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Travel: Culinary Trip to Ottawa – March 2012

Yesterday, I returned from a much-anticipated culinary adventure to Ottawa that I mentioned in a previous post introducing Ottawa’s Chinatown. The picture you see above is taken from Les Suites hotel where I have stayed on my last six or seven trips to the capital. It shows a lovely view overlooking Dalhousie Street and By-ward market, which is home to a terrific concentration of restaurants and a great place to just wander around.

My trip, like the best laid plans of mice and men, did not pan out quite as I hoped but I did get to eat at quite a few new interesting places and visit some great sources for exotic foodstuffs. I have quite a bit of editing to do, but in the next few weeks I will be posting reviews of the various restaurants and introducing you to a number of great places for culinary shopping in the nation’s capital. I will also show you all the ‘treasures’ I came home with and many of these will be featured in upcoming ‘Foodstuffs’ posts and then later, as I get to investigate them, form the centerpieces of some interesting Kitchen Experiments … 

The first restaurant on my list was Luxe Bistro in the market. I made reservations for the place a good week or so before my trip and enjoyed a fairly pleasant evening there despite having developed a rather nasty chest cold a few days before leaving home. Their patio was open far earlier in the year than normal due to unseasonably warm March temperatures and I was lucky to be able to sit out there and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling market area, including the street musicians you see above.

The unseasonable temperatures were a bit of a shock to the system, I have to say. The night before I left it was minus 42 with the wind-chill and, just before we landed, our pilot announced that it was a steamy plus 27 degrees in the capital. I recall quite a few passengers looking around in disbelief, wondering if they had heard right, but it turns out he was absolutely right. Walking off the plane into that heat was a bit like walking a brick wall and, for the first few days, the sudden environmental change only exacerbated the effects of my cold. It did cool off while I was there and I acclimatized somewhat so that, in the end, I was not especially looking forward to returning to the frigid north once again. As I write this, the ambient temperature outside is minus 30 and there is a good stiff breeze bringing it down to a balmy -45. Ah…. It is SO good to be home again …

Anyway, as I mentioned above, my plans did not materialize exactly as I hoped. One restaurant I especially wanted to try, Harmony Restaurant in the Glebe section of town, turned out to be closed for three weeks whilst the owners were off on vacation. This was a bit of a disappointment, of course, but, in truth, I knew I probably would not get to visit all the restaurants on my list.

I also hoped to make two or three trips to Chinatown to try various restaurants as well as do some shopping, but I only made one as it turned out. On my first full day in town I took a taxi to Chinatown and spent several hours walking around and looking at different places. Unfortunately, with my cold, the effort was a little much and I returned to my hotel totally exhausted. I did get to have some terrific dim sum at a new place I have never seen before and so my time was well spent, but I’m afraid to say that, after that, I confined my remaining excursions to places a lot closer to my hotel and had to change my eating plans in consequence.

The other little fly in the ointment on this trip was having chosen to visit Ottawa during the Spring Break week for University students. My hotel hosted a whole swarm of them that numbered, as best I can tell, somewhere between one and two hundred. They were packed into rooms on many different floors and the balcony parties went on far into the night and began again just after daybreak. I am sure management must have received many complaints and when I checked out, the young lady at the front desk told me that several rooms had been trashed and that the riotous proceedings had otherwise left a horrendous mess to clean up. I was prepared to do my best to ignore the noise as just an expression of youthful boisterousness, but the damage was a bit of a shame and I doubt the hotel will be in a rush to accommodate groups like that again in the near future.

Well, anyway … that pretty much encapsulates my trip. It was a real pity that I wasn’t feeling totally up to scratch the whole time I was there but I did get to bring home some great finds and eat at a lot of interesting places that I can share with you shortly, so, in that regard, I have to vote the whole excursion a general success.

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