October was my birthday month and I definitely spent it spoiling myself with some spectacular meals. What better way to end it than with an afternoon spent on Locke Street for Battledish?
Batttledish is brought to you by Dishcrawl and hosted by the lovely David Hanley. If you haven't been to a dishcrawl event and you consider yourself a proud Hamiltonian and a foodie - what are you waiting for? This is a great walking foodie tour that guides you (sipping and eating the whole way) through local neighborhoods. Who wouldn't love that? Check out my post on the first Dishcrawl event here.
Anyways, enough chit chat. I like to describe Battledish as a cross between Amazing Race and Iron Chef - but a little less dramatic. Each participant gets a map and a little blurb about each restaurant.Your job as a participant was to walk the battlegrounds eating and drinking your way to each restaurant. The battlegrounds took place on Locke street with eight chefs going head to head. Each chef provided a sample plate and a cocktail pairing.
The headquarters was at Ceylon Tea Bush where ticket holders were given their map and their ballots for picking a winner.
Our first stop was Na Roma. Na Roma has always been a Locke Street favourite of mine, and they never disappoint! Chef Mario Spina came out and introduced his dish - Schiacciata con l'uva - local grapes, rosemary, triple creme brie, home made reduced balsamic and arugula with a light sprinkling of icing sugar and cinnamon . His accompanying beverage was Abruzzo (red wine)
At first glance, I wasn't really impressed. I thought for the first time ever, Na Roma was going to disappoint. I mean brie, balsamic and arugula? Real original buddy! And then adding grapes to the dough - are you on crack Mario? I was definitely eating my words after my first bite because WOW - this was a mouthful of ooey gooey heaven. The triple cream brie was oozing out and the crispy, light dough with sweet local grapes were the perfect combination. It was the perfect contrast of flavours and textures. For something so simple and meatless - this was amazing!
My sister and I enjoyed the triple creme brie so much we walked right over to The Cheese Shoppe on Locke (where Na Roma got theirs) to scoop up their last little bit. It was just as phenomenal at home with a little drizzling of honey.
Speaking of The Cheese Shoppe on Locke, If you haven't been, I suggest a quick pop in when you're in the area. Even if you aren't a fan of cheese I'm sure there is something here you'll fall in love with. They sell an amazing selection of anything from housewares to charcuterie to bottled sauces and jams. It really is a gem of a place. I know I say it alot but the people of Hamilton need to know - we have some killer locally owned and operated shops in our backyard!
For the occasion, the Cheese Shoppe reserved a sweet little nook in the corner for all Battledish participants. There were mismatch tables and wobbly chairs and a gentlemen serenading us in the corner - it was like right of pinterest. I wanted to barf it was so cute.
Chef Tor Krueger prepared Zucchini Cream Soup with Gorgonzola Pear with a side of truffled three cheese macaroni. The soup was a little bland at first but once I had it with the chicken pâté crostini, the saltiness of the pâté really umphed up the soup. There were little nibblets of zucchini and pear through out the soup so not a full on "cream of " soup - ya'll know I hate those! The surprising underdog of the plate was the mac and cheese. It was very comforting to have something so familiar on the menu. I prefer my mac a little more cheesy though. The portions were pretty substantial as well. My sister and I both took left overs home.
I inquired about purchasing the pâté as well but was sad to find out it wasn't for sale. The mac and cheese however is on their take out and catering menu.
The cocktail pairing turned out to be a "mocktail" - which I really ended up liking. They offered a grape juice made with wine grapes - mixed with a little carbonated water and you've got yourself a pretty splendid beverage!
Next Stop was West Town Bar & Grill. I was introduced to West Town through my first Dishcrawl event and to be honest, I wasn't blown away by the food but was pretty impressed by the creativity considering it's "just" a neighborhood bar.
This time around I'm definitely changing my tune about West Town. Chef Walter Roper offered Pork Tenderloin marinated in citrus, wrapped in puff pastry with peppercorn cream sauce. The technique behind making this dish is harder than it looks. You've got to be able to cook the protein on the inside and the puff pastry on the outside at the same temp, for the duration of the same time. It's a tricky balance - no one wants soggy dough or over/under done meat. This was executed perfectly. The pork was moist and juicy on the inside, and still leaving the puff pastry flaky and crispy on the outside. I was really impressed. I opted for the Caesar instead of the Battledish cocktail - I can never turn down a caesar.
The casesar was pretty impressive too. Considering the garnish was very minimal, I was still blown away by the flavour balance - sometimes caesars are just all over the place. But this one was excellent!
We thought we'd hit up Democracy next - just to give us a break and maybe rejuvenate with some sugar! Democracy is pretty new to Locke Street but judging by the crowd when we walked in - they've been welcomed with open arms. The broccoli muffin is always a favourite of mine when I walk in and it was a delight to see the mini version. The lemon loaf was light and had the perfect tang of lemon and citrus - the "hello sailor" I didn't like so much - too much chocolate for me and it tasted just like anything you can get from Dufflet or La Rocca. The Peppermint Mocha was a great pick me up.
While we were there, we struck up conversation with our table mates. It's always great meeting new people - I'm so nosy I always want to know more about people and events like this always give me a chance to chat up a storm with someone new.
Of course we couldn't leave Democracy without me leaving my mark!
Come back next week for Part Two of Battledish. In the meantime check out what other events Dave Hanley is hosting here - as well as his newest venture, Pop Up Hamilton - where he joins forces with local chefs to bring you an evening of unexpected adventures, surprises, and a four course meal complete with wine pairings. No biggie right?
This months event happens on the 22nd with Chef Robert To from Koi - purchase tickets here. This man is all over the place and I tell ya - if you want an interesting night out - you'll want to tag along on one of his many adventures.
** My ticket was complimentary from Battledish but I purchased my sisters ticket who was my date for the afternoon