Monday, December 21, 2009

Wendy's - Bacon Deluxe

Alright, it's a chain, sue me.

I have been bombarded by ads for the 'new' thicker applewood smoked bacon commercials Wendy's has been putting out recently and decided to see if it's worth the hype. I had a Bacon Deluxe (formerly called the Big Bacon Classic) which is billed as: "Four strips of Applewood smoked bacon piled high atop a hot 'n juicy beef patty, made to order every time. Add American cheese, cool and crisp veggies with a little condiment love and you've got a burger to satisfy your senses."


Here what arrived for my $5.80 (after taxes):


Not too shabby! One of the better looking fast food burgers I've seen.

How did it measure up? In a word, meh! The most pronouced flavour of the burger was onion. It's thinly sliced but it still managed to dominate the flavour profile of the burger. The beef was dry and underseasoned, what was supposed to be the star of the show (the bacon) had no real pronounced smoke flavour even though it did look fairly thick.

For close to $6 for a burger, no sides, you can do much better.

Stanley's Fish & Chips - Haddock & Chips

Virtually a neighbour to Krispy's Fish & Chips in Brooklin is Stanley's Fish & Chips (67 Baldwin St N).

I dropped by for lunch today and took out an order of Haddock and chips ($8). The filet, is cut very similarly in size and shape to that of Krispy's. The haddock itself was outstanding, fresh and flaky. The batter was very thin, probably the thinnest I've had on any order of fish and chips locally. It was not at all greasy but became soggy very quickly. It was so thin, the piece of fish began falling apart as I ate it. I can't really fault the fish, but, the batter could use a little work. the bits that remaned crisp were quite nice.

The chips were a bit of a let down. They just weren't very impressive. They were cut in store, and double fried, they were just ho-hum, a little dry in texture, pale looking and not all that crisp.

An excellent piece of fish dampened by a weak batter and ho-hum chips.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins

Back in October I happened across a blog called Inn Cuisine which features recipes submitted by Inns and B&Bs around the USA. I stumbled upon a recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins. The photos taken by Sandie, who runs the site, were striking. They made me want to try the recipe out right away.

I'll let you browse the recipe from Inn Cuisine as I have not gotten permission to duplicate it here.

I made the recipe as stated and got the 12 muffins, I seemed to have almost half the cheesecake filling left over when I had finished. I should have used more of the cheesecake filling as it melts and leaves hollows if you don't use enough (see photo below). I made a second batch of six muffins using up the leftover filling by making them in large muffin tins and they were much better. I still think there is too much filling for a single batch of batter.

Sandie's description of the finished product is spot on: "Surprisingly well-balanced, these muffins are a chocolate lover’s delight and stop short of being cloyingly sweet".

The only thing I might change in the future is springing for quality cocoa, the store brand that I used didn't give the same striking contrast in colour that Sandie's had.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Duff's - Buffalo Wings

On my last food stop during my stay in Buffalo I had to end it with Buffalo wings. In my opinion nobody does it better than Duff's in Amherst NY (3651 Sheridan Dr).

Whenever I go I get the same thing - 20 wings (medium), large fries, and a large pitcher of Diet Pepsi ($21).

The wings are classic Buffalo style, very large, fried until crisp and served tossed in a buttery vinegar and hot sauce (Franks Red Hot more than likely). Some complain they're too vinegary, some that they're too salty, I find the flavour here to be the gold standard for Buffalo wings. I've been going since I was a teenager some 20 years ago and still try and head back whenever I can.

The fries are frozen shoestring fries and are again, nothing special. You do get a massive pile of them in this combo. I dip the fries in Duff's excellent blue cheese dressing, a mild dressing teeming with chunks of blue cheese. I always make sure to order an extra container of it ($0.80) so I can take a fresh one home with my leftover wings.



Another burger chain I have frequented in the past is Fuddruckers. I visited the Amherst location (4300 Maple Rd) last week during my stay in the area. Again, I try and avoid chains, but, when they do something well I have to give them credit.

*Please note* As of March 2011 this location has closed and there was a For Lease sign in the window. It always seemed busy, I'm wondering if they found a new location?

I had the 1/2 pound original burger combo with American cheese ($8.99) on this visit. They offer to cook to order which shows confidence in their product. I get mine medium well anyway so this isn't a huge issue for me. The burgers are griddled and arrive with a slight char on outside. The meat is always juicy and flavourful. The buns are fresh and soft, topped with sesame seeds. A nice addition to the burger.

The side in the combo is wedge fries, they are cooked from frozen and are then hit with a seasoned salt, they are fine but not anything to rave about.

What I like about Fuddruckers is that you get to dress your burger yourself from a condiment bar. You're able to dress the burger to your exact specifications. I chose lettuce, onion, pickle, hot peppers, mustard and mayo. I usually like to get nacho cheese from one of their dispensers for my fries, but, the last couple of times I've been they've been empty, cost cutting or lazy employees? You can see a tiny drip of the cheese on my fries in the pic below....


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Charlie the Butcher - Beef on Weck

I stopped by Charlie the Butcher (1065 Wehrle Drive) in Williamsville NY for a beef on weck ($5.65). What's a beef on weck? I explained it in my review of the Bar Bill Tavern.

The hand-carved beef was perfectly cooked but was on the tough side. I had a tug of war going on with this sandwich and often slices of beef pulled out because I couldn't bite through them.

The bun was fairly average in my opinion as well. It seemed like a hamburger bun topped with rock salt and a tiny bit of caraway. It's a shame because many see Charlie the Butcher as serving the best beef on weck in Buffalo. I can't agree on this one. Bar Bill easily topped this sandwich with their excellent roll and tender beef. I'd even rank Anderson's beef on weck ahead of this one.....


The Original Pancake House - Apple Pancake & Potato Pancakes

I stopped by the Original Pancake House (2075 Niagara Falls Boulevard) in Amherst last week while in the area doing some shopping. Another online recommendation had us in to sample a couple of their specialties, the apple pancake ($9.35) and the potato pancakes ($7.65).

Upon order we were advised that the apple pancake would take 20 minutes to cook. We were in no rush so it was perfectly fine to wait. The staff seemed pretty friendly and as we waited I sipped my coffee and my dining partner had an overpriced apple juice ($3) for a 'large' six or seven ounce cup.... Oh yeah, on the point of expensive, four strips of thick sliced bacon were added for $4.05. Yep, a buck a slice....

When the food showed up I must say it looked impressive:


The apple pancake was still bubbling and puffed up as it arrived on the table. Cutting into it revealed lots of cinnamon laced apples, butter and I'm assuming brown sugar. The first few bites were great, the mixture worked well and it was more than enough food for the two of us to handle. After a few more bites, we were left with the sensation of chewing on sugar. The cook must have been heavy handed because as the pancake cooled we were left crunching on more and more of it. It was rather off-putting. I will admit it was a great, tasty start, but, chewing on sugar doesn't do it for me.

The potato pancakes looked impressive but tasted like fried, leftover mashed potatoes. No seasoning, not much of anything actually..... We chose sour cream as our side (we could have had bacon or apple sauce). I guess I should have saved $4 and had a couple of slices of bacon with it.....

The server who refilled a water glass for me and my coffee cup while we waited, disappeared for the duration of breakfast after we were served. I was left with empty cups waiting for refills for the remainder of our stay. I had no option of washing down my sugar other than sucking on rapidly melting ice cubes.

I wasn't really impressed, for $30 plus taxes I'm sure I could have found a better mom and pop place in the area. Heck, Bob Evans was down the street, it probably would have been a better option.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bocce Club Pizza

I happened upon an online review of Bocce Club Pizza (4174 Bailey Ave.) in Amherst NY which touted it to be the "Best Buffalo Style Pizza" in Western New York. I'm not sure what exactly classifies as a Buffalo style pizza but I will admit it was good.

The Bailey Ave location was doing a steady business as I walked through the door. I counted no less than 32 pizza ovens behind the order counter. I didn't see anyone making pizzas which I thought was a little odd. I then noticed that pans were appearing through cutouts in the wall where a couple of guys would grab the sheet pans containing assembled uncooked pizzas and place them in one of the multitude of ovens. Every so often one of the guys would slide a nearly finished pizza off it's tray and let it finish cooking directly on the bottom of the oven.

We ordered a large (18 inch) pizza with pepperoni, bacon, onion and green olives. The total cost was $21.50 before taxes. Once the pizza was assembled and cooked we eagerly took it away. This was what met our gaze upon arrival:


The toppings were very good, they were fresh and generously applied. The cheese ran over the outside of the crust leaving charred bit of cheese at various points around the edge of the pizza. What made the pizza stand out was the sauce, it was sweet and not overly acidic (something I find with many tomato sauces). This is what made the pizza unique. The crust however, did not. I thought the crust was very 'bready', similar to a chain crust like Domino's or more locally, Topper's pizza. If you've ever tried a Domino's bread stick, you'll know the flavour and texture of this crust. I was impressed with the overall flavour profile of the pizza, the addition of what I believe was a herbed oil was a nice touch as well.

I feel that a different crust would make the pizza amazing, as it was, I found the pizza to be solid but not outstanding.

Upon returning to Bocce Club on a second visit I tend to stand by my original assessment. The pizzas are very generously topped and I love the sauce, the crust is a little bready for me. This was a 1/2 meat lovers pizza, the perfect amount for 2 hungry people or three lighter eaters.....


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Krispy's Fish & Chips - Haddock & Chips

Krispys Fish & Chips (53 Baldwin St) in Brooklin was established in 2008 and I've driven past it many times on my way through Brooklin. I'd always meant to stop by and last week popped in for dinner and was really impressed.

I stopped in again for lunch this afternoon and was equally impressed with their fish and chips. I had the haddock and chips ($7.50). I received a generous portion of haddock in a light beer batter. The fish was fresh and cut rustically (a thicker, oblong shaped piece, as opposed to the rectangular, flat, paper thin slices many fish & chip places offer). My only complaint is that the fish is thinner at the ends than in the middle, the batter tends to stay crisp there more than it does in the thicker, middle section of the filet. I am nitpicking here though, overall it's an excellent product.

The fries are thinner than many fish & chip places I've tried. They are very good, nicely browned and cooked perfectly throughout. The cook seasons the fries on order which is a nice touch, many places don't do this. Who likes a fried potato with no seasoning? Even fast food places do it.....


Krispy's makes excellent hand-dipped onion rings as well ($2.95). A fair portion of super crisp, hardly-at-all-greasy rings in a light batter. This contrasts the 'donut rings' offered by Starr Burger and Shamrock Burgers. These are very light, I'd compare it more to Krispy's fish & chip batter. Best of all, you get a decent portion for the money! Most places charge close to $4 for six or seven pre-manufactured onion rings, here you get a handful of house-made rings for under $3. Good on ya Krispy's.


Author's Note September 25th 2011: Sadly Krispy's closed down earlier this spring and has become a burger joint. I will try and review it in the coming weeks......

Starr Ave Burger - Starr Burger and Onion Rings

I stopped by Starr Ave Burger (900 Brock St N. in Whitby) last week for a burger and rings. Starr Burger has been my go to place since I moved into the area last year. I have found them to serve consistently solid burgers and onion rings. They are very similar to Shamrock Burgers which I reviewed a while back.

I had the Starr burger combo (with cheese and bacon, an additional $0.50 each) onion rings and a fountain drink which came to just under $10. The Starr burger is their version of the homeburger. A pre-formed steakette can be had for a lesser price.

As I stated earlier, I've been to Starr Ave Burger quite a few times over the past year. It's always busy which is a good sign. The last couple of times I've been, the burger patties have been par-cooked and taken from a warming tray on the grill and finished to order. Again, I am disappointed that places have started doing this. I know you want to get orders out, but, c'mon! Does the extra couple of minutes it takes to cook a patty on order take THAT much longer? The guy that operates the grill does a great job, he had a pile of patties on to par-cook while getting out multiple orders of homeburgers and steak sandwiches.... Save yourself the headache, cook on order!

Anyway, onto the buger.... I ordered my Starr burger with bacon, cheese, sauteed onion, hot peppers, pickles, mayo and mustard. Despite the par-cooking the patty was cooked very well, it was still very juicy and actually made the bottom of the bun a little soggy. Ok, I can somewhat forgive the par-cooking if it's still got moisture, Jetsun Juicyburger take note! The beef was a fine grind and well seasoned. The lightly toasted bun was fresh and soft, unremarkable, but, did the job well.

Please excuse the pictures, I didn't realize how bad the glare was until I looked at them on the computer.


The onion rings are hand dipped and can be best described as 'donut onion rings' as I find the batter they use makes the rings look like and have a similar texture to a donut. They are pre-cooked and then fried again on order. The only issue here is that depending on the thickness of the batter, the coating on some remains soft, others get pretty crunchy. The onion inside seems to melt away with the double fry as well. You end up with a decent ring, but they would definitely benefit a single fry.


The fries at Starr Ave Burger are very solid as well. They are house cut and double fried, I feel they could use a little longer in the oil. The fry cook needs to be a little more selective as to what gets served, check out the nice black spot on that top fry......