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Boulanger Français – The French Bakery [Ottawa]

January 13, 2011

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Back in September 2009, and while living in Toronto, Sean and I went on a road trip that included the city of Ottawa. As usual, I looked up places to visit and to eat beforehand. Browsing online, I came across this review of The French Bakery – Benny’s Bistro. It looked promising and got us excited for their croissants.

What a disappointment that was! Service was bad: the table Nazi wouldn’t let us choose a table although the place was virtually empty and she never cracked the tiniest smile. The café au lait was good but the croissants were rather dry and over baked, as was the pain au chocolat. We decided not to believe travel guides or users’ comments ever again.

Cut to January 2010. We are in Ottawa again, not on a road trip but on consular business. We had an appointment at the American Consulate at 9 am last Tuesday. Since for security reasons, you’re not allowed to bring phones or cameras inside (even my lip gloss and chewing gum were confiscated!), we took nothing but our passports and paperwork with us (as well as parkas, scarves, gloves and wooly hats).

Once the deed was done, Sean suggested we try the French Bakery again for breakfast. It was only three blocks away, anyway. Our masochistic side got the better of us and off we went.

The table Nazi was gone and replaced by the nicest, most attentive maitre, who even greeted us with a smile. He even anticipated our need for café au lait and croissants (or maybe our frozen noses and hat hair gave us away). The croissants and pain au chocolat were soft and buttery and perfectly baked.  It was pure bliss. This Croissant Angel went round the tables with a jug of hot milk in case your coffee had gone cold. How can one fault that?

Boulanger Français

119 Murray St, Byward Market

Tel, info: 613 789 7941

P.S.: for the reasons mentioned above I wasn’t able to take photos. These were taken in 2009.


La Uribeña Microbrewery [Uribelarrea – Buenos Aires]

January 5, 2011

Uribelarrea is a tiny country town located about 120 kilometres southwest of Buenos Aires. It was founded in 1890 and bears the name of its founder, Miguel Nemesio de Uribelarrea.

Walking around this town is like stepping back in history. Sean, my parents and I came here on the last Sunday of our visit home before we returned to Dallas.

Train station

We visited the old train station, a brick building that dates from 1892 (quite old for New World standards!), the main square, the church -which is located across from the square in the typical Argentinean country town layout and built in memory of the founder’s wife-, and the Escuela Agrotécnica Salesiana Don Bosco -an agricultural school run by Salesian priests where we bough cheese, dulce de leche and various preserves, like blackberry and tangerine, all made on the premises.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant housed in a beautifully preserved building. The main draw of this place is that it is actually a microbrewery. Yes, they brew the same ice cold beer we enjoyed after traipsing around on a hot summer day. We tried all three kinds: lager (very drinkable), stout (smooth) and India pale ale (hands down, my favourite).

India pale ale, stout and lager

The menu at Cerveceria Artesanal La Uribeña (as it’s called in Sapnish) is restricted to their two specialities: homemade pasta and picada. The pasta dishes looked and smelled delicious but none of us had pasta, so I can’t really say. But the picada was something else. Just the memory of that wonderful selection of cold cuts makes my mouth water. A picada is the Argentinean version of Spanish tapas. It usually consists of an assortment of cold cuts and cheeses, bread, peanuts, olives and pickled veggies. The kind and amount of ingredients vary according to personal taste and wallet size.

Our picada had liver sausage (leberwurst), bondiola (an Italian style pork sausage), two different kinds of salami, longaniza (pork sausage flavoured with aniseed), Cracow sausage, cheese, olives, pickles and soft white bread. Everything was incredibly fresh, sourced locally (probably made round the corner!) and very tasty.

Picada de campo

Cerveceria artesanal La Uribeña

Valeria de Crotto 901. T: (02226) 49-3001 / 3101.

Uribelarrea – Provincia de Buenos Aires

Opens Thursdays to Sundays. Cash only.

Miranda Parrilla Argentina – steakhouse [Buenos Aires]

November 15, 2010

Monday November 8th was my birthday (and I’m not going to disclose my age). I was thrilled to be in Buenos Aires and be able to celebrate it with my loved ones. But on that day it was just Sean and I and I wanted to go somewhere special.

It was raining very hard but Sean worked his magic and an empty taxi appeared from nowhere. We gave the driver the address of one of my favourite restaurants, Olsen. With all the excitement I’d forgotten to call in advance. Big mistake. As it turns out, it closes on Mondays –especially rainy Mondays.

After some deliberations, we went to Miranda Parrilla Argentina. Yes, yet another steakhouse but we just can’t help it. We’d never been there before but I read good things about the place, like this New York Times review.

Considering it was a Monday night- and did I mention the rain? – the place was full. Most patrons were foreigners; the staff and I were outnumbered!

Now to the food. We had a provoleta al oreganato to start. It consists of a thick slice of provolone cheese sprinkled with oregano and grilled until golden and crispy and absolutely scrumptious.

Provoleta al oreganato

I had the Patagonian lamb with rosemary roasted potatoes, aubergine puree (smoky, tangy and delicious) and a rather sweet dipping sauce. The first bite of lamb almost brought tears to my eyes. Although it hurts to admit it, the second piece of lamb was slightly overcooked. Sorry Three Forks [Dallas], I found my lamb paradise.

Grilled Patagonian lamb

Sean had a lovely, juicy, medium rare spot of beef with roasted potatoes, chimichurri and a very clever side: grilled egg. How on earth does one grill an egg? Easy: inside half a red bell pepper. Ingenious and very tasty. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal.

Hearty steak with grilled egg

We washed it all down with Las Hormigas malbec. No room left for pudding so we had coffee instead.

Aaaaah! I love my country.

Miranda is located on the corner of Fitz Roy and Costa Rica streets.

Opening hours:  every day from 9 am to 1 am, Fridays and Saturdays until 2 am.


MIRANDA UPDATE: I met up with a friend there for dinner last night. I had their “cazuelita de calabaza y choclo” (butternut squash, sweet corn and cheese casserole). It was sweet and satisfying, ideal for a winter night. My friend had tira de asado (shortribs, sort of) with the grilled egg. Very tasty!

La Dorita [Buenos Aires]

November 5, 2010

La Dorita

La Dorita is a well-known steakhouse –parrilla– located in the trendy Palermo neighbourhood. There are actually four locations: one is across the street at 1895 Humboldt St. and 901 Arce St, Belgrano, and Bulnes at Cabello in the Botanico area.

We went to the original La Dorita (1905 Humboldt St) and sat on a table outside, on the street. It was a lovely, breezy spring day. The trees provided ample shade and the temperature was really comfortable.

We ordered flank steak (entraña) for two and a salad –ensalada grande. The waiter brought us butter (real butter, not that whipped oil goo you get at some American restaurants) and a bread basket with white and rye rolls and a small loaf of farmhouse bread.

The flank steak was delicious and full of flavour. The waiter brought salsa criolla (a sauce made with finely chopped tomatoes, red bell peppers and onions, salt, vinegar and oil) and chimichurri (the quintessential Argentinean sauce, “beef’s best friend”. Find a recipe here).

Flank steak for two


Our salad had everything but the kitchen sink in it: greens (butter lettuce, rocket, radicheta,) potato, beets, hard boiled eggs, carrot and onion. It was hearty and fresh, a good side dish that balanced out the heaviness of the meat.

Ensalada grande

We were thrilled to be able to be in our favourite city ion the world. When the beef arrived,  I said “yup, we’re home now.”

Parrilla La Dorita

Humboldt 1905

Palermo – Buenos Aires

Waldo’s on King [London ON]

October 20, 2010

Waldo’s on King Bistro and Wine Bar’s quiet, modern atmosphere and good, attentive service provide a chance to  rest one’s weary feet after shopping at  London’s Covent Garden Market.

Mind you, it’s London, Ontario, not London, England.

We took Sean’s parents to London for the day. They thought it was hilarious that there was another city called London on the River Thames on the other side of the Atlantic.

We had a nice stroll around the indoor market, did a bit of shopping and soon it was time for lunch. Since none of us had been there before, we decided to stay in the market. Sean discovered Waldo’s, which is off to the King Street side and liked the look of it.

The table was prettily set, the bread basket and the olive oil and balsamic vinegar were just right and the portions were the right size for lunch.

My shitake mushroom tart was very tasty, the puff pastry was flaky and perfect, the seasoning was subtle, and the presentation was very pretty.

Shitake mushroom tart

Sean’s roast beef sandwich had a good meat-bread ratio (not too much bread or too much meat), the beef was pink and gorgeous and the fries that came with it were crunchy and delicious.

Roast beef sandwich

My mother-in-law had goat’s cheese salad (fresh veggies, tasty dressing) and my father-in-law had a chicken Caesar wrap with a side salad which he said were very pleasing to the taste buds.

Chicken Caesar wrap

Waldo’s on King

130 King St., London ON

at the Covent Garden Market

Si tapas|restaurant|bar [Dallas]

October 5, 2010

Si is both Spanish for yes and my standard reply when someone says “Would you like some tapas?”

What I love about tapas is their communal aspect: a bunch of friends sharing different types of delicious bite-sized food, cold sangria and beer keep the conversation flowing. A lively tableau that feeds the soul.

After the demise of two of our favourite tapas restaurants in Dallas, Hola and De Tapas, it was time to find a replacement. We weren’t enamoured of the remaining few, at least the ones we knew like Cafe Madrid. Sean happened upon Si Tapas during a Google search. We were still in Toronto, craving some good home-made tortilla a la española or gambas al ajillo and made up our minds to visit Si as soon as we got home. We’re glad we did so. And came back again and again, just the two of us or with our friends, who are now devotees too.

The restaurant is located in a white clapboard house in a gentrified Uptown area. Since parking can be a bit tricky, we prefer to use their valet parking service.

The Spanish-born owner works hard to ensure that every customer has a great dining experience. In fact, all the staff is really friendly and knowledgeable about their menu. One of the things I love about going to Si, apart from the food, is the conversations about food in Spanish language. I really do feel at home there.

We usually start the night off with a pitcher of refreshing sangria and then move on to beer or wine (or both!). The cold meats and cheese platters are always a must: chorizo, salchichón de Vic, jamón Serrano, Manchego, Idiazabal are part of a mouth-watering selection. The cheese platter includes seasonal fruits and slices of solid quince jelly. The latter makes me happy because this is the only place I can enjoy queso y dulce (a slice of quince jelly on a slice of cheese).

We have a few favourites: gambas al ajillo (shrimp sautéed with garlic), croquetas de bacalao (cod croquettes) and croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes), tortilla española (Spanish potato omelette), fresh grilled fennel, chuletas de cordero (heavenly grilled lamb chops), morcilla frita (fried black pudding), patatas bravas. The classic paella is almost as good as my Grandmother’s, and that’s a huge compliment.

For dessert, we’ve tried their crema catalana (Catalonian style crème brulee) and arroz con leche (rice pudding), both very good. They serve very good coffee too (a rare treat in Dallas).

2207 Allen Street

214 720-0324

Our blog made it to the “50 Amazing Food & Travel Blogs” list

October 3, 2010

The Culinary Arts College added our blog to their “50 Amazing Food & Travel Blogs”.

This is what they wrote about us: “As the title implies, the O’Reillys share their culinary (and wine!) experiences from a nicely diverse selection of nations. They spend a lot of time traveling for work, so updates aren’t as frequent as some blogs.”

Thank you!