Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Peller Estates Winery Event


Peller Estates
290 John Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

The Trucks:
The Feisty Jack
El Gastronomo Vagabundo
Southern Smoke Truck
Itty Bitty Pie Company
Gourmet Gringos
The Roaming Buffalo
Food Man and Culture Boy

The Food:
Chicken Tikka Masala from the Feisty Jack
Tostado de Lengua from El Gastronomo Vagabundo
Texas Style Beef Brisket from Southern Smoke Truck
Buffalo Chicken Savory Pie from Itty Bitty Pie Company
Pork Al Pastor and Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos from Gourmet Gringos
WTF and Pork Belly Sliders from the Roaming Buffalo
Fish Tacos from Food Man and Culture Boy

The Feisty Jack

El Gastronomo Vagabundo

Southern Smoke Truck

In her opinion:
Any opportunity that I get to enjoy food truck food...I jump. I personally think that food trucks are an excellent opportunity to try amazing food. It is important to note that food trucks are not a fad...they are here to stay! They provide fresh and innovative cuisine at a nominal price! I like to describe it as gourmet on the streets! 

It was pretty nice that Peller Estates Winery made it easy for food truck lovers to get their fix by organizing an event and allowing 20 food trucks to park in their backyard. For $15 a person (kids were free) you got entry into the event, a souvenir glass and one drink ticket for one of 20 Peller Estates wines available during Food Truck Eats 2013.

We sampled from seven food trucks which are listed above. Why those trucks? I think for myself, it came down to the size of the line up and whether or not I had tried them before. For my three picks...I chose the Feisty Jack, Itty Bitty Pie Company and Gourmet Gringos.

If I had to pick my favourite item...I would say it was the Buffalo Chicken Pie from Itty Bitty Pie Company. I really enjoyed the flaky crust that contained a flavourful mix of chicken, hot sauce and veggies. The blue cheese sauce on top was perfection. Honourable mentions also go out to the Pork Al Pastor and Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos from Gourmet Gringos. Excellent examples of gourmet tacos...just absolutely delicious.

My least favourite item was the Texas Style Brisket Sandwich from Southern Smoke Truck. The meat wasn't as tender as I like my brisket. The sauce was not that great. It lacked any real flavour in my honest opinion.

This was a great event and a great opportunity to sample different foods from different food trucks. As well, the combination of wine and food truck food was a real winner. Can't wait for next year's Food Truck Eats!

Itty Bitty Pie Company

Gourmet Gringo's

The Roaming Buffalo
Food Man and Culture Boy

In his opinion:
In its second edition, the Food Truck Eats was an event that was highly anticipated and much awaited by all food truck lovers and wine aficionados alike. The beautiful grounds of Peller Estates once again graced and provided the background for this great event. Divided into 2 days, the event had 2 very distinct feelings for each day. On Saturday, the event was from 1 to 6 PM and on Sunday, dubbed the "Night Market", eating under the stars was the concept with some DJ's providing some upbeat sounds in the background.

Last year's Food Truck Eats was such a big success in so many ways so the expectations were high. Buzz about how many trucks and which trucks would be in attendance was circulating through social media and everyone seemed very excited for the event weekend.

We arrived at Peller Estates and were able to secure a parking pass, therefore bypassing having to park in the overflow which was nice. There were plenty of people directing the flow of traffic and pedestrians on the grounds, making the entrance a pleasure. 

After receiving the souvenir glass and drink ticket that are complimentary with the ticket purchase, we walked in to an already vibrant and pretty full venue, even though it was only 7 minutes past the opening time of 6 PM. I must admit that it felt less crowded this year; but it could have been better organization, as you always learn from year to year.

All the food I tried was simply amazing. We only repeated one truck (El Gastronomo Vagabundo) so all others were trucks we had not yet experienced in our other food truck outings. Special mentions to Tostado de Lengua from El Gastronomo Vagabondo, it was simply delicious. The Buffalo Chicken Savoury Pie from Itty Bitty Pie Company was an interesting and marvelous choice, kind of like England meets Buffalo tailgate party flavour. The Pork al Pastor and Beef Cheek Barbacoa tacos were also packed with flavour and amazingly delicious, re-iterating that tacos are a crowd favourite, especially when they are non-conventional ones. Lastly but not least, the always favourite fish tacos, courtesy of Food Man and Culture Boy were a refreshing end to a delectable food truck experience.

Can't wait for next year...

The Roaming Buffalo on Urbanspoon Gourmet Gringos on Urbanspoon Southern Smoke Truck - Southern Style BBQ on Urbanspoon
El Gastronomo Vagabundo on Urbanspoon Peller Estates on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Charcoal Steak House

2980 King Street East
Kitchener, ON


Photo property of  the Sign Depot.

In her opinion:
My nephew recently celebrated his First Communion and the luncheon that followed was at the Charcoal Steak House. We are huge fans of the Charcoal Group and visit their restaurants quite often both for celebrations or everyday dining. So it wasn't too surprising that my brother and sister-in-law choose one of their restaurants to hold my nephews' First Communion luncheon.

When we arrived, we were shown to a private room set up for the 16 guests invited to celebrate my nephews' special day. The room was cozy and perfectly decorated. The service was exceptional. There were 3 servers assigned to our table. They made sure that drink orders were taken care of and water glasses constantly filled.

The menu consisted of three appetizer choices - daily soup, Caesar salad or spinach salad.  I picked the daily soup which was a carrot ginger soup.

This soup was thick...not baby food consistency thick but thick enough. The flavour of the carrot was the star of the soup with a little complimentary flavour note provided by the ginger. It was served with a couple of toasted pieces of focaccia bread. All in all a very good soup for a Spring day.

We also had a choice of three mains to pick from - the sirloin steak, brie stuffed chicken or trout with quinoa.  I opted for the sirloin steak which was served with mash potato and roasted veggies (beets and carrots) and green beans.

I had asked for my steak to be cooked medium and it arrived cooked to perfection. It was well seasoned. The mash potatoes were fluffy and flavourful; as were the carrots and green beans. But for me, the star on the plate besides the meat and potatoes were the roasted beets. I am a sucker for a good roasted beet and these were no exception. Sweet and succulent. Really really good main.

For dessert we were served the First Communion cake which was sliced and served by the Charcoal but not made by the Charcoal. It was made by Lina's Speciality Cakes

I was impressed that the Charcoal allowed an outside vendor's product to be served. This illustrates how easy they are to work with for those special occasions. 

Overall, I thought that the food and service was excellent. As it always is afterall. The Charcoal Steak House is an institution in Kitchener-Waterloo and it is easy to see why.

In his opinion:
It may seem strange that with all my visits to the Charcoal Steak House through the years, I seldom remember having actual steak, the dish they are known and famous for in our region. I know I have had it at some point, but the menu always seems to evoke a different tasty delight in every visit.

This time we were there for a first communion event , admittedly different than a romantic dinner a deux! Would the service, food and overall experience be of the same caliber as we are used to in the dining room? Good questions that were about to be answered.

We had a private room waiting for the event attendees and we were led to it by a wonderful hostess that ensured everyone was following her, from the front all the way to the room. Tables were nicely set-up as expected with the same feel and ambiance as if you were in the main dining room.

I glimpsed at the menu that was specifically prepared for this event, including a picture of the "boy of the day" himself, which was a nice touch by the way. All the options, seemed great and appetizing not making my job of choosing easy. I opted for the spinach salad to start and the brie stuffed chicken for my entree.

The salad was fresh with fresh spinach, a light vinaigrette dressing and apples sliced thinly throughout. It was delicious and I particularly liked the lightness and not overpowering taste of the vinaigrette. The staff were always there for any needs and were efficient but not rushing in their control of the finished plates.

The brie stuffed chicken was perfectly done. The skin was packed with flavour and just crispy enough to offset the moist tender meat beneath it. It was a delight at every bite and I kept wishing it wouldn't end. It was served with lightly roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.

The Good: Great atmosphere whether you are in the dining room or a private room. The food and service were good, delivering on their promises. The staff were very attentive and made the group feel special.
The Bad: The drawback of being there for an event with a set menu is that it excludes you from the rest of the menu, which is a shame.
The Verdict:The great reputation of Charcoal Steak House is present even in a small gathering as this one. Staff was great, the food was impeccable and made for a great event. Highly recommended for small events.

I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

Charcoal Steak House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Food Truck Eats - Peller Estates 2013

Food Truck Eats - Peller Estates 2013
Peller Estates Winery
290 John Street East
Niagara-On-The-Lake, ON

1-888-673-5537 ext. 2

Photo property of Peller Estates

Just wanted to let everyone know about the Food Truck Eats event taking place at Peller Estates this long weekend. It's on Saturday, May 16, 2013 (1pm to 6pm) and Sunday, May 17, 2013 (6pm to 10pm). I believe that the Saturday, May 16, 2013 event is already sold out but tickets are still available for Sunday, May 17, 2013. 

Tickets are $15 per person (children are welcome and they are free) and include a souvenir event glass and a glass of wine.

This is a great opportunity to experience 20 Food Trucks + 20 Wines in a great lively environment.

Don't miss out on the biggest food truck event in Canada!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Triana Tapas and Flamingo

251 Racinto Sur
San Juan, Puerto Rico


In her opinion:
On this particular night in San Juan, proximity to our condo was a major deciding factor in our dinner choices. As we walked across the square filled with music, people and the smells of street food, we knew exactly where we were going...Triana Tapas and Flamingo.

We were greeted by a young inexperienced host who showed to two different tables before we were served. He brought us three glasses of water and disappeared. After about ten minutes of waiting we summoned him over and asked him about the paella and if it would actually take 45 minutes to prepare. He was unsure and thought it would only take 25 minutes. We told him we were ready to order so he sent our waitress over who never introduced herself. But was good enough to tell us that the paella took 45 minutes to much for that.

We ordered a 1/2 jug of traditional sangria and checked over the menu again. She brought out a basket with three warm buns and the most delicious house-made garlic butter to nibble while we looked over the menu. She quickly brought out the sangria which was reminiscent of the ones I had had in Spain. Good flavour and it went down easily.

We decided on tapas. I picked two and Edgar picked two and we would share. For my picks, I chose "Fabada Asturiana" and "Camarones al Ajillo".

Fabada Asturiana is Asturian beans and sausage. Very similar to the Portuguse style of beans with linguica. These were extremely tasty, although, I must say that the portion was rather small for the price (but that seemed to be the theme with this place).

I love shrimp and garlic and these definitely did not disappoint. They had large pieces of garlic in the sauce and the shrimp themselves were large and perfectly only complaint was that you only got 4 shrimps with an order...definitely not enough to satisfy a shrimp craving!

I also shared "Chorizos al Vino" (Spanish Sausage in Wine) and "Callos Madrilenos" (Tripes in Slightly Spicy Sauce). The sausage in wine was delightful. I really enjoyed this typically Spanish dish. The tripes in sauce was a little stretch for me. As a child, I would watch my mother cook this and I was turned off completely...but I was brave and had some of this is different from the Portuguese dish as it is cooked with chick peas rather then white beans...but it still had the sausage in it and it was rather delicious!

Overall, it was a very nice complaint was the fact that it was expensive for what you actually got but that is life!

In his opinion:
At first glance this place screams tourist trap, with its hostess dressed as a flamenco dancer and the front door adorned with Spanish memorabilia, mostly artifacts from Seville and its Flamenco motif. As you walk in, the very spacious room opens up to a lot more Spanish style sights and trinkets. From fake Spanish balconies to Flamenco outfits and Real Madrid Football scarves, there is a little bit of Spain in every corner.

The appeal here is definitely the daily tapas and the Flamenco shows that run Fridays and Saturdays. On those days it is hard to find an empty seat throughout the day and night. It seems kind of confusing as those two are from very different parts of Spain but it goes well with the "confused", everywhere in Spain motif of the restaurant. 

We ordered half a Sangria pitcher which was pretty traditional but lacking the usual "punch" that you would find in traditional Spanish or Portuguese Sangrias. Nevertheless, it was perfect for a hot evening in San Juan, quenching our thirst quite well. The bread was served to us still warm from baking, with an extremely tasty garlic butter that made for the perfect spread.

For my tapas choices, I decided on "Chorizo al Vino" and "Callos Madrilenos". The "Chorizo" (Spanish sausage) in wine was absolutely delicious with curled up slices of chorizo cooked to perfection and a healthy dose of wine breathing through its pores. This tapas dish was very fulfilling and reminiscing of some of my favourite chorizo dishes.

For my second tapas dish, I ordered Callos Madrilenos, a typical winter dish in Spain which consists of cow tripe cooked in a spicy sauce. I'm a sucker for a good plate of tripe, reminiscing of my younger days in Europe where this dish is a staple in many households. This tripe was well cooked, great consistency but lacked a bit in flavour. Being coked in a "slightly spicy sauce", you would think that the flavours would be abundant but it was quite the opposite. Although well prepared and cooked but lacking in flavour.

The Good: If you are in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico looking for a Flamenco show and some tastes of Spain in the form of tapas this might be the place for you. 
The Bad: Mostly distasteful decorations and staff that wasn't engaged at all makes for a long night, especially if on day without the "show".
The Verdict: There are many other choices that come to mind for a good meal, better tapas even in San Juan than this restaurant. Having said that, it wasn't a bad experience overall but lacked a bit in every aspect of a good experience. Serves the "clueless" tourist very well... 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Toro Salao

367 Calle Tetuan
San Juan, Puerto Rico


In her opinion:
I couldn't have asked for a better first meal in San Juan! We were not sure where we wanted to eat our first supper so we just started walking and walking and walking unto we got into the SoFo area of Old San Juan. There we were greeted by a slew of after the other with menus outdoing themselves as we went along the street.

After much perusing we decided on Toro Salao...a tapas place with a great outdoor seating area. We were shown to our seats on the patio by the awesome Daniel.

Our waitress Nicole was equally awesome and attentive. I asked for a glass of water and the Ibiza Sangria Fizz.

This was a white citrus sangria. It was light and refreshing. I really enjoyed this glass of sangria which help highlight my food choices.

We decided to order a few tapas to share. We ordered "Batas Bravas con Aioli de Chorizo", "Croquetas de Bacalao con aioli de limon" and a "Coca Mediterranea".

We have had batas bravas in Spain in many different shapes and sizes but this version was spectacular. It was so tasty due to the chorizo aioli which added an unexpected flavour kick. 

Being of Portuguese culture; salted cod runs in out veins and I was a little hesitant to try a salted cod dish on a Caribbean island. But I have to say...I was not disappointed! These croquettes were incredibly delish. Crispy on the outside with a delectable soft centre. The "aioli de limon" was the perfect accompaniment!

The "coca Mediterranea" was the feature Spanish flatbread pizza for the night - it consisted of hummus, shrimp, chorizo, spinach, red onion and feta cheese. It was so incredibly good! I'm glad that our fabulous waitress, Nicole really described how good this was.

The manager, Violeta came out to talk to us about the restaurant and how it is a part of a 6 restaurant group including Dragonfly and Aguaviva. Her enthusiasm is unwavering. She is a fabulous spokesperson for this restaurant group.

As Nicole delivered our bill, she also delivered a delicious "Espresso Cheesecake" compliments of the house for us to take home. This was delectable. We couldn't have asked for a better first night restaurant. We felt truly welcomed by the Puerto Rican food scene...what a great start to a wonderful holiday!

The Food:

In his opinion:
As it happens in most of our travels, our dining choices usually come from a combination of prior research and also just wondering the streets perusing and talking to locals. Toro Salao had come up in our research and was in the back of our minds as we strolled the streets of Old San Juan. In this section of a few blocks of this lovely city, the possibilities for dining are truly infinite with choices for everyone and restaurant that cater to both the food lover or the tourist/cruise ship type.

Toro Salao is part of a company that runs 6 restaurants in the area but on this day our attraction to this restaurant had a lot to do with one word...tapas. Oh yes... those "appetizer" size portions of delicious food that make up such a big part of the Spanish food scene. How true to Spanish tapas can a restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico be?

I always make a point to not compare the tapas that I'm about to try to some amazing food nights that I have had in both Madrid and Barcelona. But it is hard not to. Nevertheless I try to remain unbias as much as possible. Toro Salao is located in the middle of a bustling street of good restaurants and of course, Starbucks.

The staff was great, starting with Daniel that was so courteous to us even when we were just walking by, undecided on where to eat. He was equally helpful as we returned to make Toro our stop for the evening and made us feel right at home. Our server Nicole was also very attentive and quickly took our drink orders. Having had a "fun" day already in the land of Bacardi, I opted for a regular coke as the walk back was still significant.

The food choices were obviously tapas and we ordered one of our favourite tapas, "Batatas Bravas". We also ordered "Croquetas de Bacalao" and we were sold on the night's special, "Coca Mediterranea" that sounded very appealing from Nicole's description. Coca is in actuality a Spanish Pastry with a variety of toppings but the final results look a lot like a pizza. The batatas bravas were delicious...the Aioli de chorizo  sauce although different than the more traditional paprika based sauce, was excellent in its own right.

The croquetas de bacalao is something I'm very familiar with and part of my Portuguese heritage cuisine. This one was lightly battered on the outside, full of flavour on the inside and the aioli de limon was a perfect pairing for it.
The Coca Mediterranea was quite the highlight. The portion was very generous, the toppings were fresh and flavourful from the chorizo, red onion, feta cheese to the shrimp and humus.

We got a chance to speak to the long time manager of this restaurant, Violeta and it was easy to see that her passion for food and this restaurant were quite high. She was a delightful addition to our night. The Espresso Cheesecake dessert she offered us was divine to say the least, and completed our night perfectly.

The Good: Great spot with tasty tapas, amazing atmosphere and excellent staff.
The Bad: No bad at all, maybe just my usual line of...wish it was closer to my house...In Canada.
The Verdict: This restaurant is a must try when in Old San Juan, it has everything to make your food experience a great one. Be sure to find them among all the other restaurants along the way, It's well worth it. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Rainbow Caribbean Cuisine

29 King Street East
Kitchener, Ontario


In her opinion:
I have wanted to try this restaurant for a while now. I have never had roti and have been curious about it for some time. So Rainbow Caribbean Cuisine was the place to experience this specialty. 

We walked into a large, very clean room filled with people clearly enjoying their meals. This is a cafeteria style restaurant manned by four lovely West Indies ladies who made running this restaurant look like a well choreographed dance.

After scouting the menu for a couple of minutes, I knew exactly what I wanted...roti of course. But what filling? After a little chat with one of the staff, I picked the beef curry filling. I ordered a side salad with it - my choice was the macaroni salad!

It was a large "pita or wrap" style sandwich. The roti itself was delicious. Definitely more flavourful then a regular tortilla or flatbread. The filling was out of this world good. It was reminiscent of all my Caribbean holidays and brought back very good foodie memories! The flavours of the East and West combine in a delicious expression of flavour! The roti was served with two sweet fried plantains. So so good! The macaroni salad was excellent. Again transporting me back to many Caribbean holidays. 

Rainbow Caribbean is a cheap alternative to having exceptional Caribbean food without actually taking a holiday in the Caribbean! I would recommend Rainbow Caribbean Cuisine to anyone who enjoys the food of the West Indies. It provides fresh, good food at very fair prices.

In his opinion:
If you ever need to experience the full Caribbean warmth and hospitality, as well as some of its food but the bank account doesn't allow for international travel...we have the right alternative. Rainbow Caribbean Cuisine is the answer to all of the above. 

The most important thing about Rainbow Caribbean is that eating here is much more than just a good Caribbean meal, it's an experience! The staff is super friendly and attentive and make you feel like you are a regular even if it's your first visit.

The ambience is unapologetically West Indies with all its colour, vibrance and welcoming. Last but not least the food is authentic and done just like it's prepared in the many Caribbean islands that I have had the pleasure of vacationing in.

This restaurant is set-up in a cafeteria style with a large extensive menu on the wall behind the counter and the prepared food displayed behind the glass. One of the attractions is definitely the roti which has its own section on the menu. Roti (wrap/bread made from stoneground wholemeal flour) is traditionally a South Asian dish, predominantly from India and surrounding countries but this version was the Caribbean one, most likely from Trinidad and Tobago.

The menu also boasts other Caribbean traditional flavours like jerk chicken, goat and beef curries, Jamaican patties, oxtail, lots of plantain and beef with cow foot soup! Regardless of some of the oddly named dishes, there is something for everyone in this infinite selection.

I decided to have the "Small Plates" special with jerk chicken, served with hot sauce all over the chicken, rice and beans, plantain and the staff even included a piece of oxtail, just enough to get a taste. The chicken was full of flavour, not extra spicy like I remembered from having it in Jamaica but with enough kick for the average person. The rice with beans was absolutely delightful, light and full of flavour helped with a healthy dose of sauce covering it. The plantain was perfectly cooked and the macaroni salad was unfortunately the only disappointment of the meal. Honorable mention goes to the oxtail, majestically cooked and one of the best ones I have ever had.

Although it is some version of fast food, Caribbean Style, this restaurant boasts enough warmth and excellent choices to make it an honorable mention in the downtown Kitchener food scene, giving it the "spice" it needs.

The Good: Great authentic Caribbean food with bursts of flavour in every bite, coupled with wonderful staff and atmosphere.
The Bad: Gets busy quick, line ups can be long and if you are familiar with  "Island Time", speed of customer service can be daunting.
The Verdict: A definite change from the mundane usual downtown spots. The authenticity and warmth of the food and people will ensure the line-ups continue on end. It's good to have so many good, tasty choices at your finger tips. Great spot for eat in or take out.

I give it 2 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

Rainbow Caribbean Cuisine on Urbanspoon