Tuesday, 27 May 2008

CHIP REVIEW: PC Buffalo Wing & Blue Cheese Chips

I know I know, two chip reviews one right after another, but I couldn't resist. How can I say no to wings or wing like products.

The product in terms of the bag and chip quality are pretty much the same as the PC General Tao Chicken chips, but with a different taste.

"Crunchy rippled potato chips made with a medium-hot
wing sauce seasoning blend, enhanced by a hint of tangy blue cheese."



"Chicken wings in a hot & tangy Buffalo-style sauce, served with a side
of blue cheese dip. What more can a person want? We've managed to recreate
this classic pub-favourite combo as a flavour for these crunchy, rippled chips.
Dig in quickly . . . it'll soon be last call!"




I certainly applaud their efforts in that manifesto, but that's a pretty big statement to say
they 'managed to recreate' . . . I'll be the judge.


The icon says Medium, the description says Medium-Hot? Hot . . . I doubt it. Scratch that, I know its not.



2008 CHIP SCORE 1.0: PC Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese Chips

STYLE:

Ruffled chip

PRICE:

Currently retailing for $1.49

HEAT:

They list as 2 chili medium heat, I say mild mild mild!

SIZE:

235g bag - chips are all different sizes, mostly small to medium

CRISPINESS:

Classic rippled crunch

FLAVOUR:

Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese flavour – I can taste a little heat and a little creamy.

VERDICT:

-tasty, and a nice try

-I wouldn’t say bold, but trying be daring.

-I wouldn’t mind getting it again



Lots of chips in the bag, and the darker red/orange colour let me know that I was going to be eating something hotter than the last reviewed chips. But how much hotter?

Meh. I've had BBQ chips with more bite. But don't get me wrong, there is flavour here. There is a hint of a Frank's style sauce almost, I think I can taste blue cheese, and I think I can actually taste chicken a little bit. But honestly, I think I sense those flavours because I know what they are supposed to be.



FINAL VERDICT: These were a good chip in general, and an ok wing chip. I don't really think Buffalo wings can be encaptencapsulated in a chip, but this was a good try. I know the chip industry is always trying to find the next best thing, but I'm happy with all dressed, dill, ketchup, and sour cream and onion. But thanks for trying.


PS: I know it looks like I'm eating 2 types of chips in one night - the last review, same seated location, same shirt - but it is about a week apart in actually consumption. My hair is spiked in this photo while the last review its not. See, proof!

PC General Tao Chicken Chips (NWR)

Remember this guy?
Well he's General Tao and he's back, in potato chip form.

"Wait" you ask, "Who is this guy? Why is he important to me?"

Well the man is a bit of a mystery, but the dish that is named in his honour is a wonderful thing. If you click HERE, you can go to a Non Wing Review (NWR) of this dish I did and find out about this de-lish fellow.


Well as I said, his dish is back and its in a ruffled chip form. President's Choice, or PC is all about the 'Insiders Report' and making some interesting dishes, memories and sauces. This time out, they are attempting to recreate the awesomeness that is one of my personal favourite dishes.

First, the bag is a pain in the but to take a photo, because it is made of a shiny reflective coating. There's a picture of the Great Wall and some chop sticks, so you know its supposed to be Chinese. On the front, it says "Crunchy rippled potato chips made with an exotic blend of savoury, sweet and spicy seasonings." Well that sounds like General Tao chicken to me, but the most boring description of it ever.



"No Chopsticks required for this snack
version of a classic Chinese food favourite!
Just like General Tao Chicken, these crunchy
rippled chips are sweet and medium-spiced,
thanks to our own seasoning mix that includes
soy, chili, garlic and ginger.
"




2008 CHIP SCORE 1.0: PC General Tao Chicken Chips

STYLE:

Ruffled chip

PRICE:

Currently retailing for $1.49

HEAT:

They list as 2 chili medium heat, I say mild mild mild!

SIZE:

235g bag - chips are all different sizes, mostly small to medium

CRISPINESS:

Classic crunch

FLAVOUR:

General Tao Chicken flavour – while the concepts of savoury, sweet and spicy are there, I would have no idea this was supposed to be GTC in a blind taste test

VERDICT:

-Not bad

-Pretty mild flavours

-Wouldn’t get it again, but wouldn’t refuse them if offered






Up close you can see the spices and flavouring - but there isn't a big impact in taste. There's lots going on in your mouth when you taste it, but its not overpowering at all. It tastes like a variation on a simple BBQ, but you get the subtle hint that there's more to it.


The ripple is a nice touch to these chips. I always feel like you get more flavour when they are rippled, due to more surface area, but who knows for sure. The crunch is pretty good, but the overall structural integrity of the chip is pretty thin. I want a little more substance to my crisps.


FINAL VERDICT: These are an ok chip. They have a decent flavour, decent crunch and aren't overly expensive. They are rippled, so that's a plus, but there is nothing really great about them other than the concept. There's no heat, but they would be well accessorized with a dill or ranch chip dip.

JOE'S PIZZA & SUBS ~ Ottawa

On a trip out to the West end to watch an early matinee of "Indiana Jones and the Fate of the Crystal Skull" I decided to grab some food that wasn't overpriced Burger King or KFC at the theatre for lunch. The cinema I went to is pretty devoid of places to eat. I saw a sketchy Chinese joint, a pizzeria with the cook out front smoking (big food turn off for me), and an Indian restaurant that smelled good, but looked a little fancier than I was dressed. At the end of the little plaza across from the theatre I saw another little pizzeria and decided to check it out. I wasn't in the mood for pizza, but a sub sounded good.




I grabbed a menu and decided to go for a sub and pizza combo (there was no actual combo, I just put the two together. I ordered the sandwich and the wings, and the pizza dude (Joe? I didn't see a name tag) asked what kind of sauce I wanted - "as hot as you can make them" I asked. In 10 minutes I had my lunch but no place to sit - there were only chairs and not tables. I wandered outside and realized there was no benches or other tables. But I did see the waterfront not far and decided to sit by they water and eat.


There wasn't any seating out by the water, so I found a little concrete shelf to sit. It was a bit too windy and it certainly wasn't comfortable, but it made for a nice lunch atmosphere I guess.



First I dug into the sub. It was an assorted sub, and the small size - however it was much bigger than the average chain small sub. The cold meat inside was pretty generic and didn't have much flavour. It was also filled with a ton of cheese, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and full sized pickles. There was no sauce, and when I looked at the take-out menu again, it says it comes with mayo or homemade garlic sauce - but there was none to be found. Without any lubrication, this sub was pretty dry to eat, and I didn't even eat half of it (I saved the rest for supper where I added my own mayo and Italian dressing).

So my sub was nothing special, but would the wings disappoint?




2008 THE SCORE 3.0: Joe’s Pizza & Subs ~ Ottawa

STYLE:

Deep fried traditional pizza wings

PRICE:

$4.00 for 6 wings

$7.95 for 12 wings

$13.00 for 24 wings

$18.50 for 36 wings

$9.25 for 12 wings, fries/onion rings & coleslaw (Wings Platter)

$0.95 for sauce side order

SAUCES:

  • Hot (3rd Degree)
  • Mild
  • Honey garlic

0/1

HEAT:

Tingle – I could feel it with a bit of numbing afterwards

SIZE:

Medium

1/3

WETNAP FACTOR:

Dripping to drowning – only had 6 wings but enough sauce for at least 12

2/3

CRISPINESS:

Chewy – right out of the deep fryer but not particularly crispy

1/3

FLAVOUR:

Ok – 3rd Degree sauce again which is nice but something you can get on your own

1/3

SIDES:

n/a

CLEAN UP:

n/a

WING NIGHT:

n/a

OTHER:

No place to sit – sub was blah

TOTAL:

Not worth getting the wings . . . or subs

5/13*





I just got a small order of the wings, 6 pieces in total just to wet my wing appetite. The wings were medium sized for a pizza place, and were simply deep fried. They were extremely fresh, as one of the drummette's still had a feather unplucked.


I watched as 'Joe' poured on the sauce, and I could see it was the same bottle of 3rd Degree as I had. He drenched the wings, giving enough sauce for at least another 6 wings. The sauce was, well the same as always, producing some heat that stayed for a little while. These were a little hard to eat with a) no table b) strong winds c) trying to balance food, wind and taking pictures.


FINAL SCORE: While "Joe" was friendly, I wasn't a fan of his subs or his wings. The sub was blah and the wings had no love in them. Maybe the pizza was different, but I doubt I will ever know. Also, eating on the bike trail near the river was nice, but trying to eat very wet wings without a table is just not right. 5/13*


Joe's Pizza & Subs
68 Wylie Ave, Ottawa
joespizzasubs.ca



PS: I did see the movie afterwards and I have to say that it was fun. Yes their were some problems: the script was not great, Karen Allen seemed to just be happy to be back because she would just stare goofily instead of acting and there are plot points where you ask 'are you seriously going there . . . oh you are'. However, the movie was full of nostalgia and the whole excitement of Indy was there. I had a lot of fun, but it wasn't the best in the series.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

LONE STAR TEXAS GRILL ~ Ottawa

"Welcome to Canada's only Authentic Texas Restaurant!

At the Lone Star Texas Grill we have one goal:
Prepare the most flavourful meals, using the freshest ingredients
and authentic recipes; then serve it up with true Southern hospitality
so our guests can sit back, relax and enjoy a great Texas experience

You may never get a chance to visit Texas and that is a shame - but
you can do the next best thing, visit the Lone Star Texas Grill, Canada's
only authentic Texas restaurant ........ Texas to the Bone
!"*
*From their website



LJ and I visited Lone Star many years ago in Toronto down near the CBC building. We had never been and felt like Tex-Mex. I got the wings, which I can't remember how they were. LJ got the nachos - and they were the worst ever. The chips were not layered, but there were several which were individually topped. While this made every chip a big bite, they were terrible in terms of quantity. And they weren't very good. Fast forward and move to Ottawa, and we were up for trying Lone Star again.





This particular Lone Star location, West Ottawa, is in a strip mall. But once you go inside, it's like walking into a Texan saloon - multiple rooms, loud country music and a college party bar atmosphere. It is a good size location, and while there were a fair amount of people, it looked relatively empty.



One thing I did enjoy was the complimentary tortilla chips and salsa. Free food before you even order, that is hospitality. From my seat I could see the warming drawer they are kept in and shoveled onto the plates, but that extra touch really makes a difference. Now personally I am not a huge fan of their salsa. When it comes to salsa, I don't like traditional. It is usually not very thick and chunky, and its usually filled with cilantro (which I hate). Give me Pace any day.



We also ordered their "Original Texas Cheese Dip Con Queso", a "creamy melted cheese with tomatoes, jalapenos and spices." You use the complimentary chips to dip, but we asked our very helpful server, Bronco (yes Bronco), for a side of tortillas. He was happy to oblige and even not charge us. Lone Star Tortillas are a thicker, dough-ier type than anywhere else I've had before and I really like them. The dip was very cheesy, but even with jalapenos, it wasn't spicy, but it was good. At least for a while. With only two of us eating it, plus the chips and dip and our meals on the way, we barely got half of the dip put away.


We weren't going for Lone Star's main dishes - true Tex-Mex fajitas, tacos, and we certainly weren't risking the nachos. To be honest, we had been to the downtown location a few weeks back and had the AYCE fajitas on Monday. I saw the wings at the table beside me and wanted to come back to try them.

LJ went for the Buffalo Chicken fingers. Heavily breaded chicken strips tossed (for an extra charge) in Frank's hot sauce. They were pretty big, with the crunchy breading. They weren't just simple frozen fingers as the shapes were all over the place (go to a Denny's etc and you get uniform shaped fingers . . . ). In terms of simple chicken fingers, these were good.

The sauce, as I mentioned above, was just Frank's, but these fingers had a surprising bite. They were pretty saucy, and they came with veggies and fries. But how would their fingers do up against the real thing?


2008 THE SCORE 3.0: Lone Star Texas Grill ~ Ottawa

STYLE:

Breaded, un-breaded, deep fried

PRICE:

$9.99 for 1lb (approx 10 wings)

SAUCES:

  • Bar-B-Que
  • Hot Sauce (Frank’s)

0/1

HEAT:

nothing

SIZE:

Medium-large

2/3

WETNAP FACTOR:

Not saucy – what sauce is in the breading

1/3

CRISPINESS:

See above – chewy

1/3

FLAVOUR:

Just Frank’s – it was ok

1/3

SIDES:

Fries, veggies, ranch dip

3/3

CLEAN UP:

Napkins, wetnaps, wing bowl

3/3

WING NIGHT:

none

0/1

OTHER:

-Huge ‘cantina’ feel inside, despite being in a strip mall

-Coke served, AYCD

-free tortilla chips and salsa

-AYCE fajitas on Mondays

TOTAL:

Tex-Mex is king here, not wings

11/20







The chicken was a medium sized wing, all pretty uniform in size. No small ones, and no large ones. They were breaded, than deep fried, although there is the option for non-breaded as well. There wasn't very much seasoning in the wing, but it wouldn't have been bad as a non-sauce wing.


As for the sauce, hello? Where are you? The wings were not saucy. In fact, what sauce there was had been absorbed into the breading as it is. This meant that the wings were pretty blah. Even though my wings were the 'hot', LJ's fingers were even hotter than mine! And she got lots of sauce. But I shouldn't expect a lot from a place that only has two flavours - 'hot' and 'BBQ'. They are just going for a broad audience with these wings, and a casual wing eater probably wouldn't .mind these. Most of the points came for the extras like the fries, veggies, dip and wing bowl showing that Lonestar is good about the service, but needs to pick up on the wing details.


FINAL SCORE: The wings aren't bad, but they just aren't that great. Lots of breading, but little to no sauce. Its sad when the chicken fingers have more kick! While the wings may not live up to their mission statement of 'most flavourful', I say stick to what Lone Star does best, Tex-Mex. 11/20


Lone Star Texas Grill
780 Baseline Road, Ottawa (and many other locations)
lonestartexasgrill.com

Saturday, 10 May 2008

WINGSTREET ~ Ottawa

Question: Can a commercially developed chicken wing be as good as a fresh, specialized wing from a pub?



Is WingStreet really an intense taste zone? Actually, WS is a bit of a mystery, at least here in Canada. Well, at least to me. One day I was on a street car in Toronto, and I saw a Pizza Hut with a new sign and a symbol of 3 buildings on a street. What was this place? I went to Pizza Hut's website, but found nothing. I've had PH's wings before - tiny tiny pigeon wings with a baked in sauce . . . so were they trying to market these, or was this WS a whole new breed?

Flash forward probably a year of more, and more of these mysterious Pizza Hut/Wing Street (WS) combo have popped up. People have asked me if I had tried it, but I never knew one near me. To make matters worse, I couldn't find them via Internet. What I did find was the American website. It's a bit annoying, telling me constantly to "Do it - it's intense" "Do it . . . DO IT!!!", as in to order online. But there was no information about WS in Canada; what's the deal with PH/WS, what it was doing there, where to find it, and what I could get there.

For a wing aficionado, this was extremely frustrating.



Well, in Ottawa I've passed 2 PH's in my travels, and one evening, my curiosity got the better of me. Inside, in the take-out area of PH was a big WS menu, and a large poster by the bathroom advertising WS. Aside from the signs on the restaurant itself, I have seen no advertisements for WS here - no flyers, tv ads or even word of mouth. A sign by the bathroom is not enough in my opinion.

This particular location was busy. Actually, this location has some timing issues - even though there are lots of staff, the food is slow. While I was there, I overheard Courtney, the server, trying to re-assure people on the phone that their delivery orders were on their way. I asked Courtney about WS while I waited. She explained to me that the reason Pizza Hut did not advertise WS on their website was because not all PH locations had WS. They were also owned separately by a group called 'Rose' something (can't remember now).



I later contacted PH. While they were very quick in their response, they were pretty sparse in their information. "The Canadian website is not yet set up to reflect any information about Wing Street. The reason behind that is that not all Pizza Huts have Wing Streets attached with them and information is limited." But he didn't explain why there was no specific website for WS in Canada on its own, only stating that they would "forward your interest in Wing Street to our Pizza Hut marketing team for future consideration." Said Mr Munshaw of Customer Communication Representative of Yum! Restaurants International (Canada) (who own PH). PH's website is bad enough in not giving much information either.

I wanted to find out about more locations and what was served but that was all un answered. Courtney had given me the take-out menu which had pricing and sauces etc. There wasn't a whole lot to choose from, but definitely better looking than the old PH wings (which they still serve).

They come in 3 styles: Traditional (which is a simple deep fried wing), Bone-In (breaded then deep fried wing) and Bone-Out (basically a chicken finger dipped in sauce). I went with Bone-in, as this seemed to be the specialty, or at least what they showed in all their pictures.

I got an order of Heat Seeker (I asked for their hottest sauce, this is what Courtney suggested - although the receipt said Burning Hot . . . which is what I think it used to be called) and an order of Spicy BBQ. I meant to get Honey BBQ to get a bit different flavour, but Spicy came out and I didn't bother correcting myself. After waiting for at least 30 mins (I told you this location was slow) I had my wings, and I was off to home to enjoy my wings and a little Battlestar Galactica.

2008 THE SCORE 3.0: WingStreet (linked with Pizza Hut) Ottawa (Napean)

STYLE:

  • ‘traditional’ – non-breaded, deep fried wings
  • ‘bone-in’ – breaded, deep fried
  • ‘bone-out’ – chicken fingers sauced

a pizza wing

PRICE:

$8.99 for 10 (regular)

$16.99 for 20 (family size)

$32.99 for 40 (party size)

SAUCES:

  • Mild
  • Heat Seeker
  • Honey BBQ
  • Spicy BBQ
  • Totally Teriyaki
  • Cajun

0/1

HEAT:

Heat seeker gave a bit of a tingle, caused more of a cough

SIZE:

Medium-large for a pizza wing

2/3

WETNAP FACTOR:

drowning

1/3

CRISPINESS:

Chewy – but surprisingly crispy despite the bath

1.5/3

FLAVOUR:

Strange – not overly welcoming, syrupy

1/3

SIDES:

n/a although you could add 1lb of taters for $3.99

CLEAN UP:

n/a

WING NIGHT:

n/a

OTHER:

TOTAL:

I’d be willing to try again, but definetly sauce on the side . . .

5.5/13

The size of the wings were good - they were a medium to large wing with breading. The meat was relatively tender, but I was very confident they were a frozen wing. The breading was surprisingly crunchy/chewy - despite the lake of sauce they came in. Even the leftovers the next day still kept their solid texture. It reminded me of the sweet and sour pork you get at Canadian Chinese buffets - it sits in that sauce all day and night, but the structural integrity remains strong. This was definetely the highlight of the wing.
After opening the container, the smell of the wings was strong. Both flavours. There was so much sauce, and they were both dark and very very syrupy.


HEAT SEEKER: (See picture above)

First, this sauce name is trademarked. That's right. Not that I don't understand, I like it as a wing sauce name and I'm surprised I've never heard it. Again, the reciept calls it Burning Hot, but I know its official name is Heat Seeker.

I dove into my first wing quickly, I didn't even savour the wing. The second one I took in the aroma, tasted the wing with a little more sophistication. I took a bite and the sauce hit me in the back of the throat, right at the top - burned a hole like I have never felt before. I had a caughing fit for 2 minutes. Not that it was so spicy, but just a burn in it. Now I did have a tingle from some heat, but every time I take the sauce, I begin to caugh and my throat scratches. As for the flavour, it was strange. Syrup but not sweet - I couldn't identify a single ingredient. But I would definetely pass on this sauce.

SPICY BBQ:

This was a typical BBQ sauce with a bit of a kick. It was basically a Bullseye type BBQ sauce, with some capiscasum added to give it a little burn. The pain was the same as Heat Seeker, mild numbing that didn't last a long time. While it was like Bullseye, it too was very syrupy in texture. A decent sauce, but I don't see why it won the 2007 annual Atlanta Wings Festival, Best BBQ Sauce. Granted the American WS might have a different sauce, but this wasn't anything unique.



I would eat one or two of the Heat Seeker, get sick of them, then switch to the Spicy BBQ, then back. I didn't want them so badly that I would eat a whole order. I was more interested in the Cylons on tv than I was eating the wings, and that says a lot.



FINAL SCORE: The sauces I would pass on. Mmm, maybe I would go for Spicy BBQ, but I think I would try the Honey BBQ and Cajun, if I were to get them again. I would also get them with sauce on the side - as I couldn't even try the wings on their own. I think the breading and chicken was decent, but I don't plan to go to WingStreet in Anytown Canada any time soon. Maybe WingStreet USA is better. I won't be going down this street any time soon.

The answer to the question: no, but keep on trying WingStreet, keep on trying.
5.5/13



Wing Street / Pizza Hut
1550 Merivale Road, Ottawa (Napean)
pizzahut.ca / wingstreet.com (USA only)