FOOD.

I love food. I live, breathe, read, talk about and photograph food. Does everybody want to see a series of photos of your scrambled eggs and toast? Probably not. Not even if it has a valencia hue to it. No body cares. Stop doing it.

4. The Pity Seeker: Fall is around the corner, which also means that flu season is riding its tail coats. Nothing upsets and disgusts me more than reading facebook statuses about how bedridden, snot-drenched and congested you are. Stay in bed. Watch a flick. Drink some chicken noodle soup. But for the love of god, sickies, stay off facebook.

5. Vain hashtags: You may think you’re great. Your mom may think you’re great. But announcing this to the world through the use of #vainhashtags is embarrassing. If you think you are beautiful enough to use any of the following hashtags you should probably close your twitter account and delete all of your facebook friends to save them from rolling their eyes at your own vanity: #fitgirlproblems #hotgirlproblems #malemodelclub #handsomeandiknowit #toohotformyowngood

6. Awkward selfies: Unfortunately, this social media faux pas extends over every single social media platform. To my dismay, it seems that wherever I turn, someone has posted a sexy smoulder on instagram, a look at me in my bikini twitpic or a duckface facebook profile picture. It is awkward to see these self portraits and then imagine how much time you might have wasted staring at the camera, in your  very own hand, to get the perfect, awakrd selfy. It makes the entire social media world squirmish. Enough said.

7. Personal Problems: Much like my distaste for knowing the read on your body temperature, I also don’t want to know about your lastest bad break-up, fight with your bestie or over all negative nancy attitude. This will immediately garner you an unfriend on any/all social media sites. Positivity is key and reading about how much of an asshole Kevin is for cheating on you with your best friend does not uplift my mood nor make me want to continue following your saga of a life.

8. The unwelcome hashtag: I LOVE a good hashtag. I think they can be the best online vessel for communicating a sense of wit or humour. With that said, hashtags should be used in moderation. An entire tweet composed of hashtags makes me anxious. Much worse is to see hashtags used all over pinterest and instagram, but the facebook offenders are the worst by far. Basically equating twitter with facebook, these offenders will litter the interweb with usually boring, uncreative hash tags, what some would call: #hashtaghappy. Moderation my friends.

9. Careless users: By all means, use social media to share and engage with friends and followers, but under no circumstance should you  ever share or retweet something that you haven’t either read or researched yourself. Social media carelessness can result in an array of problems from recieveing negative feedback to losing followers and a diminished network. Make sure to do a background check, even if it’s brief, before you retweet or share something that mayh not accurately reflect your personal views.

10. Share the Love: The last thing and possibly the most important rule of social media etiquette is sharing the love. If someone retweets or shares your social media content you should feel inclined to return the favour. And even if you don’t feel that way, you should still do it. It is a basic courtesy, the way that social media is meant to operate and, in the long run, will garner you a wider networking circle.

In a nutshell, these simple rules will keep you out of social media trouble and keep your followers and friends happy!

The Gender of Wine

Like many other fields of interest, the world of wine has, for centuries, been dominated by men. How did this connection between men and wine come to fruition, consequently segregating women from the irresistible grape? It stems back to that age old story of woman as the homemaker, as the domestic being. Men were the creatures  dominating pubs,  embracing drunkenness, crushing pints and, subsequently, tainting their palates with an insatiable thirst for wine. Somehow, maleness and wine became intertwined. Men have since been the front runners in wine tastings, in wine writing and even, as wine makers. Not until the last 10 years have women truly started to stand up and speak out for a beverage that speaks equally loud to our female palates. So what is all the fuss about then?  Well, as a woman of wine and recently certified sommelier, I have noticed one more thing that, perhaps, sets women apart from men in the world of wine: the gift of the gab. It is men who hold this gift when it comes to wine. Men want to talk, passionately, about wine. They seem to find indiscernible pleasure in talking about something concrete and decoding it’s abstract components. There are women who can hold their own and talk wine up, down and sideways among themselves and with men alike, but the prominence of men’s passion to discuss wine is truly remarkable. Wine writer, Matt Kramer, describes this phenomenom with lucidity,

“Rarely have I seen a woman swoon over wine. I have seen them enjoy wine immensely. Taste wine acutely. Talk wine articulately. But when it comes to the wine passion, women are no match for men.”

As a woman who truly appreciates wine, I would like to be the one to smack down that sort of nonsense and proclaim my love, my undying passion for wine. But I’ve heard men talk about it, and it’s true. Or maybe I have yet to find multitudes of women who can talk the talk with me. Who’s to say. Does this necessarily mean that wine is masculine? Not at all.   As women are becoming more dominant figures in the world of wine, despite lacking this “male passion”, it continues to perplex me that the gender of wine has not yet had a sex change.  After all, it has been scientifically proven and discussed at length, that women are better at wine than men. I mean that women are prolifically better, more acute, astute tasters than men. So one would imagine that this upper hand would automatically render the gender of wine female; however, that simply isn’t the case. We have had to pry our way in to the world of wine, through the barricade of (yes, I’ll admit, talented) men. It hasn’t been easy and I take my hat off to those women who have made their mark in the world of wine (and to those who succeeded in doing so many years ago). Although there are too many to name, these five women are role models for a budding, female wine enthusiast like myself. Among these women, there are wine writers, wine academics and enologists, all of whom have played a role in shaping wine with the embrace of a woman’s touch:

1. Jancis Robinson: A self-admitted work-a-holic, Robinson has written multitudes of wine books and has been an active wine columnist in what is considered to be the summit of wine journalism. She is reasonable, respected and she is a Master of Wine. In the world there are only 297 Masters of Wine. Of those 297, only 87 are females and Jancis Robinson is one of them.
2. Natalie MacLean: Rendering 2nd most influential on my list of women involved with wine may come as a surprise to some readers. MacLean’s wine writing is fluffy, light and approachable. She has written two books and has, on numerous occasions, been nominated or voted as the world’s best wine writer. Although impressive, in my opinion, MacLean’s true merit is her devotion to social media. She has a brand, a goal and she has stretched that across a variety of online platforms, thus projecting a comprehensive online voice for her product (herself). She is a woman who loves wine, knows wine and also knows how to work the digital age to her advantage.

3. Heidi Peterson Barrett: Another surprise as she comes in 3rd on my list, Barrett’s claim to fame is her undeniable knack for creating some of California’s greatest cult wines. Cult wines, such as Screaming Eagle, garner dedicated groups of wine enthusiasts who will pay premium prices to get their hands on a bottle of “cult wine”. Whether I’m a cult wine enthusiast or I just appreciate her influence in wine marketing, Barrett is a woman who has her entire hand on the pulse of wine making.
4. Zelma Long: Long has worked for years as a winemaker’s consultant. Throughout the 70’s Long was Robert Mondavi’s head enologist and then re-branded Simi winery, later becoming its CEO. She’s consulted for wineries in Washington, Oregon, Israel, France, Argentina and Italy. Aside from consulting for multiple wineries, she’s also the winemaking partner of Vilafonte in South Africa and owner/winemaker of her own company, Long Vineyards, in Napa, California.

5. Karen MacNeil: In fifth place is another female wine writer, and someone who took the bull by the horns in a time that female + wine writer = confusion. MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible, Emmy winning host of PBS series Food, Wine and Friends and founder of Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at The Culinary Institute of America. When asked about her begginings as a wine writer, MacNeil replied,

“This is an exciting time for wine. When I started writing about wine, I was the only woman doing it. Every tasting was for the 10 men in America who controlled wine writing… The landscape has changed tremendously in the last thirty-five years. In 1972, I was assigned by a magazine to write a story on Cava. I flew to Barcelona after being in touch by mail with the winery I was to visit. When I arrived at the airport, it seemed that no one was there to pick me up. I spoke no Spanish at the time. I waited for four hours. Eventually, I went up to two men and asked something about getting to the winery. With a look of shock they hollered, “You’re the wine writer from America!” It was inconceivable to them that the wine writer from America would be a woman.”

It’s 35 years later, and as a woman I still grapple with the gender of wine. With such amazing women making their mark in the world of wine, it is hard to ignore the rise of female wine enthusiasts. On the other hand, the male passion may be something slightly more difficult to harness. Or could it just be that wine, in its many forms, has been and will always be gender neutral?

Images via: 1 2 3 4 5

A blessed UNION

Describing themselves as a Canadian take on Southern hospitality, Union truly is a blessing to the Ottawa dining scene.

After the onslaught that Ottawa experienced this year in Southern dining*, (*read Fat Boys and SmoQue Shack), I was underwhelmed to have yet another “Southern style” restaurant opening in, what some would call, a saturated market. But one month after their inaugural trial run, I was still hearing an array of positive feedback from experienced and trusted diners. Naturally, I had to check it out for myself.

I should have trusted that with Chef Chris Lord behind the scenes, this Southern secret would be nothing like the aforementioned smoke houses. Although the cuisine is Southern inspired,(as is the communal seating, ambiance and soundtrack), the food is unique to Lord’s iconoclastic hand. Although I was only able to sneak in for the late night menu, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few dishes that evaded the ever so obvious jerkpulledporkbrisketribs. Inspired and refreshing, the late night menu was tasty and exciting: biscuits with rabbit gravy, deviled eggs, pickled pig ears to name a few. Perhaps not trailblazing, but definitely a teaser for what the full menu holds and certainly a different avenue of Southern cuisine explored, something that Fat Boys and SmoQue Shack ignored.

Aside from merely delivering approachable late night grub, there is a vibe that resonates throughout Union. Whether it be the dimly lit room, Julian Garner’s impressive mural or the crooning of Mississippi soul pumping through the airwaves, (or maybe I had one too many bourbon cocktails that night.  Those libations are delicious and deadly. Thank you Jeff), Union personifies “hip”. It actually might be Centretown’s key to getting its groove back. The place is constantly packed, with barely a vacant barstool in sight.

The men behind the scenes of Union have all, in very different ways, contributed significantly to the dining scene in Ottawa. It is for that reason that people want to see them succeed and will support their latest venture. The guys have put forth their mission statement as a, “…brotherhood of growers, cookers and eaters”. Though this statement unifies Centretown’s latest joint, I think the influential “union” at hand is the coming together of talent such as Lord, Gedz and Fantin. These guys know what it takes to shake our little city up a bit, while still being able to land on their feet.

So if you’re in the neighbourhood and don’t feel like jetting off to Hintonburg for a seriously groovy time, pop in to Union for a meal, a quick bite, some fantastic bourbon or a cold beer served up in a mason jar.

Did I mention I love my beer served in mason jars?

Unionlocal613

@Unionlocal613

315 Somerset Street West

(613) 231-1010

Images via

Chef’s Night: great expections, poor execution

The corner of Richmond and Churchill Avenue. Somerset and O’connor. Bronson and Gladstone. These are the intersections of the up and coming dining scene in Ottawa. And when I say up and coming, I should truly rephrase and say: these are the intersections that will see Ottawa’s foodies through to the next wave of exceptional dining. The nation’s capital has been knocked down, teased, bullied for its lack luster dining culture. But when you really think about what the city has to offer, it doesn’t fall short of amazing, at least in the gustatory field. Exceptional dining is available at our fingertips and with places like Union and gezellig prepared to uphold the precedent, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. For that reason, whenever I attend chef’s night at Oz Kafe, I expect to be treated to the truly exceptional, exemplary displays of cuisine that Ottawa has to offer. I’ve written about Chef’s night many times before, simply because the experience is such a unique one. It’s not often that you are treated to the city’s creme de la creme, course apres course, for $25. It’s a steal and usually, something that each diner leaves raving about.

Except this time.

The last chef’s  featured Twitch (Michael Portigal) from Whalesbone Oyster House who has upheld an incredible reputation in the Ottawa dining scene. A few month’s ago, Chef’s night was graced with Twitch’s presence  and included a full blown decadence of the odds and ends of an animal (Spare Parts); it was a night that took every foodie for mouthwatering ride. This time, however, the meal fell short for most of the foodies that attended. The first course set each diner up for disaster. Because to start a four course meal with the best dish and progressively allow deteriorated dishes to hit the tables made each palette cringe.

I’m really sad to tear down a meal that had so much potential, but when push comes to shove, sometimes a tough critic provides perspective. It was evident that the meal was thoughtful and aimed to take a stab at creativity, but 3 of the 4 dishes sadly missed the mark.

         {Mushu Pork tongue with buckwheat pancakes, seaweed and watermelon}

Course #1: This was the stand out of the night, setting up the experience with a reasonably high standard. Although the buckwheat pancake was slightly dry, the hoisin allowed this minor fault to be pushed to the sidelines and the course was well received.

{Cured Mackerel, kimchi, taro gnocchi, oyster sauce}

Course #2: Mackerel dish was tasty, colourful and well executed although the stodgy gnocchi did not lend a helping hand to the dish. The kimchi kept the dish zippy, especially with an extremely oily poisson like mackerel.

 

{Chamomile, lamb, mint, strawberries and pistachio}

Course #3: Unfortunately this is where we hit rock bottom, with a dish that required far better integration of sweetness and acid. The lamb, despite this cut usually being well cooked, was cooked beyond repair. Scattered strawberries for that punch of sweetness was uninspiring.

{Sesame crostini, semi-fredo, beets, honey}

Course#4: I appreciate the innovation of this dish and understand what was meant to be accomplished. The charred flavour of the  sesame crostini paired with a savoury puree of beets had the intention of creating the perception of sweetness while integrating a smokiness to the dish. Without cloying on the palette by integrating this smokey element, the dish still was poorly executed due to the severe flavour of the not-quite-ripe-enough beets.

In a nutshell, a let down for most, but many will turn a blind eye to this disappointment and continue, rightfully, to praise one of Ottawa’s most revered chefs.

 

Food Pairings: the weird and the wonderful

“White wine with fish. Red wine with meat.”

Invoke the modern gastronome and you will find this philosophy is archaic, dated and limiting. No longer are we bound by the confines of what 1980’s etiquette dictated to our parents. Instead, we are free to explore food and the astounding matches found in wine (and beer and spirits).  From general observation, it appears that white wine has the upper hand in the world of food and wine pairings; however, and surprisingly to some, beer and spirits play their role equally as well.

In the goal of pairing food and (let’s use the sweeping term of) beverage, there are 3 C’s that will uphold usually very well: Cut, Complement, Contrast.

If your pairing achieves one of these, you’ve likely found a match made in gustatory heaven.

As many of our readers will know by now, I have been tediously pursuing the Sommelier certification and although this reads to many as “wine connoisseur”, it also requires some leg work in the field of beer and spirits. So below I have included a few of the obscure pairings that I’ve learned about and that are, in my opinion, definitely weird, wonderful and worth a whirl.

CUT

Right off the bat, lets dispel the belief of red wine with meat. Instead, ho hum, a white wine on the sweeter side of things (also known as: off dry). This particular dish requires a wine, high in acid but also balanced by residual sugar, that will cut through the fatty film and texture of pork belly.

COMPLEMENT

I know you are probably cringing as you look upon a glass of smokey scotch side by side a slab of salmon sushi. I was cringing too as I tasted this pairing with a group of (also cringing) well trained individuals. I was utterly surprised by the ability of each item to echo but not overwhelm the flavour of its partner. Many brands of scotch will uphold a smokey quality which delicately emphasizes the smoke of a salmon roll.

CONTRAST

This pairing may come as less of a surprise, as stouts and porters have long been paired with oysters. But, to be honest, I had never tried or even heard of this pairing. The idea is that the saline and slimy texture of the oyster will by contrasted by a dry and creamy Irish Stout. It works, although this weird and wonderful pairing may not be for everyone.

In a nutshell, the world of food and drink knows no bounds as to what can ultimately please your palate. So on this Friday eve, stretch your appetite and try something unexpected. A little exploration (and some guts at that) will undoubtedly lead you to a full tummy and dancing taste buds.

El Camion

“The more you travel, the more you realize how little you’ve seen”

-Anonymous

I learned from a young age that travel opens the mind, heart and soul to new experiences. For this reason, travel has always been a passion of mine. As I mentioned in my last post about travel, I haven’t had much opportunity to pursue this passion, so I made sure that every last second of my most recent 10 day stint in England counted.

Aside from the motley crew of people you can meet while journeying through a different continent, my favourite things to discover are, in no particular order: new drink, new food and new tunes. I remember as an 18 year old exploring Europe for the first time ever, alone, I met an extremely well traveled fellow who had a 16G device set aside for all of the music he had gained and shared over his many years of travelling. Those moments where you taste something unforgettable, share a bottle of something pretty and peculiar or turn your ear toward an unfamiliar sound are some of the illuminating and awe inspiring moments of travel. And so, without further ado, an experience that is tailored for a blog where each of the contributors have a particular affinity for tequila…. a tequila bar in Soho London,  with some seriously electric soul.

EL CAMION

If you urbanspoon this baby, you will more than likely be directed to reviews of a cheap and cheerful Mexican restaurant. And when you walk in to El Camion, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

Unless you take a sharp right and wander downstairs. . .

So how did we come upon a seemingly underground tequila bar? We were grabbing a late night bite and struck up conversation with our waitress who appeared to have a handle on the local nightlife. She told us to head up to Brewer Street in Soho, to El Camion.

“It’s usually members only, but because it’s a Tuesday, you may have some luck.”

Off we went, a couple of hopeful tourists, to find a tall, dark and intimidating bouncer at the door of a completely empty Mexican restaurant. After a few minutes of surprisingly friendly banter, the bouncer said we seemed alright and let us into the restaurant. He quickly tuned in to our disorientation and guided us to the staircase, chuckling at our North American expense. We came to a set of closed doors that were bursting with energy, music and  leading us to some seriously good tequila inside. With a collection of over 300 bottles of Mexico’s finest  and most exclusive tequilas, we truly hit the jackpot and managed to steer clear of the tired path of tourists.

The menu boasted a rainbow of cocktails that all sounded delicious and tempted us once or twice, but sticking to their shtick we opted for more than our fair share of tequila.

Adopting house policy (top left) of avoiding salt and lime with any tequila shot, we shot the cheap stuff and chased with a red “sangrita”: a concoction of red wine, tomato juice and hot sauce. From brandy snifters, we sipped the “Pechuga” known for the chicken breast suspended inside the still in a basket of fruit during the third distillation (bottom left).

Perfectly in my element, I had one of those aforementioned moments where I couldn’t help but turn my ear toward the electric soul sound of Milez Benjamin twisting around the dj’s deck.  That, paired with some ominous art and a few more slams of 100% agave made for a traveler’s night to remember in the grungy, funky basement somewhere in the middle of London.

London Calling

After 2 solid years of working in the service industry and completing various degrees and diplomas, I can safely say I was in dire need of a vacation. I’m talking about the kind of vacation that allows you to fly across a sea, experience a different culture and truly leave behind the everyday life. So for the last 3 days, I have allowed myself to unwind many miles away from home. I am in England for a little under 2 weeks and I’m digging every moment of it.

For many people, England is synonymous with Big Ben, West Minister Abbey, The Royal Family and all things London. And London is unquestionably a staple of the United Kingdom, offering thousands of tourist attractions and that completely lovable metropolis vibe. But for me, England is synonymous with Marsden Rock, Coleman’s Fish ‘n’ chips and Ocean Road.

{ London: Big Ben and a double decker}

{ Newcastle: Marsden Rock at Marsden Beach}

{London: The famous crossing at Piccadilly Circus}

{Newcastle ‘burb South Sheilds: Ocean Road}

{London: London Bridge}

{Newcastle:Tyne Bridge}

As a child, I spent months on end in England visiting my mom’s side of the family. They have always been situated in the North of England, on the outskirts of Newcastle. Unfortunately, Newcastle has been branded by the popular reality T.V. show, Geordie Shore (a spin off of Jersey Shore). This unfortunate connection has caused the ever wary tourist to steer clear of Newcastle and its surrounding suburbs. I assure you, although the city streets are occasionally graced with a Snooki look alike, the city that I spent so many summers in exudes small town familiarity and is rather quaint. The “geordies”, as they are so called, are incredibly friendly, love a good pint of bitters and are always ready to lend a helping hand. To me, this town and its people hold many childhood memories of chasing down the ice cream van at a quarter to six, of playing old records on my gran’s Gramaphone, of pedaling along the narrow streets on a rented bike. To me, this town and its people are the true markers of English life.

 

**Stay tuned for some real time photos of London as I make my way down to the big city**

A Feast of Fests

Last night, at work, I served a gentleman who was visiting Ottawa from the West coast. After he had indulged in a decadent meal and smacked his lips with a glass of Muscat de Beaumes, he asked me if I knew of any other good restaurants in the city worthy of his time while in Ottawa.  I shared with him a few hot spots of notoriety and, as if meaning to slap all Ottawan foodies across the face, he declared that Ottawa, “seems to lack destinations for exciting dining experiences”.

So it goes, the impenetrable desire that residents and tourists alike share, to bash the national capital. I was hard pressed to not retort with a quip stating his lack of ability to sift through the government-city sands. In other words, “Well sir, there are many exciting places, it just takes a local to point you in the right direction.”

Biting. My. Tongue.

All that to say, I began thinking about some of the more exciting things I have done in the city over the past few weeks and specifically, those things that have involved food or dining or anything of that nature. Looking back over the events of the last week, I found that Ottawa is nothing short of a good time, with good food and people to go along with it.

On Wednesday, June 22nd  Sparks Street, the strip home to Ribfest each year, drew flocks of people toward the intoxicating scent of BBQ. The nuts ventured out to see what all the buzz (and smoke) was about and despite the weather threatening with thunderstorms, we found Ribfest to alive and well and delicious.  The festival was thriving for the entire 5 days, with a few of the nuts acting as repeat offenders. Our first stop of the festival happened upon the Texas Outlaw ribbers. A spicy yet sweet bbq sauce made these fall-off-the-bone ribs one of our favourites. A stroll to a nearby lemonade stand was exactly what we needed to top the night off. Not a horrible way to start out a summer eve.

Not long after Rib fest, the Ottawa chapter of the nuts found themselves a shucking good time, inhaling the scent of sea salt and beer at Oyster fest. This was our maiden voyage to Oyster fest and the nuts were not quite sure what to expect. From around the block we could here some snappy tunes zig-zagging across the air waves and from the moment we entered the oyster pen, it was evident that everyone was there to have a good time. The sailor jerry’s snow cones, as stiff as they were, had the crowd swaying to and fro with an overall merriment. The oysters were delicious delicacies, a first again for some of the nuts. And oh, the cod burgers. Served piping hot, they were exactly what the crowd was calling for as we made the most of it in the cold rain. An eccentric fire show took place on the roof of the the Whalesbone supply store. It could have been the S&M outfits of the fire dancers or the show itself, but everyone seemed to be amused. With over 6000 oysters being shucked, an Ottawa Chef duel, great music and entertainment Ottawa’s 6th annual Oyster Fest was one for the books and made for an “exciting dining experience” to say the least. 

In a nutshell, the past week and the weeks to come will see Ottawa brimming with events that elicit excitement.