Around Town: Absinth Cafe

November 23, 2011 8:42 am
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Named after the anise-flavoured drink that was made popular by French artist and writers in the late 1800s, Absinthe Café has a well-deserved reputation for its die-hard loyalty to local farmers from Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, since opening its doors in 2003. It’s one of the first few restaurants that sought to partner with local farmers. Using their home grown ingredients to create sophisticated, modern organic dishes. Tantalizing their patrons with rich and bold flavours in a menu that changes every day.

So with all this in mind we headed down to the Westboro restaurant to see for ourselves what this French-inspired bistro had to offer.

A gentle speaking manager greeted and guided us into a welcoming decor. With cozy brown leather chairs, solid wood tables, dim wall lighting and candles highlighting the large mural on the back wall, the atmosphere was inviting and unpretentious.  It is actually a perfect setting to tuck into dinner.

One of the many delicacies at Absinth Cafe

We were first served the House Cured Arctic Char Gravlax, Potato Salad with Chipotle Mayo, which is normally a part of the cafe’s famous Seafood Trio. This appetizer was an exquisite blend that melted in our mouths. The chipotle beautifully blended with the slight zesty flavors of the salad and the seasoning of the char, rousing our taste buds. The Butternut Squash with Chives came next, continuing the intriguing dance of the palette with a rich and creamy texture topped off with sweetness of the chives. For the main course we had the Seared Tuna with Coconut Foam on a Melon Salad, which played a scrumptious carnival melody to our appetites with its presentation and taste. Topping off our dining waltz was the delicately sweet Dessert Sampler, tasty bites of Chocolate Fondant, Lemon Tart, Profiterole and Crème Brulée.

When I hear everyone singing praises and complimenting a particular restaurant, I enter with great expectations. Not always do I walk away with the same opinion, but in the case of Absinthe Café, it definitely lives up to the hype.

Absinthe Café 1208 Wellington Street West

Tel: (613) 761-1138  www.absinthecafe.ca

Restaurant Review: FRATELLI’S

November 17, 2011 3:01 pm
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There are various restaurant hubs in Ottawa: Byward Market, Elgin St., Richmond Rd. (Westboro), Preston St. (Little Italy), Somerset St. (China Town), Bank St. (The Glebe), just to name a few. Some of these locales come with a deep history and have a strong reputation which they seek to maintain by offering unique and great tasting restaurants. Recently I decided to visit the Westboro area. This busy little area offers a wide variety of restaurants, pubs, cafes and tea houses which is sure to satisfy and intrigue the appetite of its suburban surroundings.

Fratelli’s was the restaurant of choice for this particular outing. This contemporary Italian fine dining restaurant was established in 1996 in the Glebe and has since added three other locations across the city. Fratelli is Italian for ‘brothers’, which aptly reflects the owners Robert and Richard Valente, and since opening their doors, have worked tirelessly to keep the atmosphere of their restaurants like a neighborhood trattoria.

Arugula Salad. Photos by Q3 Studio

Walking into this bustling, lively but yet cozy restaurant I instantly felt as if I was among family and friends. The rustic decor with hints of modern elements, along with the numerous black and white photography on the walls exhibited the perfect combination of the present and yesteryear. The manager quickly came to greet me as I settled in.

Feeling at home, I decided to sample at least one item from each section of the menu which had all the Italian classics – anti-pasta, soups, pastas, chicken, veal, seafood entrees, and of course, pizza. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my orders which were rich in taste and flavor and truly Italian. However there were some particular culinary delights that really left their mark, such as the light and tantalizing arugula salad which came with grape tomato, toasted pecans, tossed with balsamic reduction and topped with shaved parmigiano.

Anti-pasta. Photos by Q3 Studios

With gentle encouragement from the manager, I also tried carpaccio for the first time. This plate of raw angus beef tenderloin, capers, dijon mayo, shaved parmigiano was tender and surprisingly exquisite. FInally, I ordered their signature dessert. The sweetly irresistible warm nutella cake came with creamy bacio gelato, frozen sugar dusted cranberries, topped with English cream. Absolutely delightful!

In sum, despite the stigma of chain restaurants, Fratelli’s unique style maintains their reputation of “customers first” and savory food… making any guest feel like an Italian for at least a couple of hours.

For more information:

http://www.fratelli.ca/

Westboro Location

309 Richmond Rd.

Tel: 613-722-6772

 

Gold Medal Plates a Winner

November 16, 2011 8:51 am
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Ottawa’s luminaries came out in force last night at the National Arts Centre for some competitive eating at this year’s Gold Medal Plates culinary competition held to raise funds for Canada’s Olympic athletes.

The three day event involves the top chefs in nine major Canadian cities preparing samples of their best main meals along with wine accompaniment to compete for the title of Canada’s best chef.

Chefs in action. Photo by Q3 Studios

The Ottawa leg of the competition was attended by an estimated 90 MP’s, media personalities and other Canadian notables.  Those in attendance included Conservative Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt, Montreal Liberal MP

Justin Trudeau and former press secretary to Stephen Harper, Dimitri Soudas. The real stars at the event however, were  Canada’s former and present day Olympians including figure skater Joannie Rochette, speed skater Tania Vicent and Glenroy Gilbert.

Attendees sampled the culinary delights from Ottawa’s best restaurants including Restaurant E18ghteen, the Courtyard Restaurant, the Zen Kitchen and the Luxe Bistro. Truffles, wild venison, lobster terrine were just some of the taste sensations on offer.  Judges of the Ottawa competition were six Ottawa foodies including food writer Anne Desbrisay, Margaret Dickenson and Pam Collacott.

However, the event organized by the Canadian Olympic Committee wasn’t just about Canada’s finest noshing it up. The Gold Medal Plates event in Ottawa and beyond has a serious purpose – to ensure our Olympic athletes have the resources they need to bring home Olympic metal.

One of the many delicacies. Photo by Q3 Studios

Bronze medalist at the Vancouver Winter Olympic games Joannie Rochette said funds raised from the Gold Medal Plates event and the sale of red mittens through the Canadian Olympic Committee, allowed Olympians to

concentrate on what they do best – competing. Although Rochette will not be competing in the next winter Olympics, she emphasized the importance of helping Canada’s next Olympic athletes to succeed.

“We get support from Government but it is not enough to cover all of our expenses,” said Rochette. “The extra funding allows you to have your mind clear. When you are training for the Olympics you don’t want to have to

think too much about your finances.  It’s great to have that out of your head.”

Funds raised through previous Gold Medal Plates event helped Rochette offset the expenses associated with hiring a top notch choreographer and figure skating outfits which cost up to $5,000 apiece. “It is especially important to have this funding during the Olympic season. It allowed me to have the best and to feel I had the best,” said Rochette.

Food to wet any appetite. Photo by Q3 Studios

Founded in 2004, Gold Medal Plates has so far raised $5 million dollars in funds for Canada’s Olympic athletes.  Buoyed by Canada’s incredible success at last year’s Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter

Games, Gold Medal Plates hopes to raise more money than ever to send Canada’s finest athletes to the summer Olympics in London 2012 and Sochi winter Olympics in 2014. The main sponsor of the Ottawa event was

Capital Power Corporation – a power generation company which operates across three Canadian provinces.  For more information about Gold Medal Plates can be found at www.goldmedalplates.com.

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