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Obama takes detour to pick up an 'Obamatail'

OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama apparently couldn't quell his curiosity - or his appetite.

OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama apparently couldn't quell his curiosity - or his appetite.

At the end of a long day of meetings on his first foreign visit as president, the leader of the free world and his 50-car motorcade took an unscheduled detour into Ottawa's Byward Market in quest of that most Canadian of delicacies - a Beavertail.

"It just kinda, sorta happened," said Jessica Milien, a 17-year-old Ottawa high-school student and a big Obama fan. "I was just doing my job at the Beavertails and this agent came up asked me to bring (the president) a Beavertail.

"I asked him, 'well, which one would he like?' and he said, 'whatever you want.' I chose to give him the Obamatail, which is pretty much made because of him."

The Secret Service waited at the Hooker's Beavertails hut on George Street while she prepared one of the $3.75 hot pastries, a patty of wholewheat dough stretched into the shape of - you guessed it - a beaver tail. It's then float-cooked in canola oil.

Native to Ottawa, Beavertails are served hot with a variety of delectable toppings, but at a Canadian Embassy "tailgate" party marking Obama's inauguration last month in Washington, they served an Obama Beavertail, also known as an Obamatail.

Served with cinnamon and sugar, along with a whipped-cream "O" topped with chocolate sauce and a splash of maple, the Obamatail has been popular ever since.

Obama and Milien shook hands and posed for pictures together.

The U.S. president's impromptu stopover caused something of a sensation in the market, Ottawa's oldest sector with narrow streets and multiple vendors of all size and description.

While crowds lined the motorcade route and gathered on Parliament Hill throughout the day, the market was local residents' only opportunity to catch the president up close and personal.

Obama drew Beatlemania-like screams and an enormous cheer from shoppers as he ambled among aisles of vendors selling crafts, Chinese noodles and Indian food at an indoor market.

He wandered into the Oxxo Silk Market, which sells aboriginal dolls and assorted tourist goods. He emerged with a keychain bought with $5 in Canadian currency - a dollar more than it was worth.

"I was looking for a key chain and a snow globe for my daughters." he said, explaining he was continuing a tradition started during the campaign of picking up memorabilia at every stop.

He also bought a silk scarf for wife Michelle.

Shoppers crowded his every move, snapping pictures as he entered Le Moulin de Provence bakery and announced he wanted Canadian cookies. The baker, from the south of France, obliged with Maple Leaf-shaped sugar cookies with red-and-white icing.

"I figure I'd get some points from my daughters," Obama declared.

The baker refused his Canadian cash: "It's for your daughters," he said. "It's not for you."

At one point, the president said he wanted a Beavertail. As he emerged from the indoor market, Milien was there waiting for him, Obamatail in hand.

The president - who'd earlier dined on Pacific Coast tuna with a chilli and citrus vinaigrette, maple and miso cured Nunavut Arctic char and Applewood smoked plains bison - told Milien he'd be eating the Obamatail once he got home to Washington.

"He was actually so down to earth," said Milien. "He was like pretty much another person on the street. He was not what I expected at all. He was so nice."

A half-hour later, he was at the airport meeting Opposition Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff before boarding Air Force One. Obama told Ignatieff that Ottawa reminds him of Chicago, with some differences.

"We don't ice-skate on Lake Michigan," Obama said. "There are no Beavertails. We have the equivalent. We do have some stuff that'll thicken the arteries."

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