Morsels From the Med By Cindy Deach­man

Ottawa Magazine - - INDULGE -

I’ll never for­get, more than 30 years ago, one tav­erna in the Greek port of Thes­sa­loniki. Even with the ta­bles and chairs spilling out onto the street, all of us were scrunched to­gether in­side. Our ta­ble even had to pass dishes from the wait­ers to the other din­ers. Lamb liver bro­chettes started us off, rough food made sim­ply, eaten in the right din of dis­cus­sion. Time slowed down. That can hap­pen when you nib­ble a lit­tle, drink a lit­tle, and talk some. And yet one needn’t be on the Aegean coast eat­ing peas­ant fare. Ap­pe­tiz­ers can show orig­i­nal­ity. A French dish of nas­tur­tium leaves stuffed with an­chovies and herbs sounds crazy but works like a charm. Or how about a thor­oughly mod­ern dish of caramelized fen­nel with chèvre? Take a few chairs out to the drive­way, and let the con­ver­sa­tion be­gin.

Cichèti From North & Navy come north­ern Ital­ian nib­bles. For Vene­tians, says co-owner/chef Adam Vet­torel, “the cinq-àsept way of eat­ing” is nor­mal, where om­bres or lit­tle glasses of wine are ac­com­pa­nied by cichèti. Vet­torel of­fers a vari­able menu of these morsels. For in­stance, smoked trout and ap­ple slices are nes­tled in a tre­viso leaf, mar­i­nated oys­ter mush­rooms have been charged with grain mus­tard, and meat­balls taste the way meat­balls should, not stodgy but light. Have a bite at the bar or or­der plates for the whole ta­ble. $2–$4. North & Navy, 226 Ne­pean St., 613-232-6289 Le­banese Mezza Give sup­per a miss if you go all out on ap­pe­tiz­ers from Cedars & Co., a gro­cery store with two lo­ca­tions. This, even though op­er­a­tions man­ager Mar­i­lyn Dib in­sists that mezza are just for cock­tail-hour min­gling, Le­banese-style. From kibbe, cro­quettes filled with spinach, to roasted red pep­per hum­mus — it’s a ver­i­ta­ble spread. All is bal­anced, noth­ing over-spiced. Also on hand: light lit­tle meat pies and lemony tab­bouleh with­out bul­gur, but full of pars­ley. Don’t leave with­out the za’atar pita chips. Prices vary. Cedars & Co. Food Mar­ket, 1255 Bank St., 613288-2797, or 1793 Kil­born Ave., 613-422-6526 Veg­etable Board We all know about cheese and char­cu­terie. But what about a veg­etable board? White aubergines, black toma­toes, young daikon, tiny plump beets with their lit­tle greens still at­tached, even chrysan­the­mums. “I re­mem­ber once be­ing at Pull­man, one of my favourite wine bars in Mon­treal,” says Soif Bar à Vin owner Véronique Rivest, “and eat­ing a gor­geous, ul­tra-sim­ple plate of amaz­ingly fresh and tasty veg­eta­bles. … I liked it so much, I had three of them and that was my meal.” Soif’s ver­sions are pure delight. Chef Jamie Stunt ob­vi­ously has fun play­ing around with the ever-chang­ing veg­eta­bles and flow­ers. Not to men­tion his pestos and yo­gourt sauces. “Just be­fore ser­vice, we go shop­ping for herbs,” says a smil­ing Stunt, re­fer­ring to Soif’s own pots of herbs grow­ing out back. $15. Soif Bar à Vin, 88, rue Mont­calm, Gatineau, 819-600-7643

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