Tag Archives: Ottawa

Winter Solstice Hijacked

Winter Solstice has become the main focus of the holiday season for me, though it seems to go largely unnoticed here in Ottawa. I envy the celebrations that take place in Toronto and Vancouver and live in hope that something of a similar nature will take root in our fair city. There are some small events that occur here but the pickings are just a wee bit on the slim side. I posted the ones I’m aware of on this site a few weeks ago and I thought I had a new one …

I was somewhat excited when yesterday’s inbox at work (a large organization of several thousand employees) turned up an invite from an in-house committee, addressed to all staff, to Celebrate the Winter Solstice!

Closer inspection revealed it as nothing more than solicitation to come out at lunch next week to view some films geared to raise awareness of this group’s political agenda. Fair enough – people might well be interested. But to present it as a way to celebrate solstice was misleading and opportunistic.

I replied, asking for an explanation as to why the invitation was considered a solstice celebration. There was no response by the end of the day. I hope it materializes – I’d love to see an explanation.
(For an UPDATE on this issue, see my December 20 post!)

. . .

I tried to initiate a neighbourhood solstice event a few years back, making lanterns and recruiting a small group of family, friends and neighbours to make some noise and light up the night in an outdoor lantern procession, followed by an indoor party. My hope was that, while starting small, it would grow in future years and gain in popularity. The party rocked but the outdoor procession fell a bit flat and seemed … just dorky. It definitely needed to be larger-scale to work. I did not repeat the exercise.

I haven’t given up but I’m a bit stuck on how to get Ottawa celebrating – ideas are welcome!


Westboro & Hunt Club Food Finds!

I love it when I stumble upon new food stores in our fair city so this was a really good week as I have two of them to report on – one really is new and the other, while a few months old, is new to me!

First, my new neighbourhood find –

We were driving home after work one evening this week along Richmond Road and when we spied a sign saying ‘The Piggy Market’ we just had to turn around and investigate.

Turns out the place, which bills itself as a local food delicatessen, is actually located at 400 Winston Avenue. Winston is one of those closed streets running north off Richmond but the store is almost right at the corner, making it highly visible (and accessible) from Richmond Road.

The first thing we noticed through the window from the street was a large rotisserie full of chickens. The second, when we opened the door, was the wonderful aroma! These are not your average supermarket chickens – they’re brined first and the birds are seasoned differently on each day of the week.

They also produce their own in-house smoked charcuterie products from heritage breeds of pork.

Rounding things out are a nice selection of Ontario cheeses from Black River, Fifth Town and Back Forty, along with Cochrane’s milk, Art is In bread and other locally produced items.

The guy in charge was an owner, I think – really nice and very happy to talk about their products, their mandate and their vision. We were really just there for a look but came out with a small pack of applewood smoked bacon, sliced to order, and a loaf of Art is In bread. What I didn’t realize it at the time, and was pleased to discover at home (from the label) is that it comes from the Tamworth breed, which is considered one of the best for bacon – bonus!

Now comes the hard part – I really like the store, I really like their selection of goods, I really like their philosophy, I really like the guy I spoke with … but I did not enjoy the bacon. I wish I could say otherwise and perhaps it’s just my personal tastes, however, it was not highly flavoured enough and seemed to cook up quicker than the bacon I’m used to, ending up overdone and very dry. Disappointing.

So far, my bacon of choice still comes from the meat counter at the Fresh Produce store on Carling Ave. Just their regular stuff, but sometimes the double-smoked if I feel like treating myself.

The Art is In bread, on the other hand, was delicious, and it’s great to know where I can get it here at my end of Richmond Road.

I do plan to go back to the Piggy Market. I want to support local small business and this is exactly the type of place I’d like to see succeed! I plan to try some other things but also plan to share my view with them.

Too often, customers don’t speak up when things could be better, especially in a small neighbourhood place. But those are the places that benefit most from sincere – and honest – customer feedback.

Which brings me to my other concern – price. Many in our neighbourhood have larger disposable incomes than do I and I suppose I classify as a skin-flint on occasion. But I wonder just how often enough people will be able or willing to pay that much more than Superstore prices, no matter how superior or local a product may be …

Regardless, I do recommend the Piggy Market – if you’re nearby, stop in, check it out and, most important, let them know what you think.

Now for a completely different food experience – T & T, the new Asian superstore that opened this week at the corner of Hunt Club and Riverside – wow!

This is a whole new experience for Ottawa shoppers. I dropped in on Friday at lunchtime, two days after their debut, and was blown away by the selection. Not just the stock on the grocery shelves, but the amazing sushi selection and dim sum counter – fantastic!

I’m not very experienced in the art of Asian cooking but this place may tempt me to try it more often. It was a zoo while I was there but, interestingly, staff and customers alike were really pleasant and happy, and the long lines and wait times at the cash were not irritating at all because the waiting shoppers were happily conversing with each other (and more than once I overheard “so, what do you do with this?!”).

So totally different from the typical Loblaws experience.

I’d give it a big thumbs-up except for one thing: they sell shark fins.

A few weeks earlier this would have gone right under my radar but I recently watched the documentary film ‘Sharkwater’ – what an eye-opener!

I strongly encourage everyone to see this film.

What’s being done in our oceans is barbaric and criminal – not to mention the likelihood that it could have vastly negative and irreversible repercussions for our planet and its people in years to come.

I have feared and disliked sharks for years, however, this documentary accomplishes its goal – it is impossible not to come away with a whole new understanding and way of thinking about our oceans, their importance and of our ignorance and misconceptions.

See it!

Anyway, back to T & T – recommended, despite the shark fins. (I’m trying to think of an effective way to convince them to ditch them – I don’t think a boycot is it.)

And if you go, a tip – entry for most people will be from Hunt Club but the exit, except to turn right (east) onto Hunt Club, is at the other end of the parking lot, onto Riverside – no left turns onto Hunt Club!

Happy shopping and, if you visit either place, let me know what you think!

Bubbling cider, beautiful morning & busy day

The blurp rate in the airlock on the jug of cider is now at an impressive one-per-30 seconds … more or less!

After all my anxiety during that first long week, I’m now finding lots of information telling me that a slow start is entirely normal – why couldn’t I have found that soothing bit of info sooner??

So having passed the first two hurdles – obtaining a suitable juice and achieving fermentation – the next one, it seems, is to prevent the cider from turning to vinegar. Air is the enemy here so, once fermentation slows, I’ll add more juice to reduce the headspace in the jug.

My current dilemma is whether to skim off the layer of brown foamy stuff that’s developed in the last few days – again, entirely normal, although I thought that a ‘chapeau brun’ was only achieved through keeving the cider – but then, perhaps that first week was sort of a keeving process after all?

For now, though, it’s a waiting game where the cider is concerned.

Just returned from driving my daughter to a mid-term exam at Carleton University. The scenery on the drive home was lovely despite the grey gloom and soft drizzle – the river flowing down from Hog’s Back, the Rideau Canal and the lockstation, Mooney’s Bay and the boats pulled up on shore at the Rideau Canoe Club, the geese in the Experimental Farm fields … all against a backdrop of late-fall colours. I love Ottawa’s waterways and green spaces!

Re-entering the neighbourhood, I noticed a number of lovely new little maple trees in the Broadview schoolyard, all a gorgeous red right now. (Actually, they may have been there for months and I’m just noticing now, which would be typical for me.) My kids baked under the sun in that yard when they attended Broadview so I hope the new trees flourish and give much-needed shade to future students!

As I pulled into the driveway a mom pushing a three-wheeled jogging stroller ran by, reminding me of why I am home today: I’m getting ready to host a baby shower!

My niece is expecting in November and, as well as being her first, it’s also the first baby to arrive in the family in many years. We’re all very excited!

I’d best move on now to the towering task of transforming my home of total chaos into a party palace … except that would require the magic wand I’ve misplaced somewhere.

I’ll settle for clean and uncluttered, with adequate food and drink for guests – oh, and some requisite games. I’m going light on those since most of the ones I’ve found seem to go from silly to ridiculous to downright obnoxious. I have, however, found some that seem okay and one I actually even like.

Updates to follow!