C’est Bon’s Ottawa food tour isn’t just good, it’s fantastic [classic article]

We just love food tours in Baltimore. Because the way our neighborhoods are set up, you usually focus on a few faves. If you love the idea of a gigantic food tour, covering fresh foods, ethnic specialties, sweets, localvore creations, international gourmet items, plus a nice, brisk walk that might burn off some of the calories, let me suggest a day’s drive to Ottawa – I did it! – for the Foods of the Byward Market tour given by C’est Bon Cooking. I’m glad I got to experience it. C’est Bon Cooking also offers tours of several other neighborhoods and even France. France! Okay, that will involve more than a drive.

The food tour picks out the best of the best from this huge, historical market. It was developed in 1826 by Lt. Colonel John By, as a means of properly settling Ottawa. It’s one of the oldest and largest markets in all of Canada. Chefs definitely shop here. One of the things the food tour focuses on is “Savor Ottawa”, which is an agricultural designation meaning that the seller only sells what it grows (in Ottawa). The other choice food type the tour zeroes in on are some of the “101 Must Try Before You Die Tastes,” as designated by Ottawa Magazine.

La Bottega Nicastro is a neat Italian deli and specialty food store jammed packed with goodies. They’ll make you a sandwich for $5, which is kind of a bargain around there. Nobody talks about all their Italian soda pops and international waters, but they should. I got a bunch of pin-up girls pops, ‘cause I like that sort of thing. I also picked up a bottle of Badoit, which I previously only saw at Baltimore’s Petit Louis. Outside, in colder weather, there’s a hot chestnut salesman in the afternoon. I learned that a gentleman is always supposed to serve the lady first.

The House of Cheese is excellent. I had been there years before and somebody I knew – perhaps it was me – bought a bunch of illegal in the USA raw milk cheeses. This time around, I got some Liberte’ yogurt flavors not available at Whole Foods here. Also, among other things, I tried Quebec’s 1608 cheese. It’s a cheese produced by descendants of the original – now endangered – cows that were brought over from France in 1608. Here’s a tasting note for the cheese as it appeared in The Globe and Mail: Le 1608 develops a pale orange exterior that is washed with brine while ripening. Developing a full, barny aroma, the paste tastes nutty at the rind and has a complex, fruity flavour that emerges from its melt-in-the mouth texture. The pleasant tang of the long finish clinches this cheese’s spot as a new Canadian favourite.

Stubbe Chocolates is a family store started 172 years ago in Germany, with 4 generations of some very serious chocolatiers. Heinrich Stubbe, owner of the store, went for culinary training, spent 3 years as an apprentice, 5 years as a journeyman, and went for further training as a Master Chocolatier. He uses a Belgian (Callibaut) base and orange peel from France. He creates chocolates with interesting flavors, such as Gewurztraminer, Beer and Balsamic. Stubbe says that his 70% dark chocolate is by far the best seller, because people are aware of its health benefits.

It takes a very special pizzeria to get my attention. The Grand fills that bill. I tried their Margherita pizza with fresh bufala mozzarella. Their pizza is made in a rare Italian wood-fire oven, utilizing birch and other woods. Think about that cool root beer/birch beer flavor and a slight scent of that. They use only specially designated Italian flour for their crispy, but chewy crust pizza: VPN. Their tomato sauce is natural, not ketchup. I was so impressed, I later came back for dinner. This time, I tried their delicate, flavorful pasta: Pappardelle alla Salvatore — porcini mushrooms, sausage, truffle oil, cream sauce.

There’s also a cookie place in Byward Market that sells maple sugar cookies that President Obama sampled . . . they seem to be pretty excited about that.

Continental Delicatessen would definitely be appreciated by the folks of Baltimore, with our Polish and Eastern European neighborhoods. They serve “fine Polish and European food,” including tasty homemade pierogies and also, cabbage rolls and sauerkraut. I’m going to list all the meats they sell, because you wouldn’t believe it otherwise:

Deli Meats
baleron cottage roll
blood and tongue
chicken deli
coarse & fine meatloaf
cooked krakowska
genoa salami
german head cheese
german homemade salami
grandma’s ham
hungarian homemade salami
jelly tongue
jelly veal
lachshinken smoked pork loin
old fashion ham
polish ham
polish head cheese
praga ham
roast beef
roasted pork
roll bacon ham
roll bacon ham with majoran
smoked and cooked krakowska
smoked and cooked pork loin
smoked meat
smoked turkey
westwalien ham


biala polish bratwurst
chicken sausage
chorizo sausage
dry german smoked sausage
german bratwurst
german smoked sausages
hungarian sausage
italian bbq sausage
kaszanka blood sausage
krakowska dry
mysliwska hunters sausage
romanian sausage
slaska smoked polish BBQ sausage
swojska sausage
veal sausage

Fresh Meat
back eye
ground beef
ground pork
new york steak
pork chops
pork loin

BBQ bacon
german bacon
smoked bacon
smoked pork hog
smoked ribs

smoked pate

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