my platonic date @ la bottega

It’s the Friday of a long weekend and I just didn’t feel like making my lunch today.  You know those mornings… when you wake up and you’d rather get another 20 minutes sleep rather than make your lunch?  Today was one of those days.  Good thing Platonic Jeff and I had already agreed to meet for lunch.

I haven’t hung out with Platonic Jeff since before my trip to Vancouver.  We randomly ran into one another Monday evening (me on my Oz date, he on another date… and yes, I was introduced as Platonic Lynne to his date – hilarious!).   Since we agreed that we absolutely had to grab dinner or coffee or something this week… we landed on a lunch date, at La Bottega.  YES!  I heart La Bottega… especially their sandwiches.

Located in the heart of the byward market, La Bottega is a great little Italian gourmet deli place – family run with quality products… olives and spicy eggplant (sigh), fresh focaccia, pasta, cheese (lots of cheese), and meats, all on wonderful display.  Not to mention oils, vinegar, and condiments galore!  Yep… a great place to stop by… even if it’s just to browse.

But let’s get back to my lunch date.  Jeff and I had a mission:  create delicious sandwiches and enjoy them sitting in the sun.  The perfect plan for a sunny, summer afternoon.

First off – the thing with La Bottega is this… everyone seems to grab their lunch here.  We walked in and made our way to the back of the deli… and were stopped by a line of people.  Not just a handful of people… nope.  This was a line that twisted all the way around the cheese display – all the way to the olive and eggplant displays.  Good thing we enjoy talking to one another… we had some time to kill.

 platonic jeff @ the back of the line… we have a ways to go

standing next to the olives and spicy eggplant… no sampling please ;0)

By the time we had rounded the corner, Jeff and I were able to look up at the big, black hanging signs and create our own sandwich: bread, cheese, meat (up to 3 different types), and then toppings.

Time to build my our sandwiches :0)

mine:  multigrain bread / roast turkey / italian ham / yellow mustard / black olives / spicy eggplant / hot peppers / tomato / lettuce

Jeff’s:  focaccia / provolone / genoa salame / italian ham / yellow mustard / black olives / spicy eggplant / hot peppers / tomato / lettuce

Both sandwiches were GREAT! – the bread was fresh, the meats were thinly sliced, the mustard generously squeezed on… and everything just brought it all together.  And the best part… only $5.50 (tax incl.)  The thing about a sandwich… it doesn’t have to be complicated to be good.  And La Bottega seems to understand that.

Recommended for a weekday lunch… just give yourself enough time to wait in line :0)

sweetgrass @ oz kafé

Oh what a night!

Seriously… it took me all of Tuesday to recover from Indsutry Night @ Oz Kafé.  It was… intense.  But I loved ever moment of it!

As you all know, I spent last weekend in Beautiful British Columbia enjoying fun in the sun, delightful meals, pastries, fresh markets, and long overdue visits with friends (and a visit with my brother thrown in for good measure).

It was a spectacular trip.

Monday morning came quickly enough; off to the airport I went (thank you sky train).  6 hours later… I was back in Ottawa.  And ready to meet Charlotte for our monthly date at Oz.

Excellent.

Neither of us knew who was hosting the industry night / chef appreciation night, and so we were both pleasantly surprised to see that it was Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro.  I’ve been meaning to go and try it out for quite some time now… and boy… was it ever worth the wait.

Warren Sutherland’s menu – 5 courses of amazingness

It was… inspired.  The entire meal, from start to finish was a “stop-pause-savour-sigh” type of experience.  That’s exactly it… this meal was an experience!  Warren Sutherland (the Chef) and company prepared each course showcasing each ingredient, balancing the flavours and not overwhelming the palette.

 rabbitt rillet / ontario pickled cherries / 3 yr old cheddar

We started our meal with a crostini of rabbit rillet.  OMG.  I had one issue with this…  it was gone in 3-bites!  Topped with pickled cherries and slivers of 3-year-old cheddar; the rabbit simply melted in my mouth.  The tart cherries, and bold cheddar enhanced the meat.  I could have eaten a dozen of these.  Seriously.

 wild boar bacon / fresh pasta / chunky tomato sauce

Then we were served the second course.  Sigh.  The star of this dish should have been the wild boar bacon – which was in fact – tasty, salty, yummy.  But in my humble opinion… the real star of this dish was the fresh pasta.  Light, fresh, perfectly cooked… I twirled it around my fork and eagerly devoured it.  The entire course was accompanied by a chunky tomato sauce and a little herbed oil.  Delish!

lake erie white bass / herb and garlic marinate / market veg / olive oil

Time for the third dish.  Fish.  Ok – after indulging in the richness of the rabbit, and the boldness of the wild boar, it was time for something lighter.  The Lake Erie white bass was pan-fried; lightly drizzled in olive oil; and served atop fresh greens.  I will admit that if I had to pick my least favourite dish… this was it; and it’s honestly simply because the other two courses had blown my socks off… I mean… I closed my eyes when I bit into the rabbit!  Nevertheless, the fish was fresh, light, flakey… lovely; and it brought a balance to the overall meal.

mariposa duck / confit / curry sauce / chimmi churri qunioa salad

After eating all of that, Charlotte and I couldn’t believe that there was yet another dish!  Mariposa duck to boot!  Back to a rich, salty, decadent course… or was it?   The duck was served confit-style – crispy little pockets of goodness.  Accompanied by a qunioa salad: cubed cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes… the freshness and lightness of the salad completely lightened up the dish.  It didn’t feel heavy or overly greasy; just simple and another star of my meal.

At this point – Charlotte was done.  Full to the brim and completely satiated.  I on the other hand, was eager for the final dish – dessert!  I’m sure none of you are surprised that I have a sweet tooth ;0)

pascale’s strawberry cheese cake ice cream / short bread cookie / raspberry coulis

Pascale’s strawberry cheese cake ice cream.  We all know how much I heart Pascale and her ice cream.  I’d never tried this flavour… holy heck!  It’s delicious.  Super rich and fresh because of the berries; and the addition of the short bread cookie was genius.  First off, the cookie was baked nice and thin – resembling a cracker.  Secondly, it was sweet – but not too sweet.  And the crunch of the cookie against the smoothness of the ice cream was exactly what the dish needed.  Oh yeah… and raspberry coulis is never a bad thing.  Never.

I’d say that’s a nice welcome home meal… wouldn’t you? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lovin’ love…

I never really explained the reason why I planned my extra-long weekend in Vancouver , did I?  Quite simply… I was invited to a wedding.

But not just any wedding (not that anyone thinks that their wedding is any ol’ wedding)… Elise and Pierre‘s wedding!  This… this was big news.  This was worthy of an extra-long weekend, fly across the country, type of trip.  This was the day I was far too excited to pass up on.

I’ve known Elise (from this point on, she will be referred to as Lu) and Pierre for 10 years.  Yep.  10 whole years. We all worked at the University of Ottawa together – they were residence advisors, and I was a residence life coordinator.  Through leadership camps, middle of the night rounds, on-call duties and a lame running club (Lu and I being the only members, President and Vice-President respectively), we forged a friendship that has survived extended periods of silences as we live our lives thousands of miles apart (me in Ottawa, them in Abu Dhabi).  But whenever we see one another it’s like nothing has changed… I heart those types of friendships; especially with these two.

Needless to say… I was beyond thrilled that they were getting married.  Lu sent the save the date email months ago and I did just that; I saved the date: July 24.

Saturday morning Katie and I got ready (post Tartine carb overload); pretty summer dresses, fun sandles; grabbed our sunglasses and my camera and out we went:  Vancouver to Mission, BC.  A spectacular drive – I mean… check it out?  Not an unpleasant way to spend just over an hour…

view up ahead… beautiful british columbia eh?

We did get a little lost (entirely my fault) but made our way to the church on time.  It was great to run into old friends (Rob, Chantèle, Olivier) and make new ones (Bronwyn and Jason) while we waited for the ceremony to begin.  Finally it was time for Lu and Pierre to walk down the aisle.  HOORAY!!!! They both looked incredible: Lu was breathtaking in her wedding dress and Pierre dashing in his tux.  But the best (absolute best) part was the expressions on both their faces!  I love love.

Pierre and Lu… and Pierre’s grandmother to the right (she made my favourite toast of the evening)

Once the vows were exchanged, the rings slipped on correct fingers, and a couple of kisses sealed the deal, we all exited the church and made our ways to Lu’s parents place for the reception.

HOLY HECK do they ever have an amazing home and property!  The yard was elegantly dressed up for the day: white everywhere, lights strung in the trees… and my favourite touch – a tree decorated with hanging framed photos of the happy couple… it was like a christmas tree decorated with their adventures together.  AWESOME!

I won’t lie… I was also really excited about the wedding meal.  No dry chicken breast here.  No way!  Pierre’s Lebanese background got to shine (I stole one of the menus so that I could share it with y’all).

We started with Arabic Mezze - in my humble opinion, the shining start.  Fresh pita was dipped into hummous, moutabbal (eggplant dip), labneh w nana (yogurt dip with mint), tabouleh, warak enab (rice-stuffed vine leaves), and my personal favourite, shankleesh (cheese, onion and tomato tapenade).  I didn’t even need to wrap the pita around the shankleesh – I was able to grab my fork and just dig right in (and yes, I believe all the guests were aware of my love for this appetizer).

hummous, balck olives and shankleesh

close up of the shankleesh… a-maz-ing

tabouleh and warak enab

Once we’d finished with the mezze we then enjoyed the entrées:

kabsa (lamb and rice dish with a mixture of spices – black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves, nutmeg – topped with almonds, onions and raisins).  The lamb melted in your mouth, and I would probably argue that it was the best spiced rice I’ve ever had.  It was so well balanced – not too peppery or too sweet.  I think Katie and I both enjoyed this dish the most… I kept taking pieces of lamb off her plate… ;0)

red snapper (served Lebanese style on a bed of vegetables and topped with tomato, garlic and mint).  The fish was excellent.  Fresh and light.  Really and truly lovely.

roasted chicken quarters, roasted vegetables, spicy roasted potatoes.  The chicken was ridiculously tender, and the potatoes were perfect to pair with some of that hummous.

Not a standard wedding feast.  Thank you Pierre and Lu for that!

And then desserts.

We were invited to enjoy some baklava (homemade phyllo pastry with nuts, sugar and honey), mamoul (date-filled semolina cookie infused with rose water), knafeh bi jibn (layered cheese dessert, served hot and drizzled with sweet thick syrup) and halawt el jibn (sweet cheese-stuffed pastry topped with pistachio nuts).  I absolutely adore baklava – and wasn’t disappointed by this one.  Same with the mamoul.  Sigh.  Those dates… so wonderful and sweet.

mamoul and baklava

But don’t worry.  There was wedding cake.  Of course there was wedding cake: I’d spotted it the moment we arrived at the reception.

4 tiered, buttercream frosted, almond, marble and red velvet cakes.  It was… spectacular.  It was topped with two birds (the wedding theme) – it wasn’t a cheesey wedding topper  – simple, and elegant.  Each tier of cake was frosted and then piped with more buttercream, simply decorated with fresh flowers.  Really really pretty.

birds eye view of the cake

simple piping and flowers.  uber elegant cake

enjoying their first slice of cake together :0)

Lu let me in on a little secret… 3 of the 4 tiers were actually not cake!  The baker had recommended making the top tier into a cake – the bride and groom could then cut into it… as tradition would have it.  But all of us would then enjoy the cake in slab form.  I figured that meant that we would have to decide on either a piece of almond, or the marble or the red velvet.  Ok.  I was wrong.  Each piece was probably 3-inches wide: 1-inch of each cake flavour, filled with a cream cheese frosting and then topped with vanilla buttercream.

Genius.  You know why?  Well let me tell you why!  Because: (1) each slab is only 1-inch thick – less baking time, less time to dry out.  (2) since it doesn’t need to bake very long, it likely was made same day.  (3) since it’s not very thick, it doesn’t take very long to cool – so you can slap the icing on it right away and preserve the natural moistness of the cake.  And finally (4) it makes cutting it for a large group of people pretty darn simple.

Very smart.  Oh yeah… and the cake?  A-MAZ-ING! As mentioned, it was moist, the flavours were perfectly balanced, the cream cheese added a little tartness but then by topping it with the vanilla buttercream, you bite into a fluffy, yummy topping.  Absolutely delicious cake.  For Reals.

Oh yeah… I didn’t just have 1 piece… I had 2.  Within a couple of hours.  Just as good after the drive home.. the perfect before bed treat :0)

Congratulations Lu and Pierre.  Loved your day and both of you! xxx