Saturday, 13 May 2006

Peace Garden

Hello from Ottawa. As many of you know, we're in Ottawa this weekend. I'm attending bsdcan (a technical conference related to the BSD family of operating systems that we at VexTech run most of our systems/software on.)

Unfortunately it's been raining pretty much non-stop since the conference started. But that hasn't stopped Selena from magically sniffing out all of the... (hmm, what shall we call them? Ah, let's say...) alternative India-based spiritual enclaves, and taking advantage of their marvelous (vegetarian) cooking skills. Yesterday I raced back from the conference location on the lunch break (through the rain) and found myself ushered off to a little hole in the wall (and down a flight of steps, and around a corner) not far from here (University of Ottawa) bearing the slightly unusual sounding hand painted sign: Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise. It turns out this little restaurant is run by Hari Krishnas. Their soup was fabulous. The curry and salad were not as fabulous, but still quite good. A nice lunch.

At dinner time the conference attendees were largely headed to a place downtown called Patty Bolland's Pub. We went along in that direction (through the rain pouring harder than ever---I'd taken off my jacket to cover Istra who to our amazement actually somehow remained perfectly dry while the rest Selena and I were soaked through), but Selena had looked up alternatives... and at the last minute we casually passed by poor old Patty Bolland, Pub-filled-to-overflowing-with-geeks, and sought out, just down the street a place Selena had found reference to called "Peace Garden".

We could not find Peace Garden at first. My excuse may be my glasses streaming with water made seeing anything clearly rather a dicy proposition. We doubled back. We had noticed a sandwichboard on the sidewalk which was hand painted and looked suspiciously like the one outside the Hari Krishna hole-in-the-wall already described. And so looking closer we did notice there was a door where we had thought the Peace Garden should be. Beside the door was a sort of directory, and "Peace Garden" was listed on it. We went in.

The door led to an odd little mall. Everything in this odd little mall was closed. But in the very center of this little mall, with a small fountain, and a modest (yet impressive) potted forest of trees, we could percieve (we almost missed it the first time) ther was an opening that led to a chaotic (in a neat sort of way) enclosure which appeared to have food. There were tables outside of jars of cookies and squares.

We moved in to investigate, and the sole occupant, a soft spoken fellow, noticed us and proceeded to tell us about the specials of the day: a shepherd's pie made with lentils and beans; and a caserole made with egg and dates with a tomato sauce. Selena went with the former, and I had to try the latter. We also ordered soup (there were two kinds).

We occupied the only large table in the potted forrest. We were the only people there (later three women came and had soup and veggie wraps at a small table off to the side). It was indeed strangely peaceful in the middle of that little forest in the middle of that strange little mall. Selena and I expressed to each other our great satisfaction in it all, and especially not being crowded in Patty Bollands loud-hall-of-drinking-geeks. (But really, who are the true geeks here? The brigade of compatriots chowing down raukusly at the pub, or the weirdos who sit alone in a potted forest, enjoying the weirdness?)

The food (though i found the portions a little small---but perhaps I was for some reason extra hungry) was really nice. The lentil soup was full of yummy spices (very similar, coincidentally, to the soup we had at lunch), the tomato soup was much lighter, subtler, but also yummy. The shepherd's pie was probably, from the small taste I got, the best vegetarian shepherd's pie I've come across. The strange egg and date with tomato sauce casserole was an amazing taste which I still can't figure out how it could have worked.

As we were leaving we got a cookie and date square for the road. Selena, while paying for them, complimented the soft spoken fellow on the excellence of the food. She said he seemed to her to be taken aback for a moment, before responding with genuine thanks. Probably people serving food in the middle of a mall don't get all that many compliments on the cuisine.

Anyhow, after that, it was raining even harder. We (truly we are uber-geeks) headed off to... a grocery store. That morning D'Arcy and Carol (my collegue, and his wife, with whom we are sharing a "suite" in the U of Ottawa student residences) were suprised to learn we weren't tagging along with them to the cafeteria for breakfast (they ended up going to a pub for bacon and eggs, actually). Selena had brought bananas and some sort of instant oatmeal stuff (probably organic?). We told D'Arcy and Carol we'd eat here, and maybe join them the next morning. But no, there we find ourselves in a grocery store stocking up for breakfast the next morning! We came away with 12 grain bread from the bakery, and rather more expensive sliced cheese than normally we'd buy. What else? I can't remember. Anyhow, looks like we'll be doing our own thing for breakfast again this morning, while everyone else does something else...

I haven't taken hardly any pictures since I've been here due to the torrential rain, and that (strangely enough) I've been a little bit busy. The conference has been (once again) better than I expected. Lots of ideas and info... Anyhow, i grabbed a few snaps in the "Peace Garden", one of which you see...

Update: here's what it looks like outside our window this morning... still raining...

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