Take flight with Matthius’s mushrooms
By Marisa Romano
Again this summer, Glebites have been lulled by the rumble of the red-winged biplane that circles the sky at regular intervals. After watching the vintage aircraft from our backyard and picturing the Red Baron with leather cap, oversized goggles and flapping scarf in its open cockpit, we finally booked a tour and met the real pilot. Greg Reynolds is the founder/owner of Ottawa Aviation Adventures – Ottawa’s airplane-sightseeing company – and its chief pilot.
When COVID restrictions loosened in mid-July and backyards came back to life with the first barbecues of the season, among those indulging were the pilots, mechanics and staff of Ottawa Aviation Adventures. On their hot grill, meats and veggies sizzle for their shared meals. When I asked them to name their favourite dish, the answer was undisputed: Matthius’s mushrooms.
Reynolds’ affair with aviation started when he was a young boy. He inherited the passion for airplanes from his father, an enthusiastic radio-controlled airplane flyer. Soon Reynolds got his own wings, acquired a commercial licence and started flying floatplanes to isolated outposts, then graduated to airliners servicing the Canadian North. When commercial flying was no longer exciting, Reynolds turned to his passion for old aircraft. He acquired an open-cockpit-vintage biplane and started offering site-seeing tours over Ottawa-Gatineau. His fleet includes two WACO biplanes – two of the last 600 that came out of the Ohio factory between 1937 and 1942 – and a small Cessna. Over the years, Reynolds has witnessed happy moments in his planes, from important celebrations to marriage proposals, but what brings a smile to his face is the excitement of children who receive the “yoke” and briefly fly the Cessna during family tours.
Bookings are steady these days, and weekends are very busy. The field at the edge of the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, tucked between a small hangar and the parked biplane in a corner of Rockcliffe airport, is where the adventures start. From the welcoming picnic tables, you can watch small airplanes taking off and landing on the tarmac. The cozy and evocative space turns into a cheery family gathering on Saturdays when the charcoal barbecue is lit and children receive free hotdogs from a small kiosk, the final touch for the 1930s vibe that Reynolds wanted to recreate.
But this is not the only time the barbecue gets going. Some busy days end with a convivial meal among pilots and crew who contribute their favourites to the grill and the communal table. Reynolds sticks with hotdogs.
“What about everybody’s favourite?” I asked. “Ah! I have here the man behind the mushrooms,” he replied while walking towards the hangar. He came back with Matthius Freedmen, a pilot and “mechanic in training.”
But I had to ask one more question before leaving the field: how safe are these biplanes? Well, as it turns out, they are among the simplest of flying machines. Built to train new pilots, they are constructed in the old style with very sturdy materials and, like old appliances, they do not need heavy intervention. Spare parts are still available, and one company specializing in vintage aircraft still provides any needed repair to the wing’s fabric. It sounds like we are going to see these planes flying over the Glebe for a while yet.
Ottawa Aviation Adventures offers several tour options. For the ones who choose the biplane tour at this time of year, the company recommends the flight over Gatineau Park with the hills all dressed in their best fall colours. Each tour ends with a pass over Parliament Hill and the North edge of the Glebe, a chance to see your neighbourhood from up there and maybe your house from the top! For bookings: ottawaaviationadventures.com.
Matthius’s Barbecued Mushrooms
Cremini or white mushrooms
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp black bean garlic sauce
- ½ tsp red curry paste
- ½ tsp sugar (or more to taste)
- A splash of sesame and olive oil
- Mix the ingredients for the marinade, coat the mushrooms and marinade for 2 to 3 hours.
- Thread the mushrooms on soaked wooden skewers and barbecue at medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, turning every 4 to 5 minutes.