Sunday, 27 May 2012

Food Truck Eats - Peller Estate Winery

Food Truck Eats
Peller Estates Winery
290 John Street East
Niagara-on-the-Lake, On


The Toasted Tangerine Truck.
The Toasted Tangerine Menu.
Toasted Tangerine BBQ Pulled Chicken Slider.

Toasted Tangerine Braised Beef Toasted Ravioli.
El Gastronomo Vagabundo Truck.

El Gastro's Menu.

El Gastro's Pescado Picante Taco.

El Gastro's Drunken Monkey.

Blue Doneky Streatery's Menu.

Blue Donkey Truck.

Blue Donkey's Garlic Mayo and Ouzo Fried Calamari Pita.

Caplansky's Menu.
Thunderin' Thelma.
Caplansky's BBQ Brisket Sliders and Reuben Spring Rolls.
Beaver Tails Truck.

Beaver Tails' Banana Chocolate.

In her opinion:
What a great idea...combining wine and food trucks.  Food Truck Eats and Peller Estates Winery joined forces to bring together a gourmet extravaganza for 2 days - May 20 and 21, 2001.  For these two days, the beautiful back lawn of Peller Estates Winery was transformed into a sort of food truck heaven - 16 food trucks from Canada and the USA were paired with 16 awesome wines from Peller Estates.

The admission cost was $15 dollars for person 19 and older.  This gave you event admission, a souvenir Govino glass and a glass of wine. Food and beverage were sold the day of the event.  The winery was selling water or soft drinks at $1.00 each and 5-oz. glasses of wine at $5.00 each.  

When we got to the winery at around 12:30pm on the first day of this event, it was bustling with people and the line-ups were starting to get long. We purchased our drink tickets right away.  We then hit our first food truck - The Toasted Tangerine.  This food truck produces some pretty amazing street food.  We opted for the BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich and the Braised Beef Toasted Ravioli. The sandwich had a gorgeous pineapple habanero slaw on top of the succulent BBQ chicken.  Just absolutely delicious.  The ravioli was served with an Italian herb dipping sauce. I've had their spinach and ricotta toasted ravioli and loved them but these braised beef were just outstanding. So good.

Next we hit another of our favourites, El Gastronomo Vagabundo! No one makes fish tacos like these guys and trust me they did not disappoint.  We ordered "Pescado Picante Taco", it is described on their menu as a tempura cod, smoked tomato and habanero aioli, red cabbage and green apple slaw, tarragon dressing and fresh lime.  I describe it as heaven.  So delicious.  For a little dessert we ordered a "Drunken Monkey".  This was a banana fritter with hometown smoked chocolate and tequila ice cream and candied jalapeno. I loved this flavour combo.  The banana was incredible and the ice cream provided the right amount of flavour and heat. Very nice.

We stopped at the Blue Donkey Streatery next for our absolutely favourite pita on earth - the "Garlic Mayo and Ouzo Fried Calamari Pita".  Oh my goodness...this is heaven in a pita. This is fried calamari wrapped in a pita with fries and garlic ouzo mayo sauce. So good.

Caplansky's was our next stop.  This is Zane Caplansky's Thunderin' Thelma truck full of good deli food.  We ordered their BBQ Brisket Sliders and the Reuben Spring Rolls.  The sliders were absolutely delicious. Tender BBQ brisket with a delicious slaw on top.  I love these little bundles of goodness.  The spring rolls were also very good...who would have thought that a reuben sandwich filling of corned beef, sauerkraut and swiss cheese could go so nicely in a spring roll. It was topped with a delicious mustard.  I really enjoyed these rolls.

Well, as you may have guessed after all this deliciousness and two glasses of Peller Estates Ice Cuvee and one of their Ice Cuvee Rose, I was really full. However, we still managed to find a little room for Beaver Tails Toronto's Banana Chocolate Beaver Tail. These are as Canadian as Canadian can be! Whole-wheat dough that is stretched and shaped like a beaver tail. Fried and topped with chocolate (nutella) and sliced banana.  OMG people!  Very very good and the perfect ending to a perfect day spent at one of my favourite places...Peller Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This event was two home runs in one. Suresh Doss is a genius for planning this event. Basically, any Food Truck Eats event is amazing but to pair it with a winery and not just any winery but an awesome winery like Peller Estates is outstanding. I'm only sorry that I didn't get to try the offerings from the US food truck, the Roaming Buffalo or even the new Canadians on board like Buster's Sea Cove, Gourmet B1tchesDobro Jesti or Hank Daddy's Barbecue

In his opinion:
I love food trucks a lot but I must admit that the line-ups are a put off for me. At all the food truck events that we have been, the line-ups get out of control very quickly and as much as I love the "Neopolitan", lining up for 40 minutes to get a grilled cheese from Gorilla Cheese is not my idea of fun.

At this event, Peller Estates had limited the tickets to 3000 per day, so much better than the free for all shows we experienced in Toronto. Having said that, one hour into it and it was so busy that it looked as bad as any other food truck show out there.

With my wine tickets in hand and a hunger that seemed to be taking over me completely, I set out to feed that hunger as quickly as I could. We hit our favourites first, Toasted Tangerine for BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich, Fish Tacos from El Gastronomo Vagabondo and Blue Donkey for their amazing Calamari Pita.   

While we were trying out the favourites, unfortunately the American food trucks were creating quite the following and the line ups were again out of control. We then made our way to Caplansky's for the BBQ Brisket Sliders (another favourite) and decided that it was a good time to find some shade. The sun was out in full force and since we had our little man with us, we decided to take advantage of the few square feet of shade under the trees.
Oddly as the food settled in our stomachs, we started to feel very full and realized that there may be only room for dessert after all. There were so many trucks we had not tried but it had to be left for another time.

I rushed to the Beaver Tails truck (coincidently it had the shortest line-up) and got myself a Beaver Tail covered with chocolate and banana. It was delicious and definitely hit the spot without putting us over the "full" limits. Special mentions also goes out to Tangerine's braised beef ravioli and Gastro's Drunken Monkey.

In between all of this, we enjoyed some good wine and also some good bubbly. Peller has now some pretty decent sparkling wine, especially in the form of The Ice Cuvee and Ice Cuvee Rose.

It was an afternoon well spent and the quality of the food and wine were outstanding. Congrats to Peller Estates and Suresh Doss for putting on this event and doing such a great job coordinating it. I saw people there getting turned back because they did not have a ticket, so if you had not previously bought tickets, there was no chance of experience it.

Due to all of the wait times and line-ups, I'm going to have to better assess if we will attend any upcoming food truck shows in the near future. But I will return to Peller, for their amazing wine tastings/tours, their AAA 4 diamond award restaurant and of course their chef Jason Parsons.

Peller Estates on Urbanspoon El Gastronomo Vagabundo @ Flat Rock Cellars on Urbanspoon Caplansky Deli Truck (Thundering Thelma) on Urbanspoon Blue Donkey Streatery on Urbanspoon

Monday, 21 May 2012

Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe

Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe
286 James Street North
Hamilton, Ontario


In her opinion:
I love Portuguese food. There are lot of different ethnic cuisines that I like and appreciate but Portuguese is still my favourite. What can I's just returning to my roots. I can't believe that I hated this type of food as a kid, oh wait I hated all food. So as an adult and food lover, given an opportunity to have a late lunch, early dinner at Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe, I'm in!

We had the place to ourselves, which was fine with us.  Our attentive waitress took our drink orders right away. I had my usual Portuguese standard, a Castello water. She then brought out a bread basket filled with the freshest papo secos I've had in a while...okay, at least a week and Becel margarine. Our son clearly appreciated the bread basket since he ate more than half of it himself.

We ordered the "Grilled Calamari" to share as a starter. It is described on the menu as "grilled calamari served with a lemon garlic marinade". 

This calamari was super tender and delicious.  So good!  The lemon garlic marinade was outstanding.  It added the perfect flavour punch to the tender calamari.

For my main course, I ordered the "Bacalhau a Bras".  This is described on the menu as "shredded cod tossed together with shoe string fries and egg".

First, this portion was huge. It was enough to easily feed 2 or 3 people.  The flavour was very familiar. It was very good. Not as refined as the bacalhau a bras that I had this past winter at Chiado but delicious in its own right. The egg was mixed perfectly into the dish. The cod was nicely flavoured and the onion, garlic and potatoes were cooked to perfection. They added the right amount of flavour and balance to this traditional Portuguese dish.

I absolutely love Wild Orchid Restaurant and Cafe.  It's our go to Portuguese place in Hamilton.  We will definitely be returning to this great Portuguese restaurant.

In his opinion:
Portuguese eateries are still at a premium in Ontario cities, even in the cities with large Portuguese populations like Toronto, Mississauga and Cambridge.
Portuguese cuisine does not have the same fame or appeal as Italian or French food and most people probably can't name two Portuguese dishes if they tried.
Oddly enough, most of the many travellers that have taken the time to visit Portugal will rave about Portuguese cuisine and it is always being named Western Europe hidden gem.

Why is it that is so hard to find good Portuguese restaurants around? Well, I don't have an answer for that but what I can say is that Wild Orchid fills the gap in this department. It's unassuming, traditional and with the expected European décor inside. Above it all, it lets the food speak for itself.

We have been to this establishment a few times and food is always consistent and very good. Actually, it seems that every time we are in Hamilton, we develop a craving for Portuguese food and Wild Orchid seems to be the chosen venue to kill the craving. This time we had the place to ourselves (cravings come at unsual dining times), and as we sat down and started to browse the Menu, I had an instant craving myself. Portuguese "Pork with Clams"..."Carne de porco a Alentejana"! I knew it even before I browsed the appetizers this would be my entrée (more to come about this lovely Portuguese traditional dish later).

For starters, we ordered the very famous and delicious grilled squid (calamari) with a lemon garlic marinade. It was served with some salad and was extremely tender and very flavourful. I myself am a big fan of calamari but prefer the "non-breaded kind", much like it is served traditionally in Portugal, on the grill with just a drizzle of olive oil. This calamari nevertheless was exquisite, with the lemon in the marinade complementing the grill taste to make it just right. It's the type of appetizer I could have everyday and all day!

Okay, now for the Pork with Clams. I know at first this may not seem like the perfect combination, and might even throw a few people off with this mixture of pork and seafood. Trust me, when I tell you that you would be making a huge mistake not venturing into this land and sea adventure. It is one of Portugal's most traditional dishes (and it's not even cod), and one of the dishes that is done consistently throughout the country, as well. The saltiness of the clams offset the "sweetness" and richness of the pork so well and the broth just ties it together perfectly. It is served with fried cubed potatoes and a squeeze of garlic for good measure. As I write this (and this happens often) I wish I was eating this dish right now and must plan my trip to Hamilton very soon.

We ended up not having any room for dessert. As you know, Portuguese restaurants are also know for their generous portions and I called it a day with a full belly and even some leftover cod to take home.

The Good: Great Portuguese restaurant serving flavourful food, in great portions and keeping it traditional. Also there is a small patio up front, great for drinks and they are showcasing Sangria right now.
The Bad: It is not around the corner from my house and that's definitely a drawback :( but in all seriousness, not much bad to mention except that the desert menu is almost non-existent.
The Verdict: Go and try it and you won't be disappointed. It's not Chiado or Adega so don't expect that and take it for what it really is, a great traditional Portuguese restaurant that serves great tasting food.

Wild Orchid Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Curry in A Hurry - Cambridge

Curry in a Hurry
14 Queen Square
Cambridge, Ontario


In her opinion:
I was so excited as a drove by on Queens Square and caught a glimpse of the store front which read Curry in a Hurry.  I made Edgar turn around to get a take out menu.  I even went into work (Friday, May 4, 2012) and shared my joy with a fellow Indian food lover. Wow, talk about a let down.

We ordered two dinner entrees.  "Chicken Curry" and "Butter Chicken" were our picks.  The "Chicken Curry" is described as chicken in a seasoned curry sauce in their take-out menu. And the "Butter Chicken" is described as chicken marinated in ginger, garlic, and yogurt, cooked with butter and cream. We picked rice and bread as our side dishes. You get one side with each dinner entree.

Well, as I alluded to in my intro, this was very disappointing. The amount of food that we got was ridiculous for the price. We could have gone to Modern Indian and had all you could eat for about the same price. The taste of the food was also quite disappointing. Another reason to have gone to Modern Indian...I know it's not a favourite with the East Indian populations but for me the food tastes great. The curry and the butter chicken sauce tasted almost identical. Hey folks, I love Indian food and know that this is not suppose to be the case. The naan bread looked like it came from a package rather then a tandoori oven. The rice was simply white rice with peas in it. There was no flavour.

I will not be ordering from Curry in a Hurry again. It's a shame that this Indian place in West Galt didn't work out...but oh well, the drive to Hespeler Road, Brantford or Kitchener is not that far.

Multiply this plate times 2 for $27.00...definitely not cheap.
In his opinion:
My excitement from having an Indian place open up just down the street from your house was quite high. I myself, was very happy to be able to pick up some Indian food without having to drive too far, and at a moments notice. Enter Curry in a Hurry...the small chain of Indian food that seems to be in every town I visit. I had previously tried Curry in a Hurry in Guelph and although it was not an out of this world experience, was good enough to kill my Indian food cravings.

I walked in, browsed the menu for a few minutes and was greeted by a very nice man that was ready to take my order.The menu contains the usual suspects for entrées (butter chicken, curry goat, chicken or beef, chicken Korma and Vindaloo). There are also appetizers ranging from Pakora, Samosas to Papadum and Humus.

One of the questions that I was asked when ordering all my dishes was if I wanted it mild, medium or hot. That worried me because how can you consistently keep your food authentic when you have such a variation of spice. Seemed to me like it was Indian for "foreigners", trying to cater to bland taste buds. I like to taste food as it is originally made and if it's too hot or too bland, it's ok as long as it maintains the traditional taste.

I ordered butter chicken and chicken curry and to tell you the truth, the portions were very small for the price. They were supposedly dinner portions at $11.50 and $10.75 respectively, and were barely enough for one person. The taste was the most disappointing part of it all, as I barely could tell which one was which. The butter chicken wasn't creamy and the spice was very bland. The chicken curry was just as disappointing as the spice wasn't curry like at all and without any type of spice to it. Again the portions were small and disappointing overall. As if the ordeal was not going downhill enough, the naan bread looked like the type you buy at the grocery store, bland, pancake shaped and dull.

I would hope this was just an off day for this establishment but unfortunately I don't think so. I would like to try some other stuff to be able to complete my opinion and give it one more chance but 3 out of 3 bad things selected make me weary of repeating this restaurant. Given the amazing Indian food choices within 10-20 minutes of this establishment, one would have to be very hard up for Indian food, to choose this establishment as a choice for a meal. I can't recommend this place based on my experience eating their food. Sadly, I will be in a "hurry" to miss it. 

Curry In A Hurry on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 May 2012

LA Franks

LA Franks
104 Water Street
Cambridge, Ontario


In her opinion:
LA Frank's is the first sign of spring in Cambridge.  As soon as the nice weather hits LA Frank's opens its doors from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm weather permitting.  This little gem has been in business for 20 years and was recently featured in the KW record. We think of it as our warm weather go to spot.  It's next to the river which makes it a favourite with our little man.  

So, on our first visit of this 2012 season we decided to blog about this hot dog stand on steroids. LA Frank's has a hot dog menu with an extensive specialty topping menus.  The same thing exists for burgers and french fries. The have quite a few specialty malted milkshakes to pick from as well. And finally lets not forget their huge ice cream menu which happens to be 1/2 off at the moment.

Today I decided to order the "Big Blue 1/4 pound hot dog".  It is described on their menu as J.M. Schneider hot dog with blue cheese sauce, tomato and bacon.

This hot dog was so delicious. The blue cheese sauce is not overpowering.  The tomato adds the right amount of freshness and well, everything tastes better with bacon on it.  So good.  I will definitely be having another of these big guys this summer.

We also order something new from their menu to share. We ordered the "BBQ Pork Poutine".  This was a lovely medium sized fries covered with grated cheddar / mozzarella cheese, gravy and topped with BBQ pulled pork.

We've tried quite a few pulled pork poutines and I have to say that this poutine at LA Frank's was by far the best within the Ontario borders. Their fresh cut fries made the difference and the pulled BBQ pulled pork was just exceptional. I loved it.

I really do love LA Frank's.  It's our little beach shack on the river. Give it a try. You will definitely like it!!!

In his opinion:
Sometimes I wonder what to do with all that Canadian Tire money that I accumulate. I could just go to Canadian Tire and buy something I don't really need, but here is a better idea. Use it at LA Frank's. Yes, LA Frank's the seasonal Food/Ice Cream spot located in downtown Galt takes Canadian Tire money at par, how cool is that?

This place is one of our favourite spots for a quick bite in Cambridge, and judging by the line-ups every time we go there, it's everyone else's favourite as well. It's ideal location on the banks of the Grand River and near the picturesque Mill Race Park, contribute to the great experience that is eating at this so called "concession booth". One of the owner's Blair Bender, that used to own Cafe 13, started this business to give his kids a chance to make money for school and they haven't look back since. Now, in it's 20th year it's extremely popular and going stronger than ever.

The menu is extensive and offers a tremendous choice of hot dogs, burgers, shakes, ice cream and fries. You won't find any "home made" type of burgers there, but it is excellent quality and the fries are hand cut, which is a plus.

I myself love their burgers and crave them quite often. It is a nonsense, soft and juicy patty, on fresh bread with fresh toppings and condiments. This time around I had the "Big Blue Burger" (with blue cheese and bacon) and it was impeccable. The buns are super soft, the patty is buttery and spongy and the blue cheese gave it the extra texture to balance the fluffiness of the patty. It is one of those mouthwatering burgers at first sight, and lives up to the expectations with taste and flavours.

I also ordered the BBQ pork poutine and that is a definite winner in my books. The fries are fresh, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and the topping of BBQ pork just elevates it to the next level. The seasoning of the pork is perfect, giving the extra taste to the fries but never overpowering the original fresh fries taste. They also have many other "toppings" for the fries besides BBQ pork, like chunky chili and cheese and perogie and baked potato fries, just in case you are not the original fries type of person.

Their shakes are legendary and offer a great selection as well like, "Black and White" (chocolate/French vanilla with honey, milk and rich Belgium chocolate sauce) and "Choco Bananarama" (chocolate banana).

Basically,  this is the type of place you would find right on an ocean shore, but here, without the ocean and with a river instead. It is a staple for all who love a quick burger/hot dog and don't want to start their own BBQ. From early spring to mid fall, LA Frank's will be serving up tasty treats to all that make their way to downtown Galt in Cambridge. A must try for the outdoors lovers and those that appreciate "quick backyard food " in a totally different way. 

*Just a reminder that they have amazing ice cream and don't forget your Canadian Tire money.....

LA Franks on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Buster's Sea Cove

Buster's Sea Cove
93 Front Street
Toronto, Ontario


Clam Strips and Fries.

Fried Calamari.

In her opinion:
I love St. Lawrence Market.  So any opportunity I get to wander around and pick up some delicious food, I take it.  On Cinco de Mayo we decided to visit the market. We arrived as many of the stalls were finishing the lasts of their sales.  We picked up a few things and as we were wandering around we noticed the long line up at Buster's Sea Cove. That could only mean one thing...this place was good.

We decided to pick up a little snack to tide us over until dinner. We had every intention of going to Grand Electric for dinner to keep with the Cinco de Mayo theme of the day.  We ordered the fried calamari and the fried clam strips with fries.

When they finally called out our order number, I was surprised by the amount of food that we were presented with.  The calamari would have been enough.  The calamari and the clams were both served with seafood sauce and lemon on the side.  The calamari was so incredibly delicious. Not rubbery and super fresh.  I loved it. The fried clams were also very good.  A little over fried for my taste but you could still taste the clam flavour. The fries were of the frozen variety but still very good.

Overall, I liked Buster's Sea Cove.  The seafood is excellent. As a result of how delicious our little snack was, we ended up heading home since we were too full and not up to the line ups at Grand Electric!

In his opinion:
This place has line-ups all day long. What's the big deal you might ask? It's mostly known for fish and chips and the menu is a mix of grilled or deep fried seafood, with that "out East" flavour. Well...that's exactly the reason it makes this place so popular.

With limited seating and constant line-ups you would think this place would be a pass for most people strolling the south side of the St Lawrence Market. You would be wrong. The selections are immense and there is something for everyone on their menu. The smiling faces of the customers as they pick up their order says it all.

We ordered the "Fried Calamari" and the 'Fried Clams with Fries". The clams were just ok as they were over fried and too crispy for my taste. The calamari was to die for, super tender and just lightly breaded like I prefer. They must change the dipping sauce for it because the "shrimp ring" cocktail sauce does nothing to enhance this tasty sea creature.

When at the Market, this place is a must for the seafood lover. Don't expect Red Lobster but if you want a tasty and quick fix to your seafood cravings this place is it.

Buster's Sea Cove on Urbanspoon