Rustic flavours at Ottawa Lebanese Festival

TONY SPEARS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

Big, clean, rustic flavours anchor the tantalizing, wafting aromas that will soon pervade the Moody's Bay area throughout the 20th edition of the Ottawa Lebanese Festival.

Organizers expect anywhere from 35,000 to 40,000 hungry visitors to come anon to Lebanon, worshipping sweet and savoury food in the shadow of St. Elias Cathedral.

Starting Wednesday and running until Friday, men and women alike will man the massive food tent as Lebanese and gluttons indulge in an orgy of onions, garlic, chickpeas and parsley.

There will also be dance lessons from the Al Arz dance group to help burn off calories, as well as music and comedy.

There's even a midway where parents can leave their kids while adults relax in the fragrant smoke of the shisha tent.

Money from the non-profit event will go to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre, the Elizabeth Bruyere Foundation and the Lebanon-based Al-Kafaat Foundation.

You cannot walk three blocks in this city without crashing into 17 of the city's ubiquitous shawarma joints.

So it is somewhat redundant to describe the marinated chicken, beef shawarma and lamb kafta dishes that readily yield their spicy succulence through flame- or oil-crisped exteriors.

"It's very healthy, it's nutritious, it's delicious," said festival vice-chair Christine Ayoub.

All of the ingredients are fresh. Even the chickpeas used in garlicky, creamy hummus haven't seen the inside of a can, Ayoub said.

Then there are the slightly less famous desserts.

Okay, everyone knows Baclawa -- those syrupy nut-filled squares of phyllo pastry.

But try the Mamoul -- domed cookies dusted with icing sugar hiding a sweet walnut filling.

Extra authenticity comes from the experienced hands of over 40 cooks who lovingly create each and every dish, Ayoub said.

"These women work from morning until the middle of the night to prep this food."

Imbued with home-cooked flavour, there's only one thing for festival-goers to heed.

"Come hungry," Ayoub said.

tony.spears@sunmedia.ca

The Ottawa Lebanese Festival runs from Wednesday to Sunday (July 21 to 25) at 700 Ridgewood Dr. Admission is $5 on Wednesday night, $2 every other night and free until 4 p.m. on the weekend. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.ottawalebanesefestival.com.


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