Wednesday, 25 July 2012

WWWWWW #69 - Refrigerator Upgrade Magnet - Archie McPhee


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:




You want crazy stuff? Archie McPhee is the guy to see.


Above? The Refrigerator Upgrade Magnet - a picture of a dispenser that goes on your fridge. And can you guess what one of the buttons is for?

That's right, chicken wings.

Sweet. And only $7.95. Sweet.

And there is a video:



Sunday, 22 July 2012

THE PUMP HOUSE GRILLE Co. ~ Port Credit ON

My Residence Life Functional Group started a new tradition of a work retreat last year where we go to University of Toronto Mississauga campus, spend two days going over student issues, planning joint training and learning about our respective systems. Then we eat. This year was no different.


This time we were joined by UTM locals Sean and Greg who led us to a pub in Port Credit (the edge of Missassauga). This place looked like a great little hang out spot.


Inside the place was a mix of traditional pub and, well I don't know how to describe what you see in the picture above. The place was busy with a mostly 30 and up crowd at lunch. There was a family in our dining area and a kid was quite excited about dinosaurs and lasers (same sentence). Our server was Katti (but she also had help from another waitress I didn't catch the name of) but service was prompt and friendly.


Here's the gang: Sean, Greg, Heather, Kristen, Dave, Leah and Candice. I'm taking the picture.

I can eat crap for days on end, but after Mandarin Chinese buffet for lunch and Lone Star fajitas the night before for supper, most were looking to do some healthy cleansing. I didn't get a detailed report on everyone's meals, but I'm pretty sure they all enjoyed them, found them fresh, and very generous portions. Here's a visual recap:


Two Thai Chicken Wraps (I think) with salads.



Top: Phoenix & Dragon Salad (tiger shrimp and chicken in a sesame vinagrette)
Bottom: Same, but the shrimp subbed out for a puck of goat cheese.



Top: Turkey Panini (sliced turkey, bacon, ham lettuce, tomato and aged Canadian cheddar)
Bottom: Asian Salmon (tossed in a sesame mandarin vinaigrette)


Oh, I got the wings. Talk about your odd man out.


I ordered a Single order of wings, which is 10. It came on a long white plate and they looked great - nice and orange, a little crispy - but naked without veggies and dip, or even garnish.



THe wings themselves were a medium in length, but were pretty meaty. The wings are dusted, then deep fried. They also say you can get them grilled (it just takes a little longer). I went with standard fried, but if I was back, would go for grilled.  The chicken started crispy, but the sauce (which was absorbed into the skin) eventually became slightly soggy, or at least not crispy.


HOT

I went with the classic hot. It was classic hot - bottled cayenne sauce. Simple but good.



SUICIDE
I also got a side of suicide. It was 3rd Degree I think. Had a zing. It was cold though, which I don't like as it contrasts too much with the warm wings. But good.


FINAL SCORE:
These were good dusted deep fried wings. Simple sauce. Not bad, but nothing original either. Its a great little spot and I would go back again for sure. I think everyone enjoyed their meals and it was a great place to end out retreat at. 5.5/10



The Pump House Grille Co.
40 Lakeshore Rd East, Port Credit ON

Friday, 20 July 2012

Holy Chuck ~ Toronto ON

I am not a trendy guy. I don't wear fashionable clothes. If something is popular I often go the other way. When food trends come up, I often stay away (even if I'm super keen on said food). I'm skeptical when people go crazy for things. This was prevalent when burgers became the big thing in Toronto. It took me a long time to finally check out what many touted as the best burger in Toronto at Burger Priest. I wasn't that impressed. So it also took me a long time to try what many started to claim was even better than the Priest: Holy Chuck.


I hate to do a comparison review - I really wanted to take this place on its own merits - but the concept was so similar to the Burger Priest I just couldn't. I mean they are even "Holy" Chuck for goodness sake.


The first thing that was similar was that they were both busy. Line ups for burgers. But, this place had seating and the line up was not crazy. The next thing I noticed was a very different attitude. Holy Chuck staffers were quite friendly. One staff member when not busy taking orders was busy cleaning up the joint, but stopped to have a friendly chat with me.


Their big banner is all about freshness. Burgers are all ground in-house. It's not frozen. The staff I chatted with tells me that their chef is a chef (professionally trained) who is really making an effort with elevating the comfort food for a fast food restaurant.


I look over the menu, and everything sounds good. Pricey, but good. There are many burgers, but I go with the signature Holy Chuck. Instead of going with regular fries, I was drawn to the Deep Fried Pickles. Burger and pickles. Sounded right to me.


The Deep Fried Pickles ($4.99) are sour pickles in a bacon panko crust that's deep fried. Panko crust is one I haven't encountered with DFPs, but adding bacon is a great idea. But I wasn't a fan of these. The crust was too crunchy, and the bacon had no flavour. The pickle itself was super sour. The dip was a chipotle mayo I think. It was not bad. But I would pass on the pickles.



Above is the Holy Chuck: double cheesebuger. Bacon. Carmelized onion. You can get your regular condiments on it, but they plead: "PLEASE DON'T PUT ANY TOPPINGS." I figured they knew what they were doing, so I went with no toppings. The burger came out, and it looked good. Lots of bacon, melty cheese . . .



The first thing that struck me, after how pretty the burger looked, was how small this double patty burger was. You know, for $9.99 with no sides or drink. The bun was very fresh, very soft. The bacon was crisp. I liked it's texture. The burger meat tasted fresh, but very plain. The cheese was good old American processed cheese. The caramelized onions added a little something in the background. But nothing really stood out other than freshness. Well, one thing did.


The grease. The burger was oozing grease. There was quite the puddle, and when I picked up the burger, a lot of grease flowed down my hands. Now I'm not normally squeamish around grease, but this was too much. I didn't enjoy the last 1/2 to 1/4 of my burger because the grease was just too much.

$9.99 is way too much for this tiny greasy burger. Yes it is fresh, but nothing wow'ed me about it at all. I did appreciate the seating, the atmosphere and the staff. But I don't understand what people are raving about regarding this burger. Would I go back? Maybe; to give the benefit of the doubt regarding the grease. Maybe try another type of burger. No pickles though. But I'm still hung up on the price. I don't hate Holy Chuck, but I don't love it either.

I don't know - I guess religious themed burger places just aren't my thing.



Holy Chucks
150 Yonge St. Toronto ON

Thursday, 19 July 2012

CN Tower 360 Restaurant ~ Toronto ON


So at the end of the academic year, my work partner Kat and I reward our top performing staff member with something. Last year the winner was Maansi and she got tickets to Medieval Times. This year, Maansi won again, and we took her to lunch at 360, a restaurant up at the near top of the CN Tower.


If for some reason you didn't know, the CN Tower was the world's largest free standing structure at 553.33 metres (or 1815 feet) from 1976-2007 when the until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai UAE came along (but not completed until 2005). It is still the largest in North America though (wikipedia).



At 351 metres you will find the 360 Restaurant - a slightly fancy revolving restaurant that looks out over Toronto and Lake Ontario. It's a stunning view as the restaurant rotates every 72 minutes. On this spring Thursday, the place was pretty empty, which I didn't mind at all.


Maansi (on the left) and Kat (right) and I were scoping out the views, trying to find our building, looking out over the city. Our server was Bill, who was friendly, helpful and there for whatever we needed. He brought us  some menus, and we ordered off the Prix Fixe menu.




This was Maansi's vegetarian salad. It looked very cool. I didn't know what it was, but it looked cool. She said it was good.



Kat ordered the Caesar, but not wanting the anchovies that come in their classic sauce, they were able to make a Caesar vinaigrette for her and no pancetta.


I went with the traditional Caesar. It was one of the best Caesar's I've ever had and very close to the homemade dressing my father makes (creamy, garlicky, rich). The pancetta was crispy, salty goodness. The croutons were fresh and crunchy. There was a ton of Parmesan cheese.

We had been around part of the city and looking out over the lake when the mains arrived.




Maansi presents her main. I think she was excited.


Linguine and wild mushrooms. It looked beautiful, but mushrooms are not my thing. Maansi also enjoyed it.



Here's Kat presenting her chicken supreme. And look at that view!


Here is my chicken supreme. The chicken itself had crispy skin, but was very moist, and the stuffed asiago cheese made it just heaven. It was topped with sun dried tomatoes. It sat on Swiss chard (I'm not a fan, but I'm sure it was prepared well) and the creamiest mashed potatoes (they were almost a liquid) served with a light jus. Oh, and a whole head of roasted garlic. I'm used to having a spicy meals, but these items were rich and hit a very savoury place on my palate.

Then it was dessert . . .




We decided to all try something different. I went with the butter tart. It's topped with Maple gelato. The filling was very thick (I'm used to a runny butter tart) but it was so very good. I can't describe it. Trust me.


This was the dessert I was going to order, and even Bill said it was his favourite dessert. Yes that's blueberry ice cream, and a pile of blueberries, raspberry and candied orange peel. Of that beautiful glob in the middle? That is a meringue shell (toasted) that once broken into provides a very moist and very lemony cake. I do not exaggerate when I say, awesome.


Kat was able to supstitute the Saskatechewan wild rice pudding for the Dark Chocolate Tower with Summer Berries. That is a chocolate mouse formed to be like the CN Tower. Very rich, very good.


We had a great time, and I had the most expensive lunch I have ever had in my life. Now that $54.24 may seem really steep for lunch, but keep in mind it includes your admission for the CN Tower (basically $30 on it's own). But the food was excellent (as was the service). And you cannot beat the view.



We had a great time. Check out some of the photos:



Toronto facing North. It looks a lot more green from up here than it does down at street level.



Ants, ants I say! Everything looks like little toys!


The University of Toronto.


Maansi standing (with a little coaxing) on the glass floor. That big white blog is the Rogers Centre.


The city facing West and the Island airport.

360 Restaurant (@ the CN Tower)
301 Front Street, Toronto ON

THE FUZZ BOX ~ Toronto ON


When I was a kid, my family went on a summer vacation to Canada's East Coast. We went to go visit my Uncle Garth, Aunt Joanne and my cousin Angela in Halifax. While were were there, I remember my uncle taking us out and having a Nova Scotian Donair (NSD). I had never tried anything like it. A pita with some sort of spiced meat and onions, and, well the sauce. Some sort of white goo that was super sweet and tasty. I remember we bought a bottle, and I even think he sent us some for X-mas a few times.  A long time went by, and it was but a memory.

Back in the mid 2000's I found a place called Gyros in Toronto that had NSD, and I found heaven again. But in 2007 it closed. Soon after I heard about another donair joint that had NSD, but it just wasn't the same. In the spring of 2012 I heard rumours that a NSD place had opened on the Danforth. So I decided to check it out for myself.


The Fuzz Box is a very unassuming place. The entrance was very plain, and if I didn't know better, would guess that it was an old eatery. I walked inside, where a music theme was demonstrated through mounted guitars. There are a few tables about the place. What really caught my attention was the big "Hello" when I came towards the counter to order.

 "I'm Neil, what's your name?" asks the man, who shakes my hand. What is this . . . this friendliness in Toronto? I was taken aback. This is Neil, the owner, and Nova Scotian. He does this with everyone who comes in. He is super friendly and happy to talk about anything. Through my conversation and others I overhear, he wanted to bring a taste of his home here to Toronto. It's called the Fuzz Box, because his band is The Fuzz. There's some cross promotion going on there. He cares a lot about this business. I hear him go in the back and he's talking to his staff - making sure everything is done right. He's keeping them on track - he's firm, but still friendly.


He asks if I've ever had a NSD. I say yes, but it's been years. I'm excited to get back to having them. I look over the menu at the options.

From The Fuzz Box's Facebook Photos
I'm excited by many things on the menu. Of course, they have wings, and I know I will try this. And I know about the Donair. But the Fried Pepperoni are there, and this is a great little snaking dish I've tried before. Then there is the Donair Pogo - what an amazing sounding combo. Even some clam chowder sounds good.


I stick with what I'm there for (the Donair) and what I do (wings). Fortunately I can get a smaller order of wings and the NSD come in different sizes too!

At this point you must be asking, what makes a Nova Scotian Donair special from a regular donair? So you have your pita wrap, some gyro meat, onions and tomato. But what really sets it apart is the sauce. The sauce is sickly sweet. Its condenced milk and some garlic . . . its ooey and gooey and good.



The Fuzz Box's NSD floods me with memories. They are a few slight differences; he uses a more spiced meat that is not like the shaved gyro meat, but a ground beef mixture that's cooked on a flat top. He says he's hoping to do spit roasted in the future. The pita, Greek style, is moistened, so it is a soft blanket.

Every bite is a happy moment for me and really comes down to the sweet sauce and the soft pita. The meat is not as spicy as I was expecting, but the onion and tomato add their bits to the pool. And it's a pool - there is no skimping on sauce here. This is what I have missed for so long.

So how were the wings?


You can either get 6 or a bakers dozen of wings. I ask about the cooking process and Neil tells me the wings are marinated, baked, then pan fried. He wants to get a deep fryer at some point, but for now, that's how the wings are done.


They came in a clam shell foam container, and inside that they were wrapped in tinfoil (I assume this is their standard take-out configuration). There are three flavours to choose from: BBQ, Honey Garlice, and House Marinade.


The wings were large - long, big, meaty. I was really impressed with the size. However the wings were a little tough. I had difficulty pulling the bones apart and the meat was not as tender as I would like it. The skin also was not very crispy (I would prefer crispy). If Neil does get that deep fryer, that would improve things.

The flavour of the marinade was good. Very homemade. A little bit of a kick, but very underwhelming.


FINAL SCORE:
The wings, ah, I was not a huge fan of the wings. I really think that if they were deep fried, that would fix the toughness and the lack of crispy skin. In fact, I would order them deep fried with the house marinade, and then dip it in the sweet garlic sauce. But for now, I would pass on wings. But the donairs ... I was in love. So good. Excellent. These may not be for everyone (if you don't like super sweet on meat, or you view NSD's as just after-bar food) but I will be back for sure. 3.5/10

About a week after coming to the Fuzz Box, my uncle Garth passed away. It was sad for myself and my family, but I know every time I have a NSD, I think of him. Thanks uncle Garth for introducing me to this tasty Haligonian dish.



The Fuzz Box
1246 Danforth Ave, Toronto ON