Featured image: Perogies heaven @ Capital Ukrainian Festival.
Ottawa is truly the city of festivals. Since we are encased in snow for half the year, we like to make the most out of our summer months filling it to the brim with festivals. In this series named “What’s Happening in Ottawa?” we will explore the various events going on in Ottawa. They are time-sensitive so I will try my best to upload in a timely manner so the content would hopefully still be relevant for you to check out the events this year. Otherwise, they are usually annual events so there is always next year!
Just this weekend alone, there are 3 festivals going on. We decided to check out the Capital Ukrainian Festival.
This is close to the intersection of Prince of Wales Drive and Heron Road. You will see tents in front of a beautiful, gold Ukrainian shrine. There is limited free parking in lots off Prince of Wales Drive. You can also try to find parking in the neighbourhood but beware of “special events no stopping” signs. Otherwise there is paid parking at the nearby Vincent Massey park. Finally, you can park off-site at St Pius X High School, 1481 Fisher Avenue and there will be a shuttle bus taking to you the event grounds every half an hour.
To be completely honest, my knowledge of Ukrainian food is quite restricted, limited to perogies, so I was quite excited to try a lot of the dishes here for the first time. To get food/drinks, you will need to purchase tickets at the price of 1:1 and then go to the festival food stands to get your food. We did not really plan well and just hastily purchased one sheet = $20 worth. We quickly saw that the mixed perogies plate itself was already $10, so it did not leave us with a lot of money to get more food. We had to go back and get more tickets. I am not a fan of the ticket/token systems as I like to just eat/drink what I want as I want it. My advice is to just make sure you decide what you want before getting the correct number of tickets so there is no wastage or the need to line up repeatedly for tickets. There was a long line for the food, but it moved quickly.
We ended up getting the mixed perogies plate, studenetz, deruny, patychky and kovbasa.
First off, the perogies were pillowy and perfectly cooked. Paired with some sour cream, it was exactly as I expected. The mixed plate consisted of interesting fillings such as cranberry, sauerkraut as well as the usual potato with cheddar and potato with cottage cheese. Skeptical at first, I was pleasantly surprised by the cranberry filling. It actually was not bad. I was not a huge fan of the sauerkraut though. The potato cheddar ones were definitely my favourite.
Next, the description for the studenetz was lacking so I did not really know what I was getting. Since this was advertised as “one of the most traditional and unique dishes of Ukraine”1, I felt that I must try it. To my surprise, it was jellied chicken. Imagine, chicken soup, which has been cooled down in the fridge and left overnight with all the fatty broth congealed around it. Indeed it was very unique but perhaps not for everyone.
The deruny was apparently “a staple in every Ukrainian home”1, so again I felt that I needed to try this. These are very well-cooked finely chopped hashed potatoes. Not my favourite of hashes but not bad when paired with the sour cream.
Next, we had the patychky, breaded pork on a stick, served with a side of Ukrainian coleslaw. Think schnitzel on a stick, so as expected, it was quite salty. When compared to other breaded pork dishes like the Japanese tonkatsu, I prefer the light airy breading of the tonkatsu over the patychky. The coleslaw was quite light and refreshing with the dill which worked nicely with the savoury pork.
Lastly, we had the barbecued kovbasa sausage in a bun with mustard and sauerkraut. You can’t go wrong with this combination and I’m a huge fan of kovbasa sausage so this gets my vote.
We did not have the stomach space to try but there were Ukrainian crepes, beignets and gelato here as well. The latter of the 2 were not part of the festival foods section and is cash only (not part of the food tickets system).
We had 6 tickets left so we wanted to get something refreshing. Most of the alcoholic drinks were at least $8 so we ended up getting 2 more tickets and got ourselves a cold Lvivske 1715. It was a light, crisp pilsner. Here you can also get cocktails made from Ukrainian vodka. For non-alcoholic choices, you can get a Ukrainian fruit punch, soda or water at the main food stand. Alternatively, there is a vendor stand (not part of the food tickets system) where you can drink coconut, pineapple and watermelon juices straight from the fruit!
There are two outdoor stages here with music, singing and dancing, plenty of seating with tables for eating. There may also be activities in the church itself but I did not feel appropriate walking in there in my shorts and sleeveless top. There is also marketplace selling Ukrainian items as well as not so Ukrainian things (e.g. Costco membership, HelloFresh subscription, etc.).
Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours this weekend. There is no entrance fee but you can make a donation if you would like. Plenty of areas for shade. Lots of food to try and performances throughout the day. Great way to get a glimpse into a different culture without needing to get on a plane.
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