Judging from the flurry of blog posts and Flickr sets, locals can probably discern another Taste of Wellington West has come and passed. Last year, the Wellington West Business Improvement Association (WWBIA) experimented with holding the fund raising event in the fall. This year, the event that sees businesses along Ottawa’s Epicurean Row set up tables and field kitchens outside their establishments to serve the public in return for donations was moved back to its original spring (almost summer) date. This year’s cause, the Causeway Work Center. Causeway provides employment and educational programs to persons with mental health issues and/or disabilities and those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Interestingly, like the first year Jenn and I encountered the event, we are again overseeing renovations. With our having encountered an increasing number of delays, we were more than happy to take up the invitations of two of our fellow food bloggers to meet up and wander Wellington Street W. and its adjoining side streets together.
Alas, it rained. Jenn and I ducked into the Ottawa Bagel Shop (1321 Wellington Street W.) when the downpour started, hoping it would lighten. It poured. When we met up with Jodi (@simplyfresh) of the Simply Fresh and Kaitlin (@kaitli) of the Heartful Mouthful blogs, we were literally drenched. Happily, Chef/Owner Chris Deraiche of the Wellington Gastro-Pub (1325 Wellington Street W.) decided to pull his chafing dishes into his restaurant’s ground floor dining room, the “White Room.” Dressed in a t-shirt, advertising the soon-to-open (this Friday) Town Gastropub on Elgin Street (296), he greeted wet “tasters” warmly.
Wellington Gastro-Pub’s “taste”, pulled Elk Ranch sandwiches with corn relish.
Jenn and I found the elk a little tough and its sauce bordering on overly savoury. The in-house corn relish provided a bright counterpoint, some texture, and a little sweetness.
Afterward, we decided, rain or no rain, we would trek to our must visit eateries, Absinthe and Allium. Along the way, we stopped at the Ottawa Bagel Shop. Its taste, several of its specialty cream cheeses and smoked meat on Montreal-style bagel.
We stopped by Sushi Umi (1325 Wellington Street W.) to say hi to its chef/owner and nibble on some maki rolls and edamame. Then, we headed off to Thyme & Again (1325 Wellington Street W.). There, we were greeted by turkey and marshmallows, separately of course.
Almost retro (think 70’s-style Swedish meatballs), the turkey meatballs were flavourful and not-at-all dry or crumbly. They had four home cooks wondering how Thyme & Again’s kitchen pulled it off.
Marshmallows are gleefully messy to make, the melted sugar, egg white, and gelatin mixture sticking to just about any surface, even silicone spatulas. Making colour tinted marshmallows in both coconut (front) and watermelon (back) flavours takes skill. They were worlds different from the processed marshmallows in the supermarket. The only marshmallows I have encountered that compare were made by Chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering (430 Parkdale Avenue) for an art show at CycleLogik in Hintonburg.
Allium (87 Holland Avenue) beckoned. Its taste, panko coated chicken burgers with a mango salsa and micro-greens.
Jenn and I have long known Allium’s chef and kitchen to be a masters of the panko encrusted deep fried appetizer form. Their fish cakes, crab cakes, and “lollipops” are always loosely packed, flavoured with fresh herbs, deep fried crisp, and never oily. The chicken burger with the mango salsa just reinforced this. Best of all, we discovered Allium planted beds of herbs in boxes for its kitchen.
Notice the marked rows of cilantro and chives.
Absinthe (1208 Wellington Street W.) beckoned. The rain stopped an hour or so into the event. This is when the lineups started. Absinthe, having established a reputation for serving delicious full-size hanger steak burgers at last year’s event, saw the first of them.
And, as last year, Absinthe’s kitchen made sure their burgers would not be topped with pedestrian condiments. They had on-hand baconnaise, chili, sauteed mushrooms, and caramelized onions.
To wash it all down, lemon grass vanilla lemonade, my favourite beverage of the Taste of Wellington.
After Absinthe, we made a quick stop at the Emerald Bakery and Food Shop (1200-D Wellington Street W.). It specializes in Pakistani and Northern Indian food. Its taste: brownies, crispy and freshly fried mini-samosas, and spiced meatballs brochettes.
As we ate, we gawked at the lobster in front of the Royal Oak.
After visiting Chef Judi Varga-Toth’s Credible Edibles (78 Hinton Avenue North), we would try the Royal Oak‘s unremarkable take on butter chicken. Credible Edible’s tastes, red pepper hummus, carrot cake, and salsa were quite the favourites amongst event-goers.
At this point, Jodi decided to double back along Wellington Street W. She managed to photograph a 13 lb lobster Salove’s (1333 Wellington Street W.) was auctioning off to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC). The rest of us decided to walk deeper into Hintonburg.
At Carbon Computing (1065 Wellington Street W.), an iPad wielding employee encouraged us to try shortbread “some girl in the back made” (his words, not mine!).
After wandering past Vina Del Mar (1079 Wellington Street W.), where I sampled Chilean sopapillas (deep fried squash filled dumplings) with a fresh salsa, we stopped by the soon-to-open new location of Dish Catering (1024 Wellington Street W.). Its taste, grilled mini-lamb burgers on brioche buns, served with lime popcorn.
Finally, we ended our wander at the soon-to-open Alpha Soul Cafe (1015 Wellington Street W.) at the former location of the Levonian Shirt Maker shop. There, we met the owner of the coffee house to be (Hintonburg’s first dedicated coffee house) and sampled some very good bakery: buttery shortbread and lime melt-aways.
The lime melt-aways were a revelation to me, my loving tart desserts. Alpha Soul Cafe’s owner impressed on us her new coffee house will feature bakery and lunch using local ingredients. In the evenings, she plans to have some live music. We look forward to visiting when it opens!
All-in-all, 2010’s Taste of Wellington West was another success, showcasing the many locally owned and generous businesses and eateries along Ottawa’s epicurean row. This year, we encountered a lot of sandwiches, their being easily served and easily eaten. From lamb to elk, pork, and chicken, there were mini-burgers and pulled-mean sandwiches a-plenty. It is a trend we also encountered at Bon Appetit 2010 event earlier this spring.
As always, we are excited to attend next year’s! Kudos the the WWBIA for organizing this event and everyone for participating.