Raspberry picking at Proulx Farm

In mid-July, we went raspberry picking at Proulx Berry Farm in Orleans. We are more accustomed to the busy seasons of strawberry and pumpkin picking, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were just a few other groups of pickers for raspberries. Proulx is great as a U-Pick location. You pay a small admission fee per person but that cost is deducted from your berry price at the end (keep your entrance receipt!). Their pricing for both strawberries and raspberries seemed fantastic (compared to buying berries at the farmers’ markets). You take a short wagon ride (attached to a tractor – selling point for young kids) to and from the bushes. Raspberries are a bit easier to pick than strawberries as they grow on bushes (not along the ground). We went a few weeks into the season but there were lots of ripe berries to pick.

Raspberries

After we had finished picking, we enjoyed a pre-packed allergy-friendly lunch on a grassy area. Our toddler played on their play structure and with their numerous toy trucks in the sand ‘pit’ (really more like a huge pile of sand). We also visited their animals and looked at more tractors.

Animals Little chicks! Hello! Sitting Pigs Hanging out

Ginza: a ramen shop in Ottawa

Ginza Ramen (832 Somerset Street W – in Chinatown)

A dear friend messaged me one evening to let me know that she was eating a bowl of ramen at a new ramen shop. In Ottawa! At a place called Ginza.

I had seen the first Ginza shop in passing, on Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, and in great excitement searched for a menu online. After seeing the menu online (mix of ramen, pho, vermicelli dishes, sushi, rice noodle soups, grilled foods), I figured it was your typical all-encompassing Asian restaurant…and my interest waned. But my dear friend assured me that the place that she was eating at in Chinatown served *just* ramen. And she liked it.

Ginza

The shop in Chinatown incorporates a lot of wood into its interior and has a warm feel inside. The kitchen isn’t very open to the eating area, which is key to a ramen shop so that you can watch all of the fast-paced action, and there was no hearty irashaimase from the staff to welcome patrons inside. However, the server provided courteous, friendly, and prompt service, with just the right level of attention (because nobody likes a server who hovers or forgets about you).

Ika-age with wasabi mayo
Ika-age with wasabi mayo
Chicken karaage with a wasabi mayo
Chicken karaage with a wasabi mayo

We ordered chicken and ika karaage as appetizers. Both were accompanied by a mild wasabi mayo dip. The chicken was dry and the batter was average, but not having had karaage for a while, it did hit a spot. The ika (squid) had a good crunch from being deep-fried.

Miso tonkotsu ramen with corn, char sou, bean sprouts, green onions, mushrooms, and nori
Miso tonkotsu ramen with corn, char siu, bean sprouts, green onions, mushrooms, and nori

Continuing from previous ramen adventures, which you can read about here, here, here and here, I ordered the miso ramen. Ginza has a tonkotsu base and a chicken broth base; the miso is a tonkotsu ramen. The broth was decent but the balance of flavours and textures in it doesn’t quite meet some of the better ramen bowls I’ve had elsewhere. The noodles were cooked well and the range of toppings offered in the bowl was good, but the char siu slices were thin, not the awesome wrapped kind, and not as fatty/melt-in-my-mouth as I like them.

Considering Ottawa has no other reputable ramen shop yet, the ramen at Ginza would definitely entice me to return when I have a craving. However, if I were in Toronto or Vancouver, where there are a myriad of ramen shops, I would likely go to another place.

Ginza Ramen(Chinatown) on Urbanspoon

Lovely Sunday Lunch

I had heard many-a-time about a very lovely Sunday lunch spot at a duck farm near Plantaganet, Ontario. A place where they feed you the vegetables that they grow in their garden and the ducks that they raise on their farm. A quiet haven off a two-lane highway about a 45 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. It was only recently that I finally made it out to Mariposa Farm to enjoy a meal.

Mariposa Farm (6468 County Road 17, Plantaganet, Ontario)

The Farm
The Farm
Large plant markers!
Large plant markers!
Welcome to Sunday Lunch at Mariposa Farm!
Welcome to Sunday Lunch at Mariposa Farm!

They change their menu every Sunday and for $45 plus tax/gratuities, you get a well-sized three-course meal: starter, entree, dessert. There is also homemade bread with soybean oil, and self-serve tea and coffee.

The cozy dining room
The cozy dining room
The view out the window
The view out the window

They provide three different options for each of the parts of the meal so it’s a semi-set meal. There was no vegetarian option for the entree…lucky for me, I’m not a vegetarian! Instead, I opted for their duck confit, which was absolutely amazing! Not to mention it came on one of my favourite fall vegetables: delicata squash!

One of the choices of starters: head cheese with a fruit puree, black radishes, mustard seeds, and some toast.
One of the choices of starters: head cheese with a fruit puree, black radishes, mustard seeds, and some toast.
Duck confit on a bed of buckwheat, delicata squash, celerium, and pears.
Duck confit on a bed of buckwheat, delicata squash, celerium, and pears.
A selection of local cheeses with oatmeal cookies
A selection of local cheeses with oatmeal cookies
A peach tart with raspberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream
A peach tart with raspberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream

It’s a lovely place if you’re looking for a special meal in a relaxing setting, friendly hosts, delicious food (albeit not very vegetarian-friendly), and something a little different from your city restaurant. I’ve not yet heard one person walk away from Mariposa Farm dissatisfied.
Mari Posa Farms on Urbanspoon

Blueberries!

While I was in Kelowna, BC several weeks ago, I went apricot picking for the very first time in my life! I have to say, it is so much easier picking apricots than strawberries. For one, apricots grow on trees, which means they are more easily accessible from a standing position and the trees provide shade. Strawberries, as delicious as they are, grow very low to the ground in large open fields with little shade. As a side note, in high school, I worked picking strawberries for one damp morning and since then, have a huge appreciation for berry pickers. Oh yes. And apricots are much larger than strawberries…we picked over 20lb of apricots in 10 minutes! To eat tree-ripened apricots…heaven.

Unfortunately, I missed cherry picking (arriving too late in the afternoon to be allowed into the orchards) and couldn’t go blueberry picking while in BC (because BC blueberries are huge and the best of the best). However, I did eat loads of Okanagan cherries during my vacation and decided that I would try blueberry picking in Ottawa once I was back in town.

Blueberries!
Blueberries!

It doesn’t seem like there are many blueberry U-Pick farms around Ottawa but we made a trip out to the one that I did find: Canaan Blueberries. It’s about a 20 minute drive east on the highway from downtown Ottawa, beyond suburban Orleans and into the countryside. The drive is nice and takes you along the Ottawa River, and before you know it, you’ll have arrived at the farm.

I found that blueberry picking in Ottawa was more tedious than picking in Vancouver, mostly because the berries here seem to be smaller. Obviously this depends on the variety, of which Canaan has a few, but it took me about 2 hours to fill a 4 litre basket ($2.75 per lb). Nonetheless, it was a beautiful summer day to be out amongst the blueberry bushes!

Blueberry bushes
Blueberry bushes

Drool over Sushi in the Park

One awesome summertime activity is watching a movie outdoors. Many cities across Canada host free movies in the park or on the pier (yay Halifax!), and Ottawa is not to be left out. Centretown Movies is a volunteer-driven film fest that screens family-friendly films at Dundonald Park in downtown Ottawa, both to bring the community together for evenings of fun and to take back a park that used to be a bit rough. The films are pay-what-you-can (pass-the-bucket style) and last year, there were two food vendors who serviced the event. Enjoy a picnic dinner on a Friday or Saturday evening then enjoy the movie once dusk sets in.

Click here to see the schedule. The first movies start July 26/27. However, I did want to highlight one very enjoyable film that I saw at the local independent theatre, Bytowne Cinemas. It’s called Jiro Dreams of Sushi and the story is great, the cinematography is great, and I definitely recommend seeing it. I wrote about it here but don’t worry, it isn’t a spoiler. The film is playing on Friday August 9. A recipe for a perfect summer evening!

Fringe-ing in Ottawa

Last year’s train trip (the Canada portion was from Vancouver to Ottawa) had me stopping in Winnipeg for a handful of days in late July. It was my first visit to this city in the Prairies – also the middle of Canada – and luck would have it that I dropped by right in the middle of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. You may think that this Fringe Fest is small but it actually held the North American record for tickets sold for a few years until another city outsold them in 2011. Pretty impressive!

I was a Fringe virgin but, lucky me, I had a fabulous Frequent Fringer and devoted volunteer acting as my Fringe guide. She took me to see a variety of shows (comedy, drama, musical, improve, opera) and exposed me to Fringe Central downtown, including free shows on the mainstage. The weather was beautiful, the arts were creative, and I walked away with nothing but fond memories.

How do you walk away from such an experience without wanting to be drawn back into it this year! Lo and behold, I’ll be volunteering at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, running in and around the Byward Market area from June 20-30, 2013…and hopefully checking out a number of shows as well. As with the Winnipeg Fringe, the Ottawa Fringe is unjuried so I would expect an eclectic mix of theatre with a range of quality (subjective, of course).

To attend the Ottawa Fringe, each person needs a $3 Fringe pin. The pin is to be worn at any show you are seeing, is purchased separately from a show ticket, and is a one-time $3 donation to the Fringe Festival itself. This allows all of the ticket sale money to go directly to the performing artists. With 50+ productions over 10 days, you’re bound to find something that piques your curiosity. There is also the Fringe Courtyard where you can hang out, buy some food (Stone Soup Foodworks food truck is the vendor), and enjoy some entertainment.

I’m the type of person who likes to buy tickets in advance. However, for the Ottawa Fringe, I am switching it up by buying my ticket at the door. Something like 50% of the tickets are held for door sales, with the other 50% allocated to advance sales, so I presume there’s a good chance of getting a ticket to a desired show at the door.

Check out the productions and come Fringe! And if you are in town on Canada Day, the Courtyard will remain open on July 1 with some free improv and entertainment!

Mer Bleu in Spring

This past winter, right after a heavy snowfall, we went snowshoeing at Mer Bleu Bog. The boardwalk was nowhere to be seen and it was a serene white all around us. We decided to venture back there on a beautiful sunny late Spring afternoon to see what it looks like when the snow has disappeared.

Welcome to Mer Bleu bog boardwalk in late Spring
Welcome to Mer Bleu bog boardwalk in late Spring
Cattails in the water
Cattails in the water
Beautiful reflections
Beautiful reflections
Bog - apparently Mer Bleu's pH is around 3.5...wonder what happens to you if you accidentally fall off the boardwalk....
Bog – apparently Mer Bleu’s pH is around 3.5…made me wonder what happens to you if you accidentally fall off the boardwalk….
The tree needs a hair cut!
The tree needs a hair cut!
Such beauty!
Such beauty!

Now that I’ve seen the bog in the dead of winter and in late spring, perhaps this means I’ll need to take a visit later this year during fall as well. Hmmm.

Take a peek inside Ottawa’s buildings: June 1/2

Curious what the inside of an embassy looks like? A church?  A mosque? The Ottawa Citizen? A museum? Step behind the scenes at over one hundred of Ottawa’s public and private buildings on June 1 and 2 as part of Doors Open Ottawa. It is completely free to participate, first come first served for most buildings, a free bus shuttle drops you off within the vicinity of 50 buildings, and buildings are located all across and around Ottawa proper.

Ever since I moved here a few years ago, I’ve made a point to check out some buildings each year. I’ve had tours of places like:

  • Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre…a wastewater treatment plant
  • Embassy of the United States of America (requires pre-registration)
  • Enriched Bread Artists of Ottawa…which is an art gallery, not a bakery
  • OC Transpo Industrial Garage
  • Traffic Operations Public Works
  • Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Transportation Safety Board is offering tours this year but it was really cool seeing how they do crash reconstructions (flights, rail). The bus garage was fun because they let you sit on the bus and take you through the maintenance garage, including the bus wash. The Traffic Operations tour was also super fun; you learn about the traffic/pedestrian lights, how they make street signs and paint the lines on the streets.

I love behind-the-scenes stuff and think this is a great FREE event. Grab a map, look at the buildings listing, and plan out your route for Saturday or Sunday (not everything is open to the public on both days). Think about biking or taking the bus.

Take a (Jane’s) Walk

The weather is looking great for this upcoming weekend and besides the start of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, you can check out Jane’s Walks happening around Ottawa on Saturday and Sunday. These are free walking (and cycling) tours led by locals where you can learn about the history, geography, environment, and social aspects of a neighbourhood. There are a number of walks given in French but there is better selection for English walks.

Click here for the schedule of Ottawa Jane’s Walks.

A film fest, a food market and some permaculture

A few interesting things happening around town over the next 2 weeks:

The biannual Reel Food Film Fest is happening on Thursday March 14 starting at 6:30pm at the Main Ottawa Public Library. This time, they will be screening a short on Tim Baker’s Visit to Honduras and a feature-length film called Tapped. I’ve been to the Reel Food Film Fest for the past 3 offerings (see here, for example) and have really enjoyed seeing different films on various aspects of food.

Trailer: http://youtu.be/_vyu07JM78M

After a bit of a dead time in markets, there will be a Westboro Easter Food Market (@taste_of_ottawa) on Saturday March 23 from 10am to 3:30pm in Westboro. Admission is free and there will be a number of local vendors, including some of my faves Hummingbird Chocolate and Koko Chocolates. Relish, the food truck, will also be on-site…a great warm-up for what will prove to be an exciting summer of food truck fare in Ottawa. We’re also about two months away from the farmers’ markets opening around town!

Lastly, if you’ve been curious about permaculture or an urban food forest, there is a two-day event happening on March 23 to 24 from 9:15am to 4:30pm in central Ottawa. It’s called the Eastern Ontario Permaculture Convergence and they have multiple workshops on what permaculture is and how it can be applied to food production. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 per day.