December 4, 2015

3 Days with I Heart Hamilton

Chanry: Three days with I Heart Hamilton, how did I get so ...lucky? Just kidding! It’s been an amazing few months for the Hamilton food scene and I can’t even believe it’s been two years since Kristin and I joined forces on a blog post. Fortunately, the universe brought us back together for three days of food, fun, and (very) filling media events. 

Kristin: It has been a long time since I Heart Hamilton & The Hungry Gnome joined forces on a blog post! (Remember when we went to Che, over TWO years ago now? I just read mine and Chanry’s blog posts again - it’s amazing how far things have come since then, in both our friendship and Hamilton!). Lately we’ve been pretty inseparable and on a roll with our local adventures. The past few months have been a blogger’s dream in Hamilton - so many events.
Day One: Lake Road Restaurant 229 James St N, Hamilton, ON

Kristin: We all saw a sneak preview of brand new restaurant Lake Road during Supercrawl. Learning that it was a new venture by the team behind the acclaimed Twisted Lemon in Cayuga, and hearing about a stone oven cooking up pizza and some of the best bartenders in town serving up fabulous cocktails, it was on my list to visit.

For their grand opening last month, Lake Road pulled out all the stops. It wasn’t your average grand opening, it was a gala. Oh, you fancy. Chanry and I attended with a bunch of bloggers and we all dressed to the nines!

Chanry: I was pretty much foaming at the mouth when I heard Chef Dan Megna and Laurie Lilliman were coming to downtown Hamilton. I knew they were going to elevate the restaurant scene with exceptional cocktails and over the top food pairings. They have a bit of reputation for killin’ it, if you know what I mean.
Kristin: When I first got there, I entered a room full of balloons and dessert. That’s all I needed. I could have gone home after that. Seriously, it was spectacular. Several different kinds of cake, a massive plate of gorgeous fruit, colourful macarons… heaven.

Chanry: Riiiiight? Errrmahgerd the dessert spread was absolutely divine.
Kristin: Watching the bartenders at Lake Road whip up the drinks was something else. These guys were having a blast, and it was so entertaining to watch. They had a special “speakeasy” style menu downstairs (yes - two floors!). I really enjoyed the Lavender Tom Collins.

Chanry: My favourite part was when Megna pulled out the 8ft Noah’s Ark smorgasbord. There was practically two of every animal on the board - from crab, shrimp, to a whole pig’s head! Which the foodies had no shame digging into. You can actually order this thing of beauty at the restaurant. You just need to give the team a heads up! I was lucky enough to experience the dessert version during the #HamontFT. I do agree with Kristin, the drinks were pretty spectacular.

Kristin: I look forward to eating there sometime during a regular day and perusing the menu. The pizza was awesome, too!
Day Two: Serve Ping Pong Bar 115 King St E #105, Hamilton, ON

Kristin: I warned everyone not to get too cray at Lake Road, because the next morning, it was round two: the launch of Serve Ping Pong’s new brunch menu.

Serve finalllyyyy opened its doors in October. Hamilton’s first ping pong bar had a ton of hype behind it, and it has really lived up to it. Not only is it such a fun place to hang out, the food is really great, thanks to Chef Steward Byfield heading things up in the kitchen.

Chanry: A HUGE yas from me when it comes to brunch. I am so thrilled to see the brunch movement finally make its way to Hamilton. We were there when Serve PP first opened (for a media tasting) and I was very excited to hear they were rolling out mimosa’s and benny’s.

Kristin: Bring on the Eggs Benny! We tried two kinds - one with pulled pork and white cheddar, and one with their house made candied bacon, garlic braised cherry tomatoes, and onion rings. We agree that we could eat that candied bacon with everything!

Chanry: Everything!! 

Kristin: It’s the best. There was also a vegetarian option for the Eggs Benny. And those handmade buttermilk biscuits! The Breakfast Poutine was also a standout for me.

Chanry: My Caesar came with a mini pizza. Fo realz. Oh, and on the 13th they are doing a pay one price and get brunch + bottomless Mimosa & Caesars. Yeah, I said it. BOTTOMLESS BABY! 

Kristin: The pizza caesar! That was a hit. I think they just need to go wild with the garnishes. Serve has a great opportunity here to really step up Hamilton’s brunch game and bring a unique experience along with it (ping pong!). I love that you can stuff your face and then get a little exercise in. I’ll be there on the 13th for that big brunch!
pic c/o Mezcal Tacos & Tequila
Day Three: Mezcal 150 James St S, Hamilton, ON

Kristin: It took me wayyyy too long to visit Mezcal for the first time. Forgive me, Hamilton. It only took one meal there to understand why it is a major local favourite. For this special visit, we were there to take part in their first Tequila Revolution event.

Chanry: I’m not even a huge taco fan but dat cauliflower taco, nom nom nom - it’s absolutely delightful. When they invited us for their first taco tasting with Canada’s only Master Tequilier, I was absolutely thrillllled. I love tequila and I was hoping this opportunity would force tequila to love me back.
Kristin: I’m not even a huge tequila fan - I'm more a bourbon/whiskey gal, but then again, I had never drank tequila like this. Tequila is meant to be sipped and savoured, and we were walked through the origins of it while picking out the different flavour notes, with the help of our Master Tequilier, Manny (not Chef Manny, another Manny!).

Chanry: Two things I learned. 
  1. Tequila does love me back, I was just drinking the cheap stuff so it was always in a hurry to exit my body. The good stuff usually stays and keeps you warm. 
  2. Don't listen to Kristin, she really likes Tequila. lol 
Kristin: Ok, ok, tequila won me over! I even got in trouble with the Tequiler for drinking too quickly. Oops.
pic c/o Hamilton Gastronomy
Mezcal wants to start a Tequila Revolution. They’re on a mission to change the bad rep Tequila has. None of that salt & lime #$% with these guys. We learned how to drink tequila at their first Tequila Revolution and now we’d like to give you the chance to mix cocktails and sip on tequila flights at their next Revolution. 

December 14th, join Tequila Tromba & Mezcal TNT for an interactive tasting. Oh, and did we mention they feed you too? Click here to purchase tickets or enter our contest below!

Happy Eating!

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November 25, 2015

First Impression: Golden Brown

 A few weeks ago I discovered the most adorable Korean takeout joint. I literally barfed in my mouth a bit from how absolutely adorbs this place was. I practically squealed my pants off when I walked into the place.  Every inch of this tiny shop was covered in reclaimed wood and decorated in sweet little doodles done by hand.  
Ran by an incredibly humble and sweet son & mom duo, this is definitely a hidden gem on Barton street. And I mean it when I say hidden. The windows are all covered up and there is no sign at the door. How do you find it? It's right beside the HAVN art gallery. Got it?  
First off, they make their own kimchi. I'm not just talking cabbage but the works - mustard greens, two types of radishes, pear, parsnip, cucumber - so many to choose from! The one that stood out the most was the pear kimchi. It was so good it blew my socks off! The rest of the kimchi had lots of flavour and packed really good heat too. 

My buddies Jeannie & Salar (from Meat Ventures) recently discovered them and are now using Golden Brown's homemade kimchi at their poke bar (which if you haven't tried yet - you should! These guys hit it out of the park with their poke. Check out Pokeh Bar at the Hamilton market #notsponsored) 
The menu is very small and humble. Everything under ten dollars and most items served with white rice and pickled vegetables. The left column is for a small size and the right is large. The food is very much home cooked. Even though I'm not Korean, I feel like I just picked up some grub from mom's house. There is nothing fussy or pretentious about it. Just simple food done well, they clearly take pride in it.
This is the view from the door. Yes it's very small. And yeah, it's cute AF.

First thing we ordered was the Korean Fried Chicken, usually served on a skewer but we asked for it on its own. You also have the option of having it with rice. Jake also said you can order a dinner style KFC combo for two people for $20 

The sauce on the chicken was tangy, spicy, and included all the delicious flavours I love about Korean food. It was incredibly crispy on the outside and the meat (I think it was thigh) was juicy. This is the kind of dish you could keep eating & not realize you're full till about 6 pounds in. I loved the KFC and I'm hoping they'll consider doing bone in fried chicken. I would probably foam at the mouth with excitement if this happened. Or at least have bigger chunks of chicken.
 The Ju Meok Bob were $4 for 3 (top right corner),  we ordered one seaweed and two anchovy. These were nothing to write home about. It wasn't mind blowing - but I wouldn't kick it out of bed or anything. It does make a great snack if you're itching for white rice. They're essentially balls of rice with stuff inside.

The bottom middle was a small Jeyuk ($5) - spicy marinated slices of pork.  I hate to say it, but I can never differentiate the types of spices in Korean food. All I know is that it is either sweet, spicy, or both, but delicious every time. The meat was caramelized nicely and not over done at all. 
Pictured below is the large Jeyuk for $7. There is a bed of rice with pickled cabbage, pork & kimchi radish on the side. For $7 you get two types of veg, a starch and protein?! Are you fricken kidding me? FANTASTIC bang for your buck.
Loved the fact that they gave us different side dishes when I ordered the large Jeyuk and the large KFC meal. This place has some crazy potential and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow. From what I can tell from their instagram, they do a few daily specials and are vegetarian friendly. 
Tell all your foodie friends about this place. It'll be a bitch to find but totes worth it. I hope they put a sign out front very soon. For what I can remember, they are open till 9pm everyday but closed on Mondays. 

Happy Eating! 

Golden Brown 
28 Barton Street East 
Hamilton, On 
Golden Brown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

November 21, 2015

Baking Workshop with Canola Oil

Watch out EVOO, Canola Oil is back with a vengeance. Canola oil was always something I grew up cooking with, until Rachel Ray came into the scene & she was all "throw a dash of evoo in there" "add a little drizzle of evoo here" And all of a sudden, EVOO was everywhere. But how about we all go back to our roots & love canola oil the way we love Drake.
This past weekend I was invited to a canola oil-inspired farm to food experience. What the heck does that mean? It means the awesome peeps from Canola Eat Well thought I was awesome enough to be invited to this awesome home and eat awesome baked goods all made with awesome oil.  

I mean, check out this gorgeous home. This B&B called Olde Bridge Place is just a few clicks away from St Jacobs Farmers' Market and Elora. The workshop was actually held in the owners personal home.  I can easily imagine myself frolicking through the grass all day long and drinking tea with my pinky up here. It's exactly what I would like The Avocado Farm to be when it grows up. 
Our host for the afternoon was Dee Brun (the owner of Olde Bride Place) and cookbook author of "The Messy Baker" Charmian Christine. We had the opportunity to cook six different recipes; Chocolate Chip & Walnut cookies, Cranberry Pistachio Baklava Pockets, Poppy Seed Bars with Citrus Icing, Crostoli fried in canola oil, Dark Cherry Brownies, and Mini Rum Cakes with Pristine Gourmet Canola (pictured below). 
I grew up in Alberta where you could drive for hours and only see fields and fields of yellow. So canola oil is definitely my jam. 

What I didn't know, was if you replace canola oil with any solid fat that needs to be melted in a baking recipe it becomes healthier (without affecting flavour). You're essentially substituting high saturated fats with canola oil.  

So, you can basically eat as much a you want and still live it up. Just kidding. But it's still much healthier than the alternative - and still keeps your cookies, cakes, and baked goods moist. This was something Charmian taught me, cause I was all "Dude, where's the butter?".  I guess I'm choosing canola oil from now on because it’s local, healthy, & versatile. Did that sound cheesy? I just get excited when I learn new ways to eat more & stay healthy. 
Lets get down to the fun part - the eating! I don't show up to a party unless I know I am going to be fed, and Dee + Charmian definitely delivered! I love a good smorgasbord of sweet & salty.
I'm all about that quality control. No seriously, I was learning tips and tricks left and right I had to make sure the end result reflected what I learned. Clearly Sid (Did I mention they let me bring twinsie along? We were a Belly Monster baking machine!) and me were incredibly focused students all afternoon. 
I've been a long time sweets eater but never a sweets maker, so thank goodness they partnered us with a professional like Charmian whose philosophy is "approachable, inspiring, from-scratch cooking" Key word approachable - she managed to get us making baklava and rolling dough! 

After all the eating, and baking, and more eating we got a chance to see canola oil in its truest form. These little seeds make canola oil! Everyone got a chance to crush these little bad boys too check out the golden goodness inside. Out came this yellow oil, obvi not the stuff you cook with but it was pretty damn cool.

I spent a lovely afternoon learning how to use canola oil to deep dry, brush phyllo dough, use it to make brownies & cookies & bars. AND the whole time knowing I was making a "healthier choice" which, I hate to admit, needs to happen way more often in my life. If you're looking to pick up a copy of The Messy Baker - you can do so here. Three words of encouragement: Piglet Muffins with Caramelized Bacon. Okay maybe that was more than three. 

I ate, baked, laughed. I even got a chance ogle someone else's beautiful home. All in a typical Sunday for the Hungry Gnome! 

This was a sponsored post. All pictures provided by Jeffrey Chan Photography. Opinions, sass, witty one liners provided by me.