Thursday, 28 May 2009

YRe's BBQ Chicken ~ Ottawa

(Yre's has finally CLOSED - but rumored to be opening in a new location)

ED. NOTE: as you man know, back in April my camera broke. While it prevented me from taking new photos, another problem erupted: I couldn't access the photos I had taken. My old camera didn't recognize any photos on the memory card, nor did a digital picture frame. Last week (or was it the week before) I finally reunited my fixed camera with its memory card and Huzzah! the pictures were still there. The following is a review that I had done over 1 month ago early on that day.

I was off on what I call one of my adventure days. Say a Friday or a Saturday when I'm on my own, going Urban Exploring, taking in a movie, and of course, food. Having botched much of the morning, I decided my day would start with lunch (and by start the day, I mean after 1pm). And my choice was going to be a chicken shack called YRes BBQ out in the East end of the downtown part of the city.

I had heard great things about the wood charcoal cooked chicken, but also read some warnings. It's a dive, the food takes a LONG time to get once ordered, and very possibly closed down due to condo or some other development. Those sources were from 2006, and several years after these articles came out in this past year, I had tried to go to Yre's, but it was always closed. I feared I had missed out. Then one day in March of 2009 I was driving by and noticed an "OPEN" sign in the window. Flash forward to my April Adventure Day, I was hopping on a bus and headed for Yre's.

I got off the bus across the street from Yre's and it was what I had been told: a hole in the wall. The flashier sign I had seen in the above articles was gone, and if I didn't know about this place I would normally have walked on by. But the sign in the window said "open" and I was ready to get down to business.

Inside was, well, shabby. It hasn't been painted in years, or even given a real scrub. Straight ahead was a small counter/window with no identifiable menu. In what used to be Pino's Barber Shop on the left are a few old tables and chairs from mixed sets acting as a dining room. To the right was a counter with stools, and an older man - Yre's himself would be my guess - going over some book work. There was an awkward moment because I didn't know what was going on. He didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak much French. "I've heard you have good chicken" I say, not very sure how to proceed. He walked over to the counter and gave me their menu to look over.

The above is actually their business card, but that is the whole menu. Simple and straight to the point: chicken, plantain, couscous, rice. I was hungry, but not in the mood for anything but chicken, so I went with a 1/2 chicken. For myself. He asked me if I wanted it spicy or not and I said very spicy, naturally. He then informed me that they weren't technically open until 2pm (it was like 5 mins to 2) and that the food wouldn't be ready until 3pm. Wowzers. I had heard that it took a long time, but I figured that if they were just opening I could get one of the first finished chickens, but they don't start cooking until 2pm. That's when I noticed that the book work he was doing was all the orders that had already been taken.

I had an hour to kill, but bus service in this area a) does not have a posted schedual b) unreliable to go somewhere and come back. I decided to head to Strathcona Park to take in some faux ruins and the river. Being one of the first beautiful days of the year, I sat and read a book at a picnic table (I know, what an Adventure Day) and then walked back at 3pm. Two blocks away my nose was incensed by the wafting smell of charcoal bbq. Lunch must almost be ready!

Going inside, the place was packed with families and couples all waiting for their chicken. Yre was joined by two other staff at this point. Even though it was an hour later my chicken still wasn't ready, but I didn't have long to wait. Although there was a space or two to sit, I knew I was going to do a review of the chicken and in such close quarters it was going to be awkward snapping a few shots all by myself. I paid for my food and headed by to another nearby park, MacDonald Park, where I scored a picnic table.

The park was busy with families kicking around a soccer ball, joggers and dog walkers. While this park isn't overly exciting to look at, I love it for two reasons. 1) It's called MacDonald Park after Sir John A MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister, because he used to live in a home at one end of the park. 2) because this used to be the Sandy Hill Cemetery, and in the 1800's the city wanting more green space, buried the cemetery. Families could pay to have their deceased loved ones removed, but most couldn't. So while Jr is running for that soccer ball today, he's really playing over the dead. The gazebo in the picture above (actually above above) is said to be haunted.

My chicken came in a grocery store chicken paper/tinfoil bag. I quickly unwrapped it and took in the smell of spices and roasted chicken. I was in heaven. But looking inside, I was a little surprised at how small the chicken actually was.

I ripped open the bag to make a makeshift plate. I was glad I had a small package of tissues because I didn't get any napkins while I was at the restaurant, and this was going to be messy.

The chicken was basically fall off the bone. The wing in the above shot easily tore away from the bird. And you can see the spices were everywhere on the chicken. It was rubbed with love for sure.

A comparison photos of the crispy, salty but flavourful skin, versus the moist and tasty chicken meat. Even the white meat seemed to have flavour.

Another reason I was going to need napkins, I had no cutlery. No matter, this isn't the kind of chicken you cut with a knife. No, this is eat with your hands, mess on the face and fingers, feel like a caveman chicken.

This was a really tasty bird. The spices mixed with the wood charcoal make for an excellent chicken experience. My biggest complaint was the spice. I had asked for very spicy (which Yre's seem to enjoy) but my bird was not hot (as in spice). No bite, no pain. So either I didn't get the spicy one, they toned it down for me, or what they think is hot is not. Despite the lack of heat, there was a lot of spices, and thus, a lot of flavour. The bird wasn't big so I could have eaten a whole one I think, but the 1/2 was really all I needed.

Yre's isn't much for presentation, flash or atmosphere. But with a large waiting crowd, a long line of orders and great word of mouth, its clear he knows his chicken. This was a perfect picnic food for eating out in the nearby park, because eating in wasn't really desirable and taking it home it would just get cold (for where we live anyway). Just make sure you order well in advance and you are prepared to wait. It's worth it.
YRe's BBQ Chicken
169 Charlotte Street, Ottawa, ON

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Fuzzification ~ People in my Bloggerhood

Hello neighbour. Did you have a good day? Hang on, I have to change my jacket and shoes. There, that's better. Now where were we? Oh that's right, strolling through the Bloggerhood I see my good friend Ricky Patel @ FUZZIFICATION.COM.

Ricky and I go way back. He's my oldest friend that I still keep in touch with on a regular basis. We were in a 'gang' together, fought together in the First World War, and had many a good times. We have also eaten a lot of chicken wings over the years, and it was his brainchild and organizer of The Great Wing Tour of 2006.

I've been following Ricky on the Internet for quite some time. Ricky has been taking snapshots for many years, and has been a great showcase for his work. I like his photography because he has an eye for capturing simple moments and objects, the macabre and the beautiful. Here's some examples of photos I love (from centre than clockwise): "Plant in Window" shot in India; "Baby Back" Boss Hogg rib grilling @ the London Ribfest 2008; "Fireworks"; "Arabian Sea" a wonderful sunset shot; and my fave, "One Handed Bride."

Ricky and I sat down* and chatted about blogging with ME in GREEN, and RICKY in RED:

*NOTE: sitting down is in reference to our respective homes in our own seats over the Internet via e-mail correspondence.

Who are you & where do you live?
I currently live in London Ontario. I'm a hard, mean, technical kind of guy, who likes to indulge (what he thinks) his softer artistic side mainly through photography but also sketching, music and other endevours.

What is Your Blog?
My current blog is It was born out of a desire to publish and share my photographs and other visual art like sketches without the complication of excessive words (like my previous blogs).

How Long Have you been Blogging?Why did you start blogging?
I have been blogging in various internet incarnations since about 1999 (probably around the same time the word "blog" was invented). I originally started because I found myself in the big bad city and needed a venue to share my experiences. I used a section of my personal website, then later, an actual blog, as an outlet for the frustrations of daily life and a place for me to share some of my creative writing and visual art. Those blogs ran their course, and I eventually started my photo blog, which has been online since March 2007.

Also on my blog shelf is a blog I kept while I was working on a project in Zambia with Engineers Without Borders Canada, during the summer of 2006.

What do you want out of your blog?
I can't really say I want anything out of my blog (other than maybe launch a career in photography rather than engineering). I just want to share my pictures. I enjoy photography as it gets me outside exploring the city in I live, meeting people and enjoying the outdoors. Having a blog which I post the pictures too helps to motivate me to get out and shoot.

What is your favourite blog (you know, other than LOTW :p)?
I don't tend to read a lot of blogs. I do however visit Daily Dose of Imagery often to see the pictures.

Do you feel there’s real interaction between you and your readers?
Readers? More like viewers, and by viewers I mean the maybe 4 people who I think actually visit my blog on a regular basis. Interaction is basically nil. So if anyone goes to check it out, let me know what you think.

Any crazy blog-related stories?
I've had a friend become a non-friend because of something I wrote on my blog way back in the day. Not really crazy, somewhat tragic, but illustrates the danger of posting your thoughts without thinking of the consequences or how fickle friends can be.

What is your favorite chicken wing?
My favorite chicken wing is a FREE chicken wing, preferably taken off the plate of The Wing King! But to really answer the question: Way back when I was in High school, when I'd be home alone, I'd order pizza and wings from Gino's. The wings had a bbq/hot sauce blend, that tasted so good because they came with that small taste of freedom which is an empty house with no parents or siblings around. But soon after I started to grow up, I moved out and took on responsibilities and those wings never tasted the same again. I also miss wing nights at Mad Trappers in T-Burg.

Do you have a favorite cooking show?
I don't have cable, so my cooking show array is quite limited, so I don't currently watch any cooking shows with any regularity. When I was younger I used to watch Pasquale's Kitchen Express and The Urban Peasant all the time. They really have influenced my style of cooking. I also enjoyed the suave antics of Carlo Rota on The Great Canadian Food Show on CBC, and I have been told that I am a cross between the Cake guy and Chef at home...whatever that means, for better or worse.

Do you cook? What is your specialty?
Yes, I cook. Mainly I cook for myself and experiment with my dishes a bit. I can't think of any specialties though.

What is the most disgusting thing you have ever eaten?
This is difficult, because a lot of the things that I thought were disgusting at one time, I've eaten and enjoyed at other times. What kind of stands out are some really disgusting mussels at a Mandarin once. They were cold, and rubbery, made me gag.

If there was one thing you would want the Wing Nation to know about you and your blog, what would it be?
There isn't much else to say. I'm not a professional photographer, and people might think my photos suck, but I like each and everyone one of them. They represent the places I've been, and the things I've seen. If you like them too, let me know. Everyone likes a bit of positive affirmation once in awhile.

Thanks Mr Patel. Hope we can have wings again sometime soon. In the meantime, everyone head on over to Rick's site and enjoy the photography!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Company's Coming: Most Loved Appetizers

I'm on leave from Ottawa making my parents home my home base for the past week or so with trips all around South Western Ontario (Waterloo, Kitchener, Port Dover, Burford, Waterford, Ingersoll, London, Ilderton - holy jumpin I'm getting around). I found a new cook book sitting in the kitchen that was recently purchased and I started leafing through.

Company's Coming: Most Loved Appetizers is by Jean Paré. This is part of a series by Company's Coming cookbooks, started by Jean herself who's been writing the series for over 20 years.

I haven't tried any of the recipes out, but these classic and punched up appetizers sound mighty tasty. What caught my eye are the many wing recipes in the book.

Bottom: continued from other page
WARNING: This recipe is INCORRECT.

This recipe says it is for Buffalo Wings. It is not. It is for HOT WINGS. See how the chicken is dipped into an egg mixture, then a flour mixture? Ya, Buffalo Wings are not dipped into anything but oil. And then yes, they are deep fried. But the sauce? Louisiana sauce. Ok its a cayenne based sauce, but at no point do you mix it with butter. Please see The Wing King's Guide to Classifying Chicken Wings.

Also, they heinously say "Decide if you want hot wings or "suicide" hot wings by varying the amount of Louisiana sauce". No. No no no. A shot of Louisiana Sauce and a cup of Louisiana Sauce has the same Scoville heat. You have to decrease it with butter. In fact, you have to add something hot to make Louisiana sauce 'suicide'. Another case of a careless chef/writer using terms without the research.

So other than some criminal wing mislabeling, these are some interesting ideas. Some are a bit sweet, but the Parmesan wings, both of them, looked tasty. Plus there's lots of other recipes that I want to try. I just have to make sure I have a lot of cream cheese; everything seems to have it.

Company's Coming: Most Loved Appetizers

Return to the King Eddy

Back with the gang in London, we agreed to make a trip to nearby Ilderton to go back to the King Edward Pub. Last year we enjoyed the food, the service and the atmosphere. A few months later Rich, owner of the King Eddy with his wife Deborah, invited me back when their new chicken wing menu came out. How can you pass on that?

Rich came by our table to talk wings and the King Eddy. Leaving a career of engineering, Rich talked about moving to the small but growing town, city adjacent area with a historic building with an existing pub that they could turn over and make into the great pub that it is today.

Wings were the main discussion - with the focus being their new 40 sauce menu. He tested around 100 recipes for sauces, but felt too many would be sacrificing flavour and quality, so he only kept the best. I asked what the most popular order was, and he kind of scoffed. "Honey Garlic" he said. Having gone on the radio, a lot of people were excited by the large choice of wing flavours, but when it came to ordering, people went with "the old standbys".

"Be adventurous!" the chef said, and I agree. Liquid Gold, the honey-mustard sauce is another favourite, and Rich admits you never know what people are going to like: a bunch of bikers came in and instead of ordering a 'manly' hot sauce, went with the Parmesan wings. One guy was interested in the Canadien sauce (honey garlic with Montreal steak spice) but refused to get it because of the Montreal Canadien's hockey logo on the menu - he just couldn't 'support' another team, no matter how good it might be. I feel his frustration. You put your heart and soul, and people just can't break away to try new things. I asked him what his favourite sauce was, but he said all of them.

While we were waiting for our orders to come in, AJ was surfing the net using the King Eddy's Wifi to get some over-the-weekend work done. Brad and Rick both ordered beer, which is hand pulled, cask ale. Both of them enjoyed it and expressed their love of local breweries over the commercial stuff.

AJ ordered up the same as last time, the cannelloni. And she loved it just as much as last time. In fact, she ate slower than I have ever seen her, because she was savouring every bite. I teased her about not trying something new, but she related that as a 'vegetarian' when she finds a dish she loves, she doesn't stray far off.

Rick had a starter of the Santa Fe Chili. When asked how it tasted, all I got was "chili" but with black olives and a few other ingredients that set it apart.

For his main, he went with the Cottage Pie. Just the other day I had heard Cottage Pie reading a food blog when I looked at it and saw it as Sheppard's Pie. Confused, I researched and discovered that traditionally Sheppard's Pie is ground lamb, while Cottage Pie is with ground beef. So all these years I had Cottage Pie. Huh.

Brad was going to go with a lamb burger, but after finding out about feta in the burger (he does not enjoy feta), he went with wings. If I wasn't so interested in the wings, the feta lamb burger sounded pretty good to me! Brad went with the Bourbon Street wings.

Looking over all the flavours, I settled on two very different sauces: The Dragon, and Mesquite. When I started writing today, I looked back at what I thought I would want to try and it turned out I picked pretty much the same flavours!

BOURBON STREET: Described as "Cajun hints through smokey medium sauce kicked up with Jack's Old No.7" When Brad ordered these, our server Matt said he wanted to try them, but joked because of the alcohol content he couldn't while on duty.

I've come to detest alcohol based wing sauces, but I really liked this one. It was sweet and spicy with a twang. A 'bright' flavour if that makes any sense. Unfortunately, these wings destroyed Brad. The heat really got to him, and he died later that night.

THE DRAGON: "Fiery Szechwan style" was all I needed to hear. Sichuan province in China is famous for their spicy cuisine and I was in the mood for an Asian flavour.

I wasn't knocked over in heat, but these saucy wings had a nice flavour. The sauce was oily with chilies made for a unique flavour.

MESQUITE: "Smokey BBQ, slightly sweet". A good, high quality BBQ sauce.

This is the kind of BBQ sauce I really like on my wings. Its thick, smokey and just a little bit sweet. I think this was the table favourite. It was mine for sure.

It was great coming back to the King Eddy. We all agreed it was a good time and it was starting to feel like 'our place'. It was great that we could talk with Rich and Matt (and Deborah the last time) and have a sense of belonging. Good food, good times.

FOX & FIDDLE ~ London ON

Victoria Day Weekend!!!

First long weekend of the year, and in honour of Queen Victoria, I went to London. No not London England, London Ontario. 3/5ths of my high school crew (Ricky, Brad & Amanda) live in the Forrest City (Dude is in China, and I'm in Ottawa). Brad had heard about some a pub in London that someone had described as 'the best wings he had ever had' but when we went to go try the place out, it was jammed packed with people. Not giving up on pub food, or as it turns out the British theme, we headed to the Fox & Fiddle pub.

I took the gang there back in Toronto, and they always had tasty wings. Now it was their turn to take me to their outlet. However, this location just opened up. Having originally been an Elephant and Castle (another pub chain part of us went a while back) it converted and re-opened about a week ago.

The decor is probably the same with just a door sign refit. It's got all sorts of levels to sit at. We were sat near the front door, and while there was a table between us and the door, I felt exposed. Not the best room in the house.

Brad ordered up some vegetable samosas. I sampled one, but I couldn't really taste them. The deep fried taste of the pastry dominated the appetizer and the seasoning was just really weak.

There was also a share plate of sweet potato fries. Crisp and tasty they were great - clearly this is a dish that's replacing fries as the potato of choice. The dipping sauce was not to my liking. The menu says its honey mustard, and I can sort of taste honey mustard, but it is really oily and had the flavour of Italian salad dressing.

Rick's dish was the Fox Banquet Burger with his fries 'poutined'. Having spent time in Ottawa, I've come to understand the hatred of things labeled 'poutine' and not being so (shredded cheddar and mozzarella is not cheese curds. Poutine is fries with cheese curd and gravy.). Rick said he enjoyed his burger (boy that pickle and bacon looks good) but I don't think it was the best ever.

I had debated getting wings (I actually do debate, wing just often win the argument) or getting the "Ultimate Fiddler Fries". Brad got them, so I was able to sample them. Overall they were just disappointing. The wedge fries were pretty blah, the cheese was blah, even the 'chipotle gravy' was blah. There were jalapenos, but it just didn't do anything. Brad agreed it wasn't what he expected. A great concept I've seen elsewhere executed way better than here.

AJ went with the vegetarian burger done 'mushrooms & cheese'. Vegetarian burgers are set into two camps: patties that look like, or relatively like a burger, & patties that are full of vegetables (and in my opinion, look like vomit with chunks). This burger was the latter, and AJ, like most vegetarians I have heard do not enjoy chunks of carrots or corn or chunks of anything in their burger.
There were some new sauces since I was at the F&F last, I decided to do some wing sampling.

I was really hungry and in the mood for wings, so I went with a double order to do some sampling. These wings were not cheap, but hey, its the holidays, right? I decided on 'Buffalo Butter' with a side of 4 Alarm Sauce, and Ancho Chipotle BBQ.

The chicken was a sizable appendage, large, meaty and with a dusted coating made for a big bite. They came out strange, like they were baked, plated, sauced, then dumped onto a new plate so the top of the wing was not sauced, but the bottom was. Strange.

The big problem with the wings was the baking process. They were charred. While this can also be a flavourful charm, it was not. They were not so burnt that I would send them back, but the burnt flavour ended up blocking all the flavours I ordered.

BUFFALO BUTTER: Well, they came out saucey. But their 'signature' sauce was, well, plain. No heat. My guess is bottled sauce, like Laredo, with no actual cayenne and butter involved. No taste, no heat. But char was the dominating flavour.

4 ALARM: Wow, I don't know what the alarm system is, but there must be over 10 stages on the alarm because it was a medium heat. It did have a nice flavour and I ended up using it on all the wings.

ANCHO CHIPOTLE BBQ: What is the first thing thing that comes to mind when you hear Chipotle BBQ? Or the second thing? I think, Chipotle = spicy. I think, BBQ=BBQ. Well Fiddler thinks differently apparently. No heat. The sauce, sweet in a fruit relish like way, not in a BBQ way.

FINAL SCORE: Well, I'm just totally trashing the place. The wings are big and meaty and that was good. But the burnt taste was just too much. I can only hope that these are problems because the place just opened up. The service was friendly here, but the food just didn't rate in my opinion. I hope the F&F in Toronto isn't like this, but when a chain has the same menu, its hard to say. 4/10

Fox & Fiddle
355 Wellington Street (London Citi Plaza Mall), London ON