Barque

Happy birthday to my favourite person in the entire world, GC!!! Well, technically his birthday was July 3rd and we did celebrate that day, I am just operating on a bit of a delay. On the suggestion of a coworker we decided to check out Barque Smokehouse for the birthday dinner.

We were seated on the patio – a cute little patio, off the side of the restaurant with twinkling lights. It was cozy and felt like someone’s backyard patio. When we were seated at the table we were greated by Barque’s signature popcorn – yums!

We ordered cocktails – GC ordered the Bourbon Smoked Sour (not pictured) and I ordered the Barque Caesar:

IMG_4068The Barque Caesar with vodka, Clamato, seasoned with pepper, Tabasco, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce, garnished with pickled asparagus and a slice of lime, and rimmed with smoked and candied bacon. This may be the best Caesar I have had. It was spicy, and thick, it tasted like a cocktail rather than tomato soup. It was garnished beautifully and it wasn’t ridiculous looking (unlike another Caesar I will be featuring on the blog shortly). The smoked and candied bacon was the perfect hint of savoury, fatty, sweetness to round out the flavour palate of this drink. I highly recommend it if you are a Caesar lover.

We started with an order of Smoked Chipotle Wings.

IMG_4062This wings were delicious. They were slightly small but when thinking about meat this should be viewed as reassuring rather than disappointing. It means that your meat is coming from chickens that are not on steriods and other growth horomones. The meat was juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. The sauce was SPICY. We made the rookie move of assuming that because we love chipotle mayo and the Mexican restuarant “Chipotle” we can therefore handle this heat. We cannot but they were still delicious.

Next we ordered the Barque Sampler for two. Barque Sampler for 2

Barque

The Barque Sampler for Two with Meat: Beef Brisket, 2 Beef Rib, and 2 Competition Chicken Thighs and Sides: Fries, Cuban Corn, and Fennel Slaw.

The meats were better than the sides and I am totally ok with that. The beef brisket was tender, and had a rich, deep smoky flavour. The ribs had this amazing rub on them, that combined a wide range of flavours from coffee to cinnamon. The table beside us also ordered the ribs and asked their server what the blend of spices in the rub was. The server was unable to give away all the spices but brought out a small container of rub for them! The chicken thighs were tender, smoky and had a delicious sweetness from the sauce. There is the disclaimer on the menu that because the meats are smoked they will not come to you piping hot but warm. Eating this meal in the summer is perfect: it is substantial and filling but you won’t get hot and uncomfortable while eating your dinner (or is this just a problem that I have?).

The fries had a spice on them that was similar to the popcorn spice which made the fries sweet rather than salty – neither GC or I appreciated this. Fries are best when they are enjoyed in all their salty glory. The Cuban corn was sweet, had a hint of spice but was too cold to really enjoy. The kernels had done that awful thing where they start to shrivel once cool and all the juiciness from the corn disappears. The fennel slaw was my favourite part – tart and acidic with a fresh and citrus quality from the fruit. This is the prefect salad for summer.

I would have loved to be able to eat dessert but alas, there was no room. We later went home and enjoyed homemade mini twix cheesecakes (previously featured here)!

Barque was my first really introduction to this neighbourhood and I love it. It feels like a less busy and more mature Annex. We will definitely be going back to sample the endless options combined in the sample platters.

Happy munching!

Museum Tavern – Part II

The week before Christmas I was finally able to introduce GC to the Museum Tavern. The restaurant was decked out for Christmas – swags, buy ribbons and pine boughs. The Christmas decorations just gave the restaurant an even cosier, Victorian feel.

GC ordered the Wild Boar Torpedo.

IMG_3148The Wild Boar Torpedo – smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, mushrooms and tomato sauce served with frites and slaw.

Wild boar tastes very similar to regular pork but it is much richer. This sandwich balanced all the rich flavours together perfectly between the sweetness of the onions, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the smokiness of the cheese. It takes your standard meatball sub and kicks it up a notch. If you are a sandwich lover, the torpedoes at Museum Tavern are worth trying out.

Instead of ordering a main, I decided to ordered two starters which was overwhelming. Next time, I could do with just one but I was so excited by the prospect of Stuffed Chicken Wings and Truffled Mushroom Pierogies that I had to order both. GC helped me finish both of these off.

IMG_3149Stuffed Chicken wings – with bacon and blue cheese, served with hot sauce. These chicken wings were ridiculous, but in a good way. The two smaller wings were not stuffed and allowed you to taste the chicken on its own. It was juicy, meaty and had a perfect crispy, slightly sweet breading on it. The stuffed wings were amazing and if you love blue cheese you need to try them. The combination of blue cheese and bacon is salty, creamy and a complete indulgence. This filling takes traditional chicken wings and takes them up a notch, making them sophisticated and more than frat boy pub grub. The hot sauce was smoky and hot, adding another dimension to these wings.

IMG_3150Truffled Mushroom Pierogies – caramalized onions  and crispy boar belly, served with sour cream. For as much as I loved the chicken wings, I think I loved these pierogies even more. They are not your traditional pierogies and I think it would be unfair to compare them to any traditional ones. The outside is crispy, protectively covering a soft and tender filling. The onions were sweet and tender, offsetting the richness of the boar. The boar was crispy, tender, juicy, meaty and completely fattening. The sour cream was speckled with chives which added freshness to the dish.

Any and all of these dishes should be consumed. This was another amazing meal at Museum Tavern and GC loved his first taste of it.

Happy munching!

Big Bone BBQ

After my day of appointments and The Goulash House, GC came to Newmarket and my dad took us out for dinner at Big Bone BBQ.

Whenever I watch shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I think that there aren’t as many hole-in-the-wall places in Canada as there are in the US. The show, You’ve Gotta Eat Here, is slowly showing us that these places do exist here and even Triple D has been filming in Canada. Big Bone BBQ is one of these types of places and it’s conventiently located in my hometown! Located in a plaza on Eagle Street, if you didn’t know this restaurant existed, you would drive right past it. Dad discovered this place after seeing an ad in the local paper and had been the week before with Mom. A couple of former co-workers swore by this place but we had just never gotten around to trying it so when Dad suggested going here for dinner I jumped at the chance.

The restaurant was started by two guys from the US who wanted to bring real BBQ to Canada and now they have 4 or 5 locations in the GTA. It is a small restaurant, seating about 25-30 people with an option for take out. The walls are plastered with posters of BBQ competitions and accolades for this restaurant, including write-ups from Toronto Life. The decor is simple, allowing the classic BBQ to stand front and centre. There are several trophies all topped with pigs throughout the restaurant, assuring you that the food you are going to enjoy is prize worthy and legendary.

Dad started off with the Potato and Bacon Soup.

IMG_3108This soup was thick, creamy, salty and finished off perfectly with a piece of dense, sweet cornbread. I definitely want to try this soup at some point but I wanted to have my tastebuds ready for delicious barbeque.

For dinner, Dad and GC both ordered the Mini Combo and I ordered the Pulled Pork.

Big Bone BBQThe Mini Combo – Top row and bottom right – 3 bones of ribs, 1/2 lb of wings, fries, coleslaw and cornbread. Dad ordered the Honey Mustard Wings and GC ordered dry rub wings but we can’t remember… this is why you write about food shortly after you eat it rather than 3 weeks later…

The Pulled Pork Combo – Bottom left – 1 lb of pulled pork with all the fixings.

The ribs were juicy, fall-off-the-bone and smothered in delicious, sweet BBQ sauce. It says you get 3 bones of wing but both Dad and GC got 4 bones! The wings were not overly meaty but enough to not make you feel ripped off. The 1/2 lb of wings worked out to be 6 wings which is a good amount. These are not my favourite wings but they are definitely close to it!

As I have said previously, I don’t like cornbread. There is something about the texture of cornmeal that is gritty and bitter that I don’t find appealing. However, this cornbread was amazing – the best I’ve had. It was sweet, smooth and moist. I could eat a whole loaf on its own.

The coleslaw was creamy, but had a slight tang to it. It was crunchy and with a perfect balance of cabbage, lettuce and shredded carrots. It was very traditional coleslaw but it was perfectly done.

The pulled pork. I don`t know why I thought I could eat a pound of pulled pork… Well, I did so maybe that`s why I thought I could do it but it was slightly excessive. I would have liked more bread to eat with the pork but on its own was perfect too. It was juicy, moist, sweet and stringy, fall-apart.

It is clear as to why they have won so many awards, the food speaks for itself. It is comforting, juicy and delicious. I am already planning my next visit to this restaurant: next time I will be trying the Fantasy Burger – cheese, bacon and pulled pork. Yums! Mom and Dad, I`ll let you know when I`ll be in Newmarket!

Happy munching!

Duff’s Famous Wings

Two weeks ago we were craving chicken wings. It was the Toronto Santa Claus parade which means Bloor Street was closed and terrible so we couldn’t go to our go-to place, Puck ‘n Wings (I think we are the only people who love this place). We decided to go to a restaurant near GC’s work – Duff’s Famous Wings.

I had heard really good things about this restaurant: GC used to swear by this restaurant and according to BlogTO, this is the 3rd best wing place in Toronto so obviously I had to try it. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by this experience.

We each ordered a pound of wings. GC ordered the barbecue and I ordered the honey garlic.

Duff’s only has a few different types of sauce – various degrees of hot sauce, honey garlic and barbecue. The barbecue sauce was extremely tart and had an overwhelming vinegar taste to it. The honey garlic was sweet but no other depth to it. There was too much sauce on the wings as if to cover up the boniness of these wings. The very little meat that covered the bones was dry and tough. Needless to say I was not impressed with these wings.

We received terrible service. There was two servers working but one was literally doing nothing. It was the semifinals for the CFL and I know no one in Toronto cared about football until last weekend, but come on, it’s a major sporting event, you need to have a few more people working. Of course, there could have been extenuating circumstances I don’t know about but that is no excuse. The tables were left dirty and we had to wait 20 minutes to get our bill after asking for it. This is unacceptable.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend this wing joint or go again. Unhappy munching!

 

Gourmet Bitches

On Monday I went to the Monarch Tavern with my friend Caitlin to try Gourmet Bitches.

Gourmet Bitches teamed up with the Monarch Tavern and is doing a pop-kitchen from October 15-28. Tonight November 4 is the last night so if you haven’t been, I would suggest you run over there and try some delicious food! Do it now!

The Monarch Tavern is two storey building and the Bitches are set up on the second floor. The MT is similar to any other pub – a little seedy, lots of tables, some old regulars but a general good, comfortable vibe. It is the type of place you know you can enjoy some good conversation and a drink without being hovered over.  One of their draws is the fact that they serve a wide variety of craft beers so we enjoyed a few pints while munching on the fare from GB.

We each started off with an order of their fish tacos.

White Fish Taco in a coconut and banana chip crust with kale, avocado,  habanero, pickled pear and carrot slaw on a gluten free tortilla. This was a tasty taco. My only complaint was that the piece of fish was a bit small. The fish was flaky and tender, and the crust was sweet and crunchy. The kale was leafy and fresh. Kale is a new topping for a taco that I haven’t seen on any other menu and I wouldn’t think would work, but it definitely does. The avocado was smooth and creamy. The habanero added a subtle heat that grew with every bite. The pickled pear and carrot slaw added a sweetness which further complimented the sweetness of the crust on the fish. The other thing I wasn’t crazy about (so I lied, there is two things I wasn’t crazy about with this taco) was the gluten free tortilla. It tasted fairly similar to a normal tortilla but it didn’t seem to be able to hold the weight of the ingredients. If that is the only negative thing that can be said for a substitute tortilla, I think that is pretty good. Plus, people with gluten allergies should be able to enjoy this deliciousness too!

We were still hungry so I ordered the pulled pork taco and Caitlin ordered the chicken wings.

Cuban pulled pork taco with plum salsa and kale. Ok, this is the amount of filling I expect in a taco. This taco was packed with ingredients and flavour. The pork was tender and moist, with a hint of spice. The salsa added the sweet, fruitiness that works perfectly with pork. This taco confirmed that kale is a natural pairing for tacos. Kale is so crispy, and has such a bright, green flavour – there is no other way to describe it. And it is amazing for you! High in anti-oxidants, calcium, vitamins and so many other things! Good call, ladies.

Dry rubbed Asian Cuban chicken wings. A combination of Asian and Cuban heat smothered over chicken wings. That is fantastic. I don’t typically go for dry rub wings but I think the next time I happen upon GB I will have to try their wings because these looked so enticing.

A great night of food, drinks and conversation with the lovely Caitlin. If you can get to Monarch Tavern tonight by November 4, please do because you won’t regret it. If you can’t, because of my failure as a writer and I didn’t give you enough time (I’m no longer a failure because of their extension), then try and track down Gourmet Bitches because these lovely ladies certainly do know how to bring gourmet food to the street level.

Happy munching!

Buffalo Wild Wings

I don’t typically cover chain-restaurants because they aren’t anything new and exciting but in my quest for my favourite chicken wings I thought I would let you all know my thoughts on Buffalo Wild Wings.

GC and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings on Valentine’s Day which of course lead our server to ask if we are married. I guess when you go for wings on Valentine’s Day peope assume all romance has been lost and therefore you are married (I don’t believe this personally but I feel like society in general does). There are currently only three locations in Canada and for some strange reason, Newmarket got a location. Wing places come to die in Newmarket.

BWW is a mixture of bar and family dining which is something unique in a wing place. We sat in the bar area and there was about 4545332345674 televisions with various sports games – clearly this is a place where you would want to watch a game. In addition to all the televisions, they also have these game consoles that you can bring to your game and play games similar to what you would find on a smart phone. BWW is suffering from some major sensory overload.

Everything here is so cheap! And it came out so fast! And you know what – that’s how it should be! I realize all this food is processed and from frozen so therefore, why should I be paying tons of money and waiting half an hour for my food!

We started with the soft pretzels.

These were salty, and cheesy but I would have liked them a little softer. There was two different types of dipping sauce – a cheese and a mustard sauce. The cheese sauce was a little thick and reminded me of Cheese Whiz and then made me want celery. The mustard had a nice zing and was the perfect compliment to the salty pretzels.

Sweet potato fries. Pretty standard but always something that grabs me.

The wings.

Not the meatiest wings out there but great flavour. I think these are my favourite wing flavours I have ever had but not my favourite wings. I got a pound of the Honey BBQ and GC got a pound in two flavours (also something typically unheard of in wing culture. Typically, you can only split flavours among whole pounds, rather than half pounds): Honey BBQ and Parmesan Garlic.

The Honey BBQ had a sweet flavour and a nice heat. I am slowly trying to build my tolerance to heat and according to the BWW heat scale, this is above their medium. That is a pretty big deal for me.

GC said the Parmesan Garlic was salty and creamy but having a whole pound would have been overwhelming and would have killed his taste buds. Luckily, our server told us this and we didn’t kill our mouths or wallets for no reason.

Everything comes in a paper basket and the wings are marked with the quantity and the flavour. This avoids someone getting hot wings and burning their face off. I like the stickers, I don’t like the paper baskets. It just makes me feel like I’m at a pseudo-picnic.

Overall, great flavour but not the biggest wings. Luckily, we went on cheap wing night so you could order two pounds of wings for the price of one.