It’s a universal truism that the Friday afternoon you’re hoping to wrap up early so you can catch a flight is the crazy-busiest stretch of the week. And so it was with us last Friday as we closed everything off as best we could, rushed home, grabbed our bags, and took off to catch a flight.
Even with bad ferry luck we had enough time to enjoy the Porter lounge, and an hour after boarding our flight we landed in Ottawa. We checked in at the Westin downtown and went out in search of food.
After walking through a very raucous Byward Market (a pub crawl of frozen Carlton students was the prime culprit) we tucked in at Vineyards Wine Bar. It was okay, but I can’t understand the long list of Wine Spectator awards. The wine list looked fairly pedestrian. The beer selection was pretty decent though, so we began heading in that direction after our charcuterie board let us down. After a while we were joined by Toronto friends JP+Sue, also in town, for one or two more. I ended up having a Unibroue Raftman, a Saison Dupont, and a Unibroue Maudite.
When Vineyards shut down around midnight we decided to have one more somewhere else. JP suggested Brothers Beer Bistro just down the street, a place high on my must-try list, so off we went. Cool spot. We closed it down around 2:15; I drank and Aventinus and the Mill Street Cobblestone stout from Nellie’s beer flight.
We got off the hotel elevator on the top floor and walked through a crowd of fancily-dressed people spilling out of the big suite across the lobby from our room. Nellie was hungry again so she perused the room service menu while I ran to the bathroom. Just then someone knocked on our door, and for some reason Nellie opened it. A couple stood there. The conversation went something like this:
Couple: “Uh, this isn’t suite 2318.”
Nellie: ” Nope, it’s not. 2318 is over there.” *points*
Couple: “Got it! Hey, we’re having a party over there if you guys want to come over for a drink.”
Nellie: “Oh, no thanks. It’s late. We’re just going to eat something and go to bed.”
Couple: “Are you sure? We’re very open-minded.”
Nellie: “Uh…okay. Nope, we’re good, thanks.”
Couple: “Okay, well, if you change your mind just come on over. We’re very open-minded.”
Nellie: “OK, g’nite!” *closes door, sets night lock*
A few minutes later some room service chicken wings showed up. We scarfed them down and tried not to think too hard about what had just happened. A little after 3am we crashed out.
We’d had to keep the previous evening’s events quiet on social in order to fulfill a big part of our reason to be in Ottawa: to surprise our friend CB on her birthday weekend. GB had arranged for us to surprise her by meeting them for brunch at the Baker Street Cafe in Westboro. We got out of the cab and crossed the street right in front of her, but she didn’t notice us. We got in line right behind her, and waited for about 20 seconds before she noticed us and freaked out. Mission accomplished!
We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but it was worth it. The food was great — especially the sausage I had with my French toast — and there was so much that we left almost an entire breakfast behind. Incroyable. We finished there, did a quick stop at MEC with them, went back to their house for a little bit, and then went back downtown to our hotel.
Nellie was determined to have a nap, but first we went for a stroll around Parliament Hill. The food and fresh air put Nellie down pretty quickly, but I’d had an espresso during our walk so I stayed awake and read in the other room.
A quick word on this Westin: it’s an old hotel which has received a face lift in some spots, like the lobby, but still shows its age in others, like the windows or TVs. Not that we were watching much TV, but the one in the living room didn’t work for most of the weekend. There was also problems with the elevators like long waits and slow rides down at busy times like breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
And so, because we were caught off guard by the wonky elevators, we were (nearly) the last ones to arrive to CB’s birthday dinner at Restaurant 18. About 30 people were assembled to celebrate with her, most of whom we didn’t know, but we made fast friends. Especially once the meal was done and we begin swapping seats.
Speaking of the meal it was fantastic. The beet salad was great, my lamb was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and the chocolate marquis dessert was perfect. I think GB catered to Nellie and I when picking the wine: an all-Ontario lineup of Redstone Chardonnay and Organized Crime meritage.
With the meal over we decided to relocate. Our first potential stop failed the douchebag test before ever set foot in the door. The second place failed it only after we stepped inside and were told we’d have to do bottle service. Fuck that. JP and I made an executive call and walked down the street to someplace we thought could work: Brothers Beer Bistro. They put together a table for 10 and we drank many, many good beers. Myself, I had the Trois Mousquetaires Gose, a Rodenbach Grand Cru, a St. Bernardus Wit, and a Nickel Brook Cuvee Reserve. By the end of the evening it was once again JP, Sue, Nellie and I who closed the joint down.
We went home and supercrashed, again around 3am. No awkward inquiries from neighbors this night. None that we heard, anyway.
I managed to get about six hours of sleep. Unfortunately Westin blinds down close completely so by 9am the room was pretty bright and I was fully up. I let Nellie sleep and walked down Elgin to check out The Ministry Of Coffee. I had an amazing cortado and a nutella croissant there before walking home. It was a nice little stroll along the canal on what was turning out to be a mild fall morning.
I got back in time to roust Nellie from bed. We had brunch plans with our friends Mark+Sandra, Dino+Kerry, and their kids. Dino had made brunch plans at…wait for it…Brothers Beer Bistro. So we walked in for the third time in about 36 hours. At this point we were basically employees.
Brunch was excellent. I had fluffy pancakes covered in fruit and crème fraîche, and pork belly bacon. Nellie had a cheese and egg and peameal beacon monstrosity alongside a pound of fries. And a Caesar. The kids gamely assembled suitable meals out of this weird collection of food and quietly read or played games. Next time we have brunch with four kids I’m requesting those ones.
We said our goodbyes, walked back to the hotel to pack up, and got confused by our own timing and got to the airport a little earlier than we meant to, but it worked out — YOW is actually a quiet, relaxing airport.
It’s hard to believe we were only in town for about 43 hours. It felt like we did a lot. And by “did” I mean “ate and drank and laughed”. Must make plans to come back when it’s warm; we have more place to try, and I miss Ottawa when it’s green.
Happy birthday CB!!