Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Eating up the Hill: A 4th of July Picnic in the American Tradition

One of the hotter tickets in Ottawa is the annual 4th of July Party at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Canada. And while Lornado -- and the Ambassador's post -- are currently unfilled, the party must go on and I was lucky enough to score an invitation to this year's soiree.

The long line to enter the leafy Rockcliffe estate put to rest any thoughts this year's attendance may be down, but the line moved efficiently and once inside we were given a handy brochure which included a menu with lists of the different items available at the different food tents. This year's theme was a Summer Picnic in the American Tradition -- however, we didn't have to sit on the lawn.

Consulting the menu and handy map, I made my way first to the drink tent. There was an array of American beers and wines on offer, but I immediately settled on the "Hard Lemonade featuring Tito's Handmade Vodka." I was told Tito's was a favourite of former Ambassador Bruce Heyman, and while I don't know how you hand make vodka, that's a good enough endorsement for me. It was delicious and smooth, and dangerous in that way only a vodka mixed drink can be. A fine beverage for a summer picnic.

Beverage in hand, I joined one of the lengthy lines for the "East Coast meets West Coast" menu-themed food tents (rap war reference? - ed.). The draw for me was the advertised Dry Rubbed Pork Ribs. Sadly, I guess we should have arrived earlier as they were out of ribs. I did sample the Baby Potato Salad which was enjoyable (even if some of the potatoes seemed more mature), the pulled pork sandwich which was flavourful, and a refreshing Succotash Salad . The advertised "Skewered Grilled Mojito Marinated Chicken" however was underwhelming, just slices of chicken breast without a sauce or evident seasoning. Still, a satisfying first course.

At this point I was starting to get a little full and, having adopted the novel resolution of trying to stop eating when I feel full, I decided to bypass the other menu (North meets South) and go straight to the desert tent, from where a buzz had already been spreading across the lush lawn and wooded estate -- Dairy Queen Blizzards! Upon inspection, the rumours were confirmed -- hundreds of pre-made mini-blizzards -- choice of Oreo or, I think, M&Ms.

While I enjoyed my blizzard I perused the other desert offerings on hand. I enjoyed an apple pie square (doesn't get more American than apple pie) and an understated and tasty blueberry tart. My eyes were drawn to the beignets, but I heeded a friend's advice to stay away as she found it very oily.

Desert taken care of, I decided I had enough appetite for one item from the other food menu, so I naturally went with the slider. It was delicious -- expertly grilled, fresh bun, and really quality onion and tomato for garnish. The catering was all quite excellent and well done.

Also must give a shout-out to the evenings entertainment -- Sean Jones -- who performed a great set list of Motown favourites that had feet tapping.

Thanks to the U.S. Embassy for a great event, and happy fourth to my American friends! Hope to make it back in next year, and will be interested to see the spin the next Ambassador puts on the party.

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