Sunday, 9 October 2011

5 Guys Burgers ~ Kanata ON

Day 2 of my Birthday Gluttony Weekend. 
Friday, 1pm.
Kanata Ontario

Since I am back in the Ottawa region relatively frequently, I try and keep an eye on the food scene. I had heard about the coming of the American chain Five Guys during the summer, and, well its open. Not in Ottawa, but just outside in Kanata (there are more coming to Ottawa soon though).

I walked in and was amazed at the machine that is 5 Guys. First, long line-up, but it moved quickly (I overheard a cashier say it was out the door at noon). Realistically, there are only a few things on the menu, and there is a rapid assembly line with lots of staff all hustling.

I ordered a Bacon Cheeseburger, with a regular Cajun style fry and a drink. I was a little shocked when there were no combos (I've just gotten so used to this at fast food) and my total came to $14.99.

You are given a number while you wait. And while you wait, help yourself to some peanuts. That's right, peanuts for free. And don't forget that the fries are cooked in peanut oil too. And free refills on Coke (self service fountain machine).

Here is my order of fries. This is the smallest size fry they have. Lets come back to that though. You can get them regular or Cajun style. I went with Cajun which meant a ton of seasoning. This was good for the first few fries, but became overwhelming salty after a couple. They did have ketchup, as well as malt vinegar for dipping.

So going back to the fries, the above being the smallest size, but realistically that is a big cup of fries. And that wasn't it.

Here is the bag with all the other fries that were on top of the burger and fry cup. Very generous portion.

Onto the burger. This is a tall one. Apparently a regular hamburger is a double patty. I should have just gone with the Little burger.

Here's the burger breakdown. One correction is the pickles are above the tomato and there is onion in there too. What isn't there is bacon. I got more than halfway through and realized there was no bacon. I thought I must not have ordered it. But when I was done I looked at my bill and I had indeed ordered bacon. Oh well.

The good: simple tasty burger. Meat has nice meaty flavour. Cheese is processed but its good that way. Lots of toppings to choose from and you can have it your way.

The bad: low structural integrity. This burger fell apart easily. It was sloppy. Pilled high but flip flops on itself.

So would I go back? Yes. Here's what I would do differently: Little Bacon Cheeseburger, regular fries, more peanuts. Maybe even trying their hot dog. It was nice to have a change in the chain burger world. But they are not going to topple the competition after the novelty wears off.

Five Guys Burgers
5517 Hazeldean Road, Kanata ON

2011 Thanksgiving Turkey Wings

This Thanksgiving I'm on my own, away from family and friends, doing work and chilling out. And that`s OK because I`m not a huge lover of turkey etc anymore. But around lunch time I thought about doing something wing related, and something T-Day related. I thought, why not make turkey wings?

So I marched down to St Lawrence Market (which was easy because it was simply beautiful out) and toured the stands for turkey wings. Witteveens ( was one of the few stands that did (there were lots of turkeys for sale everywhere though!). I asked for one turkey wing, and the young guy at the counter looked at me like "seriously?". I confirmed just one. One turkey wing was just under a pound. Crazy.

That is a monster wing. Seriously, look how big it is. That's a big wing.

Here's what I did with the turkey wing:
  1. Put the wing in a brine: vinegar, water, pepper, spice mix. - it was in for about an hour.
  2. After drying the wings, I rubbed them down with garlic powder, pepper, salt, Hungarian Paprika, and a small vial of spice I made for some unknown rub.
  3. Bake the wings at about 400. 20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 20 minutes.

After that, I basted the wings in a hot/bbq sauce mix I made, flipping 2 or 3 times every 5 minutes.

With my wings I needed to have something. A vegetables. I walked around the market, looking at all the vegetables. I don't like a lot of vegetables. I was like "I know I won't eat this or that." Then I saw this green cauliflower. I thought, that looks funky, and maybe I can do something with this.

Here's what I did with the cauliflower:

  1. Chopped up into florettes, boil for about 5-10 minutes, then drained them.
  2. Dusted with flour, seasoned with Cajun seasoning and Hungarian Paprika.
  3. Toss.

While the Turkey was in the oven at 400 degrees, I popped these in for about 20 minutes. I love the colours!

To go with the cauliflower I whipped up a quick dip: a little sour cream, cream cheese, mayo and dill popcorn seasoning.

While at the market I walked by the cheese mongers and saw "Red Hot Chili Cheddar Cheese" and "Smoked Gouda with Pepper." I kind of feel bad about how much I spent on these cheeses, because I feel that's decadently expensive. But I'm weak.

I also went over to a chain grocery store and picked up some stuffing. Yes, Stove Top. No matter how 'good' you say homemade stuffing is good, I've yet to try one that I would take over Stove Top. I'm a foodie, but not a gourmand foodie.

Oh, and they had Egg Nog. In early October. Egg Nog. Normally I hate X-mas stuff that is out this time of year, but for Egg Nog, I will make an exception.

And then I brought it all together for a nice little Thanksgiving for one.

I just had the wingette of the turkey wing. It turned out really well. Visually anyway.

Actually taste too. The skin was nice and crispy. I could have just eaten the skin.

 The meat was relatively tender - more than I expected but less than I would prefer. The brine helped for sure.

The best part was dipping the turkey. It was simple, margarine, vinegar, sriracha, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce. Sweet with a little heat.

The cauliflower was actually good. I mean, for someone who hates veggies, this was something I would have in the future. The dip also made an excellent accompaniment. Creamy and dilly. I want to make this dish again, and I might consider frying them to make it crispier.

The cheese was good. The Gouda was smokey. The cheddar spicy. And no, I didn't eat that entire mound.

And the stuffing was good too. I went with "Cornbread" because I had never seen that variety. And it had a hint of cornbread flavour, but not so much that it overpowered the stuffing taste. I made it a little too moist, but it was good. I love stuffing.

Overall, very good meal, complete with leftovers. I am both stuffed and satisfied.

I am thankful for family
I am thankful for friends
I am thankful for my job and my coworkers
I am thankful for my health
I am thankful for chicken wings
I am thankful for the wing nation and for those of you that read the blog.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

TARA INN ~ Toronto (Scarborough) ON

First stop on my Birthday Feast for 2011 was the Tara Inn. I have heard about this place and its good wings for a long time, however it being out in Scarborough, I have never been able to get out there to try. But since I was headed to Ottawa and had a car, I decided now was the time.

There are actually two Tara Inn's: I don't know which came first or how different they are. The one I went to is on Kingston road, dead centre of a strip mall. It has its own patio, but it was too rainy on this Thursday for anyone to enjoy. I went inside and was surprised at how empty it was. The restaurant was split with the main bar on a lower level to the right, and the 'dining' area to the left.

I tried to make eye contact with the waitress/bartender Melanie, but she was tending bar where all the other patrons were sitting. I went to the left for some solitude and to be able to review. I sat in the big front window. I waited for a few minutes, concerned that I wasn't seen, but eventually she did make her way over.

Before long I had a beverage, and then shortly I had my post-wing clean up. Wing bowl, napkins, moist towelettes, and something I have never seen a wing place do, but all should, a tooth pick! How many times have I had a little piece of chicken stuck in the teeth and wished I had a toothpick. Now I just needed my wings.

The wings come in an interesting ordering pattern. You can order wings either by the number (5, 10, 20) or by pound. I don't know why, but there it is.

Above is a glorious order of 10 wings that they split into two sauce orders ( a lot of places won`t split). The wings were nice and wet, with more of the sauce prevalent on the BBQ than the Hot.

On the side were celery sticks and some ranch to dip. Crunchy celery. Bottled ranch.

The size of these wings were impressive. These were jumbo wings. I mean long, big wings. Sometimes when a place has jumbo wings the chicken is mutant and rubbery and not good. Not here my good friends, this was a well cooked wing. And crispy skin. Deep fried to perfection.


I went with hot as a good base sauce. The hot was traditional cayenne based hot sauce. The sauce absorbed into the skin but the wings did not get soggy.

The taste was bang on for a good hot wing. Nothing crazy - just good. Hot was not, sadly.


Contrary to what I wrote in the above picture, this was a Hickory BBQ. And boy did it have a hickory smoked flavour.

Dark, smokey with a hint of sweet. This was a good BBQ sauce.


Killer stuff? Not so much. But it did have a nice kick. It was a different sauce from the regular 'hot' - more vinegary, but much more peppery. The taste was ok - but I wasn't too keen to do extra dipping.

THE SCORE: I had heard the hype about the wings, and I was not disappointed. Jumbo crispy wings in tasty sauces. Hot was good. BBQ was good. Suicide, spicy but not great.  And there were quite a few flavours to boot. If you want near perfect wings, Tara Inn is the place to go. A great way to start off my gluttonous weekend.  8.5/10

The Tara Inn: Irish Pub & Restaurant
2365 Kingston Road, Toronto (Scarborough) ON

Rectory Cafe, Ward's Island ~ Toronto ON

A few weeks back my office had a retreat over to Ward Island, part of the Toronto Islands. After a busy and stressful month, it was good for us to get out, reconnect and relax a little. There were 5 of us (Sarah, Naeem, Kate, Kelci) with Kat unfortunately not attending due to sickness. 

 The short ferry ride from the mainland over is fun and relaxing journey, especially with the initially gorgeous weather we had (sunshine turned to rain by the afternoon).

Ward's Island isn't actually a separate island, but an extension of Centre Island. Most of it seemed to be residential with a few parks and beach. Very peaceful. Well, except for the constant take-off and arrival of aircraft from the Billy Bishop Airport.

We went for lunch at The Rectory Cafe. Go HERE to read about how this is one of the few original homes that survived a purge in the 60's.

We sat on the back patio, which felt like an enchanted garden. We were the first one's on the patio, and we thoroughly enjoyed the lush green and fresh air. The seating is extensive (clearly they know people are coming to enjoy the outdoors).

We started off with a few appetizers. We had the  Char Grilled Calamari ($7 for one, $13 for share) "marinated in a fifteen spice rub and served with a scallion thyme aioli and lemon olive oil." Calamari is a difficult dish to execute in my opinion because it can become very tough. Fortunately this squid was very tender. The many layers of flavours came out, from the 15 spices to the rich aioli as well as the nice grill accent.

We also had the Sun Blushed Tomato Hummus ($10). "Accompanied by Kalamata olives and roasted flatbread." I'm not crazy about hummus (I like it, just not crazy about it) but this was very good. I love the addition of the sun dried tomatoes. The dish was an experience onto itself.

Then on to the main courses. Kelci went with the Tofu Tikha Panini ($12): "Stewed with Indian spices, tomato and almonds then topped with a cucumber mint yogurt."  I've never seen this before, but it looked tasty. And Kelci said it was.

Kate, our office vegetarian, made our waiter choose for her between the Tofu paninni and the Moroccan Chickpeas. He said both were good, but that the Chickpease were more filling. So she went with the Chickpeas ($16). "Done with wilted spinach, red onions and Yukon potatoes with smoked paprika and mango salsa." Kate said it was really good and it was quite filling (it's hard to see that the portion is quite large).

Sarah, Naeem and I all went for the same thing: The Ontario Chipotle Bison Burger ($14). "Smoked mozzarella, lettuce and tomato with zucchini relish on a ciabatta bun with garlic aioli." It was a tough choice, with both the Philly Cheese Steak Panini and the Pulled Pork Panini as options, but I love Bison burger and how often do you see it on the menu? On the side was a simple salad with oil and balsamic dressing.

This was a beautiful craft burger (as opposed to your regular burger burger). I mean it kind of looks like a piece of art with the colours and the deliciousness.

Above is the breakdown of the burger. Things to note: The bun was soft and chewy. The aioli was light in application but still present. The mozzarella had a wonderful smokey flavour that really accented the bison. Bison is a super lean meat, but has a nice earthy-meaty flavour. It was just shy of being dry, but it was good. The chipotle was mild but added for a great spice mixture to the meat.

I asked our waiter where the Bison actually came from, and he said Ontario. I'm still curious where in Ontario.

Then we had dessert. Clockwise starting in the top right was my New York Style Cheesecake ($7) -awesome by the way. Sarah went with the Callebaut Semi-Sweet Brownie ($7). Kelci had the Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Torte ($7) and finally Kate and Naeem had the Toffee Blondie ($7). All were heaven.

There was also an extensive list of unique and exotic teas. I don't drink warm beverages so I didn't have any, but my crew did, and they seemed to enjoy their selections.

The Rectory Cafe served a delicious meal in a very relaxing setting. The service was friendly but not intrusive, and the company was great. It was just what we needed. Afterwards we played on some crazy geodisic/spider web climbing equipment, walked along the beach, and toured through the cottagey lanes of the island. It was a great day, what else can I say?

Oh, yes there is: thank you Sarah (awesome boss)!

The Rectory Cafe
102 Lakeshore Ave, Ward's Island, Toronto ON