Friday, December 7, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - Good Indian food, at the mall?

Today for #FoodPornFriday I'm featuring a Hurry Curry which can be found at the Devonshire Mall Foodcourt.

Good food in a food court? Yep, it can be a thing. Actually, for years there has been a Niko Sushi booth at Devonshire that offered some of the best Sushi in the city, so it's not as rare as you might think.

They have been doing a ton of renovations on the old mall and part of that is a completely new rebuilt food court. I have to admit it's pretty impressive looking. It's also better organized, managed and kept much cleaner. With the move and construction quite a few new restaurants have been added and so far Hurry Curry is my favourite.

So what you see here is the Meat Thali or meat combo. You pick 2 Meat, 1 Veg, get rice, Salad with Raita, Naan and a Gulab Jamun ball. The meats are Butter Chicken and Beef Vindaloo and the veg is Aloo Gobhi.

Every piece of this meal except the rice was excellent. The rice wasn't bad, but it was very plain. Which isn't really a problem as I ended up eating everything else on top of it so by the end it was soaked in three different sauces.

It's not often I'm going to recommend you eat at a Food Court but in this case, I think Hurry Curry is worth it. Though you may want to wait until January. The mall is a bit nuts right now.

Note: Hurry Curry is a chain, with most of the locations located in the GTA with at least one location in Hamilton. So even those of you not from Windsor may get a chance to check them out. Of course, I also can't be sure that the ones not in Windsor are as good as ours.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Found a new breakfast spot for #FoodPornFriday

The Lunch Reporter gets credit for today's #FoodPornFriday post. Cathy not only shares the amazing food she's found and eaten over on Facebook but also supports all of the local places by sharing their content. It was one of her shares, that got me to try Potka's Kitchen

Potka's Kitchen is a small greasy spoon located in the middle of an industrial park out in Tecumseh off Highway 22. It's the same plaza you will find The Sushi Bar. The actual address is 480 Advance Blvd, unit number 235.

They only do breakfast and lunch and close every day at 2pm. They do open early, at 6am and if you can get there that early (before 7) you get a sweet buy 1 get 1 half off discount on your breakfast.

Before going I had heard that the things to try were their breakfast skillets and their pierogies. As we went early in the day both my wife and I opted for skillets.

I got the corned beef and swiss skillet and my wife got the Reuben skillet. We were both very impressed. It's eggs how you want them on top of hasbrowned potatoes grilled with onion and lots of sweet peppers. Also includes a bit of fruit and your choice of toast.

The prices are extremely reasonable. Skillets are under $10. 2 Pancakes can be had for under $5, A greek Omelette is $8, etc.

We were both very impressed and looking forward to going back.

Friday, October 26, 2018

My secret for making great pizza at home - #FoodPornFriday

I'm staying home for #FoodPornFriday this week.

Today I'm sharing pizzas, pizzas I made at home. I decided to share this as these particular pizzas have turned out better than any other any of us have ever made at home. I thought people would be interested to learn what I used to make such great pies.

The first thing you need is Stonefire Artisan Flatbread. Costco started carrying this and it comes in a five pack which is perfect for us as there are five of us in the family.

Up next is the pizza sauce. Over the years we have tried a lot of different pizza sauces. One of our favourites was one that came in a baggie in the Kraft Pizza Kit. I've now found something we all like even better. This is Mutti Pizza Sauce with Spices.

I think anyone who regularly follows this blog knows the next important ingredient. It's one of the main things that makes Windsor Style Pizza so damn good. That's Part Skim Mozzarella from Galati Cheese. If you don't live in Windsor, I'm sorry. I can't help you out here.

The last secret, one I figured out when making Pizza Bombs is to toss the meat into your skillet for a bit before putting them on your pizza. For the pepperoni specifically, I wait until they curl and the edges are a bit crispy.

As for the rest of the ingredients that's all up to you. That's what makes this such a perfect meal for our family as everyone can have exactly what they want. My wife has recently become of fan of adding yellow zucchini to her pizza. Personally, I stuck to meats with lots of cheese.

As far as cooking goes, I used the instructions on the back of the Stonefire bread. 425F for about 10 minutes. 

I found it takes an extra 5-10 minutes or so depending on how many toppings you put on. In general, I just put the pizza in the oven and watch for the cheese to get just a tiny bit browned.

Friday, October 19, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - A chicken, fried bread and pasta monstrosity

Look at this thing. Just look at it. It's insane. This may be the largest thing I've ever featured for #FoodPornFriday 

Last night the family went out for dinner. Our initial plans fell through and we ended up out in the far West side of Windsor. We sat for a bit in a parking lot trying to decide where to go mainly thinking about places on that end of town. We eventually decided on Piccolo's Pizza and Pasta House.

It's been a long time since any of us had been to Piccolo's. I'm pretty sure D was still nursing little G at the time. It is somewhere we used to go now and then when we lived in the west end and somewhere we used to go often when it was The Pizza Merchant. I miss The Pizza Merchant and their all you could eat Pizza Bar. 

Piccolo's is a high end, fancy, Italian restaurant, that probably would fit in better on Erie St. rather than at 2135 Tecumseh Rd. W. They have a fantastic selection of pasta and pasta based dishes as well as Windsor Style Pizza. They make everything to order (including freshly made pasta) and are proud of this fact. You won't get a quick meal here, expect 2 hours (at least) for your dinner if you go to Piccolo's. It's also not cheap, most items on the menu are $19.95 or $25 a serving. They do have a good kids menu (10 and under) that's only $7 a plate.

Now I haven't really been talking about it here but this Big Dude is currently trying to become a Smaller Dude (who still likes food). So I avoided the Pizza. I skipped the Panzerotti. I was tempted by the Stromboni, which is something you can only get here. It's like a panzerotti, it's dough stuffed with pizza toppings that are first fried and then baked. Kind of like a twisted up calzone. It's rather good, but that's not what I ordered. I was trying to be good so I ordered the Cheesy Cheddar Chicken.

The pictures you see here are what showed up. Not at all what I was expecting. I think a Panzerotti would have been smaller and healthier. I couldn't get over how massive this plate of food I was served was.

Here's the description from the menu: "A mound of Cappellini baked on top of Piccolo's fresh fried dough strip covered in cheesy cheddar sauce with strips of sauteed chicken breast smothered in a blend of three cheeses."

Okay maybe I'm not great at making the healthy choices yet :D I did expect it to be somewhat better than double cheese meat pizza.

The image in my mind from that description did not match at all what I was served. I expected some bread, a thin layer of crusty bread, with pasta on it. On the pasta some chicken and on that chicken some cheesy sauce. I was not expecting this burrito-like wrap of fried bread around pasta and chicken soaking in thick sauce. 

There was enough food on my plate to feed all five of us. I ended up bringing most of it home.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Niko isn't just for sushi - #FoodPornFriday

I've shared pics from Niko Sushi for #FoodPornFriday in the past, but every picture I've ever shared has been sushi. For good reason. Niko makes the best sushi in the city.

Now that my mom lives with us we eat out together a lot more often. My wife and I tried to get my mom into sushi and we even got her to admit that she actually likes some rolls. The problem is that she has a thing about wanting her food hot. This is true of all meals. If she's not sitting down to a plate of food with steam still wafting off it, she's not truly happy.

So while she did admit she liked some of the sushi she tried, she also insists she would prefer something cooked and well, hotter.

So the last time at Niko we gave up. The rest of the family got some amazing sushi and we got my mom Teriyaki Chicken. That's it up there at the top of the page. I have to say, it looked, smelled and (according to my mom) tasted amazing.

So here's a hot tip for you: it's not just the sushi that is amazing at Niko.

Friday, October 5, 2018

#FoodPornFriday featuring the new Mexican place in Tecumseh: El Guaco

Today #FoodPornFriday post features El Guaco, a new Mexican & Taquila Bar place that opened up in Tecumseh.

This particular close up is of the kids beef bowl. Ground beef, cilantro lime rice, black beans, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, house blend cheese and avocado. Big G loved it.

We've been back to El Guaco a few times now and have always been very happy with the meals and the service. Our new favourite thing is to order the El Guaco Platter which is enough for for three adults and two kids as long as you toss in an appetizer (I recommend the Quesofundido).

Friday, September 28, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - Eat Your City at Rino's

Yes, I've been gone for a while. I'm busy launching something new. Something gaming. Something I call Tabletop Bellhop. You can check it out at if you are so inclined.

But this week at least I found some time to come back over here to do a #FoodPornFriday post.

Today's post is going to be a bit unique. Instead of sharing one pick I'm going to share a three-course meal. An amazing three-course meal I had at Rino's Kitchen as part of Eat Your City Restaraunt Week.

First Course Salad:

Smoked Potato with Bacon

Second Course Tacos:

Beef. Dressed with garlic aioli, guacamole, lettuce and mango salsa.

Third Course Marinated Grilled Skewers:


This was by far one of the best meals I've eaten in 2018. I don't go to Rino's often but every time I do it's fantastic. This trip was no exception. Added to the great food I got to try a few new awesome Ontario Craft Beers.

If you haven't been yet you really do need to try out Rino's.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Pork-upines in a Skillet - A super simple one pan recipe

Now here's a style of blog post I haven't written in a long time. This #FoodPornFriday I share something I cooked myself. It's something I'm calling Pork-upines in a Skillet.

Now I am not what anyone would call a cook in any way. I didn't just make this up off the top of my head. It's based on a recipe called Porcupines In A Skillet I found over at Thirty Handmade Days. One of the main things I changed was using Ground Pork instead of Ground Beef, thus the name change.

The great thing about this dish was how easy it was to make and how quickly it came together. Then there was the bonus of it tasting damn good. I got a lot of compliments on this one from the family. My only mistake was not making enough.

Stuff you need:

1lb Ground Pork
1.5 Cup Water
1 package of seasoning (I used Club House Superburger. The original just used onion soup mix).
A few pinches of other seasonings to kick it up a notch (I used Old El Paso Burrito)
1 cup of Jasmine Rice (not instant rice)
1 can of tomatoes (next time I would use 2)
A bunch of Shredded Cheese (I used Kirkland Tex-Mex from Costco)

So here's how you make it:

Brown about a pound of ground pork
Drain if needed (the thing with pork is you probably won't have to, I didn't)
Toss everything but cheese in with the browned pork.
Turn skillet down to low, cover and cook about 35 minutes until rice is cooked.
Serve and cover with shredded cheese to taste.

That's it. Seriously. The entire thing is: brown meat, toss everything else in there and simmer for half an hour. It couldn't be easier.

What I would change next time:

The biggest problem was that it wasn't enough food for five of us. Three adults and two kids. I'm thinking I may just double everything but I'm not sure my skillet is big enough for that. I will definitely add more tomatoes and some other veggies. I'm thinking green pepper and onion will go well. It didn't feel like it needed more meat but more rice wouldn't have hurt. 

If you try this recipe out please let me know how it turns out. If you try anything new with it I would love to hear about that too.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Salmon Pizza from Vittorio's for #FoodPornFriday

Okay I know I just featured Vittorio's Slice of Italy for #FoodPornFriday a few weeks ago, but come on, look at this pizza my wife was served last night! I couldn't pass on the chance to share this beauty. 

I don't even like salmon (except in sushi) and I'm so so on arugula but I have to say that the Salmon Pizza (#21) that my wife got last night for dinner looked damn appealing. Besides smoked salmon and arugula this pie also has melted mozzarella, fresh tomato, and fresh mozzarella. 

17. Contadina
The rest of the pizzas the family ordered were equally good, though may not be as appetizing looking. I went with the Contadina (#17) which had Mozzarella, bacon, sausage, and potato. My dad went for a Jessica (#15) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, pepperoni and sausage. My mom stuck to basics and got a Pepperoni (#2) but had them add green peppers. Little G tried something a bit more unique, a Patate (#10) with mozzarella, potatoes, egg, and sausage. 

Overall the entire family is still enjoying Vittorios and they still get a strong recommendation for me. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - Our anniversary staycation at The Grove Hotel

Today's #FoodPornFriday I flashback to our Wedding Anniversary back in May. Often we go out of town for our anniversary but this year we decided to stay local for various family reasons and to save some money. We decided on Kingsville for our staycation.

Normally when we go to Kingsville we stay at Jack's Gastropub. More accurately, we stay at INN31, upstairs at Jacks. This wasn't an option this time, but my wife found The Grove Hotel just down the street and we decided to check it out. 

The Grove Hotel is a historic building in Kingsville (it's from 1854) that was recently renovated. A big part of that renovation was adding The Grove Brew House to the side of the existing hotel. The Brew House is a high-end brewpub serving a wide variety of beers, booze, and food. 

My wife managed to get us the Brewmaster Suite, which was an awesome room. Besides being huge, with a nice big sized bed, lots of tables (great for gaming on), it also had one of the coolest features I've ever experienced in a hotel room: a door leading into the brewpub with a private balcony. That's right we had our own private access to the pub, with a cool balcony that was also wide enough to fit some games on. 

We had a lot of beers on that patio and played quite a few games of Azul. It was awesome to be able to sit out there, go back into the room for a bit, use the washroom and go back out. We were even able to bring some drinks back into the room at the end of the night.

About those drinks. Grove currently has 7 beers in their Brewmaster Series, which you can get any time. These include a Blood Orange Hefeweizen, a Lager, Four Ales (Cream, Brown, IPA and APA) and a Stout. They also have seasonal beers they call One Hit Wonders. Right now there are four, including a Sour, a Marzen, an Altbier and a Porter. Of all the beers I tried the Clubhouse Stout, George The Ghost Hefeweizen and the Chocolate Salted Caramel Porter were the best. The fact they are actually a brewery also means that you can get any of their great beers to go. Though we did learn that they often run out of growlers so the One Hit Wonders may not be available for takeout. 

The Grove Brew House also serves food. One night we took advantage of their late night menu and had some flatbread pizza that was rather good. It had chorizo on it, and that's never a bad thing. At some point we plan on going back and getting a full meal, it's just that there are so many amazing places to eat in Kingsville. 

Now the bad news: it's not cheap. Flights of beer cost more here than anywhere else in Kingsville. The Brewmaster Suite was over $200 a night. The flatbread pizza was $18. Now those aren't crazy prices and you get what you pay for, but it's more than we pay to stay and drink down the street at Jack's. 

Overall, we were impressed with both the hotel and the brewpub portion of the new upgraded Grove. I know the shots of our private balcony I shared on social media during the stay were very popular and I know at least one person who called to try to book a wedding reception. It is a rather cool place to stay. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

#FoodPornFriday Vittorio's Slice of Italy - fantastic Italian if you can find it

Today's #FoodPornFriday post is inspired by a few Facebook and Instagram comments I've gotten over the last few days. 

A few weeks ago my wife and I had plans to go see the new Avengers movie. We wanted to make sure we saw it in the theater and didn't wait for the DVD release. I had the thought that if we went the opening night of Star Wars: Solo then, obviously, Avengers would be empty as everyone would be seeing Solo. It was a good plan. What it was missing though was somewhere to eat before the show. 

Now, I don't remember what else was going on that day but I remember time was tight. We had some stuff to do and then needed to eat pretty quickly and hit the theater or we would miss the start of the show. At this point, Avenger's was only playing at Lakeshore Cinema so I was looking for somewhere to eat either in Tecumseh or on the way. After checking out Google and a few review sites I settled on someplace I've never heard of: Vittorio's Slice of Italy

Vittorio's Slice of Italy is a small(ish) family-owned Italian restaurant hidden in Forest Glade. It's hidden so well that it's in plain sight and despite that, I drove past it twice. See, it's in Forest Glad Plaza, and I can already hear you saying: but the only restaurant in that plaza is Parks & Rec. Well, I thought the same thing, and we are both wrong. Vittorio's is almost in the south-west corner. It's right next to a Deli and I have to say their sign somehow makes it look like they are part of the deli. Driving by I actually thought that the deli must sell a lot of Italian meats and bread or something. No, Vittorio's has nothing to do with the Deli (well maybe they get some ingredients there, that wouldn't surprise me). 

So now that you know how to find the place, what can you expect from Vittorio's Slice of Italy? It's not a big place, though bigger than it looks from outside in the plaza. The kitchen is in plain view and as soon as you walk in I can almost guarantee you will be greeted and treated like family by one of the staff. In this way Vitto's reminds me of Louis', they are extremely friendly and welcoming and you will feel right at home in no time. The only complaint I have about the place is that it can get loud. It's basically one room with no walls and depending on how many people are there it can be noisy. 

The big thing food wise at Vittorio's is gourmet pizza. They offer 34 different pre-made pizzas that include #23: Carbonara with mozzarella, eggs, bacon and parmesan, #32: Lenola with mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, and prosciutto, or #15: Jessica's with Tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, pepperoni, and sausage. These are the pizza's my family has tried so far and every one has been fantastic. 

It's an interesting style of pizza. It's not Windsor Style Pizza. Nor is it wood oven flatbread pizza. It's something in between. The ingredients seem to be the same ones used on most Windsor Style Pizza and the crust is closer to Windsor Style but not as thick. The pies are cooked in a standard pizza oven, so they definitely aren't wood fired. I've heard these are closer to the Italian roots of pizza, but I can't answer to the validity of that.

Vittorio's isn't all pizza either. They also have a decent selection of traditional Italian meals. Gnocchi, Ravioli, Chicken Parm, etc. After our first trip, someone on social media suggested we try the Bruschetta appetizer and we did so on our next trip and that comment was bang on. The best, but also messiest, bruschetta I've had. Overall my wife and I were really impressed. So much so that the next Thursday I took my mom and the kids there. A couple weeks later the entire family went. At this point, I'm sure we will be back again. 

I did forget one thing. We found the prices to be excellent for the portion size. The pizzas range from $8.99 to $13.99 with items like veal parmesan being only $12.99. You don't see those prices at other local Italian restaurants. 

So trust me when I say, there's a damn fine Italian restaurant hidden in Forest Glade and it's well worth going on the hunt to find it.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

#SushiSaturday We finally got to try The Dragonfly Sushi Bar

Between having to work afternoon shift and things like getting the kids out to Camp Cedarwin I haven't been free Friday nights. This means I haven't had a chance to do a #FoodPornFriday post for some time. I feel bad about this. So today I present a special #SushiSaturday post featuring some of the most appealing sushi ever.

The Dragonfly Sushi Bar opened up in Windsor quite a while ago. It's a small place located at 1567 Ottawa Street and is very easy to miss if you don't know it's there.

I remember a lot of buzz when it opened. I kept hearing that this was the place to go. That the chef (Shane Cushing) was the best in the city and one of the best sushi chefs in Canada. It seems everyone else heard this too as my wife and I were never able to get in. It doesn't help that they have very limited hours and are very small. Now I realize all I had to do was call ahead and get reservations, but that would require more pre-planning that we usually have when deciding to eat out.

Back on May 25th my wife and I found ourselves kid free and looking for somewhere to eat. I wanted to try somewhere new and headed towards India Paradise, a new Indian place on Ottawa street. On the drive there we passed Dragonfly and I noted that they were open. When we got to India Paradise it looked like they were closed (more about that if I ever post about India Paradise) so we headed back to Dragonfly and actually managed to get in and get a seat.

I'm so glad we got in that day. Dragonfly serves the freshest fish I've ever eaten. The tuna was like butter. It melted in your mouth. I'm not a fan of sashimi (the actual raw fish that many people think all sushi is), but my wife is. She insisted I try her tuna and OMG it was so good. Everything was excellent. We ordered a mix of rolls both ones from the menu and daily specials. I also got a Panko Pork Slider that was also a daily special. That Pork Slider is one of the most delicious things I've ever put in my mouth.

Everything we had was excellent. Ridiculously fresh and well made. I'm not sure how to get across just how special this was. Let's put it this way, I didn't think food could taste this fresh. I've eaten a lot of food. I had a definition of amazing fresh food in my head based on that experience and Dragonfly caused me to raise that bar, to redefine my idea of fresh sushi.

With all that said, this has got to be my favourite sushi place in the city now, right? Surprisingly no. It's up there, way up there, but there were some things that I wasn't a big fan of. The sashimi is amazing, but it's still not the kind of thing I want for a meal. Added to that almost every single roll had shrimp in it, most of it cooked shrimp. I'm not really a shrimp fan and when I do eat it I like it chilled. Now I could tell that it was amazing and perfectly prepared but it wasn't a taste for me. Like when I have a great IPA, I can tell it's a good IPA but I'm still not a fan of IPAs.

Now I'm certain that this is the perfect taste for someone, probably lots of people. You honestly can't get better ingredients or better-prepared sushi anywhere in the city. If you dig shrimp and lots of sesame and crispily fried root vegetables and edge seared eel you are going to love Dragonfly. If you like sushi at all you owe it to yourself to try Dragonfly at least once. For us it's going to be a now and then sushi place. I'm certain sometime in the future my wife or I will get a sushi craving and say: let's go back to The Dragonfly Sushi Bar and when we do I don't expect to be at all disapointed. I just hope they have panko pork sliders as a special that day. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

#FoodPornFriday - No need to cross the border for Detroit Style Coney Dogs

Have I mentioned The Sushi Effect before? Just in case I haven't, here is an explanation:

I do not like fish. The only form of fish I would eat is canned tuna. Not a fan of salmon. Don't like fish & chips. All you can eat perch makes my stomach turn. I'm also not much of a veggie fan. Cucumbers, nope. Avacado, hell no. Eggplant, that's that thing odd people get instead of veal at Italian restaurants. Ginger, not even in my beer. Then there's seaweed, I am not a fan of seaweed. But, if you put all those things together, I'm in love. I friggin' love sushi. Sushi is up there with pizza and panzerotto in my food hierarchy. I don't like, and in some cases can't stand the individual ingredients but somehow you put them all together and it's magic.

Well, today's #FoodPornFriday post features another case of The Sushi Effect. This time it's Detroit style Coney dogs now offered by The Windsor Sandwich Shop

I dig hot dogs. They are not something I eat all the time, but solid comfort food. I like specific things on my dog though: ketchup and relish. If I can get it, I'll also toss on cheese and bacon. But that's it. One toping I cannot stand: mustard. I'll return a hotdog if someone puts mustard on it. Know what else I really don't like on hotdogs? Onions. Onions are a food that should only be eaten when cooked. Preferably deep fried in ring form. Never chopped up on top of anything, like a burger or a hotdog.

So when the new manager at The Windsor Sandwich Shop proudly announced he was bringing Detroit Style Coneys to Windsor I wasn't all that excited. But man, all my friends sure were. My facebook feed that first Friday was filled with people sharing pictures of their Coney Dogs. Lots and lots of positive comments. They sold out in hours. 

I had to find out what the big deal was about. So the next monthly board game night (2nd Saturday of every month), I just had to try a Coney Dog. I still didn't trust it, so I ordered my usual hot dog as well (with the ketchup, relish, cheese and, bacon). I'm sure you can see where this is going. The Sushi Effect was in full, well, effect. Here were a bunch of toppings I can't stand combined on a hotdog and it was delicious. 

Now I do have to admit, I've never actually had a Detroit Style Coney Dog before so I can't speak to how well this dog compares to a dog bought over the border. My social media feed seems to think they are at least as good. 

You can get these Coney Dogs at The Windsor Sandwich Shop at 1311 Tecumseh Rd. E. There's even a special on right now: 2 Coneys + side + drink for $7.99 + tax.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Today's #FoodPornFriday features VIA Rail. Seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall I give VIA Business Class a big thumbs up!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The VIP treatment at Paramount Fine Foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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