Saturday, 31 August 2013

Hong Shing General Tao Wings

Staying up late to get some work done, a late night dinner was in order. Off to Hong Shing.

Do I get wings? Do I get their General Tao Chicken?

What if I asked for chicken wings with General Tao sauce on them?

They put on so much sauce that the wings were very soggy, but very very tasty. If I do it again, I will get the sauce on the side.

Best $1 add on in my opinion. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

WWWWWW #74 - How Not To End A Hot Wing Eating Contest

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:

First, the dude on the left was way out of line with grabbing the guys face. Then he pants the champ. I don't blame the champ for bopping him.

Never bug a man trying to eat his wings.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

After a long day of work and days without having wings, this made my night:

From George's.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Burgernator ~ Toronto ON

MAY 2013

It was back in May when I decided to take a Saturday saunter over to Kensington Market to take in the sites, do some grocery shopping, and get lunch.

I wandered through the market trying to decide what to eat as there are so many cool little eateries. But then I came across this burger place that really caught my attention. Burgernator. It just sounded cool. And the colour scheme made me think of my own blog.

And they had a mission statement for burgers. That suggest the take their product seriously.

I went in and it was pretty dead for noon. There were the two seniors and a couple of individuals here and there. Eventually more people did come, but considering it was packed on the streets, it seemed a little strange. Like people were not joining the burger revolution.

More of their burger claims and manifestos were on the wall, extolling the virtues of their fresh, organic and pure burger aesthetic.

Prices are similar to other modern burger joints around, which means pricey in a fast food environment. I went with a Commander Burger $6, with a side of Burgernator Fries ($5.50).

Burgernator Fries are chili cheese fries served with sour cream on top. The fries were a medium fresh cut fry and deep fried to a nice crisp, so that there was a bit of a crunch when you bit into them. The chili was thick with meat and beans. It was not bad, but did not have anything bold or outstanding about it. Real shredded cheese melted over top, and the sour cream add a nice cool creamy component to the mix.

There were many BMD's (or burgers of mass destruction) to choose from with unique toppings from the The Resistance burger (a masala turkey burger with mango chutney and curry aioli) to the Captain Jerk (beef patty with grilled pineapple and jerk sauce) to the Burgernator challenge itself (triple patty between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, caramelized onions, mushrooms and Burgernator sauce). There are also veggie burgers (soy patties or crusted portabello mushrooms).  For me, I just wanted something a little more simple.

I went with a Commander Burger. The first thing I noticed was the Burgernator sauce all over. The second thing I noticed was it was a pretty small burger. The third thing I noticed was that they used two top buns for my burger, which I think is pretty awesome. What happened to the bottoms though?

The Commander Burger is a all beef 4oz patty (admittedly a smaller patty compared to the 6oz BMD's) with Burgernator Sauce (something a little more sophisticated than a fry sauce - ketchup and mayo - but more aioli like) lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheddar cheese.

I'll just cut to the chase, I found this burger really mediocre. The fresh ground meat was . . . just ok. I didn't get a nice meaty flavour from the meat. I didn't really taste it all. I won't lie, I'm also one of those people who prefer processed cheese slice to real cheese. The buns were actually really good - slightly toasted but still very fresh.

But when at a burger place the standout is the bun, there's something wrong. Don't get me wrong, this was not a bad burger, but for a joint crying for a burger revolution, Che Burgera would not be raising his bun. Also, none of the burgers have bacon on them, and to me that's kind of important on a great burger. Right?

I think the revolution needs some tweaking. The marketing and the message is there, but there are already a lot of bland burger out there.

269 Augusta Ave, Toronto ON

Wing Night @ Victoria College

APRIL 2013

It pays to have friends in the right places. My buddy, fellow wing lover and former staff member Chris B was working at Victoria College University back in April just before the end of the school term. They were having a wing night, and he invited me and Jasmik to come down and partake in the event.

Victoria College is one of the Federated Colleges at the University of Toronto. It's one of the oldest colleges formed back in 1836 and it's history and connection to UofT is long and complicated and I'll let you read about it on wikipedia. It's dinning hall, Burwash, was built in 1913 and is a beautiful example of neo-gothic architecture.

And they have wing nights. Actually, they only have 2 a year, so it's a big deal.

Burwash dining hall is run by Nathan Barratt seen in the above photo, who has revamped a cafeteria that was often noted as one of the worst on campus into a place students look forward to eat. And if he looks familiar, it's because he used to be one of the sous chef's in my building and was famous for his suicide sauce at our wing nights.

Above you can see the students grabbing the naked deep fried wing, and the 4 sauces available to toss them in: Honey Garlic, BBQ, Frank's Hot Sauce, and of course, Nathan's "Insane" hot sauce.

We grabbed our food and made our way to the Harry Potter-esque seating area. Chef Nathan cleared the High Table (usually reserved for Professors and College big wigs). What an honour.

Here's Chris on the left, Jasmik in the middle, and Chris' co-worker John - all of us enjoying the bounty of wings.

Here's my plate tray and the heaven I was about to partake in.

Above was real Coke. My dinning hall switched to some generic swill that I just cannot stand. This was great. And what is wings without some veggies and dip? And AYCE to boot.

The wings themselves were simple, but superb. Perfectly crisp, and the meat was tender. You could tell the meat was fresh. These were actually delicious just on their own.

They were a large wing - but not mutant large - just the right amount of meat and skin. They were deep fried and tossed with a light seasoning.

Of course, they were even better with Nathan`s Insane Hot Sauce. Its thick, its full of flavour, and it has a great kick. This is a real suicide sauce, but you still get the levels of chilies, spices and other flavours. It`s good, and it burns.

Chef Nathan came by to check on us and we mentioned we wanted to get more wings, but the lineups at that point went out the door. Moments later, Nathan came back with an entire serving tray for us. That is having friends in high places!

It was gluttonous, but it was soo good. Each bite as good as the last.

And then Nathan brought me a jar of the suicide sauce. This meal could not get any better!

In the end, we were full and had many bones. At the table, others that had joined us indulged me in the last wing night at Vic, where they made a bone tower.

Fortunately someone had a photo of it on their phone. Yes, that`s on a caf tray and yes, it had a flag.

Not to be left with nothing to show, we created out own tower. What it lacks in colossal-ism, it made up in beauty and determination. Or whatever, it's a tower of bones.

In the end, a great time was had be all, and there wasn't a hungry soul at the table. It truly was a feast that I won't soon forget. Thanks to Chris for having Jas and me, and for Nathan and all the preferential treatment.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

London RIbfest 2013 ~ Rib & Sauce Judging

Since 2009 I've had the honour of being a Celebrity Judge at the London Ribfest, and 2013 was no different. So for the August long weekend I have been putting wings on hold and should be addressed as the Lord of the Ribs.

Travel the park and you can find posters for our judging performance.

We were back at the Band Shell where the trophies were on display for the winners.

While I started wearing my Lord of the Wings shirt, I did don the 'Official Rib Judge' t-shirt. Also waiting for me on the table was my name tag (they even crossed out wings and put ribs just like my banner!) some cutlery (I don't know who is using these on their ribs . . .) plate, some water and wet wipes. Later paper towel arrived. As always, the judges have their choice of beer, wine, coolers etc but I was lucky to get a 710 ml of Coke, and it was all I can drink, so that was awesome.

In the binder were the rules for judging, with a great outline of what the scores should mean, as well as focusing on not punishing the ribbers and being polite.  The actual score sheet changed this year with just having a score, and a section for tasting notes. This is something I normally did with a note pad, but now they have incorporated it right into the evals. Very cool.

Judged are supposed to arrive about 30 mins before actual judging, which gives those of us who have been doing this a chance to catch up, and to meet and greet the new judges.

MCing again this year was Nick Papparella from CTV News. As always, the judging event was open with the grandiosity of Town Crier Bill Paul.

A large crowd was in the tent watching the event. As the judging went on, spectators came to the fence behind us to watch.

There were 12 Judges this year, and as always, these Celebrities ran the gamut of London and area society. From left to right was Bill Paul, Dr Jeff Cao & blogger (, Lisa Poulin from Via Rail, beside me on my left is Mike Laskey of Laskey Properties, on my right is London Free Press reporter Joe Belanger, Mayor Heather Jackson of St Thomas Ontario, London City Councillor Harold Usher, Captain TJ Nunnenmacher of the Air Canada Pilots Assoc., Toni Ross of Fresh FM (and last year's MC), Lawyer Murray Neilson and finally Metro London editor Angela Mullins. What a crowd!

We were all introduced my Nick, who throughout the judging would ask us about how we did our jobs, the challenges we faced, and how the ribs and sauces were comparing to one another.

One of my favourite parts of the day beside actually eating all of the ribs is talking to everyone and getting their perspectives, because we all look for different things in ribs. I was really flattered by Mike Laskey beside me who had never judged before, and had looked up my blog to get some tips. We chatted a lot about the process and how to approach judging. On my right, Joe Belanger and I talked about cooking our own ribs and what we wanted to see in the ribs we were eating.

There were 10 Rib Vendors this year in competition for the Best BBQ sauce and Best Ribs. Competing teams were:
  • Silver Bullet
  • Railroad Ribs
  • Route 55
  • Ribs Royale
  • Fire Island
  • Jack the Ribber
  • Texas Rangers BBQ
  • Boss Hog`s
  • Kentucky Smokehouse
  • Louisiana BBQ

The first competition is the sauces. They come in small cups and we are given a small breadstick to taste. I take a stick, sample the sauce as much as I want until I get an idea of the flavours I was dealing with. Then I cleanse my palate with water so that I am fresh to try the next sauce.

Here is my rough notes on each sauce:

  1. "sweet, black peppery - light with a slight tang, but slight bitter after taste" (7)
  2. "almost no flavour" (2)
  3. "Dark, more smokey but smooth"(8)
  4. "Smokey but sour, dark but very sour, After taste that's sour/bitter" (4)
  5. "Tomato flavour, slight bite, smooth, like a BBQ/Hot sauce" (9)

The number in the brackets are my scores - the sauces ranged from low to high. #5 is my favourite with it's heat. #2 was basically devoid of any taste and shocked several of us.

6.   "Dark, Christmas flavour (nutmeg?) - very rich" (8)
7.   "Watery, very fruity, maybe plum or marmalade?" (6)
8.   "Dark but a bit of spice and heat" (7)
9.   "Watery, bit of spice, but a little off" (7)
10. "Thick and chunky, a little smokey, chunks of BACON! (7)

I couldn't believe #10 actually had pieces of bacon . . . that was awesome.

After the sauces came the main event, the Ribs. Each round we were given a new plate, which I used to write the number of the rib to keep track later. After each rib I made sure my hands were clean and I also took a drink to prepare for the next offering. Some ribs came hot, others cold. Some were huge pieces, others small. All presented something different.

What I was looking for in a rib was tender meat with a little tug (no fall off the bones meat), a nice crispy bark that has been flame kissed, a smokey flavour to both meat and sauce, and a BBQ sauce that says something.

  1. "Smoke flavour, little tug to the meat, sauce is BBQ-y & sweet. Chewy (good way), and really nice bark"  (10)
  2. "Tender meat. No bark. Pork flavour really coming through, very wet and wattery sauce, weak flavour. Reminds me of boiled spare rib from home" (3)
  3. "More chewy, little tough, no bark, dark sauce (BBQ) but slightly mild sauce, smoke taster from sauce, not rib" (6)
  4. "Smokey - but almost a propane taste. Nice smoke ring, slight tug, tender, strong meat flavour, Dark sauce." (7)
  5. "Very little smoke - BLAH - no flavour! Ribs are tender - no bark - just nothing" (2)

Everyone found that #1 was amazing from the start and was going to be the one to beat. It started off as an 8 to me, but as the contest went on, it was clear it was a 10 and everything I was looking for in a rib. #2 and #5 were really dissapointing as they did not seem like BBQ at all. They didn't taste bad, but I'm here for Que.

 Shout out to all the great staff and volunteers at the event. They were friendly and there for whenever any of us needed something. Thanks!

6.   "Smoke - tough meat - complimentary sauce, sweet but not over powering" (6)
7.   "Very tender - sweet/sour sauce -no pull or tug, no bark- very wet sauce, no noticable smoke or ring"(5)
8.   "Good pork flavour - cooked well, slight sweet sauce, slight smoke. Balance." (8)
9.   "Well cooked but almost a little too tough, pork flavour - can't identify the sauce" (6)
10. "Saucy - well cooked, very meaty - mild sauce." (6)

In the end, my favourite and I think all the judges was #1. It just had so much going for it. There was a lot of score variances from judge to judge, but I think we all knew greatness when we tasted it.

A big shout out to Cecil Hillier and all the Hillier's at Family Shows Canada, who keep having me back as a judge and giving me some amazing hospitality. I look forward to the event every year, and when it comes to BBQ, even the 'bottom' of the competition is still good.

Also thanks to LJ for waiting, supporting and taking a ton of photos for me at the event.

And congrats to the winners ~ your efforts were shown and you deserve the trophies!

And the Winners Were:

Judge’s Choice First Place

Best Sauce: Boss Hog’s
Best Ribs: Silver Bullet

Judge’s Choice Second Place

Best Sauce: Silver Bullet
Best Ribs: Kentucky Smokehouse

People’s Choice

Best Ribs: Jack the Ribber
People’s Choice Second Place Best Ribs: Texas Rangers