Part of an occasional series about Globe reporter Fluto Shinzawa’s culinary experiences on the hockey beat.
On a good day, the drive from Montreal to Ottawa takes two hours. On Sunday morning, a peek outside my hotel room showed it would not be a good day.
The season’s first snowbound drive is always a nervous one for me. It takes a few miles to fall back into the rhythm of bad conditions – taking it slow, braking steadily, steering with gentle twists on the wheel.
Making it to Ottawa for Sunday’s 5 p.m. Bruins-Senators puck drop wasn’t my concern. I had been dreaming about lunch at Shawarma Palace for weeks. I wasn’t planning on missing it.
So my free breakfast voucher at the hotel was out. Breakfast would have to be an apple in the car to build in enough time to eat in Ottawa. When lunch at Shawarma Palace is on the menu, a light breakfast is never an issue. The chicken shawarma place is the definition of one-meal dining. It’s so much food that you don’t need much else the rest of the day.
The drive started out lousy. The snow had been coming down hard and wet for some time. The roads were a mess. I didn’t break 50 m.p.h. for a long time.
But the weather broke at the Ontario-Quebec border. Highway 417 was in good shape. I was making fine time – good enough that I pulled into Shawarma Palace’s parking lot at 11:52 a.m., eight minutes before opening. There were already diners in line.
The drive and the wait made the food taste even better. The dressed-to-order salad was a crisp and light foil to the richness of the hummus. The pita bread was fresh and chewy. The potatoes dipped into the aggressive garlic sauce were excellent. And the chicken – crunchy skin on the outside, tender meat on the inside – was outstanding. At $12.95 Canadian, the chicken shawarma plate is the best bargain in the league.
As noted earlier, it doesn’t leave room for much else. But I was looking at nearly four hours of postgame driving back to Vermont. So to be safe, I bought a falafel sandwich and stashed it on the passenger seat. I’m glad I did.
By 10:30 p.m., the sandwich was cold. But it was still really good. I was pretty gassed by the end of the drive. I like to think that falafel, not unleaded, helped power me back to Vermont.
Follow Fluto Shinzawa on Twitter at @GlobeFluto