Thursday, 18 November 2010

Buffalo Fried Turkey for American Thanksgiving

Our Yankee cousins to the South are having their Thanksgiving this weekend (we won't hold it against them for being a month late or that they think their pilgrims invented the holiday and not earlier settlers to Canada).

 I won't lie, I am not a big Thanksgiving fan - boring turkey and sides and then in my family we eat the almost identical meal at X-mas. But the Americans, they are an inventive and imaginative people. They have invented some wonderful creations, and in the culinary world, their contribution of Buffalo Wings is something I can never stop saying thank you for.

Well they have done it again. Chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt over at Serious Eats, who did an "oven fried Buffalo Wing,"  took his sights to turkey. 

Yes, he did a Buffalo Fried Turkey. And yes it is awesome.

Look at that fried crispy turkey. Look at that wonderfully red Buffalo sauce. Look at them combine in some wondrous marriage of flavour and pure awesomeness.

It brings a tear to my eye.

Happy Thanksgiving America . . . thanks for giving us . . . well, this.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

WWWWWW #32 - The Sriracha Cookbook

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:

Stumbling around the Interweb searching for chicken wings and sriracha, I came across a wonderful site: The Sriracha Cookbook Blog. Randy Clemens, a "food & drink writer, professional hedonist, BJCP Recognized Beer Judge, and a true gentleman of fortune" wrote a book highlighting one of the best condiments ever created. The blog highlights the book, but is a collection of all things sriracha. 

 I knew this was going to be a fun site to visit when I saw "Sriracha Baby Formula": "Stop coddling your little one. They’ve had enough “No More Tears” shampoo. It’s time for them to grow up. Sriracha Baby Formula is perfect for those “I’ll give you something to cry about!” moments and is just what you need to help ween junior off his ba-ba."

Ha! It is time for them to grow up. You have to start them early . . .

While you have to buy the book to get the recipes, there are plenty of links to other people's recipes that use sriacha. I love the gooey yolk from this Fried Egg Sandwich with Sriracha.

Of course I came to the blog because of the wings. Above are Korean Fried Chicken Wings that are "Fried in lard, tossed with butter and a bit of Sriracha."

Or what about Orange Marmalade Sriracha Wings. They sound sweet and spicy. Mmmmmm.

So check out the blog. And if you are so inclined, buy the book. And if your feeling really generous, buy me the book!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

KFC Double Down

So I broke and finally tried it.

 I'm not going to talk about the fat content. I'm not going to talk about the sodium. I'm not going to talk about how unhealthy or how it may not be as bad as other sandwiches. The Internet, the media and people all over have talked about it already. Because people have gone crazy over this sandwich. It's either the greatest food gift from the gods, or the anti-Christ come to wipe us all out.

This is one of the most hyped food items I have ever seen. When it first came out in the US, it sounded like a unique creation. Everyone was talking about it. Alas, Canada was not to have this. Many months later, KFC changes their mind, and it arrived in October. People flocked, bloggers blogged, health fiends died a little inside. And I stayed away. Yes I was partly busy, but also I hate getting swept up in fads. So just a few days before its reign in Canada ends, I decided (because the opportunity presented itself) to try it for myself.

I have actually seen very little of KFC's advertising of the Double Down. They didn't need it. Word of mouth and the media spread it for them. But what I have seen are quotes are "Take One Down" or "Think You Can Take It Down?" - not focusing on taste or flavour, but a food challenge. They were creating some food accomplishment like something Adam Richman would compete against on Man vs Food.

I was in a mall passing by the food court when I figured if I was ever going to try it, it was now or never. There was a line up, but it moved along quickly. I listened to other people's orders and it seemed like about every other person was ordering the Double Down.

Ironically, Fit for Life next door with its promotion of healthy food was abandoned by customers. As in the entire time I was there no one went there. But KFC/Taco Bell's line remained consistently busy. I guess the Double Down is a social reaction to the healthy eating movement.

I will start off by saying I was not impressed with the price of the combo. $10. $10 dollars for all that you see here. So here it was after all the hype. I had heard it was tiny. This wasn't tiny, but it wasn't huge either. I think it was just the right size.

If somehow you are unaware of what a Double Down actually is, it is a piece of boneless fillet chicken, Colonel's Sauce, a slice of pepper jack cheese, bacon, another slice of cheese, more Colonel's Sauce, then another peice of chicken. And no bun. The chicken is the bun.

I didn't know what to make of the sandwich. I mean I was being told so many things by so many people, I had to try and wipe that away and make my own call.

Immediately my hands were greasy picking this thing up - fortunately it wasn't too hot to pick up. I took a bite - it was good. The chicken was crispy, juicy and full of 11 herbs and spice goodness. I could taste the Colonel Sauce and the cheese and the bacon (the tiny strip that was in there somewhere). Nothing wasn't coming through. But bite after bite it was becoming too much.

The cheese and the sauce made for too much creamy richness. Colonel Sauce was a mayo based sauce with some spices thrown in. I would have had  less sauce, and one less cheese slice to make it better. I did also find that with each bite the sandwich seemed saltier and saltier. Eventually I finished the sandwich. But in the end it got the best of me. I did not feel good. I felt drained, and dirty.

Is it the worst sandwich ever? No. Is it an interesting idea? Yes.Would I get the Double Down again? No. The concept sounds delicious, but the execution for my liking wasn't there. The chicken was good but the Colonel Sauce and the cheese was just too much together. I took down the Double Down, but there are better food challenges out there I'd rather attempt.


RIP - This location is NOW CLOSED

This past weekend was a bit of a reunion for me and my best friends from high school (Ricky Brad and Amanda, minus Dude who's in China). We've all been doing some moving around this year, but now we are pretty much settled. As I am back to the centre of the universe (Toronto), my place is the perfect meeting ground as Rick comes from the East and Bramanda from the West. 

We spent the weekend chiling, eating, catching up, eating, playing Star Trek Scene It, eating, going to the movies, eating, and uh, oh ya eating. We were all over the map - pizza, Korean BBQ, waffles, sushi. All good fare, but our quest for a simple, cheap brunch led us all across my neighborhood Sunday morning. We went to a familiar diner we enjoy. Problem: huge line up. So we went to another restaurant - it turned out to be too expensive, limited menu and no breakfast. So we decided to try another diner. Johnny Rockets, new to the neighborhood since I left. It looked fun and kitschy from outside, so we took a chance. 

Found in super-structure that was once called Metropolis, then changed to the Toronto Life Building, and is now known as 10 Dundas East, the building is a monstrosity. It includes an AMC with 24 sceens, 2 restaurants, Future Shop, food court and a plethora of other stores. Johnny's is at street level and it seemed like the perfect choice for our group. They were just opening up, making us the first patrons of the day.

Inside was like taking a trip back in time to 1950's America. At least what TV, movies and other diners have told me what 1950's America looked like. Silver metal, Coke-red seats, pull up straw dispensers and juke boxes.

And not just the big juke box, there were the mini ones where you can pick a song for just $.05 (if you can figure out how to work it).

You also get an awesome waiter, dressed like an old fashion soda jerk, who's motto seemed to be service service service. I forgot his name, but he did a great job checking in on us, bringing anything we needed or drink refills.

We looked over the menu, and while the crew was looking for breakfast, this diner doesn't do breakfast. That was a little surprising for a diner. We scanned over the menu and saw things like the $6+ milkshakes (John Travolta must be rolling over in his grave). I did see wings on the menu, and yes I did get wings, but we'll come back to that later (wings were on the menu in the 50's right?).  But we did all get some variation on the burger.

Above is Ricky's Patty Melt: "Grilled onions and American & Cheddar cheeses on grilled Rye Bread." Essentially a burger sandwich. 

Amanda went with the Streamliner, the vegetarian burger. She liked it, describing the Boca burger as one of the best vegetarian burgers she has ever had.

Brad and I both went with the Bacon Cheddar Single - a single patty with cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, special sauce and standard veggie toppings.

This was a really good burger. The toppings were all fresh and very crisp. The bacon and the beef patty were very tasty, and the special sauce (Mac Sauce . . . ?) just made the burger.  The fries were decent - frozen, but good. Crispy outside, pillow-soft potato inside.

And I saw wings. I wanted the burger, but I just couldn't say no to wings. So a small order it was.

The wings come in orders of 6 or 12. The sauces aren't listed on the menu for some reason, so it was word of mouth from our server. They came out really quick after ordering and the male omnivore's at the table dove in.

The wings were not very long, but they were very big and very meaty. It was a tender piece of chicken, but the skin was very crispy. Yes there was a lot of breading - but it actually enhanced the wings, The flour breading also maintained its structural integrity considering these were very saucy wings.

There were 3 sauces to choose from: mild, hot and BBQ. I just went with the classic hot. As I said, the wings were quite saucy - each wing perfectly coated with enough sauce left over that you had to lick you fingers after each one.

Hot was not hot. At all. I didn't expect it too at such a' family friendly' establishment. Besides,  people back in the 50's America didn't eat too spicy did they? The sauce had a relatively mild flavour, that was more sweet than anything. I wasn't a huge fan. I mean it wasn't terrible, but not super tasty either. It really need a much larger zing factor.

I think we were all really pleased with the wing. Ricky mentioned this was what he expected when we ordered from 3 Brewers a few weeks ago.

FINAL SCORE: The burgers were good (big, fresh, tasty). The service was great (free refills, friendly, and how can you not like our ketchup smile he brought us for our fries). The wings on their own were good (meaty and crispy, but the sauce needs an overhaul.). If only we could get 1950's prices . . .    6.5/10

Johnny Rocket's
10 Dundas East, Toronto ON (and other locations)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Chestnut Tree Buffalo Wing Lunch

Once again, I'm sorry. I'm showing you food that most of you can't have. This is more like food pornography than a review. Look but don't touch. Salivate, but cannot sample. I know, I'm a bit of bastard.

This is from a lunch a few weeks ago where they served 'Buffalo Wings'. 

The specialty salad for lunch was hand tossed Greek salad. I went with cucumber, tomato, red onion, dressing and feta, lots of feta. A few pita chips on the side, and it was basically a meal itself.

'Buffalo' Wings. Deep fried: check. Buffalo sauce: check. Naked chicken: no. Breaded wings. So not authentic Buffalo Wings, but damn good wings none the less.

Crispy, wet wings. 

Very saucy wings, with a bit of heat made them perfect for everyone. 
Maybe a tad oily. Ok a lot oily.

I'm salivating just thinking about it now. I'm sure you are too.

WING SHOP 366 ~ Toronto ON

It was a dark and stormy night. A Saturday if I remember correctly, many weeks ago. The pavement was wet and the lights played tricks like some 1940's film noir. I was tired and walking Bloor Street. My stomach rumbled. It was past supper time and I needed food. As I stumbled through the rain soaked sidewalk, I looked up, and like a lighthouse by the sea, I saw a sign with fried chicken on it. It said K.O. Burgers, but I looked up higher, and saw a sign saying Wing Shop 366. Burgers? Wings? Was this a mirage? All I knew was that I was going in to find out.

The inside was . . . interesting to say the least. In the front sat a lone man, who seemed the type to always be alone. He sat watching the people and the rain out the front window, while he nursed a beer that sat with several empty bottles . At the back of the place was a family at a table, who were finished or very close to finishing their meal. A couple in their late 40's came in where I heard the woman describe me as looking like 'Charlie'*** from "Two and a Half Men" while her partner used the washroom, then left without ordering anything.

The furniture was a strange mix of hard chairs at small tall tables and 'comfy' chairs around low tables from someone's basement. It looks like a take-out joint with extra space so they threw in some seating. There was no interior decorator to this place; this is clearly a DIY job.

I walked up to the counter where I was greeted by a friendly young lady. She was ready to take my order, but I had to scan their list of 66 flavours. That led me to many questions. Many questions that the girl at the counter could not answer. She seemed to be relatively new and was baffled by my wing specific enquireries.

I was not deterred and ordered with little or no information. Cowboy ordering. I went with 4 Snack orders so I could try as much as possible. She took the orders and soon enough my wings were ready.

The wings are said to be hand-battered, but I'm willing to bet they mean breaded. I could be wrong though because my wings were neither breaded or battered. I think you have to request it, where I assumed that was how they came.

A Snack order is 5 wings, which are deep fried, and depending on the flavour, are tossed in a small skillet with the sauce so that it is cooked into the skin. What I like about this process is that the sauces are warm on the wings and not cold. It also means the sauce melds with the chicken. What I don't like is that the wings go from being crispy to soft as the skin absorbs the sauce.

The chicken itself was large. Long wings with a lot of meat on them. Not the most tender chicken, but each wing was pretty big.


The main sauce hot sauce. This was the first of the questions I had that went unanswered. What was the difference between Classical Hot and Signature Hot? I went with Signature, because it gives the impression that it is a homemade sauce. It is not.

It's a cayenne based sauce, probably Frank's. Not that there's anything wrong with that . . . other than I don't know how it is signature.

The photo above is a clear example how crispy wings became soggy after being heated in a pan with the sauce. They were still good and the 'cooked' in flavour was good, but you loose the texture.

Wow, was I way off on what I thought was going on with these wings. I saw Chilli Pickles and I assumed (never assume) that this was a spicy dill pickle wing. No, it was pickled chili - a condiment often found with Indian dishes (and I saw the jar they came from that confirmed this).

First, these were crispy wings. Unlike the other flavours I tried, these were just tossed  with the chilli's in a bowl. Because it was not really a sauce but a wing accompaniment it preserved the wing integrity, but, it was a little hard to eat as the chillies fall off very easily.

The best way to describe the flavour is interesting. I mean I`ve never had a wing like this before. There is a little heat because you`ve got the chili and its' seeds. But then there is the sour pucker from the pickling. It made a unique pairing the dry crispy wings and the tart/sour chili.

I love General Tao chicken. So when I saw this on the menu, I knew it would be one of the 4 to sample. I've been burned with the title before, with some places serving up a teriyaki sauce or something that just isn't like any General Tao I had before. Fortunately, this was not one of those places.

Appropriately gooey and very messy, this is a great example of what I envision a General Tao wing.

The sauce was a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet. That yin-yang balance that makes you want more. I'm pretty sure this was a homemade sauce that I liked. And while the skin is not as crispy as say the plain wing, the viscous sauce clung on and just worked well with the chicken. I would go for General Tao again for sure.

This is the 66th and last sauce on the menu. Seven explosion icons telling the reader 'This is the Hottest Sauce on the menu.' I had to pick this as my last choice.

I watched them make the sauce. They took anything that looked, smelled or tasted spicy and mixed it all together. Ladles of sauce from one jar, spices from another. A crazy concoction for sure that I could see the cooking staff tried to keep their face away from.

This wing definitely had a bit. It was a heat that really attacked the back of the throat, but left my lips and tongue relatively tingle free. I would notch it above hot into the suicide range, but I expected a much bigger kick with the reaction for the staff and the things I saw in it. The flavour was ok - not the best combination - but it wasn't bad either. If this is what the Devil's got, then bring him on.


Interesting and unique. That is the best way to describe Wing Shop 366. Big wings that are then cooked again with the sauce. You lose the crispy chicken, but you get a melding of flavours. And some sauces you won't get elsewhere. I don't think everyone will like these wings, and I don't think no one will like the decor, but I do think there is some value in their wings. I'm also curious to try their burgers, and they even have a wing/burger combo, but that is for a different night.   6.5/10

Wing Shop 366 & K.O. Burgers
366 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON

*** - I don't know how to take that. The woman said it with enthusiasm referring specifically to the shirt I was wearing. But still, Charlie Sheen isn't exactly a flattering comparison. People tell me I look like Kevin Smith/Silent Bob all the time, but Charlie Sheen, no.