MFS Part 5: Food Trucks + Poutine!

Monday, August 27, 2012 1 comments

After some consideration, I've decided to cut my series short ending with a Canadian favourite: Poutine; for last. The Grumman '78 review I was going to do was rather short and I thought I would end it with a bang with an iconic cuisine such as poutine. 

Gourmet Osheaga eats!

There is however, an excellent review of the Montreal food truck scene showcasing Grumman '78 from the Food Network show, Eat St. that can be found here. Je suis désolé Grumman '78!! I will be looking forward to coming back and trying your main restaurant location, dining on yummy unique tacos and pop out of plastic bags!

Anyways, back to business, my 5th and final part of the Montreal Food Series, we'll be going into the wonderful world of poutine! Now I believe this Quebecois originating concoction needs no explaination to my fellow Canucks but to any of our American and International readers, poutine is made up of 3 components: French Fries, gravy and cheese curds! (not just any regular cheese, its gotta be cheese curds! The fresher the better; see here)

Hits the spot after a night of drinking!
The emergence of poutine were claimed in the late 1950's from serveral rural Quebec communities (sounds like an on-going trend in all their specialty foods doesn't it? :P) One predominant claim is that of Fernand Lachance from Warwick, Quebec which insists that poutine was birthed in Warwick in 1957. Regardless, this starch heavy cuisine is known across Canada and even adopted by several Northern American states and given countless recipe variations from different gravies, sauces, cheeses and adding a plethora of different vegetables and/or meats.

But enough of the history lesson lets get to the meat and potatoes...well in this case the cheese and potatoes??? HA!.... sigh... Bad jokes aside, I managed to try my hand at what Quebec had to offer with 2 different poutine's: first at a food truck at Osheaga (my apologies for not remembering the name for a proper shout out) and the second at the 24 hour La Banquise, a fine establishment serving no less than 28 different varieties of poutine!

Round 1, food truck poutine. This was during the first day of the Osheaga Music festival and after seeing 6 bands between 4 different stages in an estimated 80,000 person crowd with the blaring heat of the sun beating down on Parc Jean-Drapeau, it was an understatement to say I was famished. 

Evelyn, Kasia and I walked over from the main stage that where Florence and the Machine were performing over to the smaller green stage where MGMT was setting up.  The stage crew was still setting up and we thought it would be a good opportunity to grab some food. The girls opted for hotdogs while I had my eye on trying my first poutine in its birth province. After 15-20 minutes in the wait queue I was handed a steaming hot plate of sauced fries and cheese curds in a defining aluminum takeout container. First impressions were kinda meh.. The fries were not freshly handcut and under cooked and the gravy tasted too fabricated but the cheese curds were indeed very fresh which was its only redeeming quality. Not to be too harsh on the food truck serving the poutine, there was an incredibly long line and I didn't really care since the amount of "herbs" being smoked gave me a severe case of the munchies heh heh... ;)  

After a poor first showing, I knew Quebec had a better poutine to offer. Enter La Banquise. Originally opening as a family run ice cream shop, poutine first appeared on the menu at the start of the 1980's originally only offering traditional and Italian (Bolognese sauce instead of gravy). Today, La Banquise takes poutine to the next level such as La Elvis (ground beef, green peppers & mushrooms) and La Mexicaine (hot peppers, tomatoes & black olives). The extensive poutine menu can be found here.  

Seeking some poutine redemption, I took a shot in the dark and went for something a little avant-garde and went for something called La B.O.M. (Bacon, Onion and Merguez, or Chorizo, sausage) Let me tell you, the name of this poutine is perfectly suited. Take a look for yourself:

and this is a small....
Believe me when I say it was as good as it looks. This is the kind of poutine I was looking for. Aside from the bells and whistles of the bacon, onion and merguez sausage, the fries were crispy yet warm and soft on the inside (often done by double frying the French fries), the gravy was simply yet perfectly seasoned with an extreme amount of flavour and depth and I could not forget about the iconic Quebec cheese curds which were unbelievably fresh and still possessed the squeaky texture while being slightly melted from the heat of the gravy and fries. La Banquise being able to nail all these characteristics of a good poutine is an ability that few establishments can accomplish and it is very commendable. Do not pass up the chance to make it to this very thriving poutine palace, you have no excuse not to!! They are open 24 hours a day! 

Well, it was a long haul, but this wraps up my Montreal Food Series. I hope you all enjoyed reading my culinary adventures in the City of Saints. Until next time: Eat well and prosper! 

MFS Part 4: Schwartz's Delicatessen

Thursday, August 23, 2012 1 comments

Schwartz's Delicatessen
3895 St-Laurent
Montreal, Quebec
(514) 842-4813
   Sit-down Menu | Take-out Menu

The Schwartz's dine in menu with very little changing
the last 80 years!
ATTIRE: Casual
$6 Sandwich/ $1-$3 Sides
PAYMENT OPTIONS: Cash in the main restaurant/Debit/Credit in the takeout building 

HOURS: Sunday-Thursday: 8:00AM-12:30AM
              Friday: 8:00AM-1:30AM
              Saturday: 8:00AM - 2:30AM 

RESERVATIONS? No, first come first serve
GLUTEN FREE? possible but thats alot of meat with no bread :P


Quality of Food: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Originality: 5/5 (They are the original aren't they??)
Atmosphere: 4/5

Hey guys, its been a while since I've posted an update and this MFS series is itching to be finished! In part 4 of my Montreal series, I'm taking you back, waaay back (like bagel history back) to one of Montreal's most iconic foods: Montreal-Style smoked meat!

If you were to ask any knowledgeable foodie or Montreal (perhaps even Quebecois) resident about where to get the best smoked meat in town, you will most likely get Schwartz's Delicatessen in response. For a crash course on smoked meat, this is a method of cooking red meat or fish that has been practiced for ages for the main purpose of preserving these protein rich foods which would otherwise spoil very quickly. This is enabled by 2 factors: dehydration and absorbed smoke. Today, smoking meat is practically considered an art and delicacy very prominent in the southern states of the US. 

original recipe since for over 80 years!
Shwartz's Montreal smoked meat more specifically debuted to the world in 1928 by Mr. Reuben (hrm... another sandwich reference??) Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. Similarly to my bagel story, there is some controversy about who brought this smoked meat cooking style to Montreal first, but Schwartz is the most famous remaining operational smoked meat restaurant in the City of Saints. In fact, its so popular, it has a musical and even a film portraying the deli's story. 

The sign may have changed, but this is the original
building since it was founded in 1928
After a long day of sightseeing, we sauntered over to the St.Laurent hotspot (which is also the original location of Schwartz's when it opened all the way back in 1928) and and were welcomed with the warm orange glow of the charcuterie sign and a lengthy waiting line :/ . There were no hostesses or waiting lists, only men donned in white shirts and aprons occasionally opening the door and asking eager deli goers how many was in their party. Yes, it is first come first serve, but it appeared that Schwartz's uses the "tetris" system, squeezing in customers as efficiently as they can, meaning that if there's a party of 2 behind your party of 4 and a spot opens up for 2, you're still waiting outside as they head in for some tasty meat :P. 

Fortunately, this system seems to work quite well and we quickly moved forward through the lengthy line (which continued to grow behind us) and we make our way into a very crowded diner. Wedging my way inbetween people in line picking up takeout orders, I look around the vintage decor of the dining room outfitted with white tile walls covered in an array of newspaper clippings and framed autograph pictures of several famous people. I didn't really get a good look but individuals such as Celine Dion, Jerry Lewis, Halle Berry and The Rolling Stones (and many more) have sat in the very restaurant I was sitting in. Sure its not the fanciest place in the world, but the old-fashioned diner setup gives it a real nostalgic feel when you enter Schwartz's and honestly, I couldn't see a better way of enjoying the mountain's of Montreal Smoked Meat we were about to order.

We were greeted by a frank but friendly server who was lightning fast with getting our table set and taking our drink order. Since the place only has limited seating, our party of 4 shared a table with another couple which made things a little awkward but I was used to it as many places in Toronto adhere to the same seating system. Before I could even read through the menu, our orders were taken. I opted for the Smoked meat sandwich with fries and a homemade kosher pickle. Kasia and Kristel opted for the lean, less fatty cut of the Montreal style brisket as I wanted the full experience of the regular, fatty goodness! 

A few minutes passed and we were given our kosher pickles and man these things definitely packed a pucker punch! I could immediately predict that the sourness of these kosher pickled cukes would go magnificently with my sandwich and I was oh so right. This mountain of warm beef goodness was dropped in front of me and all I could say was wow. Moments like this perfectly display how less is more. Fresh rye bread, yellow mustard and warm, flavourful, masterfully seasoned Montreal style meat and BAM, heaven on a plate. 

Like in my previous posts, I've added a cross section just to give you a close up on how serious this sandwich is:

at least a 2:1 meat to bread ratio

I really can't describe how amazing this sandwich tasted. I wasn't really hungry after a long hot day of walking around, but as soon as I took the first bite out of this monster sammie, I couldn't put it down. Bite after bite, I'm glad I ordered the regular as opposed to the lean, which was a little dry for my liking but still tasty nonetheless. I could immediately taste the Montreal steak spice (another specialty that has become popular in North America) and you can almost taste the tradition that the staff at Schwartz put into their product. They pride themselves on using no preservatives like many other deli meats and I could definitely tell the difference. 

Needless to say, this meal was quite satisfying, so much so, we stopped by on our way out after getting bagels to pick up several pounds of Montreal Style goodness to take back to Ontario. Even saw a gentleman in front of us picking up 3 huge jars of homemade pickles I was raving about. So... That being said, I feel like I don't need to persuade you to come here, if you are carnivore (or an omnivore I guess.. ) DO NOT pass up coming to Schwartz's if you are ever in town and if you aren't and want to try it anyways, you can order ONLINE! Bon Appétit ! 

Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Zaatar & Zeit

Sunday, August 19, 2012 1 comments

Zaatar & Zeit
1129 Wyandotte St. E
Windsor, Ontario, Canada 
Phone: +1(519) 256 5600
Website: n/a

Type of Restaurant: Lebanese Bakery Pizzaria
Attire: Casual
Prices: E- $3 M- $7
              $ CHEAP
Payment Options:
Visa, Mastercard, Debit/Eftpos

Hours: "Open Late"
Reservations? Walk-ins welcomed
Handicap Accessible? Yes 
Vegetarian Friendly? Yes
Vegan Friendly? Maybe.



                       Quality of Food: 3/5

                        Service: 1/5
                        Originality: 2/5
                        Atmosphere: 1/5

Having taken the Crosstown 2 Windsor Transit bus down Wyandotte many times over the last year to check out The Twisted Apron, this bakery and pizzeria would always catch my eye. 

Zaatar is a mix of fragrant herbs like oregano, marjoram, with roasted sesame seeds (see recipe below). My first time trying Zaatar was in Australia at this cool little place in Northcote called Gypsy Hideout. They used it as a seasoning on their Toast with Avo. It was delicious, and I have falling in love with it ever since. 

Walking in to this place, I was a little thrown off. It was sooooo hot inside. All that heat was coming from the wood burning oven which is put on display for all to see. The other thing that threw me off is despite it being past lunch hour on a Sunday, all the chair were still stacked and no chairs were out of the patio. I guess this was a good sign they wanted me to take my pizza pie to go.

I decided to order a Zaatar pie, and a veggie pie. Upon placing my order, I felt like my order was an inconvenience but perhaps it was just a language barrier. While the worker (and presumably owner) had his back turned to look up what I wanted on the menu, I honestly felt like leaving without my order and calling it a day. Regardless, I decided to stick around. The pies were made on the spot for me, and thrown into the wood burning oven. Once ready, they were pulled out, folded, and each put into their own brown paper lunch bag to take away (definitely a sign I wasn't invited to stick around).

I decided to take my pizzas to a local bus stop bench to give them a try. The zaatar pie was tasty, with just the right lemony zing characteristic of zaatar. The veggie pizza on other hand was just your standard wood oven veggie.

Overall, my long await to try this place turned into a big disappointment. With such a large patio, you would think they would utilize this as a dining area to draw more people in to give them a try. Can't say I would give this another try, but if you are in the area and want a quick, cheap pizza on the run give it a go.

Zaatar Recipe

2 teaspoons of oregano
2 teaspoons basil

2 tablespoons of whole thyme (I prefer lemon thyme)
2 teaspoons marjoram
1/2 cup of unhulled, toasted sesame seeds
1.5 teaspoons of salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon of dried ground lemon peel or zest of two lemons finely minced

Grind all ingredients into a coarse mixture and you have our very own zaatar mix you can use in a dip with yoghurt, on bbq meat, avocado, or make your very own pizza with the addition of some olive oil. Enjoy. :)

Storage: I tend to store zaatar in small glass containers, and it keeps well in the spice cupboard.

REVIEW: Sweet T's Soul Cookin'

Saturday, August 18, 2012 0 comments

Sweet T's Soul Cookin'
1515 Ottawa Street
Windsor, Ontario, Canada 

Phone: +1(519) 973 1234

Type of Restaurant: Southern Soul Food 
Attire: Casual
Prices: E- $7 M- $12 D- ?
              $$ Affordable
Payment Options:
Visa, Mastercard, Debit/Eftpos

Hours: Monday: Closed
              Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 10pm
              Sunday 12-8pm

Reservations? Walk-ins welcomed
Handicap Accessible? Yes 
Vegetarian Friendly? Not really.
Vegan Friendly? No


Quality of Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Atmosphere: 3/5

With Smoke and Spice having moved to its new location at 7470 Tecumseh Road E, the owners had another idea for this popular southern soul food hotspot-- Sweet T's.

Having been working crazy over time hours, my father's birthday slipped by without me realizing until it was too late. Decided to take him out for a belated birthday lunch. Typically, I am not a meat and potatoes type of guy but my father most definitely is. He idolizes Guy Fieri and Paula Deen. Figured this would be the perfect place to bring him.

Walking in I was surprised that not much has really change. Same layout, same bar, same furniture. In fact, the only thing that seemed to have changed is the name and the menu. Gone from the menu were all my favourites from the Smoke and Spice menu like the mac and cheese. The menu is more focused on deep fried chicken rather than the pork and beef that Smoke and Spice was known for.

Fish and Chips
The service staff were still great, welcoming us when we walked in, and directing us to choose any table. Our server had asked if we had been there before and I explained I had when it was Smoke and Spice but not since it reopened under he new new. She went on to explain that it is the same owner's, same concept, new recipes with still the same emphasis on freshness. She explained all the ingredients are fresh, and the only thing kept in their freezer is their ice cream.

Meat Loaf Sliders
My father decided to have the fish and chips, while I went for the Meatloaf Sliders and Grit Fritters. My father having grown up and worked in as a commercial fisherman has grown to appreciate a nice plate of fish. He was stunned by the size of portion on his plate. The fish was huge. He commented on how it was cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside and nice a flakey on the inside. Sounded like he was truly impressed.

Grits Fritters
As for my two dishes, the winner was definitely the meatloaf sliders. The meatloaf patties were incredibly juicy and topped with a delicious coleslaw on a super soft slider bun. The grit fritters on the other hand were a bit of a disappointment. I ordered them having heard people ranting and raving about them. To be honest, I found them to be quite bland tasting. Sure, there is the dipping sauce they come with, but even that couldn't mask the blandness of the fried grits. Perhaps incorporating some parmesan cheese to the grits prior to forming and frying the balls would have added the right salty and creaminess for my palate.

Overall, it is nice to still see there is a southern cookin' spot, with nice warm and friendly hospitality on the west side of Walker Road. Still wish they would have that delicious mac and cheese on the menu, but nevertheless well worth checking out.