Monday, September 29, 2008

Grover's Bar & Grill - Groverburger

In the same article that recommended Jim's Steakout, I read about Grover's Bar and Grill (9160 Transit Rd.) in East Amherst NY. They were praised as having the best burgers in the Buffalo area. Since it's quite difficult to find a decent burger (that you don't have to go to a high end steakhouse to get) in Toronto, I wanted to give it a shot.

My party arrived at the small 12 table restaurant and it was full so we added our name to a chalkboard and waited to be seated. After about 15 minutes of checking out the waitresses coming out of the kitchen with order after order of huge burgers we were shown to our table.

Grover's is famous for their 12 ounce patties, they are cooked on a flat top grill not char broiled. I ordered the Groverburger with bacon and cheddar cheese ($6.95), the other toppings offered were lettuce, tomato and onion, simple and classic. Mustard and ketchup are available at the table to add if you wish. Burgers are served on their own with a slice of pickle, we chose a basket of rings to complete our meal.

What I like about the Buffalo area is that many burger joints will ask you how you want your burger cooked. I like this, it shows you have confidence in your ingredients. Saying this, the servers at Grover's didn't ask me how I wanted mine done.

After 10 minutes of anticipation our burgers and onion rings showed up, this was mine:

It had a wonderful crust on the outside of the burger and was still oozing juice into the bun upon arrival at the table. I kept the burger simple and didn't add any other condiments other than the lettuce tomato and onion it came with.

Biting into it revealed just the slightest hint of pink remaining in the meat, this disappeared as I continued to eat the burger. It was juicy, and had a nice beefy taste. I'm assuming it's made of ground sirloin. My only complaint about the meat is that it needs more seasoning, at the very least some more salt and pepper. At first it was a little unwieldy to eat because of the sheer size of the patty and uncompressed bun, after the first few bites it becomes easier to manage.


On my last trip to Grover's I had their bacon and blue burger which came topped with 5 strips of bacon and blue cheese crumble. These additions added more than enough salt to the burger..... To season or not to season?

The toppings were quality and fresh, thinly sliced tomato, green leaf lettuce, and strong white onion complimented the beef perfectly. The bacon and cheese were apparent but didn't overwhelm the taste of the beef. The bun was excellent, it was a little denser than a standard burger bun but it had to be to hold up to this beast of a patty. It was fresh and the tiniest bit sweet.

The onion rings appeared to be pre-made but were thick cut which isn't the case in most restaurants. They needed more time to drain, they left a puddle of oil in the bottom of the basked they were served in....

They might be large for most burger fans, especially people looking for craft burgers. If you're looking for a good old fashioned beefy burger that you can brag to your friends that you actually finished, this is your place.

My only major gripe is that Grover's is cash only, no debit or credit.

Jim's Steakout - Steak Hoagy

I was in Buffalo for Oinktoberfest again this past weekend and was in the mood for a Philly steak sandwich. I'd heard good things about Jim's Steakout in a newspaper article about the best places to eat in the Buffalo area. Jim's was recommended for steak hoagies. They have multiple locations around the Buffalo area, I hit the 3336 Sheridan Drive location in Amherst.

I went in and saw what I was after, a 12 inch Philly steak hoagy ($9.25, yep almost ten bucks) which came with chopped sirloin steak, cheese, fried onions and topped with Jim's secret sauce.

It was interesting to see them chopping the meat directly on the grill with a couple of spatulas, it was prepared very quickly, placed on the bun and doused with the secret sauce.

Eating it was a messy affair. Once wrapped, the sauce oozes everywhere soaking the bun, the paper it was wrapped in and forcing the eater to hunch over significantly to save their clothing from drips.

The taste of the sandwich was hit and miss for me. The meat, although heavily sauced was very bland, it was well chopped and very tender but didn't bring any spice to the table. I'm assuming the sauce is supposed to spice it, I would have rather had some pepper and garlic sprinkled on it. I'd say the sandwich needed salt but the cheese was incredibly salty. I'd take a bite of a meaty section and it'd be bland, then I'd hit the cheesy section below and my tongue would send signals of salt overload to my brain.

The bun was excellent. It was fresh and stood up well to the moisture filled meat and toppings that were piled into it.

On the whole I was a little disappointed with the sandwich. The disparity between the bland meat and salty cheese (which would have probably been great if they were combined better) made for a tale of two sandwiches. I don't know what the sauce brings to the table other than making a mess.... While the sandwich was very large I don't think the price of this sandwich was justified, I wouldn't order it again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jamaican Beef Patties

A topic that arises in a couple of forums I belong to is "Who makes the best beef patty in Toronto?"

I sampled the wares of four of the more popular Jamaican patty suppliers in the GTA.

Up to the plate this afternoon were spicy patties from:

Randy's Takeout Service Ltd. - 1569 Eglinton Avenue West
Allan's Pastries - 3056 Don Mills Road
Michidean Pastries - 7725 Birchmount Road
Juici Patties - 50 Thornmount Drive

From left to right we have Allan's, Michidean's, Randy's and Juici patties.

First up was Allan's ($11 per dozen), they were the only patty that varied from the traditional patty shape. The pastry was buttery, not overly flaky and was the most like a pie crust of the bunch. The filling was the saltiest of the four patties tasted and also had the least amount of filling per patty. These patties tasted like they had a brown gravy inside them, the beef was very fine and not all that substantial. In terms of spiciness, the patty didn't really pack much of a punch. Traditional flavours such as curry, thyme, garlic, allspice, pepper and onion were somewhat lacking. The lack of filling really hurts these patties, they have great flavour, value for the money is somewhat lacking.

Next on the menu was Randy's, they were the smallest and the most expensive of the group ($13.50 per dozen). The crust was tender and flaky it was the thinnest of the group. The filling was above and beyond the other patties in terms of flavour profile and ingredients. It tasted the most home made of the group and pieces of onion, pepper, and ground meat were identifiable. It didn't pack a lot of heat either, which was a little surprising. The gravy had a richness that the other patties didn't have, and the spicing was very nice.

Michidean's patties ($8 per dozen) had the most tender and flaky crust, it was almost as if I'd been given a patty wrapped in puff pastry. The spicing of the beef was very nice, with a spicy, peppery bite. It seemed to have more filler than the previous patties which turned the filling into a somewhat pasty consistency. It has the most filling per patty, so at least you feel like you're getting some value for the money. Michidean needs to work on the consistency of their filling and examine those of Randy's a little closer. They have a solid start with their awesome pastry, but need to improve their filling.

Juici Patties ($8 per dozen) was tied with Michidean for the cheapest of the group. Their pastry was flaky but didn't seem to have the same flavour as the others in the group. At first bite I was hit with unusually strong taste of lard which must be their choice of fat for the crust. Their meat was spicy and ranked up there with Michideans. Other than heat, the meat was fairly bland, and like Michidean's, had a pasty consistency. You can see in the pictures that Randy's and Allan's have a rich brown filling, while Michidean's and Juici have a greyish, pasty filling. Juici's patties were quite boring, I think I've had sausage rolls with more flavour.

The best filling of the day went to Randy's. Their patties taste the closest to home made of the group. You pay a premium for their patties, which is money well spent.

Michidean's had the flakiest, most tender and best tasting crust. If they could improve the texture and to a lesser extent the flavour profile of their filling, they could contend for top honours.

Update as of April 12, 2012: It's been a long time since I wrote this entry. Since it's publication, I have been an exclusive buyer of Michedean's patties. I still love their crust, flavour of their filling and value for the money is definitely there. A competitor by Tinnel's has received a lot of praise since I wrote this, yet, I have not seen them for purchase in my local Caribbean haunts. Once I find a source I will add them to the list.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ibrahim BBQ and Pizza - Shawarma

Ibrahim BBQ and Pizza (1967 Lawrence Ave. E) is a bit of an ironic name because I don't think they serve pizza. It's another popular Shawarma place in Scarborough. It's almost directly across the street from Farhat. In fact, there are no fewer than 9 or 10 shawarma places along this strip of road between Warden Ave. and Pharmacy Ave.

I had a beef and a chicken shawarma with a bottle of Diet Coke ($10.15 after taxes). Vegetables and sauces today included lettuce, tomato, onion, tabbouleh, cabbage and toum.

The shawarmas served here are alittle larger than those at Farhat but what really separates them is the flavour. Biting into the beef shawarma at Ibrahim you can taste the cloves, the cinnamon and mint from the tabbouleh. The vegetables support the flavours of the meat, they don't provide the flavours which was my problem with Farhat.

The chicken was moist and flavourful, the spicing isn't as bold as the beef, I'm assuming they use a shish taouk spice on the chicken. Again the flavours are complemented by the vegetables and sauce not provided by them.

Their toum (I'm calling it toum, not sure it's the proper name for this style of sauce) is a little different than other places in that it's not whipped and looks like a yougurt with fine chunks in it which I am assuming is finely chopped garlic. It's got a great flavour but isn't quite as pungent as those from Farhat (and my favourite) Shawarma Palace in Ottawa. I think it's got another vegetable mixed in as well, possibly cucumber? Whatever it is, it's very nice.

Farhat Restaurant - Shawarma

I had a craving for shawarma so I visited one of the more popular shawarma restaurants in Scarborough this afternoon. Farhat Restaurant (2020 Lawrence Ave E) gets a lot of praise for their shawarmas, and usually has a large lineup. In the past it's looked a little run down, but it looks like it's recently had a renovation and looks a lot nicer inside.

I ordered a beef and a chicken shawarma ($7.90 after taxes). I ordered my shawarmas with the works which was lettuce, onion, tabbouleh, pickled turnip, toum, and tahini.

I'll start with the beef. It was tasteless and dry, I mean dry to the point where the fibres of the meat begain to look like frayed cotton (see pic below). The vegetables were fresh and flavourful and were the only saving grace for this sandwich. The toum is excellent and rivals that of Shawarma Palace. The pickled turnip was very nice as well. The meat itself tasted like beef, no spicing whatsoever, this may be to some people's taste, not mine.

The chicken was more of the same, it wasn't as dry as the beef, but really lacked any spicing. It tasted like roast chicken. The vegetables and sauces brought the meat to life, they shouldn't have to.

In my opinion, shawarma meat needs to be juicy and have bold flavours such as cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and black pepper. Sadly, Farhat disappointed in this regard.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jetsun Juicyburger

Had a craving for burgers today and once again I tried a new place. I'd heard some good things about Jetsun Juicyburger (1900 Eglinton Ave East) so I gave it a shot. My brother was in attendance as well as he was interested in my choice this afternoon.

Upon entering it's a funky looking little diner. The quarters are pretty tight as the location isn't all that large and they've managed to squeeze in as many seats as possible.

There is a $0.50 discount if you order a side and a drink so we both took Jetsun up on their offer. I had a Cadillac (burger with cheese and bacon $5.99 while the bro had a Juicyburger $3.99). I'll briefly talk about the sides in a sec, I'm concentrating on the burgers today.

The first thing I noticed was that an employee was weighing out ice cream for their milkshakes and placing it into cups (I'm assuming to expedite the process when a shake is ordered). I thought this was odd, It doesn't take that long to scoop some ice cream and weigh it on order does it? Secondly, I noticed that when we ordered our burgers, they were par cooked and were taken out of a stainless steel pan full of liquid on the grill. Yep, I said it, par-cooked!

The topping process of your burger works a lot like a Canadian chain (Lick's) down to the Post-It note on your wrapper. The toppings looked impressive and I can see they're trying for freshness, a good sign.

Our par-cooked burgers only took a minute or two to finish so we picked up our sides (fries and a strawberry shake for the bro, poutine and a large Diet Coke for me) and headed out.

The burgers themselves were just ok. The patties have little filler and Jetsun appears to be striving for quality. They don't appear to be hand formed (note the smooth edges in the pics below). I found mine to be moist but the bro thought his was a little dry. I had added cheddar and bacon to mine for an additional $2.00 but couldn't taste either. The cheddar slice and the bacon were very thin. My lower bun was either over toasted or stale. It was hard and made the burger difficult to eat. A peeve of mine is when a burger place tears into your burger to make sure it's cooked. Doing this lets all the juices run out of it! Additionally, tearing at it breaks the patty in half and lets the halves slip around while you're trying to eat the burger. The par cooking was inexcusable! Busy or not, if you're promoting freshness on your signage, par-cooking your burgers seems an oxymoron.

The bro said his shake was pretty thin but did have a chunk of ice cream at the bottom of his cup. It was probably just a case of the counter person rushing the process and not giving the mixer enough time. I am pretty sure the fries are prepackaged and they need to work on their cooking method. The fry cook needs to ensure they're not overloading the fry basket because the fries aren't getting enough space and the oil temperature drops too much. This results in an oily fry. Additionally, the fries could use a little longer in the fryer. They have done a decent job with their poutine, it's typical packaged beef gravy but at least they use real curds.

To Jetsun's credit, they are trying. They use Kawartha Dairy ice cream (a favourite of mine) and machine mix their shakes. Their toppings are fresh and attractive. They use real curds on their poutine and real cheddar for their burgers which is a plus!

The negatives were using par-cooked patties, charging $1 each for bacon and cheese and not being able to taste either on the burger, their fries need work and they need to keep their buns from going hard.

My order was $11 after taxes and the bro's was close to $9. For this price I'd expect a premium burger, unfortunately I didn't find my lunch worth the money I spent.

Author's note: We didn't get a shot of the poutine as the curds had melted by the time we got to the bro's house and taking a photo wouldn't have done the poutine justice or been fair to Jetsun.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Antonio Pizza - Montreal Style Pizza

A couple of summers ago I took a trip to the east coast with my girlfriend. On the way home I decided I'd try and drive from PEI to Toronto in one shot. It was a valiant attempt but after a 12+ hour drive I had to give up and stop just west of Montreal.

We ended up in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, tired, hungry and looking for something open late at night. We ended up calling a pizza joint called Antonio Pizza (169 rue Salaberry Ouest) that was recommended to us by the hotel.

I know of a few pizza styles, New york Pizza is usually a thinner high-gluten bread flour crust served lightly topped. Chicago style is a deep dish, almost pie-like crust with toppings piled inside of it. Montreal pizza is more like a Chicago style, coming on a crispy, slightly thick crust and arrives heavily topped. Traditionally, Montreal pizzas are served with the cheese on top of all the other ingredients.

When we ordered the pizza, there was a definite language barrier. We ordered our pie with bacon, pepperoni and olives, and, after some "pardons" and re-confirming our order a couple of times we were set. When the person told us our order would be close to $30 we broke out in a sweat. For $30 in Toronto you can get a family pizza meal at numerous chains....

When it showed up I was amazed at the weight of the box, it wasn't huge but felt like it was. It was after midnight, I was starving and I think I would have accepted just about anything. This was what met my gaze:

I had never seen a pizza like that before, and have yet to since. I managed to eat two slices before giving up. It was heavy but delicious. It had the requisite crisp crust, a sweet sauce that had been generously applied. The toppings, man the toppings! I think there was close to a pound of bacon on it, the pepperoni came in large slices which were buried under the bacon, olives and cheese.

I had cold pizza for breakfast the next day and hit the road for the trip home.

Anderson's Frozen Custard

Another chain (albeit a small one) that I enjoy is Anderson's, located throughout the Buffalo NY area. I originally tried them when I was attending teacher's college and try to make sure I hit them whenever I'm around Buffalo.

Anderson's is a cross between an ice cream parlour and a fast food operation. They serve many different sandwiches, salads, burgers, even a very solid beef on weck. In addition, they serve both soft serve and hard ice cream and yogurt, sundaes, milkshakes and smoothies.

I really enjoy their soft-serve custard, it's velvety smooth and is extremely creamy. It's got an excellent mouth feel you don't get from other soft serve places I've been to in Canada.

I usually go for their flavour of the month although I really like their vanilla. Below is a shot of a banana/vanilla twist ($2.65) I got the last time I visited Anderson's. It's a decent value and doesn't fail to impress.

Since my original post I have fallen in love with Anderson's pistachio custard. Whenever it's available it's what I go for. This large cup was $3, a bargain.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike & BG's Rib Restaurant

During my trip to Oinktoberfest last year, I went to the Anchor Bar to get some wings. The most direct route was to take Genesee St, as it was close to our starting point and ended up right near the Anchor Bar..... Little did I know that it takes you through a rougher looking part of town so to speak.... Anyway, on my way through this neighbourhood I happened across a street corner that had a large propane cylinder on it bellowing out smoke. Being in a strange town, in a strange country, in the darkness of the evening, I was too petrified to stop. I couldn't resist the lure of smoke and decided to check it out in the daylight the next day...

This was I found, Ike and BG's Rib Restaurant (1646 Gennessee St):

When I stopped to take the picture posted above, the owner came out and yelled ""Do you want to try something?" I wasn't sure if he was mad or was inviting us in... I pulled up in front of the place and asked him about his cooker, what he cooks on it and he told me he'd just taken a load of ribs off of it and to go in and try some....

Here is the beast:

I went in and looked over the menu, fish, fried chicken, grilled chicken, and ribs. Sides were mac and cheese, slaw, green beans, baked beans, and fries. Desserts were sweet potato pie, 7 UP pound cake and banana pudding. They also had burgers and hoagies, but I was only interested in the ribs. I ordered a half slab with sauce on the side. As I waited for BG (Ike's wife) to prepare the food, I talked with Ike who was sitting by the counter in the front window of the restaurant.

He told me about his love for his neighbourhood, making sure nobody left his store hungry, even if they had no money. He said "You never know when it could be someone's last meal." This touched me. Since my visit I've found out he gives away food at Christmas time to thank his community for supporting him throughout the years.

Anyway, I asked
Ike to pose next to his smoker for a picture:

At first I was a little unsure of things because there wasn't much of a smoke ring considering they were cooked with charcoal. I've since realized that Ike must use a higher temperature than I'm accustomed to, which leaves little smoke ring. When I bit into them they were moist and very tender. I don't think the ribs are seasoned with anything more than salt before they are cooked because there was little to them other than smoke at first bite.... Once I dipped them in the sauce they came together. All in all a very solid rib.... The sauce was very nice, I soaked up the leftover sauce with the bread that was given on the side! The slaw had sweet relish in it which was a first for me. It was a nice creamy slaw but not exactly my style, the relish made it very sweet.

Coming away from this little adventure I was amazed at how friendly everyone was that came in and talked to me while I was waiting for my food. I must have stood out like a sore thumb because everyone knew I wasn't from around there right away. I guess it was the accent, or that I was the only white guy in the vicinity.
Ike has a loyal following and greeted his customers with a smile and a handshake.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Omnivore's 100

A little late to the game, but I thought this was a pretty cool interactive food blog entry originally found here: Very Good Taste blog.

I'm simply crossing of what I've eaten, I'll bold and italicize what I would not consider eating.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

As of July 7, 2010 I'm at 55 out of 100. Many can easily be knocked off as I've been meaning to try more from this list for a while.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lin Garden Restaurant

Lin Garden (1806 Pharmacy Ave.) has been my favourite Hakka joint in the east end for the better part of a couple of years now. They've been reliable and I've ordered from there many times. I hadn't been in quite a few months so I went in this afternoon for some takeout. On the menu was their Hakka Chow Mein, Manchurian Fried Rice, Chicken Pakoras, Kan Shue Green Beans, Chili Chicken and their Crispy Beef Kam-Bien.

I had never eaten the Hakka Chow Mein ($6.50) before and I took the recommendations of some folks online who raved about it. I thought it was decent, but nothing special. I was really impressed with the size of the chunks of chicken that it contained, but it just didn't pack a lot of flavour. For the most part it tasted like I was eating oily noodles. I will revisit the leftovers later on and see if the dish was overwhelmed by other flavours, but for a first try I wasn't blown away....

The Manchurian Fried Rice ($6.50) has been a staple of mine since I first started going to Lin Garden. It's got a uniquely perfumey flavour to it and packs a nice bit of heat without overwhelming. Today it seemed to be slightly overcooked and was a little mushy, the flavour was what I expected. It was a little disappointing because I expected more of the rice.... Ah well, we all have our off days.

The Chicken Pakoras ($8.00) have been a must have since I started going as well. I was once again let down today, other than curry, they seemed to lack their usual flavour and were a little bland. To top things off the insides didn't appear totally cooked and were a touch doughy. I was impressed with their crispy exterior, the size of the chicken pieces and the chunks of chili I could see in the pakoras, they just weren't up to their usual standard. They lacked salt and definitely some onion.

The Kan Shue Green Beans ($6.00) were excellent. They were sweet with a touch of heat. This dish is prepared simply and the beans were the star. A touch of chili and and I was in heaven. Considering I'm not usually a fan of green beans, this dish has me converted.

I will readily admit that Lin Garden's Chili Chicken ($8.00) isn't the greatest. I've had better at a couple of other Hakka Restaurants in the east end. It's simply out of convenience that I order it. Today I was proven right again. It really lacked much flavour other than heat from the chilies. The breaded chicken contains many pieces of gristle and tough chunks of chicken and it's a bit of a turn off. I really wish they'd make changes to their preparation or their supplier, the Hakka Chow Mein although lacking big flavour has wonderful pieces of chicken. Use them here as well!

My love, other than the green beans is always the Crispy Beef Kam-Bien ($8.50). While it's not the most tender beef you'll find, in fact, some pieces can be downright chewy. The sauce they use has me hooked. It's fried in what I'm assuming is corn starch which in turn soaks up the sauce it's topped with. It results in slightly chewy, salty strips of beef when paired with green pepper and onion, results in a wonderfully dark dish.

I hadn't been in a while and some folks have complained about drops in quality. Based on today's lunch I'd tend to lean in the same direction. I can't complain about the quantity of food as you're definitely not short changed. While the dishes looked the same as usual, their taste and preparation wasn't up to par. I'll give them another shot in the future, but, at the moment it appears that I'll stick to the green beans and crispy beef.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Buster Rhino's - BBQ Brisket Sandwich

As stated in an earlier post, authentic BBQ is a rarity in Canada, so, when someone's doing it right I have to give them a shout out. Buster Rhino's Authentic Southern BBQ (2001 Thickson Rd South Unit 7) is a local producer of BBQ sauces, rubs and smoked meat products. In the last year they opened up a small six or seven table dining area in the front of their Whitby facility. From here they serve pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken and ribs all smoked on their Southern Pride commercial smoker.

I have been addicted to their brisket sandwich ($7 for a combo including fries and a pop) since the first time I tasted it. It's sliced super thinly and you're greeted by a nice smoke ring. The meat is juicy and packed full of smoked flavour. At first, I found the sandwich to be a little on the salty side, but they've worked out that kink and I think it's awesome. In fact I prefer their brisket to my own...... I know!

BBQ doesn't hold well and will dry out if you don't serve it right away. They've come up with an excellent solution. Eatch portion is individually vaccum sealed and is placed in a hot water bath. When you order your sandwich, your portion is opened and plated. You'd never know it hadn't been sliced right from the roast.

Buster Rhino's sauces are my personal favourite brand and I've used them in both BBQ competitions I've entered. There are three varieties: Championship Original, Championship Hot and Holy Habanero. I love the two that are a little less spicy. Either of them compliment this sandwich wonderfully.

As a side note, the fries offered here are wonderful, crisp on the outside and creamy inside with the perfect amount of skin left on each fry. One of the better orders of fries around!

This past summer Buster Rhino's offered a brisket cheesesteak as a limited time special. I happened to try one and loved it. The bun wasn't a traditional hoagie roll and was toasted, but, it worked well with the sandwich. The griddled peppers and onions combined with a slice of provolone the smoked brisket went wonderfully together. I even topped it off with a squirt of their BBQ sauce. I wish this was on menu full time...


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Calabria Bakery - Wood Oven Pizza

The Calabria Bakery (1772 Midland Ave.) in Scarborough cooks pizzas on Thursdays and Fridays in their wood burning oven. I walked in today and the smoke greeted me right away. In fact, in the 10 minutes I was in there I managed to absorb quite a bit of smoke, my clothes smell deliciously smokey right now.

Anyway, I ordered a Classico (pepperoni and cheese $7.50) and a Calabria (cheese, black olives, hot peppers, and capicolla $10). They were made in front of me and placed in the oven for about 5 minutes, they were turned a couple of times during that span.

The 12" crust is extremely thin and the has a nice crunch to the exterior, near the center of the pizza it loses a bit of it's crispness (most likely it was the 10 minutes of travel time to get home). The crust has a nice saltiness to it but added with the toppings gets a little salty, some may love it, some may not. To me it was perfectly acceptable.

The cheese is shredded mozarella and the rest of the toppings seem to be quality ingredients. The sauce has a nice sweetness to it and doesn't overwhelm the toppings. The hot peppers are very hot, just a few on the Calabria pizza had me hunting for fluids.

They have a few more varieties such as a seafood pizza and a build your own option, as well as panzerottis. Overall a very solid pizza, inexpensive, and definitely one of the best I've had in the city. Too bad you can only get it 2 days a week.