Love + art + latin tradition = Café Morala

She emerges from the back to welcome us like returning war heroes. Miriam, the gregarious owner of Cafe Morala, sets the tone for her restaurant, greeting us with warm affection and fussing over every detail of our order. To dine here is to experience veritable Latin cuisine.

The clientele is dotted with loyal fans and neighborhood regulars. English, French and much, much Spanish can be heard. Cafe Morala has been a local Glebe favourite for decades now.

Want authentic empanadas? Yum! Find this place. A master chef formerly from Bolivia pops in daily to deliver handcrafted empanadas from a cherished family recipe. She makes them for her family, for the café and for no one else. The chef’s love, art and tradition meld together in pure synergy to produce perfectly baked pastry stuffed with an abundance of tasty fillings like spinach, chicken-chipotle, beef-vegetable, cheese and lamb. To savour a Cafe Morala empanada is a privilege. After one bite you will “see the light.” They are otherworldly.

One of my other go-to’s is the salad. It’s circus-like colours will fascinate you, like Versace on a plate. Sheep and goat feta, avocado, roasted almonds, strawberries, cranberries, peppers, beets and greens are tossed together with a lemon-Dijon dressing creating a wondrous palate pleaser.

Although not a coffee drinker, I hear (in English, French and Spanish) that this is the place to come for the best coffee in Ottawa. Cafe Maya, cafe baires and cafe caramel are some of its offerings. Pair it with a lemon cookie or try the alfajor, a traditional confection made up of flour, honey, almonds and several spices, such as cinnamon.

To be a patron at Cafe Morala is to revel in its warm ambiance and experience true Latin cuisine. The diner’s pleasure here is truly essential. And I’m a happy patron!

Morala Coffee Shop on Urbanspoon

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.