Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cupcakes Canada

Cupcakes, they've been around for years yet they seem to have only recently become a craze. There are at least three different cupcake shows on the Food Network and W Network with more on the way I'm sure. Cupcake shops seem to be opening up all over the place as well. Cupcakes Canada recently opened at 299 Kingston Rd. E in Ajax. I'm never one to pass up a piece of cake so it wasn't hard for me to stop in when my wife asked if we could check them out.

Full-sized cupcakes are $2.50 each, $13.50 per half dozen or $26 per dozen. Off the bat, my frugal meter went through the roof! Mental note, perfect a buttercream recipe and make my own....

We got a half-dozen with a mixture of Red Velvet, Very Vanilla, Chocolate Celebration, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Double Dutch Chocolate.

The cupcakes had a slight crust on the tops but were moist throughout. The bakers at Cupcakes Canada use a simple buttercream icing which was a little sugary and a tad on the grainy side for my tastes. The high sugar content in the buttercream created a slight crust on the outside layer of the icing which didn't sit well with me. The icing just didn't have the creaminess I was expecting.

I love supporting local business, but, if I'm paying for premium items I want to be blown away. Sadly, I was a little underwhelmed. I really liked the richness of the Double Dutch chocolate, and the flavours in the Chocolate Peanut Butter. The Red Velvet, Very Vanilla and the Chocolate Celebration didn't wow me.

I detest sprinkles, candy (as seen on the Chocolate Celebration) or the waxy chocolate variety that look like mouse poop. I liked the look of the shaved chocolate on the Chocolate Peanut Butter, even the coloured sugar on the Red Velvet. Sprinkles are for grocery store cupcakes, not a $2.50 per piece, boutique product.

The cupcakes are shown below, in order, clockwise from the bottom left:

Red Velvet, Very Vanilla, Chocolate Celebration, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Double Dutch Chocolate.


Shake, Rabble & Roll

Located at 939 Dundas St W in Whitby, Shake, Rabble & Roll has piqued my interest many times as I drove past. Inside it's done up like a 50's diner and has car meets in their parking lot on occasional summer weeknights. Today I decided to stop in.

My order was the Rabble Burger & fries combo with bacon and cheese added to the burger. The Rabble Burger is a homemade 6oz. patty which is flame broiled. It's pressed thinly and cooked from scratch (thank you for no par cooking!) The bun is a kaiser style bun which many places use and is lightly toasted on a flat top beside the grill. When the buger was ready I chose to add lettuce, onion, pickle, hot peppers and a chipotle mayo. They use real shredded cheddar which is another huge plus.

The fries are hand cut but could use a little work. They were very blonde and occasionally had a slightly raw interior texture to them. I don't think they use Resset potatoes for their fries, a personal favourite of mine.

Overall the burger was very well done, it was juicy and very flavourful, the outside had a nice char which you really only get from flame broiling. It was what I affectionately call a Greek burger, a burger flavoured with onion, garlic, oregano, pepper and mixed right into the meat. Shamrock Burger, Big M Burgers, The Real McCoy in Scarborough are similar in this regard. Purists may want to taste meat alone, I love and welcome the change.

The ladies behind the counter were super friendly and made us feel very welcome. We'd go back for the great burgers, better fries can be found at Buster Rhino's and Starr Burger. At least they're making the effort and not cooking frozen fries!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cyrus Persian Restaurant - Shawarma

As the old saying goes, another day another Shawarma. Well, at least in my books. This is my sixth or seventh shawarma review in the blog. Diversify? Me? Bah!

Cyrus Restaurant (563 Ritson Rd.) in Oshawa is in a totally non-descript building (which I believe used to be a house). I have driven by it dozens of times and never realized it was there until I actually looked for it. Upon entry I was hit with a wonderful aroma of spices, which I likened to entering and Indian food restaurant. It's a modest little place with tables in dining areas to the sides of the entrance and a hallway leading to the kitchen in back where you place your order. I looked around at numerous dinner options of various stews, kabobs, falafel and shawarma plates which I will have to try one day. The shawarma options were chicken and beef, one of each please! The cost for two was $8.99 before tax.

Each meat was cut right from the spit and placed onto a fresh pita with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, garlic sauce, tahini and hot sauce.

The flavour was a mix of Persian and Lebanese, less curry than those at Shiraz, and a little more like those found at Nasib's in Scarborough. The spicing on the meat was subtle, there was a flavour I recognized but couldn't pick out off the bat. I'll have to try them again. I enjoyed their version of hot sauce, it packed heat that lingered, but, didn't overwhelm. Both the beef and chicken were tender and very moist. The beef had a rich, beefy flavour similar to those found at Shawarma Empire. I'm not sure what they use (blade perhaps?) it's got a great flavour from the meat alone.

The shawarmas were generous and tasty but were pricy at $10.15 after taxes. I realize they don't have the competition, but, at $3-$4 more than the Lawrence strip for a comparable meal, it leaves the wallet a little sore..... Overall they are the best I've tried in Durham to date, but, still not quite up to par with the Lawrence strip (although, not too far off).


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shiraz Bakery - Shawarma

You may have noted from earlier posts that I am a huge fan of Shawarma. Traditional spit roasted Shawarma places have been lacking in the Durham Region until recently. Luckily, a few have popped up over the last couple of years and today I stopped in to try the newest entrant on the scene.

Shiraz Bakery is located at 785 Taunton Rd (at Harmony) in Oshawa and has only recently opened. They sell a variety of hot dinners and grocery items but I was after their version of chicken shawarma (2 for $7.50) this afternoon. Shawarma has regional differences depending on the ethnicity of the cook preparing it. To me, the most conventional are Lebanese or Turkish shawarmas, flavoured with nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper and salt. Recently I've been seeing more and more shawarmas that have been flavoured with curry (I'm assuming as it's spread along the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan and Pakistan).

Shiaz Bakery's version falls into the latter category, the flavour of the chicken is dominantly curry, right down to the bright yellow appearance of the meat. The chicken is very mildly flavoured and tender, there could have been more of it however. I added tahini and garlic sauce and they were very mild as well. Some places take the garlic sauce over the top, here it was not overly pungent, the tahini sauce was even more dominant. The toppings were fresh green lettuce, red onion, pickle and hot pepper. Each topping was applied individually, most places I've been have had a salad of onion, parsley, lettuce, tomato, and occasianally sumac to apply as one condiment. Either is good for me.

Overall it was a solid shawarma, but, is not really in the same league as those found on the Lawrence strip in Scarborough. In a pinch it'll satisfy, but, didn't blow me away.

Edit as of May 12, 2012: Sadly Shiraz has closed at it's current location. I am not sure if it relocated but as of earlier this week, the location noted in my review was up for lease.