Sunday, 30 June 2013

Moose Winooski's

20 Heldmann Road
Kitchener, Ontario


In her opinion:
After a very long winter and slow start to summer, we finally were blessed with a beautiful, patio weather day.  So where do you go in order to enjoy a few beverages and good patio food? Why, the Moose of course. So while driving around on this beautiful summer day, it was only natural that we stopped in to enjoy their gorgeous patio.

Moose Winooski's is a long standing choice with our family and my son's absolutely favourite of the few that he actually enjoys food off the kid's menu. It is also part of the Charcoal Group of Restaurants and regardless of their recent legal issues still remain ready to serve you. They have two other Moose Winooski's in Ontario, one in Brantford and one in Barrie.

We were lucky to find an available spot on the patio. Our waiter was very attentive, even though we never got his name and took our drink orders right away. We ordered a couple of beers to start. Rickard's White for me. I enjoy beer best on a hot summer day and since the weather was cooperating; it was only natural that I order a beer instead of a cocktail. Rickard's White is a good tasting, easy to drink beer. I love the citrus notes and well balanced flavour.

We decided to order a couple of appetizers to share. Our theory was that we didn't want anything to heavy just something delicious and light. Edgar picked the Fish Tacos...I was going for my usual choice of the Spinach and Artichoke Dip but was informed by my darling husband that it wasn't his favourite. Instead, I surprised both him and myself and ordered the Cobb Salad...yes, you read that right...the Cobb salad.

The Fish Tacos are described on the menu as "strips of haddock lightly battered and fried served in a warm soft taco shell with shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole, diced tomato and cilantro." It was served with a lovely tartar sauce. The Cobb Salad at the Moose consists of "crisp lettuce, apple smoked bacon, red onion, ripe tomatoes, maple smoked ham, cucumber, cheeses, hard boiled eggs and grilled chicken breast. With your choice of ranch or balsamic dressing."

Let me start by saying that both choices were great for beers on the patio. The Fish Tacos were delicious...the fish was crispy and light. I loved the combination of the guacamole and cilantro...very refreshing. 

The Cobb Salad was split into two servings in the kitchen for us and the portion size was perfection. It was a nicely constructed salad...the chicken was nicely grilled, hard boiled eggs were cooked properly, the apple smoked bacon cooked to just the right level of crispiness and the combo of the maple smoked ham and cheese were the perfect accompaniment for the remaining salad ingredients. I enjoyed this salad very was a nice change from the greasy, heavy choices that we normally order.

Moose Winooski's has a wonderful patio to enjoy a few drinks this summer. But keep in mind that the Moose also has a great dining which serves good food year round!

In his opinion:
Patio season is a very anticipated stage of the year by most Canadians. The beer flows easier, the BBQ's run in full force and everyone tries hard to work on their tan, or their farmers tan.

The "Moose" as everyone knows Moose Winooski's by, is definitely one of the most sought after patios in the Region. It is consistently quite busy as the need to bask in the sun with a cold beverage in hand increases. On a long weekend as it was this Canada Day one, those that didn't make it to cottage country were looking for some patio fun.

Although we frequent Moose Winooski's quite often, we have never wrote any blog post about it. Highlighting the patio season for people in Waterloo Region seemed like the perfect segue to finally share one of our experiences at the Moose.

Sitting on the patio looking at the menu with a Mill St. Organic in hand, felt like a perfect way to enjoy a Saturday afternoon. We decided to just get some light food to share, maybe healthier than usual, that would surely hit the spot as well. I opted for the Fish Tacos and a Cobb salad. Having inadvertently taken a bite of the fish taco without squirting some lime on them made me realize how much that small step really influences the overall taste of the tacos. Kind of like Corona...see any patterns here?

Taking a second bite with lime juice on it made all the difference and I must admit that the fish tacos were quite tasty, with just the right amount of condiments. The tartar sauce served on the side completed the taste. My only complain would be that the taco shells were a little too grilled and had hardened a bit too much, flaking and falling apart as I tried to bite into it.

As for the Cobb Salad, it was excellent. I reckon I don't usually just order salads and when I do I'm usually less than impressed with them. This one had a bit of everything in it and felt very fresh, light and perfect for a summer patio day. I even caught myself eagerly eating the cucumber slices, something that I would either leave for last or put on the side of the plate when I encounter it in a salad.

As the afternoon went on, the patio got busier and busier and by the time we left there was no seats available on our side of the patio. It is always a good time at Moose Winooski's, especially if you are there for a group. 

Patio time is to enjoy a good refreshing drink in good weather but, given the recent issues with over drinking and this establishment, it is always good to remember to enjoy the patios but don't drink and drive, and to always be aware of your consumption if you are getting behind the wheel to get home.

The Good: Good amenities, friendly staff and good pub style food make this place very popular (the pie in the face helps too). The patio itself is a great place for a drink and some food and serves as a place to see and be seen as well.
The Bad: Usually very busy at peak times. Even though the staff is very friendly, you never do get that "make you feel special" feeling from them.
The Verdict: Seldom, have I had a bad experience at Moose Winooski's, although they do happen. The food is consistently good, maybe because they have good cooks or because they keep things simple. The enormous Moose outside is also a big draw for kids and grown-up kids alike. Have lots of fun in a patio this summer and if you choose Moose's patio, you surely won't be disappointed.

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

Moose Winooski's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Luquillo Beach Kiosks

PR 3
Luquillo, Puerto Rico

1st Kiosk: Roca Taino Kiosk #60
We ate - Alcapurria stuffed with crab
         Beef Taco
         Papas Rellenas

2nd Kiosk: Tito's Oysters and Clams
We ate - Six oysters on the half shell

3rd Kiosk: El Jefe Burger Shack #12
We ate - Fried Cheese with Guava Sauce
         Three stuffed sliders (with chorizo, short rib and firecracker green chilie jalapeno blend)

4th Kiosk: Ceviche Hut (Peruvian Cuisine) #42
We ate - Mussel Ceviche

In her opinion:
I had read a lot about these kiosks in my preparation for our trip to Puerto Rico. They were described as "a much loved part of Puerto Rico" or "a must do". On our fifth day in Puerto Rico, we headed to Luquillo Beach to enjoy this beautiful, pristine beach and of course check out the famous kiosks.

We really didn't have a game plan...basically just sample a few items from a few kiosks. We would stop when we were full.

We started at Roca Taino or #60. This kiosk is famous for Puerto Rican cuisine. I had been dying to try some of the fried goodies that Puerto Rico is famous for and Roca Taino provided that opportunity. We ordered an alcapurria stuffed with crab. This was so so good. The filling was flavourful and delicious. The papas rellenas were a must try since I had read about them in many travel guides. I can describe them as a deep fried meatball covered in potato that tastes exactly like Sheppard's pie. The taco was really good as well. This is not a "Mexican style" taco. It is a deep fried cigar shaped morsel of deliciousness. Very very good.

Our next stop was Tito's Oysters and Clams. It sit in the parking lot right in front of Roca doesn't have a number like the other kiosks. Let's start by saying that this would probably not have been my first pick to have any type of seafood but the recommendations for Tito's place online were many. Quite a few people had suggested how good these oysters were. The fact that Tito had quite a few proper food handling certificates hanging on the back of his open van doors only help reassure me.  We ordered 6 oysters on the half shell. Tito (a super nice friendly guy by the way) opens them up right in front of you and serves them on a plate with lemon. He also placed his house made cocktail sauce in front of us. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy the cocktail sauce but it was really really good with a lot of heat from the chili peppers tossed into the sauce. The oysters themselves were sweet and delicious tasting of the sea. Some of the best oyster I have eaten anywhere!

We drove down the strip and stop at El Jefe Burger next or #12 and #13. Again this place was highly recommended by the foodie online community. We decided on "the Fried Cheese with Guava Sauce" and "the Three Sliders". The fried cheese was salty and delicious and was perfectly complimented by the sweetness of the guava sauce. What a burst of flavour with every bite. In Brazil, a cheese and guava jam sandwich is called a Romeo and Juilette and I can totally see why...a match made in heaven! The sliders were each  filled with three different fillings as described above. My favourite was the chorizo. I really liked the flavour combo of the beef burger, port chorizo and the American cheese on top. Really really good. Our experience at El Jefe was excellent...Carlos, our Panamanian/Italian waiter help make it even better.

Our final kiosk visit was to Ceviche Hut - it was a play on Pizza Hut and the logo is actually are reminicient of the Pizza Hut logo. But that's where the similarities stop. Ceviche Hut is a Peruvian restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine. Our attentive waitress started our experience by taking our drink orders and bringing us some Peruvian Fried Corn. Now this was something unusual that I had never had before. Since this was our fourth stop...we were a little full. We opted for the mussel ceviche since neither of us had ever had it before. It was served as a meal with sweet corn, sweet potatoes and a salad. The ceviche itself was cut up mussel pieces with onions and peppers in a acidic ceviche dressing which was placed on top of the salad. It was really fresh and delicious and a perfect ending to our kiosk experiences.

If you are ever in Puerto Rico for longer then a day, drive to Luquillo Beach and experience one of the finest beaches in Puerto Rico and some really amazing food at the Kiosks...after all, it's described as "a right of passage" and any foodie has to partake of this amazing experience!

In his opinion:
This is probably the worst kept secret in all of Puerto Rico and for the travelling foodies, a place to indulge in some great diverse and cheap food, all in one place. Luquillo is predominantly known for its beautiful beaches, some of the nicest ones in all the island, but the Kiosks are also a major attraction for this little town. 

Roughly 50+ little restaurant gems make up this stretch of road with a little for everyone. You can find true Puerto Rican food, burgers, pizza, name it and they have it. It's the perfect place for a self induced food coma.

We picked a few places to try knowing very well that we couldn't last through too many of them. All in all we tried 5 kiosks out of the 20+ that were open when we arrived. By the time we left many more were open and of course that means much more choice.

The highlights for me are:

Titos couldn't have fresher oysters unless you are in the boat that picked them and you are eating them on the way back to land. Tito is world famous for his Oysters and Clams and he knows his seafood. He proudly displays his certificates and they serve as a positive testament that you are indeed having fresh, good seafood...from the back of a truck! We had 6 oysters on the half shell. Large oysters with a dribble of Tito's famous cocktail hot sauce. Top notch oysters and a must at the Kiosks.

El Jefe burger was my second favourite of the day. The feel of the place is definitely familiar to many seaside places I have visited worldwide. Wall full of testaments and comments from people that have traveled from all corners of the globe to try their food. It's an eclectic scene that also displays varied business cards above the bar, again from the many visitors that go through their doors. The 3 sliders that we had were extremely tasty. Great tasting patties, simply cooked and assembled burgers but with a punch of flavour.

The Roca Taino kiosk was my 3rd favourite. This is where the slice of Puerto Rico comes in. They serve all kinds local food and anything from Alcapurrias, Puerto Rican "Tacos", papas rellenas and rice salads but you wouldn't know that from reading the menu's since there isn't one. Point at what you want and it shall be served to you, simple and tasty. We had the crab alcapurrias, papas rellenas and the beef tacos. All very good fried goodness and very inexpensive as well.

When in Puerto Rico, this is a must for any lover of food or any adventurer that is willing to leave San Juan for a couple of hours. Go, check out as many as you can and make sure that you try the local fare. Truly a gem...

Monday, 17 June 2013

Mi Casa by Jose Andres

Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve
100 Dorado Beach Drive
Dorado, Puerto Rico

(787) 626-1100

In her opinion:
I was flipping through a tourism magazine in our condo in Old San Juan when I found an article on Mi Casa by Jose Andres. I had actually pinned his restaurant on my Puerto Rico board on Pinterest; but, quickly forgot about it as soon as it was pinned thinking it was an impossiblity. Edgar, of course decided that it was a must try since we were on the island...he did the same thing with Eric Ripert's Blue at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman.

We decided on breakfast(the restaurant only serves breakfast and dinner) and made a reservation. I'm glad we decided on breakfast as we didn't want to drive around Puerto Rico in the middle of the night since the resort is kind of tricky to find.

The resort is the Dorado Beach by Ritz Carlton Reserve and it's absolutely gorgeous. Jose Andre picked an outstanding location for this restaurant. Once we entered the resort property we were driven to the restaurant via golf cart (the preferred method of transportation at the resort) and greeted by a lovely hostess who showed us to our table in the bright open dining room. 

Having studied the menu prior to the visit, I had a very good idea of what I wanted to eat even before our attentive waitress came to take our drink orders.

I ordered coffee to start and the "Torrijas con Mango y Cajeta" or brioche French toast with mango and cajeta (goat's milk caramel).

I will start by saying that this was the best French toast that I have ever had in my entire 44 years of existence! Sorry mom! The custard soaked brioche was cooked to a golden deliciousness. It was topped with toasted puffed cereal which I had originally mistaken for some kind of nut. The cajeta provided the right amount of sweetness and richness. The mango added a lovely clean feel to the whole dish. This was perfection! It was extemely rich and filling. 

My overall experience at Mi Casa by Jose Andres was excellent. The service was impeccable, the coffee very good and the food absolutely delectable. I wouldn't hesitate on suggesting Mi Casa to anyone who enjoys a refined experience.

In his opinion:
The decision to try this restaurant was made in seconds and I'm very glad we made it. Jose Andres is a well known chef from Spain and famous for being both a pupil and a friend of Ferran Adria, the father of molecular gastronomy and the brains behind El Bulli. He came to the US, bringing his tapas and Spanish cuisine influences and has since opened many restaurants in the U.S. plus Mi Casa in Puerto Rico.

Mi Casa is situated inside the exclusive, ultra-chic, ubber expensive Dorado Beach Resort by Ritz Carlton Reserve. Getting to the restaurant is an experience in itself. First good luck finding it, as even some local cab drivers get lost on the way, although I was lucky enough to drive myself to it without a glitch (thanks to my wife the super navigator). Once at the gate, security resembles Fort Knox and you are simply directed to the parking lot near the  main lobby. From there it's a golf course ride through the lavish gardens to the beach side building where the restaurant is located.

Finally at the restaurant, a brief walk through the bar area and a turn by the washrooms, you encounter as huge room, well lit with floor to ceiling windows facing the ocean or the infinity pool area. The space is well appointed with a mix of tables and booths and a private room for small parties. For breakfast, they setup many tables of choices for what they call "the Breakfast Experience" ($70). We chose to order "a la carte" and missed out on the complimentary mimosas that comes with the buffet experience.

From the breakfast menu, the item that spoke to me was Huevos a la Cubana (Eggs Cuban style), described on the menu as just like Jose Andres' mother used to make. It consists of fried eggs in olive oil, with bacon, tomato in a bed of perfectly cooked rice. There is such a simplicity and punch of flavour about this Cuban export to Spain. A variety of flavours and spices enveloped every bite and I was savouring it all, very slowly.

The coffee served was good, not great but just good enough.The bill came in a little house (casa) adding to the theme/name of the restaurant. After our meal we strolled the ultra chick grounds of the Dorado Beach that serves as a backdrop for this gem restaurant by Jose Andres. I now know why he picked this place for his first island restaurant.

The Good: Amazing setting, great food and excellent service, things that are hard to find all in one restaurant.
The Bad: Location is a bit out of the way for non-driving vacationers or locals, especially getting to it at night for dinner.
The Verdict: Top notch resort with a restaurant to match. It's a great treat to eat at this restaurant and sample some of Jose's dishes. A must if you are visiting Puerto Rico. A must if you love good Spanish influenced food. Would love to one day return for dinner...and stay at Dorado Beach of course!

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Grill Burger Kitchen

310 Fairway Road South
Kitchener, Ontario


In her Opinion:
When we had dinner at Eataliano Panini and Pasta Ristorante a little while, I found out that The Grill Burger Kitchen was part of the same group. So needless to say, I was pretty excited about trying them out and kept a mental note to do just that.

So when we were driving down Fairway Road the other night trying to figure out where to have a quick supper in Kitchener, it caught my eye and we opted to try this new burger joint in the KW area.

Let me begin by saying that I love a good burger...the juicier the better. I love the Burger's Priest in Toronto, Holy Chuck also in Toronto and Frat Burger in Waterloo. So, the Grill Burger Kitchen was up against some stiff competition. I shouldn't actually say that...I never like to compare burgers. Every burger has their own merits that make it an outstanding burger. For me though, it's the juiciness of a burger that makes it a winner in my book and I guess that's why I love the aforementioned burgers so much.

The Grill Burger Kitchen reminded me so much of Sam's Restaurant...a greasy spoon that is no longer opened in Cambridge which served burgers and Greek food. I think the smell was what sparked this memory and the fact that the Grill also serves Greek food.  After checking out the menu, I opted for "the Grill Ringer burger" with fries. The Grill Ringer consisted of a big juicy (6-oz burger) with cheddar cheese, chili, bacon and topped with a huge onion ring. I topped it with lettuce, tomato and southwestern mayo.

This was a large burger. I bit into this burger (it's a mess maker folks) and wasn't awed by its deliciousness. It was okay...not great, not fabulous...just okay. I wasn't crazy about the chili. I found it had no real depth of flavour. It tasted like beans and beef in a tomato sauce. The burger itself wasn't juicy like I love. It didn't have any outstanding beef flavour that you get from a really special burger. I was very disappointed. The fries were okay...nothing to really get excited about. Again just okay!

I will just say, I was rather disappointed with the Grill Burger Kitchen. After really enjoying my Eataliano experience, I expected a really good burger experience and it simply didn't happen.

In his opinion:
The special feeling you get when you find a  good burger joint is fantastic. I think there can never be enough of them and the more different and eclectic they are, the better. As much as I crave a great fine dining experience, the good burger experience is equally rewarding and when it's good, it's so fulfilling.

At first glance, the Grill Burger Kitchen fits the bill. This is their second location, implying they were successful in their first one that has been open for years, it's decorated well, there is a decent selection on the menu and the smell as you walked in was inviting. We also liked their other "non burger" restaurant Eataliano Panini and obviously, expected some good things from this one.

After some consideration of the menu, I decided to get the Memphis Burger. With a description like "big juicy with cheddar and smothered with pulled pork", there isn't really a way you can go wrong. Or is there?

While waiting for the food, I stood there watching the "grill guy" squeezing the burger patties with his spatula as if he was exorcising a demon out of it, depleting it of all its juices and goodness. I wonder how my burger would get the "big juicy" taste the menu described but stayed optimistic, although skeptical.

Finally, the burger first glance it looks good and appetizing. As I pick it up to give it my first bite, I realized that the bread wasn't fresh and felt a bit soggy. First bite in and I'm not getting much flavour from the patty, the toppings or oddly enough from the pulled pork either. From the "patty shakedown" by the grill guy, the flavourless, dry patty was expected but the extremely bland pulled pork came out of nowhere. The chili cheese fries continued the theme of mediocrity, even though to a lesser degree.

I was gobsmacked to tell you the truth. How in the world can you have a burger place that makes such bad burgers? I sincerely hope the wraps on the menu are their salvation because the burgers aren't going to keep them open for long. 

The Good: The fountain drink...and the decor!
The Bad: I want to keep this blog read above.
The Verdict: Not sure if it was just that day or that location because I had heard decent things about the one in Waterloo. Bottom line is that given the decent choices of "good" burger joints in the Region, I will find it hard to ever return to this place. 

I give it 2 out of 5 Olives as rating

The Grill Burger Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Restaurante Raices

Recinto Sur Street #315
Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico

(787) 289-2121

In her opinion:
My foodie motto to live by is very simple..."If it's good enough for Anthony Bourdain then it's definitely good enough for me!" I watched the Puerto Rico episode of No Reservation in order to prepare for this holiday...we all have our quirks...and watched Anthony enjoy some really good Puerto Rican cuisine at Restaurant Raices after getting his ass kicked by a Puerto Rican boxer. Flash forward a month or so and here we are walking by easily the busiest restaurant in Old San Juan and totally forgetting that this was the place.

Restaurant Raices is very popular with both tourists and locals. It's been featured on a few television shows. But most importantly is the fact that Raices serves some truly authentic Puerto Rican cuisine amidst a kitschy theme of costumes (traditional long white dresses and head wraps for the female staff and white pants, shirt and Panama hats for the male staff), decorations, traditional pilons and stainless steel plates and cups.

We were a little hesitant to try this place...the line ups were long but Edgar reminded me that AB had had dinner here...we definitely needed to try it! So on a Monday with no cruise ship in port and a little drizzle falling we were able to get in without waiting.

Our waitress, Ladimalinda (of course that is spelt wrong but that's how it sounded to me) was very attentive and super friendly, She took our drink orders right away...real diet coke is available in Puerto Rico...not the Coca-Cola Lite that has spoiled many of my, of course I ordered one! It was delivered in a tin/stainless steel cup.

I knew that I wanted to try the Monfongo here. After perusing the menu, I settled on the speciality of "Monfongo Relleno com Churrasco al Chimichurri" (mashed plantains with stuffed with chimichurri style skirt steak). But before that was served a waiter brought us a very simple salad of lettuce and tomato with a house made dressing.

It was served in a traditional pilon (mortar) after it has been mashed by the pestle. The skirt steak was melt in your mouth delicious. Well cooked and seasoned just right to compliment the mashed green plantains which I had been a bit cautions about since my past experiences with plantain have not been the best. I really enjoyed this truly lived up to my expectations.

To end our meal, we decided to share a "Flan de Queso" or cheese custard.

This was just excellent. Beautifully presented but most importantly tasting absolutely delicious! It was creamy and tasted like an extra creamy cheesecake.

Overall, it was an really really good dinner. I now know why this place is so highly recommended to tourists and why locals love it so much!

In his opinion:
One of the things that really impressed me about vacationing in Puerto Rico was the food. It surpassed all my expectations that were already pretty high going in. Truthfully, it would be hard to expect average food from an island cuisine that mostly boasts a mix of Creole and Spanish food, but one never knows.

One of the frustrating parts of eating at the many great food spots in Old San Juan is the lineups, especially on cruise ship days. Most restaurants don't take reservations and the "Flies of the Day" as cruise ship people are known to locals, make the most of the few hours they have in port in nearby restaurants.

After a few days of walking by and not being able to even see the front door because of the crowds, we finally got a table on a non-cruise ship day, of course.

Raices is one of those places that is able to stay grounded and authentic even though is it sought after by the not so informed tourists that fill it everyday. It is popular and a bit tacky but it is a slice of Puerto Rico and good enough for Anthony Bourdain as Julie previously pointed out.

Stepping inside, the restaurant tries to emulate the "roots" of Puerto Rico, with decorations to match the theme and a gift shop in the back for customers to be able to buy craft items and sweets. The waitstaff are also dressed in a full theme wardrobe. Artwork on the walls is symbolic of those times as well.

The menu is predominately traditional Puerto Rico food with emphasis on Mofongo and large cuts of meat. I first glanced at the Kan Kan Chuleta (Porkchop) dish on the menu thinking that it would be a great day for a good cut of meat, even though it had the word "huge" in it. So I ordered it along with the local beer, Medalla Light which had became the standard beer for my whole vacation. 

I was definitely not prepared for the "huge" size of this pork chop that measured roughly 14 inches by 6 inches at its bigger points. You know you are having a big food portion when the customers at the next table all pull out their cameras to snap pictures of it. The pork chop was very well seasoned, well cooked and the rind on the chop was very crispy, almost like "Lechon skin", another of the islands specialties.  It is cooked in advance and then deep fried to achieve its crispiness.

It was served with fried green plantain and 2 dipping sauces that I didn't even use, given the great taste of the meat. I did indeed finish all the meat (just like Adam from Man vs Food television show), but couldn't really eat all the fat....even though I gave it a great run.

Stuffed from my "Brontosaurus" like pork chop, I could only manage to "share" dessert and we opted for the Flan de Queso, or Cheese Custard. The presentation was better than the taste, even though I still gave it passing marks. It was creamy with  the feel of a cheesecake gone wrong. 

The Good: Great food, authentic, tasteful food with a feeling of homemade. Portions are large and the location is perfect.
The Bad: Sort of tourist "trappy", huge lineups most days and the food is slightly overpriced. Service was good but rather slow.
The Verdict: A must try when in Old San Juan. Regardless, if you see it as a tourist trap or not, the food is good, authentic and the servers make your experience a good one.

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