Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ottawa Ribfest 2009

While cleaning through my external hard drive (during the June 23rd, 2012 weekend), I found some photos from the ribfest back in 2009. And to my surprise, I didn't write about it at all. Lucy had written about one of her lunches she bought there but I didn't write about our dinner.

Not wanting to look stupid when I ordered food, I stood in the background and watched other people buy ribs, chicken and pulled pork for a bit. Being a newbie, I didn't know where to go and had no idea which stands were good. Everything was quite overwhelming to me.

The two-time defending champs banner caught my attention. It would be a safe bet that Camp 31's ribs would be tasty. I made a mental note and continued to walk around and check out the sights and smells.


Walking by the Uncle Sam's BBQ stand.


The ribs at Bibb's BBQ looked really good. I noticed that most of the rib stands put out some extra BBQ sauce for customers. It's a great idea!

It was quite hot and muggy that day. After watching and baking in the heat, I got thirsty and bought a small lemonade to quench my thirst.

As I sipped on the lemonade, I walked back to Camp 31, lined up for about half an hour, then bought some ribs. I also picked up half a rack of ribs and a pulled pork sandwich from another place, after waiting for just as long. On my way back to catch the bus home, I got caught in the torrential downpour. Not fun. Wasn't prepared and didn't have an umbrella.

The food remained dry throughout the trip because the two boxes were tied in a plastic bags, which I luckily had in my camera bag. I love when I think ahead like that.

I was surprised at how much I ate that night. I had the meat sweats and suffered a food coma. When I woke up the next day, I felt like I was sick with a stomach flu. I felt so weak, dehydrated (though I wasn't), and lethargic. Lucy laughed and said that it was probably because my body spent all my energy to digest all the protein I ate. Yeah, maybe. I feel fine now. But you know what, I'm not a big fan of ribs. Probably because I overdid it. And because I find it too monotonous, despite the coleslaw and the beans.

In the future, I'll try to get other people to help me buy the food. We could split up and tackle more places.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homemade Hot Pot for Two – April 25, 2009

This the last April post. Woot! Now I’m only two months behind.

I’m slowly getting there….


So after our trip to Toronto, Jimmy and I had some tofu puffs in our fridge. The best option for using them all up? Hot pot!


I’ve made hot pot many times now, and I’ve been open to experimenting with what meats work best. The clear favourite was thinly sliced pork loin roast. This time, I wasn’t able to freeze it enough, so I couldn’t slice the pork as thinly as I normally do.


Here’s a photo of the aforementioned tofu puffs and some cubes of medium-firm tofu. You`ll notice the tofu puffs are sliced in half; this is to make them able to soak up more soup faster. The tofu puffs were delicious, as per usual. We toss a handful into the soup at the start of the meal and don`t start fishing them out until we have to refill the pot with broth.

I normally get soft tofu, but Jimmy doesn`t like how it breaks up easily in the hot pot. Though I agree that it`s annoying trying to fish out fragments of soft tofu, I love the texture of it. The medium-firm tofu held up to the cauldron of soup pretty well, and it wasn`t too firm for my tastes.


I also brought out some fake crab meat, pork balls, and more tofu puffs. As you can see, the crab meat is still frozen. It didn`t really matter in the end because we were just going to boil them.


We only had two types of vegetables this time because the grocery store didn`t have any fresh enokitake. Lame. This time, we only ate napa cabbage and bok choy.


Here, you can see our entire spread. Veggies in the back; shacha sauce (沙茶醬) for mixing into a dipping sauce; a bowl of dipping sauce containing soy sauce and shacha sauce; a squeeze bottle of hoisin sauce for mixing into a dipping sauce; the plate of tofu puffs, fake crab, and pork balls; a raw egg for mixing into a dipping sauce; and the plate of sliced pork. This picture doesn`t have the tofu platter with both types of tofu because I couldn`t frame it up nicely with all the other plates.

A quick note on the sauce: everyone mixes it differently. I like mine with an egg yolk, hoisin, shacha, and Sriracha sauce (not pictured). Slightly sweet, slightly salty, and slightly spicy—it`s the perfect dipping sauce for me. Jimmy mixes his with only an egg yolk, soy sauce, and shacha sauce. I find this too salty for my taste. Basically, if you grew up mixing a sauce one way, your tastes will reflect this. If you`ve never eaten hot pot before, experiment! The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ottawa's 16th Annual Dragon Boat Race Festival

Lucy and I are still catching up on some posts. We'll start posting them starting next week.

For now, I just wanted to let everyone know that Ottawa's 2009 Dragon Boat Race Festival will be starting tomorrow and will be finished on Sunday, June 21st, 2009! The 16th annual event will be held at Mooney's Bay, once again. And you know what? Admission is free! There won't be parking spots available to the public, so I suggest that you take advantage of the shuttle buses (provided by OC Transpo).

Lucy and I are very excited to be helping out this weekend! The weather looks like it'll cooperate, so put on your summer gear and head on over! We wish you a happy weekend!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ottawa Tulip Festival 2009

Here's the overdue post about Ottawa's amazing Tulip Festival. These pictures are bits and pieces of photos I took over three separate trips to the tulips, located beside Dow's Lake.

Ottawa's 2009 Tulip Festival began over a month ago and a month later (oops!), you get to see some pictures. Here we go... Enjoy the slide!

~ Christine

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Random Eats – End of April Roundup

I am still behind on my posting, so I’ll just give short blurbs about the last few pictures from April.

~ * ~

Steamed Egg and Seaweed – April 21, 2009

I was feeling lazy one night, but wasn’t lazy enough to eat instant noodles or go out for some junk (McDonald’s or 2-4-1 Pizza).


I made some steamed egg with little bits of fake crab (you can’t see any in the picture) and green onions. As for seasoning, I added some salt and fish sauce. Steam until the middle is no longer liquid, and you’ve got a dish! The only thing I hate about this dish is washing the bowl afterwards. The edges get crusty and gross, and it’s a total pain scrubbing it off.

That night, we also opened up a can of BBQ eel from Taiwan and some packets of seasoned, roasted seaweed. Not exactly an awesome meal, but it’s definitely better than noshing on pizza or McDonald’s.

~ * ~

Bun Bo Hue and Vermicelli from Little Saigon – April 23, 2009

Jimmy and I had a quick lunch at Little Saigon late one afternoon. The place was completely empty, which felt weird for a place that always has a few tables eating.


We ordered the spring rolls, as per usual. The picture only shows two because Jimmy and I greedily ate the first one before remembering to take out the camera. Oops!

As you can see, it’s served with fish sauce. Jimmy made his own dipping sauce of garlic chili sauce mixed with soy sauce (both condiments are always on the table).

This time, the spring rolls weren’t fried and blistered enough. It was soggy in some bites, and crispy in others. Not the best we’ve had.


Jimmy craved a bowl of bun bo hue. I don’t remember his comments about it.


I ordered the curry beef vermicelli. My complaint with the vermicelli (bun) dishes at Little Saigon is that they don’t give enough vegetables and herbs. In fact, they don’t put in fresh herbs at all! Lame.

This was okay. It didn’t blow my mind, but it wasn’t awful either. The end of the bowl looked like I had just eaten a soup because the curry beef comes with almost a ladleful of curry sauce.

It seems that each trip to Little Saigon ends up in “meh” rather than “wow!” That kinda sucks, but I guess that’s what happens when you eat there every other week.

~ * ~

Cambodiana’s Saucy Dishes – April 24, 2009

We had dinner here before catching a movie at the theatre. For the past few trips to Cambodiana, it seems that they can do no wrong.


As we were seated, the waitress brought us some glasses of water and a pitcher to keep at the table. Jimmy judges a restaurant’s service by how often they come by to refill his water. This pitcher means a perfect ten in his books.


I don’t know which dish I ordered. Judging by the picture, it had chicken, tomatoes, and basil in a red curry sauce. I know it wasn’t overly spicy, and it was aromatic. The rice was a little mushy, but at least it wasn’t undercooked. That’s just nasty.


Jimmy ordered the salaw kako. My grandma makes an awesome version of it. It’s a very green stew with bits of all sorts of vegetables, normally whatever my grandma has lying around in her fridge. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a place that tastes like my grandma’s kako.

It’s not a spicy dish at all, and it’s not meant to be spicy. There’s a delicate aroma to it, but it’s definitely an acquired taste.

This meal was pricier than lunch at Little Saigon, but I think we were more satisfied with the food. The dishes still cater to non-Southeast Asians, but it has a vibrancy in flavour that Little Saigon lacks.

~ * ~

Little Saigon
284 Princess Street
(Between Clergy and Sydenham)
Kingston, ON
(613) 536-5774

161 Brock Street
(Brock and Montreal)
Kingston, ON
(613) 531-0888
*Cash and debit only!*

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lunches with Lucy: Empanadas, Dolmades, Sushi – May 13, 20 & 22, 2009

* I’m going to start a new series for the summer: Lunches with Lucy. This will chronicle my lunch adventures while at work. I’ve set up a new tag called “Lunches with Lucy” for easier searching. Unless noted otherwise, all of the places will be in Ottawa’s downtown core. *

I have worked in the heart of downtown Ottawa for the past few summers. Now I can’t imagine working anywhere else. The bus ride isn’t too bad, and the collective pulse of the city is quite unique. Though Ottawa isn’t fully bilingual, you’re just as likely to hear a French conversation as an English one when you’re downtown. Ottawa is a government town, through and through.

Unfortunately, this means most of the food offerings downtown are purposely generic, in the hopes of appealing to the masses. A successful downtown (I’m referring to high-rise downtown, and not the Byward Market) eatery won’t be focused on authenticity or quality; it just wants to make quick, cheap food so they can serve more customers.

The lunch crowds are pretty crappy, too. Everyone takes their lunch at the same time, it seems. The lineups are the worst from 11:45 to 12:15. By 12:30, mostly everyone has been served, and you can see the lines start to shrink.

A small place I frequent is Café Deluxe at Metcalfe and Albert. A co-worker introduced it to me a few years ago, and it’s my standby lunch place when I don’t feel like eating the same old stuff. They have this great vegetarian panini that contains heavily herbed roasted vegetables. It’s so flavourful and substantial that you don’t miss the meat.

Their offerings change daily, so it’s like a roll of the dice each time I eat there.


This time, I ordered their chicken empanadas. It was served on top of Mexican rice, had a salad on the side (I chose sundried tomato dressing), and included three glops of guacamole, sour cream, and fresh salsa.

It was okay. I honestly can’t remember much, except for the creamy, unctuous guacamole and the perkiness of the salsa. The Mexican rice was appropriately salty, though not spiced, so it`s probably not authentic. The salad was totally overdressed, but it wasn’t soggy. Luckily, the salad was dressed just as the guy assembled the takeout container.

I think I ate each bite with all three sauces/condiments/whatever. I know this is gross, but I definitely finished off the rice by throwing a spoonful of sauce(s) and tossing it around in rice, making for substantial mouthfuls of saucy goodness. That part was fantastic.

The meal was a little pricey, coming in around $12, but it offers a nice change in pace. Eating lunch downtown can get you in a rut really quickly, so places that offer a variety of specials each day do very well.

~ * ~

One Ottawa favourite lunchtime haunt is the food court at the World Exchange Centre. Part mall, part office building, the World Exchange is always packed at lunch. Most of the time, I wander around until I get hit with a craving for something. This is where I end up getting my lunch 75% of the time.

This week, I didn’t want generic white food, so I narrowed it down to two places: Tasha’s Fine Foods which serves Middle Eastern-influenced food, and Kebob Kebob which specializes in, you guessed it, kebobs. Not much a selection here, but it was better than getting a burger or a sandwich from Subway.

I settled on Tasha’s Fine Foods because I felt like having my first shawarma this summer. Once I got in line, I had second thoughts. I had a few meetings that afternoon, and I didn’t want to be the idiot stinking up the room with my garlic and onion breath. I saw some dolmades and settled on that platter instead.

Dolmades Platter

When I got back to my desk to eat, I suddenly realized there would be garlic in the hummus. I felt pretty stupid until I actually tasted the stuff. The garlic was so weak, I wondered if the hummus contained any at all. I guess the folks at Tasha’s Fine Foods were thinking of us office workers when they toned down the hummus. I think I was more disappointed that the hummus tasted more of lemon than of garlic and tahini.

The dolmades themselves were okay. I can’t remember the last time I had any, but I’m sure it has also been toned down to appeal to the lunch crowd. They seemed to lack that unique flavour from the grape leaves that I love so much. I ended up smothering them in hummus. I’m sure that’s NOT how you’re supposed to eat them, but they were just so blah. Not bland, because they had flavour, but it just tasted one dimensional.

This platter also came with pickled turnips. The hot pink pickled turnips are probably one of my favourite pickled things to eat by themselves. I crunched on these happily.

Oh, and there was also a fluffy, samosa-looking pastry included in the container. I ate that first, curious about its filling, so there are no pictures. It was a soft, bread-like wrapper encasing a spinach filling (I think). It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. Mostly, I just liked the carbs. I dipped it in hummus, too.

In the top right-hand corner, you’ll see that there was some tabbouleh. I’m not normally a big fan of tabbouleh, but this time, it was tangy and refreshing. Instead of tasting like I imagine Astroturf to taste, it was bright and lemony.

It wasn’t what I expected, but it’s something I would order again if I had a craving for “something different.”

~ * ~

About a week later, I got another craving for “something different,” so I headed toward Sparks Street instead. For non-Ottawa-peeps, Sparks Street is a pedestrian mall with a line of shops, restaurants, take-out food places, and souvenir shops. It also happens to be another one of the go-to places to eat if you’re working downtown.

I went to Sushi Shop last year, so I knew what to expect. Part of what I include in my evaluation of a place’s authenticity is who actually prepares my food. A line of white males, who were bilingual to their credit, assembling makis doesn’t exactly ring “Japanese” to me. Of course, authenticity doesn’t guarantee deliciousness, so I kept an open mind.

Instead of getting a premade sushi box filled with the usual California rolls and futomaki, I found one that also included inari-sushi. I have always wanted to try it, but didn’t have the chance or didn’t feel like trying something new.

Vegetarian Sushi

I bought the vegetarian combo which comes with an avocado roll, vegetarian futomaki, some sort of tofu roll, and two pieces of inari-sushi. This cost $8.95 before tax.

Vegetarian Sushi

The avocado was very fresh and ripe, oozing buttery goodness with each bite. I never thought such a plain roll could be so delicious!

The futomaki, renamed Sumomaki at Sushi Shop, contained yellowish pickled daikon, red pepper, shredded carrot and cucumber, avocado, and a few squirts of spicy mayo (Japanese mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce). It was also better than I expected it to taste.

I also enjoyed the tofu maki (front and centre) more than I expected to. This maki had ginger tofu (I couldn’t taste the ginger), shiitake mushrooms, shredded carrot, green onion (I didn’t taste it), lettuce, and ginger and coriander sauce. There were a couple elements I couldn’t taste, but the roll had a fresh, bright flavour. It wasn’t until I looked at their menu that all of it made sense.

The star of the meal, however, was the inari-sushi, pictured in the bottom left-hand corner. A fried tofu pouch marinated in sweet soy stuffed with rice, green onion, slices of shiitake mushrooms, and sesame seeds. The flavours sang out to me in perfect harmony! It was the perfect combination of nuttiness from the sesame, sweetness from the mushrooms, and savoury from the tofu pouch itself. The sharp green onions cut the heaviness of it beautifully. It’s something I’ve been craving since I had it.

I would get this again for sure.

~ * ~

Buying lunch downtown can be really tricky sometimes. You have to navigate through the crowds, wait in long lines, and pay some extravagant prices, but even all this doesn’t guarantee a good meal. The only way to be sure you get what you want for lunch is to pack it yourself.

Alas, if only I had the time….

~ * ~

Café Deluxe
77 Metcalfe Street
(Albert and Metcalfe, facing the bus shelters)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 231-2226

Tasha’s Fine Foods
45 O’Connor Street, 100 Queen Street, and 111 Albert Street
(World Exchange Plaza food court)
Ottawa, ON
(613) 238-2524

Sushi Shop
140-A Sparks Street
Ottawa, ON
(613) 235-8686


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