Category Archives: Restaurants

BBQ Cooking Class & Pig Roast! Monday July 16th

Yours truly and friend Chef Scott Savoie of the Culinary Adventure Company will be hanging out  on Monday July 16th at Fuel House Restaurant (53 Clinton St. Toronto) Dishing about all things BBQ, and the folks at Fuel have roasted a whole pig for us to consume. Come by and learn about BBQ, drink a few beers and chow down on some pork. Tickets are on $95, (I think there’s only a few left) and available here:

Adventures in Vegetarianism

IMG_0010.jpgIMG_0011.jpgIMG_0012.jpgSo I went to a Vegan restaurant for dinner last night, yes hell froze over – well not really.  Let me kill the suspense, before anyone gets concerned — I’m not turning vegan! If you’ve ever met me you’d know that I’m what Anthony Bordain would call a “serious eater” I will try anything, and I mean that. I’ve eaten calf brain ravioli, and pig’s reproductive organs in soup, and actually enjoyed them. You just never know till you try right? For this exact reason I’ve always been anti-vegan — these people only eat vegetables! there’s so many delicious things that they are missing out on.   I love my meat, and I love my vegetables, they are made for each other. I had mentioned to  Sheryl Kirby and Greg Clow that Every Monday I make an effort to eat more or only vegetables, aka “Meatless Monday” and Sheryl suggested a Monday dinner at a vegan restaurant; I should be fine right?  after about 10 minute of joking that i’d catch on fire upon entry to a vegan restaurant and maybe I should bring emergency pocket bacon we decided to go to “The Hogtown Vegan” there’s even a pig on the sign. I was slightly surprised to see the entire menu is meat analogues! unpulled pork, chicken wings, ribs, biscuits and gravy, burgers, mac and cheese. This was not what I expected.  We ordered nachos and chicken wings to start. The vegan cheese in the nachos didn’t suck, it reminded me of the cheese whiz or the kind of nacho cheese that 7-11 has that comes out of those pump machine, lots of avocado and beans on the nachos, and the chips were hot and fresh. I could eat these with a cold beer anytime.  The chicken.. well it was marinated battered deep fried tofu. Deep frying almost anything makes it taste better. The sauce was nice and had a strong umami character to it, I suspect that everything is doused in MSG to make it taste like that. Onto the Main dish: “Ribs” with sweet potato and collard greens. The “ribs” were chunks of tempeh that had (*you guessed it) – been deep fried and liberally sauced with a smokey Q sauce.  They kind or reminded me of the sauce remnants left behind from ribs that had been wrapped in foil and left to steam out and solidify – they tasted really good! but the texture was terrible, this was my first meat analoge tempeh experience, and I hope it’s my last. If you enjoy the McRib however this is something you might enjoy, even my worst overcooked ribs had better texture.  The sweet potato was generic, and the collard greens could were kinda oily, but i did enjoy them as they were the only thing that resembled an actual vegetable on my plate.  Sheryl had ordered the mac and cheese, and i had a bite and it was nothing to write home about and the pasta was overcooked, the topping for the mac and cheese however was inspirational it was brewers yeast, tangy and delicious. I’ll be topping my non-vegan mac and cheese with this in the future it’s awesome. 

So there it is: poor poor vegans are subjected to these terrible meat analogues because they dont eat meat.  We all love fat, sugar and salt – even if you are not getting it from an animal. If you ever had the idea that vegan food was somehow more healthy than meat, eat at the hogtown vegan I promise you’ll change your mind.  Now excuse me while I eat my brussel sprouts with a pork chop. 

My Trip to Memphis! – Part 1

May has been a whirlwind tour of bbq, I’m just finally getting a chance to sit down and blog my incredible experience on one of the greatest trips I’ve ever embarked on. I decided one evening after possibly a few too many beers at the end of April to see what the deal was with Mephis in May’s Pork bbq contest, everything seem to line up just right. This was the first year that they offered something called the “VIPit Pass” which as a bit of money with a parking pass ($400!) and my first hurdle was that they would not ship the pit pass to Canada,

koa_ohio.jpgso I jumped online and booked myself at the local KOA campground about 20 minutes from the contest and had my ticket shipped there.  I just bought my first car in about 12 years and have not driven very much in the last 10 years, and thought – hey drive 2000 miles in a week, make up for those years not driving in a hurry!  I didn’t actually have my full drivers license as I’d let it expire and had to take a driving test 5 days before I embarked on this wacky trip.. if I had failed the test I would not have been able to (legally) drive to Memphis, I did pass my driving test however so that was taken care of.. next on the list – getting a car stereo with a gps, check… now for the trip!  I left on a rainy Tuesday afternoon and did a 5 hour drive to the middle of Ohio, it started raining the moment I hit Ohio and when I reached my first campsite it was very water logged and just above freezing.. .not ideal for my tent, I opted to spend the extra $20 and get a cabin at the KOA campground near Toledo. I figured this would be an easy way to do a test of my  recently acquired camp gear, plus I’d have power to watch a movie on my laptop in the evening if the rain decided to come back.  I asked about good local bbq and was told to go to “chillis” there was no way I was going to go to chillis for bbq.

ribs.jpg I punched in BBQ into the gps and found a place called smokey bones, and had some really really amazing ribs, I told the bartended of my plans to make it to Memphis eating bbq as much as possible, and they comped my meal!   If you are traveling in the USA and feel like some bbq I have high praise for this place, I was astounded when I discover they were a chain. I had both wet and dry ribs and both were cooked perfectly and had lots of great flavor.  I had a great rib-filled sleep and in the morning took a crack at using my new stove top coffee maker which resulted in the possibly the worst coffee I’ve ever consumed, clearly there was a learning curve to this. I managed to hit the road at about 7:30 am with a belly full of bacon and eggs, and my aforementioned crappy coffee. It rained the entire drive through the remainder of Ohio, I mean crazy cant see 30 feet in front of you rain. As soon as I passed into Kentucky the rain seemed to stop, thank god!  Kentucky is one of the greatest places to drive through, the grass is better than some golf courses, and that’s just on the side of the freeway, long rolling hills, everything was lush and green, the highways were not busy and everyone drives really fast! I looked down at the speedometer at one pointknoth.jpg as I followed a caddy and I was doing 155 k! I arrived at my campsite in Kentucky and quickly changed into my shorts, crocks and a t-shirt, what a difference a day of driving makes in weather! The locals down here know about REAL BBQ! I was directed to a roadside stand called Knoths BBQ which was in the middle of a “dry” county.. no booze!? how can the bbq be be good without a beer I asked myself?  This was a tiny little place that served beef and pork on wonderbread buns and there were 2 kinds of bbq sauce provided, one was yellow thin with fruit and mustard and the other red and peppery.. I ate 3 of these wonderbread sandwiches, and was amazed on the great flavour of the the pork and beef, it was moist and grandma was in the kitchen pulling the meat fresh off the pork shoulders with her bare hands and piling them on my wonderbread. So glad that I found this place! I made it back to the camp and had a few beers and my first campfire of the season, honkytonk.jpgstill in my shorts and t-shirt, it was hot out! I managed to get some of the sauce from knoths and had a campfire weenie with a mix of the pepper and mustard sauce on it, my spirits were high and I was looking forward to getting to Memphis the next day.  I couldn’t sleep, I was too excited. The sun baked my tent and I was packed up and making much better coffee early in the morning, the campground owner came over to chat with me as told me about the “dry” county thing, she said something that made me laugh and that I will remember: back when I was a kid there were “Honky Tonk” drunks all over the place” thats why we are dry now.  My belly was full of proper coffee eggs and bacon, and I was ready for Memphis, less then 4 hours of driving to go! restarea.jpgDriving through the remainder of Kentucky, into Arkansas was a joy, great weather. I have to mention the rest areas, there’s a clean beautifully landscaped rest stop around every 100 miles. It would be a shame to not stop, as they are great break for driving and every single one I stopped in had stocked vending machines and bathrooms you could eat off the floor. I made it to the west Memphis KOA around lunchtime I was a little out of place on one of the only 3 tent sites on this large campground full of motor homes next to a busy highway I brought my BIG tent and a queen size inflatable mattress so this waskoamemphis.jpg enough luxury for me anyway, I’m still in disbelief that I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt sweating like a fat kid at the fair setting up my tent, it was HOT! I had a nice cold beer and a red bull and headed off to the contest..  TBC…

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We finally have AWESOME smoked meat in Toronto!

I had the pleasure of visiting Caplansky’s Deli for lunch today.
We waited in line for 5 minutes, but it was well worth the wait, we barely had time to peruse the menu before someone came to serve us.
The borsch come with bits of smoked meat in it!  We ordered the smoked meat, which is offered lean/med/fat, of course fat was ordered as we all know that fat is flavor! There’s 4 kinds of mustard + ketchup at the table and the sandwiches come out without any condiments on it, honstly the sandwich does not “need” condiments. I tried all the mustards and concluded that the kozlics mustard tasted the best with my meat and with the king pilsner beer I had ordered. I love that all the beers on tap were local microbrews.

I’m sure there’s a few people wondering:  Was is better the Schwartz in Montreal?
Yes and No, Caplansky seems to like his spices and smoke more than Schwartz, so the star of the show is more the spice and smoke rather than just the meat alone. The meat has a slightly bitter taste from what tasted to me like an abundance of oak wood smoke, and you can really taste fennel seed.  I cant pick a clear winner, I love them both equally.