Do you remember a meal when after you’ve eaten the last bite you told yourself (and probably others) that it was “the best meal you’ve ever had”? This is often a holiday meal you and your family talk about for years and years, but can also be a quick and easy meal you enjoyed with a close friend or partner.

Those edible experiences are the best, but what makes a meal taste extra special? Is it the food….or is it something more?

Ian Carswell, owner of the Black Tartan Kitchen in Carleton Place, knows the secret ingredients to creating unforgettable edible experiences, and has been doing this so well from his small restaurant that he’s won awards, and has been making a name for himself as a ‘chef du jour’ in the Ottawa region.

His secrets are…well, you’ll have to read on to find out! (nice try)

Bring a Friend (or two)

Ian’s a firm believer that nothing brings people together like good food.  A meal is quite simply better when you sit down for a meal with a friend or two, and connect over a bowl or plate of something delicious.

This isn’t only true when you’re whipping up award-winning dishes, it’s true for any meal that’s enjoyed with family and friends. A meal shared with people who are laughing and talking and interrupting each other is somehow more meaningful. As the wine flows and you chat over the meal, the time spent laughing and talking blends into the food until the two are inseparable.

As Ian says: “Food brings people together, you share a meal but you share great experiences as well.”

Meet the Makers

When you meet the folks who grew your food, or processed it, and then you bring it home and prepare it in a meal, you are bringing so much more to the meal than if you just picked something up at the grocery store. Farm to table means imbibing your food with the history that comes with the hands that plucked it from the ground and how it made its way to your hands.

Locally sourced products are also fresher and tastier, and that’s why Ian works so hard to connect with local growers and producers to incorporate into his menu. As Ian says: “When you taste local food you are tasting the area, you’re tasting the love and care that the farmer has put into it.”

Making Edible Memories

Food can be a transportive experience, taking you back to the moment in time where you last experienced that particular flavour. It is a very tangible memory builder, and a powerful one.   Incorporating that memory-building into the experience and preparing dishes that are evocative of a specific moment in time can really enhance how the food tastes and what the overall experience is like.

One of Ian’s favourite things is seeing the connections his food builds for people. “You remember where and what was going on around that experience, and if you can bring people back to that spot in time, that’s amazing.”

Be a Food Yogi

Don’t just eat your food, savour your food, linger over your food, take the time to truly be present as you eat and let the flavours burst in your mouth. Be mindful about what you put in your mouth and in your body. Eating is not only to sustain life, it’s to fulfill life.


Looking for more inspiration for connecting to food in Ontario’s Highlands? Click here to find more information about making an edible connection in the region.