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Happy Food Revolution Day! If that sounds familiar you probably are a fan of Jamie Oliver, or like the people in my life you know someone who wont shut up about him and the awesome work he does. The basic idea is to celebrate cooking and food. Good food. Cooked from scratch food and to learn how to prepare it and how it impacts your health and life. For some more information check out their website here.

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It’s hard to tell in this picture, but they have the same eyes.

How am I embracing Food Revolution Day?? Through spices of course – and by spreading the word about this really great documentary I watched last night called A Place At The Table. It’s about the massive amounts of children and families who go hungry every day in the United States. True – it doesn’t show any information on similar problems in Canada, but it is not a problem that many Canadians face every day. Just take a look at the good folks at the Parkdale Food Centre, Ottawa Food Bank, Hijinx and School Breakfast Program.

But don’t take my word that this is a compelling and tragic problem – ask Jeff Bridges!

 

 

For more information on the doc – here is their website.

The other day I watched a documentary called DIVE! About dumpster divers and food waste in the United States. Here is the trailer –

 

I know it happens, but I’m still shocked at the amount of food waste in our world. With so many hungry people, it just seems unthinkable that we are tossing perfectly edible food. This is a really good look at exactly what dumpster diving is all about, or the Freegan movement (Freegan – a person who rejects consumerism and seeks to help the environment by reducing waste, especially by retrieving and using discarded food and other goods.)

But I still can’t get my head around eating food that has been in a dumpster. Once it’s in there, it’s trash. I mean, you have no idea why it is in there in the first place. I’m sure you can guess – but do you know the real reason?? And who knows how long that meat has been sitting there. Guesses are great, and if you cook it to the right temperature you are most likely getting rid of MOST of the food born illness possibilities.

Every time I think about dumpster diving all I can think about is this sketch from Portlandia:

 

My solution – let’s not put it in the trash! If you have  that much food, let’s give it away. Shelters and loads of hungry people would be thrilled to get food that is a day before it’s “Best Before Date” … not inedible. Nothing wrong, just not the quality that the store is willing to sell. Honestly, I’m willing to eat any of it… until the moment it gets put in the dumpster. Then the idea of it makes my stomach cringe with worry of potential parasites.

I guess it all comes down to this scenario. You see an éclair with a bite taken out of it sitting on a piece of paper in the garbage can on top of a stack of newspapers. Do you eat it?? George C0stanza would. But I think I’ll pass.

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I love these new food trucks. I know a few people think of them as a fad that will eventually pass, but I think there is something to be said for being able to get really great food on the go for a price that equals or is lower than some fast food chains. Because, let’s face it, if there is anything I am it’s in a rush, hungry and broke.

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On just such an occasion of being hungry, broke with a bazillion things to do, I stopped at Urban Cowboy (Bank Street and Glenn). Being the bad vegetarian I am, I had already decided that there was no way there was going to be a veggie option at a Texas street food truck. WRONG. They may not have many options (most days there are 3 entrees and 2 sides to pick from) but there is usually one veggie! And one fish, if you are one of those I don’t eat meat but I eat fish kinda folks.

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Not just any fish either… but Ocean Wise certified fish. Yep. Even this food truck does it’s best to make sure that any seafood you are putting in your gob has been sustainably fished so that there will be even more tastiness for years to come.

I tried the Portobello mushroom sandwich – BBQ sauce and goats cheese were a super delish combo. But the star of the show wasn’t even something I ordered. By some fluke, I ended up with sweet potato fries instead of the grilled corn side dish I had asked for. But again, hungry and in a rush I didn’t mind. It’s like someone saying – oh we’re out of salad… can I give you a chocolate bar?? The answer is always “Yes, hell yes!! Gimmie Gimmie!!!”

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And I’m telling you… BEST. Sweet potato fries in Ottawa. Maybe the world. My exhaustive search of the word’s sweet potato fries is still ongoing.

Why are they so good. The answer is three fold.

1. They are wedges… not matchsticks. So when you bite in you actually feel like you are eating a sweet potato not just something vaguely sweet with a delightful fried crunch. For a moment I actually felt healthy eating fries. Not something easily accomplished.

2. They are tempura battered so they have the most amazing crunch. Each and every fry.

3. The dipping sauce is so good I would bathe in it. Seriously… or at the very least happily put it on every other food in the world from now on.

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So if you find yourself on Bank and Glenn can I kindly ask you to grab me an order of fries. Extra sauce. Thanks.

 

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My personal “vegetarian challenge” is really no longer a challenge of any kind. I only eat meat 2-3 times a week and it really has just become a way of life. Because I’m drawn to veggie options, it is usually easy to eat out with friends who are vegan or 100% of the time vegetarian.

Then there is my Mom. She puts me to shame. Her and her partner eat, for the most part, a gluten free vegan diet. I know. It is a level of dedication I just can’t reach. Probably because of a love affair I have been having with cheese, bread and tuna (though not together… never let your mistresses meet!). I just can’t fully commit to a vegetarian life, never mind the rest.

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I thought this might present a problem when going to dine out with her when she was in town recently. But I shouldn’t have worried. Ottawa’s restaurant scene is so diverse, in a few moments I had a multitude of options. From Korean, to Thai, Zen Kitchen and the Manx. All could offer up great fare.

In the end we decided to check out The Green Door Restaurant (198 Main Street). I had never been, though I had been to The Table which was started by some former employees of the Green Door and has a similar idea.

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All vegetarian food, set up like a buffet. Take what you like and pay by weight. A great way to grab some take out for home, or a great meal in. They have so many options, it is really easy to over do it – so the take home containers are a great option.

I had heard some talk that it was a little expensive for what you got, and though the style of the restaurant is skewed towards comfort rather than high end – I really think the quality of the food is worth it. In the end our meals averaged out to about $15 a person.

You may find this hard to imagine… but I can be a bit picky.

I’ll let that sink in a bit.

Not in the pretentious, I only drink free range water, kind of way. But I’m still a child deep down. I don’t like raw onions. Even red ones. Yes… I know they are sweeter. Ick. I have never really liked peppers of any colour. I’ll choke it down… but you aren’t winning me over.

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Everything I tried from the veg lasagna, to the beet salad; marinated mushrooms to homemade rye bread was really tasty. There might even have been some of those sneaky onions or peppers in there… even so, I’d gladly chow down there again.

And with helpful signs on each dish letting you know what allergens are or are not in the dish, it’s a place everyone (even the picky) can enjoy.

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Mmmmm Dosa. Basically an Indian crepe stuffed with all kinds of fillings. The traditional is crispy and has a masala spiced potato mixture. They do a really great version of it here.

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A spinach, walnut and goat cheese stuffed dosa called ‘The Californian’ topped with crispy plantain chips!

The Dosa food truck, located on Somerset just beside Dundonald park across from the Beer store, is serving up a soft version of these delectable pancakes stuffed with all kinds of traditional and un-traditional offerings!

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The yummy list of offerings from Dosa on the day I visited.

I think the best part of this truck – minus the great food – is its location. Right next to a park with lovely shady seating, even a table or two if you are lucky enough to grab one.

There isn’t much more to say – this is a definite must try for anyone looking for a quick, tasty lunch that wont break the bank.

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I love meeting friends for after work drinks. Who doesn’t really? But in the winter, when the sun is setting at 4pm and it’s colder than you imagine Siberia on a bad day, it can be hard to do much more than stock up at the LCBO and try to coax your friends to come visit you instead of making you go out. ** Crap my secret is out…**

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BBQ Duck Lettuce Wraps featuring lettuce and pickled radish from Acorn Creek. Veggie option available too with smoked tofu in place of the duck

To make up for it I go out more in the summer. Even in sticky, humid, heat waves like the one we are in right now… the right patio and the right combination of drinks and snacks can make that all go away.

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Confit Pork Shoulder Taco with charred pineapple and feta cheese from Clarmell Farms and that fabulous pork I was raving about the other day from Upper Canada Heritage Meat.

Le Café at the NAC easily has one of the best patios in the city. Right on the canal, and so close to all the action down town, all they are missing is a happy hour menu with some affordable tasty treats and drinks. WRONG! They have that now. It’s called 8 for 8 and until September 2, from 4-8pm every Monday – Saturday it can be yours!

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Fish n’ Chips Pogo – the potato in the potato dill batter comes from Savour Ottawa member Acorn Creek

Your choice of 8 cocktails, wines or beers for $8 each.

Or check out one of 8 tapas plates for $8 each!

In the name of being a good food blogger I tried a bit of everything. If pressed, my favourite dish of the night was the Tempura Prawn Po’Boys. But there were a few others that were very close to the top spot. I might need to go back very soon just to be 100% sure.

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Mmmmmm … Po’ Boy. The smoked chili aioli makes this dish. It might be large, but just unhinge that jaw and go to town! Oh… only snakes can do that jaw thing. If you say so…

Another thing I love about this menu, is the use of Savour Ottawa farmer’s ingredients. So now you can eat great, local food on an amazing patio to beat the heat.

Get ready to save up these moments to look back at fondly while you are huddled under blankets with woolly socks drinking mulled wine just because it is warm… and wine. What could be better??

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Veggie Poutine with chips, Le Chopin mushroom herb gravy, caramelized onions and red pepper jam and brie from Les Folies Berger Fromages

Back in the day, I used to buy grass fed beef by the 1/2 cow. One night we had a dinner party with some of the prime rib that was in the freezer. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough, so I ran over to Loblaws and got more.

The difference between the two was worlds apart! Though the two cuts were cooked together for the same amount of time, grass fed beef cooks a bit quicker and was a medium while the Loblaws variety (a grain fed beef) was rare. But the grass fed beef was light years better.

More flavour, more tender and just all around fantastic. I’m sure the Loblaws one was fine, but when you compared the two it was night and day. I was actually so embarrassed of the Loblaws meat that I tried to re-trace my steps and figure out who had eaten it so I could apologize. (Which was silly because if you didn’t have the two I’m sure you didn’t even notice the vast, vast difference.)

And of course it made a difference – how could what you eat for your entire life not make a difference?

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The finished product of my great pork experiment!

But what else effects your meat? Barbara Schaefer from Upper Canada Heritage Meat invited me to see the difference that breed can make with pork. She raises a breed of large black pig that is technically endangered. With over 300 on her farm, she is attempting to keep the breed alive through consumer demand as they run and play on her farm. Her pork is pasture raised… so they forage, roam free and more than survive, they have an actual life.

Why are they endangered? They might not grow as large, they might take longer to become full grown – all things that play into the bottom line of a factory farm. But traditional farmers know that breed variety can make all the difference in a tasty product!

In North America 1/3 of all livestock breeds are considered rare or in decline… this is up to 1/2 in Europe. Luckily each dollar you spend on groceries is a vote in how you want your food produced.

For my taste test dinner I once again tried to compare apples to apples. Frozen then thawed pork. Cooked with a mushroom white wine sauce in the same pan.

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Normal everyday chops on the left – the kind that had me thinking pork sucked. Amazing Upper Canada Heritage Meat on the right… the colour alone could win this battle of the chops.

Besides being more tender and juicer, the heritage pork had a more wonderful flavour over all. It may sound like common sense that a product raised better just tastes better… but I think you will be pleasantly surprised how MUCH of an improvement it really is.

Meat like this is why I decided to eat less meat over all so that I could have quality when I do enjoy it.

If you would like to try your own chop experiment you can find Upper Canada Heritage Meat at 3 farmers markets across the city! Fridays at Sparks Street, Saturdays at Westboro at Byron and Golden and Sundays at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market at Brewers park.

Angry Dragonz?? Is that anything like Angry Birds you might ask.

No. It’s not. What a dumb question… me.

Angry Dragonz is a food truck on Gloucester and Lyon serving up some of the best Asian fusion food in the downtown core period. Not best for a food truck. Best. Period.

My friend Shirley, who has become a fixture at this truck, took me for a visit. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but was happy to find many veggie and vegan friendly options.

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I went with a veggie, tofu pad thai, egg roll and drink. For $10 – it was a hell of a deal. Especially since I got 2 meals out of the wicked awesome thai noodle dish.

To say I was delighted, impressed and all around in love with the dish is a bit of an understatement. I dare say it is some of the best pad thai I have ever had. Including all the stuff I ate in Thailand. Was it authentic. No. It was fusion. But I think that’s why I liked it more. The tofu was so well done, crispy and flavourful, I was actually seeking it out in my dish. Never, have I ever, thought tofu was the star of anything before now.

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And don’t skip the egg roll. For an extra dollar you will be thrilled with its yumminess. Though it does have meat for all of my strict veggie friends.

This is a truck worth seeking out…. and with their brand new, and I’m sure MUCH quieter, generator – you will not regret it. And if you fall as deeply in love with them as Shirley and I have, I accept egg rolls as thank you gifts.

And just look at all the other dishes I still get to try and fall in love with… life is good.

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Like every other food lover in the downtown core, I’m slowly but surely trying to make the rounds to all the new food trucks in town! While on an errand for my Mom in the Glebe (picking up some fabu spicy olive oil and espresso vinegar at The Unrefined Olive) we stopped off for lunch at the Red Roaster. 20130704_130904

Located on Bank right across from the LCBO as you enter the Glebe – you might have heard about this truck. Originally the city had it on a one way street, but the direction of the street meant that their window was facing traffic instead of the side walk. Brilliant planning City of Ottawa.

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The menu changes regularly, but focuses on great rotisserie. Chicken, pork and beef sandwiches were on the menu when I visited… but the siren call of the pulled pork grilled cheese was too much for me to resist. Melty yummy cheese, with BBQ sweet and tender pulled pork on the most perfect seed bread for a great crunchy contrast. Couldn’t have been better.

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Along with a side of wedgie potatoes that are cooked under the rotisserie chicken (all that awesome chicken goodness dripping on the potatoes make them extra delish), I was one very happy lady.

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If you find yourself in the Glebe… make sure you seek this truck out!

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Ok. I’m more than a little bias when writing this post. But let’s face it, you aren’t here for journalistic professionalism. Fitting, since this blog has always been intended to be more of a diary than a news source.

As you know from several of my other posts, tweets and facebook updates: I have the best job in the world at C’est Bon Cooking. Honestly. The best. I spend my time there thinking about food. Writing about food. Talking about food. Sometimes even making food. It’s fantastic.

So obviously, when the opportunity presented itself, I weasled my way in to a lunch to test out our newest offering “Eat. Speak Critique.” Another perk of the job!

The idea behind ESC is that you get to hone your inner dining critic along with the help of the über talented former Ottawa Citizen restaurant critic and the mind behind Capital Dining – Anne DesBrisay. As well as your inner chef with the lovely Chef Andrée of C’est Bon Cooking.

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The wonderful Chef Andrée

When you sign up for the experience, you get the opportunity to dine with these lovely ladies and talk about how their profession impacts their dining experience. What do they look for in a great restaurant? How are different dishes prepared? And have your say too!

In the end, you’ll have a great meal with some fantastic company and lean a great many things as well. And if you are lucky, your experience will end up on Anne’s blog – just like ours did.

**

Oh I am just awesome. I suppose that after reading this you might just want to learn more. Well – here is the C’est Bon website, or feel free to contact them at info@cestboncooking.ca – wow… epic fail.

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