Friday, 19 August 2011

THE PUCK (formerly PUCK 'N WINGS) ~ Toronto ON

Puck' N Wings is now called THE PUCK


The past several years has seen a rise in wing joints all over the Greater Toronto Area. I have to say, I'm enjoying the wing boom. One of these locations has been on my radar for a while, but whenever visiting, its been pretty busy. Like very very busy.


Fortunately on this Monday, I had my pick of seats at Puck 'N Wings. And Monday is wing night to boot.


When I walk down any street, this is the most beautiful kind of sign to see.


  This is a hockey themed restaurant with a pretty clear mission statement: "Our game plan is unique: 50 wing flavours and 50 salad toppings on a menu designed to attract large groups of fans and foodies. With an emphasis on top quality service and fresh food, the spirit of hockey and the love of the game make PUCK'N WINGS the place to be any day of the week."  Well I may not care a lot about hockey (I know, I feel like a bad Canadian saying that) but I do love my wings.

I was in at around 5pm and the crowd was small, and extremely varied. High school students, seniors, soloists. Whenever I have been by, it's usually filled with UofT students, but school's not back in yet. There was lots of sports on tv and some decent music playing overhead.


There are 50 flavours, so choosing can be difficult. My server was Chiara, and she was friendly and able to answer wing questions I had.


Puck 'N Wings says right on their menus that they prepare their wings fresh to order and ask for patience. Well the wings did take a while to come out, but a freshly deep fried wing should take 15-20 minutes. But I don't mind waiting if the quality is good.


I went with two orders of wings to meet my spicy and creamy mood. Two baskets came out and my stomach started growling in hunger when I saw the wings. Normally they come with a side of veggies and choice of dip, but on wing night ya gotta pay extra. The menu also says 1 free refill on Coke, but I guess on wing nights there are no freebies. It is a business I guess.


The wings themselves slightly ranged from a medium-large to large. These were also very meaty, but still tender wings. You have the choice of them coming out what they call a dusting, but I call a breading,  or naked, but I went with breaded. The wings were nice and crispy, but also super saucy. In fact, they were in a lake of sauce. I like a lot of sauce, and visually I find it very enticing (I want to gorge!) but it runs the risk of losing structural integrity. But these wings held up pretty well.


LOUISIANA HOT

When I asked about their heat levels, Chiara explained that the different levels of heat were different sauces. I wasn't looking for the hottest sauce on the menu (this day anyway) and while it was on the milder heat level, when she said Louisiana Hot was a mix of  Hot and Buffalo, something about that just sounded delicious.



And it was. It tasted like a good Louisiana cayene sauce with a buttery accompaniment. So a little savoury, a little spicy. This was a great sauce combo and I would love to try it in something hotter.



DILL

There was a more creative name to this, but I didn't write it down because I remembered seeing a menu on their website from a while ago. Unfortunately the website hasn't been updated in years and the new menu has flavours that aren't on the net.



The dill wings were very creamy (and wet, they looked like they've been dipped in a tasty-looking white glue!). And there was even chopped dill pickle mixed in. The dill flavour was pretty mild, but it tasted fresh. The sauce went well with the dusted wings.



At the end I started mixing the two together - hot and dill is a good mix!


FINAL SCORE: I get nervous with wing chains, especially if they serve a ton of flavours. But Puck 'N Wings wings were pretty good. They were a good size, meaty, crispy and had sauce to spare. The flavours I had were good, fresh and did not just taste like bottled sauces. I can safely say "He Shoots, he scores!"
6.5/10



Puck 'N Wings
362 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON
pucknwings.com

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

WWWWWW #47 - Tattoo Now





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 love my chicken wings. Love them. So do a lot of people. And what better way to show your love than to get a tattoo of chicken wings. Tattoo Now might be able to help you with that.

The website is simple: "Fifteen years ago Gabe Ripley began designing websites for tattooers.He did this because he is a self proclaimed computer geek, and didn't have the extra cash to pay for tattoos.In 2001 this simple barter lead Gabe to create one of the most recognized websites out there." And in looking at different tattoo artists, one had a tasty bit of inking:



This piece, by Tim Pangburn, has some classic Buffalo wings with celery and blue cheese. My favourite part is the sauce flowing off the plate and onto the skin.



Not from TattooNow.com, but if your looking for another chicken wing tattoo, check out  Kapten Hanna.

I'm not getting a Tattoo anytime soon, and if I did, I'd probably go for my logo.
Do you have a tattoo? What is it? What would you get?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Boston Pizza's New Wings


Back in April (2011)  Boston Pizza announced a new wing and new sauces coming to a BP near you.  

They also announced a new advertising campaign starring 'Carl Carlson' professional wing critic. This was (I think) a super successful campaign and it still stands as the MOST popular hit for pages at Lord of the Wings.

Well despite the campaign and the excitement around new wings, I didn't try them out. Not because I didn't want to, but there are no locations where I am. Well there was one when I moved back last year, but it closed not too long ago.


Well out with the Away Team crew, we were on our way to take in a film (Cowboys & Aliens = fun!).  We were in good spirits despite the photos. We were all just tired.


Bramanda ordered whole wheat twist bread. It looked tasty, even if it was whole wheat.



Ricky went with the Chipotle Chicken and Bacon Salad. It looked pretty tasty ... you know, for a salad.


I decided to go with the new wings. Sorry for the dark photos. The wings are the slightly dark mass on that gigantic piece of lettuce.




Wings came with a blue cheese dip. This was not your standard pub blue cheese, but a creamier, thick dip.


Boston Pizza has many new flavours for their wings. New ones include Sesame Ginger, Pineapple Mango, Asian Five Spice, Caribbean Jerk, and Chipotle BBQ. I won't lie, most of those flavours do not appeal to me. The last two yes, but the rest, not really. So choosing was a less difficult.


Size wise I saw no difference between these wings and the wings they had before. I shouldn't be surprised, but the wings in the commercials are significantly larger than what I actually got. They are a medium and they are pretty meaty, so that's good at least.

There are several cooking options (just like the old wings), breaded and fried, just fried, or double baked.


The only new flavour I was really interested in was Chipotle BBQ. This was a really good sauce because it had a nice BBQ flavour with a little heat from the Chipotle. This also made it a little smokey. Good combinations all around.


FINAL SCORE: So did the wings live up to all the hype? Nope. They are still a decent chain wing, but for all the hoopla, there wasn't much that changed. The new flavours might appeal to others and might attract those who are not traditional wing eaters, but Carl needs to go out and try more wings.  5.5/10


Boston Pizza
860 Talbot Street, St Thomas ON (and other locations)
bostonpizza.com

LONDON RIBFEST 2011: Backyard BBQ


The 3rd Annual Backyard BBQ was on again, and this year we were in full competition mode. Lessons were learned from last year and were were serious about our ribs. 4 ribbers, 4 rib racks, and 4 different sauces. This is going to be good.



We started off morning ceremonies. Ricky had gifts for us all: official competition aprons! The competitors counter clockwise from top left corner: Brad (or B-Rad), Ricky (Uncle Ricky), Amanda (Blank) and me, Wing King.


Two unofficial members were there. Starbuck, and Randy (aka Dude). Actually, Dude is in China, so he was there in Potato form. Randy Potato, its an inside joke. We were keeping an eye on Starbuck because he's the type to eat your chicken wings when your not looking.



Starbuck did delay our rib cooking by knocking over the BBQ moments before were were about to start smoking the ribs. Above is the lighting of the BBQ ceremony before it was knocked over.

Once the BBQ was lit, we began to rub the ribs.

RIB RUBBING


I should have rubbed the ribs the night before, but I didn't. After removing the silver skin on the back I slathered on some ballpark mustard. My rub was a mix of brown sugar, cayenne, pepper, corriander, paprika etc.


Uncle Ricky: Rick's rub was almost a paste that was administered with care. I think it was a little cold and there was some difficulty in application - but the flavour came across.



B-Rad:  Brad scored his ribs after removing his silver skin. And look at the neat rub administration!



Amanda: Amanda brined her ribs the night before. Then she applied her rub. Then they went back in the fridge and in the morning they got another rubbing of spice rub. This was going to have to be a good rub because she wasn't doing a sauce . . . and she became very vocal about being anti-sauce.



Rick was our esteemed pit master once again. Here is the grill almost ready, as he consulted his rib notes from the past years.


Now that the ribs have been rubbed for a while and the grill ready, it was time to get those pretty pork selections into the rib holders to be blanketed with some heat.


They look mighty good going on. No really, click the photo and take a closer look. And so began the journey of 6 hours to rib goodness.



Pitmaster Ricky doing a check at the three hour mark. At this point the ribs look good, but you have to keep going. Low and slow. Patience.


And after 6 hours, they were ready. They could have been eaten then and been good, but we still were not done. We still had saucing to do.



Here are Amanda's dry rubbed ribs. No saucing for them!


Next up was B-Rad's sauce. It was goeey and had a yellow/orangey colour.


Uncle Ricky's ribs. It too had a really great, rich colour to them.


My ribs were up next for saucing. I really liked the colour that came out with the sauce - candy red as Rick described it.


The saucing was not without its casualties: brad lost a lot of hairs while saucing.


The ribs rested for a little bit, so in the meantime the rest of dinner needed to be made. Some of our feast included Bacon wrapped jalepeno, fresh from the garden cucumbers, onions and peppers in vinegar, coleslaw, and homemade pickles. Amanda made up some tasty cornbread and baked beans too (can't believe I didn't get a photo of those items!) For dessert in the bottom right corner was a delicious tiramisu Amanda made. Damn we ate well.



Here's Dude in photo form eating a jalapeno. Mmmmmmmm!



All the ribs came out really well. Tender, a little tug off the bone and tasty. And look at that smoke ring!


Amanda's Ribs
As mentioned before, she went with a brined rib. Her brine was flavoured with salt and sugar but also Chinese Five Spice.  Then she did a Memphis dry rub that was applied to the ribs in the evening, then again in the morning when the rest of us rubbed our ribs. Paprika, sugar, salt, garlic, own garlic powder and onion powder. No sauce. A lot of effort and thought went into these ribs and a lot of kudos to her since she's a vegetarian and doesn't eat ribs!

B-Rad's
Did a Carolina style mustard BBQ sauce. French's, sauteed onions in butter, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, garlic/celerys alt sauteed for half an hour. I love that Brad really goes out of his way, making creative sauce that are not traditional, but tasty.

Wing King's
My goal this year was to make a sauce that wasn't spicy. So I went really sugary and what seemed like 100 ingredients. My base started with sauteed onions, garlic and chiptole pepper in adobo sauce. Then brown sugar, molasses, honey, pineapple and lime juice. Add some spices and you have a pretty sweet sauce with just the mildest of heat from the chipotle.

Uncle Ricky's
Wanted to go with a sweater sauce. His base started with 40 Creek whisky, apple cider, honey and spices which he used as a mop at the three hour mark. For the sauce he added tomato sauce and jaggery (an Indian unrefined sugar). This sauce had a lot of levels going on from the slight tang of the whisky to the sweetness from the jaggery.


I really enjoyed all the rubs, and picking a winning rib was difficult because each rib brought something to the party. Joining in the feasting was John and Marlene, Brad's parents. Each rib was scored out of 10 and again we were competing for the Targ Cup.

And the 2011 winner was . . .


Me! I was honoured to have had my ribs chosen. I was just happy my ribs were not killer in heat and people could enjoy them. But really, we all won with such a bounty on our table, good friends, and good times. I love  ribfest. Now I don't want ribs for a very long time!