Being rendered unmovable by the moveable feast (a delicious night of food, wine and Little Italy exploration)

Hilary Duff (blog/Twitter) is a quirky 21-year-old who loves multimedia journalism, cycling, food blogging, and churning massive amounts of baked goods out of her cramped student kitchen. She is also a contributing editor for Local Tourist Ottawa.

My Thursday evening ended with me lying in a crumpled mess on the couch with a blanket covering my stomach.

Click the image to go to the La Vendemmia website

No, I wasn’t stricken by some horrible disease, nor was I worn down from a four-day alcohol-induced bender. Rather, my state was the result of six courses of delicious food consumed within a short, four hours. It was the result of the La Vendemmia festival’s moveable feast.

Full, I may have been, but miserable, I was not. Now that you’ve heard how my evening ended, let me tell you how it began.

It’s 5:30 p.m. I rush out of class and jump on my bike, peddling towards Little Italy faster than the speed of light. My destination: moveable feast, the opening event of the neighbourhood’s La Vendemmia festival. The name of the festival – now in its fifteenth year – translates to mean “the harvest.” It is the perfect title for a weekend that is to be filled with food and fun.

For those still gawking at the name “moveable feast,” well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. If anyone has been to any of the Ottawa Dishcrawl events or read my posts about them, they are what I liken last night’s event to be. Except with wine. Lots and lots of gourmet wine, all perfectly paired thanks to the talented sommeliers at Savvy Grapes. This was the seventh year for the moveable feast.

The night was a chance for the 100 attendees to try the culinary gems of the Little Italy neighbourhood. It was also the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the area – both the Italian and international cuisine housed off Preston Street. Since all 100 of us couldn’t very well storm each and every restaurant one at a time, we were split into a dozen groups, each led by one very qualified Little Italy expert.

Appetizers at Sala San Marco

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the night, but was completely sold by the idea of stuffing my face full of absolutely everything. The evening started at Sala San Marco, a banquet and conference centre just past Preston and Gladstone. Here, I was excited to meet up with Katy Watts, another Ottawa blogger who had decided to write about the event. Someone else who had a mutual desire to eat lots of food. Perfect.

At Sala San Marco were met with appetizers and flutes of (delicious) sparkling wine. It was these initial appetizers that paved the way for my night of gluttony. It’s bad, but I think I use my age and the fact that I’m a student as an excuse to eat way too much food. Be it seconds, thirds or, heaven forbid, fourths, I shamelessly stuffed my face full of smoked salmon-topped bread and deep fried risotto balls. Katy joined me on all counts, and we circled the appetizer table like hungry piranhas.

Giovanni's Ristorante was our first formal stop of the night

After enjoying the fare at Sala San Marco, my group headed over to Giovanni’s Ristorante, a Little Italy gem that was apparently once a local haunt for Mr. Trudeau. Under low light, the nine of us were ushered to our table and promptly served glasses of our second wine of the evening, a 2010 MURELLE Trebbiano D’Abruzzo D.O.C. Our meal arrived in the form of a too-neat-to-eat piece of chicken stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto and served with a white wine sauce. My wine glass was refilled and I used crispy, warm-on-the-inside bread to soak up the savoury sauce. It was bliss.

Our second stop of the night was our international location. Each group on the moveable feast went to two traditional Italian restaurants and one international place. We went to The Lindenhof a 37-year-old restaurant serving German cuisine. Here we met Alison, the women who bought the restaurant two years ago. Alison was very hospitable and sat with us through our entire meal, chatting about the food, wine and atmosphere of the location.

The Lindenhof: (top left) Alison explains the wine choice, (top bottom) a piece of the flammkuchen

On the subject of food, our dish at The Lindenhof was definitely my favourite of the night.

Here, we had flammkuchen, a harvest pizza that literally translates to mean “flame cake or flame tarte.” The Alsatian (technically French) dish was a thin crust pizza covered with a special smoked cheese, caramelized onions and bacon. It was to die for and there was so much of it. To accompany the flammkuchen was another white wine, a 2010 Riesling from the Niagara Peninsula. Alison told us that “prost” was the German word for toast, and so we all shouted the phrase and clinked glasses. Danke schön (thank you very much, in German) to Alison for the delicious course.

My three courses at La Favorita

Our last stop was La Favorita restaurant. At this point in the night, I was already half keeled over while walking, and felt like my stomach was being pulled towards the ground by the sheer power of gravity. Things were not looking up. Despite my lack of appetite, La Favorita had plenty of food to offer us, and three out of my six courses came from this final location. To start, we had an artichoke, tomato, red onion and hazelnut salad. For the record, artichokes in salads are a revelation. For the main dish, we got a seafood linguine that I was shamefully not able to even nearly finish. For dessert, we had a variety of pastries, bites of which got passed around the table so everyone could share their unique tastes. Two types of wine accompanied the meal – one red (2009 Italian Bar Bera Q) and one white (2010 unoaked chardonnay, again from the Niagara Peninsula).

My moveable feast group at La Favorita

After doing my best to pick away at the three courses (which were good, although painfully filling), it was time to go. Kicking myself for biking, I peddled my bloated, insanely full self home and collapsed on the couch. The night ended with a big glass of water, stretchy pajama pants and sleep.

The moveable feast had accomplished its ironic goal, and made me incapable of moving by the end of the night.

A huge thank you goes out to my group leader, Preston Street BIA executive director Lori Mellor for leading a successful tour. The La Vendemmia festival is happening all weekend in Little Italy and there’s something for everyone, from the classic wine and food events to art displays aplenty. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Did any of you attend the moveable feast? Could you still walk afterwards? Local Tourist’s very own Jessey and Amy will be heading to the wine show on Sunday – we hope to see you there!