This is the first of my planned series of articles on great food and politics articles that I'm planning for The Canadian.
I was looking forward for this year's Sugar Lumberfest that was held at Lansdowne in Ottawa on Saturday, 8 April 2017 for two reasons. First and foremost, I'm a great fan / epicurean of Québec's cabanes à sucre that we refer to in Ontario as 'Maple Sugar Shacks'. I have also experienced the amazing food at the cabane à sucre at Le restaurant Rituel first hand. I was looking forward to this event like a kid looking forward to presents on Christmas Day.
Now, I don't like to write negative reviews. I prefer to accentuate and highlight positive food experiences for readers. But, having spent toward the "$50 range" to go to this much anticipated event, I am still shocked at the terrible food.
Where to begin?!
Let's start with the positive. The Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park is a nice facility and very appropriate venue for this kind of event.
I would also rate the lady who was playing the fiddle for this event as excellent.
But it was all downhill after that folks.
Our cabane à sucre experience in Ottawa started off with paper plates lined up as far as the eye could see down tables.
Here are the “highlights” of this plate. Bread crisps as tough as a rock – maybe even more so. Some weird looking ball made of pork which resembled rolled up Spam. Not the electronic version but the notorious low-end food version from the 1970's that I believe you can still find in supermarket like Loblaws.
There was also a couple of tablespoons of foie gras which I don't eat, so I can't tell you if that was good or not. But I can tell you about the small portion of smoked salmon on that plate that was simply awful that was sitting precariously over a cold soft boiled egg yolk. Who knows where they got that smoked salmon from – but I have had way better smoked salmon from everywhere else including Loblaws, and the Continental Bagel Co at the Byward Market. Now, this place has de-locious smoked salmon. Too bad they didn't share their smoked salmon with Le Rituel for their event.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the pre-fab “Betty” rolls at the table. I'm an ingredient checker, and I know about Betty bread. No way I was going to eat that roll. Now, c'mon guys! Every $20 cabane à sucre that I have gone to, so far, has had freshly baked delicious rolls, and for more than double the price, you're going to give us pre-fab bread with unmentionable preservatives?
And the road downhill for this event only got worse. We were told that the “hot food” was coming next. This food was not hot at all!
We got oreille de crisse which is a sort of Québec version of bacon. In my view it was almost virtually inedible! It was as hard as a rock.
I had way better oreille de crisse at a $25 cabane à sucre I tried a couple weeks ago, and at the Le restaurant Rituel's own events in Gatineau.
I then asked the server what was that weird lump on my plates sitting on some yucky mayo. This ensemble that tasted like a low-end fish cake mixed with potatoes. She had no idea! What a surprise! How thoughtful for Le Rituel to have such uninformed servers at a $50 event! This event only gets better folks!
Needless to say, my stomach cried, enough after the first two bites of that cold tasting weird “fish cake” of some kind that was alongside some kind of pork in something tasting like cabbage that was also served cold.
For the last round of food, they gave us a some underseasoned mini turkey legs. I think that salt bearly graced these turkey legs which were also cold and in my view, didn't taste very good. I was also not sure if mine was also a bit undercooked in areas.
And what was that flavourless carmel coloured sauce all over those turkey legs? Maybe it was just some kind of food coloured "placebo" to make the turkey legs appear as if they were dipped in something delicious?
And let's talk about those baked beans beside the turkey legs – simply atrocious! I have had better baked beans courtesy of Loblaws no name. They were flavourless with a bit of a hardish exterior like they were undercooked.
Le Rituel also skipped out on dessert! This is a first time I had a multi-course meal or a cabane à sucre without dessert.
Needless to say I have learned my lesson, and I will not be looking forward to going to any planned Sugar Lumberfest in 2018!