Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer Discoveries

Well, I’m back from my summer hiatus. I travelled far, ate well, and made a few discoveries worth noting:

1. Swordfish can be good:

I can’t have eaten it in over a decade, having been scared by dry tasteless versions that seemed a poor man’s canned tuna on a rich man’s budget. But, during stint in the nation’s capital, I was convinced by two great friends and fabulous foodies to try their neighbourhood joint, Taylor’s Genuine, an unpretentious but ambitious little place. On a whim, I ordered the swordfish. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps I was intrigued by the waitress’s enthusiasm for something that I was convinced could not possibly be good. After ordering, I wondered to myself what I would say, when she inquired, after my inevitable disappointment. But at Taylor’s they did something surprising and delicious with the frequently mistreated dish, serving it browned and spiced, but luxuriously juicy. So swordfish can be good, and I heartily recommend Taylor’s to anyone who finds themselves in Ottawa.

See more reviews of Taylor’s by clicking the spoony thing below:

Taylor's Genuine Food & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

2. Eggplant can be good

More important, on the same trip to Ottawa I was introduced (by the aforementioned friends and foodies, who surpass all their other virtues in their generosity as hosts) to ridiculously tasty preserved eggplant. Again, I’m not a big fan, usually finding eggplant as soggy as a swordfish is dry. Excepting in Ottawa. Following my host’s lead, I loaded some oily eggplant slices onto the sandwiches we were preparing for our days at the office (his spent honing legal positions for our federal government; mine spent examining historical documents that detail the bureaucratization of Canadian racism). On a sunny park bench outside the Library and Archives of Canada, I took a bite and found myself surprised. This eggplant was firm but yielding to the teeth; assertive but complementary to its leading ingredients; spicy and oily but, well, delectably so. I'm hooked. Upon returning home, I purchased a jar of Valli Hot Eggplants in Oil for my own fridge, and have added these to my lunches for the past week. Yowzers! I think I’m going to have to drop my idea to write the feature: “where to buy food on the Uvic campus.” Let’s all just pack these delicious eggplant devils.

3. Dinner and Accommodation in Lunenberg NS

This one is a little less mind-blowing than discovering eggplant and swordfish in just four days in Ottawa. But it is close to my heart. On our now traditional vacation from our vacation, when Ilana and I leave the kids to surf with my folks (and sundry relatives) in Kingsburg NS and escape together for a night or two alone, we took advantage of a dinner and accommodation deal at Fleur De Sel, in Lunenberg. The restaurant was named one of the top ten in the country by Air Canada’s En Route magazine, which does great reviews. And it really is a delightful little gem, head and shoulders above anything else that I’ve tried on the South Shore, or indeed in Halifax. They have a new deal that includes a night’s stay in a charming room above the restaurant, a three-course dinner for two, and a private breakfast, all for $300. While not cheap, it’s a nice deal, and they’ve got a talented chef who deserves support. Brethren in the east: go to Fleur de Sel.

For more reviews of Fleur De Sel, click here.

Oh yes, in our annual summer stop in Brooklyn I had a plate of tripe that made me want to cry (tears of joy). But that is a topic for another day.


  1. Yowzers! Perserved eggplant! Sounds delicious. I'll find a recipe and see if I can make some as worthy as made by Valli.

    I agree about swordfish. I've never liked it, but I'm glad you found a good eat.

  2. Yeah, the preserved eggplant texture is rather choice, and completely unlike any other eggplant presentation. I'd like to meet the eggplant genius who figured that one out. I also like eggplant taken to the other extreme - roasted or braised into a pulp with lots of aggressive seasonings, and either slopped on some rice or served cold as a dip (asian style, with soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, chile paste, and cilantro - maybe some dried shrimp if your into that sort of thing - is particularly good). Anyway, glad I could introduce you to something new, I more than owe you for your many excellent cookbook recommendations.