Would you pass up free stuff? Me neither.

So when I entered, and won, an Instagram contest for two free tickets to the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival, I excitedly bragged about it to everyone I know.

After regaining composure, I invited my photographer buddy Livia along and the two of us set out to take some quality food pics and document the experience. 

Full disclosure: Even though our entry tickets were free, we had to buy tasting tickets at the door. The tasting tickets were in sheets of 20 for $20 and were individually exchanged for food samples. Most items were worth 2-4 tickets.

Olivia Faria

The Experience

Upon arrival, Livia and I realized that we were the youngest people there and everyone was dressed way better than us. Perhaps we had just stumbled into the Oscars. We didn't care. We were there for the food. 

It was amazing. Almost everything was freshly prepared right in front of us. Lineups for specific vendors never had more than a 5-10 minute wait. Also, there were tons to do. There were seminars, grape-squishing to make wine was happening, and there was a painting that everyone had the opportunity to contribute to. Check me out painting some oranges onto grape vines like a true Picasso.

Olivia Faria

The Food (And Drink)

The size of the venue and crowd was overwhelming, so I was seeking something familiar and comforting. Also, I was thirsty. Naturally, my first stop was the Mill Street Brewery. They had six beers to choose from and I decided on their West Coast Style IPA. I’m no beer expert, but the lady who served me said it was meant to have a floral taste and this drink delivered on that promise. 

Olivia Faria

Next we checked out Fraktals —because Livia and I were taken off-guard and enticed with a free sample of their Chocolate Cashew Buttercrunch. Dear readers, this chocolate is gluten free, non GMO, preservative free, and handmade. Everyone, take notes.

Olivia Faria

Suddenly, I was overcome with the memory that I had not eaten dinner. So we set out to find the station with the largest portions and we found ourselves at our next stop: Woody’s. I got fish and chips with a lemon garlic aioli. I am the type of human that puts ketchup on everything, so I was a little disappointed to not have any for my fries. However, this lemon garlic aioli made up for it by filling a void that I didn’t know I had. 

Olivia Faria

Our next venture was KS On The Keys. We got cheese pizza and egg rolls. The egg rolls were the absolute right amount of greasy. I'd recommend the pizza to anyone who likes a ton of cheese on their 'za – Livia is one of those people. 

Carleigh Reynolds

Livia and I were feeling parched so when we saw what appeared to be slushy machines at the Rheault Distillery table, we were intrigued. Livia got a Loon Vodka Margarita and I grabbed a Rasberry Cranberry Martini Slushy. That’s right folks. As the classy adults we are, we couldn’t resist to appeal of shaved ice. Aren’t they just fab though?

Olivia Faria

We noticed that the FarmTeam Cookhouse was serving sliders and went to investigate. The sliders were vegetarian, made with a nut patty and topped with a chili lime mayo. If I hadn’t known that it was a veggie burger, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. My dad is vegetarian-bordering-on-vegan, therefore I have endured some very cardboard-like veggie burgers and this slider was on another level.

Olivia Faria

We were feelin’ dessert, so Liv and I checked out Alicja Confections to sample their chocolate snacks. We snagged a sample containing chocolate pastilles and dried raspberries. Their products were decadent dessert trail mixes that come in cute, unique packaging. I think they would make great gifts. 

Olivia Faria

Still on the dessert kick, we went to Sweet Clementines where I grabbed one of their Maple Mini Cupcakes and Livia went for a piece of their Lemon Shortbread. That maple cupcake was my favourite bite of the night. Sweet Clementines, if you are reading this, please make my future wedding cake. I am not engaged, nor am I planning to be anytime soon. I just thought you should know that you may be getting a call from me a decade from now.

Olivia Faria

Thirsty again, we decided to try Flow water. This stuff is a naturally alkaline spring water that is made in Canada. It is Canada’s first environmentally-responsible water because the packaging is made with paper instead of plastic so it is biodegradable and recyclable. Have you ever drank bottled water and gotten a plastic or chemical taste? This drink did not have that. Also, Flow has minerals and electrolytes that give it the nutritional value of a Gatorade or a coconut water. So it helps cure hangovers. On my most recent trip to Whole Foods, I bought three more.

Olivia Faria

Livia decided it would be a travesty if we went to a Wine and Food Show without trying any wine. We suddenly found ourselves at the table for Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery. Their cranberry wine didn’t contain any grapes and it tasted like a Vodka Cranberry or a dessert wine. 

Olivia Faria

Livia and I made our last stop at the Donut Rain On My Parade food truck, which was parked inside the venue. I love a good pun so I knew this one was gonna be good. We ordered six fresh Cookies and Cream donuts. They were powdery, chocolatey, sugary, and I could definitely go for ten more.

Olivia Faria

I left the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival feeling full, hydrated, and happy. This is a feeling I would recommend to anyone. 

Moral of the story: enter as many Instagram contests as possible. You may just suddenly find yourself in possession of some tickets to a new exciting experience. Dudes, I got to dress up, people-watch, take some photos, and eat a ton of new, fancy and innovative food products. It was an experience everyone should have. 

Olivia Faria

Cheers!