Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Papa Joe's Hot Kettle Restaurant

Papa Joe's Hot Kettle Restaurant
2492 Cedar Creek Road
Cambridge, ON  N0B 1E0

This is our Mel's Diner or Cheers Bar, your neighbourhood joint that welcomes you with a warm smile and has your drink of choice on the table before you are done sitting down.

In her opinion:

We've been coming to Papa Joe's for years.  We know most of the staff and have grown to develop relationships with most of the waitresses.  These are hard working girls.  We just love them.  The owners are also always there to greet you with a smile and ask how everyone is doing.  It's a family place and I always feel like family when I dine there.

Papa Joe's is our Sunday breakfast place.  Although, on this occasion we had a late lunch on a snowy Sunday afternoon.  The place was empty...this of course having to do with the weather.  On a Sunday morning the place is usually bustling and at time we have waited up to 15 minutes to get a table. I would say that they have one of the best breakfasts in the area.  Their menu provides a lot of choices for picky or health-conscious eaters.  It mixes Canadian favourites with a few Greek specialities - the owners are Greek after all.

I love their omelets and the "bacon and cheddar omelet" is one of my favourites. This comes with toast and home fries. I also really enjoy their breakfast skillets.  Which is a hash brown mixture with veggies and meat, topped with cheese and your choice of eggs.  Delicious. 

This place is also the closest restaurant near my office so I have ordered lunch to go on several occasions.  The service is fast.  The lunch is always waiting when I get there to pick it up.  I love their western sandwiches and on Fridays they have "hobo soup".  This is a beef vegetable soup that tastes amazing especially on a cold day...it's comfort at it's best.

On this particular Sunday, as I said, we went for lunch.  I ordered their "Patty Melt Burger".  A house made burger with fried onions and cheese on two slices of grilled rye bread.  Awesomeness!

With my burger I ordered the Caesar salad.  This Caesar salad is garlicky, with bacon and croutons.  So good.  It was a very satisfying meal.

I love Papa Joe's.  It's not a fancy place but it is a good place to grab breakfast on the weekends, lunch during the day or supper on a weeknight when you don't want to cook.

I won't write that we'll be back after our last visit...it's just understood that we will...after all, it's just like going home.

In his opinion:

Papa Joe's is undoubtedly a favourite spot of mine and many, especially for breakfast. The usual line-ups of people awaiting for their tables on Sunday mornings attest to the fact that it's in demand and people keep returning for more.

The portions are big, the food is good and the owners and staff make you feel welcome with every visit. It has that "familial" feeling that keeps you coming back over and over again.

Breakfast is really where they excel. A vast menu with many choices including the "lumberjack breakfast" (not for the faint at heart). It is also not the place if you are the calorie counting type but I can assure you that it all tastes good.

On this particular snowy day, we went there for a late lunch, thus avoiding the crowds and as it seems, avoiding any customers at all.

I opted for the "steak sandwich with a house salad and blue cheese dressing". My safe choice turned out to be quite good and flavorful, with the added bonus of a good cut of meat, sometimes hard to find in steak sandwiches.

The good: Awesome for breakfast (bring an appetite) as this place will feed you well.
The bad: Straight forward menu, not a lot of inspirational dishes, mostly what you would expect in a diner type restaurant.
The verdict: One of the best breakfasts in Cambridge (well...Ayr actually) and we always feel like we just arrived at a relatives place when going there, sometimes even better welcomed than at some relatives.

I give it a 3 olives out of 5 as rating

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Chiado - Not your Mama's Portuguese Food!!!!

864 College Street
Toronto, Ontario M6H 1A3


We have just had our first Winterlicious, 2012 dinner and well, let's just say it's going to be hard to top this one.  Chiado is a fine dining Portuguese restaurant in Little Italy and it does not disappoint.  It is consistently praised by food critics and given a 3 1/2 star rating by Toronto Life's Eating and Drinking Magazine. What does a 3 1/2 star rating actually mean...well, it means that this restaurant is rated somewhere between "Excellent" and "Extraordinary". I totally agree.

In her opinion:

It was freezing in Toronto.  But inside Chiado it was warm and cozy with the smell of seafood lingering in the air.  This is Portuguese at it's finest.  I was born in Portugal and love all things Portuguese. So, I was so excited about this dinner.  We have been to Chiado before but never for Winterlicious.  This is Chiado first go at Winterlicious and I'm very happy that they entered this realm of this much loved and hated culinary dining program.  As I've explained before, Winterlicious is an opportunity to partake of a 3 course prix fixe menu at a very reasonable price.

We were shown to our table for two by the illustrious Albino Silva himself in the Senhor Antonio side of the restaurant.  This side of the restaurant is a little less formal but just as wonderful with modern art hanging on the walls.  Our attentive waiter was by our side within moments to ask if we wanted still or sparkling water and as he walked away another server was leaving delicious Portuguese corn bread and baguette on the table.  This was accompanied by black olives and little saucers of peppery olive oil for dipping your bread. I ordered a glass of  white CARM by Rui Madeira.  The apricot and tangerine flavours of the wine paired perfectly with what I ordered for dinner.

Once we ordered our meal, a beautiful amuse bouche of "Fresh cheese with balsamic reduction and rosemary honey" was placed in front of us.  This was delicious.  The fresh cheese needed a little salt in my opinion but the flavour of the cheese with the balsamic reduction and honey was unbelievably delicious.

For an appetizer, I ordered the "Stir Fried Salted Cod" or "Bacalhau a Braz".  I have had this before but never like this. They managed to refine a typically homey dish and turn it into the epitome of fine dining.  The flavours were definitely recognizable but the presentation was not.  This was well seasoned and delectable. 

I wish I could have this at least twice, no maybe three times per week.  I never get sick of salted cod and this made me appreciate this fish even more.

As an entree, I ordered the "Grilled squid tossed with fresh garlic, lemon, coriander and olive oil".  Grilled squid is remarkable if it is done right and this was done to perfection.  

It was served with perfectly cooked vegetables (potato, yam, snow peas and carrots).  So good.  I love grilled squid and this did not disappoint.

For dessert, I ordered the "Platter of Various Sweets".  This was a plate of four desserts...a pecan pie square, a Lindt chocolate cake topped with a baked meringue and a square of black cherry ginger spice cake. It was served on a powdered sugar plate with berries.

This did not disappoint at all.  I love dessert and four little treats to end a perfect meal...I was in heaven.  

Overall, I loved this meal.  It is refined Portuguese dining with the familiar flavours of mama's kitchen. 

In his opinion:

Often described as the one restaurant in Toronto that makes gracious hospitality and elegance seem effortless, Chiado is much more than that. It's where simplicity meets refined without breaking a sweat!
Progressive Portuguese cuisine based in tradition is how this gem is labelled, and seafood is it's foundation. It's kind of hard to think that one can be wowed by a seafood restaurant in landlocked Toronto but Sata Express (Portuguese/Azorean airline) takes care of the freshness of the fish, daily!

We visited Chiado for dinner for only the second time ever and the experience started very well. Owner Albino Silva was upfront "streamlining" the guests as they entered in an almost "military" but charming way. We were shown to our table (15 min. before our reservation) and were put in the Senhor Antonio part of the restaurant (this is the adjacent tapas bar by the same owner).
The décor is simple with contemporary art hanging on the walls and the double linen tables have a only a small touch of decoration.

Before we could browse the menu we ordered sparkling water and were served an amuse bouche:
"Fresh white Portuguese cheese served with a balsamic reduction and honey with rosemary". The real silver cutlery felt a bit too much to slice cheese with but it did its job. 

For Appetizer: 
I chose the "Shrimp and Lobster Bisque with Saffron and Cognac". 
Very light and with a very "taste of the sea" flavour, garnished with pieces of shrimp and lobster. I felt like I didn't even have an appetizer, leaving plenty of room for the main course and the yummy breads (baguette and corn bread), that were served with fresh olive oil.

For Entree: 
I chose the "pan seared black cod with porcini mustard glazed". 
Well, I'm in the arguably best Portuguese restaurant outside of Portugal, so of course I'm going to have the cod. Cod is Portugal...after all.
It was served with cinnamon sweet potato, mash potato, white asparagus, and sautéed spinach. The fish was soft and flavourful and the skin was soft yet crispy.

For Dessert : 
I chose the "white chocolate flan". It was served with berries and berry coulis. The citrus based flan was soft and was complemented well by the berries.
I also had my usual espresso but was disappointed. It is hard to believe that a Portuguese restaurant cannot make a good espresso. Then again, I am very particular about my espressos and more often than not, they are below my expectations.

The good: One of the top restaurants in TO and takes Portuguese cuisine to another level. Impeccable service and fresh, flavourful, unpretentious food.
The bad: Has to be the espresso. Almost had to go to Nova Era for one after dinner.
The verdict: Our second visit to this city staple didn't disappoint. The service, food and ambience are great and it's like dining at a bistro, but in one of Toronto's best restaurant. 

I give it a 4 1/2 olives out of 5 as a rating. 

Chiado on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 28 January 2012

2009 Biff''s Juicy Red

Wine Review: 2009 Biff''s Juicy Red from Cave Spring Cellars

In his opinion:

This is my first crack at a wine review...and let's get one thing out of the gates...I am a French Wine lover but think in the last 10 years Canada has been making some amazing wines, especially for the price.

The obvious: Biff''s Juicy Red is not a usual name you would find in a bottle label made for the Oliver and Bonacinni range of restaurants, especially when their Restaurant Biff''s has a wine list of mostly French wines. Château du Biff''s wouldn't have sounded any better either...

Cave Springs Winery in Jordan in the Niagara Region has been making and bottling this Red Wine since 2009. For the most of that time, you could only have it at any of Oliver and Bonacini's Restaurants. Until now...

My wife has loved this Red from our many visits to O&B restaurants and our many attempts to have Cave Springs sell it to us directly had not been successful, given that it is made only for O&B.

We finally got them to sell it to us and here we are, enjoying it and reviewing it.  

Before I even opened it, my disappointment was immediate as it has no cork but instead a twist cap. Being from Portugal (top cork producing country in the world), and believing that the uncorking is a big part of the wine drinking ritual, it was a let down.

As soon as the wine poured out of the bottle into my wine goblet, the disappointment of the cork vanished. The wine is a medium ruby red colour and looks very good on the glass. At first sniff, the sweet bright aroma of raspberries is present but it isn't until you give the glass a nice twirl or so that it releases additional aroma of blackberry and cherries.

On to the taste. It has a medium body, well rounded on the palate where the berries continue with a hint of smoke and smoked pepper, very easy to drink and reminding me of Portuguese Dao region red's. My wife can only cope with 1-2 glasses maximum as she is more of a white wine drinker, but she loves this one.

The finish displays some nice even tannins and a faint oak taste.
Overall, a great red that would go perfectly with a nice tenderloin or any type of BBQ meat. I had it with my wife's homemade yummy 3 cheese, beef/Italian sausage ragu pasta bake and it complimented it very well.

I'm no sommelier but WOW...that almost sounded like I know what I'm talking about...LOL...I said almost!

At $21, half the price of what it costs at O&B restaurants, it's a steal.
I give it a 7 1/2 CORKS out of 10

In her opinion:

I love this wine.  I am a white wine drinker but this is my absolutely favourite red wine.  I have started to appreciate that a glass of red wine compliments a meal when I am having red meat or something hardy.  This has been a personal journey of discovery to find a red that I could drink and enjoy and Biff's Juicy Red is my all time favourite.  It just tastes good.  

Sorry, I don't sound like a sommelier.  I actually dislike all that mumbo jumbo when people talk about wine...sorry Edgar.  I base my opinions on wine on the fact that it actually tastes good.  And this one does!!! If you also want to try it, you need to buy it directly from Cave Spring Winery in Jordan or visit one of the Oliver and Bonacini restaurants.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Where to Eat in Ottawa? This turned out to be a very intriguing question!

In her opinion:

Ottawa is the capital of Canada.  The second largest city in Ontario and the fourth in all of Canada.  It is where the Prime Minister lives (not necessarily something or someone I want to blog about).  It is the home of Winterlude and Maman (a personal favourite of my six year old). 

It is a place I travel to for work quite a bit without knowing too much about it as a foodie destination. I really haven't paid too much attention to what it offers foodies as a whole.  So today I was very intrigued when someone on Twitter asked a very interesting question.  Where to eat in Ottawa?

I pride myself with being a foodie and knowing a lot about different food scenes.  However, I don't think I could honestly answer that question from my own personal experiences.  I've been to Ottawa several times both for business and pleasure. The last time I was there was just this last December but that was for business and it usually means grabbing something a the airport or a food court near where the hearing is taking place.  My last trip to Ottawa for pleasure was May, 2011, when it was combined with a trip to Montreal. I've already blogged about having Afternoon Tea at the Chateau Laurier but what else is there to say.  This made me realize that my food dealings are quite limited as far as Ottawa is concerned.  As far as I know there are no celebrity chefs cooking in Ottawa.  It doesn't buzz in regards to food like Toronto or Montreal.

My husband had told me about Le Cordon Blue Ottawa - Culinary Arts Institute that also offers you an opportunity to dine at their Bistro At Signatures in the historic Munross Mansion at a very reasonable price.  He mentioned this on our last trip to Ottawa.  However, our timing just didn't work out in order to dine there, so I can't honestly provide my feedback regarding this restaurant.

I do know that you can get some amazing things to eat at the Byward Market; either from their many restaurants or their many vendors selling anything from sausage, cheese, baked goods, etc.  We actually ate breakfast at Zak's Diner in the Byward Market on our last trip to Ottawa.  This is a 50s style diner which I wasn't too crazy about.  I thought the prices were a little high and the calibre of food not really up to par with its pricing.  We also visited Le Moulin de Provence in the Byward Market.  A bakery which makes the famous Obama Cookies...I kid you not.  A simple shortbread cookie in the shape of a maple leaf that President Obama bought at this bakery during his February, 2009 visit to Ottawa.

The Byward Market is also famous for Beaver Tails. A fried dough pastry topped with several topping options.  My favourite is cinnamon and sugar.  These guys were also made famous by the February, 2009 President Obama visit to Byward Market when the president stopped just to buy one of these pastries on the way to the airport.  Thus the "Obama Tail" was born! 
I also know through my food truck obsession that there is a food truck named Stone Soup Foodworks usually parked at the University of Ottawa. And from my experience, most food truck food is extraordinarily good. But that is really my only dealings with food in Ottawa. So besides suggesting Afternoon Tea at Chateau Laurier, picking something up at Byward Market or taking a chance of some food truck food, I really can't answer that question.

But if you know me, you know that I couldn't leave that question unanswered in my little head.  So, in my quest to answer, "where to eat in Ottawa?",  I found several spots that give you some good advise about where to eat in Ottawa.  The Sweet Spot has a whole write up on Ottawa and where to eat and drink.  OttawaFood.com provides an online restaurant guide of where to eat in Ottawa and according to them the hottest places to eat as well.  Things to do in Ottawa is another blog with lots of restaurant suggestions. I even looked at TripAdvisor. 

What I have noticed in my all of my research is that Ottawa really is not that great of a culinary destination.  Don't get me wrong...yes, there are some amazing places to eat in Ottawa but they are few and far between.  Blogs like Eat, Drink, Ottawa whose tag line is "What and where to eat in Ottawa Restaurants...also share this belief.  You would think that the capital of Canada would be a great culinary destination but in my opinion, it really is not! 

However, after all my perusing I think I know how to answer the question. Where would I eat in Ottawa?...I would eat at Beckta. I would eat at Social. I eat would at Restaurant E18hteen. I would eat at Luxe Bistro. These place are sexy, classy and trendy and have established themselves as some of Canada's premier restaurants.  These type of restaurants may be a dime a dozen (sorry, I didn't want to be so cliche) in Toronto and Montreal but they are not in Ottawa and that makes them the right places to eat in Ottawa! 

In his opinion:

Ottawa heh?

What can we say about our Nation's capital? Well, there are some amazing things to do and see and even eat in Ottawa.  It is definitely not where foodies run to, with their sharp, witty and adventurous palate to get wowed!

In 2011, Trip Advisor named Ottawa of of the top 10 food destinations in Canada and I'm still to understand what kind of drugs these critics were on.

Granted my trips to Ottawa have been few and far in between. But given that I love researching destinations I travel to, I have consistently come up short in my findings, even when asking Ottawa locals.

Now, to say that there are no great restaurants in Ottawa would be lying. But, there just isn't an overall idea that you can travel there, simply for the food.

Enough of the negative and let's focus on the positive for a minute. I have had a couple of good experiences in Ottawa and know of many other restaurants that are worth the reservation in that area. Starting with the Bistro at Signatures, the restaurant at the Cordon blue Institute. I have never dined there, but a chance to try out the food of the "great chefs of tomorrow" in a 4 diamond award restaurant? I'm in...!

Then obviously, there is the Byward Market. Lots of choices in this area and my favourite is by far KINKI......and not just cause of the sexy name and the provocative lady in the website main page. 

The food there is great, and in my last visit I had the Midori Asian green salad and the Panko Chicken Bento Box (Asian greens, Hoso Maki roll, lemongrass chicken skewers and Nigiri). It was fantastic and I recall the portions being very good for lunch. It is an Asian infusion type restaurant that has a menu filled with all things Asian. It is often referred to as a Sushi restaurant but it has a wide variety of Asian cuisine.

Other hotspots at the Market are Luxe restaurant, Empire grill, Must for tapas and Vineyard's for Wine. These are all critically acclaimed restaurants and great reviews for them can be found consistently online.

Other worthy mentions are of course, Chateau Laurier for Afternoon/High tea (covered on our Tea blog entry), Atelier, Bistro St Jacques and Castlegarth.

Here is the list of top 10 restaurants in Ottawa as per Ottawa magazine.

In summary...we don't want you to think that Ottawa is not a good destination for eating but it surely should be better given the size, the importance of the city and it's French Canadian influences.
The good news...recent years have shown a great improvement and it seems to be headed in the right direction. Oh Canada!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Afternoon Tea - A dying tradition...I jolly well hope not!

In her opinion:

I love Afternoon Tea.  I love High Tea. I love Royal Tea. And I think the fact that I spent part of the weekend watching Downton Abbey online only reinforced my love of Tea.

Tea is typically a small meal eaten between 2pm and 5pm.  According to Wikipedia (have I mentioned previously how much I love and rely on Wikipedia), afternoon tea originated in England in the 1840s serving to fill the gab between lunch and dinner.  It is a luxury that most working class people don't have the time to enjoy in their everyday lives.  I've only had Afternoon Tea in the true sense of the word a few times.  There are some that stand out more then others. 

The first tea which left a mark on my memory was at Langdon Hall Country House in Cambridge, Ontario.  It was 2005 and I was pregnant with our son at the time.  Edgar had decided that his pregnant wife needed a nice pick me up in the middle of a difficult pregnancy.

I ordered my standard Earl Grey tea to drink and a beautiful three tiered plate of scones (served with clotted cream and jam), savoury sandwiches, savoury pastries and an assortment of sweet pastries came to the table.  If you wanted you could order High Tea which meant you could have had a glass of champagne with your tea. 

I loved sitting in the conservatory of this beautiful great house.  It was a wonderful experience.  I think that my little boy's love of tea must have started in the womb because he too is very fond of Earl Grey tea. 

Whey my son was ten months old we travelled to the Bahamas.  One afternoon we were in Nassau for the day and decided to go for afternoon tea at the British Colonial Hilton since we had heard it was the place for afternoon tea.  Unfortately, we were told that they no longer served aftenoon tea...well that knocked my socks off or actually my flip flops off. 

We've had a few good tea experiences since Langdon Hall across Ontario but not good enough to write about here.

The last time we had a really good afternoon tea that warrants a mention here, we were in Ottawa for a couple of days in May, 2011.  We were walking past the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, when we noticed other people having tea in one of the restaurant windows.  It had been a while since our last afternoon tea experience and we decided there and then that we would have to go for tea...I love saying that!

Fairmont Chateau Laurier behind the National War Monument.

We walked into the hotel and were redirected to Zoe's Lounge (named for Sir Wilfred Laurier's wife Zoe) where we made a reservation for tea later that afternoon.

Now this is a beautiful room with floor to ceiling windows.  We were seated in a corner window that allowed us to see the Rideau Centre across the street and the stairs down to the canal below.  We ordered the Royal Tea.  This was perfect as the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had just taken place and Canada was still in the Royal Wedding mood.

As we looked around, I could see other children also enjoying tea with their families.  This made me glad that other people still partook of this tradition and what's more were teaching it to their children.

The tea cart in Zoe's Lounge.

I ordered my usual Earl Grey tea and the glass of the Moet Brut Champagne to go with the Royal Tea.  This Royal Tea consisted of chocolate covered strawberries and a seasonal fruit cup.

We were then presented with a three-tiered plate of deliciousness...both sweet and savoury to accompany our tea.
We were given a selection of delectable finger sandwiches, scones and mouth-watering desserts to enjoy.

This tea was very special. It is not everyday that you get to enjoy Afternoon Tea in a beautiful historical location and I was glad that we took the chance to enjoy it.  My son loved it and watching him drink tea made me smile.

Edgar keeps saying we need to go back to Langdon Hall for tea but there is one place I would like to try first before heading back.  That is the Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.

There are still a few tearooms in our area that serve Afternoon Tea.  The link takes you to a very handy guide of Ontario's tearooms and provide a list of even male-friendly tearooms.  As well as, the old hotels or manor houses continue to serve Afternoon Teas. I'm glad that these tearooms and hotel continue to serve Afternoon Tea and I hope that our society never gets too modern to stop serving this little bit of tradition.

In his opinion:

Ok, here it goes...Yes, I'm a guy and yes, I do love High Tea. There I said it.
I figure if Tea was good enough for English Kings, Japanese Kamikazes and Boston then it's good enough for me. 

I know, I know! There are some people (guys) that will say...High Tea is only for older Women and the English. Actually both of them are inaccurate. Afternoon Tea and High Tea was actually popularized by a young Portuguese born English Queen and her young husband, King Charles II - around the time that the Portuguese gave the British the rights to utilize Portuguese ports around the world.  Thus, opening the English to the world of the Tea trade. 

Queen Catherine of Braganza

But enough of History and let's ask why do I like Tea. First, it's good for you and second...it's really good for you and...........did I mention that it's good for you?

Being the remedy of choice for all "sickly symptoms" as I grew up, it quickly went from a necessity to enjoyment. There was chamomile for stomach aches, lemon tea for colds and even Common Mallow (Malvas ) for everything else.

Then you pair Tea with a good Sherry Wine or Champagne, top it up with delicious squares, scones, cakes and sandwiches and voila...a combination made in Heaven.

Must admit that my favorite place for Afternoon Tea is Langdon Hall. First and foremost because it allows me to eat at Langdon Hall without taking out a loan and second because it is good, for the price of $32 per person.
The Afternoon Tea there is usually served in the conservatory (fancy word for a solarium or a room full of windows) at 2 or 4 PM, so give it a try.

Another favorite was our High Tea at Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. As a fluke we were walking by this gorgeous Hotel and saw people having tea and thought, let's try to see if they had room, and they did. It was very nice with obscene choices of teas and goodies to go with it. Of course we started with Champagne and the rest is history but I highly recommend it to anyone in the Ottawa area.

To finalize, just wanted to highlight (or lowlight) in this case, that when we tried to have Afternoon Tea at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas they told us that they didn't serve it. Seriously...the British Hilton and no High Tea...is like going to a ballpark and they don't serve beer.

British Colonial Hilton
Anyway, tea is not just for the English. It can and should be enjoyed by everyone. So go and try it...you won't be disappointed and don't forget to stick out your pinky when holding the Tea cup.  Well, if you are not too confident in your manhood, I'd skip that step. Off you go...

Zoe's Lounge on Urbanspoon Langdon Hall on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hog Tails - KW Area's Answer to Southern BBQ

Hog Tails BarBQue
645 Laurelwood Drive
Waterloo, Ontario

So I am the type of person that keeps my ears and mind open about new foodie locations. Recently on an Airways Van home from the airport, I started to talk to my drive about food and the food scene in the KW region.  He happened to mention that his wife's favourite restaurant was Hog Tails in Waterloo.  She was a picky eater but loved this place.  This of course planted a seed...I needed to try this place.

To tell the truth, I've been asked recently a lot of questions about good Southern BBQ in our area.  I know that quite a few places exist in the Toronto area but around these parts, I only know of Camp 31 in Paris, Ontario.  So I was thrilled when this gentleman mentioned this restaurant.

In her opinion:
I went prepared, having studied the menu before venturing out to Waterloo for a late lunch, early supper. The place is in a strip mall in a residential area...easy to miss if you aren't looking...but look for it! It's worth it. It isn't fancy or big. We counted 24 seats in the entire place.  It wasn't overly crowded but then it was in the middle of a Saturday not quite dinner time.

The waitress was quite attentive.  She took our drink order right away and I was sad that they served Pepsi products but delighted that they had just added Mill Street Organic to their limited beer selection on tap. 

For my appetizer,  I order the "Shrimp and Grits".  It is described as a South Carolina low country classic, of Creamy Anson Mills grits with Gulf white shrimp in a rich roux based sauce.  It was served in a cast iron dish with house smoked bacon.

This was so delicious.  The grits were hot and creamy.  The shrimp was moist and delicious in the roux based sauce and I like the way that the bacon added a bit of smokiness to the whole thing.

For my main course, I was excited about ordering "The General's Southern Fried Chicken".  This large breast of chicken was accompanied by a choice of two sides, I picked sweet potato fries and molasses baked beans and it came with a piece of the sweet honey cornbread.  

I found the chicken breast dry in some spots and not as moist as I had hoped.  The fries were very good as were the beans which had a spicy kick to them.  I loved loved the cornbread.  It was so moist and delicious.

Overall, I enjoyed this place.  I will say that I preferred the fried chicken from Camp 31 but otherwise this  BBQ experience was much better.  The portions were huge and the food was quite delicious.  They also have daily specials and a good take out business.  It's a shame that they are not closer to Cambridge. They also own the Lancaster Smokehouse at the old Lancaster Tavern at 574 Lancaster Street West in Waterloo, Ontario (actually the border of Kitchener/Waterloo).

In his opinion:

Hog tails is a pretty famous BBQ spot in Waterloo, Ontario.  It is the type of place that most people either rave about or just don't get the whole hype. The many reviews on the internet back this theory and range from people that would either give them their first born to others that wished it would close soon. I decided to check it out for myself at my wife's suggestion.

The place is in a strip mall on Laurelwood and it does look and feel the part of a BBQ place. From the decorations, to the tables and even the T-shirts and BBQ photos on the wall, I believed it's intentions.

I was impressed that they carried a good choice of beer including some of my own favourite micro-breweries and I opted for a pint of Mill St. Organic to wet the appetite.

For Appetizer: Just to be different I decided to get shrimp as an appetizer (let's remember this is a Pork/BBQ place) and was quite surprised with the result. I ordered the Shrimp Calas, an old New Orleans street food dish. Shrimp and rice in a bite size fritter, served with Mustard Remoulade as dip. The combination rice/shrimp/batter work very well together...and the mustard was not something I would have paired with those fritters but, it somehow works very well.

For Entree: I was undecided as usual  but just a few minutes before some people beside us had received their order and being the only dish I had ever heard of before and how great it was, I decided to go for it. The dish was Texas Fries. Normally I'm not much of a fries type of guy but as soon as there are some toppings, I'm usually game. Let me tell you that the incredible serving of this dish is a challenge for even the biggest eaters out there. It's a huge plate of hand cut fries topped with St. Albert (Ontario) cheese and drowned with brisket in gravy. When I say drowned in brisket, I am not exaggerating one bit (picture below). I could barely see the fries underneath it from the Mount Fuji of brisket covering it. It was delicious...just a few bites short of a heart attack from clogged arteries but extremely tasty and well cooked and seasoned.

The Good: Good old fashioned southern style BBQ without having to wait for the yearly Rib-Fest Festival to come to town.
The Bad: I tried my wife's General's Fried Chicken and was not very impressed...dry, super dry hard skin and the "break a tooth" type of batter to top.
The Verdict: Overall a good place, I'm yet to try the ribs but noticed from the people eating them beside us that they are not the "fall off the bone" type..Let's hope the seasoning does it's job and they don't overcook it to Sahara dryness like the General's Fried Chicken.  Going to try them next time.

I give it a 3 Olives out of 5 as a rating.

Hog Tails BarBQue on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Montreal - A "Fabuleux" Culinary Scene!!!

So on the eve of Edgar's business meeting to Montreal, I thought, what a great place for foodies and what a great new post idea.

In her opinion:

To say I have had extensive culinary experiences in Montreal would be lying.  I've been to Montreal a few times.  First, with my parents on several occasions which were all definitely not culinary adventures.  Then with my university housemates.  During that visit, we were more interested in having a good time rather than where the hippest restaurants were located.  But the last time I was in Montreal was last spring of 2011 and I was with my family.  Now, that was a culinary adventure to write about.

We spent a couple of days in Montreal, exploring the city and enjoying some really good food.  Montreal is my little piece of Europe in Canada.  I love it!  And I love the up and coming food scene in Montreal, although some would argue that it's already arrived and I don't think I can argue that point after our weekend.

I did a lot of prep work researching where I wanted to eat in Montreal.  I used my Fodor's guide book and the website, as well as, ChowHound to get honest opinions about different places to eat.  I made sure that our dinner reservations to Garde Manger and Au Pied de Cochon were made several weeks prior to arriving in Montreal.

During my research on ChowHound I found out about Rotisserie Romados. A Portuguese bakery/rotisserie place on Rue Rachel. 

There is not a lot of seating at this place but don't let that discourage you.  What's important is the delicious rotisserie chicken that they serve here.  It is so good and they have the line ups to prove it.  A chicken dinner comes with a delicious 1/4 or 1/2 chicken, amazing fries and salad all with a roll and a pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart) for a very reasonable price.

There was so much food I could barely finish.  The skin on the chicken is crispy and succulent and the fries are hand cut, crispy and delicious.  I was so grateful for ChowHound and this little tip of information.  I still dream about this chicken from time to time! 

Rotisserie Romados on Urbanspoon

During the day we stopped at Cafe Vasco da Gama to grab my son a grilled cheese sandwich and have a cup of coffee.  This is a little bit of Portugal in Montreal.  Loved it!

Our first night in Montreal, we had dinner at Au Pied de Cochon.  This is 'The Wild Chef", Martin Picard's (a very good friend of Anthony Bourdain by the way)restaurant and it was outstanding.  It's located in the plateau of Montreal at 536 Avenue Duluth E.  I am warning you now, parking is an issue in this area of town, but do not give up, this is so worth it.  We started out with the "Cromesquis de foie gras" or simply foie gras croquettes.  Little pieces of foie gras which have been fried in a crispy coating.  The foie gras is melted inside and hot.  Very good! (Just ignore my son's plastic snake in the picture below - it's not part of the Wild Chef theme!)

I ordered the "happy pork chop".  This is a monstrous pork chop served in a delicious sauce with red cabbage, roasted garlic, thyme and mushrooms.  This was cooked to perfection and delicious.

Edgar ordered the "foie gras poutine".  These are duck fat fries, rich and smooth gravy and big pieces of foie gras instead of the cheese curds.  Edgar was smiling from ear to ear after eating this. 

The only bad part of our meal at Au Pied de Cochon was that we didn't have room for dessert!

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Montreal is not Montreal without having bagels and that's exactly what we did the following morning.  We headed over to Mont Royal and St-Viateu Bagel.  These guys have even been on an episode of Glutton for Punishment with Bob Blumer.  The bagels are baked in front of your eyes, come out of the oven and right to the customer.  They are the best bagels I have ever eaten in my life.

After enjoying our bounty of fresh bagels and cream cheese, we did a little touring of Old Montreal.  That of course works up an appetite.  

St-Viateur Bagel on Urbanspoon

For lunch we ate at La Sauvagine right in the heart of Old Montreal at 115 St. Paul Street East.  I ordered one of my favourites "Moule et Frites" or simply fries and musells. I really enjoyed this simple lunch with a glass of beer.

Edgar had the duck confit.  A delicious duck leg cooked in the confit method with roasted potatoes and veggies.  It was cooked perfectly.  He enjoyed his lunch very much.

We didn't bother to order dessert since we knew that that evening's meal would be outstanding. 

For our last night in Montreal, we booked Garde Manger.  This is chef Chuck Hughes' place at 408 St.-Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal.  Chuck Hughes is the cutie from the Food Network's Chuck's Day Off.  Getting a reservation at his place is a task all in itself but it was so worth it.

Outside Garde Manger.

The entrance of Garde Manger.

The menu for this restaurant is a couple of giant black boards where you pick what you want to eat.

Two of the blackboard menus.

To start our amazing dinner, we shared the Salmon Tartare.  This is served with house made potato chip on top.  The crunch from the chips was amazing with the tartare preparation.

Salmon Tartare.

For our main courses, Edgar ordered Chuck's famous beef short ribs and I had duck breast, with seared foie gras and house made cream corn.  Both entrees were so delicious.  Chuck really knows how to cook!

Chuck's beef short ribs.

Duck breast with seared foie gras and cream corn.

I left room for dessert because I had heard about Chuck's famous Fried Mars Bars.  This is a  Mars bar fried in a crisp crust served with ice cream.  OMG is all I have to say.

Fried Mars Bar!

Chuck did not disappoint.  This was not cheap but so worth it!  I really enjoyed Garde Manger and can't wait to try his new restaurant Le Bremner.

Garde Manger on Urbanspoon

Before we left Montreal the following day, we had breakfast at Eggspectation.  This was a cute and inexpensive restaurant close to our hotel. 

Edgar had the classic eggs bennie and I had "Yolk Around the Clock".  A sliced bagel, toasted and then put on the grill with two sunny side eggs in the hole of the bagel, covered with bacon and melted cheese, served with grilled potatoes and chef's fruit garnish.  Both were delicious and left us with an excellent taste as we left Montreal.

Eggspectation on Urbanspoon

Overall, I would say that Montreal is amazing as a culinary destination.  It is my favourite city in Canada (sorry Toronto, you are very close second) and I am so jealous of my husband who is going to dine there and write all about his "fabuleux" dinner from tonight.

I know that his portion of this post has something to do with this...

In his opinion:

Oh Montreal…the capital of great food in Canada. Toronto can claim the top spot for fine dining, but it is Montreal that excels in good, unpretentious, fabulously delicious food. 

Much like Julie, I had been to Montreal only a few times but my culinary adventures had not gone past good bagels, pitas and Montreal smoked sandwiches.

I often go to Montreal for business but it always seems to be too quick to enjoy the many culinary treats that this "piece of Europe in North America" has to offer.  But not this past Wednesday night.  I stayed overnight in Montreal, this meant I got to have dinner...but where?  After much thought and choices to pick from...I called Le Bremner and to my surprise was able to get a reservation for 6:30 pm.

Le Bremner is Chuck Hughes new restaurant at 361 St. Paul East near Bonsecour Market. It's in the basement Alex Bremner Ltd. Montreal Building (thus the Le Bremner name).  The only indication that this building is Le Bremner is the restaurant sign in red letters above the door.  The restaurant itself has a bar, with limited seating. It has quite a few fixtures that were salvaged from the old building where it is located like the windows and part of the old hardwood floors that were fashioned into tabletops.  Overall, it's a rustic look with exposed brick.  It is very welcoming and warm.

The staff is very knowledgeable about the menu and suggested a cocktail to start.  I had the Caipirinha with Aperol (which my waitress described as similar to Campari). It tasted sweeter then a normal Caipirinha because of the Aperol.  It was garnished with a slice of blood orange. I rather enjoyed this very much.

There was rosemary-ricotta and spicy honey bread sticks on the table. (As seen in photo above).  They were quite delicious and crunchy.  

For the appetizer, I ordered the Amuse Bouche, which was a crispy garlic toast with Burrata cheese in a sauce gribiche with micro greens topped with olive oil.

This was scrumptious.  The garlic was crispy on the outside but moist on the inside. The cheese was amazing.  The whole Amuse Bouche was so flavourful.

For the entree, I was debating about what to order.  I was torn between the "Cornbread with Broiled Garlic Shrimp" or "Pork and Shrimp Spicy Rice".  I opted for the rice dish.

This was an explosion of flavours.  From the very spicy rice to the crispy fried pork and lightly sauteed shrimp and mussels.  It was topped with a lightly seasoned salad. The combination of flavours and spices worked really well together it was reminiscent of the Portuguese dish of "Pork and Clams".  I enjoyed this very much.

For dessert, I ordered the Pear Tarte Tatin.  It was a puff pastry crust with caramelized pears topped with a soft goat cheese mixture sprinkled with orange zest.

I really liked this dessert.  It was quite big but very delectable. 

The staff was amazing. From the very helpful waitress to the host that took me to tour the terrace in the back of the restaurant that acts like a patio in the Summer. There, you can find additional seating and an Oyster Bar which is all enclosed by old buildings.  This gives you the sensation of being in Europe.

To add to the experience, I sat beside a very nice couple that were also there for the first time. They were there trying their son's (Chef Danny Smiles) food and couldn't believe how great their son cooked.  There were very happy that he had such a great mentor like Chuck.

To top the night off, I got to go to the Kitchen and meet the Chef himself, Chuck Hughes which is much taller and buffed than he looks on TV. He was extremely nice and seemed rather humble when I thanked him for the amazing treatment that my wife Julie, our 5 year old son and I got, when dining at his other restaurant Garde Manger last Spring.

The Good: Great atmosphere and flavorful dishes in a casual, rustic environment.
The Bad: There really wasn't anything bad but I did prefer the menu at Garde Manger.
The Verdict: A must try. It lives up to the hype and delivers excellent service and great food that will keep your palate engaged all through the meal/night.

I give it a 4 1/2 Olives out of 5 for rating.

Le Bremner on Urbanspoon