Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ottawa's Wine and Food Show

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I had a fantastic time at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show last weekend with S and friends, and my long-lost brother who I haven't seen since Thanksgiving! Some other highlights included (in the photo, clockwise from the top): a mackerel salad from Le Cordon Bleu, learning what's really in ground beef from local chef Duane Keats, smoked salmon from the Pelican Fishery & Grill, and meeting the leader of the Ottawa's Slow Food chapter, Peggy Hall.

First on the agenda was attending a food demonstration by Duane Keats, chef at Luxe Bistro in Ottawa's Byward Market. He taught everyone in the audience a great cost-saving skill: how to skin and fillet a whole fish. He demonstrated on a giant fresh halibut and an equally gargantuan fresh salmon. At 10 lbs, each normally yields 15 portions at his restaurant.

While his sous-chef showed us how to similarly fillet a big hunk of striploin, Duane told us something disturbing about ground beef, namely that it's made mostly from connective tissue called silver skin that's trimmed from cuts like this. It's tough and you can't chew it, like "beef bubblegum," he said. But if you remove it, your steaks won't curl during cooking.

At the demo, I had the pleasure of sitting beside Peggy Hall, the leader of Slow Food Ottawa, an organization that connects people who love to eat with local producers and their foods. She told me that one of her big challenges this year will be to raise the profile of Ontario wines by encouraging Ottawa-area restaurants to feature them on their wine lists.

My personal wine find of the evening was a delicious 2004 Spanish Rioja called Marqués de Riscal Reserve. We also spent a lot of time at the Argentine wine counter and sampled a few tasty Slovenian wines — Cviček and Refošk. I had no idea that Slovenia had such a big wine industry, but it stands to reason as it shares a border with Italy and also benefits from that Mediterranean climate that's so good for grapes.

And of course, the food was sublime. Em served us some mackerel salad at Le Cordon Bleu's booth — so fresh and tasty. She is Le Cordon Bleu's best employee ever. And we had a rich lobster mac and cheese from Foundation, and a wonderful smoked salmon appetizer with red onions, capers and a special sauce from Pelican Fishery & Grill.

As usual, it was magical and I can't wait until next year!


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