Canadian East Eats: Ottawa

The final leg of our Canadian East Eats journey had us tasting our way through the nation’s capital. Staying in the lovely Fairmont Chateau Laurier, located along the Rideau Canal and just steps from Parliament Hill, we were in the perfect location to checkout all the city had to offer. While we walked in from the parking lot the kids oohed and aahed at the pictures along the wall that showed the many celebrities and royalty that had visited the hotel before them.

Shortly after our arrival we headed down the street for dinner at The Courtyard Restaurant. Chef Michael Hay has built quite a reputation at this charming eatery tucked away in the heart of Ottawa. Highlighting local, fresh, seasonal ingredients the menu is really something to behold. My kids not only enjoyed it, but proudly declared that it was the best meal they ate on the entire trip!
After dinner, we stopped by to try Ottawa’s famed Beaver Tails. Fried wholewheat dough in the shape of its namesake, slathered in butter and topped any way you like it. My kids obviously fell in love at first bite and insisted we stop by again the next day so they could try them all over again.
The next morning we stopped by Parliament Hill’s Cat Sanctuary, where they have been feeding the stray cats for nearly 40 years. Volunteers come each day to feed the feline and maintain the sanctuary. Quite a labour of love!
After we watched the cats get fed, it was on to the Byward Market for a tour with C’est Bon Cooking. Our passionate guide Paola crafted a walking tour perfect for the kids. We stopped in at La Bottega Nicastro to see their giant wheels of Parmesan cheese. Locals line up dozens deep to grab a sandwich on the go. It was then off for a stall to stall trip through the market. The kids got to meet local farmers and vendors while tasting their wares along the way. Booths proudly sport Savour Ottawa signage, indicating their food is locally sourced. Before finishing our delicious tour we visited the Cupcake Lounge so the kids could ensure they could keep their sugar-highs humming .
After resting our weary feet, we visited Zoe’s Lounge at the Fairmont hotel for a very elegant Afternoon Tea. The kids were tickled pink to be served tea, sandwiches and baked goodies on china and silver by a very attentive wait-staff.
We then hurried across the road to catch our boat tour of the Rideau Canal with Paul’s Boat Lines. The canal is a great way to see some of Ottawa’s sites and learn about her history. In the winter the 5km waterway freezes over and is open to the public for ice skating.
I insisted for dinner that we stop and take in the buzz at Murray Street Restaurant. Known for their chacuterie boards and use of local fare they should be a requirement on any visit to Ottawa. The kids loved the food and kept finding excuses to walk around the restaurant checking out eclectic decor. My son Josh asked to go to the washroom and tried starting up a conversation with a mounted elk. Twice.
Ottawa was a really wonderful way to wrap up our trip. Their food revolution is still very much in the early stages, but it is clear that with the enthusiasm and talent the city holds they will soon be a force to reckon with in the country’s culinary tourism landscape.
I opted to take the scenic Highway 7 back to Toronto. While the route is a bit longer, it is quite picturesque. It also allowed us to visit a popular stop for Ottawa school kids – Fulton’s Sugar Bush & Pancake House. The Fulton’s showed us around the property where their family has harvested maple syrup for hundreds of years, while their children collected bugs and frogs with my kids. For lunch we ate at The Fall River Pub & Grill. It has a great garden patio and proudly sport’s a menu focused on local produce.

After 5080 kilometres in 18 days, we finally reached home. We were really excited to be back, but sad that our trip had come to an end. I hope you can use our adventure as a guide for your own family’s discovery of culinary tourism in Eastern Canada. Seeing how much my kids learned as we tasted our way east and back made it all worthwhile… one delicious bite at a time!

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