One of the highlights on Ottawa’s food and wine calendar is the annual Bon Appetit cocktail party and charity fundraiser. Celebrating its 17th year, Bon Appetit Ottawa is now held out
in the bush by the airport at the Ernst & Young Centre.
Ron Eade, of Omnivore’s Ottawa, stated that attendance was down this year in his excellent blog post on the subject. His comments regarding the venue perfectly sum up my feelings, except I chose to use OC Transpo to get out to the E&Y Centre. For those of you in Ottawa, please remember that Tuesday afternoon lead to a truly awful commute due to the “suspicious package” found on the Mackenzie King Bridge outside of NDHQ. Choosing to avoid downtown and Rideau Street, I trekked over to the Campus station and waited patiently, with dozens of others, for a route 97 bus to arrive. We jammed in, the doors barely able to close, determined to escape the downtown.
Miraculously, I arrived somewhat close to the opening and was happy to see an efficient group of volunteers scanning tickets, stamping hands and handing out compostable plates. Everyone also received a tasting glass and 10 drink tickets for alcoholic beverages. I do want to note that the number of drink tickets was more than sufficient and that everyone seemed to have many spares towards the end of the night as a number of booths serving alcohol did not request them. This was also slightly frustrating as it meant I was constantly juggling food, wine, tickets and assorted papers throughout the evening.
Despite lowered attendance, there were lineups for some of the more popular food and wine options. Rosehall Run, a winery from Prince Edward County, had an almost constant line of people wanting to sample their wares. The SmoQue Shack is another that had a consistently long line – until they ran out. Chef Warren Sutherland was serving up baked beans (the tray of which was sadly empty when I arrived – and I didn’t want to wait the five minutes for a refill) and side ribs that were so tender and delicious the meat literally fell off the bone. And almost onto my dress.
I do have to confess, however, that I started to suffer from a syndrome called “Slider Fatigue”. It is best characterized by a sense of dread and terror whenever faced with another small sandwich. After grazing on a few sliders or small sandwiches (or, in the case of Social’s Oxtail Reuben, large sandwiches) I started to actively avoid sliders in favour of some bun-less and slightly less meaty choices. This included delicious cheeses accompanied with Michaelsdolce preserves, some porchetta from Lunch food truck (seriously – is it May 15th yet?), smoked salmon from Pelican Fishery & Grill and even some caramel popcorn from the Flour Shoppe seasoned with Big Rig IPA.
As for the drink options – I spent much more time sampling beer than wine but took the opportunity to sample Joseph Estates and Rosehall Run. I don’t recall having tasted anything from Joseph Estates but enjoyed their 2008 Chenin Blanc with its light fruit notes and acidity. The beer selection was fairly good and I sampled my way through Spearhead, Wellington Brewery, Hockley and Hog’s Back. The Spearhead Hawaiian IPA is a solid performer that I had previously tried in the -40 C (with windchill) conditions of Winterbrewed.
Despite a few criticisms (Slider Fatigue, venue), Bon Appetit was truly an enjoyable event. I appreciate how laid back and unpretentious the crowd was – plus the overwhelming variety of people who were at the show, ranging from 20-somethings to retirees. There is none of the craziness in terms of dress, intoxication and behaviour that one would see at, for example, the Ottawa Food & Wine Show… although the extremely high heels were still out! As a tangent, I do have to say that I both pity and am impressed by women who can survive an evening in 3+ inch heels on a harsh concrete floor.
A few other notes/posts from Ottawa media regarding the event: