We’re super pleased to introduce our new Ottawa squad leader, Jessica! A newcomer to Ottawa, Jessica is a vegan baker–babe ready to take on the city’s eats and treats. She spends her free time digging through crates of records, indulging in coffee, and day-dreaming about roadtripping to Toronto for Sneaky Dee’s nachos.
I must admit, the slight mention of “curry” and “cook-off” has my heart doing things usually only caused by Ryan Gosling. So when the Ottawa’s “Great Curry Cook-Off” came to town at the end of May, I grabbed my most carnivorous friend and entered the Great Canadian Theatre Company to explore a land of all-you-can-eat curry creations in support of the Ottawa Fringe Festival. The Great Curry Cook-off, now in its third year, lit up an otherwise dull Monday night with spice-infused dishes enjoyed in the company of hungry food enthusiasts and art supporters.
Seeing as this was my first Ottawa outing for Fat Girl Food Squad, I knew I had to do bit of recon before hand. I was impressed with the amount of people that came out— almost triple from the previous year. Thankfully we got there right when it started, as fellow curry-lovers were already balancing multiple plates as if they were training for Cirque du Soleil, and the vendors’ trays of delicious rice and spices were mostly depleted in record time. The Great Curry Cook Off hosted eight local restaurants: The Manx (with two contributions), ZaZaZa, Tacolot, Haveli/Seed to Sausage, Hintonburg Public House, Canvas Resto Bar, and Absinthe. Each competitor broke outside the traditional curry mold, so the event was a great opportunity to see the chefs experiment and re-define what curry is.
ZaZaZa featured a “Curry Crazy” pizza (yeah you read right). This pizza had an amazing assortment of ingredients: a tandoori tomato base, mozzarella, tandoori chicken, cashews, roasted red peppers, onions, coriander yogurt drizzle, and hesh cilantro. It was unreal. Other entries included a vegan tofu chickpea curry with smokey pineapple salsa by one of the chefs at The Manx, a chorizo sausage curry by the joint efforts of Haveli and Seed to Sausage, a chickpea, sausage, and cauliflower curry by Hintonburg Public House, Thai peanut fish curry by Absinthe, and a tomato kasundi with turkey, spinach, and a roasted asparagus raita by Canvas Resto Bar. All the restaurants put out some game-changing curries.
With the night nearing its end and garbage bins heaping with empty but once-loved paper plates, it was votin’ time! From the eight options given they had us place a ranking between 1 to 3 for the best dishes of the night. My personal vote went to The Manx for their tofu chickpea curry, which won them in second place overall, but only at “The Great Curry Cook Off” can Mexican taco aficionados take the crown, and that they did! Tacolot were this year’s champions with their coconut shrimp, mango guacamole, and creamy basil curry. Being the guac’ connoisseur that I am, I was elated to try the mango guacamole portion of this dish, and it did not disappoint. I completely vouch for why these guys reigned supreme and will be popping in soon to sample more of their eats! In third place was Haveli/Seed to Sausage for their contribution.
Congrats to all the restaurants who participated and to the Ottawa Fringe Festival for a successful fundraiser. It was a fun- and food-filled evening and I’m already looking forward to next year’s curry creations.Tags: Absinthe, Canvas Resto Bar, Curry, Fundraiser, Great Curry Cook-Off, Haveli, Hintonburg Public House, ottawa, Ottawa Fringe Festival, pizza, Seed to Sausage, taco, tandoori, ZaZaZa