Global menus looking to Germany, Hawaii and the Phillippines
Oktoberfest-influenced fare is hot for 2016. In Ottawa, one of the best bets for innovative German food is Das Lokal. While Filipino influences are not yet strong in Ottawa, Tuna Poke (pronounced po-kay), a Hawaiian-inspired raw ahi dish, is already big. It’s a popular mainstay on the menu at Nordstrom’s Bazille restaurant as well as at Carben Food + Drink.
Vegetables outmuscling meat
Expect to see a continuation of the trend towards less meat, more vegetables on local plates. Now that cauliflower prices have gone through the roof, squash – including in spiralized noodle form – is likely to edge its way onto more menus. Look to the Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne this winter for a great local supply of squash and other hardy vegetables.
Make room for pulses
2016 is the International Year of Pulses (IYP). Inexpensive and extraordinarily nutritious, Canadian-grown pulses include dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas and they’re praised by many cooks for their flavour and versatility, including Canada’s IYP ambassador, Chef Michael Smith. Last fall’s national FundeLentil campaign featured stellar dishes at numerous Ottawa restaurants, including the Wellington Gastropub, Atelier, Murray Street and Absinthe Café; expect to see more pulses on these and other menus.
Focus on food waste
Rising food costs combined with the unwelcome news that Canadians throw away close to 50 per cent of the food they buy are changing attitudes. Last year, Loblaws started selling bags of imperfect produce and 2016 should bring more initiatives designed to reduce the amount of edible food that gets thrown out. One local success is the ingenious ‘community food fridge’ at the Parkdale Food Centre. Filled with baked goods, soups and more from local restaurants, the fridge also accepts donations of produce from individuals.
Spice things up
Spice blends are the perfect way for novice and advanced cooks alike to add big flavour easily and nutritiously, without excess sugar or salt. Most spice blends use a base of cinnamon, turmeric (the 2016 spice of the year) or paprika - all are packed with antioxidants and natural immune system boosters. Locally, your best source for the freshest spices and innovative blends is Cardamom and Cloves. Favourites include Cambodian Curry, a beautiful mild curry with Thai influences; Ras El Hanout, packed with sweet Middle Eastern flavours and Chicken & Rib Rub which makes a wonderful addition to pulses such as lentils.
New-age Home Delivery
After a one-day trial of ice cream delivery in various Canadian cities, including Ottawa, last summer, UberEats has rolled out in Toronto and may hit the nation’s capital this year. Choose a signature dish from its limited instant delivery menu and it should arrive in 10 minutes or less. Other local companies offering to serve you from restaurants that don’t normally offer home delivery include Munch Wagon, Menu Ottawa, Just Eat and Skip the Dishes.
Craft beer will continue to dominate with two highlights sure to please: the opening of Beyond the Pale Brewery Company’s new City Centre location and Union: Local 613 getting into the brewing biz. Shrub cocktails, made with fruit and vinegar syrups, are poised for a big resurgence – watch for Ottawa’s Dragons-Den winning Split Tree Cocktail Company to add shrub products to its line of tonics and syrups this year. Local farmer and food entrepreneur Andrew Craig, who’s already enjoyed success with his Major Craig’s chutneys and Canadian Black Garlic, will launch his Vintage Hard Cider Company this year as well.