My second official dishcrawl was a restaurant-hopping extravaganza. It was organized by local foodies Caitlin Carrol and Michele La Flèche and co-sponsored by eatlocal.com, a growing network dedicated to supporting and promoting the production and consumption of local foods.
Now popular in several U.S. cities, dishcrawl was launched in Ottawa just four months ago. Previous dishcrawls have taken place in various locations, including the Glebe and an earlier sortie through the ByWard Market area.
Upcoming events - one of which sold out in just 13 minutes - will take place in Hintonburg and Westboro.
On this night, the Market district was hopping as two groups of 21 eager diners fanned out to enjoy sumptuous offerings at four unannounced culinary destinations.
After being given our secret meeting location, the Jeanne d'Arc courtyard, just two days previously, our group was welcomed and then sent off to our first stop, which was Murray Street, a mecca for traditional Canadian comfort foods with a twist.
Given Chef Steve Mitton's commitment to serving 100% local food, the diverse and delectable charcuterie plates we were offered represented an ideal start to the evening.
Heaped with kielbasa from Carp's Elk Ranch, a hearty house-made pork terrine, tangy pickles and a selection of cheeses and condiments, the boards were cleaned off in quick fashion by us hungry omnivores. Most of us chose to enjoy the optional wine pairing as well.
After 40 minutes, it was time to move on. Next stop was MUST wine bar, a deceptively spacious establishment on William Street.
We were greeted by owners Glen Klepsch and Bettina Klims, who explained that their philosophy is to present international cuisine, composed using primarily local ingredients.
They served up a ‘trio plate' featuring the same delicious elk kielbasa we'd devoured at our first stop, along with a pulled pork slider with Bleu Bénédictin cheese from Quebec and two sticky, satisfying duck legs with espresso barbeque sauce.
By the time we left MUST, everyone seemed grateful for the chance to stretch their legs and stroll a few blocks to the next destination, thereby carving out some room for the next course.
It was deliciously ironic to walk into Clarence Street's Steak Modern Steakhouse Lounge, a venue primarily known for dishing up perfectly-prepared meat, and hear the chef describe the vegetarian plate we were about to be served.
As an homage to the fall harvest, we were presented with three perfect morsels - a beet soup with fennel and crispy bacon, cone-shaped tacos filled with creamy goat cheese and a golden beet tequila shot.
Many felt this plate was the 'taste of the evening', with its complex flavours and pretty presentation.
Our sweet finale was a visit to the newly-opened Maison Chaloin on Dalhousie Street where proprietor Colette West and her daughter Laura warmly welcomed us.
With four generations of chocolate-making expertise to blend with the finest local, natural and organic ingredients, the morsels of 87 per cent dark chocolate they served were as smooth and satisfying as any chocolate I've ever tasted. Accompanied by a raspberry sorbet that was creamy and bursting with flavour, their shop is one I cannot wait to revisit.
I'm equally looking forward to my next dishcrawl which, as I like to say, is like a fabulous surprise party where everyone is the guest of honour!