Insider Edition: Italian sandwiches and maple season

Welcome to the first edition of Lookout Insider

Ralf Joneikies
07 Apr

Good morning!

Here we are — the first Lookout Insider newsletter. Normally this newsletter is only for paying subscribers. But today we’re making it available to all, as a free preview. 

Before we get to today’s stories about delicious Italian sandwiches, we wanted to share a little story.

One month after launching the Lookout, an intriguing email hit our inbox. Out of the blue, a reader named Ralf pitched us an idea. 

He wanted to write a monthly column on food and wine in Ottawa. His pitch was compelling: the city is full of exceptional restaurants, but few people know them. He offered to explore these places for you, our readers. 

Now, we were one month into the Lookout. We barely knew what we were doing. But we knew our mission — to help locals love living in Ottawa — wasn’t possible without someone like Ralf.

So we accepted his offer. The columns arrived. And you, our readers, were thrilled. Positive comments kept coming in. It was clear Ralf had struck a chord. 

After 1,4000 reader survey submissions and discussions with Ralf, the Lookout Insider was born. It’s access to the best our city has to offer. From restaurant reviews to Lookout-hosted events (stay tuned!), to local business giveaways, we’ve got big plans for our Insider community.

We’re honoured and humbled that you’re joining us on this adventure. Now please enjoy the first edition of the Lookout Insider.

— The Ottawa Lookout team

Can you do us a favour and forward this to your friends? It helps others discover the Lookout. Forwarded this email? Sign-up for free.

The Insider Method

When you've spent decades in the fields of food and drink, you're bound to have developed some thoughts on the subjects and, depending on how intricately you're wired, even have developed a philosophy.

In my case, and from a rather early age, I was drawn to the smells and tastes of things. It was natural therefore that I started cooking at the age of 12 and I recall successfully making my first ever dish from the back of a Catelli pasta box. It was Salmon Tetrazzini and I even went on the hunt for the required canned jalapeno pepper slices. I was so pleased with the results that I thought it would take over the world and so I made it every week until I'd had enough.

In the mid-90s I'd started collecting wine and then began my fledgling studies that led to me studying winery operations and viticulture in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. a little more than a decade later. It was through my exploration of the wine world that I realized I'd built up a Rolodex of aromas and tastes in my mind on which I could draw going back as far as my early childhood. 

I had tasted a red wine that had a flavour that struck like lightning and reminded me immediately of a cherry lollipop I'd had as a child in Germany. It occurred to me that if I was to find what I was looking for, I needed to continue getting lost in this realm of smells and tastes and adding to that Rolodex.

This is the long way of saying that I bring all my experiences to bear when I am tasting wine, beer and spirits, or evaluating a certain restaurant. With that in mind, I challenge myself to be fair-minded and give our readers the best of a certain restaurant if there's enough good in both management and the kitchen talent.

For those who are wondering, I pay for every meal and product (unless otherwise clearly stated) and pursue those producers with whom I've had good experiences for stories down the road. I also eat at many places on which I'll never report, because I would prefer to direct you to what is decent, by people who create good food with the best of intentions.

When it comes to wine, beer or spirits evaluation, you'll not ever find me using a numerical scoring system. It's too capricious. What makes a wine 91 points and another 90? Sometimes it's a different critic, sometimes a different publication, but often it's just the day on which you, as a critic, wake up. It often happens that some days your palate is just not as bright as on other days and you do taste things very differently. 

At some point, I'll do a longer rumination on this grading system that shows you what you want to see but tells you nothing about what you're experiencing. Investing in your palate should never be an act of submission to the lowest common denominator.

At the Ottawa Insider, we hope to show you events that are not just listings but a little more curated. We'll bring you not just food and drink reviews but profiles of people, things to buy and NOT to buy for your wine-loving friends, and even unique grocery items that are not only delicious but will make your life easier in the kitchen.

Thank you for joining us and we look forward to hearing your impressions in the months ahead.

— Ralf Joneikies, food and drink editor

Upcoming Events

Here’s a taste of some events we think you might enjoy. In the future, we plan to include even more events. 

Irish Film Festival | Arts Court 2 Daly St. | In-person April 8 to 10, online April 8 to 14 | $11.62 to $52.06 

A hybrid festival of features films and documentaries with the best of Irish film. You can view these both in-person and online. Come see some of the best Irish films from last year.

Queens on Queen | Queen St. Fare, 170 Queen St. | April 16, 6 pm to 10 pm | $10 

DJ Mz Horizon and DJ 2% promise to spin the hits from across the decades and to entertain along with guests: Genesis and DeeDee Deelite. All Queen St. Fare vendors will be offering their fabulous foods during this Drag and Dance event. Put on by Diversity in the Capital.

This two-hour evening will feature a Tango performance by finalists of the Quebec television dance show “Revolution” followed by a one-hour Tango lesson. Appetizers are included and alcoholic beverages will be for sale.

This event is sponsored by Margarita Restaurant, Mona's Taqueria and La Chingadera and will feature a Mariachi band straight from Mexico and the Mexican dance troupe Aztlan. Food, drinks and Mexican handcraft vendors will also be on site.

Dozens of your favourite brew and spirit vendors, hot food and live music make for sold-out events each year.  Get your tickets early.

Ottawa’s Top Italian Sandwich Shops That Won’t Break The Bank

Cole Minnoli, Marco, Roberto and Elena D'Alessandro | Photo by: Ralf Joneikies

We've made this review only available to readers who refer someone new to the newsletter.

Get Your Sugar On At Maple Seasonal Events

Sugar shack season is in full gear. Here are a few places we recommend visiting. 

Fortune Farms, 2442 Wolf Grove Rd. Almonte: The Fortune family has been producing syrup since the 1840s and their farm is open to the public from March 12 to mid-April. They also have curbside pickup available if you're looking for some syrup on the go.

Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush, 399 Sugar Bush Rd. Packenham: Trails and their maple shop are open daily from 10 am to 3 pm. Their trails and maple shop are open, but sadly their pancake house is still closed.

Temple's Sugar Bush, 1700 Ferguson’s Falls Rd. Lanark: Temple's offers trails, a maple shop, and a pancake house that operates from 9 am to 3 pm Wednesday to Sunday, until April 25.

Proulx Farm Shop, 1865 Chemin O’Toole, Cumberland: Their season runs until April 18, with weekend hours from 9 am to 5 pm and Easter weekend running from 9 am to 3 pm. They do have a pancake house and they take group bookings on weekdays.

The Log Farm, 670 Cedarview Rd. Nepean: Tickets for their maple season are sold out, but tickets for their Easter Event are available here.

Drink Of The Week: What's New In Vintages

Ralf Joneikies

Las Pisadas Rioja 2016 | Spain | LCBO Code 23634 | $19.95 | 750 ml 14.5% alc.

From Familia Torres, one of the world's great wine houses, comes this lovely 100% Tempranillo that scored 95 at the 2020 Decanter Magazine World Wine Awards. And at $20 it's a very strong buy.

Las Pisadas means “The Footsteps” and refers to the older method of crushing grapes by foot in carved out stones that were found throughout the sierra.

The wine pours as dark as oxidized blood and gives aromas of black cherry, wet stone, thyme and ripe red apple. As you sip you first notice the supple quality of the soft tannins followed by flavours of raspberry, chocolate and coffee on the medium-length finish.

The wine spent 10 months in French Oak but the lack of overt wood strikes me as meaning that older barrels were used and that's a good thing. It's certainly silky and even better after being open for four days (cork in). This is a Tempranillo for the Merlot lover.

Match the appealing texture of this wine with an egg fettuccine done in a Madeira, black pepper mushroom sauce and if you need the protein, you can never go wrong with seared beef cheeks as a topper. Drinking now to 2025.

A quick note: there appears to be a glitch when searching for this wine on the LCBO website. It reads as “Out of Stock” when this is not true. There are 14 bottles at the Rideau St. LCBO. When searching for Las Pisadas click on the image and then on the right side of the screen, click on “Check availability in all stores.” It’s worth the effort.

Want The Insider Every Week?

Our Insider newsletter is available to paying members every Thursday. To celebrate the first edition, we’ve sent this to all readers.

If you want access to the best restaurant reviews, date night recommendations, great wine and top local events, become an Insider member today. We still have 25 percent membership discounts available for the next four people who sign up.

The Perfect Date Night

Ralf Joneikies

A stunning room, warm jazz with some of the finest kitchen talent in Ottawa all married to gracious hospitality makes Le St. Laurent one of my top date night destinations. 

Your Food Snaps

Admit it, we’ve all taken photos of our food. Now here’s your chance to show off. Send us your favourite food photos and we’ll include them in the newsletter. Be sure to include the restaurant and dish names!

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