All photos courtesy of Samantha Lapierre
Secretly, or, maybe now, not so secretly, I fancy myself as a bit of a foodie. I am not picky and I will try anything once. So, when Ottawa Life was invited to experience LIFT Resto & Lounge’s True Canadian Experience event, I jumped at the chance to attend. My perception of Canadian cuisine is admittedly limited. I love the two simple foods that I, like many, feel represent Canada the best: poutine and Beavertails. I was excited, though, to see just how this event would change and challenge this perspective.
Unbeknownst to some, LIFT is located on the second floor of the Delta Ottawa City Centre. As I entered, staff warmly greeted me and their smiles put me at ease. I was flying solo for the night, and I don’t normally cover food stories, so I was a little nervous. But I was also very hungry.
A two-piece band played some rock classics for the crowd, and the warm and buzzing atmosphere made the space feel incredibly friendly. Throughout the night, various guests, Delta staff, servers, representatives and chefs happily chatted with me.
LIFT is a strikingly open space with large windows that look out into the city. Blue lighting lit some sections, while soft lighting lit others. Comfortable couches, chairs and tables were scattered throughout the venue. Art deco inspired and chic, LIFT is tastefully decorated and hip.
Upon checking in, I quickly met Raj Mohan, the Director of Food and Beverage at Delta. This event, Mohan tells me, is in part to highlight how incredible LIFT’s space really is, and what it can offer. Many locals are unaware of LIFT, Mohan says, and the one-of-a-kind event was organized in order to change that.
Mohan kindly mapped out the event’s multi-province-themed food stations for me, and suggested that I head to the Maritime food station first. I agreed, and I quickly stopped to pick up a delicious sample of Flying Monkey beer.
While I am not typically a fan of seafood, Delta Beauséjour Chef Stefan Müeller’s offerings of caviar and lobster pleased my taste buds. While waiting in line, a guest told me to try the lobster with white chocolate sauce. After shooting back a fresh oyster, I happily obliged. The lobster with white chocolate sauce ended up becoming one of my favourite dishes of the night, and I was tempted to return for seconds.
Afterward, I made my way over to the Ontario-inspired station, where LIFT’s Executive Chef Jason Duffy was serving up Maroposa Duck Confit on a taco shaped bao bun and Ontario Pickerel Ceviche. I bantered with Duffy as he prepared some fresh samplings of the Ceviche. The Maroposa confit bao bun was absolutely splendid, soft and savory, and the Ceviche was spicy and innovative.
Moving over to the bar, I ordered up a SplitTree Lavender Lemon signature cocktail. The special cocktail was making its debut for the night. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and the lavender and lemon combination worked beautifully. Impressed, and with cocktail in hand, I journeyed toward the back of the venue, where Quebec and Alberta inspired food stations awaited.
Executive Chef Robert Gendreau of Delta Montreal really knew how to make an impression on this foodie. A highlight of the night, I found myself surrounded by a lot of food: maple syrup sugar cookies, Quebec-style maple taffy on snow that instantly melted in my mouth, and a pancake stuffed with maple ham and maple syrup, with a side of baked beans. The red deer tartare and the pheasant breast topped with maple, cranberry and pearl onions were equally mouthwatering.
Truth be told, at this point, I was becoming a bit full. But, in the name of journalism, I still had one more station to try. Executive Chef Eric Larcom from the Calgary Marriott Downtown led the Alberta station, offering up a very meaty selection. Chef Larcom suggested that I dig into the Bison Carpaccio, and I happily indulged. It was delicious.
I ended my food and drink sampling with a hearty cup of Beau’s 80 Shilling Scotch Ale. A deliciously smooth beer, it was a great accompaniment to the stacks of brightly coloured macaroons at the beautifully arranged dessert station. I wandered around the event for a final time, admiring the incredibly life-like polymer clay sculptures on display by a friendly local artist, Maria Saracino. I also admired the beautiful landscape paintings on display by Margaret Chwialkowska. Chwialkowska was kind enough to stop and chat with me about her work.
This True Canadian Experience truly changed my perspective on Canadian cuisine. We are a country that is capable of delicacies beyond a run-of-the-mill poutine. The incredible service, hospitality, and food I received at the event mirror the great things LIFT will be bringing to the Ottawa food scene. And that, to this foodie, is priceless.