RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Markets

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

IMAG1207-1

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.

IMAG1200-1

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?

IMG_3504

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.

IMAG1208-1

For Dinner:

Homemade french onion soup

IMAG1179-1

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!

Advertisements

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!

***

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.

Borough1 IMAG0704-1

Empanada and foccacia

Empanada and foccacia

Gourmet chocolate bars

Gourmet chocolate bars

IMAG0765-1

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…

Borough5

… spices…

Borough6

… 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…

Borough7

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

Borough8

… and fresh fruits and vegetables.

IMAG0750-1 Phone Pictures - Christmas Trip 201210

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!

The Markets of Hong Kong

After spending the previous day getting sick on a winding bus ride down from Tai O Fishing Village on Lantau Island, my friend, Claire, and I opted to spend one day walking through the markets of Hong Kong. Eager to explore the city, we took an early start to the day. Since our hostel was surrounded by independently-owned bakeries, the sweet smell of freshly-baked buns and pies were inescapable. As we walked to the MTR station, we stopped to buy our breakfast, consisting of a couple of freshly baked Chinese buns stuffed with BBQ pork (plus a mini chicken pie for me – I eat a lot; don’t judge!) and a couple bottles of herbal tea. Considering none of us reads any Chinese and many products don’t have any English labels, choosing a tea flavour often became an adventure on its own. Many of these herbal teas were made from plants and/or fruits that we didn’t even know existed and thus we could not identify from their pictorial descriptions. We had been pretty lucky for the first two days; everything we bought tasted good and refreshing, but Claire got the bottom end of the deal that day – it turns out the herbal tea she chose was medicinal and my goodness, it tasted… bad, to put it nicely.

After giving her best effort to finish the tea (she couldn’t do it, people! Heck, I wouldn’t even drink another sip! Blech!), we joined the throngs of office workers and hopped on the MTR from North Point to Yau Ma Tei, the start of our Hong Kong Market Walk. Claire and I are walkers – throughout university, when given the choice of taking the transit or walking to a certain not-too-far destination (like to the Annex for Thai Basil), we would most certainly choose to walk (granted we have enough time to do so and won’t make a fool of ourselves by arriving ridiculously late at an event or something).

We started with the Jade Market on Battery Street, stopping momentarily to check out Tin Hau Temple we passed by on the way (I’ll save this for another post). Jade is an important part of the Chinese culture. I remember my mother showing me a jade bracelet I had worn as a baby, saying it was used for protection to ward off evil spirits. Google tells me that the written character for jade means a combination of beauty and purity and the stone, in all its many hues and colours, is associated with long life and good health. Most vendors were still setting up shop when we arrived, so we just strolled through the aisles and glanced quickly at the colorful displays of all things jade – bracelets, necklaces, earrings, brooches, you name it, they probably have it! I don’t wear jewelries (I know, I should start accessorizing to spruce up my outfits!), so this didn’t really tickle my fancy, but Claire loves earrings, so we stopped at a stall manned by a nice, middle-aged, lady, chose a pair, and we (well, Claire) bargained like she had no shame. My father would have been so impressed with her bargaining skills!

From the Jade Market, we walked up Nathan Road, buying a couple of bananas along the way and passing by countless 7-Elevens, Chow Sang Sangs, Luk Fooks, massage parlours, and Indian men offering tailor-made suits, until we hit Mong Kok, the electronics headquarter of Hong Kong. We stepped into a couple stores as I wanted to compare the prices of smartphones (verdict: only a marginal difference, not worth it to buy overseas), but we eventually got sick and tired of the crowd and left to continue our walk to the Goldfish Market.

Located just north of Mong Kok, on Tung Choi Street, the Goldfish Market is a street lined with – wait for it – gold fish! and many other kinds of fish, as well as aquariums and all sorts of fish accessories! From exotic fish species, like arowana, to just the plain ol’ gold fish, you can be sure to find anything fishy here (HA HA HA… corny, I know!).

From the fish market, we walked to the Flower Market. I was most excited for this part of the walk! I LOVE FLOWERS – they are beautiful and they make me happy. I have always said my back-up career, should anything happen to my current position and should the economy turn downward to the point that I couldn’t find another job, would be to become a florist and open up my own flower shop. Can’t you tell this from that OMG-I-can’t-believe-such-a-street-exists look on my face?

Happy kid!

We were met with an explosion of colors and plethora of smells as soon as we stepped on to Flower Market Road. Fresh flowers – Lilies! Roses! Daisies! – are found in pails of water on the storefronts on both sides of the sidewalk, giving pedestrians very little room to walk through. Meh! I ain’t complaining. I think I took about a gazillion pictures of flowers that day. I can’t help it, yo, they’re just so pretty!

Flower Market Road continues and eventually leads to Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. It’s a really pleasant quarter with stalls selling different species of birds, bird foods (including worms, crickets, and some sort of bugs) and bird houses (who knew they could be so elaborate?).
It reminds me of the time we had an endangered illegal bird as our pet in Indonesia. My father stealthily bought it from “his friend” and he brought him home to us one night. We named him “Beo” (pronounced Bay-Oh) and we fed him with papaya and bananas because he was somewhat of a royalty and he wouldn’t have the regular bird feed. We also taught him to say certain things, like my name, which would later become really annoying as he wouldn’t shut up in the morning. I felt like I had my own personal alarm clock with a severely malfunctioned snooze button. 

We ended our market tour with a 42HKD hot-plate noodle from some random restaurant on Nathan Road. It was subpar, at best. I’ve had better Chinese food in Toronto… but that’s another story to tell.