The first Canadian Celebrity Chefs Event held on Monday evening at the NAC had star power. Not just the well-known names playing on the Food Network, but also a select group of chefs from here in Ottawa that are considered on the top of their game. The idea for the event was the brainchild of NAC’s Chef Michael Blackie. Host for the day was the ever energy-buzzed, Kevin Brauch, also from the Food Network.

The full day of culinary demonstrations gave us a hint as to what would be hitting our taste buds throughout the evening’s reception. Were you there? Could you imagine it would be like this?

By the way, since you are asking, my favourite dish of the night was the presentation by Chefs Bear and Lyness of lobster and sweetbreads (larger description with picture below). No wishy washy answer from me that “I loved them all and just couldn’t pick one”. I know what I like. And I loved the balance of flavours, colour and texture. So complex. So bright. I did taste all 8 plates and hung in through to the very last morsel.

There has been quite a build up over the past few months in the foodie world as the details of Monday’s event unfolded. There has been much attention for the NAC, the visiting celebrity chefs and the hosting chefs from Ottawa.

As I survey Ottawa’s culinary landscape, it struck me that there really was a strong talent pool to pick from to make this a memorable first annual Ottawa event.

I reviewed Ottawa Magazine’s Top 10 List of Best Restaurants for 2010 put together by Shawna Wagman last October and here is who was missing from Monday night’s lineup.

Castlegarth
Town
The Wellington Gastropub
Fraser Café
Bistro St. Jacques
Absinthe
Taylor’s Genuine Food & Wine Bar (same chef at Domus Café)

I reviewed the Gold Medal Plate contenders from last November’s regional competition and here is who was missing from Monday night’s lineup.

The Urban Pear
Zen Kitchen
Murray Street Kitchen
Les Fougères
Narvarra

I reviewed a running list I have of restaurants that have or have had ‘buzz’ that do not have mention on Shawna’s list or GMP, and here is who was missing from Monday night’s lineup, just to name a few.

Benitz Bistro
Farbs Kitchen *
Restaurant Le Baccara *
Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro
Restaurant Ei8hteen *
Allium
Black Cat Bistro *
Courtyard Restaurant
Social
Luxe

(* Participants of Juniper’s upcoming Duelling Chefs competitions for 2011)

As the names of Brookstreet, Vittoria Trattoria, The Whalesbone Oyster House, Empire Grill, Atelier Restaurant, Beckta Dining and Wine, Juniper Dining and National Arts Centre continue to come to mind in the days ahead, consider that there really is a much, much larger list of great restaurants known for a top-notch dining experience in the Ottawa area. Create your own ‘Must Try’ list. Venture out. Savour the flavours. This town does have a lot to offer.

And now my question to you. If Chef Blackie tasked you with creating the list of 8 hosting Ottawa chefs, is there a particular name that you want to see on it?

** Monday night’s food presentations in the order of my likes **

Ray Bear (MIX, Halifax, NS) | Clifford Lyness (Brookstreet)
Poached Atlantic lobster | Bridge sparkling wine beurre blanc
corn flan + watercress sprouts | black olive purée
Le Coprin mushrooms | sweetbreads with candied fennel
08 Eagle Tree Muscat, Jõst Vineyards, Nova Scotia

Michael Lyon (Hotel Eldorado, Kelowna, BC) | Michael Blackie (NAC)
Sweet grass cold smoked Charlevoix veal | crisp potato girdle
Clarmell on the Rideau feta + sage infused retention
firecracker spotted prawn crisp | Cloud Horse mead-­‐lychee sting
08 Cloud Horse, Meadow Vista Honey Wines, Kelowna, British Columbia

Anthony Walsh (Canoe, Toronto, ON) | Michael Moffatt (Beckta Dining and Wine)
Drunken squab + Newfie screech | tatin of sunchokes | foie gras crepinette

09 Cabernet Franc Sabrevois, Domaine Perrault, Navan, Ontario

David Rocco (Dolce Vita, Toronto, ON) | Cesare Santaguida (Vittoria Trattoria)
Beet risotto | crispy pig cheek | seared Qualicum beach scallop | Granny smith slaw
08 Archangel Pinot Noir Rosé Sparkling VQA, Angels Gate Winery, Niagara, Ontario

Paul Rogalski (ROUGE, Calgary, AB) | Robin Bowen (Empire Grill)
North country bison hash | Quebec goat cheese + cauliflower ravioli
Preserved lemon + rendered bacon hollandaise | ancho chili plum gastrique
07 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vine Dressers,Petit, Verdot Pelee, Island VQA

Mathieu Cloutier (Kitchen Galerie, Montreal, QC) | Marc Lepine (Atelier Restaurant)
Oyster | honey flavor roasted foie gras terrine | marrow bones + chardonnay vinaigrette |
bacon foam
08 Ice Cider, Domaine Pinnacle, Québec

Brad Long (Café Belong, Toronto, ON) | Charlotte Langley (The Whalesbone Oyster House)
Shiitake poached pickerel | beurre noissette | dressed grains + greens
Crispy crème fraiche oyster 08 County Cuvée Pinot Noir VQA, Rosehall Run Vineyards, Prince Edward

Michael Howell (Tempest Restaurant, Wolfville, NS) | Norm Aitken (Juniper Dining)
Transverse Nova Scotia sea bass
crispy seared | citrus cured
cool fennel + citrus salad | warm gold beet purée + hay
brown butter | dulse and beetroot coulis | applewood smoked mussel bridge
09 Reserve L’Acadie, Domaine de Grand Pré, Nova Scotia

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