Sunday, November 23, 2014

Frankenmuth - it hasn't changed much and that's a good thing

When I was younger, one of the things my parents would do is visit Frankenmuth Michigan during the holidays. We didn't go every year but we went often enough that it was a big part of my childhood and is always a strong, happy spot, in my holiday memories.

A couple weekends ago my wife and I made the trip up I-75 North and headed back to Frankenmuth. 

The two of us were trying to figure out how long it had been since we were last in Frankenmuth. Neither of us had been over the border for a long time. We've never brought the kids there, so it was before they were born. Between the two of us we figure it was at least 8 years ago. Amazingly not much has changed since then.

That's really "The Thing" about Frankenmuth. Along with the whole Bavarian thing, Frankenmuth is pretty much a town that time forgot. This is intentional. A big part of the whole appeal of the area is that old town (or should I say towne) feel.

For as long as I can remember every trip to Frankenmuth must start with a stop at Tony's I-75 Restaurant. Tony's is actually in Birch Run. Birch Run is the small town you pass through on the way to Frankenmuth. 

There's one reason you stop at Tony's and that reason is bacon! Tons of bacon. Everything you order at Tony's that comes with bacon, you get a pound of the delicious stuff. 

Not only do you get a ton of bacon at Tony's, it's also awesome bacon. The best bacon I've ever had bacon. It's thick cut, cooked just right and so good. We had so much left over bacon that I was snacking on it through the whole trip. Get up in the morning grab a slice of bacon. Stop in at the hotel for a bit, grab some bacon. About to go to bed, just a second, need some bacon.

While in Birch Run it's worth stopping at the Birch Run Premium Outlets. This is a real outlet mall. Not like, Windsor Crossing, the sad excuse for an outlet mall that we have here. This outdoor shopping area has 145 stores. These are actual outlet stores with actual good deals. 

My wife and I aren't big shoppers but even we enjoy checking out Birch Run Premium Outlets. I managed to find some golf shirts, my wife found some socks, we found books and some gifts for the kids. There's even an OOPS! store that had some good deals on board games. We also picked up some snacks from Harry & David to eat at the hotel room (in between the left over bacon).

Between the drive, Tony's and shopping at the outlet mall, most of our first day was gone. I couldn't help but wonder how the heck we managed to fit it all in, in one day, when I was a kid. I guess it was a good thing we were staying two nights.

For dinner and entertainment that first night we checked out The Frankenmuth Brewery

The brewery is a huge brew pub overlooking the river. Tons of seating, a solid pub menu and a great selection of beer

They have 8 very different beers on tap which included 6 regular rotation beers and 2 seasonals. It was impressive to see such a range of different beers in one place. Pretty much a beer for every taste.

As an added bonus, we happened to be there Sunday night so we also got all you could eat Pretzel balls. These were awesome and we snacked on them all night as we ate our meals and sampled the various beers.

Of all of of the beers I tried, the Hefeweizen Ale was my favourite. It was very refreshing and had some really nice banana notes in the flavor. The seasonal Christmas Town Ale was also very good and memorable with a nice mix of spice and malts. 

The food was good and the service was great, My only real complaint about the place is that it was very loud. It's mainly a big open area with a very high roof and sound really carries. It was a bit hard to hold a conversation near the start of the night when the place was packed.

I also thought it was very cool that the front of the restaurant was a gift shop and a place where you could buy their beer. The beer was sold in cases, growlers and even a mixer pack with one of each of their beers.

For this trip we chose to stay at the Bavarian Inn Lodge. This is right downtown just across the river from the Bavarian Inn itself.

When I was a kid I only remember staying there once and all I really remembered about it was that it was well decorated for the holidays and that you had to go over a wooden covered bridge to get there. 

For this return trip I felt that staying at The Lodge was a must. 

Yet again, nothing has really changed. Actually, based on the room we were in, I have a feeling the only thing that really changed is that the hotel offered free Wi-Fi. 

Day two started with breakfast at Oma's Restaraunt. The food was great. My wife enjoyed it so much she insisted that we return there the next day before going home.

The banana bread french toast I got was really good. Though the bacon it came with paled in comparison from the stuff I got from Tony's the day before. I have to remember that after I eat at Tony's to not bother ordering bacon anywhere else for at least a week.

Our second day in Frankenmuth was spent shopping. Yes, I know I said we aren't much for shopping but, shopping in Frankenmuth isn't normal shopping. It's something different. It's The Largest Christmas Store in the World and it's very cool quaint shops with a very cool mix of stuff you don't see anywhere else. It's specialty shops and not big brands. 

The Largest Christmas Store in the World is Bronner's. This place is insanely huge. Ridiculously huge. It took us over 4 hours to get through the place and we weren't going slow. If anything we rushed through some parts of the store.

If you like holiday decorations at all, you owe it to yourself to get to Bronner's at some point during your life. It's an amazing place. I'll even say it: there's something magical about it.

Normally I'm a bit of a humbug but, for some reason, I really dig and get into the Winter Holidays. Nothing puts me into that spirit better than Bronner's. 

On previous trips to Bronner's we would mainly browse and maybe pick up an ornament or two. I don't know what it was, maybe the holiday spirit hit my wife as hard as me this year, but we spent a small fortune at Bronner's this year. They have so many cool and unique ornaments and we bought a cart full.

If there's a theme you can think of, Bronner's has decorations in that theme. While walking around I was very tempted to do a Cthulhu/Mythos themed tree. It sounds nuts but you could totally do it with stuff you can buy here There were tentacles everywhere. 

We picked up an ornament for each of the kids (their "mom and dad were on vacation without you" gifts for when we got home), we picked up some for gifts (I think my brother in law is going to really dig his) and we picked up far too many for us. While we were there, my wife must have asked me: "Can we put the tree up when we get home" at least four times. 

There's one other cool thing at Bronner's. They have a light show every night. This trip we didn't get around to checking it out, but it's something I remember from past trips and I was pleased to see that it's still there. Yep, yet again something that hasn't changed.

From Bronner's we checked out the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. The last time we were in Frankenmuth this area was brand new. If I remember correctly it was still under construction. 

This is an area of 40 shops just on the edge of town. It's set up... I'm not sure how to say it... interestingly. There's public areas, winding paths, lots of decorations. It's just, kind of neat. It's a fun area to walk around.

We were disappointed to find that two of the stores we really enjoyed last time were gone. I guess a few things do change. To make up for it though there were some really cool new shops. 

Like all of the shops in Frankenmuth, these aren't the kind of stores you find in your regular mall. This is what makes shopping here fun. There aren't big brand stores. Instead it's small locally owned specialty shops. 

Our first stop was the SugarHigh Bakery. This place was featured on The Food Network for a cupcake contest so we chose it for a mid day snack and weren't disappointed. I was tempted to try their chocolate covered bacon, but passed. Had I actually had too much bacon over the last couple days? 

There was one store that I really wish I could have brought my oldest daughter to: The Enchanted Forest a place that specialized in fairies, dragons and gnomes. Other highlights included the Funky Skunk which claims to have Michigan's largest selection of Guinness merchandise, Our Mother Earth Toy Jungle a uniquely themed toy store and Great Lakes Olive Oil Co which had some of the best balsamic and oil that we've ever tried.

For dinner that night we did something I've been wanting to do for over 10 years, maybe even more. We ate at The Bavarian Inn. Though we had been to Frankenmuth more recently it wasn't often that we did the full dinner at the Inn. This is something that, to me, is a big part of any trip to Frankenmuth.

For those who haven't tried it, the Bavarian Inn dinner is an all you can eat roasted chicken dinner. Along with what many consider to be the best chicken in the world, you can also add a variety of meats. For me this is schnitzel. You must add schnitzel to your meal if you eat at the Inn. 

Along with your meats you get some starter salads and then a ton of sides. There's mashed potatos, stuffing, these really good egg noodles in butter, seasonal vegetable and more. 

I always remember the Bavarian Inn dinner as being truly amazing. Not only a highlight of past trips but one of the main reasons to make the trip in the first place. Thankfully this was something else that hasn't changed. The meal was amazing. So good. The best schnitzel ever. 

I even tried the chicken this time. Everyone is always talking about how good it is, but I'm not a huge chicken fan. In the past I just stuck to schnitzel, it was time to finally try the chicken. You know what? That's some damn good chicken!

After dinner we decided to check what else the Barvarian Inn Lodge had to offer. 

The hotel has something like three swimming areas including a couple water slides. Cool but not really for us. They also have an arcade in the basement. I had to check that out, but was disappointed to find that it's one of those Chuck-E-Cheese style redemption arcades. With everything else being stuck back in the 70s and 80s I was really hoping to get to play some Dig Dug and Moon Patrol.

Eventually we ended up at the Lorelei Lounge & Schnitzelbank Beir Garden

We had heard good things about this pub. While the beer selection was great (actually the beer selection is great everywhere in Frankenmuth) the place was packed with a large group on some form of business trip that was very loud and very drunk. Not really the pubs fault though.

The most memorable part of that night (well, after the amazing meal) was singing the Schnizelbank song.
"Ist das nicht eine schnitzelbank?"
"Ja! Das ist eine schntzelbank!"
So now we are two days in and we still haven't even seen downtown (except for a quick walk by on the way to the brewery). I don't know if I'm getting older and slower, if my parents were just crazy fast or if Frankenmuth has gotten much bigger. I think it's probably a bit of everything. I know that my wife and I were spending more time taking everything in. Plus we made quite a few stops and breaks to try out local beers or treats.

Our final day started at Oma's (remember I mentioned that my wife insisted that we go back). From there we checked out the main downtown of Frankenmuth. Like the River Shops, the downtown is filled with awesome small town, mom and pop specialty stores. There's a good four or five blocks of some of the neatest stores you will ever find. 

I probably shouldn't have been surprised but most of the shops I remember from our last trip and from trips before that were still there.

The Frankenmuth Cheese Haus is still going strong. Though it seems to have given up on beer and gone to wine. I used to love stopping in to pick up some rare beers. Instead now they have all kinds of wines. I guess wine and cheese just makes sense though I would prefer beer.

The Little White House is still there. I can't count how many gifts I've picked up for my mom there over the years. Though we didn't actually stop in, it was cool to see the Frankenmuth Clock Company still standing. We even ended up picking up a great looking board game (Battle Sheep) for the kids at the Toy Company & Kite Craft store, an awesome educational toy store. The general store is still there and is still huge. I swear that place is part TARDIS as it keeps getting bigger every year. My wife spent a huge amount of time browsing the doll house furniture in the basement. 

Mixed in with all of the great shops are small cafes and bars. This means it's a great area to walk around for a bit and then stop in somewhere to take a break, get a snack and grab a drink. The front of the Bavarian Inn was always a popular spot for my Dad to stop and have a beer. We stopped in ourselves and were pleased to find that they now specialize in Michigan Craft Beer. 

Our last stop before heading home was Zehnder's. This one was interesting for me.

Over the many years, going to Frankenmuth with my parents, we never went to Zehnder's. We never even set foot inside. I honestly have no idea why. Every trip to Frankenmuth we always went to the Bavarian Inn for dinner or just ate at Tony's. I remember asking my parents about it they just brushed it off with a: "we don't eat there, we eat here"

When I noted online that I was heading to Frankenmuth everyone who commented noted that we were lucky to be going to Zehnder's for chicken. I noted that we would be going to the Bavarian Inn instead and everyone was like: no don't do that go to Zehnder's. What's the deal here? 

I guess there's a not so friendly competition going down in Frankenmuth between a couple of cousins. It's a long competition that actually started with a couple of brothers and goes back to when the Zehnder family first set up shop in Frankenmuth. Based on what we heard, The Bavarian Inn (and associated hotel, etc) has been competing with Zehnder's (and their hotel's, water park, etc) for years and years. It's kind of sad actually.

Putting that family feud aside, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was finally going to try Zehnder's (sorry Mom and Dad). 

You know what's odd? It's basically the exact same meal. It's the same deal you get right across the street. You get all you can eat chicken. You can add your choice of meats. The same choice of meats as across the street. You get potatoes and stuffing and seasonal veg. There's the same style of fat egg noodles in butter. It's pretty much the same thing. How odd. It reminded me of the Coke/Pepsi thing. Two meals that were almost identical but that have generated a huge amount of fan loyalty.

Between the two I liked the sides better at Zehner's but the chicken better at The Bavarian Inn. They weren't all that different though. I would happily eat either meal. Zehnder's had a bit more modern high end feel, where as The Bavarian Inn has that: "hasn't changed in 50 years", feel. Both have their place. If someone were to ask me which they should go to, my suggestion would be for the one with the shortest wait.

Overall our last day spent downtown, and our last day in Frankenmuth was just as cool, fun and interesting as I remembered it being.

That was pretty much the theme for the entire trip. Everything was as good or better than I remembered from past trips. Not much has changed at all, and that is not a bad thing in this case. I really enjoyed this trip. I now regret waiting so long to go back and don't plan on making that mistake again.

I think next time we will bring the girls. Start to re-create the traditions I remember so fondly from my childhood with the next generation. So that in 10 years time, Frankenmuth will mean as much to them as it does to me. I have a feeling in 10 years time, not much will have changed.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Windsor Craft Beer Festival year 2. Great event but skip the VIP pass

Back on October 17th my wife and I attended the 2nd annual Windsor Craft Beer Festival.

We went to the inaugural event last year and had a fantastic time. Such a good time actually that we decided to go with the VIP tickets this year. That may have been a mistake.

Don't get me wrong, the event was awesome. We had a great time and I will be attending next year, but I just don't think that the VIP passes were worth it. At least not for us.

My biggest complaint with the VIP pass was that it gave us "early access" to the event. This meant that we got in half an hour early.

Expecting a line, my wife and I showed up about 15 minutes before opening (early access opening). We were the first people there. By the time the gates opened there was a crowd of 5 of us waiting to get in. I guess we didn't need to rush to beat the crowd.

This wouldn't have been a problem though, so what if we are at a near empty event? Just means more beer for us and no wait time, right? Nope. Sorry. 

We approached the first brewery we saw and asked what they were serving. We were told curtly: "we're not serving anything yet, can't you tell we are still setting up!" This same situation repeated itself at 6 other breweries. Here we are at the Beer Fest with our "early access" and we can't get any beer! 

So we thought maybe we should grab some food. Nope. Sorry. Food won't be ready until 5:30 (when the 'general public' gets in).

Eventually we did find someone who would serve us: Descendants. You can see our first beers there down and to the right in our VIP glasses. Glasses that weren't actually just for VIPs, you could just buy one at the gate. Which is probably what we will do next year.

Now another 'bonus' we got for buying VIP passes was access to special VIP only beers which changed every hour. I thought this was pretty awesome and was the 2nd reason I decided to go VIP. 

What I didn't understand is that it literally meant "access." I thought it meant we got to try each of these beers for each hour we were there. As in we got a sample to taste. What it actually meant is that we could buy beer that other people couldn't. That greatly reduced the value of my VIP pass (which I thought was getting me 5 free samples). 

One final complaint about the VIP pass: I'm a big dude (note the title of the blog), we also got T shirts. They didn't have a shirt anywhere near in my size. Now I'm not a huge dude, and I'm pretty sure I saw some other big dudes. You would think at a beer festival they would expect some larger people to be attending.

Okay enough negativity. I make the event sound horrible, and it wasn't. It was actually pretty awesome. I don't regret going at all. We had a great time.

One of the huge improvements over last year was the food. There was the Road Chef food truck that had this awesome Pork and Apple sandwich and some great fried mozzarella. Robbie's Gourmet Sausage was there as was Motorburger. This was so much better than the small appetizers supplied by St. Claire last year.

The beer was also great. There were more brewers than last year and I'm pretty sure the ones that were there were offering more options. There was Beau's, Broadhead, Descendants, Highlander, Hop City, Bayside, Lake of Bays, Mill St., Motor Craft Ales, Railway City, Samuel Adams, St. Ambroise, Walkerville and Wellington. There were also some representatives from a couple local brew pubs that are opening later this year. Based on the pamphlet we were given there were over 70 beers there to try (including the special VIP brews).

The only real complaint I have about the beer is the fact that due to the event being in the middle of October, every single seasonable beer was some form of Pumpkin beer, mostly Pumpkin Ales. I had so many Pumpkin Ales that they all ended up tasting the same. 

I had some really amazing beers. I should say we had some really amazing beers, as my wife is as much a beer fan as I am. Actually I can't think of a single one that I tried I would consider bad. They were all solid brews. Highlights for me were Nightmare on Mill Street from, you guessed it: Mill St. and Ramblin' Roads Dakota Pearl Potato Ale.

One bonus of getting there early was that there was no crowd. By about 9pm that changed. Man did it get busy. Then it rained. 

That leads me to another awesome improvement over last year's event: the tent! The middle of the 'fest area was covered in a very large tent that even had heaters under it. That was so much better than freezing out in the open last year. I will admit it got a bit crowded, especially when the rain hit, but my wife and I never had a problem finding a place to sit.

The weekend before this event there was another craft beer event. That one was in LaSalle and I  had heard a few horror stories. Stories about rude loud drunk patrons, fights and people demanding free beer. I saw none of that here at the Walkerville event. Everyone we met and saw was polite and just there to enjoy some good beer, just like we were. I don't think I heard a raised voice (well except for everyone trying to talk over the extremely loud music).

That was also a change from last year. Music. Loud music. Most of Friday night was a couple guys playing the same set of German drinking songs over and over each set. That was a tad annoying. The volume seemed way too loud as well. Kind of felt like I was in a bar and having a conversation with my wife meant shouting. These guys were replaced with a local bluegrass band that was fine. Take it or leave it, didn't seem to really fit the theme of the event. I would have personally liked to have heard some Celtic Pub songs. Say by, The Shannon Bros. 

Overall, if you like beer at all, especially good Ontario Craft beer, I strongly recommend checking out this event next year. I'll be there as will my wife. 

The only thing I do want to warn you about is that the VIP pass may not be worth it. It definitely wasn't worth it for us this year. Maybe next year they will offer something a bit better though. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Support local Scouting with some amazing popcorn

Anyone interested in some Scout Popcorn?

My oldest daughter is a Beaver and her Troop is raising money by selling gourmet popcorn and I'm looking you, my friends, family and colleagues for support.

60% of the proceeds go to Scouts Canada. More importantly to me and my girl is that all of that goes right to Gwen's Troop: the 44th, and 20% of that goes directly to my daughter to pay for gear, camping, trips etc.

The delivery date is mid to late November and I'm sure we can figure out some way to get your popcorn to you. Just send me an email or comment below to tell me what you would like.

Friday, August 8, 2014

#FoodPornFriday Went downtown for a personal favourite: Terra Cotta

Up late for a Twitter Party and just realized that it's turned into #FoodPornFriday!

This past week my wife and I headed downtown to one of our favourite places to eat: Terra Cotta Pizza.  It had been far too long since we've been there. I think it was a bit over a year ago. Which is a shame.

While I was slightly disappointed that they no longer server Okanagan Spring beer on tap (for some reason it went with their pizza so well) the food was as amazing as ever.

If you dig fresh hot wood oven pizza you have got to check this place out. Call for reservations and head down there on a Tuesday and you can even get 2 for 1.

Friday, August 1, 2014

#FoodPornFriday Take-out isn't just for Pizza and Chinese - India Palace

For this week's #FoodPornFriday post I figured I would feature some take-out. Now normally when people think take-out they think Pizza (especially here in Windsor and with good reason) or Chinese food. Actually we do the traditional take-out often enough that every time we go to order I wrack my brain for something different. 

One of my favourite forms of 'something different' is Indian and the best place to get Indian food in Windsor is: India Palace. This rather tiny place is easy to overlook at their location at 1167 Ottawa Street across from Lansbury Park. I have to admit I've never eaten in there but I do like to get take-out from there.

I became interested in Indian food because of the TV show Red Dwarf. One of the characters, Lister, is obsessed with Curries, specifically Vindaloos. One of the episodes even has the crew fight a Vindaloo monster. At some point quite a few years back I went into India Palace and told them: "I want a Lamb Vindaloo and some other stuff. For someone eating Indian for the first time what would you recommend."

While I don't remember exactly what we got back then, I do know that the meal included Butter Chicken and Garlic Naan as those are the two things we enjoyed the most and ended up on the 'order every time' list. Along with those I still get Lamb Vindaloo every time. Other than that we mix it up. 

What you see up there at the top is the Lamb Vindaloo on the left, the Butter Chicken at the bottom and Paneer Masala at the top. This all surrounds a portion of the largest serving of fried rice I've ever seen. Seriously, check it out, it's over there on the right. Added to the insanity of that portion, my wife and I ordered two! Never again.

One heads up about India Palace and Indian food in general, for those who haven't tried it. It's HOT! Hot as in spicy. Every dish we ordered here besides the rice had some serious bite to it. Personally I enjoy this (at least while eating it, not as much the next day). You can let them know how hot you would like it, but even medium is pretty hot. 

So the next time you are sitting at home thinking "I don't feel like cooking, let's get take-out", forget the traditional Pizza and Chinese and try something new. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

#FoodPornFriday I've heard good things about Panera Bread and finally got to try them

I've been hearing good things about Panera Bread for a few years now. For example +Robin Laws has noted that he does most of his writing while sitting in a Panera in Toronto on his Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff podcast. I've been wanting to check them out for a long time but it just never worked out.

The main reason it never worked out is that you won't find a Panera Bread anywhere in Windsor. Actually I would have to drive to Oakville to get to the nearest one in Canada (that's like 3 hours away from here).

So where did I finally find a Panera? On the Ohio Turnpike, on the way to Pittsburgh.

Does it live up to the hype? I would say: "mostly". I will admit I had really high expectations, probably way to high for what is really a fast food chain. It was good, actually it was a bit better than good, it just wasn't great. I enjoyed my Ham & Cheese Sandwich on a Provolone Bagel with a side of French Onion Soup. I loved the fact that I could have gotten it on about 8 other kinds of bread and I could have gotten many other things besides soup (IIRC I had four soup choices as well). I also really loved the brownie that I was too busy eating to take a picture of. It was much better than your average fast food, that's for sure.

If there was a Panera Bread here locally I'm pretty sure I would go their fairly often. Free Wi-Fi and decent food with lots of customization. I dig it.

It's that time of the week again. #FoodPornFriday! Who's going to link up with me?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Burger Battle: Motor Vs. Mamo

There's a battle raging right now in Windsor. A burger battle. On one front you have Motor Burger and onthe other front you have Mamo Burger Bar.

In case you haven't noticed, Windsor has become a battle zone of amazing burger joints. We've had Bubi's and Gilligan's for a while now but now there are tons of amazing burgers around the city at places like Joe Schmoe's and the Bull n Barrel. Two of the newest entries onto the field of battle, and my personal favorites, are Motor Burger and Mamo Burger Bar

Motor Burger

Motor Burger is located in the heart of Via Italia, Windsor's Little Italy, at 888 Erie Street. Awarded the Reader's Digest Canada's "Best Gourmet Burger" medal in 2012 and followed up with their "You Gotta Eat Here" stripes the next year, Motor Burger comes to the field well decorated.

You will find fifteen different burgers on the menu. These are all gourmet burgers made with a huge variety of fresh ingredients and toppings. My favourite is the Autostrada (Chipotle rubbed northern Italian sausage, gorgonzola cheese, sliced apple slaw), the wife loves the Twin Barracudas (2 panko encrusted haddock sliders, creamy cajun slaw, cheddar cheese, pickle). All of these are available single or supercharged. Supercharged means a scary amount of burger as they toss a second patty on there.

Supporting these fifteen lieutenants are the best damn sides in the city. Truly amazing onion rings. Sweet potato fries. Poutine and some of the greatest Mac & Cheese in the city. There are also some salads for those of you who forgot you went to a burger joint. Oh, and some great starters too, not that you really need them, a bowl of rings and a burger fills this Big Dude right up, but if you are a glutton for punishment grab the Chili Spring Rolls (chorizo chile & black bean, lime, smoked cheese, sour cream).

Added to all this great food Motor Burger has one more thing going for it. It's also an Ontario Craft Brewer. Yep you read that right. Motor Craft Ales is brewed specifically for Motor Burger. I could so use a pint of Dragula right now.

Mamo Burger Bar

Mamo Burger Bar can be found at 1515 Ottawa Street. The previous location of Sweet T's Southern Cooking and before that Smoke n' Spice. Actually Mamo was opened by the same owners and they have a real hit here.

Mamo has only ten lieutenants in their army but they back it up with a lot more support troops. The ten signature burgers are all tradition beef burgers. Well somewhat traditional. They get the meat from Shawn Morris Farms (better known as The Butcher of Kingsville), ground fresh that day. While it's not the variety you get at some other places in the city, this is the most tasty beef burger patty I've ever had. Added to those patties are some of the greatest topping combos ever. Personally I can never decide between the Wakin' & Bacon (cheddar, house bacon, fried egg & bacon jam) or The Daddy Mac (House made mac & cheese, smoked pull pork & caramelized onions).

Alongside those burgers are a couple of different sets of sides. Standard ones and deluxe specialist troops that cost a bit more to muster. These include fries, garlic fries, tater tots, Caesar salad on the low end and poutine, chili cheese fries and fried pickles for the elite troops.

There are also quite a few non-burger items on Mamo's menu. There are those same confusing salads (seriously, who goes to a burger joint to get a salad?), turkey sandwiches, pulled pork, chicken tenders, soup and chili and more. It's definitely a much more diverse set of troops.

The beer selection at Mamo isn't so bad either. Sure it's not brewed right there but they do have an Ontario Craft Beer menu and they mix up the taps pretty good.

My thoughts on the war

Both of these competitors have something amazing to bring to the battle. I think the sides at Motor Burger are some of the best in the city, if not the best. My kids love it as well, they can't get enough of the mac & cheese. I love the burgers too but I have to give an edge to Mamo Burger there. Given the choice I would choose a Daddy Mac over an Autostrada more often then not. But then Motor Burger brews their own beer, I really like beer. It's crowded though and Mamo feels more relaxed. Wait I know what will decide this battle: price! No wait that doesn't work, a burger and side at Motor Burger will cost you about $12-15. A burger at Mamo costs about the same and comes with side.

You know who really wins this battle? All of us, the people of Windsor, by having such amazing burgers made right here in our backyard.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

#FoodPornFriday The best Crêpes I've ever had came from Pittsburgh

Today's #FoodPornFriday pic comes from Pittsburgh.

Before our tip to Pittsburgh a few weeks back I posted on Google+ asking people from the area what we should try to make sure we did on our trip. The first thing that came up was Primanti Bros. I already wrote about that amazing place. The second thing that was mentioned was Pamela's Diner for breakfast. 

I was warned to expect a long wait and that when I got there I had to try the hot cakes. Quite a few more people jumped into the thread and said the same. Everyone kept going on about the hot cakes with many people noting how unique they are.

Well when I got there I found that people in Pittsburgh haven't really heard of crêpes. That's what these hot cakes were, crêpes. Crêpes are pretty common here in Canada, more so the further north you go. So at first I was a bit disappointed. Then I tried them.

OMG they were so good! I have no idea what they do different down there but these were the best damn crêpes I've ever had. Actually they were the best grilled breakfast item I've ever had. Better then all pancakes and even waffles (I really love waffles. Not the Belgian kind, the kind with the small holes). 

I have to agree with my followers on G+, if you are ever in Pittsburgh you owe it to yourself do at least two things. Get a sandwich from Primanti Bros and try some hot cakes cêpes from Pamela's.

It's #FoodPornFriday and I'm looking for other blogs to join in the fun an link up with me. I'm going to be posting one of these every week and you should stop by and link up. I want to see your awesome pictures! For the faint of heart feel free to use #FoodPicFriday 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fries, slaw, cheese and tomato on every sandwich at Primanti Bros #FoodPornFriday

This fine # FoodPornFridayI find myself in Pittsburgh PA on a family vacation/media trip. We're down here for three days and being shown the sights. Today was our first day and the first place they took us is a world famous restaurant called Primanti Bros. They are a chain now with multiple locations, but we hit up the original in a neighbourhood called The Strip.

Primanti Bros. makes sandwiches. Big damn sandwiches. Big damn sandwiches with fries, cheese, coleslaw and tomato on them. I think the menu had some other stuff, chilli and a few different ways to order just fries but the reason you go to Primanti is for sandwiches.

What you see here is their current featured sandwich: When Pigs Fly which had turkey, ham and bacon piled high and topped with fried egg. Of course it also had tomato, cheese, fries and slaw. It was fantastic and I totally get why everyone told me I had to try this place when I told them I would be here.

Do you have a blog with a drool worthy food post? Why not join in the #FoodPornFriday fun and link up with us?

Friday, June 20, 2014

#FoodPornFriday and Barley's Brewing Company review

There was a reason I didn't post a #FoodPornFriday post last week. That reason was the Origins Game Fare. Origins is the second largest gaming convention in North America and last weekend was my first time attending. It was awesome.

I knew there would be lots of cool games to play but I didn't realize that there would also be some amazing food to eat and great beer to drink. One of the best places we found while we were down there was Barley's Brewing Company. This brew pub was literally right across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center where Origins was being held.

We initially hit Barley's on Thursday night. The place was recommended to me from some friends on Google Plus and there was also a deal where we could get a free pint glass with a coupon we received at registration. Now I had heard good things but I had no idea what kind of treat we were in for.

The place was very large relaxed and casual. The front half was taken up by a bar area you actually have to walk past to be seated. There's lots of stool seating up front with lots of window seats overlooking downtown. The back half is a very comfy dining area. Lots of tall wooden booths and wide tables down the middle. The place just looked like a brew pub, and that's not just because the actual brewing equipment could be seen to the left of the bar when you walk in.

Let's talk about the beer first. Barley's offered eight different draft beers all brewed right there on site. In addition they had two cask ales available when we were there. These are limited and when they run out they are gone until the next batch. They had actually run out of one of them by the time we left Sunday. Along with their own beers Barley's also has four guest taps. All of these were Ohio local craft beers.

During our trip we managed to try five of Barley's great beers. By far our favourite was Alexander's Russian Imperial Stout. That beer just blew me away.

There was even a special beer brewed just for the Origins Game Fare: Point of Origin. This was a good Belgian style golden ale but just wasn't nearly as good as the Stout.

The food menu was a mix of local favorites and traditional pub food. You could get fried pickles and scotch eggs or Bavarian Pretzels and Chili to start. There were some gourmet hot dogs listed followed by some wraps. I was tempted by the Deep South Dog (Beef dog, applewood smoked bacon, fried pickle, shredded lettuce, cusabi slaw, diced tomatoes and remoulade sauce on a soft roll) the two times we were there.  There are lots of different sandwiches and then a selection of gourmet burgers that reminded me of Motoburger. The entree list is where I stopped each time we went though. So many amazing sounding things.

Based on the menu here and at other local places we stopped I have to assume that there is a large eastern European population in Columbus. There were Bavarian pretzels, schnitzel, pierogi and sauages to be had eveywhere. One of the burgers here was served with pierogi on it! As I mentioned in the post about Matryoshka, I'm Ukranian and grew up on food like this and I love it.

The first trip I tried the Pierogi and Sausage. That's what you can see in the big pic at the top of the post. Cheddar potato pierogi, sauteed onions, brown butter, bratwurst, kielbasa and chorizo sausage. The pierogi were obviously made right there and they were also boiled and not just fried. It was fantastic. My wife tried the Ale House Crab Cakes and enjoyed them. 

Based on how good our first meal was we also choose to hit Barley's as our last stop before leaving town. We tried a couple more beers (If you like wit beers I highly recommend the Blood Thirst Wheat) and we tried a couple different entrees. Based on  how good my initial meal was my wife went with the Polski Feast (grilled sausage trio, sauerkraut balls, pierogies, sauerkraut, garlic toast and pale ale mustard) and I went with the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf (beef and pork, wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, with garlick mashed potatoes, veg, onion strings and tomato gravy).

Last weekend rocked! One of the best vacations I've ever taken. Lots of awesome gaming and some unexpectedly awesome food that included Barley's Brewing Company.

Have some #FoodPorn of your own? Why not link up with us!

Friday, June 6, 2014

This weeks #FoodPornFriday comes from last Friday at Sam's Pizzeria

Last weekend was the North American Sport & Hobby Expo. Friday night after load out, my wife and I were exhausted. It felt like we had just moved house. To me moving house, or at least helping someone move house means pizza & beer. So when we finished for the day I had a huge craving for Windsor Style Pizza and a pitcher of beer.

After talking about it for quite sometime we decided that the best place to get the experience I wanted was Sam's Pizzeria way out on the west end. While it was a rather long drive from the WFCU center, it was so good. It was exactly what I wanted.

Every Friday is #FoodPornFriday at the Big Dude's abode. You are welcome to join in, just use the linky below. Heck I'll even let you use #FoodPicFriday if you really want.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A short #FoodPornFriday post today, featuring Jack's

This weekend is the North American Sport & Hobby Expo. I will be there all weekend representing the Windsor Gaming Resource. As part of this I'm helping host a Settlers of Catan Tournament and the fifth annual Windsor Great Canadian Board Game Blitz. Due to this, I'm a bit too busy to write a long post.

This delightful lunch comes from Jack's Gastropub and features their amazing Cheddar, Onion & Ale Soup with a Canadian Club. It was even better than it looks.

Have some #Foodporn to share for #FoodPornFriday? Link up with us:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This #FoodPornFriday features Klueless Cupcakes

Last weekend my wife and I celebrated our anniversary with a staycation (I still hate that word). I took a couple days off work and we shipped the kids off to my mother-in-law's for the weekend. One of the days all we did was kind of meander around Windsor and check out cool looking places we had never been before. We took a drive down Erie Street, aka Via Italia and spent some time in Walkerville.

While in Walkerville we stopped in at a little bake shop called Klueless Cupcakes. I've driven by the place many times and I'm always tempted by the signs out front advertising a wide variety of great sounding treats. That day the sign said Cookies & Cream Cupcakes. I'm a sucker for Cookies & Cream. Ever since Baskin Robins introduced Oreo Cookies & Cream as a new flavour I've been hooked. I had to check this out.

Klueless Cupcakes is small, very small. Just a counter and three small tables (that were sadly full up when we were there). They mainly offer cupcakes. Which I guess makes sense. I was expecting a wider variety, though thinking about it I think it's cool that they are so specialized. The cupcakes were only $2 each and I ordered my Cookies & Cream Cupcake.

One thing I thought was rather neat was the single cupcake container this thing came in. Actually the picture I'm sharing for this weeks #FoodPornFriday was taken in the car as I just thought the container was too cool. Well that and the fact the cupcake looked so damn good.

Good it was. Actually it's probably the best cupcake I've had here in Windsor. It was so moist and so good. I suggest checking this place out when you have some time. Next time I'm in the area I'd like to stay and get a coffee, if they have room for us.

Have some #FoodPorn of your own to share? Link up with us!

Friday, May 9, 2014

I bought cheese on the Internet for #FoodPornFriday

A little while back a good online friend of mine, +Brad Murray, posted a picture on google+ of some cheese he was snaking on. It was posted with this comment:
"I am eating smoked Turkish string cheese with beer, just as they do in Russian bars."
Cheese meant to be eaten along with beer that looked really damn good. I just had to find out more. So I asked about it and Brad pointed me to a wiki article. This one: and a site where I could buy the cheese online:

Ends up the whole thing was a kickstarter last year. A US company was trying to recreate an experience they tried when in Europe. The kickstarter did rather well and the company was founded. This eventually let to me ordering cheese over the internet.

Here is one braid of Chechil cheese all torn apart with a Brooklyn Octoberfest to accompany it. Really, Chechil was made to go with a pilsner but I didn't have any in the house. The cheese is very salty with a nice smoked aftertaste. It's a bit chewy and really needs to be pulled into strings like this. It's squeaky too. I so love squeaky cheese. The entire taste is actually a bit overpowering until you take a swig of beer. That somehow resets the pallet and has you craving more. Of course the salty taste of the cheese makes you want more beer. It's a bit of a viscous circle and I can totally see why a bar would put this out instead of say peanuts like you see here.

I got an email yesterday showing that they have something new on Kickstarter: Chechil Cheese Bites. These are little balls of cheese, that actually look a lot like peanuts. I have to admit I'm very tempted to try this as well.

Have any #FoodPorn to share for #FoodPornFriday? If so, then why not link up with us?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I took a chance at Mamo Burger for #FoodPornFriday

Last time we went to Mamo Burger Bar I decided to take a chance.

There are two burgers there I absolutely love. The first is the Wakin' & Bacon, which has Cheddar, House Bacon, Fried Egg & and this totally amazing stuff they call Bacon Jam. The second is The Daddy Mac with House Made Mac & Cheese, Smoked Pulled Pork & Caramelized Onions. Normally every time we go to Mamo I swap up between these two amazing burgers. One trip I have the Daddy Mac, the next a Wakin' & Bacon. Last time though, I wanted to try something different.

Why do I say I took a chance? Well because I ordered a burger with stuff on it I don't like. Not just one thing either. What I ordered this time was The Itallian Job. It has Fried Salami, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Basil Mayo, Pickled Red Onion and Vine Ripened Tomatoes. It's those last two ingredients that make me cringe. I don't like red onions or anything pickeled, and to me tomato is great cooked in things but not raw. You know what though? This was amazing!

Ordering stuff I don't normally like when it's combined with stuff I do is something I've slowly learned to do. I think the first lesson came from finding out I love sushi. Sushi is odd, if you take all the individual bits, separately, it sounds disgusting to me. It's stuff I wouldn't eat if you paid me. But put it all together, and POW! it just works and works so well. This burger is like Sushi. The individual bits don't sound so great to me but man were they great together.

It's #FoodPornFriday and you should join in the fun. Link up with us and share your most desirable food of week. For the weak of heart you can use #FoodPicFriday if you prefer. I won't laugh, in public.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Of course I had to share fish for today's #FoodPornFriday

Seeing as it's Good Friday I figured I had to share some fish for today's #FoodPornFriday. The problem with this is that I don't generally like fish. I'll have the occasional tuna sandwich but I don't like cod, haddock or perch. I don't even like it beer battered and deep fried. 

At first I was thinking I was going to have to share one of my wife's pictures. She's a huge fish fan and I'm pretty sure I've got a picture of the Perch lunch from The Twisted Apron. It was while I was looking for that picture that I noticed all the pictures of all of the awesome Sushi we've gotten around town. Hey! Sushi has lots of fish!

I don't really get it myself. How I can loath most fish and fish meals but love Sushi. I don't like most of the other stuff that goes in sushi either. Cucumber, blech. Avocado, no way. Salmon Roe, fish eggs, come on!?! But put all together with some rice and I love it.

This particularly awesome fishy platter full of fishy sushi comes from The Sushi California.

Did you make or get some Fish today? Why not join in the #FoodPornFriday fun and share it with us! Link up below.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Today's #FoodPornFriday post comes from Russia, right here in Windsor

There was a Groupon out recently for a new place in town called Matryoshka the Taste of Russia. I'm of Ukrainian descent and for the very early years of my life I ate a lot of Ukrainian food. Things like Pirogi, Cabbage Rolls, lots of beats and even Borscht soup. These foods are still comfort foods for me and probably always will be. So after checking out the menu on their facebook page, I just had to try Matryoshka.

I made sure to bring my parents as they were obviously a big part of those early memories and I thought my Dad especially would like some food like his mom used to make.

The place is small, right off of Maiden Lane downtown. There is only one staff member, or at least there was only one when we were there. She sat us, took our order, brought us our drinks and cooked our meals. From scratch. Seriously from scratch. Like she made the dough for the Pirogi while we were waiting. It was somewhat odd and took a very long time (which wasn't so hot with the kids) but the food was rather good.

I haven't had fresh made Pirogi like this in years. Sure I can get 'fresh' ones from the European Deli on Walker but they aren't fresh like this. I just had to share these for #FoodPornFriday

Do you have any food that just scream HOME? Have some cool #FoodPorn to share? Link up with us. A growing number of blogs have been joining in every week.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thanks to Twitter I found Vesta #FoodPornFriday

This weeks #FoodPornFriday picture comes from Vesta Pizzeria & Antipasto Bar (sorry no link, they don't seem to get social media or the modern need for a web presence).

Just about two weeks ago my wife and I were blessed with a kid free night. Our first impulse was to book a night at Jack's Gastropub. That place is awesome, one of my favourite (semi-)local places to eat. So I shouldn't have been surprised that they were booked up.

With Jack's not an option. I wasn't sure what to do. So I did what every modern social media user would do: I posted on twitter.  I asked "Have a kid free night. What should we do for dinner?"

I got a bunch of great suggestions including Twisted Apron and Motor Burger. Included with the replies was one from @PearlShandy, who suggested Vesta and noted it was a personal favourite. I've never heard of Vesta. There aren't many places in the city I haven't heard of so I did what every modern internet user would do: to the Googles! 

A short search showed me that Vesta was known as one of the best places in the city to get pizza. How the heck did I not know about some place that supposedly has the best pizza in the city? Well I couldn't let that stand. We had to check this place out.

This right here was the amazing Carne pizza I had. The perfectly cooked crust we covered in sauce, mozzarella, sopressata, panchetta and Itallian sausage. I don't know about the best pizza in the city claim. There's a ton of great pizza here, but it was very good. Will definitely be going back sometime.

Have some #FoodPorn to share? Link up with us! If you don't like the P word, we won't laugh, you can use #FoodPicFriday

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This week's #FoodPornFriday post comes all the way from Toronto

Two weekends ago I took the family up to Toronto. This was our first trip with the entire family. We stayed at the Eaton Chelsea (used to be the Delta Chelsea). I've always liked the place due to being right downtown in the middle of everything. It's right off Young Street just a bit south of the Eaton center (just past the World' Biggest Bookstore, a place I loved growing up).

As part of our stay, the Eaton Chelsea was awesome enough to throw in complimentary dinner at their Bb33 Bistro & Brasserie restaurant. This is one of three dining areas at the Chelsea and the most high end of the three. Something I was worried about with the kids. For no reason.

The place was great with the kids. Even awesome enough to bring the kids food early so they didn't have to wait as long. I don't think I've ever had better service for our girls. That was awesome.

Even more awesome though was the food. They had a great kids menu that wasn't just frozen fish sticks and chicken fingers. Fresh prepared Grilled Cheese (with real cheese, not processed crap), Pasta, personal pizzas and more. The normal, adult menu was filled with lots of great sounding meals all made with local foods as much as possible. What you see here was the house steak, served with garlic mash, local mushroom gravy, veg of the day and onion crisps. It was the best steak I have had for some time.

Have a great looking food picture of your own to share? Link up with me and join in the #FoodPornFriday fun.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

That's no Kraft Dinner #FoodPornFriday

That right there, in that drool worthy #FoodPornFriday picture, is the best Mac & Cheese I've ever tried. Sadly it wasn't even mine.

What you see was the Macaroni and Cheese of The Day for yesterday at The Twisted Apron. Yes you read that correctly. Mac & Cheese of the Day. I'll say it again:

Mac   &   Cheese   of   the   Day

That's right, the amazing chefs at The Twisted Apron come up with awesome new Mac & Cheese every single day! This particular beauty was Ham and Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese and it was divine. Oh it had some green stuff next to it, with some fresh apple and nuts and stuff on it. I didn't pay much attention to that. This huge plate of food only costs $12 and you can get it all day as it's on both the lunch and dinner menu.

We went to The Twisted Apron to celebrate my wife's birthday. This is is what we ordered for the kids. I managed to grab a picture before I dug into it with that spoon and split it over a couple of plates for them. They devoured the stuff. I was lucky enough to get a small taste in without having a finger bitten off. 

We've gone to The Apron many times but this is the first time I've ever tasted their Mac & Cheese and let me tell you: it won't be the last.

Try anything awesome this week? Get a picture of it? Link up below and join in the #FoodPornFriday fun.