Friday, March 21, 2014

P&P's Restaurant Review #2 - Petit Bill's Bistro

It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down at the keyboard to write up restaurant reviews, even though I’ve been carrying a couple to share. It’s time though -- since we're no longer working backstage, and our wedding was a week ago – my “too busy” excuse card has run out.

Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Friday this year, found Pierre and I working a dress rehearsal at the Ottawa Little Theatre, rather than out for our annual dinner celebration.  We rarely allow an excuse for an evening out to pass us by, so we bumped it up, and had a romantic date night on the 16th instead. Consulting our custom “Best of Westboro” list, we picked the highly-rated Petit Bill’s Bistro, and oh my… what an excellent choice!

If there’s one thing I love about restaurants, it’s the warm, welcoming feeling that often comes in a family-owned and operated place. Led to our table by the smiling Newfie owner, I felt as though he was sincerely pleased by our arrival and truly appreciated that we chose his establishment over all of the others. [Pierre has said on more than one occasion that there are no nicer people than Newfoundlanders, and this gentleman was a fine example.] Our waitress, too, was wonderfully friendly and helpful, but neither to the point of intruding on our privacy. Excellent restaurant skills, I’ve decided, are their own form of art, and these people’s sincerity created an ideal, relaxed environment. 

Welcome to Petit Bill's

And the menu… wrapped in an embossed soft cork cover, we were presented with a myriad of options, from a full page of lighter, lower-priced Bistro fare to the Mains and Dinner plates, all of which looked blissfully gastronomically delicious! And then, score! On the daily special page, we found this delight: Table d’Hote for Two – choice of daily soups of the day (Five-Spice Boc Choy), Caesars, or House salads; entrees, and desserts, plus a bottle of Chenin Blanc or Douro wine for $100/couple / $75 sans alcohol. Being the value-conscious and experimental folk that we are, we closed the main menu, toasted with our water glasses and got down to the difficult secondary-decision-making process.

Five-Spice has never been my top blend, so that was an easy "no," and Pierre’s not a big bok choy guy, so salad it was. Garlic sets Pierre’s stomach (and nose) on edge, so we both decided on the house salads, which were heavenly! Generous portions of uber-fresh baby greens were topped with carrot and beet ribbons and the most yummy in-house maplewood smoked vegetable vinaigrette. A smokey salad dressing? Oh yeah… Arriving just before the salads was a lovely basket of soft, light bread and a perfectly piped dish of not-too-garlicy pesto butter. What a fine combination.

Given a choice, we will always opt for big, chewy red wines, and the 2011 Porca de Murca from the Douro region of Portugal was a delicious medium-bodied one, leaving a slight spice on the tip of the tongue.
Choosing entrees was a bit more challenging, but we both made grand selections. In honour of our bunny-rescuing friends, we both declined the braised lapin. I went with the Duck Duo Newfit – a breast (which was a touch overcooked for me, but perfect for Pierre), and a leg/thigh which really couldn’t have been better. Barely spiced, the meat was served on a bed of lightly wilted spinach, with a hint of ginger, and bordered by perfectly crisp-fried-outside / fluffy-inside halved baby potatoes.

Pierre chose the Steelhead Trout, which was also a tad overdone, but was topped with a mild but tasty salsa. The sides included mixed roasted vegetables (deemed “ok”), and P’s first ever bread pudding (savory and ginger-laced,) which we both loved. 

Steelhead and duck. mmm!

Desserts aren’t something we normally eat – neither of us are big sugar consumers – but when included with the meal, we make the sacrifice. ;) My choice was the Chili Chocolate Flourless Cake. Nearly as dense as dark chocolate fudge, and a tad grainy with a surprisingly barely-discernible chili bite, I was able to eat only a small portion, but wrapped the remainder of its deliciousness to-go. Pierre’s dessert was the clear winner: a Newfoundland Pound Cake, drizzled with screech, a rich, warming traditional rum, that went perfectly with the fresh whipped cream and ripe strawberries beside it. 

Well... if we must...  :)

Although a few aspects of our meals were less-than-perfect, so many parts exceeded our expectations that we were left with an overall feeling of pure satisfaction. For the fabulous atmosphere alone, I’d go back. Adding fresh, local, beautifully-presented ‘fine French cuisine with a Newfie accent’ guarantees a return trip.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Feb 10 - Feb 28, 2014 - Photo A Day Project

The long, icy winter continues to hang on here in Ottawa -- the news tells us it has been the coldest in 20 years. 

Canadians traditionally bond by complaining about the weather, but this year I think most of us are bored with that worn-out conversation. Everyone just seems to be peeking out between their toques or hoods and neck scarves while hustling from door to car, which we then start up, cranking up the defroster and heated seats, scraping and brushing down the windows yet again, and getting ourselves to the next warm indoor spot. Once inside again, we all whine briefly, but really... it's gotten to the point where we just sigh and use that energy to warm back up and get on with life. 
Spring is bound to come soon, right?

In the spirit of one thing coming to an end and something new blooming, I've decided, after an eight-month stretch, to once again end the photo-a-day project and change my focus to the restaurant reviews and my immigration story. Wonderfully, my friend, photographer Don Douglas, has begun fatmumslim's photo challenge, so the tradition continues within the family.

So here you are... my final installment of daily pictures... 
at least for this round!
[Thanks for your kind feedback during this project. I hope you enjoy -- and send your friends to peruse -- the upcoming reviews.] 

10 - I Am

... a soup-makin' mama!
First attempt at cream of broccoli and oh yum!!

(P.S. Notice that counter top? Prepare to see it GO.)

11 - Mistake

Working on the set-crew script and oops!
those pesky borders.

12 - Out and About

Such beautiful abundance.

13 - Perfect

OH the minute details required in training a crew!

14 - Heart

Our VD Exchange :)

15 - My Drink of Choice

A warming winter weekend whistle-wetter.

16 - Create

These folks truly make us believe they're
living in a nursing home.
Excellent actors!

17 - Vegetable

Green curry with shrimp & veggies
including lovely, delicious radishes.
(Not so pretty, but you must trust me about the taste!)

18 - Magic

Director Jim McNabb's vision
brought to life.

19 - Feet

Showing my Saudi student an online conversion site.

20 - Peace

Bought this pin in the mid-80's in San Francisco
and still love it and all it stands for.

21 - Funny (yes, that IS sarcasm)

Our neighbour clears a path so the melting
snow can reach the drain.

22 - An Act of Kindness

There were so many today, but this is the only one
I caught on camera. We were at the far reaches of the
Costco parking lot. It was freezing and windy.
This wonderful woman saved us from having to return
the cart to the store. It's the little things...

23 - This is Where I Relax

Chillin' after a delicious dinner with friends
and snugglin' with wild-man Kenji

24 - Half

Working the current play at the Ottawa Little Theatre

25 - Cut

Yummy spanakopita!

26 - Light

Or MANY lights!

27 - My View Today

New sink and counter tops get installed!

Panorama of the new look

28 - Reflection

Co-crew-chief Nadine in the backstage mirror
ready to carpool home.