He started out rough with some Coke Zero instead of Classic (I too almost used CZ) but he rebounded quick. I like the baking at the end to crisp up the skin because, well, crispy skin is always best. They look good - thanks for posting and mentioning me guys!!!
I love the Internet. It is such a fountain of information, and I love to drink that knowledge up. It allows me to be a part of an online food community and find out where to go to get good chow. Being in Ottawa, I'm a part of Ottawa Foodies, where user member Ken V. reviewed a new BBQ joint just outside of Ottawa in Carlsbad Springs called D & S Southern Comfort BBQ. Without Ken's review, I would never have even heard of D&S, so last Friday LJ and I decided to check it out for ourselves.
D&S is at a 5-point intersection in the tiny community of Carlsbad Springs, a town which was founded in the 1800's as a spa/hotel destination, until the 1930's when polluted water ruined the business (thanks wikipedia).
True Southern BBQ is on the rise in Ontario, and D&S owner Dave Harper details his classic "Yours to Discover" province BBQ experience: briquettes & lighter fluid, eventually graduating to propane. But we are slowly learning what real BBQ is here, and Dave says on their website he thinks they might improved what our friends to the South created:
"In recent years I have had the opportunity to eat in a large number of southern BBQ joints where they do BBQ better than almost anyone, I spent a large portion of time studying their methods and equipment. I believe I have not only mastered their methods, but surpassed them to create the best BBQ in the world. "
Well, that's quite the bold statement, but even if he isn't lying, most Ontarians wouldn't know the difference. I have to admit, my experience is mighty limited. So I guess I just have to judge whether I like it or not on my own simple judgment - is it good?
D&S itself is a pretty massive building on its own, but then again, they are both a restaurant and a big catering business - they can cook up to 1000lbs of food at once! LJ & I both felt there was an identity crisis going on. From the outside, the structure looked like a big road house (that had recently had a make-over). Inside, the place is clean, new, and very very open. Tables are metallic, Ikea accessories and paintings on the wall, industrial carpet, and modern looking booths. There is a bar-dining room that seems to have a much more unified design concept that looks pretty nice. I was kind of hoping for the dingy road house, but you can never complain about an orderly/clean establishment.
When we arrived, the place was relatively busy, but the rows of empty tables in the very large room we were in accentuated the vastness and potential for capacity way out in the booneys. But by the time we were done our meal, I don't think there was a table in the house available. Lots of families (some taking up several tables arranged together) and older couples from their 30's to their 60's . Country music was the ambient choice.
Our waitress was Samantha (or Sam as she preferred to be called). She was young, but very friendly in an old-fashioned, classic hospitality way. She took our orders, answered questions, and in a short period of time brought us some complimentary buns. The buns were very hard on the outside, and not so soft in the inside. Luke warm, they were not the best buns I have ever been served, but LJ & I gobbled them up very quickly.
I had scanned the menu long before coming (thanks to the Internet) but even when I got there I still didn't know what I wanted to get. Wings were definitely on my radar (smoked, a unique choice not found much in these parts in a restaurant), but what about the ribs? They have 3 different types of ribs (beef, St. Louis pork, and pork back). Or smoked chicken? Or the chili? Or a burger? Too many things sound soo good! We overheard one woman remarking how the smoked chicken penne Alfredo was to die for.
One menu item I had debated getting was the Armadillo Eggs, and as it turned out, that's what LJ ordered for dinner. You get to choose 2 sides to go along with the 3 eggs.
First off, no this is not a real egg. Armadillo's don't even lay eggs, they are mammals (don't you forget that duck-billed platypus). No this brilliant treat is a hollowed out jalapeno pepper, stuffed with cheddar cheese, wrapped in sausage meat that is smoked and then brushed with BBQ sauce.
Wow. This was insanely good. The jalapeno had a bit of a bite, the sausage was flavourful and smokey and the BBQ sauce was an excellent saucy addition. I think if (and when I do) actually make these, I would use a spiced cream cheese over cheddar for more flavour, but this was good.
Then there was the cream corn bread. It was corn bread in some parchment paper and it was good. I love corn bread and this was light and corny.
The other side dish LJ chose were hush puppies. Another corn variant, these are deep fried balls of cornbread also had some jalapeno, making them just a bit spicy. Crispy outside, soft but dense inside, they went very well with the eggs.
When it came to me finally choosing, I was really torn. I wanted wings. I also wanted ribs. But hey, D&S knows people like to experiment, so they have the Kitchen Sampler: St. Louis Ribs, Pulled Pork sandwich, Onion Rings, and of course wings. They list it under starters, but this combo plate is really for one (one hungry person anyways).
The mini pulled pork sandwich is piled pretty high. The pulled pork was tender - melt in the mouth - with a sauce that was not overpowering allowing the flavour of the pork to come out. The menu says its a vinegar-based sauce, but it wasn't strong enough for my inexperienced palate to taste.
Two ribs came from cooking low and slow, with a slathering of BBQ sauce. The bark was crispy and flavourful and the meat was tender. The hint of hickory smoke, and the sauce (their Sweet and Smoky I believe) were just right. They weren't particularly big or meaty, but it was a nice sampling.
The onion rings were breaded and VERY crunchy. My personal preference is a battered ring, but these were big and tasty. They came with a chipotle mayonnaise dip which was very light on chipotle but went well with the rings.
Before I get to the wings, we finished the evening off with dessert. Everything sounded good, but LJ and I shared the Chocolate Triple Threat: "Chocolate hazelnut pot du creme, orange chocolate tart and a Bailey's truffle". We split the truffle first, which was rich and hinted of Baileys. The tart tasted like a Terry's chocolate orange, and the pot du creme tasted like a mousse (is that what pot du creme is?). Either way, it was a decadent and delicious end to the meal. But I did have wings before desert.
Obviously I didn't get a regular order of wings, and their menu doesn't describe how many actually come in an order (I should have asked Sam). But apparently they do come with veggies and ranch dip (that's right, not sour cream Ottawa).
The chicken wings come whole (wingette, drummette, tip) that are marinated, dusted, then smoked with Hickory and finally drizzeled with BBQ sauce. Two whole wings came in my Kitchen Sampler.
The wings were about a medium-large size (after I tore them apart). The skin was not particularly crispy (but again, I really think only deep-frying gives them a really crispy skin). The chicken tore apart easily, and the flavour of the smoke had permeated the wing, giving the meat a wonderful flavour.
The wings tasted good on their own - what ever their spice rub used was mild but good. But they also had a few drops of BBQ sauce. The menu says your choice of their three homemade sauces, but I think I received Sweet & Smokey as default. Why? Well, it was slightly sweet, slightly smokey. Almost a little too sweet for my liking, and anymore sauce on the wings and I wouldn't have enjoyed it.
FINAL SCORE: What a place. I was fortunate to get a lot of dishes sampled, yet there are many more I would love to try. I liked my wings, smoked is something I rarely get to sample, but it is not my wing-style of choice. The corn bread/hush puppies were tasty, the ribs/pulled pork also good, but my favourite sampling of the night was the armadillo eggs by far. Friendly service, good food, D&S's big crowds are definitely understandable. 6/10.
PS: I asked Sam what the D&S actually stood for. Owners names I had thought, but she said it stood for Down South and had no idea why there was an "&" in there.
It's that sad time of year again . . . when the air is more frigid than crisp, the leaves are changing colour or are dead, and BBQ season is coming to an end. For many of you lucky soul's out there you can continue to grill through winter; either you're a) crazy dedicated and have cleared snow on your back deck or b) you live in a moderate climate and are not affected by snowfall.
I, on the other hand, are at the mercy of a condo board, who arbitrarily close our building's terrace, thus cutting off my access to a charcoal pit for months and months. Sad, because I'd be out in the snow if I could.
There's no snow yet, and actually, the past few days have been sunny and in the double digits - perfect to get in one last grilling. I search through the freezer to clear it out and find something to grill: miscellaneous sausages. But that's not enough for a final grilling. So I got some wings too.
The key to good chicken wing grilling is a brine. So Monday afternoon I brine up my wings. I'm all excited when bam! Life shows up just before grilling time and I have to go. Now I'm not going to be able to grill after all. But my wings are in the brine - they can't stay there until tomorrow - what do I do? I go to my trusty Chowhound's and ask for their advice. User ChristinaMason is quick to respond that I should be fine just draining the wings. Then powderhound joins in and brings up air-drying the wings in the fridge. That sounds like a good idea. MrsCheese reaffirms that air-drying should be the way to go. OK, that's what I'm going to do and let's see how well it goes in just a few steps.
STEP 1 - THE BRINE Monday, 3pm
Very simple. Mostly water. Added some vinegar, salt, pepper and the last of a commercial bottle of Buffalo Wing sauce.
The Brine does not look pretty, but it gets the job done.
STEP 2 - AIR DRY
Wings have been drained of Brine. They are then placed on a rack, over a pan I have lined with plastic wrap (to reduce washing but increase environmental destruction). Into the fridge to await tomorrow.
STEP 3 - CHARCOAL TIME
Arrive at patio. Notice that picnic tables, chairs and all comforts of terrace are no longer available. Charcoal chimney is set up and in no time we have burning coals. Hot hot burning coals.
Wings are applied to the grill. I like grilling the wings at high heat, flipping frequently.
Brined chicken wings are coming along nicely. So are the sausages. Ooooh yeah!
STEP 4 - MOPPIN' TIME
Wings are basically done. Now its time to apply our sauce. I'm using my homemade Husker BBQ Sauce. Don't apply to early or it will burn. Flip after 2-5 minutes, mop other side. Flip again after 2-5 minutes and mop again. Plate it up and consume quickly.
The final product. LJ was wanting them not to saucy, so they are relatively 'dry' when served. Oh the sausage (put on a bun) was good too.
These turned out decently. I didn't find the chicken as moist as when I use a brine and cook immediately after. The skin wasn't as crispy as I thought the air-drying method would produce. The sauce wasn't as strong as I would have liked (again, I prefer saucy, but you gotta go with what the customer wants :p) but the caramelized bits on the skin were good.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I enjoyed the wings, but not immensely so. I mean, they were wings, and the grilling flavour is good. But I just like the skin that deep frying produces over grilling. I still need more practice grilling wings, and thanks to rainy summers like 2009 and a closing balcony, I won't be getting a chance for many many more months. Sigh.
But thanks Chowhounders for your help!
Anyone else got any other ideas of what I could have done?
I have to say I had an awesome weekend, and it didn't even involve chicken wings.
(Click HERE to go to the Wing Bucket to see more Photos,Videos and a Pamphlet for my trip to Saunders! )
LJ took me out for a belated B-Day adventure (it had rained the original weekend) to Saunder's Farm. Out in the country about half an hour South of Ottawa, Sander's Farm is full of mazes, pumpkins, stuff for kids to do etc etc etc. But at night in October, ghosts and ghouls come to life and the farm becomes haunted.
There were crazy built houses where kids could climb and explore. I would have loved it when I was younger.
They also have a Corn Cannon that you shoot corn out into a pond and try to hit a target. Very popular even late into the night.
There are 9 mazes to explore during the day, but they are closed at night. Above is one of the more novice labyrinths. While we were going for the haunted evening, night tickets still let you get in the early afternoon, so we tried our hand at two of the mazes. A lot of fun, I gotta say.
The place is decorated for Hallowe'en. While I was excited to go to the farm, I expected the decorations and such to be lame and cheap: Instead I found the place to be very crafted, spooky and really planned out, not just thrown together. Saunder's Farm takes their Hallowe'en seriously.
The game plan was to get there in the later afternoon, do some mazes, leave for supper to a neighbouring town (waiting for dark to come) and return for the night activities. There were several eating stands described on the website, but I expected expensive crap. This too proved to be slightly false assumptions as well. The food wasn't exactly cheap, and many places overlapped what they sold, but the mostly carnival fare was quite good. Here are some of the foods some of these stands sold:
Above in the photo was the Crossroads BBQ (note the skeleton decoration at the top) stand serving :
& The Snack Shack:
The Farmer's Table:
Local Gourmet Burger
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Chili in a Bread Bowl
Or Fadi's Food Tent:
Roast Beef on a Bun
Home-Battered Onion Rings
Sweet Potato Poutine
After walking the mazes, we were tired, hungry and looking forward to some grub. As I mentioned, I had wanted to go to a neighbouring town and try a pub and some wings, but the carny food looked so good. Passing all the stands we saw Fadi's Fine Food trailer, and the burgers and fries just looked too good to pass up. LJ & I both got the Bacon Cheeseburger Combos (with fries & a pop) for $10, and I made my fries poutine ($1.50 more) because other people's poutine looked so damn good.
There were lots of picnic tables around the farm to eat at (but it was cold), and a large dining pavilion close by (crowded), but we had spotted a secluded little room back at the entrance of the farm. The "Log Barn" - a cozy cabin with wooden tables and a wood burning fireplace (where later that night ghost stories were told by a costumed actor) was perfect refuge from the increasingly cold night.
I loved the decorations (did I mention Hallowe'en is my favourite time of year?). I was expecting dollar store decs but they had some high quality stuff. I love the skull and crossbones over the fire place.
Above is a photo of my combo. For $11.50 it wasn't cheap, but it was good. Sometimes you have to splurge!
My bacon cheese burger. While there were toppings (ketchup, mayo, mustard, relish etc). I went with plain. The cheese, the bacon, the beef - it hit all my senses. The smell of cooked bacon; The sound of a sizzling patty (before being plated); The sight of the cheese oozing out; The texture of a super soft bun, crispy bacon, and melty cheese; The taste of good beef, processed cheese, and slightly smokey bacon. Heaven. Pure heaven. No the patty's are not homemade, nor is it high quality cheese or some 300 mile diet stuff. But this was a damn good burger. Damn good.
The poutine in all it's glory. Squeaky St. Albert's cheese curd, delicious gravy, and crispy fresh cut fries with the skin on. I got a warm feeling eating this in a cabin out of the cold, by the fire!
Later that night, between haunted barns, haunted fields and a haunted hay rides, my senses were appealed to again. LJ & I shared some fudge from the Fudge Shack. I broke down for a caramel apple $3, and it was the best caramel apple I have ever had. Near the end, a piping jumbo hot dog seemed to be a perfect snack. I pigged out, but I don't regret it at all.
Saunder's Farm is definitely a Saturday destination to check out on a fall weekend afternoon and evening. Lots of activities, great scares and actors, and best of all, some very decent food that was perfect for the event. There's still time to go if your in the Ottawa area, I totally recommend it for kids of all ages.
Saunder's Farm 7893 Bleeks Road, Munster, ON (yes, Munster Ontario!)
Nestled in the borough of Ottawa known as Westboro, there is a former house that was built in the very early part of the last century. This house has been added onto, modified, and renovated into a busy and noisy pub ironically named Whispers.
Known as the "Friendliest Little Pub in Westboro," this pub is often busy. I mean real busy. After 4pm when everyone is getting off work, this place becomes packed and stays that way. I've driven past at midnight and the two patios are still rocking. The crowd is definitely mixed: seniors, bar flies, young people, couples, English, French etc etc etc., By the time the Sun has set, there is no way you can whisper if you want people to hear you. And forget talking when they have live bands.
As the place was a house, the eatery is split into different rooms and corridors for dinning. There's the bar room, the front left room, the back right room, and 2 outdoor patios. Oh and a recently added upstairs. And the front 'porch'. The room I sat in had maybe 10 tables inside, a fireplace, TV's and currently, Hallowe'en decs. The rooms are a mix of brick and wood, and decorations with local significance like an airplane propeller, and a bell to ring, which indicates you're buying the next round!
My waitress for the late afternoon was Dominique. She answered my questions about the wings and brought me refills on Pepsi unprompted. She gave me space, but was there when I needed her.
Confession: tonight wasn't my first time to Whispers. I actually came several months ago to do a review, but the photos were terrible, and, well, the wings were good enough to come back and try to do a better review. And then I came back again when Dude was down, but I didn't have any food (we just met up with some of his Ottawa friends, catching up, drinking). So I was ready to take one for the team today and eat some wings and do a proper review.
The specials listed outside say there are two wing nights: Tuesday and Thursday. That's pretty awesome. And Wing Night starts at 3pm. So I was there today shortly after 3. Unfortunately, there's been some price increases since I was here last, but there was also some new wing flavours too.
The chicken wings were definitely the popular choice this evening. While I was sitting, two older French-Canadian women came in and ordered a salad to split, and 2lbs of wings. I didn't hear the flavour, but they went to town on them. At the end of their dinner they told Dominique that they had the best wings at Whispers.
When Dominique took my order earlier, she had asked if I wanted sour cream on the side. I had to withhold my snobbery and politely decline. I really wanted to ask why people in Ottawa order sour cream when there are so much better dips like bleu cheese or ranch. Why would anyone actually want sour cream? And then the ladies ASKED for sour cream! This is one culture shock I will never get over.
With 11 sauces, there was a lot to choose from. My favourite thing about wing nights, aside from the obvious cheaper wing, is the fact that you can do some sampling. Having asked about the nature of some of the sauces, I ordered 10 BBQ and 10 Chef's Challenge. The wings are deep fried naked, and then tossed in some generous amounts of sauce.
The wings were a medium size, but very meaty. They came out piping hot - which is bad because I have to wait a minute or two before I can physically attack the poultry, but good because they haven't been sitting around. The skin was nice and crispy, but in a relatively short period of time the sauce wore down the crisp factor and slid into mush territory. It wasn't deep into mush territory, but it means you have to scarf these down fast.
The first wings I saw hit my table were the BBQ. The sauce was wet and gleamed off the drummy's and wingettes, which mimicked the drool from my mouth. They looked like they were going to be a good BBQ sauce.
The sauce looked like Diana's, but one sticky taste and I knew it wasn't so. Not overpowering but still there was what I perceived to be ketchup as the base. Some sugar and spice - not unlike a sweet rib sauce my parents used to make for spare ribs. A good sauce, but not one I would want on more than 10 wings. It became a little much.
I'm always skeptical and excited when I see titles like Chef's Challenge. I always have to the hope in my religious quest for the ultimate wing, that they will blow me away. But such titled wings are usually either wimpy, or a disgusting concoction that is hot, but tastes terrible. Whisper's CC walked the narrow line in between. Twice the chef/owner (?) came out twice to check on how I was doing and how were the CC's.
The sauce was viscous but slightly runny. The immediate flavour was crushed red pepper, but there was a lot of different things going on. There was a good burn (it would definitely cause the faint of heart to die) but it didn't overpower the flavours or my pain receptors. I inquired to the chef/owner (?) about divulging the secrets, and he hesitantly told me a list of items from Jerk spice to crushed chili's to vinegar to wing sauce or whatever he might have on hand. A kitchen sink sauce. It was a good little sauce and I complimented him on how there was flavour but still heat. He agreed and said too many cooks/chef's think it needs to be all heat at the expense of taste, and that just isn't right.
OK, I was feeling gluttonous and went for 10 more wings. I didn't feel like the dry rub sauces (Jerk, Tex-Mex) and I was saddened to hear Honey Hot was just honey garlic mixed into hot. So I went back to basics and ordered the simple hot.
These were gold. Wonderful Buffalo wings. The chicken was hot and crispy. The sauce, kicking with cayenne, tart and runny from vinegar. These were a great wing to end off on.
FINAL SCORE: I gotta say, the wings are pricey. And wing night isn't so great (basically $0.50 a wing). But recapping, the wings were meaty, they were crispy and there was some interesting sauces. I left very satisfied. I haven't been to many pub's in Westboro, but this one was pretty darn friendly. Great vibe, and I'm sure I'll be back for wings again. 7.5/10
Whispers Pub & Eatery 249 Richmond Road, Ottawa, ON