Saturday, September 15, 2012 0 comments

Ironically enough after going for a very "dainty" lunch/High Tea at Morocco Chocolat, my day went changed from chic boutiques and shops of Yorkville to the suburban parkgrounds of Burlington. 

No joke, this is serious business
For those who are unaware, Burlington Ribfest prides itself on being the LARGEST rib festival in Canada. Running strong for 17 years, The National post dubs this carnivorous event as the "Superbowl of of Ribfests". For this usually quiet Halton region city, there was no shortage of crowds flocking to Spencer Smith Park to get their hands dirty when trying offerings from 18 "ribber" teams from across North America vying to get crowned for the best ribs title and bragging rights over their competitors. 

This finger licking good event was made possible by the organization of Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore. Over the past 16 years, The Burlington Rotary has made this a tremendously successful community event that welcomes over 100,000 people and has raised over $2.3 million for local, national and international charities! I will definitely eat to that! 

Accompanied with my friends Kasia and Vince, we made our way to the burbs and faced our first challenge of the night: PARKING! After nearly going insane, we went from car to line to get into the actual festival, which was fortunately fast because we were all ravenous! Making our way through rows of vendors selling homemade jewellery, candy apples, temporary tatttoos, we headed straight for the meat and potatoes of where all the ribber teams were located cooking away. Having only been on the park grounds once before, it was easy to find our way over to the rib stations as all we had to do was just follow our noses and look for the billowing clouds of smoke from all the smokers, slowly cooking, hundreds of pounds of pork ribs, chicken and pulled pork. Let me tell ya... for quiet suburb city, this was sensory overload!

After see the scale of the setups these rib teams display, its no wonder that these events can only be held out in suburbs and not in the city, its the only place with open space! As you can see from the pictures, all the competitors showcase the various awards they have won in the array of competitions they have entered. 

Through all the BBQ smoke and herds of hungry people and members of various rib teams screaming, yelling and wielding giant knives like crazy people, we needed to get some ribs of our own. Kasia and I being veterans of TUM (Toronto Underground Market) , we followed the same strategy as if we were at the Evergreen Brickworks for TUM: Divide and Conquer. We opted to not bother with the "filler" of chicken and pulled pork (although I'm sure it was all delicious) we went straight for the RIBS!

The plan was for each of us to pick a Rib stand and order a half rack of their ribs. After a few minutes, what was expected to be 3 half racks turned into 3 full racks! I went to Boss Hogs and I must of said something right because she she gave me a full rack even though I paid for half! Call it bribery, but I call it smart marketing ;). Vince also ran into a friend who was working for the Pork Company supplying the ribs to all the vendors and scored us a full rack of ribs from Silver Bullet for FREE! Vince also grabbed a half rack from Kentucky Smokehouse and Kasia went for a half rack at Sticky Fingers

The tasty offerings are as follows:

1. Silver Bullet: These free ribs were absolutely wonderful.   These meaty ribs had a healthy slathering of sauce that was full bodied ending with a nice little zing at the end.

2. Kentucky Smokehouse: These ones were definitely the ugly duckling of the pack. The initial flavour was nice with a strong Asian undertone with the taste of hoisin sauce coming through almost tasting like something you would get from a Chinese BBQ house in Chinatown. What really through me for a loop was the way they were cooked. Kentucky Smokehouse really took Smokehouse to heart as these ribs were exceedingly overcooked (and I didn't even think that was possible). In fact they were smoked/cooked so long, Kasia took a bite into one and went down to the actual bone marrow, not really an appetizing feeling I'm sure (judging by the look of displeasure on her face). 

3. Boss Hogs: Again, I have to thank the woman who generously gave me an additional half rack for free, these ribs were smoked and finished with just the perfect amount of sauce which was delightful. Rich and perfectly balanced and a nice slightly sweet finish. For an extra dollar, I opted for the BBQ baked beans and coleslaw. Beans were good but it was the coleslaw that was PHENOMENAL. It was your basic traditional mayo based coleslaw, but it was executed perfectly with the right amount of dressing while keeping a nice crunch on the shaved carrots, cabbage and red onion. Sooo good that Kasia ate all of it :P !! 

4. Sticky Fingers: These were also very well cooked ribs. A little on the dry side, but you can definitely taste the tomato base of the sauce and similar to Boss hogs, it also ended with a sweet finish. 

Verdict: All the vendors we sampled were indeed delicious and a very tough decision but the 3 of us felt like Silver Bullet and Boss Hogs were on top. Kasia leaned more towards Boss Hogs as she isn't a big fan of spice and Vince is so it left me on the fence of which Ribber reigned supreme. In the end, I would have to say Boss Hogs takes the cake in terms of execution of cooking of the ribs and the depth and flavour of sauce. The beans and coleslaw was just icing on the cake (since no others were purchased to be compared in all fairness) 

If you take a look at the Burlington Ribfest website results, our preferences weren't too far off from the rest of the rib eating crowd as Boss Hogs came in first and Silver Bullet in third for the People's Choice award. You bet that I won't pass up the chance to go to future ribfest events and you should seriously considering attending next years Burlington Ribfest as well. Great food for a great cause, you can't lose!

REVIEW: Morocco Chocolat

Friday, September 7, 2012 0 comments

Moroco Chocolat
99 Yorkville Avenue
Toronto, Ontario Canada
Phone: (416) 961-2202

Type of Restaurant: Brunch/Tea/Sweets/Baked Goods/Ice Cream
Attire: Smart Casual/Chic
Prices: $$$ Pricey
Payment Options: Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Debit/EFTPOS
Hours: Too many to list! see HERE
Reservations? Yes
Handicap Accessible? Yes, 1 floor  
Vegetarian Friendly? Yes
Vegan Friendly? Kinda


Quality of Food: 3/5
Service: 4.5/5
Originality: 3/5
Atmosphere: 4/5

Well I've been back in T.O. for a while now and thought it would be good to get some reviews in the GTA. To get back in the swing of things of the busy city world, I turned to my friend Fondy and her Foodie Meetup group, Joy of Eating. (Meetup explained in my previous Amaya review) Before you know it, I was RSVP'd to Moroco Chocolat on the Labour Day weekend Sunday for High Tea.

I figured after working over 14 hours the day before in the office (doing nerdy IT stuff), I deserved to treat myself to a lavish and elegant meal and I don't know how much more extravagant you can get than going for High Tea in the very chic and upscale neighborhood of Yorkville. Now if you know me, I'm not the "daintiest" guy in the world but I figured what the heck, why not? 

a shot of the outdoor patio
Shot of the boutique area
Dining Room
I put on my Sunday best and headed west to Yorkville village. After a quick subway commute to Bay, I quickly arrived (and walked passed once) the slightly hidden but inviting entrance of Moroco Chocolat. Upon first glace, Moroco definitely holds a very significant and prime piece of real estate with a large outdoor patio, a modern and stylish confectionery and ice-cream boutique and quite the sizable and chic dining room. 

one of several display cases

I quickly found my way to the other Joy of Eating foodies and the High tea crash course began! Quick little history lesson, High tea (also known as meat tea) is typically an early evening (in our case afternoon) meal which first came about around 1825 where the word high is used to signify that it was taken or eaten later in the day. High tea consists of a hot dish like Mac and Cheese, Quiche or Sheppard's Pie, followed by an assortment of cakes, scones with butter or Devonshire cream (think sweetened butter) and jam, and finger sandwiches such as cucumber cream cheese and smoked salmon. Lastly, you can't have tea without the... you guessed it TEA! Which was my first challenge. 

The tea "rack"
Once settling in at the table, I was presented with what looked like a "spice rack" of herbs which was actually the tea list in mini samples where you could smell each one before making the decision of ordering one for your meal. I ended up choosing sunshine mate, which is an herbal tea native to South America and it had a unique slightly minted, slightly citrus and almost a very faded savory taste. 

I opted for the champagne with my high tea because c'mon... Who doesn't like a nice glass of bubbly?? I needed one (or 5) judging by the weekend I was having with all the overtime work in the office. After the tea decision was made, there was only the hot entrée left to choose and the rest of the meal was on auto pilot. The selection was between a Truffle Mac & Cheese, Grilled Cheese sandwich and the Daily quiche (which I didn't quite catch what it was due to all the conversation chatter going on, but thats ok ;) ). I think almost immediately everyone at the table who was having high tea opted for the Mac and Cheese. I think anything with the word truffle got everyone's attention at this table. 

After a short wait, the high tea half of the table turned into a "dock" for the fleet of Truffle Mac and Cheese we ordered. Judges verdict: the dish was definitely tasty, but I think it fell a little flat in terms of the level of anticipation we had. Don't get me wrong, the execution of the dish was well thought out, there were just some elements that fell short. 

The noodles were cooked well, and the breaded topping added a nice texture contrast, it just felt like it lacked  the oozy, cheesy factor that Mac and Cheese has. One of my fellow diners actually commented saying that it because we all ordered Mac and Cheese, the kitchen was not prepared to prep 6 orders of it all at once and it felt like the cheese sauce of the mac and cheese was stretched across all the portions. It was good, just not amazing and with simple dishes like mac and cheese, its important to knock it out of the park and Moroco's variation just didn't give me that WOW factor. 

Up next, we were greeted with a 3 tier tower of treats and crumpets with an assortment of spreads. These platters of "eye candy" from the bottom up are as follows: smoked salmon, cucumber and egg salad finger sandwiches, an array of crumpets (plain, cranberry,  and chocolate) accompanied by a Devonshire cream, lemon curd and jam preserve spread. Lastly on the top level of this edible mountain showcased a plethora of what Moroco is really known for, Sweets! 

Bottom Tier
Starting with the bottom savory tier, the presentation was absolutely the selling point, it looked perfect how the no crust finger sandwiches were laid out and wonderfully presented. However, the actual flavour fell flat for me again. Take it with a grain of salt, there isn't much you can do to jazz up a cucumber sandwich but the bread was dry and it had the texture of a sandwich that had been sitting out on the kitchen counter getting to the early stages of going stale if you will (perhaps over prep?) 

Middle Tier
The middle tier was an improvement. The crumpets were fresh had an appealing spring to them when you took a bite. Plain with Devonshire cream was by far my favourite. This was a classic example of how well simplicity works with  the proper execution. The lemon curd was alright and again the chocolate crumpet was also a bit of a disappointment. While remaining moist and baked seemingly perfectly, the crumped lacked of all things.. A CHOCOLATE taste, which kind of surprised me since Moroco prides them selves on their chocolate.  

Top Tier
Lastly the top tier, the sweets course. After 2 mediocre levels of this tower, I was expecting big things with this plate of desserts. Unfortunately, again, this platter came with mixed reviews. The strawberries were good, giving Moroco's chocolate a chance to prove itself, homemade cherry marshmallows looked great but were just OK and the Chocolate cookie sandwich with dark chocolate ganache filling was surprisingly another let down. Being a fan of dark chocolate, I felt the cocoa content of the whole cookie including the filling was too high and therefore leaving a very dry, acidic and borderline bitter taste in my mouth. I like dark chocolate but this was overboard for me and I needed some sweetness in my life. 

The Macaron's did exactly that. Expertly flavoured pistachio and coffee Macaron which had a very firm yet tender meringue which melted in your mouth. Absolutely exquisite! Lastly was 2 squares of unadulterated chocolate. First was a dark chocolate which had the extra sweetness I was looking for and the second was a white chocolate basil square. This one threw my palette for a loop. 2 very strong flavourings that I would never think to put together really left me dumbfounded! I would honestly have to try it again to give an honest opinion of it because I am still trying to put the combination together in my head! Nonetheless, cudos for trying something different.   

Will definitely be back to try this!
The silver lining to this story is that the brunch side of table thoroughly enjoyed their meals and though I didn't get to try any of their food, it certainly looked appetizing to say the least! More notably, the red velvet strawberry crêpes looked unquestionably stunning!

My final thoughts of Moroco Chocolat again leave me with mixed reviews. Even when consulting with the table, the brunch diners had a very good meal while the high tea side all agreed that certain elements of the high tea were hit and miss. One diner even mentioned that she has come here on 2 other separate occasions and this is the first time she hasn't been completely satisfied. All points aside, I believe that there is more than meets the eye with Moroco. They have an undoubtedly beautiful venue and location complemented with a lovely, helpful and knowledgeable wait staff. I just feel like the high tea meal did not step up to the plate in terms of value. However, I will definitely be returning to Moroco see what they have to offer for brunch or lunch/dinner and so should you! 

MoRoCo on Urbanspoon

Walkerville Brewery Tasting Night

Saturday, September 1, 2012 0 comments

I felt like a winner from the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory contest. I was lucky enough to be one of the fortunate few, chosen from the 1100 people who subscribed to the Walkerville Brewery newsletter to participate in the taste. Seeing as we were allowed one guest with our admission. I decided to bring along my "cousin" Mikey G.

The night started with a talk by Marty Gervais on the book he wrote called "The Rum Runners". The book brings to light the significance of Windsor and Essex County-- especially in terms of how important this area was during the times of prohibition.

For the tasting portion of the night, we were given 3 samples of 2 different types of beer. 

The first was a pilsner and my personal favourite. It was light, refreshing with just a slight bitterness at the end. My only suggestion for improvement was a little bit more carbonation as it felt just a little flat for my personal taste.

The second sample was a Premium Lager. This one was Mikey's favourite. It was still a really refreshing, easy drink, with a fruity undertone. We were also brought out an unfiltered, non carbonated version of the Premium Lager which will be the one going to market. 

The beers will initially be available as kegs to local restaurants and pubs as well as very cool looking 64 oz growlers. I guess I better start making some room in my fridge ;)