Lara Bender is the creator of Agritourism Ottawa, a blog that profiles wineries, orchards, gardens, farm tours, and other agricultural destinations within an hour’s drive of Ottawa. When she’s not hanging out on farms and driving Ottawa’s rural back roads, she’s a product marketing writer in the high-tech industry.
Girl Geek Dinners is a group for women in technology; they hold monthly get-togethers with the goal of making technology accessible to all people, especially women. I work in high-tech, so the idea of meeting other women in my field in an informal and fun environment is very appealing.
The other organization, C’est Bon Cooking, is an Ottawa-based company that offers cooking classes, food tours, and team building events. I’ve been particularly interested in their food tours, as it fits into my own blog’s focus on culinary and agricultural tourism.
So I was pretty excited when I saw that this month’s Girl Geek Dinner event was to be a food tour led by Paola St-Georges at C’est Bon Cooking. How perfect – the opportunity to attend my first Girl Geek Dinner event, while touring around Ottawa’s ByWard Market and learning about the local food scene!
The event took place on a Thursday evening, a special tour created just for us, since C’est Bon Cooking typically schedules their food tours during the day when the outdoor vendors are open.
The tour started at Murray’s Market, a local food emporium offering charcuterie, artisan cheese, and other gourmet products.
I walked into the store and was immediately welcomed by the Girl Geek Dinner coordinators. After filling in my name tag, I ran into an old work colleague, and then met some other women taking the tour. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming.
After some socializing, Paola kicked off our tour by introducing Paddy Whelan, the co-owner of Murray’s Market. He provided an overview of the Nose to Tail Cooking philosophy of the market. Next up were four big plates of artisan cheese and meat samples, including cheese from Glengarry Fine Cheese and Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, duck liver mousse made in-house at Murray’s, elk salami from The Elk Ranch, and Mario Pingue’s prosciutto. (If you want to read more about Fifth Town and Mario Pingue, I’ve written about them here and here.)
When we were finished sampling the cheese and meat, we headed out for a walk along Murray Street. For sustenance, we all dug into our free bags of gourmet granola from Siren Bakery (thank you Loreli Lees!)
Paola explained that Murray Street has seen a significant rejuvenation over the last few years with the addition of numerous critically acclaimed restaurants, including Domus Café, Navarra, Benny’s Bistro, Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro, and Murray Street Kitchen (which Paola recommends as the most romantic patio in Ottawa).
Next up was the Tea Store in the ByWard Market, home to over 300 different types of tea. I love how the store keeps the tea in glass jars on the shelves, where customers can smell the teas on their own. I will definitely have to stop in at this store for a longer visit next time I’m downtown.
After the Tea Store, we headed over to the ByWard Market indoor stalls, where we sampled Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustard from the Canada in a Basket store. Then it was off to La Bottega Nicastro, an Italian gourmet food shop with an outstanding selection of international cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, deli meats, and premium pasta and sauces. We were treated to another big plate of cheese and deli meats, and some figs for dessert. Delicious!
After this, we spent some time around the outdoor stalls in the ByWard Market. Our guide Paola provided an overview of the Savour Ottawa program. When a vendor displays the Savour Ottawa logo, it means that Savour Ottawa has verified that they are selling food grown or raised near Ottawa. Not all the ByWard Market vendors are selling local food – in fact, some of the food is imported from outside of Canada – so it’s a good idea to look for the Savour Ottawa logo or ask the vendor where the food was grown.
Our last stop of the evening was The Cupcake Lounge, Local Tourist Hilary Duff’s winner for best cupcakes in Ottawa. We arrived to a store completely sold out of cupcakes! Fortunately for us, the owner, Claudia Arizmendi had put aside several cupcakes for us to sample. Yay! The red velvet cupcake was amazing, and the small piece I had left me craving much more. I think I’d have bought a dozen cupcakes if they’d had any left to buy!
We finished up outside of The Cupcake Lounge, where the Girl Geek Dinner coordinators explained that the group would take a break in August, but be back in September with the next event. Usually the events are more focused on technology, which is great, and I look forward to attending the next event (assuming I can get in – I hear that the dinners sell out fairly quickly).
I also look forward to attending some C’est Bon Cooking events in the future. In addition to their ByWard Market tour, they also have a tour of Wellington West. And on October 1st, they are offering a Savour Ottawa Farm Tour, where participants will spend the day visiting local farms to learn more about how their food is produced.
Now that is a tour that is close to my heart!
Wow – thanks Lara! What a wonderful snapshot!