Our Tasting Ottawa group celebrated its fifth event last night at Chef Michael Blackie’s amazing restaurant, NeXT, in Stittsville.  We began planning the event about a month ago and received amazing support from all of the staff at the restaurant, whether it be the event coordinator, servers, chefs…everyone!

We were lucky enough to have an event menu designed for our group by Chef Blackie that consisted of canapés, appetizers, main course and desserts along with an optional wine pairing, hand picked by the Chef himself.  Tasting Ottawa had an amazing response to this event, it was our largest group ever with many of the attendees having never tried the restaurant before. I can say whole-heartedly that all attendees will be back sooner than later!

We arrived and were brought into a beautiful room with  elegantly set tables, candles and a glowing fireplace. The evening began with canapés and welcome bubbles. The canapés were mini grilled cheese with Emmental cheese and Chorizo sausage with a crispy grilled bread and a Seed to Sausage charcuterie board that was delicious!

One my favourite dishes of the evening was the bread service! I know what you’re thinking, bread service could be one of my favourites, am I nuts?! Trust me, this was unreal, a crisp but soft baguette with olive oil with homemade Lebanese Labneh to spread on it and pickled okra, olive and roasted peppers to top! Amazing! (Labneh is a Lebanese cream cheese).

Appetizers were served promptly after the bread course. Our appetizer combination plates had three items: salt and pepper squid, Blackie’s chicken and a Foie Gras bar. The squid was my favourite; tender, delicate and lightly seasoned. Blackie’s chicken is one of NeXT’s signature dishes: a tempura fried chicken with ginger sauce…very good! I am typically not a Foie Gras fan, I often find it too rich and odd in texture however it is one of those “things” that, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I want desperately to adore! Last night…I did! The texture was spot on, smooth and silky, the depth of flavour was incredible with a natural saltiness, crunch from a cashew crumble and a slight sweetness from fruit…all served on a crispy crostini, it was heaven in a mouthful! Okay, maybe that was my favourite of the three!
For our main course, again we were served a combination plate with two elements: a braised molasses and honey beef short rib and a miso-glazed black cod. The beef short rib was tender and luscious served on creamy duck fat mashed potatoes, yes they are as good as they sound, one of Carole’s favourites. The black cod was light and cooked perfectly, the gremolata that topped the fish was a perfect addition to the texture and flavour…and who does not like a warm bean cassoulet with speck (fancy bacon!).

I think the dessert portion of the evening was a favourite for many. Servers brought out sharing boards with a taste of many desserts. There were the signature hot cheese cake mouth pops, apple and pear crisp, sticky toffee pudding and cranberry ice wine brulee. The mouth pops were as good as ever, crisp on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside covered in an unbelievably fresh strawberry-basil “pulse” or sauce! The sticky toffee pudding and crème brulee were yummy with the brulee having that fantastic crunch when your spoon hits the top and the pudding covered in an amazing caramel sauce. For me, the star was the Apple and Bosc Pear Oat Crisp with Crème Anglaise – it was sweet while not overwhelmingly so, amazingly spiced and the crème Anglaise made me swoon! Compliments of Chef Blackie, we were served to pair with dessert a lovely Southbrook Framboise from Ontario.

While I did not do the wine tasting, with the exception of the beginning bubbles, Carole raved about how well all paired with the meal. She especially enjoyed the pairing with the mains, a Tempranillo from Spain (Torre de Barreda La Mancha). Having been to NeXT many times before, I know their wine list is fantastic and extensive and the servers are knowledgeable and very eager to help pick the perfect pairing.

We LOVED our evening at NeXT and we know all of the attendees did as well. The food, atmosphere and service are all wonderful. We cannot wait to go back again and again and again….

A very BIG thank you to Chef Michael Blackie and all of his staff for an amazing evening!

– Barbara, Evans Team Ottawa