I am writing this as one of the two 2013 Ottawa Foodie Challenge champions!
The Ottawa Foodie Challenge (OFC) is a foodie related scavenger hunt that entails running around Ottawa like crazy and visiting all sorts of delicious destinations. Some stops required that we complete a foodie related challenge while others simply required a quick photo. The destinations to visit were scattered around the city and included neighbourhoods as diverse as New Edinburgh, the Byward Market, Hintonburg, Westboro, Old Ottawa South, Chinatown, the Glebe and Centretown. There were a few “one off” stops scattered around the city including the Golden Palace on Carling Ave and Pelican Fishery & Grill on Bank Street (it’s in the same plaza as the Farm Boy and definitely worth a stop).
Our day started off bright and early at the domicile sales centre for the Kavanaugh. My partner, Andy, and I were one of the first arrivals and had a chance to explore the model suites, drink coffee and eat some delicious pastries provided by Art-Is-In Bakery. He made the rookie pastry mistake of choosing one that had been liberally dusted with icing sugar… which, of course, I am still wiping out of my car.
After some brief opening remarks (including the grand prize announcement – a Vitamix, $200 in gift certificates to both the Red Apron & Pelican Fishery and Grill, a cooking class for 2 from Divino Wine Studio, a gift basket of amazing foodie treats from Red Apron and 5kg of Nutella) we were all handed a copy of the Ottawa Magazine Eating & Drinking issue and a copy of the clues. We had until 5pm to submit all of our photos and e-mail the album link to Carolynn. The photos and point totals would then be confirmed and the winners would be announced at the official OFC closing ceremonies to be held at the Urban Element.
We quickly wrote down the answers to the clues we knew and roughly divided the city into several neighbourhoods. Andy had brought a highlighter so we also made a note of everything worth 10 or more points. Some clues had the potential to be worth as many as 30 points, depending on whether or not we had managed to capture a foodie personality in the photo as well. Here is a link to the official 2013 challenge list from the OFC website in case you want to see the craziness!
There were 6 mandatory challenges, including one that had a time restraint. There were also sponsored challenges with special prizes. One, held at Ma Cuisine on Dalhousie St, required teams to chop up some carrot pieces using an appropriate pinch grip in order to win two santoku knives. The other sponsored challenge was at Beyond the Pale and offered a prize pack which included two glasses and t-shirts. During the day participants were also encouraged to submit photos following pre-determined themes via Twitter and Instagram, using hashtags for the team name and OFC2013. These photos were being officially judged by Dwayne Brown, described as an “Ottawa Foodie Challenge supporter, professional photographer and all around nice guy.” We were fortunate enough to see the winning photos at the Urban Element.
By the end, I estimated we had stopped at (minimum) 58 places. Our clue list could only be described as a disaster – items were crossed out, notes were scribbled in the margins and there were errant highlighter marks everywhere. The front seat of my car should have been classified as a biohazard due not only to the icing sugar mess as described above but the treats we had managed to collect during the day including guacamole and chips from Bonita’s Cantina, loukoumades from the Nutty Greek and the wrap I had made at Think Lunch on Bank Street. We had parked illegally (thanks, Race Weekend!) in more than one spot, discovered many new restaurants and ran ourselves ragged trying to fit in as many stops as possible. Due to strange opening hours in the Byward Market (some places opened at 11, some at 12, etc.), we found ourselves circling the area trying to hit all the points in the area before our parking expired. The serving staff, chefs and retail workers of Ottawa were extremely generous with their time (some were slightly confused as well) and allowed us to quickly take our photos while answering the random questions we posed.
There were a few challenges that proved insurmountable. The geoduck was nowhere to be found. We stopped in at Kowloon Supermarket in Chinatown, asked a few random restaurants and later found out that some people had even called T&T to see if they had it. The requirement to benchpress the Modernist Cuisine (that $700, 5 volume behemoth of a cooking series) was also an issue as it was extremely difficult to find. I managed to check two volumes out of the library but it was insufficient for our purposes. It was also frustrating since I had spotted the series in a store, somewhere in Ottawa, over the past few months but I could not remember where. I later found out that it was at C.A. Paradis (also the sponsors of the Vitamix in the prize package) – doubly frustrating since we stopped there at the end of the day to complete another challenge.
We completed the day with a calculated total of 740 points. We had been careful in sticking to the spirit of clues and took a few point off ourselves, but by the end of the closing ceremonies it was announced that the winning team had 715 points… and it was us! Andy and I were in shock as we had argued over the possibility of winning all day. He said there was no way we could win while I am insanely competitive and said there was no reason why we couldn’t and that I was operating on the assumption that we could. We definitely had a few frustrating moments while exploring the city, but I am glad we stayed on task and managed to complete as much of the list as possible. I even let him keep the Vitamix!