Taste in the Glebe: a mid-winter fundraiser worth bundling up and leaving your house for

Annual benefit draws sold-out crowd for neighbourly night of food and drinks at Glebe Community Centre

Fundraising marketing and communications specialist Sarah Wilson worried about being isolated and alone when she became a first-time mom. Her family was back in England and her friends in Ottawa weren't having babies, yet.

So, the resident of the Glebe turned to her local community centre, where she instantly found other moms to bond with through programs such as the Salsa Babies class (the babies don't actually dance; they stay snuggled in carriers attached to their moms while perhaps learning their first word: cha-cha-cha).

“Within minutes, I created a parent network,” Wilson told OBJ.social at the 22nd Annual Taste in the Glebe, held Thursday in support of the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group (GNAG) and its: community outreach efforts, financial assistance for families in need, and community projects. 

“I basically learned how to parent while at the community centre, and now my children come here,” added Wilson, whose daughters Leila, eight, and Anya, five, are involved in GNAG’s after-school programs, camps, cooking classes and musical productions.

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From left, Ottawa veterinarian Lara Cohen with GNAG board members Sarah Wilson and Liz Izaguirre at Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Wilson, who volunteers as a board member with GNAG, was one of nearly 400 attendees of the food- and drink-tasting event featuring more than 30 Ottawa restaurants and food shops and at least a dozen vintners, brewers and distillers. The GNAG board is chaired by freelance web designer Elspeth Tory.

For many, the mid-winter evening is a way for residents of the upscale downtown neighbourhood to keep those pesky January blues at bay. Attendees sample different foods and drinks while catching up with fellow Glebites in a relaxed and friendly setting. 

Taste in the Glebe sold out in about 10 minutes this year. It's so popular that the $70 tickets disappeared faster than the coveted childcare spots that GNAG is making available during the teachers’ one-day strikes.

Organizers, who were hoping to raise $29,000, put great effort into keeping the event as green as possible by carefully making sure that all the waste went into the recycling boxes and compost bins. 

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From left, GNAG executive  director Mary Tsai with Joe Thottungal, owner of Coconut Lagoon and its sister restaurant, Thali, with GNAG board chair Elspeth Tory and Tahera Mufti, long-time chair of Taste in the Glebe. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Several well-established restaurants, such as Beckta, North & Navy, Fauna Food + Bar, Les Fougères and Pelican Seafood Market & Grill, also participated in a separate $115-a-ticket wine and food tasting experience, for a crowd of 80.

Taste in the Glebe has a strong and loyal following, from its event chair of 12 years, Tahera Mufti, to the local businesses that donate and serve the food and drinks, to its attendees, including Mayor Jim Watson. Glebe restaurateur Caren von Merveldt’s involvement goes so far back that her apron promotes Taste of the Glebe, which was what the fundraiser was called in its early days. She first opened Flipper's Seafood Restaurant and, right below it on the main floor, Von's Bistro. She's been in business for about 38 years. 

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From left, Caren von Merveldt, owner of Von's Bistro and Flipper's Seafood Restaurant, seen with Claudia McKeen, has been participating in Taste in the Glebe since its first year, back in 1999. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Glebe Meat Market’s Stephane Sauve was there, even though his growing reputation for preparing the best haggis has him very busy handling 4,000 pounds' worth of orders for the traditional Scottish dish, for upcoming Robbie Burns Day celebrations. 

New additions to Taste in the Glebe this year included: Riviera, represented by co-owner and executive chef Jordan Holley, and Thyme & Again catering company and food shop, represented by managing partner Michael Moffatt

Also taking part was Chris Schlesak from Italian restaurant North & Navy. He and his business partner Adam Vettorel are opening a spot in the Glebe in the vacant space that was formerly Fratelli restaurant. They're coming full circle, since that's where the pair first met and worked together.

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Clare Rogers, special events and volunteer coordinator at GNAG, with Ottawa restaurateur Chris Schlesak from North & Navy at Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Victoria Jennings and her husband, Christian Jennings, vice-president of Jennings Real Estate Corp., with his parents, Doran Contractors president Wayne Jennings, who's also board chair of the Ottawa Construction Association, and Sandy Jennings, at Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Il Negozio Nicastro manager Micky Amato with Andrew Milne, chief revenue officer with Field Effect Software, located at Lansdowne, and his wife, GNAG board member Dominique Milne, real estate broker at Engel & Völkers, and Il Negozio Nicastro owner David Nicastro at Taste in the Glebe. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Glebe residents Grant McDonald, managing partner of KPMG, and his wife, PwC senior partner Carol Devenny, who is retiring from the firm later this year, are regular attendees of Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Anthony Carricato, who works in the Office for the Speaker of the House of Commons, with Sarah Chown (Metropolitain Brasserie), alongside Mayor Jim Watson and Doug Ward at Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Riviera's Jordan Holley with Michael Moffatt from Thyme & Again at Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Glebe resident George Weber, a director of Calian Technologies and former CEO of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, with his stepdaughter Olivia Cannings, and Glebe businessman Stephane Sauve from the Glebe Meat Market, at Taste in the Glebe. Photo by Caroline Phillips

On the subject of business partners, Glebe residents Dan Rogers and Blair Brassard were participating in Taste in the Glebe for their first time since taking over the neighbourhood pub, Pints & Quarts, last summer.

“It’s so incredible, being able to walk to work and greet your neighbours,” said Rogers. “This morning, I was out shovelling the snow in front of the pub and talking to the guys at (McKeen) Metro who were doing the same thing, and our other neighbours on both sides. It was so much fun.”

The pair is planing to change the name of their business, come spring, to something that better reflects the community in which they live and work in.

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From left, Blair Brassard and Dan Rogers, new owners of Pints & Quarts, at Taste in the Glebe, held at the Glebe Community Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca