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Category Archives: Eating the World

Ottawa with the Locals: Discovering Great Foods in the Nation’s Capital

I’m going to admit it: I’m not a foodie-traveler. I believe it’s very important to eat local food when you are in a new place, but I’ve never actually researched them beforehand. I know, shocking! I mean, I research EVERYTHING before I go; from things to do to public transportation to hostel reviews, absolutely nothing is left to chance. That is, except for places to eat (Hah! I can’t even tell you where the logic is in that!). I guess I figured there are a ton of restaurants in any given city, so we can just wing it and walk in as long ad the menu and the prices look good. As a result, I always miss out on the hot/hip spots in the city, only finding out from friends after I got back or when I stumble across an article or a blog post weeks or months later. This is why it’s awesome to go to places where you have friends. I don’t have to do any research since they know all the best places to eat in their city (at least I would hope so!). It’s a win-win situation, really.

That said, I’m lucky enough to have several friends living in Ottawa: Rue, Vanessa, and Kainat among them. These wonderful ladies took me places and showed me a different side of Ottawa I otherwise wouldn’t find out if I were going on my own. Now, I’m going to share these spots with you and hopefully you’ll get a chance to try them when you visit the capital city!

For Breakfast:

French Baker 

119 Murray Street – Ottawa – ON – K1N5M5

Rue puts it eloquently: “Whenever you want to smell Paris, just step into the French Baker and inhale!”. A small store on the side of Byward Market, this bakery sells french-inspired pastries and artisan bread. You don’t even have to step inside, you will catch the delicious whiff of fresh baguette by simply walking past it! For something around $2.80, I had the almond croissant and it was pretty damn delicious (even after I dropped it on the floor)!

La Botega

64 George Street – Byward Market – Ottawa – ON – K1N 5V9

This small food market has everything you ever want from Europe, from cheese, to cookies, straight down to the authentic Italian coffees. We were there for a mid-morning snack, so I didn’t have any of their hot food. However, I’ve been told their $5 sandwiches is very popular, not to mention delicious, lunch item. Also, Kainat and I may or may not have spent a good chunk of my money on Milka chocolate bars.

For Lunch:

Saigon Boy Noodle House 

648 Somerset St. W. – Chinatown –  Ottawa – ON – K1R 5K4
Vietnamese Bun from Saigon Boy

Vietnamese Bun from Saigon Boy

Head to Chinatown and hop into Saigon Boy for a bowl of authentic Vietnamese noodle bowl. It’s definitely not better than Pho Hung in Toronto, but it’s certainly better than other Vietnamese places I’ve tried. The generous portion is also a bonus!

For Afternoon Coffee:

Bridgehead Roastery

130 Anderson St. – Ottawa – ON – K1R 6T7

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Located on the side of the Bridgehead Roastery in Little Italy, this brew bar is a unique experience for coffee-drinkers. For $2.55 you get to choose which coffee beans and which brewing method you want to try, with each method producing a different taste.

The different brewing methods offered: Syphon, Chemex, Clever, and Eva Solo.

The different brewing methods offered: Syphon, Chemex, Clever, and Eva Solo (not necessarily in that order)

When you go with a friend, it’s a good idea to choose exactly the same coffee beans but different brewing method. That way you get to actually taste the difference in tastes.

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Be aware, though, that it is a fully functioning roastery, which means their roasters run during the week. That said, it does get a little bit noisy in there, so it’s probably not the best place to be if you’re looking for a quiet coffee house.

For Happy Hour:

Mambo Nuevo Latino 

77 Clarence St. – Ottawa – ON – K1N 5S7

Who else would take me here other than Kainat, a self-professed lover of all things Spanish and European football-related?

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We each ordered a glass of sangria and shared a plate of patata bravas. The atmosphere plus the food instantly transported me back to greatest place in the world: Barcelona.

The Clocktower Brew Pub

575 Bank St. – Ottawa – ON – K1S 5L7

2 things you need to order: Kolsch Beer and Pub Chips. The beer was light and the chips savory, together they make excellent snacks to munch on while catching up with friends.

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For Dinner:

Homemade french onion soup

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I included this one because I have been wanting to have a bowl of French Onion Soup since I came back from Paris several years ago. So, when Rue asked me what I want to eat (as Vanessa is a chef specializing in European cuisine), I quickly requested she make French Onion Soup. And she delivered! Served steaming hot and topped with a cheese-smothered bread, it was nothing but DELICIOUS. Thank you, Vanessa!

What about you guys? How do you eat when you travel? Do you research your restaurants? Do you go by local recommendations? Or do you wing it like I do?

*Special thanks to my awesome friends: Kainat, Rue, and Vanessa, all of whom played the role of gracious hosts when I was in Ottawa. Natasha – I didn’t forget you; I’ll just have to spend some time with you next time I’m back in Ottawa!

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Strolling Through Borough Market, London.

Caution: Food ahead. Don’t blame me if you end up hungry after reading this post. Heck, I want some snacks right about now!

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After our crazy ride into London, we find ourselves sleeping in the next day, only leaving in the afternoon just in time to catch the last few opening hours of the Borough Market.

Located over London Bridge, on the South Bank of the Thames, Borough Market has been in operation since 1041 (hard to believe, I know, but impressive nonetheless). Its strategic location makes it very convenient for traders to buy/sell vegetables, livestock, and spices.

Tower Bridge, as viewed from London Bridge

Tower Bridge, as viewed from London Bridge

Today, it is considered to be one of the most famous food markets in London, selling a wide variety of local and international products. And so it was with our stomachs growling, wallets full of sterlings, and an adventurous appetite, that we strolled through Borough, ooh-ing and aah-ing at everything we saw. The hardest part of the evening was constraining myself from buying everything I saw, I can only eat so much, you know.

With so many varieties of food, it was really tough to choose which one to buy. Fortunately, many of them offer samples of their products, so we happily munched on these as we walked the market.

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Empanada and foccacia

Empanada and foccacia

Gourmet chocolate bars

Gourmet chocolate bars

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Granola

Mini Magoo’s Granolas

There are vendors selling cheese (of course!)…

Cheesemonger! I just love that word!

Cheesemongers! I just love that word!

… every kind of salami/ham/sausage imaginable…

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… spices…

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… and teas with exotic names that make me sound like a tea connoiseur when I say them out loud.

Borough6Then there is the wet market, with vendors selling fish and other seafood…

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… poultries I’d never imagine eating (Goose? Pheasants? REALLY?) …

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… and fresh fruits and vegetables.

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One last picture for good measure and also because I’m still very proud of myself for eating those oysters:

Paella & RAW oysters (proud travel moment right here!)

Paella & RAW oysters (adventurous eating moment right here!)

All in all, it was an evening well spent at the market. And I’m not saying that because I LOVE going to the markets (if you haven’t yet noticed), I’m sure everyone else also agrees with me (right, guys!?). I mean, how can you not enjoy it when there are SO! MANY! THINGS! to see, to sample, to buy, and to take pictures of?

If you ever find yourself in London, I highly recommend grabbing one of your meals from the Borough Market. Not only would it be more affordable (London is EXPENSIVE, yo!), but I guarantee it’ll also be very delicious. However, the market is only open on certain days, so to avoid disappointment, check their website before you go!

P.s. pictures above were exclusively taken using my phone. As grainy as some of them are, I’m still pretty impressed with how good they turned out!

St. George’s Market: Another Feast for Your Eyes!

After celebrating Sunday Mass at St. Malachi’s Church, we walked the short distance to check out St. George’s Market nearby. Yes, we went to 2 markets within the span of 3 hours – not very good for both my wallet and my tummy.

St. George’s Market seems to have everything, from cakes…

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… to jams and chutneys…

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… to your local friendly butcher…

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… to a giant plate of paella and chorizo that were calling my name …

Paella

Paella

Grilled chorizo

Grilled chorizo

… to what seems to be a staple of European food: Olives and cheese…

MORE olives!

MORE olives!

CHEESEEE!

CHEESEEE!

… and they even have yarns and love potions!

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Love potions, anyone?

Love potions, anyone?

The best part of the afternoon? The cup of latte from Javaman plus the grilled Polish sausage on a bed of sauteed onion served in a bun! Lunch couldn’t get anymore satisfying than this!

Lunch

Belfast’s Christmas Market: A Feast for Your Eyes

After the sobering history lesson on Belfast, we made our way to the city centre to make our Sunday mass at St. Malachi’s Church. However, we had quite some time to spare, so we walked around the Christmas Market on the courtyard of Belfast City Hall.

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall

They say pictures say a thousand words, so let my words be few on this post (and on any other posts relating to markets here on in…)

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Olives

Olives

Licorice

Licorice

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Oh and the church? That was stunning, too!

St. Malachi's Church

St. Malachi’s Church