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review

I resurface briefly from the school thing to shamelessly promote my neighbourhood again. (Yes, there remain back-burner posts that I have neglected, including our November 2013 turducken adventure I promised on my Northern bread baking post; I have not forgotten!). There may or may not also be a boastful gleeful lookee!-my-lunch-was-really-the-bestest sentiment that motivated today’s post.

Bread By UsShortly after Hintonburg Market opened, Wellington Street West welcomed a new bakery: Bread By Us. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of trying a rather dark and dense sourdough, a walnut-apricot loaf, baguettes, and both sweet and savoury croissants. I feel neutral about sourdoughs most of the time (but when I’m in the mood I’m sure I’ll go back to pick something up–likely a lighter rendition). Furthermore, the boy is an avid baker, so I wasn’t blown away by the (objectively delicious) walnut-apricot loaf. It’s really the baguettes and croissants (and the very lovely folks behind the counter) that keep me coming back.
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Chez Lucien

source: Chez Lucien

Back to back burger post! I’m delighted to report that this burger platter, while not the perfect burger platter, left me satisfied (and way more so than the last). I’d heard tales of Chez Lucien since moving here and was happy to finally visit this week with a lunch companion who worked close by. Lucky for me, it’s also spitting distance from campus.

On my initial visit to any restaurant, my usual tactic is to get a sense of their food by establishing a baseline with something they really should be nailing. That is, a dish that any self respecting [insert descriptor here] restaurant wouldn’t screw up. For example: rare beef pho at a Vietnamese restaurant; pad Thai at a Thai joint; chicken’s feet and BBQ pork buns at dim sum; steak at a steak house.
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The new grad building is looking great! I just won’t be coming back to Café Nostalgica for food. Their bar and beer selection will be pretty good too — once the administrative mishaps get ironed out. The staff are always lovely at Nostalgica, and I’ve had many catch ups with friends during my first year at U of O. If I recall, their food used to be descent, too. But I’ve been less than impressed since their re-opening last month:

On my first visit last month, my soup was cold. On my second visit, my fries were assaulted by white pepper.

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Source: http://zazazapizza.com/

Source: ZaZaZa

The food was OK, just nothing to write home about especially at their price point (which rivals the tastier & better executed Tennessy Willems across the street). Don’t get me wrong – you might have an good experience here (service was great, staff were friendly, neat looking restaurant with a pretty good vibe; fun pizza names / theme). I just found it a bit gimmicky (check out the menu), and my rule for eating out (or returning to a restaurant) is only if it blows me away and/or is a tasty dirt cheap hole in the wall / hidden gem of a mom and pop shop and/or something I don’t make (or can’t make better) at home.
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The boy has been obsessing over working diligently on a box for the last few weeks. For his location recording business, he needed something to hold gear (computer/mixer board/cables/etc), and turning DIY allowed for full customization; one of his biggest design challenges included the size limitation of our rather diminutive vehicle. The finished project included hardware from Lee Valley: while draw latches and handles may be considered exciting, our trip to the east end of town also yielded gastronomically: we now own a microplane rasp! It’s beautiful for frozen ginger and I can’t wait to grate cinnamon sticks and parm with ease.

As we were leaving Lee Valley, the boy spotted Metal Supermarkets in the same complex. I agreed that he could swing in to buy steel grates (see above) so long as he was speedy (I was hungry). Turns out that my stomach wasn’t the only grumbly one.

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I recently had the pleasure of celebrating a friend’s birthday with two of her girlfriends over dinner. It was especially nice to see her and catch up – it’d been months since our last adventure (which included heavy poutine consumption at London’s newly opened Smoke’s. I was instantly transported to Montreal during my first encounter (delicious fries with just the right amount of crisp, smothered with gravy and curds), only to face disappointment during a revisit. I certainly hope this chain’s inconsistency does not prevail.)

Food-wise, it’s interesting to be reminded of how far the boy and I have deviated from the norm. How far we’ve grown in the last few years with our ever rising culinary skills and penchant for interesting flavour combinations. Which leads us to almost never going out for dinner unless we’re going for the best, and make an event out of fine dining spearheaded by creative and innovative chefs. Some folks spend their entertainment budget on movie or video games; I splurge on food. And I have no qualms saving my pennies to savour fine dining, but am adverse to to spending on mediocrity. Case in point: we planned part of our last trip to NYC around dining at Wylie Dufresne‘s currently Michelin star rated wd-50, and even had a chance to meet the molecular gastronomist himself!

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Some time ago, the boy promised to take me out on a real date. Unfortunately our last pre-summer/treeplanting weeks in London were filled with errands – moving the contents of our apartment into storage, on his part: final papers & exams, on my part: wrapping things up in the lab so as to leave things at a natural breaking point for the next research assistant.

Putting London on hold, we decided to postpone the date until Ottawa.
Enter e18hteen.

Classically trained Matthew Carmichael’s menu features local ingredients. Despite the unsurprisingly little amount of ‘adventurous’ foods, the dinner turned out extremely tasty. We created our own tasting: they “usually” only allow blind tastings if the entire table partakes, so we couldn’t manage to convince the waiter to serve a few extra blind dishes in addition to one order of the tasting menu.

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