Adrian Larose, a born-and-bred Ottawan, loves to eat and cook and write and explore, sometimes in that order. Escaping life’s grind for the pleasures of the great outdoors located mere minutes away is one reason Ottawa tops his list of places to live. He’s also passionate about environmental issues, and how those issues connect with food and social justice topics.
What brings me back to my favourite eating-places again and again is the dessert – the baked goodies. Most food places I love, it’s the goodies that stand out.
Gaïa restaurant and café, a teensy vegetarian operation in Gatineau, has cookies that keep me coming back, and that’s no small thing. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies are among my favourite selections. Giant ones, that is, so full of PB they just melt in your mouth.
For the adventurous, there is usually a day’s special cookie on the rack, too (perhaps White Chocolate Oatmeal?). You have a large choice of teas or some coffee to dunk in. If you’re staying for lunch – do you still have room after that cookie? – Gaïa boasts an impressive selection of Quebec beers, for the restaurant’s small size.
Walking down Laval, I passed all manner of shiny restaurants with patios, but kept on going. The good stuff – Gaïa – is a full block past all the other Laval restaurants. (Located in Hull, it’s just a short walk from Promenade du Portage and the Place du Centre shopping mall.)
And the lunches are worth the quick trip north from the Portage Bridge. Gaïa has the old “sandwich with a soup or salad” combo. Boring and familiar, right?
Except here, some sandwiches are crammed with roasted veggies and sprouts, others with apples and brie melted just so. Many emphasize tangy goat cheese, and all are squeezed tight between thick slices of hearty bread. A sandwich alone is a real meal.
On a recent lunch break – since I work a short walk away, in the mother ship that is Place du Portage, Canada’s largest federal government office complex – I ordered a salad for about 10 bucks. Gaïa’s bandana-wearing chef/waiter/do-it-all employee, who would prefer that you parlez Francais (but yes, la carte is available en Anglais), brought a giant feast to the table just a few minutes later.
All sorts of mixed greens formed a base, grated carrots added crunch and colour, sprouts upped the ante, and a generous handful of sunflower seeds plus salty tamari tofu topped it off, all crispy and fresh. It could have been dinner. The café also serves hot main-dish specials, which I still need to try.
If you find the prices a bit higher than you expect, it’s because of the serving size! Even the cookies are huge and share-able.
Be warned: Ambiance is not the point at Gaïa. The look is basic café style, with simple tables and chairs in an open room, no romance or privacy to be found. I have rarely seen it busy, though, so noise has not been a problem.
For a summer afternoon, why not just take your cookie (or two!) with you and walk down the hill one block to the big public park that’s right nearby? Sit and read at a picnic table, or play some soccer and Frisbee to run off the sugar high.
And enjoy every sweet bite.
Café Gaïa, corner of Laval and Frontenac, Gatineau (Hull –across from the hotel Les Suites Victoria). Call to confirm hours – usually lunch through dinner – 819-777-9019.
Welcome to Local Tourist Ottawa Adrian….we can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeve …and in your lunch bag!