Sunday, October 25, 2015

Serve Ping Pong Bar and Lounge

Last Monday, we were very lucky to have been invited by Kristen and Chanry from The Generator to attend a tasting at Serve Ping Pong Bar and Lounge. Mr. HitH and I were really excited. We've been watching Serve's tweets as they prepared to open and wanted to head in and check it out. However, before we did that, we had to go vote. We took the dogs in an effort to get 5 votes instead of just 2. Unfortunately, that didn't work. As you can see, our Parson Russell terrier was really upset that her voice carried no weight.

I am absolutely embarrassed to admit that we arrived late. I had the event in my calendar as beginning at 7 p.m. - and it really began at 6:00 p.m. We missed the amazing charcuterie platters, but did have the chance to sample the 3 mustards. All 3 were house made - in fact, everything we were served was house made. To be honest, I wasn't expecting that level of commitment to food from a Ping Pong bar. Instead, we found that chef Stewart Byfield has made a delicious menu.

Soon after we arrived, the apps came out. We were served Curry Vegetable Spring Rolls (pic above) and Breaded House Pickles (pic below). Truth time. I hate curry. I hate the smell so much, I cannot even contemplate eating it. Yes, that does make me the world's worst vegetarian. When we were served these, I tried one, thinking I would loathe it - not because there was anything wrong with them, but just because it had curry. Instead, I really enjoyed them. Made with Yukon potato, green peas, leeks and coriander,The flavours were fresh and the dipping sauce, a mango and sambal olek chutney, was extraordinary. On the other hand, I love pickles. Love. The breaded pickles were also excellent. The outside was crispy crunchy with panko, the inside was tender. The dipping sauce, a buttermilk and dill aioli was also top notch. It was so clear that the dipping sauces were made from scratch and with as much thought as any other piece of the food.

The last appetizer was Ping Pong Arrancini, made with saffron arborio risotto, mozzarella, crispy basil and served with a tomato puree dip. They were absolutely excellent. I am a sucker for anything with tomato, mozzerella and basil, and the arrancini were made perfectly. I could so easily consume a dozen of these.

Once we were done with the apps, we moved onto the flatbreads. We were served the Cardiologist Special, which had asalingo salumi, classic pepperoni, dry cured coppa, San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, the Three Little Pigs, with whisky candied bacon, pulled pork, mango habanero BBQ sauce, white cheddar, scallions, and crispy onions and finally G.A.S.P., with roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, pesto, and mozzarella.

I'll start with the vegetarian flatbread, the G.A.S.P. The toppings were great. The roasted garlic was perfectly creamy, the artichokes were heaven (who doesn't love artichokes on pizza?) and the pesto made a great sauce. However, I did think the crust could have been a touch more crisp.

Mr. HitH tried the other two. He has a cold, and is not waxing eloquent, so his current comment, full of eloquence, is "They were really good". I know he particularly enjoyed the Cardiologist Special, and loved all of the meat. He also enjoyed the crispy onions on Three Little Pigs and really liked the mango sauce (he is a sucker for all things mango).

Then the sliders came! We were treated to 3 different ones, the Hogtown, made with slow roasted pulled pork, golden mango BBQ sauce, creamy slaw, crisp onions, sweet roll, the Fish & Chip (above), made with Rickards red battered sole, hand cut fries, spicy remoulade and Ultimate Serve Slider (below), made with candied bacon, aged white cheddar, oven roasted tomato, fried onion rings, and special serve sauce. My vegetarianism made it so I couldn't taste these, so Mr. HitH pinch hit for me. His personal favourite was the Ultimate Serve Slider. He found that the serve sauce had just the right bite and the composition of all the elements made for a great little bite. He also really liked the Fish and Chip, but he personally needed more sauce. He's a saucy kinda guy.

For dessert, we Bucket of Balls. The balls are house made old fashioned donut holes served with espresso cream dunk. The dunk was to die for - creamy, thick and clinging. The only complaint I can make is that the donut holes were big enough that it required a double dip - not ideal when being shared. Fortunately, food bloggers are a sharing bunch.

I needed a drink, so I tried the Lawrenceburg Lemonade. It was delicious, but if I drank more than one, I couldn't have driven home. This is a DRINK - and a damn good one.

Between courses, we played ping pong. We had a ball trash talking each other, and then showing off our skills. So much so, that two of our bunch are planning to join league night.

This contraption picks up balls. It's fun. I don't know why it is fun, but it is.

The decor is spot on. Comfy, with tons of seating for when you need a break from playing ping pong. Huge windows overlook King Street. The art, by Hamiltonian Paul Elia, is stunning. The above painting of Beasley Park is a beautiful piece. One day, I'll own a house worthy of it and buy it.

You can even rent a private room (with more art by Paul Elia, this time of the downtown arch).

In summary, we will be back, both to play and to eat. The food was very good, and while the price point is a touch high, when you are sharing with your fellow players, it becomes a bit more reasonable. We're even considering renting out the private room. How can you go wrong for $50 for an hour?

Serve Ping Pong Bar and Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Burger's Priest comes to Hamilton

Thanks to a heads up from The Hungry Gnome, we were lucky enough to receive an invite to the media preview of The Burger's Priest. Their newest location opened tonight, June 27th, at 6 p.m. at Upper James and Rymal.
We've been to the original Burger's Priest in Toronto. It is a very dark (yet delicious) place. In contrast, the Hamilton location is bright, sunny and welcoming. 
The religious theme continues through the restaurant, with the bathrooms being marked with priests and nuns, and verses from the Torah and the Lord's Prayer on the walls. Like the original, the kitchen is part of the front of house, which means you can see (and hear) your burgers being prepared. As you can see, Hamilton Gastronomy, looking dapper in his purple blazer, was thrilled to be at the event.
 There is lots to try out, and you all already know about the secret menu, right?
I love that the material separating the kitchen from the seating area is normally found in confessionals.
Seating is on little benches. Honestly, I didn't think they would be comfortable, but indeed, they were. The tables were, perhaps, a touch tight but we were able to fit in with our buddies from Hamilton Gastronomy quite nicely.
Also, I don't want to brag, but we are number one.
Now onto the reason you are reading this... the food.  I will go first.
The Option is the veggie burger. It is made from portobello mushrooms, with a cheese blend, then breaded and deep fried. I asked for it loaded - so with all the toppings. I am comfortable in saying it is the best veggie burger I have ever had. It is similar to the veggie burger served by Delirious Burger, but the cheese blend gives more flavour.
It isn't a big burger (unlike every other burger at our table), but every bite was a pleasure. However, please do not order this (or any other burger) for a first date. It is messy. All over your face messy. Then again, maybe you are into that kind of stuff. In that case, enjoy the first date!
At first bite, I wasn't thrilled with the fries. They weren't crisp enough for me. What was interesting was  once I added salt and vinegar, I changed my mind and quite liked them. Malt vinegar would be a great addition to their condiment tray, though. Next time I will ask for the fries well done for extra crispness.
Jonathan had The High Priest. This is a Big Mac type burger, complete with their own special sauce. He reports that the sauce was delicious. The meat was cooked to perfection, with just a touch of pink left, and the seasoning was spot on. He likes his burgers with lots of sauce, and thought it had just the right amount of sauciness. Overall, an absolutely solid burger. Hamilton Gastronomy also ordered one, and was in agreement.
This is The Vatican City. Instead of buns, it has grilled cheese. GRILLED CHEESE. Jonathan says he is getting it next.
Staff were friendly, professional and effective, and service was very quick, with our meals ready in less than 10 minutes. We were impressed. As Mountain dwellers, we're pretty excited to have great burgers  a quick drive from our house. This is a very solid addition to the Hamilton food scene. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Meat Ventures!

We hit up the Meat Ventures food truck today. While definitely a carnivore geared truck, they tweeted out that they had veggie sliders today. How could I pass those up? Mr. HitH was thrilled, since Meat Ventures was his favourite truck at Sew Hungry. So, after I got home from school, we took the Jolley down to Queen and Main.
Pic taken at the close of Sew Hungry
Mr. HitH chose to have a bacon fatty (bottom left in the pic below), described on their website as, "Italian sausage meatloaf wrapped in a bacon weave and then smoked over hickory wood, then sliced and grilled and served on grilled garlic toast with Swiss cheese, arugula, crispy onions, and Sriracha mayo". In his opinion, this is one the best food truck foods you can put in your mouth. It is rich, with enough sauce to both coat your mouth and spice it up. The arugula gives it a touch of pepper. It is not too dry or wet, and the garlic toast holds up really well to an intense sandwich. The meat he describes as perfectly meaty, with no funky crap in it.

Next, we had the Gochu-Parm Fries, described as, "Twice fried fries, tossed in a gochujang butter sauce and covered in freshly grated parmesan and green onions". Indeed, they were perfectly crispy and loaded with delicious parmesan and green onion. Our only complaint was we would have liked more of the gochujang butter. The fries at the bottom of the dish were soaked in it, and amazing, but there was only a touch of it on the top fries, and we missed it.

The veggie sliders were winners. Described on Twitter as, "Sliders with hoisin BBQ crispy tofu, mango slaw, sprouts, and garlic lime cream sauce". The textures were amazing. The crunch of the mango slaw contrasted perfectly with the tofu and the bun. The bbq sauce was a fantastic compliment, and the cream sauce gave it the perfect amount of fat. You would never know that this is a vegetarian creation by a meat truck. They may know their meat, but they know their tofu too. I will be back again.

Add to this the fact that they donate $1.00 from every pop sold to 541, an amazing community based eatery, and my heart has been won over. Now, if I could only eat their bacon...

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Doors Open Hamilton 2015

While I may add more later, for tonight, here is a pictorial post.  Many of the Doors Open sites are open tomorrow - go and visit!

Pre-Doors Open Fueling at Cafe Oranje and Denningers 

Cafe Oranje drinks and Denningers Breakfast

Weir's Lane Lavender and Apiary

Alpacas from Eighth and Mud

Ridge Road Estate Winery

After Our Adventures Were Done

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gramma Willies for Brunch

So Johnny and I got a new car in January, after our Ford Escape literally had it's engine blow at 150 000 km (which, according to the internet is a known issue - Escape owners beware).  We bought a Hyundai Santa Fe, and so far we are big fans. However, evidently, we are cursed in terms of tires. In four months, two flats, one because of a screw and one because of a blade. So, last Sunday, we took a tire in for repair and had to wait to pick it up, so we decided to go off to brunch.
This is not our actual car. Ours is cooler. Because it is ours.
We weren't going to come down from the Mountain so we googled and Grandma Willies popped up. Interesting, the Facebook reviews were outstanding, while the Urbanspoon reviews not so much - so we decided we'd try and see what we thought (that is our commitment to you).

When we walked in, we got a table right away but our server told us that the food would be a while since they were in the middle of Sunday brunch rush.  We were in no hurry, so we were happy to hang around and appreciated the heads up at the beginning so we could have gone elsewhere if needed.  The decor is eclectic.  I think they're going for cottage chic, but really the restaurant is verging on run down. The chair I sat in had stuffing coming out of it. However, I can forgive much when a diner features a framed and autographed poster of Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Coffee came promptly, in one boring mug and one rather wonderful mug. I am calling this mug the "Partridge in a Pear Tree" mug.  It did not come with 2 French hens.  It did, however, come filled with rather excellent brewed coffee.We were impressed. The coffee was not the usual diner weakness, but strong and flavourful. Our mugs were kept filled throughout, despite the rush.

We went rather simple for breakfast. I had what they call the breakfast burger. There was no burger involved, but an egg covered in cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles on a hamburger bun. It was yummy. We're not talking fine dining here, but I really enjoyed this simple (unhealthy) breakfast choice.

The homefries were obviously homemade and handcut. Their irregularity led to part of their appeal. They were nice and salty, and fried (or griddled?) to perfection. The hot sauce provided made them perfect. The random carrot sticks allowed me to pretend I wasn't eating a completely unhealthy meal.

Jon ate the egg sandwich. It featured an egg with cheese on an English muffin. The accouterments were the same as with my breakfast burger, and met with equal satisfaction.

The cost of the meal was amazing. We walked out with a bill for about $18 for 2 breakfasts. We thought the food was good before then. After that, we thought it was exceptional. This ain't fine dining, but if you're looking for a greasy spoon breakfast, it's worth a shot. We'll try it again!

Gramma Willie's Restaurant on Urbanspoon