Gelato, by any other name

June 21, 2011 9:00 am

When the hot weather descends on Ottawa, and the sub-zero winter is all but forgotten, one cannot help but thank Italians for their welcome addition to the world’s cuisine.  Yes, when it comes to what the Italians have brought to the world’s plates, they would’ve easily received a passing grade with their contribution of pizza, pasta, biscotti or wine.  When the Italians greeted the world with a cone, with glistening gelato scoop smugly nestled within it, they have truly earned their high five from the world.

Ottawa too is alive and well with delicious options for those seeking a summer refreshment. Little Italy is, not surprisingly, home to one of the more impressive gelaterias in town.  Pasticceria Gelateria on Preston Street is definitely the place to go should you have a hankering for an honest to goodness fruit gelato.  Raspberry gelatos have never had it so good.

Should you, however, have a craving for a rich, chocolate dessert that will leave your taste buds covered in creamy cocoa and hazelnut ice cream, then Truffle Treasures are the place to go.  The baci flavoured ice cream truly is a kiss to the senses.  This is not your regular chocolate ice cream.  This is a delectable treat that’s not too sweet, yet hits the buds in all the right places. With a hint of hazelnut, it feels like you’re munching on frozen Nutella.

Should you wish to take a short drive out of time for some gourmet ice cream that leaves you dream of the treat for days to come, I highly suggest paying a visit to La Cigale in Chelsea, Quebec.  Sure, it is a 15-minute drive, but the quaint bright house will surely repay you for your efforts.  With a rainbow of ice cream flavours, mixing white chocolate and raspberry, this  is the type of ice cream that summer was made for.

Pay an Ode to the Environment and Your Health at Zen Kitchen

June 8, 2011 10:44 am

An eclectic fusion of locally organic food fare with big city edge, Ottawa’s Zen Kitchen serves perfect gourmet portions of the freshest ingredients accompanied with an environmental consciousness. Free of chemical additives, preservatives and anything of the genetically engineered variety, Executive Chef Caroline Ishii ensures each dish is vegan friendly and often gluten-free, displaying her culinary mastery developed from her studies at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, as well as yoga and meditation. This also spills over into the decor and ambiance of the reconfigured home turned restaurant, perched just before the main strip of Chinatown. Drenched in calming hues and clean lines, you can hear

Executive Chef Caroline Ishii and Sommelier David Loan, owners of Zen Kitchen.

Paul Simon’s guitar strumming through the speakers and Chef Ishii’s husband David Loan, roaming the dining area and greeting customers. A co-owner and manager  in the restaurant venture, he is also a sommelier and compliments his wife’s artistic cuisine with perfectly selected VQA wines. The talented duo are famed for their 13-episode series called “The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave,” broadcast on the W Network in last year.

Zen Kitchen uses local suppliers of family run farms and businesses including Jambican Studio Gardens of Kemptville, Kiwan Farms operating along Hawthrone, Acorn Creek Garden Farm, Roots and Shoots Farm and Ferme de la Rivière Blanche, among many others. They also support the local arts scene by exhibiting paintings and works of established and budding artists throughout the restaurant.

I found myself deeply intrigued by its reputation and opted to experience their brunch plates recently on a warm Sunday with my partner – a cyclist, avid outdoor enthusiast, ex-vegan ‘manly man’ and food skeptic.

Dining area at Zen Kitchen.

We started with the traditional green tea and coffee – flavourful and perfectly brewed before our main entrees were served. I chose the buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, smokey tempeh bacon and fresh fruit salad with hints of mint garnish. The tempeh bacon is made from soy beans with a bit of sugary maple syrup and salt added before the smoking process. I thought it tasted better than the real thing and had a delightful crunch and crispy texture. Buckwheat, a seed known for its nutritional value including high fibre content and rutin, a medicinal chemical that strengthens capillary walls, is used often in healthy baking. The pancakes were light like crepes with a nutty flavour and balanced the sweet, pure maple syrup. My counterpart’s meal was called sope, a leavened house corn tortilla with scrambled tofu, Mornay sauce, fresh guacamole, house salse and spicy rice. Both dishes were gluten-free and left us happy and satisfied – a welcomed feeling to the usual heavy, greasy-spoon weekend brunches. All brunch dishes are

Fantastic local, organic food fare from Zen Kitchen.

$14. For more information, visit

634 Somerset Street West

Ottawa, Ontario

Little Italy’s Appetite Gets Bigger

June 5, 2011 9:00 am
Little Italy

Little Italy is surely becoming the culinary heart of Ottawa.  One walk on Preston street will take you on a gastronomical journey of the world.  Sure, Italian restaurants and pizza are well represented and one would be hard-pressed to find a more delicious pizza than the crispy, thin pizza at La Favorita. Not far from La Favorita is yet another Italian gem, Simply Biscotti. The wealth of choices of this popular Italian cookie would make your head spin and your mouth salivate.

If Italian food doesn’t tickle your fancy, have no fear.  Preston also offers delicious German food at Lindenhoff, where schnitzels and saurkraut are but a prologue to the ever-so-delicious honest-to-goodness apfel strudel.

Heck, if you want to ditch European cuisine altogether, just waltz on down to the Green Papaya for Thai food.

Food, however, is but the beginning.  This street has more pubs than you can shake a stick at.  From the classic Heart and Crown, to the more extraordinary, Pub Italia.  This place surely deserves a nod.  It may not be food per se, but the beer selection, set against the somewhat blasphemous, tongue-in-cheek setting of a church, is something to raise your glasses for.

As of last week, the neighbourhood welcomed another addition to its ever-growing family of food and drink.  Preston Bar and Grill is conveniently located right at the entry to Little Italy.  The chic pub offers reasonably priced fare, with portions that could easily fill a hardworking lumberjack.  To get you in the doors (and perhaps into the Italian spirit), each Wednesday is a $6 wine and cheese night.


2011 2012


The Start of a Tasteful Journey

June 3, 2011 9:33 am
Michael Pinkus - Grape Guy

Today you and I embark on a new adventure together … we are going to explore the world of wine (and sometimes other beverage alcohol), together, which in my opinion is the best way TO drink, with friends.

My name is Michael Pinkus and I have been a wine writer for the past 7 years and a wine lover for over 20.  My website is

, a site devoted to the love and enjoyment of the fermented grape bevies from Ontario, but I do more than just talk about Ontario wines.  As a member (and the current president) of the Wine Writers` Circle of Canada, I get a chance to taste wines from all over the world:  wine coming into Ontario thru Vintages or on the General List, wines that may be coming your way, wines available thru agents only, and wines that we’ll never see on our shores, but will be available elsewhere (these one’s you’ll have to search for but will be worth the find).

How about a little more about me:  I placed a very Canadian 4th at the Wine Tasting Challenge event held annually in downtown Toronto in the fall; I was also honoured with the ‘Promoting the Promoters ‘ Award at the Cuvee Gala in 2010 – this is the Ontario wine world’s equivalent to the Academy Awards (I guess that makes me an award winning wine writer – if you ask I ‘ll show you the engraved decanter to prove it).  Every week I’ll touch upon a region, a grape, a wine style, a pairing, a winery or anything else of a vinous nature that sparks my fancy, and hopefully yours too; I’ll even talk a little beer, some mixed drinks, about coolers, and anything else with booze in it (or you could add booze to).  I find that sometimes one can’t be too discriminating as to what form the alcohol one consumes takes, but when we do imbibe we should drink the good stuff whenever possible and yet not break the bank doing so – and that’s what I’m here for, to help point you in the right direction and get you thinking about what you’re drinking.  But the ultimate goal, always, is to have a little fun in the process – because booze is all about the good times, and as the old saying goes: “Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”  (It should read “bad booze ” but I don’t want to paraphrase too many times this early in our relationship).

Now enough about me, I want to hear from you … send questions, post thoughts, anything that gets the conversation going and let’s me know where your thoughts are, cause that’ll help focus mine as well (I’ve been known to ramble at times – like now).  I’m looking forward to our trip together, I trust you are too.

Next Week: What’s with all the new OZ wine?

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