Savouring the season at Savour Ottawa’s Summer Tables event

By Jacob Hoytema – 

Fans of locally produced food will have no shortage of new meals to try. Until August 21, Savour Ottawa’s Summer Tables event will be taking place at nine restaurants across the city. Three of these, Thyme and Again, Absinthe Cafe, and The Table Restaurant, are in Wellington West. The event places the spotlight on food grown on farms within the Ottawa area as restaurants roll out special menu items made with locally sourced ingredients.

At local catering shop Thyme and Again, Executive Chef Justin Faubert has designed two dishes for the event: Roasted Fitzroy Beef, made with meat from Fitzroy Beef Farmers near Arnprior, and a potato salad made with beans and potatoes from Rochon Farms, and garnished with fennel and radishes from Juniper Farms. Due to being grass-fed, the roast beef has very little marbling and has what Justin describes as a richer taste.

Thyme and Again’s Executive Chef Justin Faubert has designed two dishes for Savour Ottawa’s Summer Tables event. Photo by Jacob Hoytema
Thyme and Again’s Executive Chef Justin Faubert has designed two dishes for Savour Ottawa’s Summer Tables event. Photo by Jacob Hoytema

Justin says he visits the Parkdale Market regularly to pick up ingredients from local farmers’ booths, meaning that the ingredients served at the restaurant are fresh. In the dish pictured above, for example, Justin says that the ingredients were all about a day old.

Justin says that aside from fresher and healthier ingredients due to reduced travel time, buying local allows for a varied menu based on what providers have available at the time.

“It’s good to get to know a few farmers, and you get to know what they have, if they get a big bumper crop of something… I like to keep the menus a little bit vague and then use what the farmer needs to move along as well,” Justin explains.

Patrick Garland, owner and head chef of Absinthe Cafe, says that this ability to change up the menu is one of the best parts of buying from local providers. He adds that it also means getting to build close relationships with the farmers he buys from.

“They are the people in my neighbourhood… some of these people I’ve known a long time,” Patrick says. “When I say I’m going to ‘the farm’, everybody knows I’m going to Mariposa, [the local duck farm].”

For Summer Tables, Absinthe will be serving a three-course meal that includes Thai-inspired quail, braised rabbit ravioli, and a vanilla panna cotta with a burnt orange tuile.

Patrick describes Absinthe as being part of a “hyper-regional” closed circuit with its food providers: he buys carrots locally, then gives his carrot peels as feed to a local pig farm, and then uses that pork for dishes in his restaurant.

The Table Vegetarian Restaurant, owned by Simon Saab, has only been a member of Savour Ottawa for a year, even though Simon has been buying local ingredients since his restaurant opened fifteen years ago.

The Table Restaurant is participating in Summer Tables with two salads, one made with kale, feta cheese, and raisins, and the other with hand-picked grape tomatoes (both yellow and red) in a balsamic dressing. The kale and tomatoes come from Ferme aux Pleines Saveurs in Quebec.

Although Simon has been buying locally on his own for so long, he says that being a part of Savour Ottawa is useful as a marketing initiative for local producers and vendors. “The upside is it brings like-minded people together,” says Simon.

Savour Ottawa is an organization that advocates and promotes the sale of locally grown agriculture in markets and restaurants around the city. It is run (and funded) by a grouping of Ottawa Tourism, the Rural Affairs and Markets Management office in the City of Ottawa, and non-profit local food advocacy group Just Food. Its membership is made up of nine Ottawa restaurants and close to a hundred local farms and food producers.

For a list of restaurants participating in Summer Tables, as well as their menus, go to
savourottawa.ca.

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