The new year marks 25 years I’ve written a weekly restaurant column. Twenty of those I was the Ottawa Citizen’s critic; the past five I’ve been with Ottawa Magazine. To have had a supported platform these many years to guide diners toward the good stuff has been a privilege, and it’s been an honour to write about the men and women who elevate the restaurant scene in this great city. But the time feels right to put down the fork. Or at least to leave the pen at home. I am moving on from my role as restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine.
Some of my happiest moments have been in this region’s restaurants, discovering their charms, the quality of their ingredients and the imagination of their cooks, and feeling the professional kindness from a well-trained floor staff. Yes, there have been a fair share of lousy meals over three decades, and many more characterless ones — always the trickiest to write about. But when a restaurant sings and dances it’s been such fun to scream from the rooftop: “Hey, Ottawa, I’ve found you a gem!” And then maybe try to tell people why it’s good, what they’re doing right, where they might improve a titch…
I’ll miss it. My husband and friends — my faithful ‘other mouths’ — will miss it. I’ve raised four sons on restaurant leftovers: the older ones still talk about the joy of all the foil swans in the home fridge when they’d go rummaging for lunch fixings. (“Hey ma, what’s up for grabs?”) They’ll miss the vestiges of their mother’s job. I’m deeply grateful for their support, and that of my husband, Ken, who’s been a superstar, left alone most nights to handle the snowy owl projects and to weather my dark mood whenever I had to write a gloomy report. That I won’t miss. Not a bit.
To every chef, restaurateur, sous chef, pastry chef, cook, sommelier, baker, maître d’, server, bartender, floor runner, dishwasher, and to all the farmers and producers and suppliers: you have made the past quarter century of my life fascinating and delicious and I thank you. I have learned so much from your hard work. I thank as well the readers of my columns over the years, for your interest and feedback.
I do not plan to go hungry. My affection for the restaurant culture of this city is abiding. I will continue exploring our foodscape, just less often and on my own dime. I’ll eat exactly what I please and won’t boss around my dinner companions. And, from time to time — why ever not — I’ll let you know my thoughts on what I’m eating, and whether it’s any good, on this blog.