Friday, December 20, 2013

#FoodPornFriday - Pizza Bombs!

Yesterday I decided to make those pepperoni pizza rolls again. This time though I decided to play with the original recipe a bit. I made three improvements:

1) bake the pepperoni first. I heated up the over to 425 as needed for the baking later and tossed in my pepperoni and let it cook until it curled and browned on the edges just a bit. This made it a lot more crisp once cooked in the biscuit mix.

2) add more toppings. This time around we added bacon and black olives to the mix. I let the kids each pick what they wanted on theirs.

3) upgraded the name. This recipe will henceforth be called Pizza Bombs! This was coined over on G+ where Daniel W. Cisek first used it. A much better name in my opinion.

Have some #Foodporn (okay a couple of people have actually complained about the name #FoodPornFriday, if you prefer #FoodPicFriday feel free to use that as well) of your own to share? Link up below:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

If you have a website keep it current!

Restaurateurs if you have a website keep it up to date!

Note that third word there, after Take Out.
The plan tonight was to make some Pizza Bombs (that seems to be what the web decided those pizza roll things I posted about a couple weeks ago should be called). My wife has a terrible ear infection and really isn't up to cooking, so this was my way of helping out. Unfortunately the cheese had gone bad.

I'm fighting a cold and didn't really feel like heading out to get ingredients (plus Galati cheese closes at 5 and it was 4:40 when I made this discovery. There's no way I'm making Pizza Bombs without Galati Mozarella), so we decided on ordering in.

I'm so sick of Chinese and pizza and the usual delivery. So I was looking for something different. I eventually remembered this all you can eat sushi place that's not too far away that does delivery, Tenka Sushi.

So my wife and I spent far too long trying to decide what to order. We get the kids involved and let them pick out rolls (yes my little girls eat sushi, actually they love it). All told all of this has taken about an hour. Between figuring out that the cheese is bad, brainstorming on where to get food from, setting on a place and then figuring out what we want. 

I call the number on Tenka's website. I let it ring 15 times. I wonder if I got the number wrong and I try again. This time after about 8 rings I'm talking to my wife saying "I wonder if they've closed?" when someone answers a few rings later. I tell the woman on the phone that I would like to place an order for delivery and she says "No!" I said "what?" and she said "No delivery, we never deliver" 

"Really? You should update your website then..." and I'm cut off.

"No delivery, we no deliver"

"Well thanks then, seriously though: update that website, bye"

This place has been around for several years now, so I'm pretty sure the Grand Opening menu on the "" wiki page that they have linked to host their menu should have been a good sign that things weren't going well, but I called anyway.

So now I've basically wasted an hour and still have nothing even ordered for dinner. 

Seriously people: if you have a website keep it up to date. I personally will never deal with Tenka again after this. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Amid the chaos we found time to try the Honey Badger Bistro

Honey Badger Bistro opened up in the Riverside area of Windsor earlier this year. I think it was back in September or so. We live in this area of town and since we saw them open my wife and I have noted we should stop in there sometime.

Time passed and one day while on the Big Dude Facebook page I found Honey Badger Bistro's Facebook Page. Looking at the pictures there and the menu I realized we really had to stop in there sometime. Sometime soon. Well that time finally hit last night.

There is a ton of stuff going on this week. I'm working 6 day weeks and the A Merry Comic Book Christmas Comic Con 2 is Sunday. My wife and I will be there as dealers selling retro toys. There's a ton of work to be done sorting, pricing and packing stuff for the show. Added to that, this is the busiest time of the year for my wife's Mommy Blog: Maple Leaf Mommy. She has a holiday gift guide she's putting out as well as dealing with all kinds of holiday offers and traffic.

Due to all this my wife decided she was not cooking this week. To this end we picked up a bunch of pre-made stuff from Remark Farms (amazing place) and we've eaten out or ordered in all of our meals over the last week. My mother in law surprised us by taking the kids away Friday night and letting them visit until after the comic show on Sunday. This left us kid free Friday night and with Honey Badger just down the street I thought it would be perfect for dinner. Nice and close, shouldn't take too long and we've wanted to try it for a while. Plus I like to try places without the kids first as not everywhere is totally kid friendly.

What a nice looking place! I've got to say it doesn't look like much on the outside. Their rather unique mascot is there on a bright yellow sign that really sticks out but overall the entire strip of stores in the area just looks a lot like many other strips of stores on Wyandotte. Inside though is really nice looking. Very comfy and cozy. It was also bigger than it looked from the street.

Santa's Little Helper
Having been drooling over their facebook page for a while now I knew exactly what I wanted to order. My wife though did not. On the chalkboard behind the bar was some holiday 'warm up' drink called Santa's Little Helper that I recommended to my wife. At first she declined but I told her she was supposed to be taking a break, so she relented. And she loved it. It was some kind of Khalua, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, candy cane thing and man did it look good. They had Walkerville on tap, something that I love seeing so I ordered a pint of that.

The service was great and our meals showed up very quickly. Possibly because we were one of two couples in there, but hey quick is quick. It was after 9pm. When the food came out the waitress did something rather awesome: when my wife finished her drink she was asked if she wanted another one. When declining the waitress then asked if she would just like it topped up with coffee. Nice eh?

Quebec City Meatloaf
So the food: it was great. Looked great, smelled great and tasted great. Just look at the menu. There's so much great sounding things on there. If we hadn't just recently eaten at Mamo Burger I probably would have gotten one of their burgers, instead I went for the Quebec City Meatloaf. This beauty is a bacon wrapped house made meatloaf topped with tomato demi, served with roasted garlic mashed and seasonal veggie. The garlic mashed were the best potatoes I think I've ever had. The veg was some really tasty brussel sprouts.  My wife ordered The Manhattan which is a hand packed burger, topped with pulled duck, a bourbon reduction with a sour cherry mash on top. Hers came with a side and she chose butternut squash soup. Other menu items are mostly in the $12-20 range with many items at the lower end of that scale. They also have weekly burger specials some of which have sounded fantastic.

The Manhattan
One of the things we noted while there is that they place did look like it would be good for kids. They have a kids menu where all items are $5 and I noticed high chairs in the small coat room.

The entire experience was very good. We topped the meal off with desert: Thee Layer Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake and the entire thing came to under $60 for the two of us. Note that was with alcoholic beverages and dessert. You can't really beat that for food this good. We will definitely be going back and we just might bring the little ones next time.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saw a pic that went viral on Facebook and just had to make these Pepperoni Rolls

The image that inspired it all.
Have you seen that picture there on the right there? That one with those delicious looking pizza bite things? Sure you have. The damn thing has been all over Facebook and Twitter.

Unlike many people who just saw this pic and replied with Yum or OMG WANTZ! or whatever, I actually decided that looked so good that I had to make it.

So I did a google image search and found the original source. I had to do a search because most of the shares of the picture have that nice watermark in the bottom corner cropped off. Note: don't do this people, if something this awesome comes up, give credit where credit is due.

So that image search led me to The Gunny Sack, a decent food blog with tons of recipes and other tips and tricks. I thought it was cool to find out that these pizza balls were the authors first ever recipe post and the fourth post ever put up on the blog.

My helpers flattening and stacking
So anyway. I saw this great looking pic, decided I wanted to make these myself, did a bit of digging and found the full recipe here: Easy Pepperoni Rolls.

Amazingly it was pretty much as easy as it looks. First I had to pick up some ingredients. As usual I rushed things a bit. While out for groceries last weekend I saw a bag of pepperoni and said to my wife "Hey I can make those pizza ball things" and we bought it. I knew that the recipe called for Pillsbury Biscuits, so I grabbed one of those as well. I also needed cheese. This one I decided to save up for.

Just before wrapping
Here in Windsor we are known for having really good pizza. Windsor Style Pizza is a thing. Something people have tried to duplicate in other regions. For many years it was a secret as to part of what made Windsor Style Pizza so good. A couple years ago that secret finally got out. It's the cheese. Specifically mozzarella cheese made right here in Windsor by Galati Cheese Company LTD. Since the cat got out of the bag every pizza place in the city now has "made with real Galati cheese" signs on their doors and menus. I needed some of this cheese for my pizza balls. Plus it gave me an excuse to pick up two 'balls' of Twist Cheese (this is a knotted ball of Mozarella and Fenel that is fantastically stringy and tasty that we love to buy for snacks).

Ready to go into the oven
So now that I had my cheese it was time to make these things. Remember that bit about rushing it? Well, I hadn't really read the recipe in full and even the once over I gave it was a now a couple days in the past. I totally missed the fact that I needed three cans of biscuit mix. I also needed to pick up Garlic Powder as we didn't have any in the house. So I headed back out for some last minute groceries.

Okay now we are ready to cook!

Know what else is so great about this recipe? I can get the kids to help! My girls loved helping me flatten out the biscuit mix. They laughed at the Pillsbury can pop. They had a great time stacking slices of pepperoni and cheese, and they were better at wrapping everything up into balls than their dad was. I let the oldest help whisk the eggs and paint the little balls of dough and both of the kids helped me sprinkle on the Italian seasoning, garlic and Parmesan. Overall we had a great time putting everything together.

All baked up with sauce ready for dipping.

The girls and I cleaned up our mess while the whole thing baked for about 18 minutes. Was the house ever starting to smell good. I couldn't help but turn the oven light on, pop open the door and toss a quick pic up on Twitter.

Oh man, these things looked great when they came out of the oven. I kept checking on them panicking and expecting them to burn the second I turned away, but it didn't happen. They came out perfect. Nice and browned on the top with not even a hint of black to be seen.

My wife heated up a bowl full of our current favourite pasta sauce: Jamie Oliver Keep It Simple Tomato & Basil, and I put everything out on the table.

Wow was everything hot! Too hot. It took forever for these too cool off enough to eat. It was worth the wait though. Not only were these really easy to do, fun to make with the kids, looked great, and smelled great, they also tasted great. I got the official permission from my wife to cook these again, any time I wanted to.

Took some will to pause and take this pic
I think next time I'll play around with it a bit more. This time around all I did was grab my favourite local cheese instead of the marble suggested in the recipe. I think next time I'm going to play around with different pizza ingredients. Maybe some sausage for me and some mushrooms and olives for the girls. I'll also cook the meat a bit first. I think slightly crispy pepperoni would have made these even better.

So here was my experience trying to make one of those great easy looking recipes shared on social media. Turned out pretty damn awesome actually. Have you ever tried to cook something based on one of these viral pictures? How did it turn out?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

After the Windsor Craft Beer Festival we hit up Vito's

Picture totally stolen off Vito's webpage as I didn't think to take a pic of the place that night.
One of the things I found odd at Windsor's first ever Craft Beer Festival that I wrote about last week was how early it ended. I dunno if it's just me, but I would expect a beer based event to go late into the night. This was not the case though, it ended at 10PM. So there we were in the middle of Olde Walkerville at 10PM with nothing to do and grumbling stomachs.

The official after party was being held at the new Willistead Restaurant. So we wandered down that way. The place was packed. More than packed actually. I guess that was to be expected. We wandered back East a bit and noticed that O'Magio's was also packed. Then my wife remembered Vito's.

More specifically she reminded me about Vito's Pizzeria, which was just down the road and across the street. Vito's used to be my favourite place to eat in town before we had the kids. Unfortunately it's not really a family kind of place. Sure they will serve kids but it's just not the right kind of place for it, both for your sake and the sake of the other guests. Well guess what? We didn't have the kids that night.

I'm always surprised by how small Vito's is. It's actually almost at the point of being cramped, but not quite. It's a beautiful looking place and it always smells fantastic. The wood oven they use for the pizza (and a bunch of other dishes) is right out there in the open and you can't avoid the amazing smells coming from it.

We were asked if we came from the Craft Beer Fest and after confirming we were warned that all they were making at this point at night was Pizza. That was fine with us. We got our seats and I ordered a beer (as that's obviously what I need after a beer fest) and my wife got a coffee. The menu still looked as appealing as ever. Lots of amazing high end Italian food and wood fired favorites. Most prices are in the $12-$18 range with some exceptions like Sword Fish at almost $30. We've been to Vito's many times and we've always felt we got what we paid for.

Personally I'm in love with having prosciutto on my Pizza. Vito's is the place where I first discovered this love and no where quite does it as well as here. Along with this gem I also got some pepperoni and Itallian sausage on my pie. My wife got some fish covered thing I would never touch but seems to make lots of people drool whenever she describes it.

The food was excellent. Just like I remembered. It's awesome to see that this place hasn't lost it's touch in the years since we've been there. The thought my wife and I both had when we were leaving is that we had to make sure we didn't take too long to make it back next time. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I've been up to, including the Windsor Craft Beer Festival

Man it's been a busy couple of months.

I apologize for letting this blog slide in the face of lots of other things going on both at work and in my other, non-food based, hobbies.

One thing that took up the a lot of my time was planning for, and then gaming for Extra Life. Together with other members of the Windsor Gaming Resource we raised $1400 for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals!

It was a truly epic night of gaming over at Brimstone Games on November 2nd and well worth all the work that went into advertising and planning the event. Added to this stress, the week before, I hosted our first ever RPG mini-con called Level Up! That also went really well.

Enough about gaming though, if you cared about that you would be reading my other blog. So on to food based topics. Well at least drink based topics.

One of the coolest things that happened since my last post here at Big Dude Likes Food was Windsor's first ever Craft Beer Festival. This was put on by the great people at Windsor Eats and happened back on October 17th and 18th. My wife and I attended on the Friday night and had a great time.

This was my second experience at an event like this. The first was attending the North American Craft Beer Experience which I talked a bit about in my post about our anniversary trip to Toronto. The two events were both very similar and very different.

These were the first two beers of the night.
Cost for the Windsor event was $25 in advance or $30 at the door and that included 5 drink tickets. A single drink ticket got you a 4oz sample or half a glass, and you had the option to trade in two at a time for a full glass. Well by glass I mean plastic cup, unless you bought in at the VIP level. VIPs got a meal before the event and a limited edition etched glass, and paid far too much for the privilege as far as I'm concerned. Maybe that's just jealousy talking ;)

You could, of course buy more tickets past your initial 5. These were very reasonably priced and my wife and I went through quite a few of them.

The following breweries were in attendance: Bayside Brewing Co, Beau's All Natural Brewing, Highlander Brew Co., Broadhead Brewing Co., Lake of Bays Brewing Co., Motor Craft Ales, Walkerville Brewery, St. Ambroise/McAuslan, Wellington Brewery and Mill St. Brewery.

Each of these had multiple beers available for patrons to try out, some offering as many as 8 different brews. Each brewery had their own tent and all were well staffed. Even late at night when the place really started to fill in, the line ups never got that bad.

The two stand outs for me were Highlander Blacksmith Smoked Porter and Mill Street Vanilla Porter

The rather cool light logo
What I found odd was how dead the event was from 5pm until about 9pm. It really was empty. For an event that was only running 6 hours, I figured it would be packed the entire time. By the end of the night though it was standing room only.

Standing room was one of my minor complaints about the event. There were four picnic tables set up in the center of the area but that's it for seating. This seemed odd to me, that everyone would want to stand for the whole event. Personally I wanted a seat to be able to add my beer tastings to as I tried new beers.

In addition to the beer the St. Clair College Culinary Arts students were there selling some amazing poutine, fish and sliders. Food was $5 a small plate, tapas style. It wasn't enough for dinner or anything but it was nice to have something on hand to eat. One of the booths were also selling pretzel necklaces, which seemed to be popular based on the number of people I saw wearing them.

The one thing I really didn't understand about this event was the timing. Why would you plan an outdoor event for late October? It was cold! Really cold. One of the coldest days we had experienced this year. That made things a little less enjoyable as I didn't dress as warmly as I should have. There were no heaters or anything of the sort to be found, just open, cold, air. What if it had rained?

Pretty good crowd by the end
While I would have preferred a warmer time of year for this and would have preferred to see more brewers at the event I still think this was pretty cool for a first time event. There were some hiccups but overall I had fun and I got to try a ton of great beer.

Based on the Windsor Craft Beer Festival website they are planning to host another one next year and I'm fully planning on attending. Maybe I'll take the VIP plunge next year.

Friday, October 4, 2013

#FoodPornFriday Grilled Cheese Big Mouth Burger from Joe Schmoe's

Today's #FoodPornFriday picture comes from Joe Schmoe's Eat n Drinks in LaSalle Ontario. Joe Schmoe's recently moved from another part of LaSalle to be closer to home for us and I had heard they had fantastic burgers. I heard right. What you see here is a bacon cheeseburger what has grilled cheese sandwich instead of buns. It was amazingly good. Oh there's a side soup and some local craft beer there too.

Have some #Foodporn of your own to share? Link up below:

Friday, September 13, 2013

#FoodPornFriday a slice of Southwestern Strata

This is the first time I've featured something I personally cooked in a #FoodPornFriday post. This is a quarter of the Southwestern Strata that I cooked as part of my review of the Crunchy Bits gamer cookbook.

Care to join in the #FoodPornFriday meme? Link up below:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Crunchy Bits a cookbook for gamers - a Big Dude review

A couple weeks ago there was a thread on Google Plus by +Greg Christopher talking about getting started with cooking. I chimed in as someone who is also just learning how not to burn down the house and make food I'm not ashamed to serve my family.

At one point in this conversation I received a private message from +Chuck Thorin who offered me a review copy of a gamer themed cookbook that he wrote with Kemberlyn Howard. I took him up on the offer immediately. How cool is it that I get to combine my two biggest hobbies, gaming and food.

So over the last few weeks I devoured Crunchy Bits: Recipes for Every Level of Culinary Adventurer. Okay I realize that saying it took a few weeks sounds like it took a long time, but between work, my two kids, and organizing various gaming events around the city I don't actually get much time to read.

The reason I devoured the book is due to the writing style which is awesome. As a gamer, this book is great fun to read. Lines like "A good pan is heavy. If you think its heavy enough to bash an orc's head then it's good to go." had me laughing out loud. That's laughing out loud at a cook book. The gamer jokes are found through the entire book and every recipe has a little back and forth between "The Cook" and "The Gamer." Adding to the theme; all of the side bar tips are presented as random encounters. Just check out the Temple of Culinary Evil picture I included to the right there. How cool is that?

The book itself, well at least the PDF copy which is what I received, is 181 pages. There's an intro section that give a ton of suggestion as to what you should have in your kitchen, clears up some terms, introduces The Cook and The Gamer and gives some very solid tips and tricks and traps to avoid (more gamer humor).

The rest of the book is broken into traditional sections you would see in most any cook book. There's Stocks, Breads, Pasta, Other Starches, Desserts, Eggs, Cheese & Legumes, Fish, Seafood & Shellfish, Meat (sub divided into Beef, Pork, Poultry, and Other Tasty Creatures), Salads, Sandwiches, Soups & Stews, Sauces & Dressings and finally Vegetables. Each section has an average of eight recipes.

Sadly there aren't all that many pictures of the dishes. I was really hoping to see this stuff before trying to cook it. One of the things I love to do is flip through a cook book and see something and think: "Damn that looks good! I'm gonna make that." For the recipes that do have pictures everything looks fantastic though. The dishes have a definitely southwestern U.S. feel. There's lots of spices and rubs, and The Cook seems to really like to add some heat to her meals. Even the corn bread has Jalapeno in it. It wasn't until after I finished the book that I found out the writers live in Texas which makes this all make sense.

Me trying that whole "mise en place" thing
The recipe directions are for the most part clear. I say for the most part, as this book isn't really written for a beginner cook like myself. It makes a few assumptions that you know what some terms are. I'm sure these are truly basic terms but for someone with only a small amount of kitchen XP I had to ask my wife quite a few questions and had to Google some things. I'm sure anyone who's read a Betty Crocker book would be fine. Hmm, maybe I should read one of those, eh?

So I couldn't do a proper review without actually trying to cook something from the book now could I? After a bit of deliberation I decided I wanted to try a recipe called Southwestern Strata. The Geek's line: "It's like lasagna and nachos make a love child" about this one had me sold. Two of my favourite cheese filled dishes in one.

Now that looks good
I cooked the dish with very little modification. As noted above, it seems The Cook likes things hot. So do I, but unfortunately my kids do not. So I had to tone down the spice a bit. Due to that I dropped the Chipotle peppers and chilies from the ingredient list. I also really dig Kraft Tex-Mex cheese mix and decided to use that instead of cheddar cheese. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written.

Things went pretty well. As usual there were a few mishaps. The first, was some frozen corn coated in canola oil all over the kitchen floor. The second, and more serious one, was that I overdid the tortillas a bit. The directions were to put them in the oven at 350 until crispy. It seems the ones I bought decided that they should go from soft to brown very slowly. Then go from brown to crispy to slightly burnt in under a minute. Next time I will watch them much more closely. The other problem I had, that was only a potential problem, is that I didn't use a big enough skillet. This seems to be a common trend with me, which you may remember from my Dutch oven fiasco. Everything did fit this time around though, just barely.

Now just to simmer away
The recipe was easy enough to follow, though I'm still not used to ingredients being listed in order of quantity instead of order they are used. I kept worrying I might have missed something, especially when the recipe said to add "seasonings." I personally prefer the other method (not sure if that's a U.S. vs. Canada thing or what). The whole meal took about an hour and a half for me to put together with the longest time being waiting for tortillas to crisp. Ends up our baking sheet only fits two at a time and the recipe needed four. So that doubled the time needed there.

The end result looked great. I was truly amazed when the whole thing actually cut into quarters without exploding. +Chuck Thorin warned me to make sure to let it sit and that definitely seemed to help. It smelled and looked great and tasted just as good. 3/4 of the entire thing was more than enough to feed our family of four and I'm sure if the kids were a bit older the whole thing would have been gone.

I'm still in shock this actually stayed
together enough to quarter
My wife commented that she really enjoyed the corn in this and I agreed. The combination of the sweet corn and slightly spicy sauce was a good combo. I think it would have been better with some more heat actually and I regretted cutting out some of the spice (though I realize that I would have 1/2 a strata left if I did this, as my kids wouldn't have touched it).

Overall I'm pretty impressed by both the recipe and by the book. The layout may not be the best, it could use some more pictures and the stuff you should own section has more stuff than I think I could fit in my house let alone my kitchen but that is all outshined by the writing and if the Southwestern Strata is any indication, the recipes themselves. I've never thought I would have fun reading a cook book, I expected something like that to be a form of homework, but reading Crunchy Bits was actually a lot of fun. It may not be the best starter book for n00bs like me but if you've got the basics down and you are a gamer I can't not recommend this book. I thank +Chuck Thorin for giving me this review opportunity. I very much enjoyed it.

You can buy Crunchy Bits over at Lulu both in PDF and Print

Friday, September 6, 2013

#FoodPornFriday - I almost forgot.

You've got to click on this one, for some reason blogger is really compressing it.
I seriously almost forgot about #FoorPornFriday. I don't know if it's because it was a short work week or if it was due to the fact I was nervous about cooking dinner tonight (post about that coming Sunday). Whatever the reason it wasn't until 7:30PM today that I realized I hadn't put up a #FoodPornFriday post. Well better late than never.

What you see here is the best lunch I've had in a very long time. It's also the best meal I've had at The Twisted Apron and that is saying a lot. This is a pork schnitzel sandwich topped with aged cheddar sauce and julienne apples. There's a side of ham and black bean soup to go with it. This sandwich was fantastic! The one problem, it was the lunch special of the day. This isn't on The Twisted Apron's regular menu, which is just wrong. So I mentioned this to the waiter and then even emailed them when I got home. I was very pleased when they replied that we may just see this on their Fall menu as a regular item.

As it's so late in the day I'm going to skip over the linky thing this week.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tried an Essex County classic: Ducks on the Roof in Amherstburg

We spent more time than usual in the county lately. Last weekend we drove out to Amherstburg to check out Art By the River. Last Friday to start of the Labour Day weekend, we went out to Leamington and spent the day at the splash pad and Seacliff beach. On the way home we took highway 20 and went through Kingsville, Harrow and Amherstburg and tried to catch glimpses of the Tall Ships. Near the end of that trip home we passed by Ducks on the Roof. This is one of those places that's been there forever, a place my grand parents used to like to eat at. While passing my wife noted that she always wanted to try it. So we headed back out there last night.

Lots of wood, and ducks.
Ducks on the Roof was easy enough to find. It's on highway 20 about five minutes past Amherstburg. Which means it's about a 45 minute drive from most of Windsor. The place was very inviting with an unassuming outside and a very clean wood filled interior. Ducks on the Roof was, appropriately, filled with ducks. Brass ducks, wood ducks, decoys and more. Overall it had a very old school feel. Somewhat like a banquet hall. It brings back memories of the Legion and the Knights of Columbus while being more cosy and nicer than both.

French Onion soup and Walkerville Ale
The menu was a bit of a jumble. It looks like it started as one thing and then they decided to add an every night fish special. Then they decided to add a gluten free menu. Lastly they decided to offer a $20 Four Course meal option, which is also every night. It's kind of frankensteined. Their website shows this off well with different links to no less than 10 different menus. Having it all in a book in front of you it wasn't that bad though. It reminded me of The Lumberjack which I think suffers from the same problem of adding on to an originally large menu.

My wife went for the Every Night Fish Special which gives you a choice of 7 different seafood options for $15. She specifically chose the Coconut Crusted Tilapia. I went for the 4 Course Dinner Menu that included soup of the day, salad bar, choice of 1 of 7 entrees and desert. I'm a huge fan of schnitzel so went for the Breaded Pork Schnitzel in Mushroom Gravy.

Pork Schnitzel and Fettuccine Alfredo
The service was impeccable. I don't remember the last time we were treated quite this well. The waitress was very friendly and open and was very accommodating. For example the soup of the day was cream of mushroom. When she announced this I must have made a bad face as she immediately offered me some alternatives, from which I chose a small French Onion. The treatment was doubly impressive as we showed up very late. The restaurant closes at 9PM and we had reservations for 8PM. Even with the late hour they almost insisted I get coffee with my desert (A fantastic slice of Pumpkin Pie).

The food was great. It was exactly as advertised. Traditional casual food. It has that better than home cooked taste with no pretense. You won't find alioli, panko crusted or red pepper mayo here. You will find a perfectly cooked piece of meat in a traditional mushroom sauce. It's a style of food and cooking that I really enjoy.

Coconut Crusted Tilapia
Something about the place makes me want to bring the family here. I guess it's that KofC/Legion feel or something. This just seems like the perfect place to celebrate a birthday, or to have a family Christmas gathering. I would feel very comfortable at Ducks on the Roof sitting at a table of 16 and enjoying some great food.

Overall I was very impressed and didn't regret the drive out to the county at all. I'm very glad we tried the place out and I fully expect we will head back out there sometime. They have a very appealing sounding Sunday Brunch that I think would be well worth the trip. I also may just choose to host the next family get together there.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

#FoodPornFriday - Shepherds Pie, Burger and Shake at Route 42

This weeks #FoodPornFriday post comes early as it's a long weekend for me. It's my Friday today. This shot was taken at Route 42 Diner. Here you see my Shepherds Pie and Chocolate Shake with my wife's Yellow Burger in the background. You can also see their love of putting potato chip crumbs on everything. Check out my full review.

Join the #FoodPornFriday meme: toss up a post and pic on your site using the #FoodPornFriday hashtag and link it up with Linky below:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

We spent the day at Art By The River

There are a lot of cool events that go down every year in Essex County. Things like Art in the Park, Eat Your City restaurant week and the Tecumseh Corn Fest. There are so many of these events every summer that I never manage to make it out to all of them. Heck I don't even make it to half of them. Art by the River is one that I do try to attend every year and one that I just got back from.

Art by the River is held each year in the town of Amherstburg Ontario. Amherstburg is a historical town that's living up the heritage thing while still trying to be modern and relevant. It's a War of 1812 heritage community and the site of Fort Malden is the location for Art by the River as well as a slew of other annual festivities. This art and craft show is very similar to the big Art in the Park festival held in Windsor, but slightly smaller. Due to this smaller size I've always found it to be more personal, plus the prices seem to be more reasonable.

We got up early this morning and packed up the kids and headed out to Romas Pizza for breakfast. Romas is in the town of LaSalle and it's about half way to Amherstburg. Not only was it directly along our route, they also serve a great breakfast but on weekends only. I'm a big fan of their meat-lovers omelet.  They also have an awesome Gyro Pizza I recommend anyone in the area to try at least once, though not for breakfast (they don't start serving Pizza until lunch).

After breakfast we finished the rest of the trip and spent some time driving around the small town of Amherstburg looking for a CIBC bank so we could get some cash. This ended up being fortuitous since the ATM at Art by the River was down when we got there. We drove around for quite a bit and were really surprised by the changes in the town. The old Sherwood mall was completely gone replaced by the typical Canadian big box lot. There was a Walmart, Sobey's, Mark's Work Warehouse and more. This is all stuff that is new to the area. Stuff that previously people would have to drive to LaSalle, Essex or Windsor to get. It seemed odd to me as up until just recently Amherstburg really hasn't changed much at all.

After our quick driving tour (there's only one CIBC in the entire town, it's in the old downtown, the last place we checked, of course) we spent a good 10 minute sharking for a parking spot. That's the one thing about all of these local events, there's never enough parking. We eventually found a good spot, headed in and paid our $10 at the door. It's $5 each for the adults and free for kids under 12.

I was really impressed with the show this year. It seemed like they added a few more booths than last year without making the place seem crowded. There was the usual mix of crafty stuff like painted ceramics, fine art, paintings, photography and everything in between. For some reason glasswork seemed very popular this year, with lots of beads and some really awesome glass creations. I really wanted to buy a particular glass snail for my girls but I know it probably wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes in their hands. I was also very tempted by a wooden dragon puzzle. My wife lusted after some sun hats and ended up picking up a nice one for my oldest daughter. In the end we did end up buying some of the glasswork but only a small, much less breakable acorn.

Along with lots of cool and impressive arts and crafts there were also a wide variety of live shows. There were no less than four performance areas at which there was always at least a musician playing. One larger stage hosted more in depth shows including some historical reenactment by the Essex County Historical Society I think I heard the cannons go off twice in the four or so hours we were at the event. Actually you could find reinactors walking around throughout the show looking far too hot in the 1800s garb. My kids especially love to sit and listen to the live music, which I was  thankful for as it gave a nice break from the crowds and the heat.

Art by the River also has a small kids section. There you have face painting, a clown on duty and a painting area where kids get to paint at an easel and take home their art. I swear I remember there being a lot more for kids to do last year including a local dance company giving free lessons and trying to sell parents on sending their kids to the school. I'm not sure why they weren't here this year. My kids were happy enough just to get to paint and didn't seem to miss anything from previous years though.

The other thing you can find at shows like this is food. Now these events always have a food tent where you can get stuff to eat. This particular one had the typical hot dogs and burgers and overpriced pop and water. That's not really what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about are the booths that are selling cool food products. We picked up a liter of pure Canadian Maple Syrup from Uncle Richard's Maple, some gourmet nuts from C'est Bon and the best Kettle Corn I've ever had from Poppers in Harrow (I would link to their website but it seems to be broken and just plays a rather funky Popcorn song but nothing else). I don't think my kids would let me leave any of these local events without buying at least one large bag of Kettle Corn.

In addition to stuff I bought there were also booths selling a variety of dips and sauces. The Wicked Gourmet was there this year selling their great products (most of these are now available at Remark Farms so I usually don't buy from them at festivals). There was a guy that was very excitedly trying to get people to try his hummus and at least two booths selling spices. I was surprised we didn't see The Bean Ladies this year, they were always regulars at this event and Art by the Park. Most of the booths with food items also offered samples which had my kids yanking us this way and that so they could try everything.

On the trip home we stopped at a couple of the fruit and vegetable stands along the highway. All through Essex county you can find these along any of the major county roads, each of them selling a selection of local produce and often some home made crafts or sweets. My wife grabbed some local onion and peppers as well as some fresh picked strawberries. Pretty much any trip we take out in the County includes a stop like this on the way home.

A good meal, a nice drive down by the lake, a tour of a historic town, great art, great performances and some great food. I can't ask for much more on a warm Summer Sunday.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

#FoodPornFriday Flautas from El Patron

This week I've got another appetizer from El Patron. This time it's their Flautas. I fell in love with Flautas at a local place called El Dorado that is sadly now closed. These are the best Flautas I've had since then.

Join in my #FoodPornFriday celebration: toss up a post and pic on your site using the #FoodPornFriday hashtag and link it up with Linky below

Thursday, August 15, 2013

#FoodPornFriday Chorizo and Queso from El Patron for Eat Your City

This week is Eat Your City here in Windsor. This is a week long culinary event celebrating local restaurants that is put on by Windsor Eats. Twenty Seven local restaurants are participating this summer. Unfortunately there's lots going on this week and tonight was the only night my wife and I were able to make it out. After dropping off the games for The Great Canadian Board Game Blitz at the Green Bean Cafe, we headed over to El Patron for some Mexican. Today's #FoodPornFriday picture is their amazing Chorizo and Queso appetizer.

Care to join me for Food Porn Friday? Toss up a post and pic on your site using the #FoodPornFriday hastag and link it up with Linky below

My daughter has good taste in cheese

At Remark Farms, a locally owned grocer, they have a huge cheese section (and an amazing deli). As part of these cheese section they always have samples.

My kids of course love this. Not our last trip but the trip before, my oldest was with me and we tried some Muenster cheese as a sample. It was rather good so I bought a small brick. What I didn't know is that when we got home my daughter went on and on to Mom about how her and Dad picked out special cheese for us to share. Okay that wasn't the initial plan, but I'm cool with this. I love the fact she's willing to try new things. So we shared the cheese.

This week she asked if we could try the samples again. I had a feeling I knew what was coming. We tried a bunch of different cheeses and she really took a liking to Kerrygold Dubliner. So I checked with the master of the money and she okay'd a purchase of a small brick. I also got a pack of sliced Muenster to put on sandwiches for lunch this week.

Right now my daughter and I are sharing this as a small snack before I get neck deep in board game packing for The Great Canadian Board Game Blitz. Man this is a great cheese. It's very hard, almost like Parmesan but with a taste more like old cheddar. My daughter has good taste in cheese.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Took a break this morning and hit the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market

Lately I've been really busy preparing for The Great Canadian Board Game Blitz which I'm hosting next weekend on the 17th. That would be why you haven't been seeing the usual weekly updates and #FoodPorn Friday posts. I took a break from prep work this morning to take the family down to the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market.

This open air market is put on by the Windsor Downtown Residents Association. The market opens every year on June 1 and runs every Saturday from 9am until 1pm, until Thanksgiving weekend in October.

This year the market moved from it's location at the old Greyhound Bus terminal, to Charles Clark Square. Most locals know the Square as a great place to ice skate during the winter. The new venue is about three times as large, has more access to power and is in a more scenic part of town.

There's a  huge variety of vendors at the market each week. Interestingly it's not always the same people either. There are a few staples but other booths change week to week.

There's plenty of fresh grown local produce, as expected. Grown Right Here is a big sponsor for these weekly events. Today saw lots and lots of different types of tomatoes and peppers. We were hoping zucchini was ready but it seem that will be next week or the week after.

Besides everything being farm fresh most of the prices are better than what you see at the local super market. Along with the produce there are usually a couple vendors there selling fresh fish and meats. This week there was a vendor selling some amazing sausage, Robbie's Gourmet Sausage Company, they handed out a couple samples that has us buying some of their Canadian breakfast sausage and Chorizo to bring home.

In addition to a variety of meats and produce you will find a variety of vendors selling various treats. There's candied nuts, pies, fresh bread and fruit loaves, smoothies, cookies and more. What's cool to see is the number of gluten free and diabetic safe options.

For people buying these treats there's a few different seating areas set up around the square so you can enjoy the food you bought or just take a load off for a bit.

There's also a wide variety of non-food items for sale. Local artists are always there showing off their wares. This week I saw soaps, henna tattoos, earrings, a couple different painters and even one person doing geeky and sporty stained glass. A small stage area is also set up and musical guests provide entertainment throughout the day.

In typical Windsor fashion everyone is extremely friendly and more than willing to chat. All of the vendors love talking about their products and it's always great to get cooking tips right from the source.

If you are ever looking for something to do on a Saturday morning this summer or early fall, I do suggest you check out the Downtown Windsor Farmers' market. You never know exactly what you will find but I can pretty much guarantee you will find something you will like.