Monday, 30 July 2018

LOTW Meme Monday: When Someone Doesn't Like Wings



Celebrating National Wing Day with Crispy's Wings



Damn those were good. These wings are great sauced and tossed fresh, but I was taking these home for the wife and I, so I ordered them with sauce on the side. LJ enjoyed them dry with some dipping in the Frank's Red Hot and I tossed them and ate them very wet. Simple, but so good.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

HAPPY CHICKEN WING DAY 2018!!!



Hear ye hear ye - today is a day of worship of all things wings! Eat at the bountiful horn of the wing platter, wipe copious amounts of wing sauce from thy face, and drink mighty stein's of blue cheese dressing! Happy Chicken Wing Day, July 28th 2018!!!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

PC Dry-Rubbed Hardwood-Smoked Chicken Wings

I see sales as the time for experimentation. On wing night I love maximizing my dollar to try as many different sauces as possible. When wings are on sale at the grocery store, I'm up for trying some new frozen wings I've never had before.


This was the case not long ago while at the grocery store. I've noticed President's Choice Dry-Rubbed Hardwood-Smoked frozen wings before, but I wasn't going to pay full price to try. Well they were on sale, and so here we are. My hopes were pretty low because I've been disappointed lately with other frozen wings.


It sounded intriguing - a frozen wing that was dry-rubbed and hardwood-smoked? I have to give it to President's Choice, they will try all sorts of flavours out and I find many do work.


There are 14 wings at minumum in the package, and it lists it as 800g, but that is with the sauce pack inside. I find the wing ingredients interesting as well:

water, salt, brown sugar, herbs and spices, garlic powder, mustard, onion powder, flavour, smoke flavour, smoked sugar (water, sugar, smoke), sodium phosphate, smoke, acetic acid

It sounds good, but what is 'flavour' as an ingredient? Also, there was a lot of smoke in there: smoke flavour, smoked sugar, and just smoke. These just might taste smokey after all.



I was just doing a test run, so I put in half the wings, which worked out to be 10 wings. They had almost a freezer burned frosting to them, but they weren't freezer burned.


I was mostly interested into the wings, but I did decide to try the Maple BBQ sauce that came with them. It's frozen, but you just toss it in some warm water and pretty soon its liquid again.


I cooked these in the toaster oven, and I was impressed with the wood smoked smell that was coming off of them.


Well, they weren't anything too special to look at, but they did go kind of crispy. But they smelled really good. Literally the kitchen smelled like I had a small smoker.


Interestingly, they were mostly light in colour, but a few went mahogany like a truly smoked wing ...



Looking at the wings, they kind of look like they came off a smoker and not out of the toaster oven.


Look at that wing, that looks pretty damn good.

They weren't big but they weren't the smallest wings either. Length and meatiness were both average. The skin was, crispy is not the right word - slightly rubbery but not in a bad way, just crispy-ish? It was a nice texture for these wings.


The meat was pretty tender, which hasn't been my experience with most frozen wings. I still can't get over that hardwood smoked flavour.


I tried the Maple BBQ sauce, and it, tastes like Maple BBQ. I don't go for that flavour usually, and this was ok. Its savoury and sweet but the maple is a hint rather than overpowering. Not my thing, but others might be into it.


FINAL SCORE:

I've had a string of dissapointing frozen wings lately, some from Presidents Choice, but this was actually a swing and a hit for me. The wings aren't big, but they are tender and the texture on the skin is not classically crispy, but it's doing something I kinda like. The smell and the flavour of these wings are on point. If I was wearing a blindfold I would think I was eating a truly smoked wing. The smell, the flavour - these wings are there. I would pass on the Maple BBQ sauce and either go natural or use my own sauce. 8.5/14




PC Dry-Rubbed Hardwood-Smoked Chicken Wings

Monday, 23 July 2018

Return to HOOLEY's PUB - Ottawa ON

The year was 2009 and had been reviewing wings in Ottawa for just over a year. I was looking for some cheap wings and I found that this pub called Hooley's had a 1/2 price menu night and figured I'd go check it out. I liked the wings (they ended up being my #3 of the wings I reviewed in Ottawa in 2009), so after hearing that Hooley's had a giant wing menu now, it was time to see how things had changed.


I didn't remember the inside of Hooley's at all and I thought that they had done renovations, but looking back at old photos, nothing seems to have changed, but that wasn't a bad thing. I arrived at around 5pm and the place was already busy. The hostess was super friendly and she took me to what turned out to be the exact table I sat at almost 10 years ago!


The back room was full of booths and long tables that started out empty, but was completely filled by the time I was eating. I felt almost guilty that I had a 4 person table to myself while others were confined to smaller tables, but I was spread out doing some work so I tried to not let it bother me.

The hostess had brought the menu, but also a bunch of wetnaps and napkins. Later she doubled the size of the pile for no particular reason, but I was cool with all the supplies. My server was not as friendly, but she wasn't unfriendly. She did have to answer all my questions about all their wing sauces. I got a Diet Coke to drink, and it was not free refills. At $3.54 it was a pricey standard glass of pop. In the photo above you can see a green drink, but it's just the mason jar that was green, the water inside was clear.



When I was here last, Hooley's had 12 flavours; now, they had over 30. They really had stepped up their sauce game!

The rules to wing night had also changed:

  • Wing night is Monday night (they open at 4pm)
  • Wings were now $0.49 a piece with the purchase of a drink
  • You must order in multiples of 8 which makes a pound for $3.92
  • If you are drinking non-alcoholic beverages (like me), you can only get the wing deal for 2 pounds at a time and then must buy another drink if you want a 3rd/4th pound, and then would need a 3rd drink for 5th/6th
  • Dips or extra sauce are $1 but you get a good sized container


Well, I was here to do some sampling, and sampling I did. They had some really unique sauces that boggled my mind. For example, I asked about the Pepperoni Pizza wings, which are pizza sauce with cheese shredded on, and the waitress highly encouraged getting the garlic dip and said it was amazing. She didn't say anything about pepperoni though. Hot on the other hand was just Frank's Red Hot, so there was a mix of original, classic, homemade and commercial sauces.


In total, I ordered 3 pounds of wings (each a different flavour) with 3 sauces/dips on the side of each so I could maximize my flavour experience. The wait time was pretty good considering how packed the place was.


I got one dip on the side (the other were wing sauces) and I went with Blue Cheese. It was a good blue cheese - some chunks of cheese, somewhat creamy - I was glad I added this on the side.



On a normal night, you would be paying $14 a pound for about 8 wings. That seems crazy but it also seems to be the trend these days. I'm not sure if they come with any sides on a normal night, but during wing night they do not for sure.


I need to mention that they are super generous with their sauce. These wings come floating in thick sauces. There is no skimping here. I wish I had some bread or something on the side to sop up the extra sauce.


The wings themselves are a medium both in length and meatiness. They are breaded and deep fried which gives them a little bulk. The skin/breading creates a thick enough coating, which is good because it has to hold up to all the sauce.

The wings are frozen (you can tell when you break apart the flats and see the bones are all blackened, which means they were frozen). The meat was not tough but not tender either. They lost points on my scale for this, as well as not tasting like the freshest of wings. They weren't bad, but they were not the best quality meat either.


It was really hard to pick between the 30+ flavours so I went with the flavours that appealed to me the most at the moment. I skipped basic hot because it was Frank's and went with some more interesting sauces. I was still trying 5 flavours, but there are so many more to go.


RED CAJUN

I asked about this and was told it was the dry Cajun seasoning, with a special sauce. That really sounded good to me. It came and was much more red sauce looking than I expected. I'm pretty sure the red sauce is the pizza sauce for the pizza wings because it was a thick tomato-based sauce with I assume was Cajun spices. It was too much for me, the tomato that is. I liked the concept but the sauce wasn't for me, especially when there was so much.


CREAMY DILL

Wow this was a good creamy dill sauce. It reminded me of The Puck in Toronto's creamy dill. What can I tell you, it's creamy, cooling and tastes like dill. Love that sauce.


ULTRA SUICIDE

This was on the side. This was not ULTRA. It had a bite, but not that hot and I expected to be blown away. Clearly a mix of hot sauce, habanero, and chilis. It had a fresh, bright flavour to it. When I started I was really digging it but after about half the container I just had no interest in it anymore.


SALT & VINEGAR

Well they did what they said - they were salty and they were vinegary, just like the potato chip. But the same problem when I've made these wings, the vinegar just destroys any kind of crispiness that existed in these breaded fried wings. The skin is mushy and if there was larger salt granules, they were absorbed into the vinegar. I don't know how you achieve the flavour without losing the texture though.


HOT HONEY MUSTARD

Wow - way too sweet. Yuck. I couldn't eat it. Not hot at all, just sugary sweet. Hard pass.



FINAL SCORE:

People love these wings. The place was jammed packed and they were all getting wings. I was impressed with all the sauces they have, even if I wasn't crazy about the execution of them all. Creamy Dill was the highlight with Hot Honey Mustard as the lowpoint. Decent sized wings, crunchy, not the freshest all of them, but that might be due to the volume of wings being served on wing night. I will try and go again to sample even more sauces. 9/15




Hooley's Pub
292 Elgin Street
hooleyspub.com

LOTW Meme Monday: Dying for Some Wings





Sunday, 22 July 2018

St Albert's Cheese Fromagerie - St Albert's ON


Not long ago the wife had business in Cornwall and we stayed over night as it was a two day situation. On day two she was going to be done around noon, so we needed a place to grab some lunch. One of her coworkers had mentioned beforehand we should stop in St Albert`s (famous as they supply like almost all the cheese curds in the Ottawa area for poutine) to go to the cheese factory. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so. 

Just to clarify if for some reason you have not had it, or even heard of it, poutine is a French-Canadian dish made up of french fries that are layered with gravy and cheese curds. People add other ingredients like bacon or sausage, but classic poutine is fries, gravy and cheese curds that should be fresh that they squeek when you eat them.


We pulled into the small agricultural town of St Albert in Eastern Ontario. We were immediately reminded that it was a farming community as the smell of freshly laid pig manure dominated the town (it was so strong we could smell it inside the fromagerie itself).


The co-op is a factory, visitor centre, grocery store, ice cream parlour, gift shop, restaurant, and museum all in one.  The place was pretty busy in the middle of the week, but it is summer after all. My goal was to have lunch, have cheese curds, and watch said cheese curds being made. Lunch may or may not include said cheese curds, but cheese curds were going to happen.


St Albert`s is a cheese co-op (one of the oldest in Canada) founded in 1894 by 10 men which is pretty impressive that the operation is still going strong. There was even a fire a few years back, but they are still pumping out all sorts of cheese products.


On the second level is a large observation deck that you can go up and watch the various production facilities at work. They didn't seem to be going full force while we were there, but it was still cool to watch what we did:




We walked around watching the operations, also reading about the educational system of Eastern Ontario for some reason, which made us very hungry. We headed back downstairs to the canteen to get some grub.


The menu is a giant board split into English and French (the founders were French, and a lot of the staff are French too, but all speak English). One section is just specialty poutines some normal like smoked meat (Montreal smoked meat on top) and crazy ones like  Sriracha Pulled Salmon or Sweet Tooth with cinnamon and caramel or chocolate curds on the fries. Crazy!

LJ went with the St Albert Poutine (with ground beef, green pepper and sauteed onion, but she got it without green onion). I splurged on the Crysler Bacon Cheeseburger and upgraded my fries to a classic poutine.


Just before we ordered we saw that they had chicken wings as well. I was forced with a big dilema - do I get wings because I am the Wing King and they have wings and I have an addiction to fill? Or do I go with the bacon cheeseburger with a poutine that I had craved? I went with the latter because I was here for curds and bacon and cheese just sounded too good.


We ordered at the counter and waited for our cafeteria tray - the St Albert Poutine was out quick but mine took a lot longer. They both looked worth the wait ...


LJ's poutine was massive, covered in grilled onions and ground beef with the curds and gravy buried underneath. She was hungry and took most of this down like a pro.


My platter was overwhelming! Big burger, pickle and a lot of poutine. This looked exactly what I was looking for.


The Chrysler burger is grilled on a flattop, as is the strong cheddar cheeese they top it with (you can see the crispy bits above on the bottom part of the cheese, while the top is melted. There are two strips of smoked, thick cut bacon that is that perfect point of crispy but still soft too. It also comes with tomato, lettuce and chopped onion, but any other toppings like ketchup or mayo is available at a condiment dispensing station beside the fountain pop. I just went with mayo to keep it simple.



The burger was good except for the burger. The toppings were fresh, the cheese was great, the bacon was perfect. But the burger patty, well it was tough and over cooked. It was dry and I just didn't feel it. Too bad.


What I really wanted to try was the poutine. Well it didn't disappoint. Crispy fries, and fresh squeaky cheese curds. Yes, they actually squeak when you bite into them. The only thing I wasn't feeling 100% was the gravy, which was actually a little sweet. It was minor and didn't ruin my poutine experience. I couldn't finish it all, so I got a take-out container and had a delicious breakfast the next day.

Over-all, St Alber's Cheese factory was a great experience - it was great to see the free observatory, learn about cheese, and eat some tasty food. We also got some ice cream (Kawartha Dairy!) but the freezers must be not working so well because it was all melty on top. The food was good for the most part - I would pass on the burger and go for a specialty poutine, or wings, next time.


St Albert Cheese
150 St Paul Street, St Albert ON
fromagestalbert.com