Sunday, 26 June 2011

Today is the Wing Judging @ London Int'l Food Festival

Don't forget to come out - the judging is at 3pm today - Victoria Park in London! I'm excited . . . aren't you?!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Big Smoke Burger ~ Toronto ON

I've got a funny story for you.

So my good buddy Ricky was in town last Sunday, and we had time to grab some lunch after going to M.E.C.  He had seen online a burger joint across the street and that sounded good to me. So we go. Only it was closed on Sundays. Really? Closed on a Sunday? What is this, 1955? So we wander around for a little bit trying to find somewhere else. I had two other burger places I knew were close by, but not sure of the address. 

While walking we passed the Telus EcoCab station where everyone in droves (including ourselves) were avoiding free rides, free sun glasses, free lemonade etc. It's funny how there is a distrust of companies giving out free things sometimes. We asked if they knew where the burger places were; they didn't, but they pointed us to free internet terminals. After getting the addresses, we started walking to our locations. The EcoCab people were like, 'c'mon take a free ride' and we decided, why not? 

I don't remember our futuristic-rickshaw drivers name, but she was very friendly and answered lots of questions about the service. It was fun, but a very slow ride. She brought us to our next burger local. Closed. Another burger place closed on Sundays, what the hell? So we asked to go to our 3rd location, but she was bound to the East side of Spadina. We took to walking, where we finally arrived at Big Smoke Burger. Thanks for being open BSB.

For those who might be familiar with the burger explosion that occured in Toronto back in like 2008-2009, one of the big contenders was Craft Burger. Well, due to some trademarking issues, they are now Big Smoke Burger. As they say, "We haven't changed our menu or our people," and  "New Name, Same Craft."

A few months ago I tried Craft Burger at their East end location. Ricky and I were trying the West end local. It's small, cramped, but has charm. There are only 4 tables, and a few stools and several others eating burgers. The decore is faux industrial with warm dark wood paneling and light wood tables.

There isn't a lot of choice on the menu in terms of the burgers, which means they keep it simple and do those options well. The burgers are Ontario beef, made fresh daily, and are charbroiled. The one thing I find interesting is that there are no bacon options on the menu. Rick and I both ordered the same burgers with the same options.

Above is a Crazy Burger in a combo with onion rings and can of pop for $11.81. Not a cheap lunch, but that was a good size metal platter of food.

I've heard that they have a good poutine, but I was in an onion ring mood. As a side there were about 8 large onion rings. Thick and big O rings.

The onion rings are breaded in panko, which makes them super crunchy but still light. The best part was the side of the chipotle mayo which had a nice zip to it.

I debated between the Spicy Burger (caramelized onions, spicy chipotle mayo, tomato and lettuce) which sounded good, but the Crazy Burger won out.

The Crazy comes with all the above toppings (hot peppers were located under the burger in the BBQ sauce). For me several flavours jumped out beyond the burger itself: the creamy and crisp coleslaw, the spicy chipotle mayo, the bite of the Havarti cheese, and the sweet smokey BBQ sauce. Each taste stood out but didn't overwhelm.

This was a good burger. The patty itself was fairly simple. Not too thick, not overly seasoned. Fresh bun, fresh toppings. The onion rings were great and the dip was perfect for the rings. And they were open on a Sunday. Big Smoke Burger saved the day, and Rick and I both left full and satisfied.

Big Smoke Burger
573 King Street West (and other locations)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

I'm Judging at the London International Food Festival this weekend!

I'm super excited because this weekend the great folks at Family Shows Canada (the people who run the London Ribfest) are throwing the annual International Food Festival. What is doubly exciting for me is that they are bringing me to the Forrest City to judge a chicken wing competition!

I've never been to the International Food Festival, so I don't know what to fully expect, but I'm thinking it will be similar to Ribfest with more international foods. Here is a video from last years festival:

The London Community News did a recent article on the event, as well as the environmental commitment the festival has worked toward.

Below is the guide to the festival. Lots of music, activities etc.

So come on out and keep a look out for me! I'll be the one with a wing in one hand.



Do remember what movie this is from the photo below? With Ben Afflek and Minnie Driver? Recognize the scene? It's Good Will Hunting from 1997 in case you forgot. And you're probably thinking, what does Good Will Hunting have to do with chicken wings? Well nothing that I can remember.

Photo from
Much of Good Will Hunting was filmed at my alma mater the University of Toronto. It filmed in other parts of Toronto too. It filmed the above bar scene in the Upfront Bar & Grill which is also in Toronto. And on the weekend I ate chicken wings at Upfront. You see the connection now?

I was down in the St Lawrence Market area on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I was hungry but couldn't find a seat anywhere until I came around a corner and saw Upfront. I couldn't believe it, a whole patio on a gorgeous day nearly empty. I stepped inside to let the staff know I was on the patio, and unfortunately I interrupted my waitress's (don't know her name) lunch.

She was very friendly, brought me refills on pop, and was interested in the wings (she hadn't tried them and wanted to know what I thought). I sat listening to classic rock on the radio, doing a little writing, watching people walk by and enjoying just sitting on a patio. Shortly my wings came and my lunch began.

My wing bone plate came out - and it was a paper plate, which was a little weird and not so enviro friendly. I guess neither are paper napkins and wetnaps, but I expect those.

My plate of wings came and they looked tasty. Wings come out by the pound, which is about 9 wings.

Veggies and dip came out next. I hate to have to thank Upfront for this, because this is what should be the standard, but they are becoming a dying breed to include carrots, celery and blue cheese dip.

The chicken wings themselves were a medium to medium-large sized wing. They were averaged sized in terms of meatiness. The skin was crispy with the wings being deep fried naked (ie no dusting or breading) and then tossed in sauce.

The wings were nice and saucy, which means each wing had some sauce on them, but then there was a little lake at the bottom for extra dipping. I went with classic hot sauce, and their version of suicide on the side.


The hot wings were basically Buffalo wings - deep fried wings tossed in a cayenne based hot sauce.

Nothing original, but tasty. While hot wasn't really that hot, it had enough of a tingle especially if I had a lot of sauce and several wings quickly.

Tongue Burner

Upfront's version of suicide sauce is called Tongue Burner. While this sauce wasn't a killer in terms of heat, it did have a nice burn. It was a level burn that was peppery, and did give a good level of heart burn.

FINAL SCORE:  Upfront is a good dive bar with good pub wings. Crispy, saucy and tasty. Service was great, I got free refills on pop, and got to sit on a patio that deserved more people on it, but I enjoyed having it almost to myself. It may have been a while since Ben and Matt have been around, but I'm sure they'd like the wings too. 6.5/10

Matt, Ben and Me hanging out. Good Wings Hunted.

Upfront Bar & Grill
106 Front Street East, Toronto ON
Upfront on Facebook

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

WWWWWW #42 - WingMen

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:

The WingMen. How to explain? Imagine you took the A-Team, and instead of fighting crime, they reviewed chicken wings. And . . .  and, they are led by Hannibal:

Hannibal's other WingMen include Sparta, Lightweight, and the Architek (and a few others along the way). The WingMen are based in Toronto, and they are predominantly a web TV review. Each episode is highly stylized and a really entertaining show.

Each episode is structured with an explanation of the restaurant, they speak with the owner/chef about the wings, then they review the wings. One of my favourite parts of each episode is right before they eat the wings, they pull out six cards.

Each member must pick a card and flip it over. If it has an airplane, that individual gets to eat the wings. But if they flip over the lettuce card - they eat salad and not wings! It is a very scary game of chance.

So far there have been three episodes and a few smaller videos. A lot of work goes into these videos so they come out every once and a while. Their first video was at the Winghouse, (which I reviewed when it was Wild Wing on the Danforth). They also recently reviewed Highway 61 BBQ (which I also recently reviewed!).

So check them out on their website, but you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. They love their wings, and I love their show.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Soup: "Freaky Eaters: Woman Has Problem With Orgy of Chicken Wings"

I don't watch a lot of E! channel very often. I go on E! Online even less. I'm just not 'hip' I guess. I have caught The Soup occasionally and I do enjoy the humour of Joes McHale so when I received an e-mail with The Soup and chicken wings, I had to check it out.  

"Freaky Eaters: Woman Has Problem With Orgy of Chicken Wings" is the title of the clip, and I guess Freaky Eaters is a TV show? (Again I'm not hip to everything on TV these days).

Anyways, the dude eats chicken wings at supper when they go out . . . um so? Apparently I'm a freaky eater then. Maybe I'm just to submersed into wing culture, but this didn't sound freaky or strange at all. I thought they were going to show him eating wings with a fork an knife or something.

Are you a "Freaky Eater"? Do you know a freaky eater? Do you consider this freaky?
Tell me in the comments and lets see how freaky we can get. Freaky.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

WWWWWW #41 - Happy Mouth

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 just returned from Ottawa last week, so to honour that trip I decided to focus on an Ottawa food blog, Happy Mouth. Run by married couple Rob and Maureen Rose, they write about restaurants and recipes and some very tasty sounding food. I love the description of the name of their blog:

Happy Mouth” is a term we’ve used with each other for years. We often declare that we have “happy mouth” at the end of a terrific meal and the taste of the food, with its spices and textures and all of its accompaniments, are lingering in a haze of joyful satisfaction."

Since they are here, they have clearly talked about chicken wings:

On a road trip to Memphis last year they stopped in at Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken.  They saw this place on Diners Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri - which was one of my favourite episodes because of this place. I am super jealous they tried the chicken with teh "Sweet Spicy Love" sauce with the Corruption Spice!

Also road tripping in the States to Austin Texas, they went to The Green Mesquite - also shown on Triple D. I will just let them describe them: "large meaty wings, slow-smoked and dripping with the house sauce, had perfect tang and sweetness, hot from the kitchen, needed no accompaniment, despite the superfluous ranch dressing on the side. It went untouched."

And how can you forget their chicken wing themed "Buffalo Wing Risotto".  "Who doesn’t love risotto and who doesn’t love Buffalo chicken wings? This recipe has all the flavours: beer (for de-glazing instead of white wine), celery, butter, Frank’s Hot Sauce, and creamy blue cheese. So if you like medium spicy Buffalo wings and don’t want to mess with saucy fingers and bones, or you want a fun but elegant dish for company all in one bowl, this is for you." Sounds yummy!

So head on over and check them out. Lots of interesting reads and great photos!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Ottawa Chef eats spicy wings. Looks good to me.

I'm on Twitter for the first time in like a week and a half, and I see Ottawa Chef Michael Blackie  tweet this picture:

I asked him what kind of wings they were and he said his friend Stan is making them for the Stanley Cup and that they are "spicy".

They look really good to me!