Friday, April 13, 2018

Today's #FoodPornFriday features VIA Rail. Seriously.

I never thought I would be here writing about the amazing meal I had, on a train. In my head I expect train food to be pretty much the same as plane food which I expect to be pretty much the same as hospital food. It's food, it will get you buy, it's nice to have a meal. In no way do I expect good food. In no way did I expect to be sharing train food for #FoodPornFriday 

My wife has been trying to sell me to VIA Business Class for quite a few years now. Well, this year for her Birthday we went up to Toronto so she could hook up with a friend, attend ComicCon and we both could check out Breakout Con (an awesome tabletop gaming convention). Her condition for this trip was that we take the train, specifically VIA Business Class. I'm sold.

Business Class is better in pretty much every way. You load first. Seats are wider. There's more leg room. You could even end up in a private seat with no neighbor (Tip: ask for S class if traveling alone). Then there's the food and drink. 

On the way up to Toronto, we were offered coffee and some really amazing Montreal bagels.  Not Montreal style bagels, but actual bagles from Montreal. About an hour into the trip we were offered more coffee or some other beverage. These options included alcoholic drinks.  I opted for a can of Steam Whistle.  About another hour in, just past London we were served lunch. We got the choice of three different hot meals. There was pasta, fish and a meat. I got the meat which was almond encrusted chicken over rice and broccoli. It also included a cup of red or white wine (I went red), a fresh salad and a cookie. Before reaching Toronto we were offered chocolate and a small bag of snack crackers, and one more round of drinks. 

The ride home was similar but without the coffee and more options and frequency of drinks (adult or not, your choice). The meal I chose this time was Butter Chicken which also came with wine, an amazing potato salad with a piece of prosciutto on top, a hot bun and some kind of fresh raspberry dessert. It was even better than the chicken on the way up. The beer selection was even better on the trip home and I had three cans of La Chipie from Archibald Microbreweries. This was the best beer I had on the entire trip. Yes, the best beer I had over a weekend trip to Toronto was on the train ride home.

There's one other thing I think is worth mentioning. At Union Station, there is a special room you get access to if you travel Business Class. This room has free wi-fi, charging stations, drinks (juice, water, and pop) and healthy snacks (it was apples when we were there, but my wife noted it changes and has been bananas before). It's a big comfy lounge with TVs and lots of reading material in the form of papers from all over and magazines. 

I have to admit it, my wife was right. This is the best way to travel ever. Yes, it costs more than a normal VIA ticket but just look at what you get for that additional money. I'm certain that (especially with the beer) I ingested more value in food and drink than the additional ticket cost. All the extra legroom, shoulder space and comfy seats are just a bonus.

Overall I give VIA Business Class a big thumbs up!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The VIP treatment at Paramount Fine Foods

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening and ribbon cutting of Paramount Fine Foods new Windsor location. They had found my blog on facebook and were cool enough to send me an invite. I mean an actual physical invite, that showed up in a VIP box along with some rose shaped, pink coloured, Baklava. It was a nice touch. 

Paramount Middle Eastern Cuisine is a new Lebanese Restaraunt that opened up at the Windsor South SmartCenters outdoor mall at 3184 Dougal, unit A5. The "WalMart Plaza on Dougal" to most locals. What I didn't know before attending this event is that this is Paramount's 60th location. Yes, 60.  Paramount began as one Middle Eastern Restaurant in Mississauga and has spread quickly and is now one of the fastest growing chains in Canada, 

The first thing we noticed when we entered Paramount was a kids' play area off to the right. It's a walled-in floor to ceiling thing that you usually only see at places like McDonald's. I don't think I've ever seen one of these anywhere that wasn't fast food or something built around play areas like Chucky Cheese. It seemed a bit odd to me but also pretty cool. It also made me wish we had brought the kids.

My wife and I were offered a choice of either having a table to ourselves off to the side and ordering off the menu or joining the grand opening celebrations, which featured ala carte items constantly flowing from the kitchen to the floor on platters by the wait staff. A third option was also offered and it's what we took: both. We found a seat in the midst of their other invited guests and browsed the menu while trying some amazing appetizers and juice. Of these, I strongly recommend the Cheese Manakeesh and the Cocktail Juice.

I was very pleased to see that the Paramount menu was not the same menu you seem to find at every Lebanese place in the city. Yes, it has all of the usual stuff: the huge family platters, the shawarma wraps, the Shish-Tawook, tabbouleh etc. But you will also find Saj Wraps, the Manakeesh I already mentioned, Arayess (stuffed Kafta), and even burgers and wood-fired Pizza. It's also worth noting they serve breakfast which includes Lebanese specialties like Fatteh as well as fried eggs or an omelet.

My wife decided on the Tabliya Saj Chicken Shawarma and I went with the Sujuk or Spicy Sausage. Paramount tossed in a Mezza Plate (Moutabbal, Tabbouleh & Hummus) and some fresh hot bread, to go with our meals. My Sujuk was very good. The sausage was very well cooked and was hot without being too spicy. I got it with rice which was also good. I was impressed, but it didn't hold a candle to my wife's Saj wrap. That Saj wrap was the highlight of the meal for both of us. It was so good. My plans for our next trip are to combine our two meals. They offer a Sujuk Sausage Saj wrap as well and that's what I plan on trying on our next visit.

While eating, we were constantly offered various samples of other items off the menu and I have to admit I didn't try anything I didn't like. Everything looked great and tasted great. There was so much food floating around that night it was kind of magical. Both my wife and I ate well and probably ate too much. Then they insisted we have dessert.

For dessert, they brought out the Paramount Special. Layers of fresh strawberry and mango juice with mixed fruits, topped with fresh strawberry, kiwi, pineapple almonds, crushed pistachio, ashta cream and honey, This thing was amazing but neither of us had the room to finish it which was a bit of a shame.

In addition to the food, it was quite the party. As well as live music and many people doing the meet and greet thing, they also gave people a chance to try to bake some bread and I even got to learn how to shave some chicken shawarma. I have to like any place that trusts me with a sharp knife.

The night wrapped up with a series of speeches and presentations. Most of these about the Paramount chain and brand and lots of congratulations for opening their 60th location. There was one part of this that I think needs to be shared. One of the things Paramount is about is giving back to the community and while we were there they put their money where their mission statement is and presented a $10,000 cheque to the Windsor Cancer Center Foundation.

It's awesome to see places like Paramount who are so generous and willing to give back to the community they are part of. Especially when giving to a community they have just joined. All of this made for a very pleasant and memorable night. One my wife and I won't forget anytime soon. I realize that the entire point of the thing was to make an impression and it worked.

Windsor has its fair share of Lebanese restaurants but I honestly think Paramount sticks out. Both in the quality of food and service and their dedication to giving back to the local community. I fully plan on heading back, next time with the whole family. Though I'm going to leave the shawarma shaving to them. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - my after gaming tradition

Windsor has a fantastic gaming community. In addition to my own Windsor Gaming Resource community, there are some fantastic local stores that are not only great to shop at but also to game at. Almost every Saturday there's an open gaming event at one of the two stores. Besides promoting these events I try to attend every one I can. 

So what does #FoodPornFriday have to do with gaming? Well, it's not the gaming, it's what I do after almost every gaming event. Before leaving the game store I pick up my cell phone and dial: 519-944-1122 (actually now I say "Okay Google Call Pizza" as I've got the number saved as a favorite). After getting through, I order the same thing every time: A panzerotti with double cheese, pepperoni and Italian sausage. After packing up my gaming stuff, I drive to 2595 Jefferson Blvd. and walk into Windsor Pizza & Pasta House and pick up my dinner.

Windsor Pizza has been around a long time. They make some of the best Windsor Style Pizza you can get. They also make the best panzerotti in the city. They have two sizes, but they default to "Football Sized" if you don't specify. That's what you can see pictured above. You can get it baked or fried. Of course, I prefer fried, Each panz comes with a side of meat sauce. 

So guess what my dinner plans for tomorrow after gaming are? 

Friday, February 2, 2018

A #FoodPornFriday post that's close to home

If you've been reading my #FoodPornFriday posts for a while now you have probably noticed a lot of breakfast pictures. There's a logical reason for this; we eat out for breakfast more often than any other meal. Part of the reason why this is, is the fact that breakfast tends to be significantly cheaper than any other meal. Another part of it is that I love starting the day with nice big breakfast. If I've got "the blows" when I'm getting back into the van at the start of the day, then it's a good day. 

Due to this, I'm always on the lookout for new places to go for breakfast. Personally, I'm a fan of traditional breakfasts. Give me a plate of bacon, eggs, and potatoes and I'm happy. If not that then an omellette stuffed with as many kinds of meat as I can order and at least one type of cheese. Sometimes I will get that in some kind of bowl form. My wife, on the other hand, isn't actually a big egg fan. She's been known to order Salmon Benedict and ask them to hold the eggs. She likes lots of veggies, spinach, fruit and fish, particularly salmon, with her breakfast. 

What's awesome, is when I find somewhere that makes both of us happy. What's even better is when that place is within walking distance of home. We found both in Louis' Restaraunt

Louis' has been at 4728 Wyandotte St. E. for as long as I can remember. It's a tiny little place that looks like a greasy spoon that's been there forver. At least since the 70s (I looked it up, this place has been there as long as I've been alive). I first ate at Louis' when I was in High School (Brenna is just down the street) after a particularly difficult exam, when I just didn't feel like going home and facing my parents. I remember getting bacon and eggs and it was good. That's about it. 

We have lived in the Riverside area for over 10 years now and for some reason, we never went back to Louis'. It's the kind of place that for years has had an "All day breakfast special" sign in the window (with a price that has gone us slowly over the years). It's the kind of place you go to for bacon and eggs but not much else. So the kind of place I should love but my wife wouldn't like. Which is why it took us so long to go back.

If I remember correctly, what made us give Louis' another try was that we tried to go to Etta's but they were closed and we were on a time limit. Louis' was in the neighborhood. I do remember we weren't expecting much and boy, were we wrong. 

I don't know if Louis' was always amazing and had a lot more than good bacon and eggs, or if I just didn't know how good they have been all these years since high school. What I now know is that this place has amazing high-end breakfast at low-end prices. 

It ends up the Louis, the original owner sold the restaurant to his daughter; Voula, who owns and runs it to this day. My guess is that she's the one that added things like Gyro-Waffles, Banana Bread French Toast, and Hot Greek Omelettes to the menu. All the traditional stuff is still there as well. You can still go in and just get bacon and eggs, but I highly suggest you check out the daily specials, that's where the good stuff hides. Like the Eggplant Benedict, you can see pictured at the top of the page and that my wife loved. They don't just do breakfast either, Louis' serves a mix of greek and traditional diner food. They are only open for breakfast and lunch closing at 3pm every day. So despite the fact I badly want to try their Hot Hamburger for dinner, it's not an option. 

Besides a great menu with great prices the other thing you will find a Louis is friends. Sure they may not be friends yet, but once you are back once or twice they will feel like friends. The owner is one of the most forthright, open and genuinely friendly people I have ever met. After a couple visits you will walk in and it will feel like home. 

Pro Tip: This fits in with the friendly nature of the place. Don't be afraid to order items not on the menu. Especially if you had a special there and it's not listed when you go back. Sure some items may be truly limited time due to ingredient supply but I've found Voula is more than willing to make you anything you've had there before and sometimes even things you may have had somewhere else. My personal "secret menu" item is the Meatlover Omelette (pic up there on the right). 

Friday, January 26, 2018

#FoodPornFriday Dolcetto - a new favourite in London ON

Today's #FoodPornFriday takes us out of town, up the 401 and to London Ontario. 

I love London. My wife and I basically discovered London on our 1 year anniversary of dating. Back in the high school days. On the day of our anniversary on a whim, I bought up a Greyhound Bus ticket to London. We didn't prepare, we didn't pack, we just went. 

That was an awesome trip. The two of us wandered around downtown and found some amazing places like City Lights, L.A. Mood, Heroes and (the sadly closed) Commander Salamander. We had a 'fancy' dinner at the Marienbad Restaraunt (which I chose because Marienbad is the name of a city in Warhammer). Then we really pissed off our parents by finding a hotel and staying overnight. I'm pretty sure they are probably still mad about that one but it was worth it. 

Over the years we have been back many times.  We still love London. It's the perfect city for us to spend a few days away. It's not Windsor. It's not home. It's bigger than Windsor but not overwhelming like, say, Toronto. 

One of the best things about these trips is when we find something new. Over the years we've developed a list of favourite places to visit and eat. The Marienbad is still on that list. I don't remember the last time we were in London we didn't have at least one meal there. I'm always looking for somewhere new to try. A new favourite for us to frequent in future trips. Our last trip up there (in mid-December) I found Dolcetto.

Dolcetto doesn't look like much. It's in a big box plaza out on the outskirts of town. It's far enough out of town that we actually had a hard time finding it. It looks like just another "mall parking lot restaurant" and when we first pulled up I was worried we were going to be stuck with overpriced, overhyped, chain food. This fear was completely unfounded.

The restaurant is very nice inside. High end casual is probably the best to describe it. I felt comfortable in black jeans and a golf shirt but would have felt out of place is I was any more dressed down. I also wouldn't have felt at all out of place in a suit and tie. The place is huge, which is probably the main reason it's in a big box parking lot. Despite this reservations are strongly recommended. The menu, as expected, is a variety of Italian fare. Pizza, pasta, chicken, and fish. Prices range from $18 to $24 for most entres. 

My wife and I started our meal off with the Roasted Prosciutto appetizer. That's what you are probably drooling over up there at the top of this blog post. That appetizer is enough to make the drive to London worth it. If it was earlier in the day, I would be tempted to drive up there right now just for more roasted prosciutto. I honestly suggested to my wife we order a second plate after finishing the first. She talked me out of it.  

For my main, I ordered the chicken parm. Sorry, I should say the Pollo Parmigiana. D ordered the daily special which was a hunk of salmon that was like 2.5 inches thick on pasta that looked rather good even to me, who's not a fan of fish. We finished off the meal with some amazing Tiramisu. Usually, I'm not a big fan of Tiramisu but the waitress strongly suggested we try it and I'm glad we did.

It's also worth noting that we did not have the kids with us, but the restaraunt did have a kids menu. Actually it seems like the place was pretty popular with families as we saw a lot of big groups and tables with kids on our vist. I wouldn't think twice about brining our kids. 

Open Table has voted Dolcetto onto the list of the 100 Best Italian Restaurants in Canada (They aren't ranked, it's just a list of 100). An honour that we both felt was very well deserved. This was amazing Italian food. Some of the best I've ever had. Except for almost getting lost trying to find the place the first time our trip to Dolcetto was a fantastic experience. It's now on the list of must visit places for our future trips to London.

Friday, January 5, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - The Leaf is back, sort of, and better than ever.

Back in August, I posted a sad #FoodPornFriday post about one of my favourite local restaurants closing: The Leaf Grill. Well, it ends up that that was rather fortuitous as The Leaf is back, in a new form and better than ever.

At 5240 Tecumseh Rd East, the previous location of the Leaf Grill (previously the Maple Leaf Tavern) you can now find Factory House. This is a much more modern looking and feeling remake of The Leaf. It's the same owners and same head cook but the place itself is improved in many ways. Much of this is the look and feel of the place. The atmosphere is much better. the place no longer feels like a dive bar turned restaurant. It feels like it's own place with a mechanical, factory theme.

The menu also went through a big revamp. At least most of it did. Our first trip there I was very pleased to see that they still had Butter Chicken on the menu. Like the restaurant itself, it's an improved version of the old dish. The chicken now comes in a great looking copper bowl. The naan now comes on the plate and the spices in the dish have been kicked up a notch while not becoming too spicy. 

The Butter Checking form The Leaf
Really this new Butter Chicken matches the evolution of the restaurant well. Back with The Maple Leaf Tavern, this dish didn't even exist. You didn't go to The Maple Leaf to get fancy foreign food, you went for one of the best Clubhouses in the city and maybe some Molson Canadian.  With The Leaf, you suddenly had this amazing dish. Something new that proved that you weren't at the old Maple Leaf. Now with the Factory House, you still have Butter Chicken, the same dish, almost. It looks better, it's presented better and it tastes just a bit better. That's what Factory House is to me. It's just a better version of The Leaf. That's a very good thing.

Friday, December 29, 2017

#FoodPornFriday - Amazing Tokyo Style Ramen right here in Windsor

Tan Tan Men

I'm not sure how many people realize this is a thing; down by the University on Wyandotte (2270 Wyandotte West to be exact) is a small Asian diner called Eros Asian Eatery. They feature Southeast Asian Cuisine most days of the week. What people may not know is that every Saturday the shop transforms like Ultraman into the Kagerou Ramen House where you can find some of the best Ramen I've ever had.

Kagerou serves four different varieties of ramen:
Tokyo Style Shoyo Ramen (Soy Sauce Flavour)
Shio Ramen (Salt Flavour)
Miso Ramen
Tan Tan Men (Japan's interpretation of a classic Szechuan noodle dish).

Tokyo Style Shoyu Ramen
I've personally tried the Tan Tan Men (pictured up top) and the Shoyo (pictured to the right) and both were amazing. No, seriously, amazing. This is some of the best ramen I've had. This is some of the best Asian food I've had. Heck, this is some of the best food I've had in Windsor. Okay, fine, I'll say it: this is some of the best food I've ever had. 

The first time I went I noted to one of the owners that I needed to bring my wife. Well, I brought her yesterday and she tried the Miso Ramen (last pic on the page), and enjoyed it so much that she's "forcing" me to bring her back today. Yes, that's correct, we are going to eat Ramen two days in a row because it's so damn good.

But wait, didn't I say this transformation only happens on Saturday and isn't it Friday? Yes, normally that is the case, but in celebration of the Holidays, Eros/Kagerou is doing a special 3 Days of Ramen Holiday Event! It started Yesterday and runs until Saturday. So you can head down there today and try some of this amazing ramen yourself. They are open today until 7pm today and tomorrow from noon until 3pm.

Miso Ramen
If you can't make it out over the next couple days, that's cool. Just stop by any Saturday between noon and 3pm. You may want to go early though, as they only prepare so much and service goes until 3pm or they run out.

I honestly can't recommend this enough. Checking out Kagerou Ramen House at Eros Asian Eatery has been one of my favorite culinary experiences of 2017.  My only regret is that it took me so long to finally give their ramen a chance. Just think of all those Saturday ramen lunches I missed out on.