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.