Wednesday, 31 March 2010

PUZZLES ~ Ottawa On

*** PUZZLES is now CLOSED  - RIP ***
Click HERE to see it's replacement

Still kicking it in Westboro, I kept eyeing a pub I've passed many times before but never went in. Only steps away from the corner of Churchill and Richmond, this little establishment has been around for a long time, 45 years in fact (1965) so they must be doing something right. Right?

The pub is a place that I have been curious to go to, but something made me feel a bit nervous going in on my own. But I braved it and went in. Actually I walked by first and took a look inside the big windows out front to see what the seating was like. It was empty inside (or so I thought). It was mid afternoon, so I wasn't expecting a lunch crowd or early supper. Once I got inside, I noticed one thirty-ish guy on his own with a pitcher, and in the back corner (not visible from my walkby) was a crew of senior men hanging out, celebrating a birthday. But I get the impression that they celebrate there often.

There is nothing that stands out about the place. It was dark (no lights on really, but the big picture windows up front bring in a lot of natural light). The carpets and tables were old, and the only real decorations were New Jersey Devils paraphernalia. Weird. The music was turned way down low ( I could hear the old guys conversations more clearly) and at one point I swear I heard the Andy Griffith theme and then something upbeat from the later 20th century! There wasn't a negative vibe as this review so far might sound, just no vibe at all. Actually, I don't think you can use the term 'vibe' at this kind of venue.

I sat right near the front window to take advantage of the light and the view. My waitress, whose name I never got, came over and she seemed to be a slightly nervous but a sweeter older woman. She took my drink order, and I inquired if their wing special was on all day or if it started at a later time. No, it was on all day (score!). At least for March anyway, I don't know what April holds. I perused the menu and nothing special here, just great looking pub grub. Burgers, appetizers, they even have popcorn, or popcorn with butter on the menu. That excited me until I found out it was just microwave popcorn.

While I would have liked to try their poutine or the special 'pickin platter' sampler, I went with wings. Surprise surprise. I was worried about my three-part order (hot wings, dusted wings and a side of suicide sauce) because my waitress had to repeat it over and over to herself, but everything came out right.

The wings at Puzzles come $0.60 a piece, or half price on Monday and Wednesdays, and there didn't seem to be a number you had to order. The standard wings are simply deep fried and then tossed in sauce.

The wings did range in size quite a bit. Some were small, other very large. My hot wings were a bit drier (deep fried dangerously close to overdone but not quite) but my dusted wings were perfectly crispy, juicy and meaty. Some of the hot had some meaty pieces too - so size and meatiness were all over the map.

Most of these wings were covered in hot sauce were a nice caramelized red colour. Some wings were slathered in the thick sauce, other just grazed it. The sauce wasn't really hot. It was a medium, partly because it was a slightly sweet sauce.

It was possibly a bbq sauce and hot sauce mix, but to be honest, the taste was very meek. I couldn't get much of a strong sense of flavour either way. It wasn't bad, just really mild flavour/heat.

I don't know what prompted me to get dusted wings, but I am glad I did. It wasn't anything unique or amazing; just cornmeal and some salt and pepper.

It made for a wonderfully crispy, salty skin. Just good fried chicken. And as I had mentioned earlier, the meat was tender and juicy inside. And even better tossed in the suicide sauce.

I got this on the side just in case I didn't like it. But I did. Ok, this was more of a hot than a suicide. Cayenne based vinegar hot sauce with something added in that I just couldn't identify. There was just a bit of a kick, but far from creating a pain that I prefer to have my wings at. But the combo of the dusted and the suicide was just great.

FINAL SCORE: Definitely a place for regulars to come to. There isn't much of an atmosphere to speak of, but a great front for people watching. And the grub is simple, but done fairly well. While my wings were all over the place in quality, overall I was happy with what I got. Next time it will be dusted wings with suicide sauce for sure. 5.5/10

Puzzles: Your Neighbourhood Pub & Restaurant
344 Richmond Road, Ottawa ON

¡lɐuoısuǝɯıp ǝǝɹɥʇ sǝoƃ ƃolq sƃuıʍ ǝɥʇ ɟo pɹol

˙uoısuǝɯıp pɹıɥʇ ǝɥʇ oʇuı oƃ oʇ spǝǝu ƃuıƃƃolq uǝʌǝ ʍou puɐ ƃuıɥʇʎɹǝʌǝ pǝƃuɐɥɔ sɐɥ ʎlnɹʇ ɹɐʇɐʌɐ ¡¡¡p-ᄐ ƃuıoƃ sı sƃuıʍ ǝɥʇ ɟo pɹol

¡¡¡ʇno ɥɔʇɐʍ - noʎ ʇɐ ʇɥƃıɹ ǝɯoɔ sƃuıʍ uǝʞɔıɥɔ ǝɥʇ sɐ ɥɔʇɐʍ puɐ ɯoɔ˙ʇodsƃolq˙sƃuıʍǝɥʇɟopɹol ʇɐ ʞool uǝɥʇ ˙pɐǝɥ ɹnoʎ oʇ ʎlddɐ puɐ sǝssɐlƃ ǝɥʇ ʇno ʇnɔ `ʇı ʇuıɹd `ǝɹnʇɔıd ʍolǝq ǝɥʇ ʎdoɔ `ʇsɹıɟ ˙pǝʇɹɐʇs ʇǝƃ s,ʇǝl oS

˙ǝʌılɐ ǝq oʇ ǝɯıʇ ʇɐǝɹƃ ɐ ʇɐɥʍ

The Piggy Market ~ Ottawa ON

I've been taking some classes down in Westboro, brown bagging my lunches and meeting some great people. One guy in my class, Bryan, came back on a Thursday at lunch with a delicious looking hot sub. Turns out it wasn't a sub, but a pulled pork hoagie from The Piggy Market.

I had heard of The Piggy Market from Ottawa Foodies and from Twitter, but could never find it. Earlier that week I had walked around and noticed that it was on a side street barely visible from Richmond. I went up to it and looking in the window (it was early in the morning on the Monday) and I thought it was a butcher shop. Or a caterer. Actually I didn't quite know what it was. But after seeing the pulled pork Bryan brought in, I was determined Friday to get my own.

Inside was interesting. The feeling was a little disorganized, like they just opened and had not set everything up. But they've been there a while. Straight ahead was a glass counter with sausages, chili, desserts etc. Behind was the young, alternative looking crew making sandwiches and taking orders. On the right is the board to order from and a collection of homemade breads and buns. The other half of the space has Pascale's Ice Cream (homemade ice cream that fits in with The Piggy Market's 100-mile/locally sourced foodie mantra).

The Piggy Market Lunch Menu

Sample Menu from Feb 2010

When I got there, there was already a line of people, including Bryan, Emma, Petri (and after me Jennifer) from my class who were all hooked on the idea of a tasty lunch. I overheard a customer asking for the pulled pork and the girl at the counter saying they were out. When I got to the head of the line, I asked if it were true, and she said they were out, and for next week too as someone had bought their whole supply. Wowzers. Looking back to the board, I asked if their ribs were lunch friendly or to take home: to take home only. They could heat the chili up though, but I felt more like a sandwich. My 2 choices were Roast Beef or Roasted Porchetta sandwich.

Bryan went with the pork porchetta sandwich (above). Here are his comments:

  • Mustard had a red wine flavour, but had a bit of a spice kick.
  • The greens offset the mustard nicely.
  • The panc . .. pork definitely had pepper on it.
  • The toasted sunflower seeds on the bread was a nice touch.
  • Overall a good sandwich.

I decided to go with the Roast Beef (the popular choice at lunch). I watched as they sliced meat and built the sandwiches, trying to keep up with demand.

Served on Art Is In Grain and Fennel Panini bun, I was surprised when I received the heavy sandwich how warm it was. The bun had a very crunchy exterior, but was light and fluffy inside. This was a bread with a lot of flavour and texture. Hearty is truly the best word for it.

Inside, the smell of freshly fried caramelized onions was wafting out. I watched and smelled as they made them at the shop, the walk back to class, and before biting. The smell was intoxicating to me. They laid on top of the thinly sliced roast beef.

The roast beef was full of flavour. Savoury. Roasted beef goodness. Wow. These were the words racing through my mind. Each bite (which required a very large mouth) was met with warm beef/onion/bun that really hit the spot. I didn't even miss having mustard or mayo or any other condiment. Those three ingredients were all that were needed.

It was a great lunch. While $7 for a sandwich is a bit much in my opinion, this was hearty fare and because it was all made in house more than worth it. I'm still sad there was no pulled pork.
I only have two complaints about The Piggy Market:

One is that because they are so locally sourced and personal, things seem to run out without warning (on Monday when some went back for lunch, they were out of the pork sandwiches, in addition to the pulled pork). The other is the lack of pricing. No where can you see how much the ribs, or sausage or food other than sandwiches is. Their chalk board doesn't detail all their products either. Oh well. I will be back to try the pulled pork for sure, and maybe their rotisserie chicken, sausages or ribs sometime soon.

That Pascale ice cream looked good too!

The Piggy Market
400 Winston Ave, Ottawa ON

WWWWWW #15 ~ What We're Eating

Yes, World Wide Web Wacky Wing Wednesday. WWWWWW. This is where I will surf the Web, and find other people talking about chicken wings. The world is full of chicken wing stories, wacky and otherwise. Recipes, restaurant reviews, eating contests or whatever. Today's Blog relating to wings in some shape or form:

What We're Eating

This is a recipe blog. Simple, humorous and informative. A little back story then boom, you get a recipe.

I stumbled across, you guessed it, a chicken wing recipe. Specifically "Super Easy Sriracha Peach Chicken Wings"

Normally I wouldn't describe myself as a big add-fruit-to-chicken kind of person, these wings sound literally sweet and spicy. And that's a good thing. I think I would prefer to have the wings crispy, with sauce added at the last minute, these do sound very tempting.
Also, they make a mean Habanero Sauce as well . . .

Friday, 26 March 2010

Frank's hot sauce give away from

Speaking of they too are rewarding followers of them on twitter @wingsandbeer:

"wingsandbeer: Lots of tasty Frank's RedHot to give away this week, follow or leave a review on to enter. #yyc #yeg "

So go sign up - RIGHT NOW!

A Brief History of the Buffalo Wing

I found out about this movie on Twitter (yes again) from @wingsandbeer, aka

A Brief History of the Buffalo Wing from Matt Reynolds on Vimeo.

I like the point of this being a true American food. And that it was all by accident . . .

Thursday, 25 March 2010

St Louis gives out free wings

Following people and businesses on Twitter has it's advantages.

The wing chain St Louis Wings & Ribs locations of Atrium on Bay and Fairview Mall announced on Twitter they are giving away free wings to their followers with a coupon on April 1st (they say it is not a gag).

While St Louis is not my favourite style of wings, I would certainly eat free wings - and have their onion nuggets and dill dip too!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Chickens on Bank Street

Almost 2 weeks ago I was walking down Bank Street in downtown Ottawa when I came across a curious collection in an abandoned store window:

Hey, I'm all for chicken wings that come from birds with no fences, no antibiotics and longer life. Well, longer life just long enough to produce delicious wings.

I don't have any other info - no group or contact info or anything else posted. Go chickens!

WWWWWW #14 ~ Hunter Angler Gardiner Cook

Yes, World Wide Web Wacky Wing Wednesday. WWWWWW. This is where I will surf the Web, and find other people talking about chicken wings. The world is full of chicken wing stories, wacky and otherwise. Recipes, restaurant reviews, eating contests or whatever. Today's Blog relating to wings in some shape or form:

"I write. I fish. I dig earth, raise plants, live for food and kill wild animals. I drink bourbon, Barolo or Budweiser with equal relish and wish I owned a farm. But most of all I think daily about new ways to cook and eat anything that walks, flies, swims, crawls, skitters, jumps – or grows. I am the omnivore who has solved his dilemma. This is my story." Hank Shaw

I don't remember how exactly I stumbled upon this blog (recently nominated for another James Beard Award), but somehow, Duck Buffalo Wings definitely caught my attention.

And another photo and info from the post Wild Duck "Buffalo Wings"

Sure he strays slightly from true Buffalo sauce, but these wings look great. Because duck wings are used much more than chicken wings, they are going to taste different he says. But the sauce looks good, and I wouldn't hesitate to try them. I wonder how much duck wings go for around here?

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Metro Pizza & Wings Spring Weekend Deal

Going through some grocery flyer today, we came across Metro's "must have deal" on the front page. We decided to grab it for lunch today. I have to apologize up front, I don't have my camera right now, so no photos. I know, its a violation of my personal rules on reviews.

Now it's a grocery store, so I'm not expecting much. But LJ and I glazed over a few small print details that we didn't notice until we got to the store. The pizza is "Take & Bake" aka its not cooked or hot. The wings are "heat & server" which means they were cooked, then frozen/cold stored before being displayed.

We still decided to get it anyway. I mean, wings alone are close to the cost of the whole deal. There were only 2 pizza's to choose from: pepperoni and cheese. We went for pepperoni. The wings all said Buffalo on the receipt sticker, but then there was a separate sticker for either honey garlic (yuuucckk), mild bbq and sweet and spicy. We went with sweet and spicy.

I cranked the oven to 475 degrees and popped the wings in. The wings are breaded, but covered in a sweet/sticky sauce that most wing places call Thai. After 10 minutes and some of the sauce turning black, I added the pizza into the oven. Ten minutes after that it was lunch.

The pizza was, well, crappy but edible. The crust is card board. The sauce is light and in the background. The cheese was very stringy and the pepperoni was thin but meaty.The Sweet & Spicy wings were actually pretty good. The sauce was, well, sweet and spicy. A little bite to a lot of sweet sauce. They were not crispy at all. But damn were they meaty wings.

I'm going to have to do a proper review of Metro wings at some point, but if you have a Metro near you and are looking for a bite to eat, this isn't great. I mean knowing what I know now would I get it again? Ya, for $10 I probably would, but the pizza is only barely decent. The wings are not bad for grocery store wings. Meh is a pretty good description of today's lunch.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

WWWWWW #13 ~ masak-masak St Patricks wings

Yes, World Wide Web Wacky Wing Wednesday. WWWWWW. This is where I will surf the Web, and find other people talking about chicken wings. The world is full of chicken wing stories, wacky and otherwise. Recipes, restaurant reviews, eating contests or whatever. Today's Blog relating to wings in some shape or form:

In honour of WWWWWW falling on St. Patrick's Day, I decided to do a search that was around wings and SPD. I found the photo below and some delicous looking Guinness marinated chicken wings:

The author of the blog is in Malaysia, and the title refers to "masak-masak is a cottage game played by young girls whereby they pretend to cook delicious dishes from imaginary ingredients and plastic utensils. This blog covers my culinary adventures and everything else."

And she takes some great food photography. And you will find wings often in those photos. In fact, even though I came across this photo randomly, I have come across her wing photos before. Like the ones below taken at a Ramadan market being grilled:

Or these one's being grilled:

The sizzle, the honey, the smoke. And really good food photos. I'm hungry now.


Top of the mornin' to ya!

May your day be filled with the luck'o'the Irish, a Pint of Guinness (or green beer) and a pot of gold wings!

Experimental Skillet Wings V1.0

It was the weekend, and LJ was away at an office dinner out. I was on my own, I had a surplus of wings due to wing sales at the grocery store. All the right circumstances to have some wing fun. I was going to do a WKTV episode on a different wing recipe, but I was tired and just wanted a wing feast. I almost didn't feel like making wings, plus I wanted some crispy wings and it's still too cold to deep fry on the balcony, and baking just wouldn't do. So then I thought, what about working the old cast iron skillet?

I did two batches of wings up. One breaded crispy and tossed in a suicide sauce, the other dusted and fried, tossed in a spicy BBQ sauce, then baked, then re-tossed in sauce. Yes you heard right.

Here's the first batch that were dusted, tossed in egg wash, then breaded. They are frying in a bit of vegetable oil. I was really looking forward to the crispy texture.

After frying them, I tossed them in a sriracha based wing sauce. It smelled so good and I was loving just tossing them in the metal bowl.

This wasn't so much an experimental batch, as a batch just to get over my extreme hunger. It was getting late into the evening and I hadn't eaten since about 10 am.

I was actually disappointed in these wings. First, despite the crispy batter, the wings got so soggy. I think this was because a) I didn't pat dry the wings of oil enough after frying. I could be wrong, but when you deep fry at high temperatures, it seals in the crust. But the way I fried them I think the oil really penetrated the skin and breading. b) The hot sauce had more melted margarine than sriracha and was just too runny. Don't get me wrong, the flavour was good, but the texture was disappointing.

The next batch, I was just too lazy to do the dusting/egg wash/breading. So I just went with a straight dusting. I also used less oil and I cranked the heat. But I had to watch them so that they didn't burn the outside but cooked the inside.

Before putting them in the tossing bowl, I made sure to use paper towel to blot up any extra oil.

Then I added the sauce. I started with some of the suicide sauce, added a couple of bottled BBQ sauces. Then I tossed the wings and that could have been good enough, but I wanted something more. I kept thinking of PJ Quigleys and hearing they had 'double baked' wings that were deep fried, tossed in sauce, then baked. I haven't been there to try it, but I thought why shouldn't I try?

Into the oven for about 20 minutes or so, and the wings smelled wonderful. I could see that I lost the crispiness on the skin, but the sauce was now baked into the wing. They weren't as wet as I like, so I tossed them back into the bowl with what sauce was left (not much) just to give them a saucy feel and look.

These were a great wing. Warm chicken , slight bite in the heat, with a savoury BBQ sauce. Yes, the skin was not crispy, but what I lost in texture, I gained in flavour. Next time I would try deep frying in the first place and see if that helped keep SOME crispiness in the wings.

Sorry, no actual recipe this time. Just some food photos and some of my process. It's not scientific, but you can't argue with the results. I can't anyway, I ate wings.

Mmmmm, skillet fried baked BBQ sauced wings.