By Heather Heagney

Winterlude is Ottawa’s big, shiny, famous winter festival and if you haven’t yet been, you really should pack your bags. Each year throngs of tourists and city folk alike bundle up for three weekends in February to brave the Rideau Canal and take in the festivities. Gawking at ice sculptures, pulling tiny icicles from one’s eyelashes and warming up at a local pub or restaurant with a hot beverage are all common behaviours of the Winterlude goer.

Living here now and having grown up near Ottawa, I have great memories of the annual canal skate, hot chocolate and BeaverTails® pastry. BeaverTails pastries are a Winterlude institution, having evolved from the lowly cinnamon and sugar version to a bevy of sweet and savoury options with which to fill your gullet.

This year I decided to hit the canal to see what people were eating, and although I only had time to visit a small subsection of Winterluders, the chocolate hazelnut BeaverTails pastry featured heavily as a wintry snack. Think about it: chocolate hazelnut spread on a fried, sugary pastry. It’s a no-brainer. Wash that down with a hot chocolate (or better, a hot toddy) and you can successfully brave the subzero Ottawa weather.

It really is quite charming to see the skaters whizzing by and to take in the snow and ice sculptures, even if you only have a short time to do so. A glimpse, or a taste, of Winterlude is often all you need to entice you to return again next year.

Other popular tastes of Winterlude include: maple taffy, maple lollipops, hot dogs, french fries, hot chocolate and hot soup from a popular food truck. Winterlude 2012 wrapped up this past weekend, but if you missed it this year, mark your calendars for 2013 and make sure to bring your skates, your appetite, and maybe even a flask for those chilly nights on the canal.

Sidenote: I was lucky enough to run into Toronto’s own Derek Cameron of Parkdale Preserve Co. who was giving out his delectable array of jams in the American Express tent — if you haven’t yet tried his preserves, they come highly recommended! 

Heather Heagney is a small town/big city girl who has split her time between Ottawa and Toronto. Having served in the food and drink world as everything from a Barista to an Event Manager, she now serves up food passion on her blog, After the Harvest. With a focus on environmental issues, she does what she can to promote local, sustainable food, but she still admits that there’s nothing like a good guacamole, even in the dead of winter in Ottawa, where she currently resides. Read more from Heather at her After The Harvest blog.