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Hello from Ottawa Ottawas ByWard Market and the Mardi Gras Experience at Fat Tuesdays

After our arrival in Ottawa this afternoon and a very brief rest at our hotel, we went out in search of a satisfying dinner. The Lord Elgin Hotel is just about 15 minutes walk away from the Historic ByWard Market area, which is one of Ottawa's main entertainment areas.Winterlude is a great time because during this winter festival, many of Ottawa's restaurants offer entertainment and special events. Our destination was Fat Tuesday's, a New Orleans-style restaurant that is known for its Cajun Creole cuisine and its contemporary dishes. After we refreshed ourselves and got organized, we headed off at about 6:45 and started our walk toward the ByWard Market, Ottawa's prime entertainment area. We crossed the Laurier Bridge, which is the setting of quite a few of my husband's anecdotes about Ottawa's winter cold which he got to experience in full force during his time at the University of Ottawa in the early 1980s.

We too noticed that there was a stiff fresh breeze coming off the Rideau Canal and by pure coincidence we did a smart thing: we headed into the Rideau Centre, Ottawa's largest shopping centre. For about 15 minutes we got to walk inside past all the retail stores, totally sheltered from the biting wintery wind.Well, it didn't take us long at all to get to the heart of the ByWard Market, and a friendly guy at a Beavertail sales booth (Beavertails are Ottawa's famous trademark pastry) gave us directions to Fat Tuesday's, home of Ottawa's Mardi Gras experience. Once inside this stylish yet cozy bar/restaurant we had a chance to get a lay of the land from Manny Garcia who's the general manager and one of the co-owners. He told us that Fat Tuesday's was created about 4 years ago and is an independently owned restaurant (not part of any restaurant chain).

Fat Tuesday's combines an upscale Cajun/Creole kitchen with live entertainment and great friendly service, and it's a place where people of all ages congregate.When we were there the place was packed and the waitresses were dressed up in bustiers and some were wearing face masks in keeping with the Mardi Gras theme. The staff seemed to have a lot of fun and they enjoyed interacting with the customers. Our appetite had been building up appropriately and for me, the escargots in a garlic-white wine sauce were just the thing to warm up the palate. After this tasty appetizer I followed up with a Mediterranean salad of baby greens with goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette. Manny came over and persuaded us to try the Pacific rim seared tuna with a pepper crust in a sweet teriyaki sauce, accompanied by shaved ginger and a wasabi mayonnaise.

A delicate and tasty treat. We even had a chance to meet the chef himself. Executive chef Neil Baker told us about himself and we found out that we had a true cosmopolitan world traveler in front of us.As the child of diplomatic parents, Neil was born in Singapore and has also lived in Barbados, Kenya and Thailand.

He's run restaurants in Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York City and now Ottawa. Needless to say, Neil is going to be my next contact for an interview about this international lifestyle.Neil also made a couple of interesting comments about global cuisine. He mentioned that the same culinary themes reappear across the globe. Chinese fried rice is essentially the same as Jambalaya which is essentially the same as Biryani, with a slightly different mix of spices thrown in. And the world's most popular cuisines are those based on the dishes of poor people.

Neil insisted that we have dessert and we had Bananas Foster, which is a mouthwatering concoction of flambéed bananas with caramelized sugar and rum and some vanilla icecream thrown in with a twist of cinnamon on top. I was going to stay away from dessert, but Bananas Foster totally corrupted me. I wasn't going to worry about the extra calories since we are going to go skating on the Rideau Canal tomorrow anyways.At 10:30 every Friday and Saturday night Fat Tuesdays serves up the dueling pianos, a live show where the audience can request their favourite songs from two piano players. Today unfortunately the second piano player was significantly delayed, and given our packed schedule for Saturday, we were unable to stick around for the second piano player to show up. But virtuoso no.

1 played his heart out and really got the crowd going. The place was packed and everybody was in a great mood.So, it's just past midnight now and I am looking forward to another action-packed day tomorrow: some skating on the Rideau Canal (to work off that delicious banana dessert), watching the famous Bedzzz Races on Dow's Lake and then the Fire and Ice Culinary demonstrations at Confederation Park right across from our hotel.It is definitely time to get some rest for a big day and hit the hay??.

.Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.com).

Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest (http://www.

travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm) and have a chance to win an amazing adventure cruise on the Amazon River.

"Life is a Journey Explore New Horizons". The story with photos is published at Travel Stories and Photos (http://www.travelandtransitions.


By: Susanne Pacher

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