Friday, 28 January 2011

Battle of the Wings early report

For those of you coming to the blog for the first time, welcome!

Great time tonight @ Battle of the Wings @ Chestnut. I am leaving for a conference, so I don't have time to publish the review, but I will soon!

Congrats to all the chef's for their hard work. The food was great, and I am still stuffed a few hours later.

If you haven't heard who won yet, you'll just have to wait until my review!

Thursday, 27 January 2011


My partner in the office, Kat, and I decided to take our staff out to bowling after a long day of training. Downtown Toronto has been long void of a bowling alley, but this January a new lounge/alley opened up in a former restaurant down in the entertainment district. We decided this would make for a great social.

Inside the place was pretty swanky - this is not your average bowling alley. We walked in with Michael Jackson playing over the crash of pins. Even though it was just after 5, the place was packed. The lanes cannot be reserved (first come first serve basis) so we were in a wait for 45 minutes. We decided to go upstairs and grab a bite to eat from the restaurant.

It was quite wide open inside, centralized by a large bar. While the place has a classy lounge feel, there are huge screens everywhere with sports on. So sports bar meets lounge meets bowling alley.

There are lots of bowling themed elements to the place. Some tables were painted like the bowling lanes, or my favourite, the bowling pin chandelier.

Several of us sampled from their menu. Kathy went with the Cobb Salad.

Here is Sally`s Veggie lasagna with salad and toast.

My non-flash photo (looks like something a camera phone takes) is of onion rings. Yes those are onion rings. Someone mentioned they look like doughnuts they were so big and puffy.

Kat ordered deep fried pickles. However I have never seen DFP like these. Instead of using dill pickles, they used whole gherkins. While a gherkin is a fine pickle on its own, it was NOT appreciated in this incarnation. Kat even asked the waitress what people have said about them, and the waitress said the reaction has been mixed.

There was also a plate of Spiced Sweet Potato Chips. Cut super thin and very crispy, these were very tasty. The common consensus was that these were over salted though.

The Nachos were shared by Matt, Maansi and Melanie and everyone seemed happy. Matt mentioned the long plate allowed for better coverage of cheese and topping instead of one tall mound. Salsa, sour cream and guac came on the side.

Of course, the first thing on the menu was wings, so you know what I got.

The wings are tossed in sauce, then grilled over an open flame. They are not cheap (over $1 a wing). There was a nice warm aroma from the wings mixed with the smell of flame kissed chicken.

They were accompanied by celery and carrots sticks and dip. The carrot sticks and celery were sliced super tiny - like toothpicks. When I looked at the dip, I didn't know what it was at first, being slightly yellow. But once I dipped in I found chunks of blue cheese. It was creamy and tasted good as blue cheese dip, just a slightly different colour.

The wings were medium in size, and a medium in meatiness. The first wing or two I ate, all I could taste was the char from the sugary BBQ sauce that caramelized and burned on the grill. But once and a while there the underlying hint of sweet BBQ sauced.

Since the Hellfire! sauce is served on the side (for an extra $2) I decided to get the wings BBQ flavoured and I could dip them in the Hellfire!. For the BBQ you have the choice of heat, and I asked for hot, but no heat came through. I think these would really have been better with a final glaze of sauce on them.

The Hellfire! sauce was, as Jemy described, like a chutney. It was a paste of chilies and heats and spices. It was thick and did not apply to the wings well. It definetely had a kick. Jasmik and Jemy, two people who can eat spicy found it hot. I did too - it was a slow burn. At first you think there is nothing, but it grows and grows. Flavour wise I did not like it. It was earthy and it had layers, it wasn't for me.

Eventually we got to go bowling.  Let me tell you, you are paying a premium for playing downtown. One lane on a Saturday evening for one hour of 10 Pin bowling was $73. Plus shoe rentals for $5.  And with only 9 lanes, there is a guaranteed wait time.

That being said, it was a lot of fun. Rocking music, leather couches to sit on, and some star bowlers. I was doing ok, but I was playing with an injured hand. Ya, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. 

FINAL SCORE: The bowling was fun, the place was cool, but the food was hit and miss. I feel like they were trying to go with a 'classy' chicken wing with grilling and special super heats, but they didn't work for me. And again, dill pickles are the appropriate choice for DFP's.     4.5/10

The Ballroom
145 John Street, Toronto ON

Monday, 24 January 2011

Pizza Pizza's Tossed and Sauced Wings

A while back I was on Synnful Ratings reading about a promotion from Pizza Pizza. When Jason reviewed them they were just in a test market phase, but now they have expanded all over. The new campaign was for their "Tossed and Sauced Wings" - breaded chicken wings tossed in 7 new sauces, that they advertise for $0.50 a peice if you order them with a pizza.

Well, I couldn't resist trying them out for myself. I marched into an empty Pizza Pizza and was ready for my wings.

First thing, there was no evidence of these new wings anywhere. No poster, no sign, no flyer. But I had just heard an add on the radio. I asked the young girl at the counter, but English was far from her first language. I tried to explain I was looking for their new wings . . . I had heard them on the radio . . . tossed and sauced? Finally she found them on the terminal. For them to be $0.50, I had to order a pizza, so I got their $4.99 medium walk-in special, and 10 wings.

The 5 dollar pizza was not bad. I got thin crust and my one topping as pepperoni. Nothing special, but not bad. I should have gotten a creamy garlic dipping sauce.

The chicken was breaded, deep fried and then (according to their website) "will now be tossed in a large bowl with tongs to coat each wing individually, a new take on the original method of preparation."

The size of the wings are medium but very meaty, with a lot of breading. The breading and the skin are completely fused, making for a slightly crispy but slightly rubbery skin. The chicken meat was very tender.

When choosing sauces, they all looked interesting. The usual wing sauces are hot, bbq, sweet chili and honey garlic, but now there are several other fancier flavours. I went with their Sinfully Hot, but then asked if I could get the Forty Creek Whisky BBQ on the side. She said no because they didn't come in containers. Now I know that's because they "coat each wing individually." So I just went with Sinfully Hot.

Sinfully Hot really reminded me of Pizza Pizza's hot sauce (their own recipe, but they also serve Frank's) but a little bit hotter. The wings were not as saucy as I expected, but the wings were wet enough.

Would I get them again? Sure. I am very curious to try the new BBQ and the Chipotle Amarillo, but I don't think I will be rushing anytime soon. Since the first review Jason has had them again and recommends asking for them well done. Maybe I will do the same.

Wing Wars 2011 - another new contender

The Wing Wars continue in the Greater Toronto Area. Not only did Buffalo Wild Wings stir feathers with Wild Wings when they started construction in the GTA last week, but Taste TO reported this weekend that Wacky Wings is opening up in Mississauga.

Photo from
 Wacky Wings is a newly emerging chain from Sault Ste. Marie that has over 100 flavours of wings. I haven't been there, but I'd like to. Wings are on the rise, and I think that's super. This is a war I think we can all get behind. Well, maybe not vegetarians. Or vegans. Well, the chicken lovers will be happy.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Ombrella Pizza Cones in Ottawa

Ombrella Pizza Cones is NOW CLOSED - RIP

I took a trip up to Ottawa recently, but I didn't get any wings.  But I did take some time to check out the food scene. I went to my favorite city blog for Ottawa, Apt613. They had an article from a while ago that I missed about Pizza Cones coming to Ottawa. Then I did a little more internet research and heard more about Pizza Cones over at Ottawa Xpress.

Then I came across an A-Chanel video where they interviewed the owner, Giovanni:

I thought it seemed like a novel concept. I didn't make an effort to actually go there, but LJ and I were out and about in Ottawa, it was past lunch and we were hungry. We were very close to Bronson and decided to pop in. 

I really wish I had brought my camera with me. The place I think used to be a variety store, and they have converted it well. It was very bright inside and made me think of an ice cream parlor. It seems like a strange location too as there isn't too much around it.

Giovanni was there himself, and we all talked while our Pizza Cones cooked. We listened to him talk about the business (it sounds like he's found a franchisee for Toronto, and he wants to expand onto the canal in Ottawa), his life, his competition and pizza cones in general. It was fascinating listening to the man and his story.

If you watched the video above you get the concept, but if you didn't, they have a special dough that is shaped like a cone. They then fill the cone with sauce, cheese, your toppings, then more cheese and sauce. They also have Ombrella Cones, which is a cone with a flat top: it looks like a mini pizza that has a sink-hole in the middle.

We got our Pizza Cones to go, and they were still warm when we got home. It was very hard not to eat while driving, but with lots of snow and wanting to take  photo, I held off.

I went with a pretty simple topping list: sausage, pepperoni, and hot peppers. Then there was lots of cheese and sauce that baked nicely on top.

The cone/crust had a great texture - being resilient to hold its shape and not tasting like cardboard. It was just a little chewy but also crunchy.

The sauce was very mild and tomatoey. Even thought there was a lot of sauce it didn't over power the cone. The sausage and pepperoni was also mild. The pickled  hot peppers were the perfect ingredient to give a bit of zip and tang to the cone. LJ's had only a few variations in her toppings and she agreed about the hot peppers as a must.

This was a great grab-and-go food. It would be perfect for a fair or theme park or walking in an urban environment. I can't believe no one has done this sooner. It can get a bit pricey, but I think this is more than just a novelty item. I hope they do come to Toronto soon.

Ombrella Pizzacones
527 Bronson Avenue, Ottawa ON
ombrellapizzaco on twitter

Wing Podcast and Hot Sauce Daily's Week of Wings

The people over at Hot Sauce Daily are doing some amazing things. In fact, they are having a Week of Wings going on: sauces, rubs, . To kick off the week (last week) they did a podcast some wing aficionados, including myself!

Brian & Marilyn Meagher from Hot Sauce Daily hosted the podcast.

Danielle Dimovsky, BBQ expert and fellow Canadian from Diva Q was also there.

Thomas Gately from I Love It Spicy was there on the panel.

And internet buddy Chris Grove of Nibble Me This rounded out the group.

I've never done a podcast before, so I didn't know what to expect. It was a blast and it was great just listening to people who love food, and more importantly, love wings. We all had different perspectives and likes, and I hope I get the chance to do this again in the future! Also, it's inspired me to do my own Week of Wings. 

Chestnut Battle of the Wings: Behind the Scenes

It's Coming . . .

Yes, its less than 7 days away - Chestnut's Battle of the Wings. 4 Chef's competing for top honours as they fight to create the best wings. No matter which one claims victory, we all win.

Last year they brought me in from Ottawa to be a judge which was awesome. This year, well I'm already here. And there has been buzz for the past month from the Chef's about how this battle will go down differently.

Last week I was invited behind the scenes to see the sauces being tested. It was great being in the kitchen watching how much hard work and passion goes into our food. It happened to be a regularly scheduled wing night in the caf and the above photo shows the 400 lbs of wings that is being used. Last year it was over 800 lbs for Battle of the Wings.

Aboce is a collage of some of the pictures of wings being prepared. Tossed wings, marinating wings, deep frying, sauces, spices - it was quite an afternoon. I did some video and there will eventually be a WKTV episode on Battle of the Wings.

During my tastings, I kept my thoughts and tastes to my self so as not to influence anyone, so I'm not going to comment on how yummy they all were. I will say that it's going to be a tough decision.

Above on the right is Chef Low with his wing ringer Berto who has devised a special tandoori wing.

Chef Fitzroy was preparing his special jerk wings.

Chef Olivia wasn't sure what she was going to do, so she was trying a couple of recipes. Above is a dry spiced wing.

Olivia also tried a spicy hot wing above - but a lot of the other kitchen staff found them too spicy. I didn't . . .

The executive chef, Jaco, wasn't letting others sample his secret recipe that day. But a few days ago he gave me a plate to try. I didn't have my camera so no photo, but try and imagine for yourself.

I can't wait.