Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Eating up the Hill: Piri piri chicken with corn on the cob & chips

As part of the Parliamentary Cafeteria's menu revitalization they've been introducing more ethnic dishes, or at least ethnic-inspired dishes. One of the new offerings fits this category: piri piri chicken with corn on the cob and chips.

As a fan of Nando's, the Portugese chicken chain out of South Africa that's popular in England, I already enjoy the piri piri chicken so this was a must-try. And I've had the corn at Nando's so I'll assume that's authnic as well. The chips, I dunno. Maybe with some piri piripowder.

This was a new entree so the server was a bit confused at how much chicken to give me. I watched with disapointment as, after consulting with a colleague, the pound or so of chicken she had originally scooped out for me was whittled down to a few hundred grams as she weighed it on a scale.

Was left with less chicken than I'd have liked. A full cob would have been nice too. Still, it was tasty chicken, though it could have been spicier, and the corn was a nice healthy touch. Some piri piri powder on the chips would have been excellent. Did try to soeak some of the excess sauce up with them.

All in all, will try again.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Eating OFF the Hill: Pricy tacos at El Camino

I've been hearing I must try the tacos at El Camino for a few years now, and despite their Elgin Street locaiton being just down the street from me, I had never gotten around to making the trip. That changed this weekend, when I decided on a late taco dinner.

Perhaps my delayed visit was due to subconcious disapointment that they had taken over the space that once housed Maroush, the acknowledged by those of fine taste best shawarma in Ottawa for many years. Or maybe it was that they weren't open for lunch on weekends. More the latter, I think.

I'd read online of service issues, but I went late evening and was seated right away on a high top chair that was inelegent to get myself into. The lighting was rather dark, making it difficult to read my newspaper -- my solo dining companion.

I ordered three tacos -- a beef, a chicken and a crispy chorizo. Rather that come out all at once, the chorizo came out first maybe 10 minutes after ordering, then a 10 minute pause, and then came the chicken and beef. Would have prefered them all at once, and don't see why they wouldn't be served together.

I'll start with the two soft tacos, which came last. The chicken was standard pulled chicken tika, seasoned nicely, with an assortment of fresh veggies on a fresh soft small tortia. Was pleasently surprised to find that the beef was not ground but was actually steak, making it probably the best value of the three tacos I had. It also came with a slice of avocado.

I was surprised to find the chorizo taco came in a hard shell. Sure, it said crispy on the menu, so yeah, but I guess I was thinking maybe the chorizo was crispy, which in hindsight I realize doesn't really make any sense. The sausage was prety finely sliced to the point of losing its character, I felt, and not standing out as I would expect it to.

There were squeeze bottles of two different sauces provided, a milder green sauce and a hotter red sauce. The red sauce tasted pretty hot when tested on my finger, but actually blended quite nicely with the taco toppings when applied to be complementary, and not overpowering.

I enjoyed the three tacos which were well-prepared with lots of fresh ingredients that went together well. However, at $6.75 a piece they were definitely on the pricy side. I passed on the interesting tequila-focused cocktail list, as $14 for a cocktail is well over my comfort level.

Instead, I ordered the churros with salted caramel for desert. Delicious, fresh, crispy, cinamony, and an excess of salted caramel sauce for dipping. Sinfully good.

A very tasty meal in a dark and noisy reasturant. Food over ambience. But at $35 with tax and tip for a meal that didn't include a drink (they were out of Mexican coke, sadly) I likely won't be back often.

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Eating OFF the Hill: Days Four, Five and Six in Quebec City

One cannot eat like a culinary King all the time -- at least not on my salary. So the second half of my trip to Quebec City featured less of the fancy meals. But there are still a few meals worth sharing.

I actually had plans to get back on track for lunch on Friday with the tourtiere at La La Cuisine, but after trekking down there I was turned away as apparently they closed at 2:00 PM and I had arrived at 1:40 PM.

Thankfully, there was a random Chinese place a few doors down that also closed at 2:00 PM but was still willing to offer me food in exchange for money.

Reasturant La Petit Dana

Normally I wouldn't cover random Chinese lunch, but customer service points to them after the bad experience at their neighbours. I ordered the lunch special, General Tao chicken with a chicken noodle soup, Chinese style.

It was soup, It was fine. It was hot. There were noodles. Also, another Diet Pepsi. Any time I saw a Diet Coke in Quebec, it was like a moment of wonder.

General Tao chicken. It was fine. It was good. Didn't taste pre-made, though of course it was. Chicken was crispy. There were the expected vegetables Filled me up for the walk down to the Museum of Civilization, aka random stuff from someone's garage.

Dinner that night was Chez Ashton again before going to a baseball game. No picture. Had a cheeseburger with sauteed peppers and onions this time; that was different. And a poutine with ground beef. Was enjoyable.

Saturday was a write-off, culinary-wise. Skipped breakfast, and hopped the bus up to Montmorency Falls -- swarming with tourists. Taller than Niagara Falls I'm told, but not as wide. There was a cool gastro food truck I wanted to try, but they were cash-only and I was cashless. So it was MacDonald's before getting the bus back down to the city and a torrential downpour chased me back to my AirBnB instead of more excursions.

I did order some St. Hubert delivery that evening though. No picture, but it was delicious and meaty. Sugar pie for desert to keep it authentic.

Sunday, and I had a half-day before catching the train home, and I was determined to do my last meal right. Brunch at Bugel Fabrique, recommended from Anthony Bourdain's visit to Quebec.

Bugel Fabrique

It's outside the main touristy district, a block back from Rene Levesque, although some did make the trek, along with many locals. I got there during prime brunching hours, so there was about a 20 minute wait, but when I was done the line had cleared.

It's a small, homey place with a small patio. Menu is very much like Kettleman's in Ottawa, and so are the bagels -- Montreal style. I had read they sweetened the bagels with local honey, but I didn't taste a difference.

I ordered a toasted sesame bagel with goat cheese and a side of fruit -- I ended up with swiss cheese instead. Had to flag them down after it arrived to remind them of the orange juice I'd ordered. As for the cheese, I thought, maybe this is how goat cheese melts? I confirmed that, of course not, when I got the cheque. So service was haphazard. And that was not $2.95 worth of fruit I paid extra for. I understand they've got to maintain their margins, but jeez.

It was a good bagel and a fine brunch spot, but no better than Kettleman's and weak on service, although friendly enough.

Train cold plate

With a 3:00 PM departure from Quebec City -- and the smallest Via business lounge I've seen since Dorval -- they served a cold plate between Quebec and Montreal. Either chicken strips with naan, or a cheese plate. And I was seriously conflicted, as a cheese plate is my usual go-to purchase when in Via economy. but they mentioned pickles and olives as a key part of this particular cheese plate -- and I dislike both of those. So, the chicken it was.

This one was an interesting mix of two cuisines: Greek and Indian.Little naans, Indian. Chicken strips with a curry sauce, Indian. Chick peas in tomato sauce, half-Indian? Diced tomatoes and cucumbers, Greek. Tzatziki sauce, Greek. Fusion, I guess? I added taziki and veggies to my naan before adding the chicken for a little flat bread. It was OK. Was excited when I saw the desert as I thought it was a blondie. But no, banana bread. Which would feel like a cheated desert, but I've made it and know it has a stupid amount of sugar.

Train dinner

With Montreal receding behind us, after some weird maneuvering to get us facing the right way, it was time for dinner. Butternut squash ravioli, Korean beef, or lemon butter cod. My choice was easy -- the cod it was. As I've said before, the fish is always a safe choice on Via.

The cod could have been cooked a smidge less, and while I couldn't make out the lemon, the butter was subtle and added to a tasty fish, with quinoa and roasted veggies. Some brie and Swiss with grapes gave me the cheese I missed out on earlier, and the chocolate pudding was delish. A thoroughly enjoyable train meal.

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Friday, August 03, 2018

Eating OFF the Hill: Day Three in Quebec City

Breakfast on Thursday was the rest of yesterday's leftover tossard from Paillard, so for lunch I took the funicular down to lower town and managed to duck into Cochon Dingue just before the skies opened up.

Cochon Dingue

I was excited about both my choices at Cochon Dingue, but what really cemented the choice for me was the Charlevoix three cheese fondue appetizer. Haven't had fondue in forever, and was really looking forward to it. The menu description: three cheese fondues, Charlevoix cheese. Unfortunately, something may have been misunderstood in the translation, as here's what I got:

I was expecting a pot of hot melted Charlevoix three-cheese blend, and some bread on the side for dipping in said piping hot cheese. When the waitress placed this in front of me, I asked "is this the foundue" thinking perhaps there had been a mistake. But oui, I was told, c'est la fondue. Does fondue mean croquette? Isn't that also a french word?

Anyway, a bit disappointed, I dug in. There was at least melty tasty cheese on the inside, although not as piping hot as I would have liked. The accompanying berries were nice, but perhaps a bit strong in taste, almost overwhelming that of the cheese. A tasty enough appy, but overpriced for what you got and not the fondue I was looking for.

Thankfully, the main did not disappoint. When I saw the fish that Brian Tobin almost went to war with Spain over on the menu, I knew I had to see what the fuss was about and order the blackened local turbot with hollandaise sauce, veggies and rice. I love blackened fish, and this was not far behind my favourite ever blackened fish dish: the blackened drum I had at K-Paul's in New Orleans, where they invented the process.

This turbot didn't melt like butter the way the drum did, but it was tender, had a nice flavour, and the right amount of delicious crisp. The veggies were fine, the rice was plain but that was solved by mixing it with the hollandaise.

No room for dessert, the rain was finished and I had plans for a city and river tour.

Chez AshTon

Having gone on the fancier side for lunch, after my afternoon and evening of multi-modal touring I decided to finally hit the recommended fast food joint for a late dinner before heading back to the AirBNB. After all, I was told the trip would be a waste if I didn't hit Chez AshTon.

Rather than a Quebec McDonald's, I would say it's more like a Quebec Harvey's, with a dash of Arby's. Burgers, hot dogs, roast beef sandwiches and poutine are most of the menu.

I went with their signature double Ashton burger, which is a basic cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and a thousand island dressing. The double patties are a must, as each aren't very big at all. It was a reasonable fast food burger.

Also had the regular style poutine (they have a bunch of fancier ones, but I went traditional). This is the bebe/baby size, they have two larger sizes. It was pretty good. I'm not usually a big poutine or fries guys, but the gravy was plentiful and tasty, as were the squeaky curds, and I finished it all off.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Eating OFF the Hill: Day deux in Quebec City

Slept in and got a slow start Wednesday -- because I'm on vacation, y'all. But once I hopped the bus downtown and walked through the St. Jean gate, it was straight to Café-Boulangerie Paillard, recommended by several as an important stop for baked goodies.

Café-Boulangerie Paillard

I managed to navigate the entire ordering transaction avec my limited Francais, including asking for a bag for one of the items when I saw it was plus grand, so that was cool for me. I've found most Quebecrs tolerant/patiently amused by my attempts.

The croissant was my focus going in, but perusing the display case the torsade de chocolat also caught my eye. I recently read an article about how Parisians say "pain au chocolat" and the rest of France says chocolatine, so I've been hungry for something similar ever since.

Once I saw the torsade was like a foot long is when I asked for the sac. I had a few nibbles (delish, choclaty, buttery goodness) and into the sac it went for noshing throughout the day. And on to the croissant I went; buttery, flaky goodness. Fortified, I went out to face the day.

Ice cream break y'all

I'm writing a food blog, not a travel blog, so long story short I had no idea the Governor's Promendade hadso many damned upsteps...

... so for surviving, I treated myself to some soft serve (sugar cone upgrade ftw!) from the little shack at the top, behind la Citadelle. It was overcast this day but humid and warm, and it did not maintain structural integrity for long.

Dinner at Les Trois Garçons

Between the late breakfast, the soft serve and the humidity, I wasn't hungry during the usual lunching hours. I debated a late poutine lunch at Chez Ashton before a late dinner, but instead decided to go straight to an early dinner and do Chez Ashton for lunch tomorrow.

And so, having done a fancier dinner last night, I opted for one of the informal dinner options from my crowd-sourced list and grabbed a seat on the patio at Les Trois Garçons, just as they closed St. Jean to traffic and began towing quite a few vehicles.

With poutine on deck for tomorrow, I decided to go for a burger, and keep it local with Le Charlevoix, which the menu describes as "AAA ground beef, double patty (3oz.), 1608 and Hercule cheese from Charlevoix, fried and caramelized onions, artisanal bacon, bourbon BBQ sauce." All sounds like good stuff.

My meal came suspiciously fast, which could speak to their efficiency but is also suspect -- I doubt it was scratch made and cooked so fast. And if I'm paying $17.50 for a burger and fries, I want it cooked fresh from raw beef.

First, the fries. I'm often skeptical of the fries, but I believe these were twice-fried and they were very good, crispy and tasty. There was a choice of four mayos -- I went with the traditional.

Now, the burger. Bun was fresh, seedy and excellent with the right amount of chew -- according to the menu sourced from the La Fabrique bacon. To many burger places overlook the bun. I liked the cheese and bacon, but I thought the beef could have used some seasoning.

Or maybe it was seasoned, but it, along with the bacon and cheese, was overloaded by the heavy application of the bourbon bbq sauce. Too much sauce overpowering the other tastes, rendering them mute. Should have passed on the sauce.

Still, a lovely meal on the patio overlooking the tourist throng on St. Jean.

No desert tonight.

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