April 22, 2015

OPENING: Meat Ventures!

Remember last year when I fell in love and wrote this lovely write up about the BEST damn bacon dessert ever? Not only did I fall in love with the brûlée but I was also pretty smitten with the duo behind the Meat Cart too. Well, the Badass Boss of Bacon (literally, he ranked 11th at the Bacon World Championship which means this dude is the 11th best in the world at cooking bacon. #getonhislevel) is back with a whole damn WAGON! That's right, last year Salar Madadi rocked the scene with a cart and this year he is going to CRUSH it with a wagon - that's pretty cute as f//ck too. 

You better believe I'll be chasing this puppy down the street like a frat boy chases a mini skirt. 
Full disclosure, this is in no way a review. Please don't expect me to go into detail about the taste, texture and my overall experience. I consider Salar and his wife Jeannie really good friends of mine and it would be misleading of me to do a typical review of them.  You guys are my foodie friends and I want to use this venue to tell you about my other foodie friends. That sounded a bit like a circle jerk but I promise none of that shady business. 

But, I will gladly share some Meat Ventures food porn and let you know where you can find them.
Anyways, on to what I ate.

I enjoyed the Bacon Fatty ($9) sausage meatloaf wrapped in bacon smoked, sliced & grilled with garlic toast, crispy onions, sriracha mayo, arugula + swiss cheese 
I like to call these the Asian fries surprise. This is the epitome of what I call dirty food. Like stick to your bones ooey gooey goodness. Chorizo Fries ($9) - twice fried fresh cut fries, topped with chorizo, country gravy, pickles jalapeños, and cilantro
Tocino sliders  ($8 for two) - house cured Filipino bacon topped with garlic lime cream sauce and green mango + jicama slaw.  My previous comments from my first meeting with them still stands. I just keep forgetting to bring over my bowl of rice!
Bacon creme brûlée ($6) Cherry/strawberry bacon jam base, vanilla custard with a slice of candied bacon.
The Meat Wagon wings ($10): Jumbo brined + smoked, fried until crispy, then covered in signature BBQ sauce + garlic lime cream sauce  - first new menu item of the season!  
I'm super stoked to see some new innovative dishes coming from Salar this season now that he's got a full kitchen at his finger tips! Make sure to check out their website for locations and stalk them on the internet. This is just a taste of what the 2015 food truck season is going to be like. 

They'll be at Food Trucks for Haiti this Saturday with some of my other fave food trucks. I'll be there with a bacon fatty in my mouth, so if you spot me - please say hello! 

Happy Eating!

Twitter: @MeatVentures
Facebook | Instagram

Full Disclosure; this is not a review, I am personal friends with the truck owner and like every Joe Shmoe on the street - he charges me for his food too. No special treatment and in no way is this a paid post. Opinions are genuinely my own. 

April 16, 2015

$103.41 Brunch at The Ritz Carlton

I am all about a good all-you-can-eat brunch. Gimme the ayce oysters, charcuterie, cheese and whatever crazy brunch special the chef has! On this occasion, we headed to the Ritz Carlton for my girlfriends birthday brunch. 

Lets just put this one on the table right now; this was a $103.41 per person brunch  (tip was already included because we were a large party & yes, tax included). Keep reading if you're curious to see what $103.41 brunch gets you or, you can just scroll through the pics and tell yourself you'd never be foolish enough to pay that price. 
Oh, did you decide to keep reading? Thanks Boo. 

Lets go over all of the stations. There is a beef wellington carving station, cold salad + seafood, DIY caesar bar, hot food, omelette live station (chef stands there and eggs are cooked to order), dessert room, and bread station with breakfast pastries.  They did a great job of visually making all of the stations very appealing. I would have preferred a standard roast beef carving station and maybe a ham or one more hot item carved to be honest. It would have added a better perception of value.

From my perspective, I immediately break it down from a cooks point of view. So, there are really only three stations - garde manger, hot banquets and pastry department.  Garde Manger would be anything cold, so in this case - the salad, charcuterie, seafood station and bread + breakfast pastries. I'm not even going to talk about the bread station cause that's just foolish at an ayce joint. Who wants to get full off bread?

Half the cold station was just salad topping - seeds, dressing, mixed greens etc. All that generic salad bar type items. Yay, cherry tomatoes and grated carrots - not really. There was also cold lobster tails, oysters, shrimp and crab. Obviously this was my favourite part of brunch. In fact, I loved it so much I had a plate of oysters and lobster in-between every other plate - and trust me, I had multiples. A girls gotta get her money's worth! 
There was a handful of pre made salads and grilled veggies also. That didn't impress me much. It only takes up space on the table so it looks like there is more variety. You can't fool me Ritz! I didn't go to a $103.41 brunch so I can eat some stinkin' grilled zucchini and eggplant. Of course there were plenty of skinny b//tches there who gushed over fried onions and juicy plump tomatoes on the buffet. Pshhh, amateurs.  

Much like Vegas buffets - and this will be the only time I will ever compare this buffet to Vegas - there was tiny portions of complete dishes like seared tuna & fancy salad scattered around. This was a great visual and again, took up lots of space on the table, but sadly, not too impressive in flavour. 
The cheese cave in the middle of the dining area was très awesome. Of course I was nosy and asked for a tour and luckily, the chef at the omelette station was nice enough to patronize me. She was actually a very lovely individual. Toca, where brunch was held, serves as an Italian restaurant most days of the week.
The DIY Caesar bar was a neat addition but I usually try not to fill up on liquids during a buffet - another amateur mistake. Brunch also comes with unlimited Mimosa's & Bellini's. So yes,  $103.41 does come with some booze.
It was pretty standard for hot food options. Everything was done very well, nothing was over cooked and things were being flipped on the buffet very quickly. I wouldn't expect anything less from the Ritz. The fish remained moist and the pancakes were fluffy like pillows. The eggs didn't get too hard and the sausage and bacon weren't sitting in its own oil. Whoever maintained the hot food on the buffet did a great job. All the items on the buffet were always being replenished. I'm very picky about this sort of thing cause this was my job back in the day.
The charcuterie and cheese are always a go to item for me - ya'll know cured meat gets me weak in the knees. The variety wasn't over the moon ridiculous but it was enough to keep me coming back for more. 

They also ran out of oysters half way through brunch which was unimpressive. If I'm paying that price, nothing should ever run out. For $103.41 you should be able to keep up with my oyster consumption. 

They had a little dessert room that appeared really lavish and over the top but nothing in there actually blew my mind away when it come to taste and flavour. Everything was presented beautifully but flavour wise - it was all pretty bland. Very old school and not very innovative - I feel like this is very much the Ritz Carlton brand (old school). A panna cotta, some cakes decorated with a piece of fruit and maybe a chocolate shaving or swirl. whoop. dee. doo. Nothing out of the ordinary. 

I was very excited to see a box of macarons at the dessert table, unfortunately they were picked clean by the time I was ready to have any. We mentioned this to our server and he promptly filled them up and brought the box to our table and served us table side. This type of service is partly the reason you're paying $103.41 for eggs and bacon. The service at the Ritz has a reputation for being absolutely outstanding,  like above and beyond, mind blowing kind of stuff. Our server was incredibly professional, kept the drinks flowing and was very accommodating. 

I was not kidding when I said I sandwiched a plate of seafood in between each plate, I needed my money's worthy yo, and seafood takes up little to no space in your stomach anyways!

So, over all it was a fun experience to be at the Ritz and fancy it up with my girlfriends but would I ever go again? No. $103.41 for brunch is way out of my price range but judging from how busy it was - there are definitely people out there willing to pay. Maybe it's the luxury of being able to say you were at the Ritz but food wise it's not worth it. The Ancaster Mill brunch is half the size and they're the only brunch in town that can keep up with my oyster intake. Thanks guys!  

To be honest, it's definitely one of those places I would go once - and then never again.  No, I lie, I'd only go back if they had a two for one deal on Groupon. 

Happy Eating! 

Toca - The Ritz Carlton
181 Wellington Street West 
Toronto, Ontario
TOCA on Urbanspoon

April 6, 2015

Beechwood Doughnuts

I have to admit, stalking Beechwood on social media has been a bit of a love hate relationship.  On one end - I needed to know what they're doing at all times and on the other, it was complete torture just scrolling through pics and pics of doughnuts.  Doughnuts are definitely my type of food porn, right behind fried chicken. I might have a bit of a fry fetish... 

When I heard they were also 100% vegan - I was sceptical at first, and then I remembered vegan pretty much means zero calories - right? RIGHT?
Anyways, I finally made it out this weekend and it was exactly what I imagined. This made me very, very, happy. Often times, I instagram stalk the crap out of something and the real life meet up is never what I expected. It's the worst with doughnuts. Show me a doughnut that does't photograph well, impossible I tell ya! It also doesn't help that Hamilton doesn't have a plethora of doughnut options. So when I'm craving, it often goes unsatisfied.  I had a lot of high hopes for this place.

I can proudly say, these puppies are what wet dreams are made up. The dough itself is very light and airy and the toppings are fresh and sweet without being too sweet.  Know what I mean? That for me, sealed the deal. There was just the perfect amount of sweetness in every bite. 

I find most desserts are too sweet - one or two bites is all I can handle. Beechwood has the perfect balance. You can finish an entire doughnut ... maybe a 2nd or 3rd and not feel like you've fallen into a self induced sugar coma. 
We ordered the Pistachio Glaze, Raspberry Lemon, Coconut, Blueberry Dipped, French Toast and Peanut Butter and  Jam.

The pistachio was my least favourite. Compared to the others it was very forgettable. But don't get me wrong, it was great, but it was like putting a cute girl beside Mila Kunis. You still cute girl  - but you're nothing next to Mila. Sorry boo. There just wasn't enough pistachio flavour for me. But, pistachio in general is pretty hard to pull flavour from. 

The others on the other hand,  10/10. 

Mila-Kunis-before-she-started-dating-Ashton-but-after-that-70's-show-damn-good! LIKE DAMN! 
You could still see the seeds on the raspberry glaze and the lemon curd on top was out of this word. Paired together it was just orgasmic. The blueberry was hands down, on point and my absolute favourite. Very unique and beautifully done.  Nothing tasted artificial and it was just like biting into the fruit itself. The coconut was waaay coconut-y and the coconut bits themselves were soft and even remained soft the next morning. Yes, we actually had leftovers. I ate my half so you can blame Ball & Chain, he is so weaksauce. Oh, and there was even a coconut whipped cream filling inside. Hot damn I was hooked! They were also a pretty decent size.

The peanut butter and jelly we purchased for a friend so I didn't get a chance to try it.  I definitely licked my fingers after I moved it for this shot though. I immediately started considering how important this friend was to me ... 
I brought the remainder of the doughnuts home and enjoyed them on the couch with a glass of milk. Next time, I will bring my glass of milk to Beechwood so I could enjoy all the doughnuts then and there. Being a vegan establishment they could only offer me soy.  Sorry guys, I needed the real deal. 

The french toast was a surprise hit for me. The crumble on top was a beautiful detail that was subtle, but completely added to the overall enjoyment of the doughnut. This definitely won't get approved by the Beechwood folks but I highly recommend pairing the french toast with a thick piece of bacon. It's honestly the perfect combination of sweet & salty - just absolute heaven.  I'm actually not a fan of bacon doughnuts but these two just went hand in hand. I would go as far as slicing the doughnut in half and throwing a fried egg in between, with more bacon of course! THAT is something you wait in line for. 

Speaking of the line ups; Yes it's true. You will have to wait in line, and you'll have to be quick because they sell out. By the time we made it home with our treats - Beechwood already tweeted they were sold out. 

Be warned, the line up is out the door and around the shop. We did go during Good Friday, so maybe it was just the holiday line up?  But it did move very quickly. 

For a brand new shop,  they seem to be running like a well oiled machine. There was a team in the back that looked like they were producing doughnuts the entire time - literally frying and glazing almost to order.  I know since they've opened they've hired more staff and bought more equipment so they're able to pump out more doughnuts and keep up with supply and demand. 

I know others will just say they'll wait till the hype dies down, and I say - but why? Suck it up, wait in line, grab a coffee on your way out and eat your feelings in your car. We all do it. No wait, make a day of it! St. Catharines has a booming food scene so you definitely won't go hungry!
Once you taste these doughnuts you'll realize something this good takes time and patience - it's not something par baked or frozen like that other place - it's made right there in front of you, with human hands! 

I also have to say, do not go in there and expect to pay 80 cents for a doughnut. They're not at Walmart.  They range from about $2-3 and that for me, is a decent price for something hand crafted with good ingredients.  #GoodFoodMatters

Happy Eating! 

Beechwood Doughnuts
5 James Street
St. Catharines, Ontario