Monday, December 04, 2023

Eating off the Hill: Gooney's in Ottawa

Meeting a friend for lunch in Ottawa recently and they brought me to a lunch spot I hadn't tried before: Gooney's.

It's a modern-looking place at the corner of Kent and Albert in downtown Ottawa that apparently just moved from a smaller space down on Laurier, and it has a loyal lunch clientele. I joined the line one Thursday afternoon and it was pretty full with people both dining in and taking out.

They serve a selection of arepas, as well as sandwiches and bowls. An arepa is basically a South American sandwich. To quote wikipedia, "arepa is a type of food made of ground maize dough stuffed with a filling, eaten in northern parts of South America since pre-Columbian times, and notable primarily in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela, but also present in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Panama."

While it was a busy place, they run an efficient operation that puts the sandwich artists at Subway to shame and I quickly had my sammy in hand, paid, and found a table.

After careful pre-scouting of the menu, as I usually do, I landed on the "sweet Isabella" which said menu describes as as arepas with "Roasted Pork, Coleslaw, Cheddar Cheese & our house coriander sauce." I also got a side Caesar salad, as I wasn't sure the arepas was enough to satisfy my hunger.

To dispense first with the salad. The dividing line between a good Caesar and a mediocre Caesar often comes down to the dressing. This dressing was creamy and garlicky. It was a good Caesar.

Now, the arepas. The pork was plentiful, not dry, and had tasty char. The sauce was good, and not all the arepas had slaw but this one did and I choose it because I wanted that second note to complement the meat. It did and it was good. My only note would be the cheese shread. It would have really elevated the sandwich were it melted.

Overall, a good lunch, will be back.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Eating off the Hill: Ferro Bar & Cafe in Toronto

Meeting a friend for dinner during a recent visit to Toronto, we ended up at a place near his new workplace on St. Clair Avenue West, an area of Toronto I'm not too familiar with.

Ferro Bar & Cafe was a cozy spot and pretty busy on a Friday evening, but we were seated quickly at a high top table. I find these awkward to get into and prefer a table and chairs of the usual height, but any port in a storm as they say.

We started with the BRUSCHETTA POMODORO as an appetizer which helpfully came with four pieces -- two for each of us. It was tasty, flavorful and fresh. Sometimes bruschetta tastes like the topping was made long ago but this tasted fresh and a good start to the meal.

I had pondered my choice of main long and hard, pre-scouting the menu online as I usually do. While I've been on a protein over carbs kick of late, being at an Italian restaurant I put this aside and ordered the GNOCCHI ALLA GORGONZOLA, described on the menu as Fresh potato gnocchi in an Italian gorgonzola-cream sauce + parmigiana + honey walnuts.

I like me a good gorgonzola-cream sauce and this one was rich, flavorful and delicious. The gnocchi was cooked perfectly, portion was good, and I liked the inclusion of the walnuts for a textural contrast. My only note would be that they could have been more generous with the walnuts. I broke them up so I could enjoy them more.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Eating off the Hill: Pantheon in Toronto

During a recent visit to Toronto I has the opportunity to dine with friends at Pantheon in Toronto's Greek town on the Danforth. I always enjoy Greek food and have been here before, although this choice was the product of careful research and due diligence amongst our friend group.

The restaurant seemed much smaller than we recalled it being from our last visit, pre-pandemic. It wasn't until we left that we realized they had given up half their floor space to a cookie bakery. Definitely not Greek, but tasty -- I had sampled it a few months prior.

Also subject to much deliberation and consideration was my entrée selection. And in the end, although I have enjoyed the Bifteki in the past, I decided on this day to get the mixed grill.

This includes lamb chops, chicken souvlaki and sausage as proteins. All were excellent. And quite filling; I had about half the plate and brought the other half back to the hotel for a future breakfast. The veggies were fine, very buttery, which probably reduced the healthiness a smidge.

The eagle-eyed among you may notice I haven't referenced the Greek potatoes. The Greek are renowned for their potatoes, and Pantheon is well regarded for their preparation. As my doctor wants be avoiding foods like potatoes, white pasta and rice, I asked for my potatoes on a side plate and they were enjoyed by my dining companions.

All in all, a delicious night on the Danforth.

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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Eating on the Hill: Lobster Ravioli at Metropolitain Brasserie

A friend I hadn't seen in awhile was visiting Ottawa recently and, after a tour around Parliament Hill (I never miss Centre Block more than when it comes to tours as there was so much more to see and share) it was time for a good dinner.

I'm trying to be healthier these days for reasons but, after behaving myself all day, I was ready for a good but sensibly-sized meal and so we headed to the Metropolitain Brasserie for their fine French fare. It was quiet as we were early and the politicos were not yet back in town and, while the French food is decadent, their portions are sensible.

There were some interesting choices and, after scanning the menu, I opted for the Lobster Ravioli with seared sea scallops, rose sauce, chives and crumbled chèvre.

It was absolutely delicious. The scallops were big, juicy and perfectly seared. The ravioli was cooked perfectly, and the rich sauce was delicious and flavorful, completed well by the crumbled chèvre.

The perfect dish for catching up with a friend, who tried unsuccessfully to tempt me with her fries (which did look delicious) as she enjoyed her Croque Monsieur. And I managed to keep on track with my health goals for the day.

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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Eating on the Hill: McDonald's, Belgium and CPAC on the reception circuit

Parliament is back besides lots of headline-making news, the reception circuit is back in full force. I attended a few receptions this week and, while I am cutting back what I eat for health reasons, I did sample a few goodies for science and reportage.

A highlight for many staffers was the McDonald's Canada reception on Tuesday, which closed down the Queen Street Fare food court for the event. I added it to my calendar mainly to see if they were catering it or using the food court tenants. And the answer was both.

I say highlight because the line was literally out the door onto the street, and the inside was jam-packed with staffers. And a new MPs, namely the agriculture minister and the critics. Bur I wasn't there for speeches. There were ticketed drinks, a large station with McCafe goods, and a spring roll station at the Asian food court restaurant. But most food was pass appy style.

Including the nugs. I saw empty nugget 4 pack boxes all over the place and couldn't find the station, but learned they were being passed out.

First round I had a spring roll and what I thought at first were suspiciously-shaped nuggets, but were actually deep-friend mac and cheese wedges, Both were fine, but I had come for McDonald's finest. And actually, their reminder invite had hinted at showcasing concept menu items. I think all the staff were hoping for McPizza; sadly, I saw none.

As things were going fast I stationed myself outside the kitchen area, and soon a tray came out of the McDonalds (small) cheese burgers and 4-pack nuggets with sauces. Confirming the burgers had mustard, I passed and grabbed a pack of nuggets but skipped the sauce. They were good, as nuggets (when hot) usually are.

With the nuggets consumed, I wove through the crowd to the doors and headed up to SJAM, where Belgium Night was being hosted by their embassy. It's a bigger venue, so was far less crowded than the McD's shindig. A couple of years ago I got a swanky Stella Artois glass at this shindig; I didn't see any on offer this time thought they were serving the beer at the bar in these proper glasses.

Other than some chacuterie I didn't eat at this reception, but they were appropriately Belgium themed with two food stations. The first was a cone of French Fried drizzled with mayo, in the Belgian style. I overheard a guest ask for one minus the mayo; hopefully the Belgians did not overhear.

And next door were either clams or muscles, I'm not sure. So perhaps recreating the moules en frites Belgian classic.

And rounding it out, tables offered a selection of Belgian chocolates. I went for the white, as it's supposed to be the least sugary of those on offer and I need to stay away from the sweets but not sampling their chocolate would have just been rude.

Finally, the next night I was back in SJAM for the CPAC reception. I again only had a few cheese and cracker combos from the chacuts station, but the highlight for the more adventurous was undoubtedly the raw oyster station.

There are a few interesting receptions next week, so stay tuned...

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