Sunday, January 15, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Buddha Satay Bowl at Freshii

Our office moved over to the newly renovated Wellington Building last week and, while the new cafeteria in this building looks pretty sweet, it won't be open for another week. As my offer to serve as a taste tester as they prep for opening hasn't been accepted, I've been venturing elsewhere for my lunch.

It's a great convenience to be in a building that has an entrance directly onto Sparks Street, and to be closer to a lunch option I'll be visiting more regularly now: Freshii.


Located at Sparks and Metcalfe with limited in-restaurant seating, Freshii is more of a take-out option. I'd been there once before and enjoyed it, but it was outside my radius for walking lunch back to the office for consumption. But now that we've moved, that's no longer the case.

Freshii is, as the name suggests, fresh, with lots of vegetarian options (but you can add meat too). Wraps, bowls, salads, smoothies, that sort of thing. Lots of customization and build-your-own options via a paper slip, so you can make your meal your own.


I opted for the Buddha Satay Bowl, which is rice noodles with broccoli, carrots, cabbage, crispy wontons, and green onions in a spicy peanut sauce. I added chicken and aged cheddar for an extra charge although, frankly, it would have been just as good without the chicken. I also added some corn (most veggie additions are included).

The peanut sauce was flavourful but not really spicy, the noodles sticky and complementary, and the veggies fresh and crisp. Frankly, I could have left out the chicken and cheese and it would have been just as delicious. The bowl was so filling, I really didn't need the bag of chips I bought as a side.


The bowl and chips came to $11.60 taxes included, which I thought was a pretty good value. Without the chips, chicken and cheese it will be a very satisfying lunch for under $10. I think Freshii will be a once-a-week stop on my lunch rotation.

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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Soup and a sandwich from The Soup Guy

I've been talking a lot about soup on this blog and so, at the urging of a regular reader, I ventured off campus to the food court at World Exchange Plaza to sample the wares of The Soup Guy.

I don't venture too often over to the World Exchange Plaza about four blocks from my office -- there are closer food courts if that's what I'm looking for. But I had a meeting across the street around the hour of lunching one day, so I took the opportunity to sample some soup and a sandwich.

I'll dispense with the sandwich first. They have all the usual sandwiches you would expect but I opted for one of the specials that caught my eye: the breaded pork schnitzel. While it's not as healthy as the non-breaded fillets you usually find on sandwiches, it added a nice bit of crunch to completment the lettuce, tomato and mayo. The panini bread was also fresh and crunchy, making for a tasty if somewhat pricey sandwich (as I recall, the sandwich, soup and beverage ran me closer to $15 than to $10).


But this is about The Soup Guy, not The Sandwich Guy, so let's move on to the main event. They have a good number of soups each day on a rotating basis. A few are on display in the case up front, while a few more are in the back and listed on a board. So you can't eyeball those but need to go off the name alone.

I've mentioned before that I'm particular about soups. I tend to prefer the cream-based ones over stock, with some exceptions. And I haven't mentioned that I really dislike soups with a tomato-base. Painful childhood lunch memories perhaps, I don't know. None of the soups on display were my sort of soup, so I turned to the ones on the board and none really lept out at me. Feeling the need to pick a soup though, I went with the Caribbean Chicken Mango Soup.


Unfortunately, it turned out to have a tomatoish base. It gets points for being rich in ingredients (with the notable exception of chicken) which is key to a good soup in my books -- don't skimp on the goodies; I want it to be like stew. While it has a well-executed soup, I couldn't get over the stock.

As it was a technically sound soup -- just not my kind of soup -- I shall give them another crack when I'm in the neighborhood at lunch time again.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Eating up the Hill: French Dip Roast Beef Sandwich with Chips and Coleslaw

Yesterday's Roast Beef sandwich will be my last lunch in the Parliamentary precinct in 2016, although I do have several past lunches that I have yet to chronicle. It was a fittingly meaty ending to 2016, and likely my last lunch in Confederation before moving across the street to the Wellington Building early in the New Year -- looking forward to sampling the swanky new cafeteria there.

A good french dip starts with the bread, and this was a fresh and crusty French baguette. I went off script and asked them to toast the bread on the grill for me first, and this was done without hesitation. I think it really made a difference, allowing the bread to hold together better when dipped and giving it a nice crunch.

I began though with the Cream of Leek soup, sold separately. Not my favourite of their soups that I regularly buy, but it did the job on a semi-chilly Ottawa day -- it was only -12C, that's practically shorts weather.



The main, my French Dip Roast Beef Sandwich, came with chips and coleslaw for $6.45 before tax. Let's deal with the sides first. The slaw was standard slaw and tasted freshly-prepared, as opposed to that industrial slaw you'll get some places. The only negative was the vinegar dressing base; I prefer a creamy slaw. Still, it was a needed splash of colour -- and veggies -- on my plate. The chips were tasty when dipped in the Beef Jus.

But on to the sandwich. It may not look like it in the picture, but the beef was generously provided given the price. It was good, if lacking in a bit of spice. And I wouldn't have minded it a bit more pink, although I'm not one of those rare dripping blood roast-beef people. )Not that there's anything wrong with that.) With some toast on the bun, it was delicious when dipped in the jus -- which was flavourful, but would have been better were it pipping hot.

I give it a 4/5 --half-point deductions for not being a creamy slaw and the beef not being rarer.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eating up the Hill: Turkey lunch with the trimmings

I generally have turkey once a year: at Christmas. Which is just about the right amount for me, actually. Especially given that between different dinners and assorted leftovers, I usually have about a year's worth of turkey over the holiday period.

My first turkey of the 2016/17 holiday season came last week for lunch, when the Parliamentary cafeterias served their annual holiday lunch across the precinct. Being a patriotic Canadian, I gathered up some compatriots and we headed upstairs for a traditional Christmas lunch.


After starting with some perfectly adequate mushroom soup (sold separately), I dug into the lunch. And I have to say, for a cafeteria lunch I was pleasantly surprised. But let me start first with the disappointments. The carrots were under-cooked. It can be hard to get carrots right in a cafeteria setting, which may be why so many resort to the frozen bags of peas and carrots. I do appreciate the effort with the real carrots, though. Also, the mashed potatoes were fine I guess, but I don't really like mashed potatoes. Just don't get the point. Maybe that makes me a bad half-Irishman, but there you go.

Let's move on though, as I really did enjoy this lunch. The white meat turkey was as moist as you're going to do in this setting. I'm not used to stuffing in loaf format, but it was tasty. The gravy was hot and flavourful and provided generously. But the surprise highlight was the mini-tourtiere. Beef, I believe it was. Not a part of my traditional Christmas meal, but rich in flavour and truly delicious.

All in all, a hearty and satisfying Christmas lunch. I give it 4.5 out of 5.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Eating up the Hill: Liberal caucus don't call it Christmas party

Last week was the annual office Christmas party. At my last job, each of the managers would bring in dishes they had prepared for an afternoon potluck. However, while I'm sure Marc Garneau's macaroni & cheese is amazing, the caucus leader's office opted to have the Liberal caucus holiday party catered by the Shaw Centre.

This party actually got some press earlier in the day, when a right wing pundit with a deadline and no ideas called the Liberal "holiday party" part of the phony war on Christmas. My friends, if there's a war on Christmas on Parliament Hill, Christmas is winning...


I can report, though, that in his remarks, Prime Minister Trudeau did wish attendees a Joyeux Noel. Hopefully someone can translate this for our friend from the Sun.

But on to the food! Unfortunately, I neglected to snap a photo of the starter: a truly delicious soup. It wasn't potato but was something similar and cream-based. Simple, hearty and warmed the innards. A fine start to the meal.



A fine start unfortunately let down by a disappointing main of airline chicken. Really, that's what it's called. This airline chicken was dry. I will take blame for it not being hotter, as it was served while we were in the line-up for photos. But it was still overcooked. The brown sauce was delicious, but it wasn't plentiful enough to overcome the dryness of the chicken. The asparagus, however, was on point.


Always end on a high note, I say, and the third course did this. The desert was excellent. There was some debate at the table as to just what it was. I say it was ice cream. Others disagreed. I admit the consistency and temperature was a bit off ice cream, but it was darned close, and the fruit compote and sugary faux-cookie complemented it nicely.

So I didn't leave my third caucus holiday party hungry. And unlike my first caucus holiday party way back in 1997, no one did the Macarena. So a winning night all around. And thanks to caucus chair Francis Scarpaleggia and his team for all their hard work organizing the party.

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