29 June, 2011

Over AND Under? How???

There are a TON of Italian joints in Ottawa!  I couldn't believe it!  They even have their own Little Italy here.  Driving through I discovered it IS rather "little", but from what I was led to believe, they pack in quite a punch for such a small pocket of the city.  I have a lot of places on my list to visit that are in Little Italy but the very first Italian place on my list wasn't too far from home.  Again, right on Hazeldean (that road has quite a few restaurants on it...) in a little strip mall area is a small place called La Cucina.  We tried to go there one night, it was just before 6pm and even though I could hear people inside and the sign said they opened for dinner at 5, the door was locked.  I wasn't in the mood to work too hard for a meal that night, so I decided we'd come back later.

The night we decided to try again I had been thinking about Italian food ALL day, I wasn't sure what I was going to get but I knew I wanted to love my food.  I'm a pretty serious lady when it comes to certain genres of food; Italian is one of them.  It is in my blood (no seriously, my dad's mom was part Italian...it was one of the things she talked about ALL the time...) and when I eat it I just FEEL myself reconnecting with something deep in my soul...joy I think.  We didn't want to spend too much time deciding because the Sprout was ALREADY acting up (he's 17.5 months..."terrible 2's" behavior is SUPPOSED to wait until 2 I thought???) and I hadn't eaten in a pretty long time.  My hypoglycemia was kicking in...so we went quickly.  

Their dinner menu wasn't too big and it wasn't too small.  There was something on it for everyone be it vegetarian, meat eater or the gluten free eater.  Nice.  I can appreciate that.  I ordered up a Garlic Cheese Bread without the cheese so the Sprout and I could eat it; for my entree I went with Veal Cognac.  I don't normally eat veal, but as with ordering lamb when eating Indian or Greek, ordering veal is a great way to see just how skilled the chef is in the kitchen.  When the meat is cooked correctly, you have a winner....most of the time.  The order went in, I looked around at the place and took some pictures.  Without disturbing other guests privacy, here's a bit of what I saw.
Table for Four


Somewhere in our waiting for the bread I saw a table next to us get a little basket of bread.  Our son was getting rather...testy...so I asked them how much the bread was and could we get some ASAP.  Apparently it is free..comes with every meal no matter what you order, she just forgot to bring it.  Had I known there was complimentary bread I wouldn't have ordered any other bread.  But, shortly after she brought the garlic bread I ordered to the table she produced the basket of bread.  We were extremely grateful because the Sprout tore through the plate of garlic bread like we'd been starving him for weeks!

It was ok as garlic breads go.  It didn't "wow" me, but really...not many breads ever have.  The ones that have (like the rosemary garlic sourdough I had last week), I eat by itself with nothing on it or perhaps just a small amount of spread.  Run o' the mill garlic bread like this I use as a tool...for sauce.  But thanks to the Sprout we ran out of bread before the entree came.  Like I really need MORE bread in my diet though.  Moving on...

The complimentary bread tasted fine.  No fireworks, but I wasn't spitting it into a wad in my napkin either.  It was good.  Quite frankly I'd ask for that again before ordering the garlic bread from the menu.

It was really quite some time before our entrees came out.  I wasn't paying attention to a clock, but our son had hit a wall and was screaming at it.

Veal Cognac with Fettucini Alfredo

The first thing I tried was the meat.  I couldn't believe how wonderful the sauce was.  Really...it made my mouth water between bites and it really made the natural flavor of the meat sing.  Sarah Brightman sing!  I had tunnel vision for next couple minutes...all I could see was my veal and all I could do was devour it.  When I finally made eye contact with my Mister to see how his Lobster Ravioli was...I didn't have to ask.  

With every bite he had a contorted look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong as I reached over with my fork and started cutting into his ravioli.  I quickly shoved it into my mouth before he could say anything.  I let the sauce go to work...tasted fine.  Tasted great.  Then...I chewed.  Guh!  No way!  They weren't cooked all the way through.  I picked the rest of the ravioli up with the fork and stared at it.  I could see the line of cooked end shortly into the piece of pasta.  Not cool.  

The Sprout wailed out because we were no longer letting him play with forks and butter knives at this point.  He was trying to play a Springsteen tune on the plate so the Mister had confiscated them.  The annoyance of the evening was welling up in my stomach.  I looked at the lump of pasta on my own plate...scared out of my mind.  I hadn't touched it yet.  I took my spoon in my left hand and my fork in my right; I grabbed then twisted my first wad of noodles 'n' sauce.  I shoved it into my mouth.  The sauce tasted fine.  It wasn't impressive but it wasn't a nasty jarred, no name somethin' or other all over the noodles either.  It just didn't have much flavor other than parmesean.  Which is fine.  With alfredo, sometimes less is more.  You can really kill a sauce if you add too much of ANYthing to it.  But...I started to chew.  UNBELIEVABLE!  My noodles were OVERcooked!  What the heck!  They undercooked my Mister's raviolis by a good 5 minutes and my noodles were SO cooked...they'd have likely been soup if they'd been cooked 2 minutes more.  

(We won't talk about the fact that noodles actually continue to cook even after they are removed from heat...carry over cooking.  Much like letting cookies stand on a cookie sheet when they are out of the oven...  Most people know about this, especially experienced chefs and bakers...ahem...)

I was so disgusted and disappointed...and our son was nearly out of control at this point.  On any normal night I'd have sent our entrees back.  That night if I sent them back I wouldn't have wanted them back, I would have wanted a refund and to get the heck out of there.  As it was approaching the 2 hour mark of being there, I shared my son's attitude...it was time to leave.  The call for the bill went in.  

I'm not quite certain how whatever that "pasta" was on my plate came from the same kitchen or chef that my WONDERFUL veal cognac came from, but I feel disenchanted enough to not try to find out.  On the whole...the veal won the night.  But, "fool me once"...you know the drill.  I can't stand it when my pasta is cooked wrong.  It still amazes me that they both over AND undercooked our entrees.  Lol...I suppose that DOES take a bit of talent...a "special" kind of talent.

It has a nice bit of romantic charm about it on the inside, the staff are nice but the food is hit and miss.  La Cucina won't be on my "must go back" list.  But, I won't tell you not to try it either.  I'm interested to know if this was an unhappy fluke or a normal problem during the dinner hour rush.  Though, there didn't seem to be much "rushing" happening that night. Good luck!

La Cucina Ristorante on Urbanspoon

28 June, 2011


Today was all about quick and yum.  We had a lot to do today before the Sprout's nap AND after, so I went through my "to eat" list and thought about where we'd be running errands.  (Quite frankly...living in a hotel for almost a month now is getting REALLY old.  It has its pluses and minuses...but mostly just the minuses.  The only plus is...technically I can't cook anything.  I COULD, but it would be in a microwave.  Blech...  So we're hitting a lot of restaurants...that's a plus...but only when they turn out to be worth it.  Such a hit and miss game.)  Luckily for us right across the street from the "super" Wal-Mart (there really isn't anything "super" about them...but when all you need is tape and there is no Target, you cave...) was Yorgo's Greek Food & Pizza.

They just recently relocated to Clyde Avenue, what a lucky happenstance!  When we walked in it was quickly clear that this wasn't meant to be an eat-in establishment.  That was fine with us today.  We just wanted to grab dinner and get back so we got the Sprout into bed on time.  Their menu was pretty large, but then, so far ALL of the Greek menus I have seen here in Ottawa are extensive.  But after my experience at Greek on Wheels when I ordered Shawarma "as is", I wasn't in the mood for not loving my food tonight.  I went in and ordered a 5 made out of lamb with rice for my choice of a side & a 48 of hummus and pita for the Sprout.  Then, just as always...the rest of the dinner crowd rolled in.  As I took pictures of the place I listened to what they were ordering...intently.


As I took pictures I heard a customer ask for a "Jye-row" and the staff repeated it back in the same mispronunciation...I started to seriously worry that I was about to be messed over again.  (I discovered AFTER we got to the park to eat that Greek on Wheels gave me donair (beef on a spit) when I asked them for lamb...donair is NOT lamb...never will be.  I realize people in Canada love donair, but I am not interested in E. coli...thanks..)  SO..I asked the guys in Yorgo's kitchen how many of them were actually Greek.  Just a couple of them were.  I told them I asked because they said "Year-oh" wrong.  They laughed and told me that they say it like that because the customer does and they know perfectly well the correct pronunciation.  Whew!  When someone doesn't know what to call their food, I worry.

After the clarification portion of the wait...the food was finally ready.  We headed back to the hotel and ate in their breakfast kitchen.

 Salad, Rice, Roasted Potato, Lamb in Pita & Tzatziki sauce

All the food was amazing!  The lamb meat was wonderful; lightly seasoned, tender & was REALLY lamb.  Such a fabulous difference from the last Greek I had.  The pita was soft but didn't break apart under the pressure of the filling.  I loved the rice as well.  It had peas and carrots and a hint of citrus in the background, distinctly orange.  The Sprout loved it as well.  There wasn't a single thing on my plate I didn't like or that I wouldn't order again.  Yorgo's hit the nail on the head and I have NO reservations saying it.

I did try some of the Sprout's food which was the Hummus & Pita.  It came with some pickled turnip and whole chickpeas on top for garnish (pickled turnip is used in Lebanese Shawarma wraps...I'm not a fan).


Note the smile on the last photo...he LOVED the hummus and pita!  I did as well.  It was creamy and the flavor was smooth.  The pita, again, was soft and coupled well with the hummus.  I carefully avoided the red areas on the top of the hummus where the pickled turnip had bled into the hummus.  I didn't want the bitter in my mouth ruining my moment of bliss.  Neither did the Sprout.  He saw the reddish purple color and avoided it himself...smart kid!

I am definitely going back to Yorgo's to try some more things on their menu.  Perhaps on a weekend we'll go by and pick up a pizza or something...but that lamb meat will be very hard to resist.  Trust me when I tell you that this place is a cut above the rest of the take out Greek places in Ottawa, there is something on the menu for everyone and the prices are JUST right.  I hope you enjoy your Yorgo's as much as my family did!

Yorgo's on Urbanspoon

27 June, 2011

No Frills, Just YUM

I'm pretty sure by now everyone knows the house we found was in Kanata, Ontario.  It is a western suburb of Ottawa on the Nepean side (I still don't get, NOR care, why there is an "Orleans side" and a "Nepean side"...I think it just confuses people, especially the Ottawa natives.  NO one drives without GPS up here.  You ask someone for directions, they'll begin to give them and then stop to ask "Well...don't you have GPS??" in an exasperated/desperate voice.  Heaven help me if I ever get put in the middle of the wilderness with a Canadian instead of a map!).  We won't be talking much in this flog from here on out about this "side" junk, just know it is a total hassle to finding my places sometimes and we'll move on...

In Kanata and all the other 'burbs there are a crapTON of strip and mini mall areas.  In one of ours on Kanata Avenue is a Best Buy, PetSmart, theater and various restaurants.  In the middle of this retail jungle is this tiny little place, literally "blink and you miss it", called Tomaso Grilled Pizza & Panini.

I had no idea what they were "known" for but I knew before I walked in that I was Jonesing for some meat.  Lucky for me they have it on their pizzas, on their sandwiches, pastas and even in their salads if I chose the "add Chicken for $3" option.  When I walked in it was pretty plain that these guys were all business and not about trying to wrap the place up in a nice neat bow.  That's fine with this lady...  Their menu was on a chalk board wall handwritten in white chalk.  If you check our their website before you go you'll discover there are a lot of things online that they didn't have room to write on the wall.  It doesn't really matter though, all the combinations I read sounded FABULOUS.


There was only one other person in when we arrived.  A hungry trucker that was getting his lunch to go.  After studying the menu briefly I decided on a large "After Work" and a side of chips with dip.  It took an IMMENSELY long time for our food to come up.  I have come to the conclusion that I have to STOP telling people I am a flogger before they make my food.  I realize the extra effort they put in is to make it "perfect" but when you're hungry...it just doesn't matter how it looks.  It is all about taste.  Taking a long time doesn't improve that fact.  The place was all the sudden inundated with the lunch crowd.  I couldn't believe it.  In 15 minutes there were about 20 other people in there.  But when I took my first bite I understood what they were all doing there.

I love a crispy panini and mine was PERFECT!  The combination of the cappicolo, provolone, hot peppers, mayo was fabulous and just the right level of spicy and salty.  The flavors really married so well it was hard to imagine anything needed to be added and there was NO way that I would have wanted anything removed.  The chips and dip however I could have done without.  The chips were really greasy rippled potato chips with what tasted like it was just Ranch flavored salad dressing out of a bottle.  I'd never order the chips and dip part again.  It was a mistake I'll get over in light of the triumph of the sandwich find.  For SURE!  In spite of how small this place was they even had a high chair for the Sprout.  Scorrrrrrrrre.

With panini, pizza, pasta and a variety of salads to choose from Tomaso is a great find for lunch OR dinner.  I'll try the "Modest Start" when I go back next.  That is a panini made out of sun-dried tomato pesto sauce, grilled chicken,roma tomatoes, baby mozzarella cheese...sounds delicious to this foodie!

Tomaso on Urbanspoon

26 June, 2011

Ain't Got No Soul...

When you look up Fat Tuesday's on Urbanspoon.com you are lead to believe it is a place that serves up Soul & Southern food.  I was SO excited that in a city that seems to have some of the WHITEST of white people there might ACTUALLY be some soul served up somewhere.  Imagine my surprise when I got down to the heart of Byward Market, grabbed a table out on the patio and saw their menu was all CREOLE....  *sigh*  I could go on for a page and a half of how "soul" and "creole" are different but I don't wanna.

I went through the menu at the speed of light when we sat down.  Seeing the tag line on their banner that read "New Orleans Experience" I got worried...I was looking for more of a Savannah experience when I went there.  BUT....I am not opposed to Creole.  I LOVE Louisiana bayou cookin'.  Thoroughly.  So it wasn't a HUGE deal that I was a little misled by the internet...who isn't these days right?  Right.  I knew what I wanted as soon as I clamped eyes on it...jambalaya.  I wanted to do my Creole experience some justice so we ordered up some Atchafalaya Alligator for an appetizer.  It came with an interesting sounding piquant...Jack Daniels....nice.  While my Mister was figuring out what he wanted I cruised the restaurant checkin' out their decor and offerings.

                                              Patio Seating                                 Indoor Seating


Live Music

This place has a LOT going on...food, live music, dinner theater/murder mystery night in the Velvet Room....you could go there every night and most likely not do EVERYthing they have to do.  But...I was there for the FOOD.

Atchafalaya Alligator
When I was in Florida years ago I had alligator for the first time and it was fabulous.  Fabulous enough that I wanted to have it again and I was interested to see how the Sprout did with it.  But, these pieces were either over cooked or undercooked; so they varied between hard/rubbery and barely being warmed through.  The few pieces I figured to be "safe" I handed over to the Sprout to let him give it a whirl.  He seemed to think they tasted okay.


At some point our waitress brought out some complimentary rosemary sourdough type of bread that was grilled.  It barely tasted like what she told us it was.  She told me it would taste great soaking up the "sauce" of the jambalaya....


My ears perked at that comment.  "Sauce" of the jambalaya eh?  Crap....  (If you've had jambalaya you know that it NORMALLY isn't "saucy".)  I began to wonder just what the heck I had roped myself into...  Then I found out...  Here's how my entree came out.

The kindest way I can describe this is a "deconstructed" jambalaya.  The plate had EVERY single ingredient you are "supposed" to have in a jambalaya on it...just NOT the way it is supposed to be made.  The spice was perfect, the meat was all cooked correctly and the rice was perfect.  But what I got was "dirty rice" and what turned out to be more like a SUPER thick gumbo.  Jambalaya is a RICE dish.  Not a bunch of meat and veggies slopped on a plate NEXT to rice.  Google it...Wikipedia it...I don't care, but either way you slice it Fat Tuesday's needs to send their chef back to the bayou.  I realize I could simply mix this dirty rice with the saucy part and I would have were it not for the ground beef in the rice.  When I read what this was on the menu I WAS puzzled as to WHY a jambalaya would come with MORE rice on the side...  *cough*  The flavor was there but the technique turned it into a solid dud.  Then the bill arrived and I was MORE than sure I wouldn't be wasting another 75 bucks on a place that can't get their Louisiana cooking straight.  

I won't lie...sometimes I wish I was "food stupid" and just ate things that tasted good no matter what.  But there are reasons that things ARE good to me and most of the time that includes making it RIGHT...however simple OR complex the right turns out to be.  I keep hoping with the rash of less than stellar experiences I have been having in Ottawa that there is something MUCH better JUST over the horizon.  Unfortunately, Fat Tuesday's was NOT it.  Onwards and upwards.  If you aren't too stuck on traditional dishes from Louisiana and just want to sample the flavor of it, check them out...but bring plenty of money for your belly flop on the bayou!

Fat Tuesday's on Urbanspoon

25 June, 2011

Dinner With The Neighbors

As of late I have come across quite a few places that are being deemed "fusion" of two different cultures in their cooking.  Some of them are so outlandish I have started to automatically eliminate "fusion" places from my "to eat" lists.  But then, driving down Hazeldean the other day I saw Phnom Penh Restaurant (named for the capital of Cambodia) featuring Cambodian and Thai food.  I drove past it 3 or 4 more times during the next week or so before I finally decided it was a place I would take a stab at. 

Just walking in I felt like I'd won the lottery.  The decor was so beautiful; dark wooden tables and chairs, beautiful pictures on the walls and lovely combination of hardwood and carpeted floors.  We were seated right away with a high chair for the Sprout.  We didn't waste ANY time getting down to business.  Their menu was quite large, it would have taken me WAY too much time to read through it all, so I asked what their best dish was and ordered it; Golden Chicken; medium.  Scanning through the appetizers there were a couple things that piqued my interest; the fish cakes and the Cambodian spring rolls.  My mister ordered Thai Curry.  I looked around at all the art and went to work...



There was a variety of seating in the place; tables for 2, tables for 4, tables for a whole party...round, square & rectangle.  I'm sure you get the picture.  No matter what size your group is, this place can fit you in comfortably.


By the time I made it back to the table our ice water and lemon was there; two sips later so were our fish cakes and Cambodian spring rolls.

Fish Cakes
I will admit, "Deep fried white fish and vegetables" isn't as descriptive as most people would like when it comes to possibly consuming fried fish.  But, this is where sense of adventure should take over.  In this case it was a risk worth taking.  Does anyone remember "shrimp burgers" that public school lunch offered?  It was that consistency but, OH so much tastier!  We fed the majority of these fish cakes to the Sprout.  My Mister and I each had one, but we couldn't keep up with how fast our son wanted more and more bites of it, so we just cut them up in to small bites gave him a fork and he went TO TOWN.  He ate two whole cakes, some spring roll and tried my entree and the Mister's.  I'm so proud he is as in love with good food as his momma!  I have no idea what the sauce tasted like.  I get ill when I consume refined sugar (table sugar) so when my Mister tried it and told me it was really sweet, I didn't mess with it.  He said it tasted great with the cakes; I'll trust that.

Cambodian Spring Rolls

These spring rolls were SO fabulous!  After my first bite all I could think was I wished there had been MORE than 3 rolls!  The sauce that came with these rolls enhanced the flavor ten fold.  It was savory and sour made out of rice vinegar and peanuts and brought out the sweet in the vegetables and at the same time just made the meat SING!  With both pork and chicken, normally I would have avoided these thinking it would be double heavy to start the meal out, but the manager insisted they were one of the best appetizers he'd ever had.  I completely agree!  Then, the coup de grace of the evening arrived...

Golden Chicken

This entree was suggested to me by the manager as the best entree on the dinner menu.  If I never had another dish in the place, I would go back again and again JUST for this!  The beans added into the lovely spiced curry gave it a sweet twist I didn't expect.  The chicken was SO incredibly tender and the peanuts really made the curry so creamy I was enthralled again and again with each bite I took.  The spice level I asked for was dead on.  Not too hot, not for wimps either.  Perfect...

I will be frequenting this place as often as I can.  Aside from being conveniently located at Terry Fox and Hazeldean just minutes from our home, I can't wait to try every single thing they have on their menus; in between my other "to eats" of course.  If you love a good adventure without having to pay the price of a plane ticket, check out Phnom Penh.  Let me know if you loved it as much as I did...or if you thought it could have been better.  I'd love to hear about your experience either way!  Bon Appetit!!

Phnom Penh Restaurant on Urbanspoon

24 June, 2011

I've Had Better...

Driving up and down Hazeldean here in Kanata we pass a place a lot called Colonnade's Pizza.  Banners all over the place advertise that they serve breakfast 7 days a week.  We stopped in one morning for breakfast...not a lot of choices, but when I asked her what their BEST item was in 1 second she said "Eggs Benedict".  No lie.  It WAS the best breakfast I'd had since I'd been in town.  But they weren't on my list for breakfast, they were on my list for the top 10 of Kanata based on the offerings of their dinner menu.  So I never flogged about my perfectly poached, silky, rich Eggs Benedict.  We went back for dinner a couple nights later for the flogging visit.

Colonnade Pizza

The dinner menu is short for this place.  Before I delved too deeply into it I asked our waitress what their "signature" item is.  "Oh, pizza.  People love our pizza."  I looked at our choices and she saw me wince.  She let me know that we could choose two different kinds and have a half and half pizza.  Well...now THAT sounded great.  We went with half Mediterranean and half Meat Lovers for my Mister.  We ordered some chicken fingers for the Sprout and asked her to bring them out as soon as they were done.  We don't like the aftermath of our son waiting until the main course comes.  It never turns out well.  He already was having a hard time staying seated in the high chair.  It was gonna be a short night...

Plenty of Seating

 Specials Board

                                                                          Wall Art
Outside Accommodations

The place started filling up pretty quickly after our order went in.  The chicken fingers came out 15 minutes after.  Cut them up....the Sprout was happily occupied so he never noticed it took almost another half hour for our pizza to hit the table.  By the time it came I was ready to ask my Mister if we should just walk up and tell them to put it in a box to go when it was finally ready.  The Sprout was almost done with his chicken, he was gonna be a problem for the other guests if we hung out too much longer.  You can only corral a 17 month old for so long before they lose it.  

Half Mediterranean, Half Meat Lovers

Just based on visuals and smell...I was excited.  It didn't take long to realize my senses had betrayed me.  The sauce was nondescript tomato, no flavor other than that.  The veggies on the Mediterranean were the only thing good about it.  On the Meat Lovers side, the only thing noteworthy was the meat.  It was kinda hard to swallow, literally.  I've never had such a dry pizza crust on a thick crusted pizza.  I drank a TON of water while I was eating.  Until I ran out.  She never came to refill it until we asked for the check.  The cheese was just...heavy...it overpowered everything.  I've never had a pizza that made me think "I should have ordered a salad."  Never.  It tasted like something Polly Pocket, age 5 would make if handed all the ingredients to make a pizza of her own.  

If people go to Colonnade for their pizza, they need to get out more.  To this day the best pie I have had was at 3 Brothers in Wrightstown, NJ.  Fabulous pizza.  Unbelievable.  I'll never forget it.  I'm still waiting for someone to come close.  No one has.  If Colonnade is loved for their pizza...they are in trouble.  Their breakfast menu is short, but everything was cooked spot on...perhaps they need to switch to breakfast only and leave the pizza to the experts in New Jersey.  Eat here if you can handle the disappointment that comes along with a 30 dollar pizza that leaves you wanting "more".

Colonnade Pizza on Urbanspoon