Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of bannock and Bottle Shock

Date night! And a belated celebration of our fifth anniversary. Beckta's usually our go-to place for special occasions, but we decided to try Sweetgrass Bistro this time around, an Aboriginal restaurant we've had on our to do list for a while. We headed down on a fine, mild evening for an early dinner before the late showing of Bottle Shock at the Bytowne.

A converted brick house on Murray Street, Sweetgrass is modern but comfortable, with rustic touches here and there. Stunning works by local Native artists lined the walls, and the lantern light flickering over muted greens and earth tones gave everything a natural feel to it. The back patio has a lot of potential, but they need to lose the cheap, plastic chairs and tables and bring some of the sleek interior outdoors.

The food was simple, creatively composed and bursting with fresh flavours. We noshed on popcorn and rounds of bannock while perusing the menu. First came crispy mahnoomin spring rolls before our respective mains arrived: a tenderloin of caribou for Hubby, with creamy mash and root veggies; a seafood trio of cod fritters, crab salad and smoked trout tartare for me.

Two out of three were fantastic; the fritters were hot little patties perfectly golden fried, and the trout's wild, oily texture was a delight. But my throat was scorched by the five-alarm salad. Far too much hot pepper - even for Hubby! - an error the chef and waiter were happy to address with more fritters and a comped entree. Needless to say, service was top-notch here.

Stuffed to the brim, we waddled our way down to the theatre for the show. After all the hype (well, as much hype as a limited-release, art-house flick can get) I was disappointed. The characters were one-dimensional; even the talented Mr. Rickman could have done more. The editing was choppy, and I have to agree with the critics who say the movie's padded with far too many vineyard vistas. If I'd had to sit through another sweeping aerial shot over rolling hills, my tartare might have made a second appearance. Yeah, it's pretty, yeah I get that Napa is gorgeous, but give my inner ear a break, wouldya?

Still, there were enough good lines to keep the laughs steady, leading up to the actual France vs US tasting, held in the ruins of some centuries-old chapel in the French countryside. The snooty French judges certainly had their comeuppance; their dropped jaws and incredulous stares said it all.

That, and the realization that I was born in the same year wine went international (coincidence? I think not) was worth the price of admission.

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