11 September 2009

Where I went for my summer Vacation: Ottawa

Gosh, that was a good vacation. Even though I ran around like a madwoman, it was a good kind of "ran around like a madwoman."

It wasn't the same-old-same-old rush to the office, answer calls, shoot off emails, run to meetings while not spilling coffee, impatiently wait in the microwave queue, write this, correct that, tell someone this, tell them this again, queue for coffee, more meetings, more calls and even more emails, try and remember where you parked your car so you can sit in the parking lot that is the expressway home so we can get something to eat before going off to yoga, an interest class, gals night out, boys night in, shopping and try and tackle that room that's been taken over by cartons, broken bits and things the cats hide kind of rush.

It's more of a where can I go, who can I meet up with and what can I see kind of busy:a good, if not fulfilling kind of busy.

I last took the train more than eight years ago. Commuting is different to vacationing, but old habits returned quickly--sitting in the same area, instinctively getting up at the same time, and (most important to me) blocking out all the ambient chatter. Sorry to all those who like to natter at their seatmates while trapped in confined spaces, but for me those travel hours were already booked with Christopher Brookmyre, Bill Bryson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Monique Proulx (sorry Irvine Welsh, but I just couldn't get to you). Yes, I'm a reader...and darn proud of it. I will say I found it interesting that my seatmates seemed to have an affinity to whatever I was reading at the time: Brookmyre and Bryson had me with (even just temporarily) a very handsome Brit, Garcia Marquez had a dangerously young and handsome Spaniard strike up conversation with me. Oh...and the woman next to me while reading Proulx had some pretty bouncy hair.

Apart from a few minor delays, I arrived at my destination no worse for wear with a bright and smiley Jenny of All Things Edible greeting me. She graciously gave me use of her spare room while I was in Ottawa. After a quick stop home, we met Mary of Beans and Caviar and did what it seems all foodbloggers are doing this summer: we headed out to the cinema and see Julie and Julia (here's my review). I adore these ladies--warm and funny with an incredible love of food--Jenny and Mary, that is...

Afterwards we supped at an Italian restaurant and nattered over a shared plate of calamari. Jenny had a seafood pasta dish, Mary had a chicken dish and I satified my craving for veal piccata. Unfortunately, the restaurant was very dark and the necessary Photoshopping to transform blobs of dark into delicious foods would be onerous...and, to my mind, dishonest--that much tweaking is to me as fake as using sugared lard instead of ice cream in a foodporn picture. I do wish I'd gotten a picture of Jenny and Mary, though.

The next day Jenny took me to the Ottawa Farmers' Market and I snapped picture after picture. Here are just a few:

After spending some time at Michael's grave I met up with some friends for, what else, but food and conversation. My lunch with a colleague was slightly delayed by the maze of closed streets and a parade which forced me to find new ways up to Parliament Hill. Thank goodness he was patient and stuck around for me. A pub lunch's conversation centred around music: blues, jazz, folk, Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, Bachman and Cummings. It was great sitting down and talking about things that were so far removed from work. He walked me to the patisserie I met a dear, dear high school friend I'd not seen in...um...15 years...I think. It was great catching up, commiserating and cavorting with her.
Yeah...no pictures of those either. Especially of the bee that took a liking to my pear and almond tart as well as my café au lait (remember this, this will turn up in a later post).
It was a fabulous but whirlwind of a trip. Jenny: thank you so much for everything. You and your family are absolutely wonderful.

Veal picatta is an incredibly quick and easy non-recipe recipe dish. Sauted pieces of veal in a lemon-white wine sauce If you don't eat veal, you can easily substitute chicken or even pork, but as I have no such restrictions to my carnivorism I happily toss this together when I get the craving.
Essentially all you need to do is coat thin strips of veal (or chicken or pork) in seasoned flour before frying. Then mix equal volumes of white wine and stock with lemon juice and reduce in the fond-encrusted fry pan. Add lemon zest (and some capers if you wish) and return the meat to the pan for a minute before plating.
When I made the dish I lacked one key ingredient: white wine. Given I was only making enough for 250g of veal, I made an adequate (yet imperfect) substitute of a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, a squeeze of honey, a couple of tablespoons of apple cider and enough water to bring the mixture to somehwere between 3/4 cup and one cup level. I adjusted things to taste and used only as much as I needed--in this case a 1/4 cup. Again, it's not perfect, but I'm not going to run out for a bottle of wine when all I need is a 1/4 cup.
Veal Piccata
500g veal cutlets, pounded thinly, coated in seasoned flour
Olive oil and butter for frying
Juice of 1 lemon
125ml white wine
125ml chicken stock
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
optional: capers, drained well
optional: chopped parsley for garnish

Over medium heat, fry the meat (in batches, if necessary) in oil and butter until brown. Remove to a plate before adding lemon juice and wine to the pan. Scrape up the fond before adding stock. Bring to a rapid boil and reduce the liquid by half.
Return the veal to the pan; add the lemon zest and optional capers. Cook for a minutes or
so an then serve. If desired, sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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K and S said...

sounds like a great time away!

Valérie said...

Sounds like you had a good time. I went to Ottawa this spring, but it was for a congress and I didn't get to see much of the city.

I also tend to run around when I'm on holiday. I always feel like I'm wasting time and opportunities if I do nothing but relax. But like you said, it's a pleasant franticness.

You've just reminded me I haven't had veal in ages... Why is that? I must do something about it!

breadchick said...

OH what a fabulous vacation AND you got to hang out with Jenny and Mary too!

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I was in Ottawa last week. What a great city. I love it. This is where my two kids leave now, they are going to university there.

Jenny said...

I'm so glad you had a good time and we were happy to have you! Sorry I have not done a post myself, you'll see why soon!