Ottawa’s Taste of Winterlude presents Foodie Paradise

Taste of Winterlude is a great way to explore Ottawa this winter. Brighten your winter blaahs with great culinary treasures. Each January and February, Taste of Winterlude dazziles. This is one year you will not want to miss, with some new hit food sensations. Taste of Winterlude officially starts January 26, and ends on February 19, 2012. But, be sure to check on the availability of reservations before they are sold out. You can not only sample cuisine at some of our nation’s capital top restaurants; but can also learn new cooling techniques; and can also tour local restaurants or shops, guided by chefs or sommeliers.

And, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Taste of Winterlude also attracts winemakers, and it features made in Canada products which celebrate our cultural vitality, creative spirit, and national identity.

This year I had the pleasure to preview some of Taste of Winterlude’s offerings. This preview tour was with Chef Andrée Riffou's and Paola St-Georges who are both from C’est Bon Cooking, and who both embrace the passion that inspires Taste of Winterlude‘s organizing.

Chef Andrée Riffou studied cuisine and pastry with Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and in Paris. She attained the most respected Cordon Bleu designation of Le Grand Diplôme de cuisine et de pâtisserie. In 2008, she launched C’est Bon Cooking where she shares her passion for food with her clients. Contact C’est Bon Cooking if you would like to learn the secrets of fabulous French-inspired cuisine. You can experience local specialties and meet with local chefs and food artisans, and also meet other foodies. At C’est Bon, building camaraderie during their culinary team building and training events and classes helps support social networking atmosphere.

My tour started at the fabulous Stubbe Chocolate on Dalhousie. Chef Petrus Stubbe opened a family chocolate-making plant which was to become the foundation for generations of specialists in the creation of fine chocolate. Chef Stubbe and his daughter express a passion in their wonderful chocolate creations, which truly embraces the spirit of what Taste of Winterlude is all about.

Is chocolate for you -- a chocolate bar you buy at the convenience store, or maybe a Laura Secord that you sample from someone‘s box of chocolate over Christmas? If so, be prepared to have your mind blown, in a super delicious way. Godiva is not bad, but Stubbe is most definitely way awesome. When you taste their chocolate, you will have no doubt that it is all about quality. Stubbe is not the place you go if you are seeking the typical questionable after-taste of some commercial chocolates which are the result of so-called “natural flavours”. Be sure to look sign-up now for their Chocolate Lovers Tour Sundays, January 29 and February 12, but only while tickets last. Chocolate lovers, you will not want to miss it.

Murray Street Bistro is another fabulous venue in the Market which was part of my tour. Chef Steve Mitton presents Ottawa with a fine dining culinary experience that is at the same time very accessible, and, also delicious. Chef Mitton states about Murray Street, that he has “always looked for the season’s best from local farmers and suppliers that he has researched, and brings them unselfishly to his plates”. Chef Mitton elaborates that "In addition to a full kitchen, at Murray Street we’re excited to introduce Ottawa’s first charcuterie bar, which offers diners a great selection of locally and in-house produced boards of artisan meats, cheeses, terrines, pates, chutneys and breads."

Chef Mitton is thrilled to be the first to bring this concept to the Capital and adds that "This type of fare is great for sharing and again, there’s something authentically Canadian about that." This year you can catch a piece of Murray Street when Chef Mitton attends the only working sugar shack in the heart of the city, and an event celebrating all that is winter in Ottawa. Now, imagine chef Steve Mitton of Murray Street Kitchen (Ottawa's premier destination for local nose-to-tail eating) bringing you a taste of Canadian history. Put on your lumberjack jackets, and don your toques and boots (or as we like to say, wear your “Timmins tuxedo”), and experience refined rustic fare in an iconic Canadian setting. Price includes a five-course, locally sourced meal with wine pairings. Where you ask? Richelieu Park Sugar Shack, Vanier Museopark takes place on January 30 and 31. at 7 pm to 10 pm . So, reserve today.

Just across the street, my tour continued at Navarra Restaurant. Rene Rodriguez, is the chef and co-owner of the award-winning Ottawa Spanish restaurant, Navarra. Born in Ottawa, Rene lived in Mexico with his family and first started cooking at the tender age of 12 while working at his uncle’s restaurant around delicious food and tantalizing Mexican aromas. Six years later René returned to Ottawa and started working as an apprentice cook. He spent the next six years working in various restaurants in Ottawa exploring his passion for food and building a career for himself in Canada.

At the age of 24 he enrolled in Le Cordon Blue cooking school program, and then went on to complete his Red Seal Certification and culinary courses at Algonquin College. Rene has been traveling to Spain every year since 2005 for about 2 weeks every January to keep learning more about cuisine and to work with other chefs to share ideas and philosophies about great food and wine of this amazing country.

Chef Rodriguez says that the time has arrived, for Rene to open his much anticipated Basque Restaurant Navarra at 93 Murray St. in Ottawa, and we do too. The food I sample at his restaurant, featured sumptuous and vibrant flavours. His event at Taste of Winterlude is already sold out, but be sure to make your own food tour of this local foodie gem.

My tour then included a delicious stop at the Cupcake Lounge, which is one of Ottawa newest gems. Cupcake bakeries were in short supply in Ottawa for years. This compares to muffins which have always been a part of our Canadian tradition, and have roots in British heritage. In the United States, cupcakes evolved from the American Revolutionary Era. But cupcakes have spread in popularity, like an American music. Nowadays in Ottawa, cupcakes have become fashionable, hip, and glamorous, and there's no denying that The Cupcake Lounge here in Ottawa is certainly part of this new pop culture phenomenon.

Are you seeking a richly flavoured and moist cupcake? Come to the Cupcake Lounge. They feature a wide variety of flavours including coconut, which I recommend for coconut lovers.

My last foodie preview was Ottawa’s Tea Store. This is arguably an easy place to pass, situated beside Lapointe Fish in the Market. But, you definitely need to check this place out. It is not just for present tea lovers. If you are currently not a tea lover, this place will make you a tea lover. The Tea Store is on 53 York Street.

In the heart of Ottawa's Byward Market lies a little tea store like no other in the Nation's capital. The Tea Store presents Taste of the Winterlude festival goers with some of the best quality teas found around the world. From China to Japan, Kenya , India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) we truly carry the best quality teas in Ottawa and now in Kingston. I sampled a te that is one of their unique blends called Afternoon Stake, which was a full-bodied taste, and a rich aroma.

So, what are you waiting for? NEW! Food and wine enthusiasts can now enjoy the convenience of purchasing Taste of Winterlude’s exclusive culinary experiences online at, or by calling 613-599-FANS (3267) or toll-free 877-788-FANS (3267).

Check out the video below on C'est Bon Cooking.

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