This End Up

Toronto Life’s Eating and Drinking magazine is my bible. It is leafed through, dog-eared, scribbled in and crinkled as I spend a year constantly referencing it and making choices about food. This year’s cover features “The Better Mac” from This End Up.

Eating & Drinking 2011-2015 Obviously as soon as I saw this, I knew I had to eat it. After a yoga session we ventured to Dundas West to see if this really was a better mac.

The Better Mac features fresh ground chuck patties, special sauce, lettuce, choice of American or cheddar cheese, pickles and sweet onion. There was never a question about the combination of ingredients on a Big Mac and whether or not they work together. They obviously do: secret sauce, cheese, lettuce and the double bun.

Secret Sauce: The best part of a Big Mac is the secret sauce. Anything secret automatically tastes better because there is a forbidden quality to it, a never-again attainable moment when you taste deliciousness that you don’t know if you will ever be able to have again. Then there is that moment where it clicks that Mac sauce is obviously 1000 Island dressing, and yet, that doesn’t make it taste any more simple and basic. Mac sauce makes you realize that burgers do not need to be topped with ketchup and that there is an endless possibility of toppings for your burger. Aiolis, chutneys, and spreads are just the beginning on a whole new burger.

Cheese: Despite loving food and my favourite food being cheese, I still eat Kraft Singles. I can’t help it. They are delicious and nostalgic. When I make my own burgers I usually top them with this terrible product. Because of my love for this fake cheese, this has never been a problem for me while eating fast food. The low quality of cheese has never been my sticking point or issue.

Lettuce: My love for Kraft Singles is similar to my love for iceberg lettuce. Although there is almost no flavour or nutrition from iceberg lettuce, I love it. I like how crunchy it is and how refreshing it is to eat. I love it on burgers, tacos and salad. It is the only lettuce I would eat solo. Iceberg lettuce is the only choice for a burger. Everything else has too much vegetable flavour and takes away from the fatty, greasy deliciousness that is a burger.

Double Bun: The double bun truly is a thing of genius. You are essentially eating two burgers but because there is only 1 ½ buns you don’t feel as guilty or glutinous. It doesn’t overwhelm the burger and its topping but serves as a platform for them. It helps create the balance between burger and topping, giving structure and support to the heaviness.

If the above is my love sonnet for the Big Mac, a burger I have eaten on less than 5 occasions, then obviously the Better Mac was going to be just that, better. The science behind the Big Mac is flawless and when you recreate it using high quality, real ingredients the result will be better. The above statements on the ingredients prove truer for the Better Mac. The sauce is better, a homemade style secret sauce, the cheese doesn’t perfectly crease when folded as it is not mostly plastic, the lettuce is as high quality as you can get with iceberg and the bun is actually a bun, not something that has been smushed into bread-shaped submission. However, while eating this, I slightly missed my Big Mac. When I eat a gourmet burger, I want something different; I don’t want to recreate something I can get in almost every country in the world. This is not a slight to the burger. It was delicious but it wasn’t special. I won’t crave it. I won’t want to eat it again. All there is to it is that it is a better Big Mac.One thing I will give it credit for, unlike a Big Mac, the Better Mac does look like it’s photo:

IMG_2431Please no one try and recreate my beloved Chicken McNuggets. Happy munching!

Weslodge

On Sunday, ask GC and I headed down to King West to have brunch at Weslodge.

We choose Weslodge for a few reasons:

  1. It opens late for brunch and thus, treat you avoid ridiculous brunch lineups without having to wake up ridiculously early. We didn’t get home the night before until 3 in the morning and thus, view our typical weekend efficiency was delayed a few hours. We arrived at around 1 o’clock and the restaurant was half empty.
  2. It is on the constantly referenced Blog T.O. Top 50 Brunch list. As we have worked our way through this list, we give less and less authority to it. 50 is a very ambitious number for a list especially for referencing best brunches in a city that has a constantly changing restaurant scene. However, we have come too far on the list to give up on it now. We only have 9 more restaurants to try and my goal (if my waistline does not protest too much) is finish this list off by the end of January 2015.
  3. The restaurant looks really cool. The signage is marquee style lighting and the inside looks like a mix between an old-Victorian house/hipster saloon/Prohibition bar. We would learn that it was obviously the main focus of the restaurant rather than the food.

WeslodgeWe were seated at a large booth with too deep seating paired with too high of a table. This seems like such a small detail to notice and care about but it makes for awkward dining. When you eat out far too much, you notice these things. The décor is very hipster cool: lots of interesting and vintage elements that have no relationship to one another. The walls are a hunter green, donned with animal busts and small taxidermied birds, and Victorian portraits. The bar has a Prohibition pub vibe to it, with a chalkboard of cocktails. The servers have holsters over the shoulders which I can only assume should hold pads of paper for taking orders but they were empty. Weslodge is suffering from an identity crisis: are you my Victorian grandmother’s house, a saloon in the Wild, Wild West or a speakeasy?

This identity crisis translates into the menu. Given the décor, you would assume the menu would channel British flavours and dishes, like the Queen & Beaver. However, the menu lacks consistency. There are Scotch eggs, house made English muffins and croquettes to start, which are all very British however, then there is fried chicken, schnitzel, and crispy shrimp rolls on the menu. SORT YOUR LIFE OUT. In trying to cover a gamut of flavours and styles, Weslodge fails to do anything particularly well. The execution is okay, but given the price tag of the meal and the attempt at creativity you are obviously expecting and wanting more.

We both started off with a Scotch Egg.

IMG_2484The Scotch Egg with chorizo, tomato jam and black truffle.

This was delicious but when is a Scotch Egg ever not? It was served slightly warm and nestled in a bed of spicy tomato jam. I loved this tomato jam. It would be a welcome addition to my breakfast table. The flavour of the black truffle was unapparent but the salty yolkiness made up for this. The egg was a quail egg and added that little bit of richness that traditionally comes with quail eggs due to the size of the yolk. This Scotch egg is listed as one of Toronto Life’s top 5 Scotch eggs in the city, a list I plan to conquer.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken.

IMG_2486Fried Chicken with jalapeno cheddar biscuit, white gravy and jalapeno hot sauce.

I believe this is on the menu in the attempt to emulate a saloon but it’s not working. The chicken was fried well: it was crispy on the outside but juicy and full-cooked on the inside without being burnt. It was boneless which is an added bonus when one is trying to slice through fried chicken with a fork and a knife. The biscuit was flavourless and dense, two qualities a biscuit, particularly one with jalapeno and cheese, should not be. There was not nearly enough gravy on this, and this is coming from someone who can do without gravy (shocking, yes, I know). The jalapeno hot sauce was more of a chutney and was not spicy.

Overall, stick with fried chicken and waffles elsewhere; Maybe SCHOOL or Stockyard’s just to name a few of my favourites.

GC also had the side order of the Maple Bourbon Bacon.

IMG_2490The menu claims this is supposed to be thick cut but as you can see, it is obviously not. The bacon was crispy, slightly sweet and salty. It was good but I would have preferred slightly thicker bacon, especially when the menu claims this is how it will be served.

I ordered the Eggs Benny (I know there should be an apostrophe there but I am be true to the grammatically incorrect menu).

IMG_2487The Eggs Benny with house English muffin, lamb bacon, hollandaise and mizuna.

Looking at this makes me depressed. When it was brought to the table I pouted a little. This is the smallest, most underwhelmingly sad looking thing I have ever seen. The English muffins were tiny, dense and nearly impossible to cut through. Restaurants should not highlight something being house made if the quality is not great and this was the case with this English muffin. Now, to be fair, the best English muffin I have ever eaten was at Gordon Ramsay’s York and Albany in London (yums) and it probably doesn’t get much better than that but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

I was intrigued by lamb bacon because it was something different and therefore should be tried but I shouldn’t have. The bacon leathery, it was almost jerky like. As lamb is lean, why would you use it to make delicious, normally fatty bacon? Fail.

The eggs were not poached the same way. One was poached hard and therefore did not ooze slowly over everything on my plate. The second egg was poached perfectly but I cannot overlook two inconsistently poached eggs. The hollandaise was bland and boring.

The side of greens were good but did I go out for brunch to eat salad? No.

I wasn’t impressed with Weslodge. It is underwhelming food at an expensive price. The menu lacked the substance and creativity it was trying to go for. My suggestion: go for a Scotch egg and a cocktail. I can only assume it will be good because can you really mess up booze?

Happy munching!

Christmas 2014

I’m back! And it’s Christmas time! After a three month hiatus you get to read about what I am eating and cooking again. I know, contain your excitement. We have entered into that magical time that GC and I have been looking forward to for months: AFTER THE WEDDING. Yes, the wedding was magical, beautiful and everything we had dreamed of and we are so happy to be married but it was also all-consuming. So bear with me, you will be seeing foods I ate three months ago when it was warm and beautiful outside. But for now: Christmas!

This weekend I kicked off my Christmas 2014: Saturday was spent in Newmarket at the Santa Claus Parade, then in Bradford at the greenhouse followed by fondue which always makes me feel festive. Sunday was a lazy day of brunch,  another Santa Claus parade and then yoga.

Below are my photos from the Bradford Greenhouse. If you live in the area you have to check it out. It is a magical winter wonderland!

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