Archives: food

craft beer 101

The other day I was invited to a Tap to Table beer sampling event put on by Muskoka Brewery.

It was hosted at The Ship, which is one of my favourite Hamilton watering holes.

The Ship

Since The Ship’s opening I have seen their selection of beers on tap grow to a beautiful and extensive list of Ontario’s finest micro-brewerys.

Between The Ship and its neighbouring pub The Winking Judge there are well over 40 craft beers tapped on any given night. So much great beer on such a short strip of street!

The Ship also has my favourite burger in the city as well as an assortment of mouth watering gourmet pub fair from fish’n chips to fish tacos and crab cakes. They’ve also recently started doing weekend brunches too!

The Ship burger

 photo taken from theship.ca

But I digress.

Hamilton does have its own craft beer scene that kinda exploded this year with its first ever (of three summer) beer festivals! So it wasn’t a surprise that Muskoka Brewery’s co-founder Gary McMullen chose Hamilton as its first location to try out a special Tap to Table beer sampling event that paired five of Muskoka Brewery’s craft beers with a delicious sampling of food (courtesy of The Ship).

Gary McMullen is so passionate about beer. He was at The Ship in-person for the exclusive beer sampling event.

In between our sipping, sampling and our running commentary on the different flavours and fragrant smells of the hops and malt, Gary shared with us the story and true craft roots of how he and co-founder Kirk Evans built Muskoka Brewery from the ground up.

muskoka summer weiss

Muskoka Brewery has been around since ’96 when they came out with their tried and true Cream Ale. They have since added to their roster of brews a Summer Weiss, Detour IPA, Mad Tom IPA, Twice as Mad Tom IPA, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Stout, and the Vintage Legendary Oddity, which boasts unique ingredients such as heather tips, juniper berries and sweet orange peel shavings.

As Gary mentioned during our sampling, one of the great and fun things about brewing beer is the variety of ingredients (that they aren’t afraid to use) in creating new flavours and brews.

Like wine certain beers go well with specific flavours and food. Each beer we sampled was paired with a specific dish that would deliberately bring out the various tannins of the beer.

Muskoka Brewery Summer Weiss

Summer Weiss paired above with mini grilled perch sandwich with lemon aioli. Summer Weiss pairs well with bacon & eggs, French toast with berries, guacamole & nachos and lobster. Who says you can’t start your day with brunch and beer!?

 

Muskoka Brewery Detour & shrimp pogo

Detour IPA paired above with corn breaded shrimp pogos and honey hop mustard. Detour pairs well with something like peach or mango garden salad, Thai mango chicken, or a sesame chicken salad.

 

Muskoka Brewery Twice as Mad IPA

Twice as Mad IPA paired above with braised bbq ribs in Twice as Mad bbq sauce. Twice as Mad pairs well with sharp cheddar, pulled pork and grilled meats, or hot and spicy chicken curry.

 

Muskoka Mad Tom IPA

Mad Tom IPA paired above with smores topped with a Mad Tom chocolate ganache. Pairs well with gourmet chicken wings, or smoked salmon or trout.

 

My hats off to Muskoka Brewery for arranging this sampling and for bringing to my attention that beer can go with more than just burgers, meat and fries.

In my summer Ontario travels I might just have to make a stop at Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge for a beer tour and some sampling of their limited edition Rum Tum Tom (Mad Tom IPA aged in Jamaican rum barrels)!

*The Ship, 23 Augusta Street, 905.526.0792, @ShipTwits

*Muskoka Brewery, 1964 Muskoka Beach Rd. Bracebridge, ON, 705.646.1266, @MuskokaBrewery

 

541 eatery & exchange

The chalk board sign at the front counter of 541 Eatery and Exchange reads:

Eat drink and stay a while. Our delicious food is freshly made and affordably priced for all to enjoy. The proceeds from our eatery fund community programs for kids and our neighbourhood. Thanks for helping make Hamilton a better place!

This past June at 541 Barton Street a new cafe, eatery and exchange opened. It was a long time in the making. And I had been excitedly watching the progress of this project from about a year back when I first saw a video by Bottled Media about the inspirational concept and idea of the whole community operation.

541 Eatery and Exchange is a unique type of cafe that is invested in making a positive impact on its community. Located in the heart of Barton Village it is undoubtedly breathing some fresh air back into the neighbourhood.

Barton is often considered a strip of Hamilton where some of the city’s largest pockets of poverty exist. If you took a quick jaunt down Barton you might notice some abandoned buildings fitted in among the spattering of notable Hamilton fixtures such as the Trocadero Restaurant -open for 70 years, Karolina’s Polish Restaurant -just like the way your Polish grandma used to cook, Duartes Portuguese Supermarket and Deli, the Vagueira Bakery and Pastry Cafe, and Starpolskie’s Deli. Now when you’re down on Barton you’ll also see the fresh-faced, hip, and contemporary cafe at 541.

541 Barton interior

It has a glossy polished feel that is open, airy, and welcoming. I loved that they maintained many aspects of the original features of the building like the exposed brick walls, lofty high ceilings and numerous sunny large wooden framed windows.

When we walked in a family was sitting having some treats and playing one of the many board games housed on the shelves at 541. I spotted a small children’s play area at the front of the cafe and thought that it’d would be a great walking destination where I could feasibly bring Omi to stop in for a treat, and to escape from the summer heat. A place with a family friendly vibe is definitely something I pay attention to when on the hunt for new hangouts these days especially now that I have an active little toddler to contend with.

541 Barton drink menu

Besides good coffee, great food, and breezy atmosphere, one of the best things about 541 is how accessible it is to everyone (especially in their pricing). We ordered a lemonade, latte, coffee, banana bread and a scone all for under $10!

With those kind of prices I didn’t have a problem buying a handful of buttons from the button bank, which is just about the simplest and smartest charitable idea I’ve seen. The way it works is you can buy a button at a dollar a piece, which then in turn can be used to help out customers that may need a little extra coinage to buy a hearty and healthy meal or small bite to eat. 1 button=$1 and can be used as cash at 541. The button jar that customers could take from to pay for food was nearly full to the brim, which means everyone has the ability to afford and enjoy 541! So even if a $3 latte seems out of reach, you can use a button or two to get a coffee and a healthy home-cooked lunch or dinner.

541 Barton button bank 541 Barton cafe 541 Barton vision 541 Barton tables 541 barton

It makes me feel happy to see that you can have a place that is beautiful, stylish, and whole heartily committed to giving back and empowering its community. It is a place that believes that everyone deserves a nice place to hang out and good food to eat.

Congrats to 541 for breaking down many of the barriers that can come with elite cafes and coffee shops -so great to have a place like this in Hamilton!

*541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton St. East, @541Barton, M-Sat 7-7, Sun 3-7

rhubarb

This is the second year that we have been able to harvest the rhubarb from our relatively young backyard rhubarb plant.

The stalks were hearty and we were able to take from it several bunches from late May until the end of June.

To keep up with this seemingly non-stop supply of rhubarb I needed to find an easy recipe to start using it up -and fast!

On Pinterest one day I came across this quick easy-to-make recipe from a food blog called Feed Me Phoebe.

rhubarb yogurt cake

Rhubarb Yogurt Cake (recipe from Feed Me Phoebe)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt, well-stirred
  • 1cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large pinch sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 10-inch round spring-form cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl whisk the yogurt, sugar, salt, and almond extract until smooth. Pour the oil into the batter slowly, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk the batter again until smooth.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl and fold it into the wet batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and scatter the chopped rhubarb on top.
  4. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back lightly when touched. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then lift it out with the parchment paper and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

We’ve made two rhubarb yogurt cakes so far this season and they never last in the house for longer than a day or two. We’re constantly sneaking in pieces pre-breakfast, throughout our numerous coffee and tea time breaks or whenever we happen to be just passing by the kitchen.

Rhubarb plantSince Steve is the keeper of our backyard garden, he did all the rhubarb stalk collecting. Especially since he’d read up on how you’re not supposed to just go in there and chop down the stalks with a knife or scissors like I would’ve done. Instead he gracefully twisted and snapped them off before passing over a large and heavy bunch to me.

Rhubarb stalks

rhubarb picking

Someone once told me not to pick fresh rhubarb after the end of June -increase in toxicity? So by my books I’ve about a day or two left to get in all my rhubarb chopping for the year. It freezes well so we’ll still have plenty throughout the summer if I have any sudden urges to make my mom’s rhubarb cake recipe (click here), which involves a simple cake batter, a package of strawberry jello, and mini marshmallows!

 

 

summer soba

Yesterday really felt like summer; hot, humid and even a few summer thunderstorms.

When it’s hot and sticky outside my default go to foods are cold summer traditional Japanese dishes.

So last night in all that heat and summer rain I made an impromptu cool Japanese meal of zaru soba with mentsuyu dipping sauce, thinly slice carrot tempura and chilled hiyayakko tofu; topped with thinly grated ginger, spring onions and a dash of soy-sauce.

As a side I chopped a couple slices of juicy cold and fresh orange, and sliced cucumber sticks with miso paste to accompany some inari sushi and of course two cold refreshing beers!

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

staxx

Admittedly I am no expert when it comes to fried chicken and waffles. However, I have tried the fried chicken and triple decker buttermilk waffle sandwich from the Dirty South food truck -oh my goodness! And I’ve now officially gone to Staxx Chicken & Waffle House twice to sample how they do their waffles and chicken.

When we moved to Hamilton, I remember having gone to a Korean restaurant that was where Staxx is now. The food was meh and it was dark and forgettable. Well, the interior of Staxx isn’t much to write home about but it’s clean, near my house and the first of its kind (as far as I knew) in Hamilton.

The first time I went to Staxx was just a few weeks after they’d opened. The tables were full, which is always a good sign, and the fried chicken that was coming out of the kitchen was looking crispy and mouth watering.

I went with a friend, and we knew that although they also serve burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and other edibles, we came for the chicken and waffles. So that is what we ordered.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always grown up thinking that waffles should be crispy on the outside yet still fluffy on the inside. This may strangely be based on my experience with the classic Eggo Waffle but I know that I’ve also had Belgian waffles that have been crisp too. So when the order came up and we noticed that the waffles were kinda floppy and still gooey on the inside, we sent back and a new order was promptly brought out (with unfortunately not much improvement). The fried chicken was great but we were a little disappointed with our realization that perhaps waffles aren’t always crispy?

I wasn’t willing to give up on the place on just the one visit, so with some other friends I decided to give it another try. With an order of chocolate milk all around to start we prepped ourselves for the fried chicken and waffles; this go was supreme! Waffles -crispy(er), and fried chicken delicious. I also learned (from observation of a pro) the perfect eating combo of a piece of fried chicken carefully accompanied by waffle, dipped in maple syrup and with a touch of hot sauce for a most deliciously perfect ratio of savoury, sweet and spicy. Our only complaint this time around was that the meals were served on round baking tins with high curved edges that make for difficult cutting and eating of perfect previously said combo of savoury, sweet and spicy morsels of chicken and waffle. We did make plans to come back again to try some of the other things on their menu like their hamburger with fried egg or deep fried onions, or their philly cheese steak and waffles.

Staxx chicken and waffles

chicken and waffles staxx

Before I can legitimately say that Staxx has the best (bricks and mortar) fried chicken in Hamilton, I’ve got to try Tavern on George’s take on it, which I recently read about on Chanry Thach‘s food blog The Hungry Gnome. A hidden gem that I’m dying to try! Check out Chanry‘s post about it here.

*Staxx Burger Chicken Waffle House, 236 King St. E, 289.396.4162, @staxxhamilton

 

the aberdeen tavern

This year for Mother’s Day we decided to try out brunch at the Aberdeen Tavern. I’d been to the tavern the week before to sample some evening snacks with friends and to check out the new place post its former incarnation as Seven Windows.

I’d never been to Seven Windows, but the atmosphere of the Aberdeen Tavern was just right: cozy, and warm meets contemporary-fresh yet rustic tavern.

We sampled some delicious wild mussels with crostini, fresh hot frites, and Maryland crab cakes, with mango and jalapeño relish -yum! Not to mention their menu sounded mouth watering; like their pan-fried organic halibut, risotto, with brown butter, or their giant meatballs charred & braised in tomato sauce with Quebec cheese curd, or their duck confit spring rolls with caramelized onions! I knew that it definitely wouldn’t be long until I’d have to make a return trip to sample a little more.

Well, I didn’t make it back for dinner (yet) but instead I was able to just barely squeeze in a reservation for Mother’s Day brunch.

We made it to the restaurant for the tail end of the brunch rush and enjoyed a slow, steady and relaxing meal with mimosas to start, coffee and an assorted pastry platter to follow, which consisted of banana bread, walnut scones, and a side of house made preserves and apple butter.

Aberdeen Tavern dine full

We kept eyeing the brunches coming out of the kitchen and had a tough time deciding just which delicious thing to order for our main course. I ordered the tostadas rancheros; poached egg, guacamole, sour cream, aged cheddar, salsa fresca, black bean, with home fries.

Aberdeen Tavern tostada rancheros

My sister and mom both ordered the short rib hash; braised short rib, poached egg, charred corn, pico de gallo, home fries, and aged cheddar. It comes in a mini-individual little cast iron skillet!

Aberdeen Tavern short rib hash

Aberdeen Tavern bar

I like how the tavern is so versatile. Weekend brunch, snacks and drinks, dinner or lunch, or just drinks. Did I mention they do fancy mixologist worthy cocktails like the Russian pony; triple citrus vodka, ginger beer, lime, and mint or the derby; bourbon, peach liqueur, lemonade, earl grey tea, and mint!?

Aberdeen Tavern dine Aberdeen Tavern bench

I can think of many a special occasions that I’d like to celebrate here, and many more Sunday brunches!

I highly recommend you make a reservation before going to avoid the disappointment of not getting a table.

*Aberdeen Tavern, 432 Aberdeen Ave., 905.523.7707, @AberdeenTavern

owl of minerva

One of my favourite kinds of food is Korean. I love the combo of its savoury, sweet, spicy, garlic, and sesame flavours.

When I first moved to Hamilton we’d found this secret little Korean restaurant  (just tucked behind the International Village by the Ti-cat building) that I loved. It had sunken-in individual bbq tables, great Korean pancakes and hundreds of tiny polaroids of its customers pasted on the walls. I guess it may have been a little too secret, in that maybe not enough people went? To my dismay it closed down a few years ago.

Not too long after Cho Sun Ok moved from its Queen North location down on King East and it sufficed in satisfying my Korean food cravings.

However, it was an even nicer surprise to wake up one day to find that Owl of Minerva had opened up a location here in Hamilton just at Main and Wentworth! I’d been to their Toronto location on Bloor in Korea town, so I knew that I would not be disappointed. Good Korean in Hamilton, finally!

I went with only one other friend (coincidently before heading to Kim’s Convenience -a play about a Korean shop owner), so we didn’t order a huge elaborate meal. Instead we ordered bibimbap. A good standard fare for any Korean restaurant and anyone new to trying Korean food. The stone bowl stayed crazy hot for the duration of the meal, and the Korean sides were great!

I really want to come back with a larger group of people so that we can have a proper Korean feast of some kalbi short ribs, bulgolgi and samgyeopsal. A little heavy on the meat -I know. I guess I could throw in a spicy and hot tofu kimchi chigae. Chigae’s are my cure all for chills and colds. Warms you right up!

Truly a perfect winter time place. I hope that in the summer they’ll have cold Korean noodles!

*The Famous Owl of Minerva, 309 Main St. E, 905.528.7275

 

 

the burnt tongue

I basically feel as though I’ve missed an entire season here on the blog. That said, this post is long overdue from waaay back in September.

When I was about three weeks deep into being back at work (post maternity leave) I had a horrible cold that lasted for weeks. Being sick made it all the more of a necessity to finally check out Hamilton’s newest soup place -The Burnt Tongue.

I had a random mid-week day off, so Steve and I decided to take advantage of the fact that Omi was in daycare. We headed to the Burnt Tongue for an early lunch date and to get some soup to ail my lingering cold.

The Burnt Tongue opens daily at 11:30am. When we arrived just a few short minutes past the half hour, the place was already filling up with people getting their soup on.

We took up the window seats below some crafty filament lit mason jar lighting and did some front row Cannon Street viewing, while we waited for our food.

Steve ordered a classic 6 oz burger made from locally raised beef topped with cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, mayo and mustard. It did not disappoint. We split an order of fries (my biggest weakness; in a battle if you busted out a box of fries from The Burnt Tongue I’d crumble to the floor just to eat one or even just a morsel of one of those crunchy-bit leftovers). The fries here are sooooo good and their specialty dippings sauces are A-mazing! During Supercrawl we got some fries to-go with their curry ketchup sauce. For this lunch date we settled on chipotle mayo and a roasted garlic mayo. I think there’s still a couple more flavours to sample yet.

I ordered a large bowl of bacon, cheddar and potato soup. This too was just incredible! The soup was flavourful and super homey. It came with a choice of fresh cut veggies, artisan bun or crisp apple. Everything really hit the spot and I left feeling all warm and happily full.

Since my visit in September I know that they’ve added a lot more to their menu like their loaded fries, which look killer! Chorizo, corn, pablano pepperonata (roasted blend of peppers), cheddar cheese and guacamole all piled high and heavy on an already big mound of their Belgian style fries.

In addition to having a massive variety of the most unique soda pops ever (over 8 kinds of root beer including a pumpkin pie soda) they’ve also got 1 litre craftily designed jars of soup that you can purchase for a gift or to take to a potluck or dinner for $15 -so smart!

With the cold weather quickly approaching and staying for the next, oh, 5 months, it’d be in your best interest to stop by this place and sample some soups to keep you warm.

*The Burnt Tongue, 1o Cannon St. East, 905.536.1146, @Theburnttongue

 

charred

Back in September before my life got all crazy on me, Kristin Archer of I Heart Hamilton, and I met up at Charred Rottisserie House for another rendezvous.

I love meeting up with Kristin, not only to try out new places that have opened up around the city, but also because I get to hear about all the amazing new things she is up to.  These days with being a parent, going back to work, and generally just juggling life, blogging has taken a bit of backseat. So when chatting with Kristin, I get excited to imagine just what life would be like if I could dedicate more time to blogging and exploring everything Hamilton has to offer.

Kristin these days is doing much more than just blogging. Besides fundraisers, playlists, and promoting various Hamilton events, she’s recently announced that she’ll be starting a weekly radio show on CFMU 93.3fm Friday’s from 2-3pm. She’s also organizing a blog fair with a whole cast of Hamilton bloggers (including me) at the Casbah on November 24th from 2-6pm -please come!

Kristin and I both agree that it is becoming increasingly hard to stay on top of everything new that’s popping up in the city -which really is a good thing! Although at times the change seems slow, the city is really evolving faster than we think. This spring and summer there was a massive wave of new shops and restaurants that opened up on James North, so it was with a bit of luck that Kristin and I had both yet to try out Charred.

Charred is a Portuguese inspired rotisserie house. They roast their chickens, which are basted with their signature piri-piri sauce, over fresh red hot coals right there in their open kitchen.

We arrived at an in-between meal time, so we were the only people there and the coals and rotisseries were not yet stoked or rolling. None the less, Kristin ordered the poutine with piri-piri cheese curds topped with rotisserie chicken, and I ordered the chicken on a bun.

After sampling some of Kristin's poutine I had some serious meal envy.

One thing I love about all the stores along James, as they are turning over and being reno’d, their drop ceilings are being removed exposing whole gorgeously intact original tin ceilings, like the one at Charred. Such a beauty!

I’d like to head back to Charred again one day when the coals are flaming and the chickens are fully rolling on the rotisserie.

To read Kristin’s Crossover post on Charred visit her blog I Heart Hamilton here.

*Charred, 244 James St. North, 289.396.0662, @charredchicken

last days of summer

It’s official. Summer’s over.

On the last warm weekend a few weeks back, we headed to Hamilton Beach to dip our feet in Lake Ontario and enjoy what was left of the fleeting days of summer.

Before Omi was born my sister bought him this little Japanese yukata (summer kimono). By the end of the summer it fit him beautifully and was perfect for the beach and lounging around.

A visit to the beach wouldn’t have been complete without a proper fish and chip meal from Hutch’s. There was a mad crazy line up for the chips, and an even crazier line up for the ice cream!

I loved how the fish and chips came wrapped up in newspaper -the way true fish and chips should!

So long summer! Until we meet again.

 

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