Monday, 26 August 2013

Jack and Lois

301 James Street North
Hamilton, ON


In her opinion:
I had heard about this restaurant from Urbanspoon...not shocking! Jack and Lois was one of those places that I had read about and placed on the must eat here list in my brain. So this past Sunday, we needed to be in Hamilton early...what a great opportunity to visit Jack and Lois for breakfast!

We got there as they opened up at 9:00 am for breakfast. Jack and Lois are the owner's grandparents and their portrait holds a special place near the bar. The restaurant has a retro vibe to it...tables and chairs don't match and there's a kitschy feel to the place. The restaurant quickly filled up as we sat there having our breakfast, this tells me it's happening!

Our server was friendly and attentive and although she was the only one working, she kept things moving. She brought over ice water even before we were completely seated...nice. We ordered coffee to begin. They serve Red Hill Coffee. It was a full bodied coffee and maybe a little too bold for my taste...but still good.

We studied the menu but were told that if we wanted any of the daily features we would have to wait about 15 minutes because the Hollandaise wasn't done yet...I decided to wait. Hollandaise makes everything better in my humble opinion anyway and it is definitely worth the wait.

I decided on the "Mexi-Morning". This consisted of two poached eggs on toast with garlic chili sauce, avocado, maple bacon, aged cheddar and spicy Hollandaise. We also got an order of "Stuffed Angels". Stuffed angels are black bean, cilantro, portobello and onion stuffed into a wanton wrapper and deep fried...they are served with the chef's house made sauce.

The "Mexi-Morning" was spicy and delicious. It had a burst of flavour in every bite. The garlic and chili sauce along with the spicy Hollandaise were runny nose hot...not too much that you couldn't enjoy but the right amount to of heat to wake your taste buds up early on a Sunday morning. It was served with cubed potatoes and fresh fruit. Just an excellent rendition of eggs benny. The "Stuffed Angels" were heavenly...really delicious with a little bit of heat as well...they tasted very Mexican or at least what Mexican tastes like in my head. Just excellent. 

Overall, I had an amazing breakfast at Jack and Lois. I loved the gum instead of candy that came with the bill. Jack and Lois serves fresh, excellent food in downtown Hamilton. James St. North is a foodie's dream...between Work Restaurant, Harbour Diner and now Jack and Lois...the "Hammer" definitely has something to be proud of.

In his opinion:
We have of late been on an unintentional streak of visiting good restaurants in Hamilton. Thus, proving that in fact Hamilton can be taken seriously in the food department! In comes Jack and Lois, a hip place that plays vinyl, serves an eclectic menu and doubles as a drive in?

As with most good restaurants on this part of town, it has an inconspicuous location and facade, easily missed if you are not looking for it. During the summer days, the front of the restaurant is opened completely giving it more of a "urban sexy" look and feel which can be a good thing or bad thing for some. This place is tiny, seating maybe 25 person max but has that mom and pop appeal to it. The decor is extremely confused, a little retro but with an identity crisis, not affecting the overall charm of the place.

On this day, we practically opened the place and were quickly greeted and seated by our waitress. We were also told that a couple of items on the menu were going to take a bit longer to make given that the preparation for this dishes had not even started. All in all, we browsed the features menu on the wall as well as the printed menu to see if anything would "pop" in our minds as a must have for breakfast. the place was by then filling up and its eclectic atmosphere was beginning to unfold.

I ordered a cup of coffee that I have to admit was pretty damn good. The cup of java was well balanced, lean and robust, and as it unfolded became the perfect way to start this morning. I chose the "Cobra" for breakfast, a more traditional approach to a breakfast meal than the others being offered. It consisted of 3 eggs cooked your way (I chose over easy), 2 strips of peameal bacon, 2 sausages, 2 strips of regular bacon served with hash browns and grilled American cheese fingers. As well, a couple of pieces of fruit lay there on the plate to attempt to "mask" the meatiness of the dish. The peameal was extremely good and the eggs perfectly done. The regular bacon was good (kind of hard to screw that up) but the hash browns felt dry and flavourless. The grilled american cheeses fingers were just ok, slice bread toasted with cheese in them. I used them to soak the egg yokes and that turned out okay.

The meal was overall good but I felt that somehow there was something missing in the experience. Maybe returning for one of their famous burgers in the newly opened patio might give me a different sensation and actually feel the experience and hospitality of Jack and Lois. Lastly, the bill came with cut up "extra" chicklets from a flat pack, nice touch to end the day.

The Good: Good meal, well prepared and carefully thought out menu items. The "charm" of its decor is a plus for anyone that is looking for an inviting restaurant.
The Bad: Don't make it a large family outing as you may take over the whole restaurant. Also, don't go too early or you will have a 20 min wait for some dishes.
The Verdict: The restaurant seems to be a hit with the regulars, no questions about it. The patrons we observed eating matched the great reviews the restaurant has. The addition of the back patio is a great help to the limited seating inside and goes well with the feeling of the restaurant.

I give it 3 out of 5 Olives as rating

Jack & Lois on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Afternoon Tea - Headwaters Restaurant at the Millcroft Inn

55 John Street
Village of Alton, Ontario


In her opinion:
I love afternoon tea...the tradition, the simplicity of this mid afternoon meal...scones, sandwiches, sweets...and tea. Since we live in Canada and it's not as common as it use to's hard to find a good spot to enjoy this English tradition. Luckily some of the inns and manor houses in Ontario are still carrying on the tradition and the Millcroft Inn is one of these places. We were in the area during Saturday of the August long weekend. We were actually on our way to the Flying Spatula (read post here) for lunch, when my darling husband suggested that we have afternoon tea there. You see, Edgar loves afternoon tea as much as I do and we've even blogged about our ramblings here!

We arrived on the grounds of this lovely country inn and walked into the reception area. The Headwaters Restaurant in on the main level and we were shown to our table for three in the "pod" (a glass enclosed room with wonderful views of Shaw's Creek Falls). 

I was advised before making my tea selection that they were out of Earl Grey tea. Now that was not good...that's my favourite and my little man's favourite as well. You see, my seven year old has been going to tea with us since he was in the womb and absolutely loves his Earl Grey tea...we decided to order our second favourite, Darjeeling. It was actually a "Margaret's Hope Darjeeling Mercy" blend.

It wasn't my favourite Earl Grey but it was still a nice cup of black tea. Darjeeling is after all called the "champagne of tea" for a reason.

Melody our waitress, brought over the three tiered plate of goodies which consisted of; raisin scones (the raisins had been soaked in jasmine tea) with Devonshire cream and preserves, three types of finger sandwiches (deviled ham salad, egg salad and tomato-cucumber) and finally the pastries (carrot cake, lemon tarts and chocolate fudge brownie).

I started with the scones...they were flaky and delicious. The Devonshire cream was lovely and the black currant and strawberry jams were from Greaves and just beautiful. I love when scones have a certain softness and flakiness to them and these were perfect. 

The sandwiches were next...the deviled ham salad was very tasty with the mustard and pickles adding the right amount of flavour to the delicate ham. The egg salad was very good. Just an excellent egg salad sandwich with the right amount of seasoning. Finally, the tomato-cucumber sandwich was very refreshing. As many of you know, I don't really like cucumbers but do make the exception on certain occasions. This was one...I liked the flavour of the cream cheese and tomato which offset the cucumber perfectly.

Lastly, it was time to enjoy the sweets. I love dessert and dessert and tea or coffee is my little piece of heaven. I had three lovely desserts to enjoy with my tea. The first was the lemon tart...a mini, flaky tart shell filled with a luscious lemon cream topped with whipped cream, sliced blueberry and preserved lemon. So so good.  Next was the carrot cake. It was most and delicious. Just full of flavour. It was topped with whipped cream, walnuts and a piece of mango. Also very good. The last dessert was the chocolate fudge brownie. This little circle of chocolate goodness consisted on the moistest brownie I have ever had topped with whipped cream and jelly pearls. This was the best little morsel of chocolate that I have had in a long time.

Overall, I loved our afternoon tea at the Headwaters Restaurant at the Millcroft Inn. The tea, food and service were just delightful. It was a lovely afternoon tea experience. If you like afternoon tea...take the drive to the Village of Alton in Caledon and enjoy this English tradition.

In his opinion:
Afternoon Tea is a much loved activity that is not solely reserved for Brits or Royalty. It is enjoyed by many including my 7 year old kid that sadly has McDonalds as his foremost food reference, so there is a glimmer of hope yet.

When we set out on our Ontario country side adventures, the Millcroft Inn was not in our original plan. As we drove by a sign that showed the Inn's proximity, I recalled my desire to try it and this day seemed like a great one to do so. Unfortunately, we already had plans for meals that day so the great idea to do Afternoon Tea was born.

Arriving at the Millcroft Inn automatically puts you at one with nature and tranquility. From the beautifully manicured lawns, to the soothing waterfall all the way to the serene hospitality at their spa, the grounds are beautiful and peaceful. 

Tea for us was served on the second best seat in the house (main seat was already taken). The table faced the waterfalls and was located inside what the "locals" call the "POD". It is an all glass room, adjacent to the main building and on the second floor.

I chose Egyptian Chamomile tea (my favourite) and our waitress Melody was very good at keeping the tea pot filled. The 3 tierd dish was brought over and it was filled with goodies from top to bottom. Our waitress suggested us starting from the bottom but I have never been good at taking food directions so I did the complete opposite.

On the top tier we started with the scones, those delicious mini quick breads. Served with amazing strawberry and black currant jams. They separated easily into small pieces with every bite. The Devonshire cream was outstanding and the perfect spread for the flaking scone.

On the middle tier were the usual tiny sandwiches, full of flavour and deliciously fresh. I admit that it was enjoyable watching my wife bite into a cucumber sandwich, the type that she doesn't usually like. But she did eat them so that's a testament in itself. The egg salad were my favourite of the trio, packing a delicious creamy punch of flavour into every bite. Lastly, the deviled Ham sandwiches were great in their contrast of flavours and textures.

Then, it was finally time to get into the bottom tier, the dessert one. These confections were so well done that I almost didn't want to bite into them, but only almost. Lemon tart was the least impressive but mostly due to my own aversion to tart flavours in sweets. Sweets should be sweets in my humble opinion but I do make some exceptions once in a while. The chocolate cake was an explosion of chocolate with every bite, wishing it would never end but knowing that it would and that was one of the reasons that made it special. The carrot cake won me over for the tender, moist texture in which it caressed my palate but also with the topping selection of nuts and fruits.

The Good:  A wonderful room in an amazing setting certainly adds to the allure of a special experience. This restaurant is no exception but the food did speak for itself as well. Service was impeccable and very personalized.
The Bad: The absence of Earl Grey tea for that day was the only tiny stain in this perfectly folded white napkin.
The Verdict: The inn, the spa and the restaurant are all Four Diamond CAA/AAA Award venues and it shows. The service was excellent, as to be expected from a place of this caliber. I left happy and must return for dinner one day.

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

Headwaters Restaurant at the Millcroft Inn on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Cameron Chinese Seafood Restaurant

19 Cameron Street South
Kitchener, Ontario


In her opinion:
I will begin by stating that Chinese cuisine is not my favourite...actually it is nowhere near my favourite! Before my tastes developed (translation: before I considered myself a foodie) "Chinese food" was the food that I would order with my Portuguese parents or boyfriend when we wanted to eat something exotic.  I laugh at that Portuguese boyfriend is now my husband (and he's now a foodie too) and both our tastes have developed beyond what is known as "Chinese food" in Canada. 

So why go to Cameron you're asking? Well, that is a simple one...Cameron Chinese Seafood Restaurant is considered by all my Asian friends to actually serve "real Chinese food". What is real Chinese food? Easy, it's not sweet and sour chicken balls, chicken/mushroom fried rice, almond soo guy chicken, lemon chicken or chop suey! I don't think I'm qualified to answer that question since my knowledge of Chinese food is based on a westernized version but I think I've gotten the closest to this cuisine here in Canada.

Cameron's is one of those places that you shouldn't judge by its exterior. It is a very nice restaurant once you walk into the place. We were seated quickly and a pot of complimentary green tea was brought over to our table for us to enjoy as we studied the menu.

I actually asked our server if there was a separate menu for Asian customers...he assured me that there wasn't a different menu for Asians and that there were quite a few authentic Asian food on the menu.

With that in mind, we picked out a variety of foods (*the comments in brackets reflect our servers opinion about whether they were authentic of not). We got mushroom fried rice (not authentic), spicy chicken and shrimp casserole (half authentic), calamari with pepper salt sauce (half authentic) and beef ginger and scallions (authentic).

I enjoyed the food very much. The rice was good...fresh tasting fried rice. The spicy chicken and shrimp casserole was also good...although the shrimp had a muddy taste to it. I think it was just the variety of shrimp used. The beef ginger and scallions was very good. I enjoyed the flavour very much. Finally, the calamari with the pepper salt sauce was probably my favourite. It had a lovely spice kick to it and the calamari was nicely deep fried with a crunchy coating. 

At the end of our meal, the waiter brought over a plate of orange wedges with our bill. That was a nice change from the tasteless fortune cookies offered at other places.

Overall, I would say that everything about our dinner was good. The service was friendly and prompt. The food delicious and abundant (we got plenty of leftovers to take home) and the ambiance was very nice. I would recommend Cameron Chinese Seafood Restaurant to anyone who enjoys Chinese food and wants a "more" authentic meal.

In his opinion:
Let's go out for Chinese...a phrase that gets thrown around daily as most people dive into a culture and food that seems quite exotic for them. Why aren't there ever any Chinese people in our so called "Chinese restaurants" you may ask? Why is it that we almost always leave full and later pay the price from dining at these restaurants?

The answer is simple..what you just ate is not real Chinese food. Fortune cookies were invented in California, people in China have only seen them in movies. No one in China has ever heard or eaten dishes like "Beijing Beef", "General Tao Chicken" or "Chop Suey" and there is no "Sweet and Sour Chicken" in China. Those were all invented in the West to cater to non-Chinese customers with limited palates or to lure those afraid of traditional Asian food.

This is where Cameron Restaurant comes in. They do have a wide variety of those "westernized Chinese dishes" but they also carry very traditional Chinese dishes on their menu. I have always heard from my Chinese friends that if I wanted to have real Chinese food, then go to Camerons. Trying to find what is real and what is non traditional on the menu is tricky because there are no visible separations, so ask your waiter or just study the categories of food to understand the "fake" ones.

We were greeted with some lovely green tea while we browsed the menu. We were torn between making our visit a true "real Chinese" event or giving in to some of our "western Chinese" dishes that Cameron makes so well. The result was a combination of both, getting some real dishes and also having some of our favourite westernized Chinese ones. The decor is simple, clean and very sophisticated for a traditional Chinese restaurant.

I will start with my favourite dish which was the "Beef Ginger and Scallions". This is an actual real Chinese dish and it was spectacular. The scallions we perfectly cooked, slightly crunchy with just the perfect amount of ginger flavour in them. The beef was tender, tasty and perfectly seasoned, again with the adequate amount of ginger taste in it. If someone made me have this dish everyday of my life, I probably wouldn't oppose it and I would enjoy it very much.

Next was the "Spicy Chicken and Shrimp Casserole". This dish has some traditional Chinese influence in it but it is not a combination you will find in China. The chicken wasn't as spicy as I expected until you bite into one of the spices used on their own. The shrimp was well cooked but exhibited a strange taste of "dirt" or something similar. Not enough from putting you off from eating them but it did change the flavour completely.

The "Calamari with the Pepper Salt Sauce" was a departure from the usual "dip the ring" style many of us experienced before but a welcome one. Although squid is widely eaten in many parts of China, the preparation here is more westernized. It was still a good dish with great flavour.

Lastly, the side dish of "Mushroom Fried Rice" is as authentic as fortune cookies. But it is well made at Cameron's, fresh, well seasoned and full of flavour. The food was plentiful, enough to fill us up and still take almost half of it home. The highlight comes from having that same take-out food 2 days later, reheated in the microwave and have it taste fresh and almost as good as it did at the restaurant. Now that is something you don't experience often with westernized Chinese food.

The Good: Great tasting food. Both the authentic and westernized dishes tasted great, were clearly made fresh and were almost as good two days later. Servers were very helpful and attentive.
The Bad: The menu should have some explanation of which dishes are not authentic or are authentic, as some are easily identified but others create doubt.
The Verdict: This restaurant provides you with one of the very few options for real Chinese food in the Region but more importantly serves great quality westernized Chinese food. It wins you over easily and refrains from making you pay two days later for the experience. A must for the adventurous palate as well as the lover of fresh ingredients.

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

Cameron Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Flying Spatula Diner

125 Collingwood Street
Flesherton, Ontario


In her opinion:
I love John Catucci...I love Food Network's "You Gotta Eat Here" and most importantly, I love good food. When I watched the episode with Flesherton's the Flying Spatula, my mouth watered and the wheels in my brain turned and was I going to convince Edgar to drive two hours so we could eat here?

The August long weekend seemed like the perfect time...we "were in the area" after all (not really)...that's my story and I'm sticking to it! We drove to Flesherton on a beautiful day in Ontario and walked in to a fairly empty restaurant and still in time for lunch.

This is a classic roadside diner (translate this as dive). The type of place that many people would turn there noses up at and simply leave. But, I had seen the episode of "You Gotta Eat Here" and I knew that I had to look past the decor. This place is still pulling in visitors as a result of that episode...the family sitting in the booth behind us had come for the same reasons as us.

Our waitress came over when we sat down and took our drink orders...they serve Coke products so I was coke for me. It came in the can with a straw! Simple and too the point. Much like the food.

I knew what I wanted after I watched the show...but I still looked at the menu. I ordered the hot turkey sandwich as planned. It was served with broccoli, cream corn and mashed potatoes.

The turkey was fresh tasting. It was made up of dark white and no option of white either. It was served on Texas toast, covered with a delicious  gravy and sprinkled with green onions. The potatoes were real mash potatoes and quite delicious. The broccoli was fresh. But the most wonderful thing on that plate in my opinion was the cream corn. Sweet morsels of corn heighten to a new level of deliciousness. So so good.

Overall, a delicious lunch and well worth the two hour drive in my opinion. If you are ever up near Flesherton, Ontario don't hesitate to stop at the Flying Spatula because "You Gotta Eat Here"!

In his opinion:
Driving to Flesherton, Ontario felt a lot like picking a scab, slightly amusing but mostly painful. It is literally located away from any town I can even think of and Orangeville, Ontario is probably my only remote point of reference.

I somehow how got talked into driving all the way up there to try a restaurant that from the pictures, one would probably qualify as a dive on a good day. I made the trek, kept my opinions to myself (mostly) and hoped for the best. This restaurant had been featured on "You Gotta Eat Here" and that was reason enough to at least keep an open mind.

The restaurant at first glance looks pretty much like you would expect from a small town diner. The decor is simple but inviting, with 2 separate areas for dining divided by a wooden counter beside a glass one with drinks. One of my immediate deceptions was to find out that the more popular dishes are only available for dinner.

I ordered a Coke and when I asked for ice, I was told that they serve their soft drinks in a frosty mug, bonus. Given the limited choices on the lunch menu, I decided to order one of their more known features, the homemade beef burger.

This beef burger was made with an all beef patty comes pretty plain and they give you the option to add toppings for $1 each. I opted for adding cheese and a fried egg. The burger was quite tasty and the fried egg and cheese made all the difference, enhancing the taste overall. The tomato, lettuce and pickle were very fresh as expected. It was served with fresh hand-cut fries that are possibly worth the drive themselves, homemade, and very fresh and well flavoured.

The Good: Food was good, the service came with a smile and the frosty mug was a nice touch.
The Bad: Having some of your most popular dishes only available on selected nights and then only for dinner doesn't seem like a smart business practice, especially when you are located in a remote area.
The Verdict: Overall, the experience was a positive one and the food was very good indeed. "You Gotta Eat Here" once again turns out another good recommendation, even if we had to drive to the dark side of the earth to experience it.

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

The Flying Spatula Diner on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Russell Williams Family Restaurant

20 Plains Road East
Burlington, ON


In her opinion:
Canada Day 2013. We've just spent part of the afternoon at Spencer Smith Park with our son and our moms celebrating Canada's 146th birthday. As we walk back to our vehicle, we're racking our brains trying to figure out where to go for lunch. We know Burlington pretty well but we've got three picky eaters with us and a lot of business are also closed on this national holiday. We come up with a few suggestions but soon discovered that they were not what?

That usually means...something out of the blue...unexpected and often, surprisingly good! In this case, as we were driving down Plains Road East towards Hamilton we spotted Russell Williams Family Restaurant. I had recently read about it on Urbanspoon so it was pretty fresh in my mind. Why not? They had one thing going for them...they were opened on Canada Day!

We walked in and they were able to accommodate us. This place was packed and people kept coming in. It was literally happening!

This is a diner...that's the best way to describe it. It had a great all day breakfast selection and classic diner dishes to pick from. I opted for a diet coke and a hot turkey sandwich. It was served with mash potatoes, coleslaw and the veggie of the day, in this case pickled beets.

I ordered the white meat only hot turkey sandwich. It was super juicy. The turkey gravy was flavourful and delicious. The mashed potatoes were some of the best that I have had at any restaurant. Just perfect!

I rather enjoyed our lunch at Russell Williams. It's not fancy but it's been around since 1932, so they are definitely doing something right!

In his opinion:
Hopefully the name will not throw you off from visiting this place. It has no affiliation to Russell Williams, convicted colonel from the Canadian Armed Forces and has been around since the 1930's, way before her was even born.

A true diner in its most celebrated form, Russell Williams Family restaurant has been around for a long time and plans to prolong its existence for many more years to come. We stumbled upon it in our frantic search for a lunch spot on Canada Day, of all days.

Waking in to a packed restaurant can only mean one of two things. It's either that popular or good, or it's the only place open for miles. In this case let's agree that it was because of both, with slight emphasis on the popular and good part.

The staff literally treat you like a regular customer even though it was my first time at the restaurant. The menu is quite predictable and extensive. What you think you should find in a diner menu is exactly what you will see on it. Soups, salads, hot sandwiches and burgers dominate the menu with some very few unexpected surprises like "Quiche Lorraine' and "Chili con Carne Texas style soup".

This is the type of place where things remain the same and change doesn't come easy. And those are wishes not only form the owners and staff but also form their customers that are known to cause an uproar with some previous changes to the menu.

I ordered the "Steak on a Kaiser" without the fried onions. As some of you might know by now I have an aversion to cooked onions but only when they are over cooked, which they usually are. It's a texture thing for me and I know some of you may relate...or not. The sandwich was actually quite large and tasty, steak done perfectly medium as I requested. The kaiser was fresh even though it was a holiday, so they either bake their own or they preserve bread well from previous days.

It was a quick and nostalgic lunch but it hit the spot and did its job. Food was good and the staff calling me "darling" made me feel like a regular. The food came quick even tough the restaurant was quite full. so efficiency is part of their repertoire.

The Good: Great mom and pop restaurant providing the same old consistent food as they did over 75 years ago.
The Bad: The unchanging menu might get a little "old" after a while for the more adventurous eaters.
The Verdict: The decor, the food and the customers are probably the same for a long time, some of them have been going there since before Trudeau was Prime Minister. Even though these days avant guard cuisine and things like gourmet food trucks are the "it " thing. There is a special place for these nostalgic restaurants and the "baby boomers" they cater to which are indeed the bulk of the population for the meantime. So, go down and have those staked high pancakes like in your childhood as places like these are now few and far between.

I give it 3 out of 5 Olives as rating

Russell Williams on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Upcoming Event Reminder - 8th Annual Kultura Filipino Arts Festival

Photo property of Kapisanan Philippine Centre

Just a reminder that the 8th Annual Filipino Arts Festival starts tomorrow, August 7, 2013 and runs until Sunday, August 11, 2013. Don't forget to take part in this week's events leading up to Sunday's culinary competition. We'll be there Sunday and we hope that you can attend as well.

Presented by:
Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture
Phone: 416-979-0600

Starts: August 7, 2013
Ends: August 11, 2013

Cost: Free

Join KAPISANAN for KULTURA Filipino Arts Festival, Canada's only mulit-disciplinary Filipino Arts Festival!

August 7 - Bayanihan: an Interactive Art Installation 10am - 7pm
Daniels Spectrum - 585 Dundas Street East

August 8 - ILUSTRADOS Fundraising Dinner 
Cost is $80 per person and a tax receipt will be given.
Three seatings to pick from 6pm, 7:30pm and 9pm
Includes one bottle of San Miguel beer and 12 course dinner.
Lamesa Filipino Kitchen - 669 Queen Street West

August 9 - CLUTCH Vol. 5 Art Opening 7 pm
KAPISANAN - 167 Augusta Avenue

August 10 - Carlos Bulosan Theatre's Play Creation Unit Readings 2pm
KAPISANAN - 167 Augusta Avenue

August 10 - Tambay Nights 8:30pm
KAPISANAN - 167 Augusta Avenue

August 11 - Filipino culinary Competition and KULTURA Live! 12pm to 7pm
Artscape Wychwood Barns - 601 Christie Street (Bathurst & Christie)

DISCLAIMER: Times, dates and locations subject to change without notice.

Location: Event takes place in multiple locations, please contact event organizers for more details.

This is a great opportunity to experience the Filipino culture. Tips are Included! has been asked to help provide awareness of Filipino food and in coming posts we will be providing more information about this very underrated type of cuisine including the Philippine Culinary Competition - Kain Kalye - Filipino Street Eats (this years grand finale).  

Monday, 5 August 2013

Atmosphere Cafe

24 Carden Street
Guelph, ON


In her opinion:
We were serenaded by Juno Award nominated Canadian band Hollerado as we enjoyed our lunch at Atmosphere Cafe! Not too many people can actually say that...but we can!

I should start at the beginning. Wanting to try something new in the area led me to check out Urbanspoon's Guelph restaurant listings. It had been a while since we had been to Guelph and knowing that their restaurants had never disappointed me, I wanted to go for lunch. I loved Baker Street Station (read post here) and I enjoyed Salsateria before as well (read that post here), so I thought it was time to try a new place in the Royal City.

After a little research, I choose Atmosphere Cafe. I loved the look of the building, I liked what I saw on their menu and I knew that they had a patio which we might be able to enjoy. Unfortunately, what I didn't know was that it sits right in front of Market Square and that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (who happen to be waiting for a new replacement venue for Ivor Wynne Stadium and are using Alumni Stadium in Guelph) would also have their home opener celebrations there. That meant that there wasn't one open patio table available. No biggie, we took our plans inside instead. 

Atmosphere Cafe is a long narrow space with the bar and kitchen against one side of the wall and seating down the other. It has natural exposed stone walls and a great vibe to it. Unfortunately, do to the CFL activities going on outside, the wait staff were overwhelmed. This meant we didn't get the best service in the world but at least they kept apologizing for it during our stay.

After checking out the drinks menu and the drinks blackboard, I settled for the drink of choice at Atmosphere for this day...a pint of Hoegaarden

Hoegaarden is a Belgian-style witbier. It's very similar to our Rickard's White here in Canada (I actually prefer Rickard's White). It's a wheat beer and has the characteristic hints of coriander and orange/citrus flavour to it. It was my first time having a Hoegaarden and I enjoyed this beer quite a lot.

We decided to order a few things off the menu and share instead of ordering full meals. We opted for a "Wellington County Platter" consisting of "Pate en Terrine, made from locally sourced Veal, Pork and Chicken, Trio of Deviled Eggs, Housemade Grainy Mustard, French Baguette and Organic Greens", "Smoked Salmon Crisps" which were "Canadian Smoked Salmon, Homemade Potato Crisps, Green Onion with Lemon-Dill Aioli" and the "Pulled Pork Pizza" which is described on the menu as "Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Carmelized Onion, Feta and Mozzarella".

I must say that this was the perfect food to enjoy with our Hoegaardens (I think I like saying that name)! The pizza was exceptional...really really good. Cheesy and flavourful. The Smoked Salmon Crisps were refined. I think the subtle flavours of the lemon-dill ailoi worked perfectly with the crisp potato and delicious smoked salmon. I was most excited about the Wellington County Platter but I was most disappointed by it to be honest. The pate terrine was okay...not fabulous...just okay. The trio of deviled eggs turned out to be two pieces of one type of deviled eggs. The organic greens were fabulous though. The dressing was flavourful and delicious. I must say that the French baguette was thoroughly enjoyed by our son who devoured it when our waitress brought us some requested butter!

The drinks were good. The food for the most part was excellent. The fact that I could hear Hollerado from where I was sitting in the restaurant playing their award winning music was priceless. 

You see, Hollerado was hired to play at the Tiger-Cats home opener celebration. They played a few of their hits and sounded perfect. Unfortunately, they were playing on a uncovered stage which meant that when the rains began to fall heavily on Market Square, Hollerado had to end their gig for fear of electrocution. Can't say I blame them. But it was awesome to have them play while we ate.

I liked Atmosphere Cafe very much. If you are in Guelph, you should check them out!

In his opinion:
Guelph has had a re-resurgence in the culinary realm lately. Many new exciting restaurants are opening in this university town and many of the staple restaurants are scrambling to stay current. All this translates to more choices and better food for everyone in the city and those visiting.

We, as nearby visitors were cashing in on just that. Visiting a relatively new restaurant that had opened on Carden Street, with a interesting menu and a little buzz roaming around on its approval. We. unfortunately picked the wrong day for the patio because the Ti-Cats Festivities had taken over the whole street, including the patio at Atmosphere, which was our initial target.

We sat inside instead and decided to make the most out of the air conditioned room that helped cool us all down on this hot day. The restaurant itself is long and narrow with a bar on the right hand side as you walk in. It seemed to be a favourite for university students and the place was literally filled with them.

On this hot summer day, service started out nothing short of abysmal  I'm not sure if it was the inexperience of the the staff of 2 or just the sheer volume of a "Football Sunday" that had the waitresses scrambling around to keep the tables happy. Food took a while to get to our table but when it did, it was worth the wait, I suppose.

I ordered a Hoegaarden beer which I found refreshing for this muggy, hot day. It is a Rickard's white like beer, orange slice included and all.
As far as food is concerned, we decided to just get a few items and share them, very much in the "Football" party style that surrounded us. 

I'll start with the "Pulled Pork Pizza" which was one of my favourite parts of the meal. This pizza is topped with slow roasted pork shoulder, caramelized onions, feta and mozzarella. As many of you might know, I'm not usually a caramelized onions type of guy but these were thinly sliced and not overcooked so that the "crunchiness" was still there at every bite. The pizza was very good and the combination of the 2 cheeses worked very well together.

The "Smoked Salmon Crisps" were next and they felt almost like a miniature hard shell taco with salmon. They are packed with flavour at every bite and a very refreshing dish for a summer day. Perfect for sharing...

Lastly, was the "Wellington County Platter" which in my view was the disappointing part of the meal. It consisted of pate en terrine from veal, pork and chicken and frankly had a bit of an identity crisis. Felt and tasted a lot like what we used to call as kids "Random Meat" and not refined at all. The trio of deviled eggs turned out to be just one egg cut into two, not sure what that was about. Literally the best part of this dish turned out to be the organic greens and its flavourful dressing. 

The Good: Great new little restaurant, perfectly located with an adventurous menu and decor to match.
The Bad: Service was lackluster to say the least and needs some looking into. Also when you say trio on a dish please ensure there are 3.
The Verdict: Overall, the food was good, you can see a touch of higher thinking on the menu choices and the possibility of it becoming something more than it actually is. One of the barriers will be matching the available items to the customer base as the university students besides us looked like they were at an advanced math class when browsing the menu.

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

Atmosphere Cafe on Urbanspoon