superfoodies Shanksgiving!

Lamb ShanksShanksgiving (or it’s more well known name in the superfoodies’ household: “lamb shank night”) is one of our most important celebrations. It is the first dinner I cooked for L not long after we had met.  It also included beer cheddar soup to start, but the yearly tradition does not include that part as a standard. I also roasted garlic and made some spectacular mashed potatoes with it, but nope, also not mandatory, but you can see why he stuck around 😀 .

This year, we missed the date, then bought some shanks quite awhile later… and STILL didn’t get around to the concocting… so they chilled in our freezer… waiting for the call.  Finally, we realized we just needed to get them out and get on it, or we’d be eating them on the proper date a year later (well, we would have purchased some fresh ones if we did wait that long… months of living in the Kenmore side-by-side would not make for an optimal taste experience)

Foraged around the still fairly new, and therefore rearranged (read: I still can’t find a damn thing), kitchen for the good old hard copy of the Rosemary Braised Lamb Shanks recipe, and went to work.

I mostly follow the recipe quite accurately, and it turns out as we like it, but of course adjust it where you need to, or like.  I used powdered thyme (feeling cheap about throwing out a mostly full package of fresh, since it won’t get used), but used fresh rosemary, even though I WILL throw most of that out, because dammit, it’s in the name of the recipe! I do however use less than is called for, as it can be a bit overpowering for us. Noticing the sauce was just a little thinner than we wanted this time, I did throw in a good teaspoon of potato starch to tighten it up and that did the trick.

The presentation was to be over a bed of boiled, mashed yuca/cassava, but as L started peeling, he realized it had gone bad, so we quickly cooked a packaged quinoa blend to substitute. Polenta would have been nice, but would have taken a bit too much thought for me to pull off.

All was rich, and flavourful, though the shanks were not quite as soft as I prefer them, but that is my only real criticism. Of course we paired dinner with a delicious bottle of red: one of our favourites: Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel.  L loved everything!

A few things learned from this episode of lamb shank night: it is a bit of a production, so pick up some really nice shanks from the butcher, no more vacuum sealed freezer packs, verify before you start to cook that your side dish has not decided to go south, and for goodness sakes, don’t wait 8 months past the anniversary date to celebrate!

Hope this inspires you to have your very own Shanksgiving!

K&L 😀

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Shagwells for the Win(gs)!

Shagwells on the RidgeRestaurant wings, while a steady go-to in the superfoodies world, have been an infrequent guest of late. We just don’t seem to make the effort much anymore, as a certain element does not fit in well healthwise with our way of eating.  Surprisingly, it is not the delicious, crispy wing creating, deep fried process itself, or the chicken skin etc. that is our problem point, but the type of oil used to cook said deliciousness. No preaching, we just avoid most processed oils. However, we also like to stay flexible and on the social/public grid in terms of food and health, so we eat less than optimal things from time to time… and this was a time!

Back to one of our most favourite wing haunts: Shagwells on the Ridge! Now long ago, I told L that every where in town claims to possess the “Region’s Best Wings!” and if you aren’t from around here, you might believe this the first time you read such a proud claim, blasted from a hole in the wall’s billboard, and maybe the second time?? But now we notice this faux stamp of culinary success at all sorts of places… heck, they can’t all be true! Which brings us back to Shagwells. No claims of such there that I am aware of, but L awarded his own proclamation of “Best Wings!” in any geographic region, on this very day.

For this reason, we do not usually stray from the pull of the wing basket on our visits, and on Wednesdays they are half price, which is great, but we still have no problem paying full price since they’re well worth it. Good size, crispy, crunchy, not greasy, and a large selection of sauces and/or dry seasonings, they really can’t be beat. Our hearts and tastebuds are solemnly committed to the spicy red pepper dry seasoning, with a side of hot sauce.

We used to order a cider with them (miss you Strongbow), but now we have pretty much switched to wine, and they have a perfect, standard sauvignon blanc, and the good grace not to skimp on the pour.

Of non-food note, they play country music in this here establishment, and L and I enjoyed guessing whether the songs would have a truck, car, beer, whiskey, and/or women in them, and we also noticed that every one in a country song seems to be going somewhere… or somewhere else.

Wouldn’t be fair not to also mention the great service, and though it was less than busy this time, we have been many times in the past where our drink choices and wing preferences were always remembered, always a nice touch.

Head on out to the ridge if you are in need of some fantastic, yet under celebrated, well kept secret wings.

K&L 😀
Shagwells on the Ridge on Urbanspoon

superproducts! sodastream

sodastreamWow, it’s been awhile since a superproduct has been posted so here we go! While this is not a food or drink itself, the sodastream is the creator of fantastic, on tap, low cost soda.  And when we say “soda” we actually mean just plain old, straight up carbonated water.

We were buying, and lugging, and storing, and consuming, and of course disposing of many bottles of soda every week.  Lots of bother, lots of space consumption, lots of waste, and lots of $. I had mentioned picking up one of these slick little units a while back… but L was not particularly enthusiastic, so we just didn’t bother. Eventually though, I pulled the idea out again and by this time, enough hassle had gone on that L was getting downright chipper about the prospect.

sodastreamI did a bit of research and price hunting and ended up buying the Genesis model, as I wanted to be able to use both the large and small bottles. Wow, what an immediate love affair! We just fill the bottles and keep them in the fridge, takes only a few seconds to turn them into our favourite beverage that doesn’t carry and alcohol percentage. We don’t drink from the bottles so we don’t need to wash them every day, and the sodastream itself really requires no maintenance, it doesn’t even require power. The only requirement is to pop in a CO2 cartridge once in awhile, and we get them as an exchange at Home Outfitters, and use a coupon, so the cost is only around $17 or so.

If you happen to like flavoured sodas, they have over 60 to choose from. We don’t drink em, so we can’t comment on the taste, but perhaps one of you good readers could send us any comments you may have from that side of the glass? Pick one up today and get your fizz on…

(To check out all of our superproducts! just click on the “superproducts!” category below)

Like a Boss!

Boss HogsBoss Hog’s Smokin’ Chophouse that is! Well, superfoodies finally headed a bit further west than we usually do to attend a happy 40th 🙂 in London, ON, on Saturday. Excellent party, interesting people, and an actual bar set up (nice!)… superfoodies took particular advantage of that feature, and our wise and caring host took care of our cab ride back to the hotel. This kind of Saturday however, leads to the inevitable “Sunday Morning After”, and this time was no exception.

The only thing that will expel us from our hotel room earlier than checkout time is an overwhelming need to find a “cure” for what ails us! We set out just before 11 and had no plan in mind.  We pulled into a Golden Griddle, but neither of us really wanted to go that predictable route.  We searched the google machine while in the parking lot, and found a little diner not too far away where we could get some standard, but hopefully less chain-like, breakfast fare.

On the way there, we spotted a sign that is a nickname of one of the kiddos and while we pulled in to take a pic, we spotted a little BBQ joint… and though just 11 am… it was open! Score! Lets have some ribs 🙂

Boss Hog’s had obviously gotten a head start on the rest of the city, since the 15-20 table, clean, and nicely decorated joint, was still empty. We were quickly greeted and told to sit where we liked.  Menus in hand, a drink offer was met with my usual answer on days like these: a caesar with extra spice, and L went with club soda.

When the drinks arrived, we mostly knew what we wanted… and then the server mentioned that it just happened to be all you can eat rib day. Um, easy call for L, he went with that, and I got the rib and brisket combo with a side of sweet potato fries and mayo, and the fries just happened to be my favourite: lattice! We also had to go with the Loaded Potato Soup to share for a starter.

The caesar went down fast, and was delicious and spiced perfectly… tasted like a couple more, but a long car ride ahead steered me to a soda instead. The soup arrived and it was as great as loaded potato soup should be, so let me point out the best reason to order it: it is loaded with pulled pork, not just a little garnish on top. We are already feeling a million times better. As we waited for our entrees, the country music played, and L regaled me with his extensive knowledge of the Smokey and the Bandit movies (1,2, AND 3) and the Dukes of Hazzard. The things you learn…

Here come the ribs… and brisket… etc… Big portions compared to the other smoke/bbq places we have previously reviewed here and the cost was comparatively lower.  Based on this, we thought it might not be as good as the other places, but have to say, it was fantastic.  Meat came off the bones easily, but the meat still held a solid, but tender texture. The sauce looked thick and super sweet, but it wasn’t at all, just tasty and added to the flavours instead of overwhelming. It had an undercurrent of vinegar and apple.  The brisket was thin sliced, and though I’m a fan of thicker, it was still enjoyable due to the pull apart, but still the right amount of chew going on, as well as a nice smoked flavour. Have to include a mention of the little corn bread muffin on my order too, just how I like it, didn’t crumble to dust when picked up and the right amount of sweetness.  Perfect.

L downed 2 plates of ribs and some brisket and lattice fries and made himself a “slider” with the last of the brisket and the soft little garlic bun on his plate and that was all folks! Over and out. So happy that we stumbled across a place with such great service and food. On the way out, noticed a truck full of wood and an add on to the restaurant, sporting a large chimney. We presumed that this was the “smoker” area and a new load of “fuel”. We were glad to see that they are obviously doing the real deal here. So head on in if you’re in the area… the Boss wants to see you.

K&L 😀

Boss Hog's Smokin' Chophouse on Urbanspoon

The place so nice they named it twice! twice!

Burgers & Burgers ArubaHave to get a new post up now to push the previous post out of the top spot, since it has some negativity in it… and it’s been up long enough…be gone! (one post below lol)

Onto one of my favourite things to write about (mostly… I’m looking at you vanishing Snacky’s): Aruba food times!!! On one more sad note, our beloved Rembrandt Dutch restaurant, discovered the previous year, was now under “new management” which definitely did NOT mean “better” management.  So off we harrumphed, into the night, hungry and looking for somewhere to land. We wandered a bit, out of good ideas, new ideas etc… and eventually wound up at a place that we had checked out many times, and always bypassed for some reason. Not because there was anything really wrong with it, it just seemed to be very standard and unexciting.  It sure looked a lot better to us after a couple of growling trips up and down the main strip. What place is this you ask, that finally earned our resigned stamp of: oh I can’t walk another step, let’s just eat here! approval…? As I said, it’s named twice, and even named so in two ways… first way: Dushi Bagel and Burgers & Burgers, and therefore you guessed the second way: Burgers & Burgers.  Hmmm, not sure Burgers & Burgers is the most scintillating name, but dammit, you know what you’re getting… unless you’re there for the bagels, then you know they will be Dushi bagels.  (Dushi is a word in the Papiamento language of Aruba)

Anyway, in we went, and it was clean and elevated from the street a bit, and for some reason they had an Oktoberfest thing going on (guess because it was October, I’m smart like that). Not terribly busy, and luckily that was reflected in the attentive service we received.

An awesome vodka and soda for L and a wine for me were quickly shuttled to the table.  We looked around and got an idea of how this food show was going to go, so L ordered a big double burger with cheese, and some gorgeous (don’t care if they come from a freezer) steak cut fries, and I got an Argentinean burger that came with a side of chimichurri and coleslaw.  The atmosphere slightly removed from the street, but with a full entertaining view, was quite perfect and relaxing as we waited for food to arrive. And it did 🙂 with the fun metal martini (or sundae perhaps?) shaped fry presenter, and big cutting boards with our lovely burgers perched on top. Did they look like prefab patties? Yep! Did we really care? Uh… no.  Did we remember to ask for a big squirt bottle of mayo like we had spotted at another table for our fries ? YES!

(Pictures first of course, now….) Dig in! It was exactly what we needed and expected. Standard goodness, nothing fancy, just good, reasonably priced food, and a really comfortable atmosphere that we would recommend if you just want a decent place to get some good food, hang out, and take in the street traffic… and also consume an entire bottle of mayo on your fries with no side eyes from your server 😀

K&L 😀

I’m sorry… but you’ve been CHOPPED

Chop Steakhouse BarLong time no post! Time to get back at it, but since I don’t like to post less than stellar reviews, well, I guess I’ve been procrastinating.

On the eve of our departure for Aruba, after much of our usual pre research, we chose to go to a restaurant called Chop Steakhouse Bar, located near our Toronto airport hotel. It appeared to have a menu and ambiance that superfoodies would appreciate.  We arrived via a quick cab ride and stepped inside. The decor was very slick yet not cold, and we were greeted swiftly and taken as requested to a table in the bar area, where we prefer to dine.

Drinks (vodka sodas) and wine ordered, we chose the Steakhouse Tomato Caprese Salad and Albacore Tuna Tataki to start. As I unfurled the cloth napkin towards my lap, a huge waft of fabric softener flew into my face.  I am particularly sensitive to this olfactory assault, and my nose started itching immediately.  Not pleasant, and very unnecessary when you are in the presence of food… don’t mask the smell of your foods with lavender! or mountain breeze… or ocean tide… yuck. Now back to the food.  The salad arrived, looked nice, but also made with what looked like pearl bocconcini out of a tub, but not put off… yet. We started eating and it was super cold, like meat locker fridge cold, which doesn’t allow the flavours to meld or be tasted properly.  The final unfortunate part of this dish? Of the 3 slices of tomato on the plate, 2 had huge cores in them (see pic below).  Really??? The dish is all about the tomato (and the cheese, but I already went there). Now I have joked that in every regular salad, I always seem to get a slice with core, but it is not the highlight in these cases, so whatever.  A restaurant trying to be a high end competitor though?… really not acceptable.

Onto the tataki… short and sweet: good enough, BUT icy icy cold. Again, I would prefer it closer to room temp, or cool, but this was straight out of a fridge and onto a plate.  Maybe I don’t know enough about the appropriate temp of tataki, so feel free to chime in! (of course the scented napkin irritant kept making it’s presence known, periodially sending a perfumey taste onto my tongue).

We decided to take one more shot at the menu, going with the server’s recommendation of Steak Bites. They were exactly as advertised: soft, steaky goodness with delicious dip, and an appropriate temperature.  Score 1.

At the end of it all, while talking with the server about the whole experience, including the hyper scented napkin, the cooooold food, the large tomato cores (which could only be conspicuous on the plate as it was removed), it was mostly met with an “I understand, thanks for the feedback” and a shrug.  Having worked for many years in restaurants, I did make an effort to present it just as information with a hint of how it gave us a less than positive feeling about our night (meaning we will not likely go back). For you readers though, maybe these things aren’t a problem, and you will test drive it yourself, but as I said, for us, Chop… has been chopped!

K&L 😀
Chop Steakhouse & Bar on Urbanspoon

When a truck and superfoodies collide…

Urban Smoke Eat St.What an exciting day for superfoodies!  Turns out one of our favourite shows, Eat St., was filming in superfoodies’ land today! The truck: Urban Smoke Fusion BBQ woo hoo! As you may know from previous posts, we have put some tasty BBQ joints to the test, so always great to get another chance to taste a different interpretation of one of our favourite meat treats.

Unfortunately L could not be with me for this, so I had to go it alone.  Of course he was missed, but I persevered for the sake of the blog. I arrived early to see what was going on and how things are set up.  Fun to have an idea about how a show that you watch all the time is actually put together and filmed.  Host James Cunningham was not there 😦 and of course I remembered that he does his always funny intros, and then the actual truck scenes commence.

I finally get into the longish lineup and after awhile, as I inched towards the coveted front of the line, I had to lean over to the filming crew and tell them about our passion for food, our travel around food, based on Food Network shows, and obviously the fact that we blog it too. I was asked if I really had a blog 🙂 so I handed over our superfoodies card. And I was in! Yay! Very excited to get to do this since it is a pretty big hobby of ours. I signed the release form with a hand shaking with anticipation, and then I got to order.

A Dirty Bob (“with attitude”, for those who like it spicier) was my request.  This bad boy is a Grilled Beef Brisket sandwich on Texas toast with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions. Yes.  Have to put that brisket to the test.  Came with a side, so went with the now traditional coleslaw that we usually choose, though it could have also been fries or beans, nice selection. $10 gets you a decent portion which I happily collected at the window, ensconced in it’s very secure, environmentally friendly, dome (the sandwich, not the window!).  I walked over to the filming area and kept it sealed until it was time for the camera to roll.

Got a quick, interesting run down on how it works (look at the interviewer, NOT the camera) and describe with enthusiasm, of course, what you have and how it tastes!  So I opened the container to find a crunchy, buttery looking sandwich and a good portion of vinegar based (not mayo thank goodness) coleslaw.  Let the biting begin! MMmmm yes, crunchy bread, medium sliced brisket, the toppings did not overwhelm the meat (good call Urban Smoke) and smokey enough.  Only would have put a little more “attitude” on it if I could have.  We do like things a little over the top spicy. The coleslaw was perfect, very fresh and LOVE the addition of celery seed.

I discovered eating and chewing and speaking, with a camera very close to the mouth zone that these things are happening in, is first, a study in self consciousness… that was immediately overshadowed by a need to get all my words out and have fun! And I did have fun, and a new experience AND some damn tasty food 🙂 Really appreciate getting to be a part of it. Very big day for a true superfoodie.

So half of Dirty Bob and some slaw made it home for L to sample, as I regaled him with my excitement of the day, which he also enjoyed thoroughly, while holding our Eat St. street sign that he had made for our house last Christmas…yes, we are fans!

Thumbs up Eat St. and Urban Smoke… from the next Food Network star??? LOL a superfoodie can dream………………………

K&L 😀

Bao Down to Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi BoysWe took a trip to The Big Smoke (aka Toronto) recently to catch the Pat Benatar concert (excellent we might add!), which also resulted in us having the good fortune to be right in the vicinity of another Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” establishments: Banh Mi Boys Sandwich Shop!

We’ve never had a banh mi, or bao for that matter, so as a morning after feed, why not opt for something new and interesting? Okay, well, sometimes the answer to trying new stuff is definitely a big fat “NO”… as hollered from the night before’s excessive drinks, that you have no choice but to obey in the harsh light of day. This day though, yes, new and interesting squeaked in, barely.

Off L went to procure, and as is tradition, I waited for the tasty (hopefully), new surprises to arrive.  As usual, since we often make deliberate, informed choices about where we eat, the food did not disappoint.  So, we tried 2 steamed bao buns, one with pulled pork and one with beef cheeks.  As a great added bonus, L decided that we had to have the kimchi fries!  Definitely appreciated from a morning point of view.

So, the official opinions on the food are: the two bao, good, but I would have liked the buns to be warm, they were quite cool, like they had come out of a fridge, and they were fairly small, so maybe a third would have been enough. The fillings though, were rich and tasty, and the consistency of the bite of the bao was soft and yet substantial.  The kimchi fries however, were (almost) perfection! Well cooked, just the right amount of crunch and skin left on them, the toppings were fantastic: kimchi, pulled pork, and mayo. The only note, if there is one, is L was asked about spice level, I’m not sure what part of the order they were referring to, the fries or the buns, but after indicating we wanted SPICY, none of it was particularly hot. If we were home, we would have remedied that on our own, but it was still much enjoyed and we would go back. Would definitely go for a banh mi sandwich next time, and would always include a re acquaintance with the kimchi fries. You can’t miss ’em if you don’t try ’em.

K&L 😀
Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

superproducts! Swiss Chalet Dipping Sauce

Swiss Chalet Dipping SauceTime again for a superproducts! post. These tend to appear after I look at something I’ve used A LOT and realize how damn good it really is.  This is exactly what happened this time.  We love Swiss Chalet Dipping Sauce, which used to only be procured and consumed with the chicken from the same place. Now we can have it any time, in only minutes, and it tastes EXACTLY the same. The packaged version has even been improved since it came out (I think), it seems to mix with the water much better.

I actually used it in a bit of an unconventional way the other day though, and that’s what made me really take note of it’s awesomeness.  I was searching for some new flavour to throw into hamburgers, so I poured a whole package into the meat, after some hemming and hawing about how it might blend/taste. I did not tell L that this was the mystery ingredient. I wanted to see if he noticed anything different from our usual array of great, but typical combinations. Now for me, knowing what I was enjoying, I really could taste the essence of the sauce flavour… and it was GOOD! L asked unprompted what I had put in the meat, and when I told him he would never guess… and then told him what it was, he certainly agreed that he would have never pegged it, but really liked it too.  We will use it again for sure in burgers, but will keep using it in it’s intended form as well. Grab a handy pre cooked chicken from your grocery store and whip up some of this sauce and enjoy it yourself. If you have other ways you’ve used this superproduct, let us know!

Can Teddy’s Bear the Competition?

Teddys Restaurant & DeliAs is mostly a loosely established tradition now, when we reach each thousand click milestone (the more you click, the more we eat by the way!), we celebrate with some tasty adventure… and it usually involves food in bags, ferried home like treasure. Nine thousand wasn’t any different when we hit up Teddy’s Restaurant & Deli to put their smoked meat to the test against Schwartz’s and Caplanski’s. We ordered two sandwiches, full fat!, as we have learned this is our preferred experience with this particular treat (extra fat is always better flavour than too little, so we stay on the safe side). Also part of the package was a straight up salad with their memorable house dressing that I really wanted L to try, since it was so garlicky and delicious as I recalled. He had not been to Teddy’s since he was a teenager and it had been some time since I had been as well… as they have that lack of beverage licencing that I so appreciate.

Food home, unwrapped and in hand, it looked great… and different.  The smoked meat was much more thinly sliced than any of the others that we had tried elsewhere.  Big bites taken… wow! Really rich and flavourful, and the thinner slicing made it easier to bite without tearing out more than you want. Big thumbs up, and then the realization that we have fabulous smoked meat sandwiches available locally… any time we want them… even when we shouldn’t be eating them, if you get the drift of the problem 🙂 Onto the salad: good, standard salad, but it was the dressing that was to be the star.  Unfortunately it lacked something, maybe the old garlic level, I don’t know. L really liked the bits of cheese in it though and enjoyed it more than I did, since he wasn’t making the same comparison that I was. Still good of course, but not something I would now go out of my way to have again soon.  But the smoked meat… well, that one is still unfortunately? fortunately? a taste that will keep us going back for that full fat.

K&L 😀
Teddy's Restaurant & Deli on Urbanspoon