Month: January 2013

The Unrefined Olive

In recent years, olive oil and balsamic vinegar have reached a status once reserved merely for wine. Appraised for their aroma, complexity of flavour and bouquet, these oil and vinegars are often infused with herbs, espresso, lemon, chocolate, peppers and even pomegranate. Everyday cooks have become connoisseurs and with that, demand for more sophisticated products has emerged.  Enter The Unrefined Olive, Ottawa’s first olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar.

151 A Second Avenue, Ottawa, ON, 613-231-3133

Located in the heart of the Glebe, on the corner of Bank Street and Second Avenue, The Unrefined Olive carries olive oils from around the globe and currently feature ones from California, Chile, Australia, and Tunisia.

Knowledgeable staff take you on a tasting tour, itemizing the different ingredients, characteristics and flavour combinations. You are lured in with a shot and as you swirl, smell, sip and swallow through the different oils and vinegars. Eventually your taste buds reach sensory overload, but the overall experience is quite pleasant. It’s not often that you get to taste-test something before you buy it.

There are three sizes: 200 mL for $12, 375 mL for $19 and 750 mL at $32. Production dates are clearly labelled so you know how old it is. For $16, you can get a sample gift bag, containing 2 oils and 2 vinegars. A pretty good gift for the host of your next party.

Sample gift bag – $16 for four bottles
Specialty oils are also available. Prices differ.

The Fig Balsamic and Mushroom Sage Olive Oil are two of my personal favourites. Pair them for bread dipping, on salads and marinades. Check out The Unrefined Olive’s website for hours of operations and for store directions. Go to their Facebook page for recipes or pairing suggestions.

Sorry but I can’t hear you over the Kung Pao Shrimp you’re eating

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I could barely make out what she was saying. ”You’re party has already been seated,” the hostess pointing toward the general vicinity of a table occupied by my patiently waiting friends. No, it wasn’t yet time for me to get fitted for hearing aids. I had just walked into a Chinese restaurant.

Anyone who’s ever stepped foot inside a busy Asian dinning establishment knows that fireworks, shuttle launches and rock concerts have nothing on the auditory levels of a Chinese restaurant. Dishes clang, children whirl about, food sizzles and conversations occur at such a high decibel level that it’s possible to scream and not be heard. If a tree fell in a Chinese restaurant, would anybody hear it? No. No they wouldn’t. But that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes dinner in a thundering environment is in order. As was the case with my recent visit to Yangtze Dinning Lounge.

As enticing plates of Fried Lobster and Steamed Pickerel whizzed by our table, we settled into the tried and true: Straw Mushroom Egg Soup, Springs Rolls, Kulu Chicken, Thai Basil Beef and Kung Po Shrimp. At Yangtze’s, even the basics are fantastically prepared. It may not be the ultimate location for intimate conversation, but Yangtze’s is a great place to eat. For all it’s loudeness, it’s the perfect establishment to bring your kids. They can hoot, holler and run around and no one will even notice. Heck, you can hoot, holler and run around and no one will even notice. Welcome to Yangtze’s!