Monday, 15 April 2019

LOTW Meme Monday = Vertumnus Eating Veggies with Wings



It's like a whole body clense ... with blue cheese dressing.

#nonwingsunday = Pizza Quesadilla


That was a good lunch. Excellent way to use up leftovers.

Friday, 12 April 2019

BRAMPTON AUTHENTIC INDIAN FOOD - Ottawa ON


When thinking about chicken wings, I think most people basically think take-out pizza or a sports bar. But you never know where you are going to find them on the menu.


A few years ago, I saw a post on Ottawa Foodies, a local food site that emphasizes good food & experiences rather than negative one. I read about an Indian take-out joint that was doing Tandoori Chicken Pizza, and it looked really good. Brampton Authentic Indian Food. I remember checking out their menu online and saw wings, but never followed up on it.

Well, a few months ago we moved to a neighbourhood and we are now like 5 minutes away. My lunch was wide open, so I decided to take a chance and get some wings from a place I would never expect wings from.



I checked their menu online before I went just to make sure. Although it's a restaurant, I know they do have meat dishes like a deli that you can cook at home, and I didn't want to get raw marinated wings. Well they had two types of wings under their appetizers: Chicken Wings, and Desi Style Chicken Wings. The regular wings sounded good, but the Desi-style seemed kicked up a notch, with deep frying, sauces and all the other sides. Desi, if you are not aware, is an Indian word for the people from the Indian sub-continent. I called up and asked for an order of the Desi-style wings, and was told about 15-20 minutes. Nice.


Whenever I've passed by I've never been quite sure what to make of Brampton Authentic Indian Food. The building looks more like a wholesale mini-warehouse when driving by, but when I came up close I noticed the windows have pictures of the food. There were guys loading or unloading from a van out front so I had to time my jump inside like a mini Frogger adventure. Inside, I noticed a very large display case with so many colourful and delicious looking Indian desserts. Actually the signs out front both have the name Brampton Indian Sweets, and Brampton Indian Foods, almost like it was two different businesses, but it is one. Speaking of the name, I find it humorous that they call themselves Brampton, a suburb city in the Greater Toronto Area known for it's large Desi population, so much so that Indian friends call it "Brown Town" instead of Brampton.

The inside is very white - the floors are white, the walls are white, the ceiling is white. To the right is the sweets and service counter; to the left and up some stairs is a small sitting area. While you can sit there, this really is much more of a take-out place, or I think they do a lot of catering as well.


When I walked in the girl behind the counter pulled up my waiting food and called me by name. There were a number of take-out orders waiting to be picked up, but as the only white guy (with a very white name) I'm sure I stuck out as the obvious intended customer.

I paid and took my order back to the car. The wings were wrapped in tinfoil, in a Styrofoam clam-shell, in a plastic bag. A little environmentally unfriendly with all the packaging, and I felt a little guilty.


I opened the bag, and the clam-shell, and peeled back the tinfoil to discover the most colourful and unexpected wing experiences ever!


Both types of chicken wings come in orders of 10, so I got an order of 10. I opened them and at first, I couldn't see wings for all of the peppers, onions and more peppers.


Like that's a lot of peppers and onions. Red peppers, yellow peppers, green peppers. Purple onions. The colours! They were all quite soaked in their sauce and spices. I don't know how exactly you are suppose to eat this - I guess with your fingers as you would the chicken wings, but it just feels weird eating it with your hands.


The size of the wings were small to maybe a medium, depending on the wing, but most were small. This was mainly in length.


The wings were breaded and deep fried, meaning they were slightly larger. At one point the wings would have been crispy, but with all the sauce the wings were pretty soggy when I got them. When I took a bite that crispy texture was there, but still really soggy.

The wings were pretty meaty in size, and that meat was pretty tender. The wings pulled apart nicely and I think they were cooked fresh not frozen.


The wings were very very saucy. Every wing, every pepper, every onion was covered in the sauce. Their sauce is described as a mix of Hot sauce and BBQ sauce, mixed with spices and the veggies.


The flavour that came through to me tasted almost like Manchurian chicken that I've had at Chinese restaurants. It's sweet, it's really garlicky, but there's also some heat. It wasn't killer, but there was some stinging lips afterwards. I have to say they were really tasty, but also unique and familiar at the same time.


FINAL SCORE:

I was really glad I tried out Brampton Foods. The wings were a really welcome surprise. They weren't big, and the sauce and the tin foil led the crispy skin to go soggy. But the flavour from the sauce and spices made these really really good. I'm still not sure what to do with all the fresh peppers and onions, but I took them home to eat on their own (obviously I gobbled up all the wings). The sauce was very tasty being garlicky, savoury, sweet, and some heat. I'm now really curious to try their regular wings too. 6.5/14



Brampton Authentic Indian Food
178 Meadowlands Drive W, (Nepean) Ottawa ON
bramptonfoods.ca



#tbt = Unpacked Wing Cookbooks!

Gifts from Florida!


I've broken into the Tajun seasoning - nice lime flavour. And I did a sampling of the Ghost Pepper sauce ... coming soon to a blog near you!

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

DON CHERRY's SPORTS GRILL - Kanata ON

Chicken wings and sports go hand in hand. I don't care for sports, so I'm not super excited about that relationship, but I love wings and I appreciate that the success of chicken wings as a main stream food would not exist without sports. So sometimes I have to suck it up and engage with sports to get wings. That led me to Don Cherry's Sports Grill.


If you are not familiar with Don Cherry, you are probably not Canadian. Probably the biggest sports celebrity in the country (Wayne Gretzky aside) not as an athlete, but as the flashy (gotta see his jackets and ties) and very opinionated hockey commentator who for decades has been co-host of Hockey Night in Canada. I don't care much for Don, I don't like his politics, beliefs or his personal opinions, but he's great at his hockey job.

Over 20 years ago he started his own chain of sports bars. Growing up I had never heard of them, and it wasn't until about 2007 when LJ came to Ottawa that I learned about them. There were about 3 in the Ottawa area ... now there is one. It's a chain that I think has had issues and I assumed they had gone almost out of business. There are almost 20 locations around the country, but I question how the franchise is run when I see there is no consistent e-mail for the restaurants. Some of them use Gmail, Rogers, Yahoo and even Hotmail accounts (Hotmail!), some are hotels address ( I assume the sports bars are embedded within the hotels) and one e-mail is even another former restaurant! At the start of March I wasn't even sure if the last location nearby was even still open because the website didn't work (but since last month has relaunched with a redesign). Then I randomly checked Facebook (I rarely go on Facebook anymore) and saw a post on social media:


 I had been curious to try one of the Don Cherry's for years but never made an effort, and had no plan to go there but after seeing the post that they had wing 'night' all day on Mondays, I thought this was the time to check them out. Plus they claimed to have Ottawa's best wings (funny because they are in Kanata, a suburb town of Ottawa, and not claiming to be the best in Kanata. That's a bold claim on many levels!) so lunch was decided for that day.

The one location left in the Ottawa area is in Kanata at the Hazeldean Mall. It's sepperate from the mall itself except it's in the strip mall part of the parking lot. I was expecting the place to be run down and empty, but I was wrong. The place is huge inside, with lots and lots of seating. The place itself looks nice - not the typical dive sports bar. There is still tons of screens, sports memorabilia, and even one or two of Don's famous jackets.


The location was hopping, a mix of folks from seniors to workers, most of which seemed to be doing breakfast (I was going for early lunch). At least 9 or so table worth of people! The sign when entering says 'Please Wait to Be Seated' but the waitress (didn't get her name and shee was seemingly the only one working) said I could sit anywhere I wanted. There were lots of places to choose, but I chose a nice window table, but it, like all the tables around, were dirty. Crumbs etc. Clearly had not been cleared off the night before or in the morning. Not cool. The waitress came by and took my drink order - I asked for Diet Coke (or Pepsi if I have too) and she said Diet Coke, but then I saw in the menu they had Coke Zero (my preferred pop)! Dang it I should have just asked.


I'm always nervous about online advertised wing specials because more than once I've been burned by an outdated website or online post that said wing night and it wasn't. But I was pretty confident after a morning post, but it wasn't until I went to the washroom at the END of my visit that I saw a the above poster. The waitress came to take my order and immediately took my menu, then asked what I would like. I had to ask if they had wings on and she said yes, but didn't explain it.


I said I would get 2lbs, she asked if I was ok with breaded and I said yes. She asked about the sauces; I knew I was going with Buffalo Butter, but I asked about the Don's Ultimate sauce, which she said was just a really sweet BBQ sauce. Hmpf. I wanted a more nuanced flavour, so I went with Smokey BBQ instead. I also asked about the Wacko Pepper if that was a suicide and she said yes and I asked for a side. This was all done without me having the menu because again, she had taken it away. The menu said you had to ask for ranch or blue cheese, but she turned and walked away without asking if I wanted anything else, so I spoke up, then she turned and almost fell because she was going so quick. She came back and I asked for blue cheese.


I didn't wait long and she brought back a big platter. It all looked very impressive and I was excited for my wing feast. She also brought a bone plate, napkins, and a wetnap. I should also mention free refills on the soft drinks.


There were no celery or carrots with the dip. I asked for blue cheese, but at first when I tasted it I thought it might be ranch, but it was blue cheese. There were some cheese chunks, but this wasn't as sour as other blue cheese dips. It was still good, and I needed it for sure for wing dipping.



The wings come by the pound and the menu states upfront that the number of wings vary as the size of the wings vary. In my case, there were 7 wings in each order, making that 14 wings in total.


The wings were in length ranged from small to large; very inconsistent. The wings are also heavily breaded meaning the size was a little puffed up. That was ok, but a number of the wings were broken or had splintered pieces sticking through, which meant you had to be carefull not to stab yourself or take a bite that would splinter in your mouth.


As I said, these wings had a lot of breading on them, forming a crunchy outer shell. If you are a person who doesn't like breading, these wings are not for you. There were times I would take a bite and not even get chicken. It was very crispy/crunchy - so much so you can hear the crunch when you take a bit. That breading did hold up to the sauce well though.



Some of the meat was tender enough; some were ok to tear apart the bones, but others there was difficulty. The wings were from frozen. The Buffalo Butter wings were pretty well sauced, were wet enought but was partly absorbed into the breading.


The other wings were thickly covered in BBQ sauce (the way they should be). It was a mess to eat (the way wings should be). You are going to need your napkins for sure.


I did my usual for wing nights and got two different flavoured wing orders (Butter Buffalo & Smokey BBQ) with a side of suicide Wacko Pepper.


those white things are not chili but garlic pieces

BUTTER BUFFALO

When I see Butter Buffalo on a menu, I make a few assumptions: 1) That it will be Buffalo Sauce (Cayenne Hot Sauce with vinegar and butter) and 2) When they put butter in the title it's there to emphasize to those who don't know what Buffalo means and that it's not just hot sauce but also butter. That should be it. But this is not the first time I have had in Eastern Ontario a 'butter buffalo' sauce that was all about the garlic.

So this sauce does have hot sauce and butter, but what really stands out is the copious amounts of chopped garlic in it. It's good. The garlic goes well with butter, and hot sauce. It's just not what I expect because Buffalo usually doesn't have garlic. Call this Garlic Butter Buffalo and I'm cool with that, but you can't just add a significant ingredient that drastically alters a sauce and keep the old name.



SMOKEY BBQ

This is exactly what I want when I order a Smokey BBQ sauced wing. It's smokey, it's BBQ-y. It's a thick sauce that is savoury and dark, but has more than a hint of smokey. I'd like a little more sweetness to it though.



WACKO PEPPER

This was a familiar flavour to me, like I've had somewhere else before. It had a nice bite, but not brutal or scary as the name suggests. You say Wacko, but do not serve wacko. I like it cause it was peppery, not too thin, not too thick, and just had a nice flavour with the sting. It too was a bit salty though.


No matter the sauce, I found everything pretty salty. And again, that breading was thick and I'm not usually a wing dipper, but I really needed that blue cheese dip to cut through some of the wings. And blue cheese dip is salty, so what does that say?


FINAL SCORE:

Wow, my feelings about this place were all over the map. Waitress was awkward at points and very friendly at others. The place was spacious and nice but the tables were dirty. The wings were small and large, tender and tough. Crunchy breading which was both good and bad. The sauces were good, Butter Buffalo being garlicy was unexpected, the BBQ was dark and smokey, and the Wacko Pepper was peppery good with a bit of bite. I'm in no rush to go back, but I would go back, but only for wings on Monday wing days.



Don Cherry's Sports Grill
320 Eagleson Road, Kanata ON (and other locations)
doncherryssportsgrill.com


Monday, 8 April 2019

LOTW Meme Monday - He-Man Happy Hour Wings





ME: By the Power of Grayskull, I WANT CHEAP WINGS!!!
WAITER: Mwahahahaha!

Thursday, 4 April 2019

MANDARIN - Ottawa ON

So Chinese New Year was last month, and so was this review. Better late than never right?


I've been wanting to do a review of Mandarin for years. Years. But I've often been to nervous to take public photos, or haven't had a camera, or whatever. But having had a cell camera now for a few years changed the game. Then I just didn't want to because when I went I just wanted to eat, short of a photo here and there. Well back in February, I finally made the effort. It was during Chinese New Year and Mandarin was hosting their Dumpling Festival.



Not familiar with Mandarin? It's a Canadian chain of Chinese Buffets that has only recently expanded into the Ottawa region. When I moved to Ottawa for the first time, I was aghast at how bad not only the buffets were, but how bad the Chinese food in general was. I should also point out that this is Canadian Chinese food, not authentic Chinese food. I have lived in Toronto for many years and had access to Chinatown(s) and great Chinese food all around. Mandarin has always been the best Chinese buffet I have been to; that being said, it's not the best Chinese food. But living in Ottawa, having it here has fulfilled my buffet needs.


What is crappy is that the Mandarin's here are $1 more than all the others (and Brampton?). That's B.S. man, total B.S..


Every Mandarin I have been to all look the same, short of very different floor plans. You enter and there are wishing ponds with goldfish, an army of servers at the front welcoming you to the line-up (there's always a line-up) or passing out after-diner mints to those leaving. The ceiling is painted like the sky, the buffet is in the middle with many different stations, with separate dining rooms all around the buffet.


There's lots of North American Chinese food to choose from; lemon chicken, fried noodles, kung pao chicken, general tao chicken, spicy beef, stir fried vegetables, chicken balls, egg rolls, torpedo shrimp, hot & sour soup, and on and on and on. But you can also get sushi. But then there's a bunch of North American food like fries, onion rings, pizza, salads, roast beef, mashed potatoes etc.  Some of it's good, some of it's ok, and some of it is sad. There's one thing though that I can always count on, chicken wings.


It's nothing fancy, but it's an oasis in the chaos.


In many things I am not a creature of habit, but when I go to Mandarin, I almost always start with the above plate. It wasn't until I made the above photo that I realized how half my plate is North American. But dang the onion rings, garlic bread, and dill pickles are so good! The pickle may seem weird, but it adds a zing and a balance to a lot of the fried and sweet food on the plate. Plus it's a vegetable.



Round 2 will be more wings usually, and some mix of some of the same of plate one, or some things that were missed out. On this particular trip since it was the dumpling festival, so I tried one of their special dumplings that is doctored up by a chef on site.


This particular dumpling was pretty blah inside (pork) and was topped with peanuts, green onions and a sauce mixed with soy, sesame, chili oil and a few other things. Even with a request for extra chili oil it was pretty blah. Not bad, but I didn't get another.


Then again, there were lots of wings, why would I?



In general, Mandarin has one kind of chicken wing - crispy fried wings. On some occasions (random as far as I can tell) they have different flavours. I've seen honey garlic a few times, and at one location they had sriracha wings (that was a treat). Mandarin also does take-out too but they don't indicate how many wings come in an order.


Okay, so the wings are small. Sometimes they reach a medium, but generally they are a small wing. Length, width, everything, they are small. They are battered and deep fried, and remind me of every Jar Doo chicken wings on the menu of every Canadian Chinese restaurant I have ever gotten wings.
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The skin is very crispy. The batter is not thick, so it and the skin make for a very nice crispness. The meat is often really tender too. Because they are a popular buffet item, they empty quickly which means they are replenished pretty quick, meaning freshly fried. I have been known to wait around for a fresh batch until I discovered the touch pad on the wall that the buffet attendants use to order more and could see how long a new batch was coming. If only I could use that to send refills to my table.



There's no sauce on these, although you could add various sauces like sriracha or chili sauce or even say red sauce or lemon sauce from other dishes that you want. No these wings are just crispy, salty goodness. These are one of the only wings that I'm down to eat without any sauce. If you like crispy, and you like salty, then these are for you too.



FINAL SCORE:

Every time I go to Mandarin, I start wanting to eat so many plates and 'get my money's worth' but by the end, I don't want to eat Mandarin ever again (although now that I'm older and wiser, I do stop 1-2 plates earlier so as not to feel like puking), and then the next day I'm craving Mandarin again. The highlight for me is always the chicken wings. They aren't big, but they are crispy, hot, tender, and salty good. On the whole, the food is good but it's all about quantity not quality. Except compared to any other Chinese restaurant in the city. I do go mostly for the variety though. And occasionally for desert they have Spicy Chocolate Firecracker ice cream ...  7.5/14



Mandarin Chinese Buffet 
290 West Hunt Club Road, Ottawa (Nepean) ON
mandarinrestaurant.com