Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Sliders with SLOAN in the East Block Courtyard

All of a sudden the weather is nicer in Ottawa, so on Tuesday evening I popped over to the East Block Courtyard for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) reception.

The attraction for most was the promised musical performances by SLOAN and Charlotte Cardin. Other obligations meant I had to depart before they would take the stage, so I focused instead on the food; especially as it was provided by outside catering. No disrespect to Parliamentary Food Services, but I've sampled and reviewed most of their offerings already.

There was a veritable catering army on site, preparing a variety of nibblings in view of reception attendees.

I began the evening with a cone of kettle chips, which were crispy and tasty, although perhaps a bit over-salted. I noshed on those as I made my way over to the bar.

I don't know what the wines were that were on offer, but I quite enjoyed my glass of red -- OK, my two glasses of red -- while keeping an eye on business. We call this multi-tasking.

I'm not a beer person, but I can confirm there was beer. Two different beers, in fact. I did not hear any complaints about them.

But back to the food. The meatiest offering circulating with the servers was this pulled beef slider on a brioche bun with what looked like a cabbage slaw. Very tasty.

For a more vegetarian option, there were these spring rolls filled with crisp veggies and what tasted like a vinaigrette dressing.

The last appetizer I had the opportunity to sample was these mini-tacos. "Is that pork?" I asked. "No, it's steak!" the server replied with enthusiasm, to which I noted "Even better." The meat was good, but some more ingredients would have been welcomed. TO be fair though, I had to remove the jalapenos or I would have died.

And to prove they were here, here's Chris Murphy from Sloan. He's the one in the middle, not wearing a suit. (It was easy to tell who the artists were...)

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Flavours of Canada (Atlantic) buffet

I've missed the last few fancy buffets at the Parliamentary Restaurant, including the buffet meant to welcome the arrival of spring -- probably appropriate, as spring has yet to actually arrive in Ottawa. Still, when an Atlantic Canada theme was offered up last Friday as part of the restaurant's Flavours of Canada series a visit was definitely in order.

As an Atlantic buffet there was definitely a heavy seafood component, so with unanimous consent I waived my usual no seafood unless I can smell saltwater rule and dug in.

Beginning with the salad table, I wearily eyed the Ice Shrimp Salad but decided to pile some on, along with some macaroni salad -- passed on the marinated mussels. The macaroni salad was standard reliable fare but the Ice Shrimp Salad was a pleasant surprise -- better quality shrimp them I've had in some time.

Next up were some cheese and crackers -- standard Hill fare but I was glad to see my favourite rye cranberry crips were back -- they don't make an appearance at every buffet. In fact, sometimes they don't put out any crackers at all to accompany the cheese. While they're always happy to bring crackers on request, which I appreciate, the crackers are more of a must than a nice to have.

I passed on the Scotch Eggs because I don't like eggs. This was a very eggy buffet -- Atlantic Canadians must love their eggs -- as I had to puck egg chunks out of the macaroni salad too. I passed on the Cheddar Cheese Quiche for the same reason. Often, I can do the quiche if it's a crispy quiche, but this was a particularly eggy quiche.

Which was OK, because it meant more space for the Glasgow Glen Peppercorn Gouda Mac and Cheese. It was delicious, and I had several helpings which left me wishing an afternoon nap was possible. Now, the waiter teased us by saying it was lobster mac and cheese which, along with being culturally appropriate, would have been freaking awesome. The cook quickly corrected him though. Maybe next time.

And capping off the entree round was Baked Nova Scotia Salmon with egg sauce. After inquires were made, this was confirmed to be farmed Atlantic salmon. While I am, of course, fiercely loyal to wild BC salmon, in the interests of diplomacy I still partook -- after all, fish is brain food and these are challenging times. It was good, but salmon should still be grilled -- after bring caught in the wild in British Columbia.

For desert, already fighting the urge to nap after a mac and cheese overdose, I limited myself to a slie of Haskap Berry Pie. It was good; an appropriate palate cleanser.

An enjoyable lunch, and it was food to see the dining room packed more than usual. But next time, less eggs, more meat please.

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Stick with the egg rolls at the Golden Palace

At Carling and Woodroffe, the Golden Palace Restaurant is well outside the radius I usually stick to for my Parliament Hill-adjacent food blogging. But their egg rolls are an Ottawa institution, so consider them as a constituency week, extended-lunch if you're driving option.

I first had the Golden Palace egg rolls at a Senators game, where you get two very meaty egg rolls cut in half with some plum sauce for somewhere north of $7. Not great value but hey, it's a sports stadium -- everything is marked up. They've since expanded their sports egg roll empire to the Air Canada Centre and the Bell Centre in Montreal, so there must be something to it. I do enjoy them, and it's a pleasant change from the usual stadium fare of hot dogs and chicken fingers with fries.

Momentary divergence with a plea for sports stadium food services decision makers -- knock a dollar of the price and sell me the chicken fingers without the fries, please. I'd pull the trigger more often.

Anyway, when various unimportant reasons brought me out to Carlingwood Mall on a day off last week, I decided to stop in to the restaurant that laucnhed this sports egg roll empire: the Golden Palace.

It's a nondescript restaurant in a commercial strip, and inside is a good size with stereotypical decor and tiling out of the sixties. There is a decent-size line of people waiting for take-out egg rolls, and I move past them and am invited to take a table. It's about half-full for the Thursday lunch hour, a mix of working people and seniors.

I peruse the menu and decide it's fairly clear they don't really cater to the lunch crowd. No separate menu for the lunch hour, just the same entrees as for dinner, all priced well north of $10. For someone looking for some variety (a meat, a veggie, some rice) the only option is to turn to the dinners for one, of which there are only two to choose from:

A. Won ton soup, egg roll, chicken chow mein, sweet and sour spare ribs, steamed rice, almond cookie; or
B. Won ton soup, egg roll, chicken chow mein, BBQ spare ribs, chicken fried rice, almond cookie.

Not the choices I would make if I had to choose, but not wanting to see how much they would ding me for substitutions I decide to pay the extra $1.80 for the fancier rice and get option for B for $21.80, and add another egg roll for $1.90.

The soup came first. The good was the won tons, nice and meaty. But the large slices of celery were more suited for a ranch dip than a soup, and the broth wasn't particularly flavourful.

The egg rolls didn't disappoint. Perfectly cooked to a golden crispy crisp, filled with meaty goodness. The house made plum sauce was watery and lacking punch, but I really should have just ordered a half dozen egg rolls and had that for my lunch. Deliciousness.

What to say about the mains? Well, there was a lot of each dish (excluding the ribs), so that's something. Although for a $20 lunch, there should be. Let's dispense with the ribs: not good. Overcooked, low quality meat, uninspired sauce. As for the chow mein and rice, it was decent with an acceptable amount of chicken breast in each. But they were just meh -- I've had much better Chinese in Ottawa.

And the end of the day, will I come back to Golden Palace? Probably. But only for the egg rolls. They are divine. The rest isn't worth the trip.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Eating up the Hill: These fish tacos were a mess

Fish tacos have been on the parliamentary cafeteria menu for some time, but it never really occurred to me to order them until, while in line one day at the made to order stir fry station, I noticed one pan was being used to fry to order two fillets of fish, which were then moved from the pan into two waiting taco shells. So, the next day, I returned.

Each tilapia fillet is freeze-packed individually and cooked fresh with each fish taco order. The pliable corn tortilla shells are toasted into a hard-ish taco shell form over the stove, and then filled with the cooked fish and topped with slaw and chipotle sauce and two lemon wedges. I think it came to something like $6 for the two, which is more than reasonable.

Taking the fish tacos to my table with a side of chips and two glasses of water (have now gone 15 days without a Diet Coke, as of this post) I begin to dig in. First bite I'm thinking hmm, this is good, slaw tastes crispy and I like the flavour the lemon adds, but no fish yet. On to bite two...and the shell loses structural integrity, the contents having soaked through and fallen out the bottom and left my hands a mess. Trying to protect my shirt, I attempt to eat it as elegantly as possible and begin to regret not getting utensils.

These fish tacos were almost pretty good. The fish isn't overly fishy -- I dislike fishy fish -- but could have used some seasoning -- a little pepper would have gone a long way. The slaw is good and the chipotle and lemon make for a pleasing flavour profile. But you've got to maintain structural integrity. 

I'd suggest they revamp this dish with soft shells and they may just have something.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Food round-up: Chicken Farmers, Irish buffet and turkey a la king

I've fallen behind in my food blogging, so allow me to catch-up with some quick hits from recent food-related activities.

Chicken Farmers of Canada

This reception at the Chateau Laurier on budget night was actually a joint event by the Chicken, Turkey and Egg Farmers. I didn't know this until informed by an MP on the bus on the way there. I hilariously quipped which event comes first, the Chicken or the Egg? And he shamelessly began using the line as his own. As this is a non-partisan political food blog, I won't name names.

For me, the chicken came first, as I followed the advice of a friend exiting the reception, who told me to enter the room and go "to the left." After chiding him for cultural appropriation, I did just that and joined the line for the chicken station.

On offer were chicken meatballs, chicken sliders and chicken poutine. The sliders were lightly seasoned white chicken on a fresh roll and got the job done. The chicken meatballs were on point. There were different poutine options available but I went with the traditional -- fries, curds and gravy -- which pulled white chicken, of course. I'm not usually a big poutine guy but the fries were thin and crispy, and the chicken made it feel heartier and more interesting than a usual, boring poutine.

After I polished off the Chicken Farmers' finest, I ventured to the opposite corner of the room where the Turkey Farmers were holding shop -- nice to see such collegiality among poultry producers.

Among the offerings were bacon-wrapped turkey, turkey wellington, traditional sliced turkey with gravy and stuffing, and some sort of turkey sausage round.

I was beginning to fade at this point, but did try to power through. First of all, anything wrapped in bacon is amazing, and the hint of bbq sauce was a nice accent. The turkey wellington added a nice bit of bread to a carb-heavy reception. The turkey sausage was a bit dry, while the sliced turkey was good but the stuffing was not the style of stuffing I prefer.

I don't know what the Egg corner had on offer, as I was done for the evening and unable to complete the poultry trifecta. It was an enjoyably meaty evening though.

St. Patrick's Day Irish Buffet

The themed buffets at the Parliamentary Restaurant continued earlier this monthwith their Irish-themed St. Patrick's buffet. I'm 1/4 Irish (I like to say it's my biggest 1/4) so naturally I had to check it out and see if there was anything beyond potatoes.

Well, it was green as the plate shows, from peas (with cheese) and salad to broccoli pasta salad. That was all fined. Their was a meat main attraction -- which I was thankful for as there isn't always -- but I found the corned beef just meh. But I don't really care for corned beef, so maybe it was excellent for corned beef. The Shepard's Pie-stuffed potatoes were something I haven't seen before, although it was an amusing combination of two staples of Irish cuisine. The highlight was the potato cakes which were tasty, although not as tasty as (1/2 Irish) Dad used to make.

Turkey a la King

Tasty comfort food from the Wellington Building cafeteria that warms the insides on a cold winter's day, and the delicious and healthy steamed broccoli almost distracts you from how bad all that turkey gravy is for you. Yum.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: That last one was actually chicken vol-au-vent. It was like two months ago, so forgive me. Other comments stand.

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