Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Jonny Blonde and City of Hamilton Spring Tide Bulb Show

It's March Break.  It was one of my favourite times as a kid.  My Dad used to take the entire week off and take my sister and I on daily adventures.  Maple syrup farms, the Toronto Zoo, the CN Tower, Mountberg Conservation area - every day we did something amazing. I try to keep up my adventures in my old age, so today, we went to the Spring Tide Bulb Show at the Gage Park Greenhouses.
Vegetarian Hash
First, though, we needed sustenance. Jonny Blonde has moved into my 'hood, and I couldn't be happier (well, I could be if I could get dinner, but I'm told it'll happen eventually!).  We decided to stop in for sandwiches. I grabbed the grilled cheese, and Mr. HitH got the Beef Dip. We shared a side of the vegetarian hash.
Beef Dip, pre-dip
 Everything was delicious. The hash was covered in piri-piri aioli which was so yummy. The potatoes and sweet potatoes were roasted so carefully, with the outside crispy and the inside sweet and soft, and the kale made me feel like I was making a healthy choice.  The caramelized onions in the grilled cheese added the perfect sweetness, and the beef dip was perfect.  The jus was thick, clinging to the bun like a baby monkey grasps its mother (how's THAT for a simile?).  The place was packed, so if you're running in for lunch, I recommend calling ahead.
Then we were off to the Gage Park Greenhouses, which have been turned into Oz for the Spring Tide Bulb show.  We spoke to some of the City of Hamilton staff there and found out that, unlike the fall Mum Show, there is no budget for this event.  The staff put it together with no cash given at all, and they did a terrific job!  Also, I'm not just saying that because I worked in this department as a City of Hamilton summer student for 4 years running (thanks for my undergrad, taxpayers!!!).  The blustery, grey day was a perfect one to go into the greenhouses and smell spring coming.

Ding Dong, the witch is dead!

See the elephant???

I found the slippers!

I love that they had a flying monkey

After we were done in the Greenhouse, we decided to go for a walk in the park.  Gage Park was deserted - we had it to ourselves, excluding some dogs who were very kindly walking their owners. 
There is a mountain up there, but you couldn't tell with the fog 
I may, occasionally, stage photoshoots for nothing but my own amusement.
Such a gem in our city. I love our bandshell.

Mini-Whomping Willow (I just realized there is pretty much a Harry Potter reference in every blog post)
 And then, it was time for us to get out of the rain.  If you're looking for something to do this March Break, head down to Gage Park.  The show is free, the flowers fabulous and its just plain fun.

Beechwood Doughnuts

Cutest storefront ever.
So many of the Hamilton foodies rave about Beechwood doughnuts. I was lucky enough to have a taste or two when Jen from TasteHamOnt brought some to Sid's epic birthday brunch at Saltlick Smokehouse.  I was amazed at how buttery they tasted, especially because Beechwood is a vegan bakery!  So, since we were on vacation this week (yeeeesss, March Break!), we decided to go on an adventure.
As usual, we went big, because you either go big or go home.
We decided we needed to try lots of kinds, and we had plans with friends that night, so we kinda went whole hog.  Above, you will see the following doughnuts (starting with the left row, top from bottom): French Toast, Strawberries 'n Cream, Death by Chocolate, Cherry Chocolate Fritter, Pistashio, Toasted Coconut, Banana Cream, Chocolate Cherry Fritter, Dutchie, Maple Dip, Caramel Chocolate Crunch and Apple Fritter.  
Caramel Chocolate Crunch
These are not inexpensive doughnuts.  We paid about $27 for the box.  Not ridiculous, but not cheap either.  However, they are HUGE.  To be fair, I have small hands, but it is bigger than my hand.  I practically had to unhinge my jaw to have the first bite (and yes, I am now a Parseltongue).
Apple Fritter
 The doughnuts were all light and fluffy. The dough is perfect.  You would never know these are vegan.  Overall, the flavour combinations were terrific.
 Our complaints were small.  The one place where it's clear that these doughnuts are vegan are those filled with whipped edible-oil product (in our selection, the Banana Cream and the Strawberries 'n Cream).  I was especially disappointed that the Banana cream was filled with that instead of some kind of delicious banana-y pudding - maybe because it would be too heavy and soak through?  Either way, the fake whipped cream just didn't do it for me and took away from what otherwise would have been my favourite doughnut.
Cherry Chocolate Fritter
 The other doughnut that didn't knock our socks off was Death by Chocolate.  There wasn't anything wrong with it, but there wasn't anything special about it either.  It felt like a Tim Horton's doughnut with better dough.  Don't get me wrong - we finished it, but we didn't fight over the last bite.
Death by Chocolate
 The doughnuts that really impressed us were the Apple Fritter, Cherry Chocolate Fritter, Chocolate Caramel Crunch (nuts on doughnuts are everything) and the Roasted Coconut.  Except for the filling, both the Strawberries 'n Cream and the Banana Cream had outstanding flavours.
Strawberries 'n Cream
Would we go back?  I'm not sure I would make the drive all the way to St. Catharines just for these. We really liked them, but that's a bit of a haul.  That said, if we were going out to Dillons to pick up some libations, I could see us going the extra few kilometers to get some, or stopping before we go over into 'Murica to pick up stuff.  
Apple Fritter
And if you're in St. Kitts, stop by..  Grab a doughnut.  I think you'll find it's a delicious way to start your day.  Or end it. Or middle it. Whatever. Look at that chunk of apple.  Clearly, this is a healthy choice.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Brunch at The Mule

We've been eyeing the brunch menu at The Mule for a while.  Mr. HitH has a fixation with Huevos Rancheros, and we both have really enjoyed the food at The Mule when we have gone for queso fundido (which is so so good) and tacos.  Yesterday, Mr. HitH got a promotion, so we decided it was time to celebrate with a splendid brunch. Thankfully, it was everything we wanted.
Coffee, with amaretto
We started off with some libations.  I had coffee with an amaretto shot.  I'm not a morning drinker - hell, I'm not much of an anytime drinker - but this was delicious.
Morning Coffee
Mr. HitH had the Morning Coffee. with bourbon, amaro montenegro and coffee.  It was delicious.  I was surprised it was cold, but it was certainly well balanced.  Mr. HitH described it as the perfect coffee cocktail. 
Our spread
Before brunch came, we were lucky enough to be joined by Jen, more commonly known as TasteHamOnt on Instagram and Twitter. Jen is a ridiculously talented food photographer and all around wonderful person. We were thrilled for her company both because of her sparkling attitude and because it meant we could basically order all of the food on the menu.

Potatas Bravas
 First, my dish.  The Potatas Bravas usually comes with chorizo, but the kitchen was happy to substitute avocado for my vegetarian ass. This was delightful.  The egg was perfectly cooked, with a delicious runny yolk to soak my potatoes. The veggies were perfectly flavourful, the avocado was at the point of perfect ripeness, and the potatoes were cut in little cubes, ensuring optimal crispiness.  The cotija was lovely and creamy. I didn't need it as much, given my avocado, but with the chorizo, I could definitely see it adding important texture.  Loved it. LOVED IT.

Huevos Rancheros
Mr. HitH had the Huevos Rancheros. The tortillas were crispy, providing terrific crunch. The guacho was terrific, fresh and tasty. The eggs were, again, cooked to perfection. He'll be back for these. Also, although he pretends to be a contributing member of this blog, his food descriptions do not give me much to go on. Jerkface.
Mule Eggs Benedict
TasteHamOnt had Mule Eggs Benedict.  The eggs benedict were surrounded by roast pork (I though tthey were potatoes when they came out - I'm so glad I didn't steal one!).  The hollandaise is made fresh for every order, and it's clear.  Oh, she raved about the savoury johnny cake it came on too!
Banana Chocolate Johnny Cakes
Our last dish was the Banana Chocolate Johnny Cakes. These were fabulous. Surrounded by dulce de leche, the banana was cooked into the batter. Chocolate was generously distributed throughout the cakes - which, like everything at The Mule, are gluten free - and they were topped with pineapple and mint.  Another winner of a dish.

In summary, The Mule brunch is a contender for best in the Hammer. Fresh, honest and delicious food. We will be back, and we will love it.