Yesterday morning I took the day off work to attend the C’est Bon gourmet food tour with my classmates. We took the scenic route the Byward Market, along the Rideau Canal.
We visited 11 unique specialty shops – none of which I have been to, with the exception of the first stop: La Bottega Nicastro. I learned a lot more about this Italian market-cafe-coffeeshop-deli on this visit. Their cheese selection is superb.
I would say it’s where I intend to buy all of my cheese, but I had a negative experience with the block of mozzarella I bought on my last visit. It molded in 4 days after opening. However, we had a tasting of their espresso-rind cheddar, and it was so good that it’s redeemed the mozzarella incident.
On my way out, I bought a Sicilian cannoli from the coffeeshop inside the market. They’re only $2.50 but they’re difficult to get. Apparently they’re only sold when someone orders them to be catered, but for whatever reason they are not picked up. I was very lucky try one of these on the way out because it’s one hell of a dessert.
The second stop was Stubbe Chocolates Ottawa. We had a lovely mini workshop on cocoa bean harvesting, fermentation and production by the owner Heinrich Stubbe. He happens to be one of the chefs who judges the final exams at Le Cordon Bleu from time to time.
Also, he gave us each a cocoa bean and a sample of his chocolate on the way out!
The third stop was this souvenir shop called Canada in a Basket. This wasn’t a photo-worthy place, but the concept is cute. Each shelf has products from a designated province, and the idea is that if you get one item from each shelf, you’d have Canada in your shopping basket.
The fourth stop was Maple Country Sugarbush, Byward Market’s sole provider of maple syrup. We had tiny shots of medium-bodied maple syrup.
The House of Cheese Ltd was our fifth stop in the tour. It is a tough contender to La Bottega in the cheese department.
Stop number six was the Byward Fruit Market, a cozy little produce shop inside the market hub. We had a sample of salicorn, or “sea asparagus”. It was weird.
Our seventh stop was the Tea Store, a spacious tea and pastry cafe that has fairly-priced tea lattes and tea-infused scones.
Next we visited The Cupcake Lounge, a favourite of many of my classmates. We tasted pineapple upside-down, chocolate chocolate, red velvet and lemon-coconut. The store is absolutely adorable, but in my extremely unpopular opinion, they tasted like ordinary cupcakes. Tasty, pretty, but ordinary.
Mantovani 1946, our ninth stop in the tour, was by far my favourite. It is an extremely glamorous Italian gelateria.
We were offered baci (chocolate) and jasmine-flavoured gelato tasters. It was easily some of the most delicious gelato I’ve ever had.
Our second-to-last stop was The French Baker, a classy and traditional French bakery. The smell of butter fills the room.
We ended the tour at Market Organics. Interesting, hipster, organic specialty foods. I’ll be sure to come back here if I’m ever challenged to make something with dietary restrictions.
And that’s the end of the tour! To know that this is only a fraction of what Ottawa has to offer makes me really excited to get out and explore as much as I can.
Sunday, October 16th, 2016