And we are doing all this, not because we are paid or are receiving free loot (we are not), not because we don’t have ten thousand other things to do on a Sunday (we do), but because we see it as a rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain and show you the wizardry.
In addition to the fun and creative dishes that we have been highlighting, SPIN will continue to carry what Chef Robin Bowen calls “hotel staples”, dishes that guests around the world expect to see on their room service menus and in their hotel dining rooms: burgers, pizzas, soups and steaks.
The kitchen is open from 6:00 am to midnight and certain dishes will be part of the “all-day dining” menu. It should be noted, however, that, like most good hotels, the kitchen will accommodate any guest request they can. In the mood for mini sliders at 9:00 am after your international flight? No problem! Feel like a ham and cheese like you might make at home? Why not?
Last Sunday, we were introduced to SPIN’s take on hotel standards, classics spun by Chef Bowen.
First up was Chef Bowen’s take on steak, what he calls the “SPIN Spiced” steak: a spiced New York Strip (loin) that is charred Southwestern-style rather than grilled. What makes this steak different from any other? Well, as Chef put it, “Don’t expect your steak to come with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes.”
The steak was served medium, with an avocado-tomatillo corn relish and thick cut roasted sweet potato fries. The result is a colourful dish, with vibrant greens and summer oranges.
Neither Jenn, Don, nor I are huge steak lovers, but we agreed that this was a phenomenal take. I particularly enjoyed the tang of the cilantro and the creamy avocado; the roasted corn complimented the smokiness of the charred steak.
I had fun, at Chef’s suggestion, pairing wines with this dish. Looking at SPIN’s wine list, I picked two reds and a white to try. I suspected that the British Columbia 2007 Gewurztraminer Private Reserve from Sumac Ridge, Okanagan might be a good white wine, while I thought that the 2008 Grenache from Las Rocas, Spain would be a good medium-bodied red. I also tried the 2006 Big House red from California as I thought it would be the one most people would choose with a steak, name recognition being the key deciding factor.
I was thrilled to discover (and Jenn agreed) that the Gewurtztraminer was the best match. I think it was the texture of the charred steak contrasting with the viscosity (the quality in a wine that makes it less watery in feeling, thicker on the tongue) of the wine that really struck me. Although one traditionally thinks of steak with red wine, the guacamole and tomatillo brightened the dish, giving it a lighter, greener taste that suited the lychee and pineapple of the wine.
If you prefer a red wine, I recommend the Grenache. Although it was served too warm, I have ordered this wine at SPIN before. It is a medium-bodied red, with some nice cherry and oaky notes that suited the steak and sweet potatoes without clashing with the accompanying relish.
As for the California Big House Red? It was, as expected, one-dimensional with alcohol and tannins the predominant aromas. This wine is well known and widely available and that is the only reason I tried it, reasoning that many people will recognise it on the menu and order it. I would not.
Next up was the Mariott “SPIN” burger: a house seasoned Certified Angus Beef burger, with 1000 Island aioli topped with grilled sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes and Balderson smoked cheddar.
The burger will be served with house made chips dusted with white cheddar and dried chives.
Asked what set this burger apart from any other, Chef replied, “I made it with my own hands. I made it with love!”
As for what to drink with the burger, a beer would be best. Unfortunately, neither Beau’s nor Kichesippi beer is available, a missed opportunity for the Marriott to highlight our local brew to visitors and locals alike.
The final classic we tried was a Club sandwich.
Now, I confess that I am a fan of the classic club: toasted Wonder Bread, processed cheese slices, mayo (not Miracle Whip, yuck!), and pressed (processed) turkey slices. I realize that it is not fine dining and I am sure it has something to do with my childhood: the Americans overseas being able to eat this while we ate the local fare (now I realize how lucky we were and what a missed opportunity it was for them, exporting America to wherever they were).
I assure you that there is none of that in the SPIN club sandwich: a gorgeous looking creation bursting with flavours and colours. SPIN’s club sandwich starts with Ace Bakery’s cranberry and raisin focaccia (Chef Bowen is currently looking into adding walnuts), layered with crisp pancetta, turkey breast brined in-house (apple juice, salt, sugar and water), and finished with a lime and peppercorn remoulade. Not your average sandwich, to say the least.
Again, Jenn professed not to be a huge sandwich lover, yet she devoured her share and Don polished his off in record time.
As far as wines to compliment this dish? From the limited wine list, I would try the New Zealand Sanctuary Pinot Noir or the 2008 Huff Estate Riesling; both are available by the glass.
If you find yourself at the Ottawa Marriott and you’re in the mood for a classic, try Chef Bowen’s take on them: burger, steak and Club sandwich.
On a side note, I confess that I am disappointed that the Ottawa Marriott is not taking this opportunity to revamp their wine list or to look at their beers. While I have been told that there are “corporate” considerations involved in the choosing of the wine list, I think it is a terrible shame to spend so much time and energy on the menu yet not take the time to change the wines and beers available. A sexy menu deserves a sexy wine list, IMHO.