C’est Bon Gourmet Food Tours in the city’s biggest open market.
It’s my first full day in Ottawa and I need to tap into the best food this city has to offer. What better way to jump into the food scene than to take a gourmet food tour organized by Chef Andrée Riffou and her team at C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures. The best way to get to know a city is through the food they offer and If I’m spending 30 Days In Ottawa I’m going to be eating alot.
We met up with our tour guide Marthanne on the steps of the Metropolitan Brasserie, a favourite of many politicians and the civil servants. A quick intro outlining what the 3 hour tour entails and then we are off. First stop it’s Frites!
Inside the Metropolitan we are transported to a Paris brasserie, complete with Soap Writing on the mirrors (reminiscent of the daily menu specials in real French cafes) and a bar with an authentic tin countertop.
And of course the Frites we were promised a taste of (including a creamy garlic aioli). Apparently the Metropolitan is the place to be to watch for MP’s and senior staff during their famous “Hill Hour” where Jumbo Shrimp and Oysters are only $1 each. If only the politicians would be so frugal with our tax dollars .
Next up on the tour is a brief history of how the ByWard Market came to be.
ESTABLISHED by Lt-Col. John By in 1826, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. The legendary builder of the Rideau Canal, Colonel By himself laid out the street plan of the Market, designating George Street and York Street to be extra wide to accommodate the creation of a public market and gathering place. read more…
With some history under our belt we proceed to enter the ByWard Market. Four blocks x four Blocks the Byward has over 400 shops to keep you busy. We stopped at one local farmers stall and sampled some cucumbers fresh from the soil.
The stalls have some really cool and unique signage I’ve never seen before at a markets. Each stall owner is designated either a green, yellow or red signage. Green signifies they only sell items they grow or produce themselves, yellow means they produce at least 60% of the items sold at their stall and a red sign means the stall owner is selling items produced by other businesses to be sold by the stall owner. Talk about vendor transparency, this really allows you to know where your produce comes from.
Few things in life are as good as really good cheese. Our next stop is the place to buy cheese in Ottawa since 1975, The House of Cheese. Sharing his family’s passion for cheese the shop keep shared stories and slices. A great combination in my book.
Right next store was our next stop on the tour and this is the go to place for every foodie and chef in town. If you are looking for an obscure item or a great selection of wild mushrooms then this is the place to visit, the ByWard Fruit Market.
On our way to the next stop we make quick homage to one of the longest running stalls in the market, Lawrence & Lucien Cleroux. They’ve been selling at the ByWard since 1957.
After teasing us with all this beautifully fresh produce our guide decided it was time for a snack with a little more substance, authentic Neapolitan Pizza from The Grand. Oh but I almost forgot. On our way to the grand we passed by the very first Beaver Tails retail location. It doesn’t get any more Canadian than Beaver Tails.
But on with the tour. The Grand is a casual style pub that makes a wicked mean pizza. Fresh and made right on site in their massive wood fired pizza oven.
We were super lucky that we arrived just before lunch so we had the room to watch them hand form and bake our pizza pies.
And finally the finished product to enjoy!
With five more stops on our culinary tour of the ByWard I’m already starting to form the impression that this town is a burgeoning foodie paradise. I think I’ll be eating very well during my 30 Days In Ottawa.
Ok next stop is La Botegga Nicastro. Under instruction from our guide we headed straight to the back of the store to meet John. We passed the shelves lined with pasta and sauces to numerous to count. A small cafe and deli couldn’t even distract us from our goal. We are off to meet the cheese man John.
At La Botegga they sell Parmesan and lots of it. in fact John showed us 1/2 a wheel of parmesan. It weighs approx 50lbs and they sell at least one whole wheel per day. That’s 100lbs of parmesan a day just in case you missed the math. That’s a lot of parmesan! I tried to get some parmesan for myself but I got caught. It was 50lbs after all and hard to hide.
I was lucky they let me leave with just a little warning so off we went to our next stop, a little Mexican joint called Corazon De Maiz. This place had line ups and apparently it is the place to get your Mexican fix when in Ottawa. Lucky for us we were greet with fresh tortilla chips and even fresher guacamole to taste. I will be back to this place for sure and probably more than once.
Only two stops to go and the next one is a sweet spot for sure. Welcome to the Cupcake Lounge. This place needs to hire more staff because the constant stream of patrons is non stop. The cupcakes were moist and flavourful. Not like the Duncan Hines mix knock off sold for $3 that I’m used to back home. These were delicious and the fact that the cupcakes on offer vary by day of the week makes them even more special.
I could tease you with more photos. Photos of me eating a German Chocolate cupcake, a red velvet cupcake, A white chocolate cupcake…. I think you get the point.
There are a few more surprises for you on the tour but I think I want to leave a little mystery for you so that you can explore and enjoy it for yourself. Every place that C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures exposed us to was unique, special and uniquely Ottawa in one way or another.
Based on this tour alone, I can say that folks living in Ottawa has access to an amazing food scene and hopefully when I return it will be even more established and respected beyond the boundaries of the city.
I highly recommend taking a culinary food tour of Ottawa. It’s a great way to be exposed to so much awesomeness in such a short amount of time. Thanks to C’est Bon Epicurean Adventures for having me on the tour, I may just book another tour for another part of the city while I am here.
What’s in store for tomorrow? I’m not sure but I’m sure it will be worth writing about so please check back. If you have ideas on a favourite place of your I should visit while I’m here please share. I promise I’ll do my best to check it out.