Sunday, August 06, 2023

Eating off the rails: Is VIA finally upping its catering game?

 As I've mentioned I am a frequent train traveler, usually between Ottawa and Toronto. With them extending the eligibility during COVID I was able to achieve the highest tier of VIA's frequent traveler program this year. One of the perks? We get to choose our meal selection before everyone else so we allays get our first choice.

Seems like a small perk, but it is disappointing to get stuck with the pasta. I have noticed a lot of repetition in their menu offerings -- the same baked hake or cold chicken offerings seem to come up a lot. But while we're still waiting for the new train cars on this route, a new menu option was offered on a recent trip that I just had to try -- BBQ brisket with mac and cheese.

Now, I went into this with expectations properly aligned. Beef is hard to reheat on a train, and brisket is best served fresh at a bbq smokehouse. But this was so different from the usual options I had to give it a shot.

Let's dispense with the sides first. Bread selection as per normal, good. Pudding with grilled pineapple, meh. Burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes, new and excellent, refreshing. I passed on the olives.

On to the main. The brussel sprouts were a surprise but went well with the rest of the dish. The macaroni and cheese was actually macaroni, and it was hot and reasonably cheesy. The brisket, while a little overcooked and not to smokehouse standards, was within train standards, had some nice bark, and a tasty BBQ sauce.

All in all, a worthy addition to VIA's menu rotation. Would definitely order again.

On the other end of the new menu spectrum, on a recent trip I was offered a beef noddle stir fry. Recognizing another new menu offering I again decided to give it a chance. This time, it was not the home run the brisket mac and cheese was.

Again, let's dispense with the sides. Bun good. Two cheeses with grapes, delish. I'm hazy on the dessert. I think it was the apple pie; I have had that a few times and it was delish. They don't skimp on the cinnamon, or the apples. 

On to the mains. I had an excellent crispy beef stir fry on The Canadian for lunch. This was definitely not that. Chunks of unseasoned and overcooked tough beef. The noodles were good and sauces though I would have liked the beg mixed in. And lima beans in a stir fry? Was there a sale?

Anyway, not on my have again any time soon list.  But keep the cheese in the rotation please.

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