Bistro Chezanne

Do you Twitter? You should. Especially if you’re a restaurant – in fact, it’s one of the first things I look for after a website. It’s a great way to let potential customers know what your daily special is, what entertainment you have going on, etc. Speaking as someone who used to hate the idea (“who is so self-centred enough that they feel the need to update the world on everything they’re doing every five seconds?” Oh, that’d be me? Well, then!) it's actually a great place to meet like-minded people. Oh, and let the world know what you're doing every five seconds.

Actually, I like it because it’s quickly become my source for news and information. We actually found Bistro Chezanne through Twitter because someone on my list mentioned that she had an amazing meal there the night before, and we just happened to be near it the following day.

The address is Mississauga, but it’s actually in Streetsville, which is a small section of Mississauga. Right on the corner of Queen and Main, it’s a fairly new restaurant that serves up French food in a cozy atmosphere.

The decor is subtle with pretty art on the walls and candlelight on each table. The front dining room has a big bay window that overlooks the street, but it’s close to the front door so I was afraid it’d be drafty. We were seated at a table in the back dining room by the bar, and found it much quieter back there. The tables have dark linens (a nice change from the white you see everywhere) and ridiculously comfortable chairs. It was all very cozy and intimate.

Our server brought us water in a carafe (nice to have at the table so you don’t have to keep asking for refills) and we ordered a bottle of white wine while we mulled over the menu. Though not a large menu by any means, the dishes were all described in such delicious detail it was hard to narrow down our choices.
We started with the Escargot de Bourgogne ($11) which came out piping hot and cooked in the shells. One of my biggest complaints with escargot is when they are drenched in butter so it’s a greasy mess that you lose the essence of what you’re actually eating. The ratio of butter and garlic to escargot was perfect and made an excellent light start to the meal.
Jersey has never tried frog legs before, and our server recommended the Grenouilles ($14) for him. Served in a tarragon brandy cream sauce with a taste of warm tomato salad, it was fabulous. The legs were cooked so the meat fell off the bone while bursting with flavour in each bite. The sauce...oh my goodness, the sauce...we had to have a second bread basket so we didn’t leave a drop of it. Creamy, flavourful, seasoned perfectly – if I could bottle that sauce and drink it, I would have.
We really struggled with what to order, so we again turned to our server for help in suggesting her favourites. I often ask staff what they recommend and have generally been pleased with their help, so it’s something we do often. Turns out our server had only been working for a little bit, but she had been able to try about 1/3 of the menu and was able to answer our questions based on her own experience. I loved that! I cannot stress the importance of this enough: let your staff eat your food so they can tell customers about it. If they like something, it will come through and make me want it more. It’s a win-win!

Back to the dinner, she suggested the Beef Bourguignonne ($22) because the kitchen had said earlier in the evening that it was the “best batch” they had ever made. Well! That’s a bold statement to make, so we had to know what all the excitement was about, so Jersey ordered it for his entree. Braised beef short ribs with bacon, mushroom and onions with a side of potatoes and vegetables were beautifully plated and served to us. We could actually smell it before it reached our table, and were drooling in anticipation for the meal. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and seasoned well. Though I didn’t find much bacon in the dish, there were hints of smokiness that came through every so often. The vegetables were cooked to a crisp and the mashed potatoes were creamy with a hint of goat cheese.
One of my weaknesses is lamb – if I see it on a menu, I have to order it. The Lamb ($28) here was served as two medallions over a bed of mashed potatoes and served with grilled zucchini. There were crispy parsnip chips and a fantastic sauce that was sweet with a hint of smokiness. I’ve tried lamb from many places, but this was hands down, the best lamb I have ever had in my life. My life!!
Both entrees were so delicious that Jersey and I actually split them both so we could savour the different tastes and textures. It was no easy feat pulling that lamb away from me though, let me tell you.

Finally, we ended with the daily dessert special which was a Pear Tart that was extremely sweet, but served over cinnamon unsweetened yogurt. I am not generally a fan of yogurt, but it cut the sweetness of the tart so perfectly that I needed it with each bite. The yogurt is actually a fantastic alternative to the usual whipped cream you so often find on desserts these days.
Overall, this was one of the best new restaurants we have been to in the past while. The attention to detail in the food, and the impeccable service made it a wonderful evening. If you are looking for an intimate night where you can linger over a fantastic meal, I highly recommend Bistro Chezanne. I believe the winter menu is now available, as is a Prix Fixe menu that offers a three course meal for only $32.

Bistro Chezanne on Urbanspoon
Bistro Chezanne
209 Queen St. S, Mississauga

Neurotic Nibbler: Print Edition

A few weeks ago, I was approached by the owners of The Purple Heather to write a short piece for an upcoming issue of a local magazine focused on Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga.

Flattered, I happily accepted and we went to the restaurant for dinner one evening. Sampling a few items from the current menu to getting a sneak peek at the upcoming winter menu, I even got to meet the chef! Armed with a full belly and a Blackberry full of notes, I went home to put all my thoughts into coherent words.

I'm so very pleased to say that you can now see what I wrote in the November/December issue of  West of the City - available at Chapters/Indigo and Whole Foods. I'm on page 145!

So thankful for the opportunity and so happy with the result! Amazing what an impulsive idea a year ago has given me!


I think one of the main attractions to chain restaurants is a sense of consistency – in menu offerings, decor/ambiance and service. When you go to one location here, you kind of know what to expect if you go to another location there. We’ve never had any major issues with Kelsey’s, so when we were out and about in Milton, we decided it would be a pretty safe choice for dinner.

First off, this particular location is probably one of the nicest looking Kelsey’s that I’ve been in. I assume that it’s pretty new, or it has recently gone under major renovations, because it’s gorgeous in there. They have certainly upped the classiness factor in their decor and layout of the dining room.

The night we went happened to be their wing promotion night – half off wings all day – so the restaurant was loud and busy. We were seated pretty quickly and managed to get a table in a small dining area apart from the main room (so that made it a bit easier to have a conversation over the loud drone in the big room). Our server was friendly and we placed our order/got our drinks surprisingly quick.

We decided to share a few items instead of getting larger entrees, and we started with the Ranch Chips. The description promised crispy, hot chips drizzled with ranch sauce, bacon and cheese – kind of like a baked potato but with chips. What we got was a greasy mess that was almost inedible. The chips were soft, cold and soggy with oil, made soggier with a disturbing amount of ranch dressing. There was hardly and bacon, but what was there was cold as well. I really didn’t enjoy this – and according to the menu on the website, it’s no longer a menu item. To that, I say, good riddance!
Another item we ordered that I can’t find on the online menu was the Pulled Pork Pizza: thin crust with barbeque sauce, pulled pork, cheese and chives. The sauce was overwhelmingly sweet, and the pork was sparse. It wasn’t horrible, but it got tiring very quickly because it was so sweet. Although not on the current menu, there is a Barbeque Chicken Pizza in its place. I would clarify that the sauce wasn’t the same before I ordered it, though.
Of course we couldn’t go on wing night and not order wings, so we tried the Honey Garlic. The wings came out lukewarm (not hot at all, but not quite cold) with a sliver of carrot and a sliver of celery. They were coated nicely in the sauce so that the whole wing was saucy without it being so sticky you didn’t want to touch it (even though I eat my wings with a fork....what? Normal people do that!!) They weren’t anything earth-shattering, but they were decent. 
Until a couple of wings into our order I bit into a wing and realised that it was a little too pink for my liking. So I put that wing down and tried another...and it was maybe even a little more pink than the first one. I am all for a bit of pink in red meat, but chicken scares me, and I wasn’t comfortable eating anymore wings after that. To Kelsey’s credit, our server was very apologetic and took away the wings immediately. A manager came by and also apologized and took them off our bill as well. 
Since the service was quite good and they sincerely apologized, the next time we were in Milton we actually decided to go back for a second try.  Again, the restaurant was extremely busy as it happened to be a Thursday again. Unfortunately, this time we didn’t get too far past our appetizer because of two reasons:

1) The service was really, really slow. It took nearly an hour for us to get our appetizer after waiting for nearly half an hour for a table. There were lots of staff walking back and forth and apologizing for the wait, but nothing seemed to be coming out of the kitchen in a timely manner.
2) When we finally received our order (7 Layer Dip) it was cold. Not room temperature or lukewarm, but straight-from-the-fridge cold in the middle and the cheese on top was actually starting to harden. Not sure if they pre-make the dips and pop them in the fridge, but someone forgot to put ours in the oven to warm up.

Again, our server was apologetic and the manager came by to give us the meal on the house as well as his personal card with an offer for free wings next time we came back. I can honestly say that although they are apologetic, that was two incidences that I’m not sure warrants a third – free wings or not. A good restaurant should have good service, absolutely – but to consistently have to apologize for the kitchen? I’d say there are bigger problems that need to be addressed there. So, thank you for the free wings Kelsey’s – maybe one day. Maybe.

Kelsey's on Urbanspoon
45 Chisholm Drive, Milton

Jack Astor's

A friend of ours lives around the Eastgate Square area in Hamilton, and we’re always struggling to find something to eat when we come to visit. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it’s always ridiculously late for dinner and nothing is open? That can’t be it. (If you know the area and have recommendations, I’m all ears.)

The night we came, the place was busy, but there was no wait and we were seated right away in a booth along the wall. It was after the mall had closed (it’s actually in the mall parking lot, but I don’t think it’s actually attached to the mall? I could be wrong, but really. Who cares that much, right?) Apparently this post is all about writing in brackets. It’s like...split personality-two conversations at a time-goodness. Awesome. (Totally makes up for the fact I write like.....once...a month....right? This counts as two posts? No? Ok. Fine. Tough crowd.) I always find Jack Astor’s to be dark, and this one was no different. I actually had to strain to read the menu because the lighting was so low. (Don’t you dare make an old joke.) The dining room was loud because there were a few large groups of people by us, and it felt more like a bar than a restaurant. If that’s the atmosphere they were going for, they totally nailed it.

Our server was...interesting. He looked and acted like a Jersey Shore character (Gym, Tan, Laundry, anyone?) and I’m pretty sure he was hitting on me. Not that I’m complaining, but most people don’t do that when I’m sitting next to my husband-to-be. He was extremely attentive at the beginning and was quick to bring us our drinks, but after our food came, the service dropped off and we didn’t see him much until we were ready to pay.

As an appetizer, our server suggested one of the seasonal items, the Baked Brie with Garlic and Berry Compote. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again – I love brie. I had high hopes that it would be good because the description sounded safe, but I was disappointed. It came out very hot but looked completely unappetizing. The cheese itself was over-heated and was a gooey, unattractive mess with a thick film of grease on the top. The compote had spread everywhere and mixed with the grease, so it was almost inedible unless you wanted a heart attack. Roasted garlic was scarce and there were only a couple of cloves on the top. My favourite part of the dish was the crisp bread. Overall, it was a very disappointing start to the meal.
You can’t go to Jack’s without getting Pan Bread – it’s like going to a seafood place and having the chicken. You just have to have it, and you have to have it with cheese. I mean, if you’re already eating a skillet of butter, what’s a blanket of cheese really going to do? Go big or go home, my friends. This Pan Bread did not let us down; it was hot and crispy around the edges with a soft, fluffy middle. Plenty of butter sat on the bottom (made me think of a guy I knew in high school who would lick the parchment paper to get every drop of butter), and lots of gooey cheese on top.
I went with the Duelling Sausages Pizza which had both chipotle chicken sausage as well as shitake mushroom chicken sausage along with roasted red peppers and onions. Unfortunately for me, it looked better than it tasted. I found the dough to be too bread-y and was not a fan of the tomato sauce at all (it was too sour for my liking). The key players, the sausages, were bland and I had trouble distinguishing the flavours they were supposed to be. I pouted a lot when I ate it, and could only get through a slice before I gave up. (Side note: when I got the takeout box back from our server, he wrote on the top “a delicious bedside treat for you” .... weird, right???)
Chicken Fettuccine was also on the seasonal menu (how is that a seasonal item? I don’t get it.) and was average. The sauce was creamy but bland and the chicken didn’t have much flavour to it. You could probably do a better job of it at home yourself. Jack’s, if you’re reading this – a little bit of salt goes a long way. Just saying!
The best entree of the night was the Figgin’ Good Burger with a side of fries (someone told me once that it wasn’t very fig-y, so if I ever had it I should order it with extra fig sauce. Thank goodness I remembered because it made a huge difference). Aged white cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Thai ketchup (couldn’t even taste that) and fig sauce are piled on top of a thick, juicy patty. After the addition of a significant amount of fig sauce, this was one tasty burger! Sweet, salty, juicy, crunchy...all the flavours went fantastic together. It will probably be the only thing I eat from Jack’s from now on, considering the fails we had with the other entrees and how good this was.
All in all, it was a pretty disappointing meal. Bread and a burger don’t seem worth it to go to a restaurant when there are so many other places out there (although I can’t seem to find any around the area I haven’t tried/want to try). Probably not on my “have to go back there soon” list anywhere in the near future.

Jack Astor's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
Jack Astor’s
75 Centennial Parkway North, Hamilton

The Keg

I go through phases with my cravings where I only want to eat one kind of thing, and I’ll keep eating it until I’m positively sick of it – then I won’t want it for a long time afterwards. Lately, it’s been steak. Steak on a bun, steak on salads, or just a large portion of steak-y goodness with some mashed potatoes.  We happened to have a gift certificate for The Keg, so we decided to go for a little drive and ended up at the Waterdown location. 

Have you been along Dundas towards Clappison’s Corner lately? Having lived in Burlington for most of my life, I’m amazed at how quickly things get built up these days. Where did all these stores and restaurants come from?? I feel so old when I turn to Jersey and say things like, “I remember when all this used to be fields!”

I’ve noticed that over the past couple of years all the Keg locations have been renovating to a sleeker look than it used to be, and Waterdown was no exception. Tall ceilings, muted colours and dark furniture – it’s all very chic, but it’s starting to get a bit old. All the chain restaurants these days seem to be going the same route (Moxie’s, Keg,...even Turtle Jacks at Mapleview thinks it’s all fancy now). I’d love to walk into a restaurant and see something different and fresh.

I digress. The night we went was particularly busy and we had to wait almost 30 minutes for a table. Guess being kind of in the middle of nowhere isn’t hurting business.  Not bad for a weeknight.  We were seated in a cozy corner booth and enjoyed some wine while we waited for our appetizer.

Crab Cakes were described as “sweet Jonah and lump Dungeness crab” but when we asked our server what Jonah crab was, he wasn’t sure. In case you’re wondering, it’s very similar to Dungeness crab but from the East coast. Served with a dill caper mayo, they looked better than they tasted. Two fair-sized cakes come to an order, but I was disappointed with the lack of crab flavour. It was more filler than anything, and to make matters worse, they were cold. Not lukewarm around the edges, I’m talking straight-out-of-the-fridge cold in the middle. To give our server credit, he was very apologetic and took it off our bill.
My favourite menu item here is the Teriyaki sirloin, and I ordered it in a dinner with mashed potatoes and vegetables. An 8 oz. portion of tender, marinated steak was cooked to a perfect medium (I know, I know. Steak lovers are looking at me and shaking their heads in disapproval right now. I can’t eat it any rarer, but be proud that I’ve moved up from a well done!) 
Jersey ordered the normal 8 oz. sirloin with a baked potato and said that it was also cooked perfectly to his medium-rare liking. Both dishes came out piping hot with crispy vegetables and delicious potatoes.
Our server felt so bad about the crab cakes, he offered us dessert on the house to make up for it. Not ones to turn down sweets, we decided on the Sweet Minis Trio – strawberry shortcake, s’more and a passion brulee. They weren’t kidding when they say “mini” because each type was only 2-3 bites. It was fun to share, but nothing was very exciting. 
Overall, I’d say our experience was okay. The entrees were good, but the appetizer was disappointing and the dessert was okay. The best thing about the night was the service, as our server was really fun and personable with us the whole night. Even though it was busy in the restaurant, he was attentive without being irritating and made our experience a good one. We even ran into the manager on our way out and made it a point to stop and tell him what a great server we had. So often, we are quick to speak up when we’re unhappy, but I think it’s just as important to speak up when we have good things to say as well. No one wants to only hear bad news, so we always make it a priority to share our good experiences too. Not only do we appreciate it as customers, but I’m sure the people we’re recognizing appreciate it too. Anyways, my point is, we didn’t have a perfect meal, but we’ll be back purely because the service was good and we’ll give them another try.

The Keg Steakhouse & Bar - Waterdown on Urbanspoon

American Nibbles

I've been travellling a lot lately for work - I've basically been gone every week since the beginning of August and have only been home on weekends. I used to think work trips were fun and exciting, but doing it as much as I have over the past while, I'm exhausted. All I see are hotels, airports and meeting rooms.

One of the advantages to travelling is being able to try new restaurants, and that's what I want to talk about today. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of any of the food (mainly because I didn't want my boss to think I was weird for whipping out my camera at every meal), so these are just my general musings from the places that stuck out in my mind.

The majority of the restaurants we ate at are fairly well-known American chain restaurants, but I did try to steer our decisions to places that we don't have in Canada. One place that I didn't get to try was Ponderosa. Every time I saw one and suggested it, anyone I was with groaned in chimed in with a variety of protests. So, to any American readers I might have on this blog I ask - is it really that bad? There seem to be enough of them around that they can't be so horrible, right? I admit I am curious. The adamant refusals to step foot inside of one makes me want to try it even more. Stubborn? Me? No, why do you ask?

Ruby Tuesday's
Probably my favourite place out of all the restaurants we went to, mainly because they have a pretty extensive salad bar that was well stocked. After eating out 3 meals a day x 329847234732 days, I craved fresh and healthy food and the salad bar was my haven. We liked it enough we tried it in two different states (NY and CT) and it was consistent in service and quality. The Watermelon Fizz was a good drink too: fresh chunks of watermelon and soda with mint leaves (with free refills!) - made it a nice change from pop or water. I also really liked the choices for side dishes becaue it went beyond fries and baked potatoes - I tried the roasted asparagus, the spaghetti squash and the roasted green beans, and all were done beautifully. There are the typical steaks, burgers, pastas etc. on the menu, so it's not an exotic menu by any means, but it was full of vegetable options to make whatever you choose feel healthier. It was exactly what I needed after many exhausting days.

P.F. Chang's
My boss really likes Asian food, so we found a P.F. Chang's one night and decided to try it out. The decor is very trendy with fountains and statues everywhere, along with chic young servers inside. I've heard a lot of people say that it's not authentic Asian food, it's not good, blah blah blah - but I actually didn't mind it. It's a lot better than the Mandarin buffet here, and the menu was extensive with lots of choices. We went for the prix fixe menu for 2 ($40) and it came with a full sized appetizer, two entrees, rice and dessert. As is typical for Asian fare, the portions were large, but everything came fresh and steaming hot to the table. Was it my mom's cooking? Not even close. Was it passable for a chain Asian restaurant in North America? You bet. I'd go back if I was craving Asian and saw one around.

The Elephant Bar
Another chain, with most locations in California, the menu here was as thick as a novel. There was everything from fancy meal-sized salads to Asian stir-frys to fajitas. It was overwhelming to go through the menu and I'm glad I had time before we were seated to look through the menu so I didn't feel too pressured when our server came to the table. One of the worries I have with restaurants that try to do too much is that they can't master their dishes and they bite off more than they can chew. Thankfully, that was not the case here because our table ordered from each of the menus (Asian, seafood, salad) and we were all happy with our choices. I do have to note that the Warm and Spicy Artichoke Dip was way better than any artichoke dip I've had here. When I mentioned this to the server, she said that the artichokes were local grown and bought fresh - my goodness, what a fantastic difference it makes! Eating fresh produce has never tasted so sinfully good.

There have been plenty of other places I got to try, but these are the ones that stood out in my mind as something I thought I should share here. Next week, I'm in Winnipeg - maybe I'll get to bring back a good story from there!

Julia's Ristorante

A while back I had written about an Italian place on Dundas, and how I found my experience there to be...disappointing to say the least. Julia is a restaurant on Lakeshore that is the creation of the same owner, and my experience at Julia was night and day.

Julia is a beautiful location on the corner of a block on Lakeshore with a large patio in the summer. I would describe the decor as elegant chic with eclectic light fixtures and art on the wall. The restaurant is dimly lit with candles on each table to give it a cozy feel. 

The menu is a bit more upscale with an Italian/Latin fusion, and there are some really interesting choices. Our server was incredibly patient with us and knew the menu inside-out. She helped us pick between the dishes we were debating and her suggestions turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.

As we were waiting for our food, fresh bread was brought to the table (in a colander instead of a basket) and we nibbled on it with fresh oil and vinegar. The bread was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, but it was cold so that threw me off – not room temperature, but actually cold as though it was from the fridge. I found that odd.
We started with the Fondue which was a mixture of sharp cheeses that was kept warm over a tea light and served with cubes of bread and blanched asparagus and green beans. The vegetables were served cold, but nice and crisp, and their sweetness cut the creaminess/saltiness of the cheese nicely. It was an okay dish and fun to eat, but it wasn’t amazing.
Seafood Bouillabaisse was full of fresh seafood simmered in a flavourful tomato broth. There were crab legs, fish, mussels, clams, scallops and shrimps that were all perfectly cooked and tasted fresh. Nothing was over cooked or tough, and there was no fishy smell, to any of the meats. The broth was sweetened from the seafood and there was a slight kick from the seasonings that blended everything together into a delicious combination. Served with slices of bread for sopping up the broth, the dish was extremely filling and I would recommend it only if you’re very hungry or sharing!
Lamb Osso Bucco was a nice change from a standard osso bucco. It was served with polenta and grilled rapini which added delicious textures and flavours to the dish. The portion of lamb was huge and fell off the bone into tender, flavourful pieces. The sauce was tangy and slightly sweet with mixed well with the mild bitterness of the rapini. The creaminess of the polenta tied everything together wonderfully. 
 The food was delicious, and service was attentive without being overbearing. Our server knew the menu well and listened to our needs to make excellent recommendations. I would come back solely because the service was so excellent.

Julia's Ristorante on Urbanspoon
Julia's Ristorante
315 Lakeshore Rd. E., Oakville

Adobo Mexican Grill

Downtown Burlington has so many interesting and unique restaurants; I don’t think I’ve even been to half of them in all the years I’ve lived here. Jersey and I were out walking along the lake one night and decided to try out Adobo for some Mexican food.

On John St., Adobo is a small restaurant with a small patio and bright, inviting lights. We were greeted warmly when we arrived and ordered a carafe of sangria to cool off while we browsed the menu. Fresh fruit, plenty of ice and a generous portion of wine made it a delicious and sweet drink on a warm summer night.
The menu is by no means long, but the options are all made fresh in-house. We decided to share a couple of appetizers before dinner, so we opted for the Guacamole ($4.49) with fresh corn chips as one of our starters. The portion wasn’t big, but it tasted fresh and had large chunks of avocado and tomato in it. The creaminess of the guacamole was a perfect way to cut the saltiness of the crunchy corn chips. There were no preservatives, and the guacamole started to turn brown when we were nearing the end. 
Ceviche ($7.49) is a dish of fresh fish that is “cooked” with the use of lemon juice (and in this case, lemon juice mixed with olive oil). Big cubes of fresh white fish and tomato were simply tossed in the lemon/oil mixture with a dash of cilantro. The fish itself was delicious. Extremely fresh (no “fishy” smell at all) and meaty without being tough or chewy, the flavour was phenomenal. Served with fresh chips, it too was a small portion but a neat dish to share.
After our appetizers I wasn’t overly hungry so I opted for the Tacos with shredded pork ($7.79). When they brought it to the table, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting because it looked like a small salad served with a basket of tortilla shells. The idea is to use the shells to wrap the salad mixture into a soft taco/fajita. The shells were warm, fresh and delicious. They were corn shells, so there was a slight grittiness to the texture, but they didn’t taste like the shells you buy from the grocery store. The mixture included lettuce, cheese, pork, sour cream, salsa and diced jalapeno. The pork was tender and flavourful when eaten on its own, but I found that the taste got lost under the salsa and cheese when I ate everything together. The menu said that it came with two flour shells or three corn shells, and I found three corn shells perfect for the amount of meat/salad mixture they gave me.
Jersey wanted something different, and the owner recommended the Pork Mole ($14.99) as one of his most popular dishes. A homemade mole sauce covers a portion of pork so tender it can be shredded with your fork when it comes to the table, served with a side of rice and baked beans. The sauce was delicious. With each bite we tried we could pick out a different spice or flavour, and there was such depth to the dish it kept us wanting more. The pork was tender without being dry and soaked up the sauce beautifully. The rice was rice, and the beans had an odd taste that we didn’t quite enjoy, so we just focused on the pork and sauce.
Overall, it was a great dinner with personalised, friendly service. It was nice to sit in a place that isn’t a chain restaurant, and really enjoy our experience. The prices are reasonable, the food was fresh and tasty, and we had a really nice dinner without feeling rushed or crowded. We will definitely be coming back when we’re in the mood for Mexican. Ole!

Adobo Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon
Adobo Mexican Grill
399 John St., Burlington

The Purple Heather Gastro Pub

One of the latest fads in food these days seems to be the emergence of more and more gastro pubs, so naturally, when I heard that Burlington was getting one, I started counting down the days. A gastro pub is basically a mixture between a bar and a restaurant – so you’ll see bar food on the menu, but it’s usually kicked up a notch and made fancier. For example, you might have a burger and fries, but the burger has brie and foie gras on it, or something to that effect.

The Purple Heather opened a while back at the corner of Walkers and Dundas and is on the ground floor of a large building beside a lighting store. The ceilings are super high, and it looks like an upscale pub. There is a large bar and plenty of cozy tables and booths surrounded by televisions.

We have actually visited on a number of occasions, and I even coordinated with the staff to throw Jersey a surprise birthday party a couple months ago. The staff members we have dealt with have all been amazing. They have been extremely knowledgeable about the menu, what beers go well with what types of food, and just all around friendly people. In fact, when we came in after we were engaged, our favourite server gave us champagne to celebrate because she was so excited for us. Again, I cannot stress how important it is to have good customer service because it makes such a difference in whether or not people will want to continually come back.

Just a disclaimer before we get to the food: these are pictures are from a few visits; I did not eat all of these in one sitting....though I could probably try (and fail miserably, but be really happy trying).

For those of us who like to try a few different things at once, there is a Tapas, Charcuterie and Cheese platter where you can choose 1, 2 or 3 items. Obviously it’s me, so we chose three: beef wrapped asparagus, seared tuna and pate. Of those items, I think the beef wrapped asparagus is the only item still on the tapas menu, with other things substituting the pate and seared tuna. I will say that the seared tuna was by far, my favourite thing from the platter. The tuna was fresh and the crust was salty, crunchy and delicious. The pate was creamy, fatty and rich – just as a good pate should be. Finally, the beef wrapped asparagus was a little disappointing. Aesthetically, it was lovely to look at, but the taste was bland and it was cold. The beef was tender though, but again, there was lack of flavour.
Thai Tuna Lettuce Rolls was a do-it-yourself appetizer with fresh cubes of marinated raw tuna, boston bib lettuce, mango coleslaw and a wasabi/salt sprinkle. It was served with a side of hot sauce and Thai sweet chilli sauce for dipping. Oh my goodness, this was delicious. It was recommended to us by our server for the evening, and it was a fresh and yummy appetizer on a hot summer day. The fish was incredibly fresh, and all the flavours combined to make a taste explosion with every bite. I highly recommend this dish as a starter if you are a fresh fish fan (woohoo, alliteration for the win!).
I’m not generally a cheese fan (I know it’s hard to tell because all of my posts have cheese everywhere, but I swear, it’s not usually something I gravitate towards) but I love brie. What can I say? It’s the princess in me. So the Baked Brie with roasted garlic, chutney and bread is a must have when we come. The two large heads of roasted garlic + a tower of crispy crustini + a whole wheel of brie = heaven. The chutney added a sweetness that cut the creaminess of the cheese, and the whole garlic was a great touch.
One of my favourite things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit in salads. Watermelon is one of my all-time favourite fruits, so the Watermelon and Beet Salad with beets, watermelon, tomatoes and goat cheese sounded delicious. The salad is really light and refreshing, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, so it doesn’t overpower the taste of the ingredients. The crumbled goat cheese added a sharp creaminess that worked really well with the watermelon.
Moving on to mains, a popular dish they offer is the Beef Bourguignon Pie – an impressive looking pastry shell stuffed with braised tenderloin, bacon, mushrooms and whole pearl onions in a red wine demi. A side of vegetables accompanies it for a very filling meal. Though pretty, and overflowing with meat and vegetables, I found the pie to be lacklustre in flavour. The red wine didn’t shine through, and there were a lot of pearl onions, so I got tired of those really quickly. The beef was tender and cooked well, but again, the flavour was missing. I’m not sure I would get it again.
Jersey’s always wanted to try haggis, so he was pretty excited to find it on the menu, even though it’s not done in the traditional sense. Heather Haggis is duck, lamb, bison and oats (none of the scary stuff in normal haggis) with potatoes, turnips and vegetables. It actually reminded me of meatloaf when I tried it. It was good for a meatloaf, but I’m not sure if I’d say that was distinctly haggis-y.
Chicken Prosciutto and Asiago Melt is a focaccia sandwich with salsa and mayonnaise. The chicken is grilled and marinated so that it is still juicy, and the prosciutto and asiago add a salty depth to the whole package. For an extra amount of money you can upgrade your side to the Duck poutine (duck confit, cheese and duck jus) – and I highly recommend you doing so if you like duck. The poutine is phenomenal and there is a good portion of cheese and duck with every bite.
Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favourite comfort foods, but the Heather’s version includes braised lamb and bison – taking this comfort food up about a thousand notches. The meat isn’t ground as I would have expected it to be, but had more of a pulled pork texture. The pie looks small and unassuming, but I could only eat half of it when I ordered it.
One of the items that I wish they would bring back is the Fish Pie – kind of like a shepherd’s pie but with seafood. In the portion we received there was plenty of seafood with large shrimps and mussels. It was creamy and reminded me of seafood chowder mixed with shepherd’s pie. Hey Purple Heather! If you’re reading this, please bring back the Fish Pie! Thanks and love you lots, xoxo – Neurotic Nibbler
On Wednesdays, they have a special where you can get a schooner of domestic and a pound of wings for $14.95. Do you know how big a schooner of beer is? I didn’t. For those of you like me who don’t know, it’s 32 ounces. Thirty. Two. It’s basically a bucket. On a summer day, it’s a pretty welcome bucket, let me tell you. Paired with a pound of crispy fried wings – I like them to be tossed in the hot sauce and then coated in the dry Cajun spice, personally. Yum. Perfect after work treat.
For desserts, one of the most popular (and most amazing) offerings is the Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding topped with the house-made toffee sauce. Warm, gooey, sweet and full of carbs, it’s a treat that needs to be shared. You won’t want to, but you should. Trust me. Your thighs will thank you.
Or another delicious option is the Phyllo-Wrapped Cheesecake with the fresh cream and summer berries. I am drooling as I’m thinking about this because it was...ridiculous. If you’ve never had cheesecake wrapped in phyllo pastry, then you haven’t lived. I thought I knew cheesecake, but this....this, was beyond amazing. Creamy, smooth, flaky, buttery – I could use more adjectives, but you get the point. Just try it.
Finally, what’s a good pub without some good libations, right? I tend to like sweet white wines, so we discovered Strewn – Riesling and generally get it by the bottle when we’re out with friends. For only $30, it’s a cheaper option and it’s light and summery. I won’t mention how much of the bottle I can drink at a time, because I’m a lightweight, but let’s just say that it is yummy and it goes down much too easily.
So is a gastro pub that different? I’d say so. It’s casual enough that you can go for drinks and chill out with friends in your flip flops and beach clothes, or it’s nice enough to take someone on a date – it all depends on what you want to make of it. The food has high and low points, but for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve tried. The service has been wonderful and we have had a good time with every visit. It’s definitely a comfortable atmosphere and somewhere you can consider the local pub. If you come and I’m there, say hi – I’ll probably be the one with the mountain of food in front of her!

Purple Heather Gastro Pub on Urbanspoon
The Purple Heather
3600 Dundas St. W., Burlington


I’m adventurous when it comes to eating, and I am the kind of person that likes to go to a restaurant not only for delicious food, but for the experience. I like to try new things, especially if it’s something that I can’t make at home myself.

I heard about Sokratis offering what they call a “Cyprus Traditional Meze” which is a set meal of many different items so you get to taste a little bit of everything. At $21.99 per person (minimum of 2 people must order at a time) and 16 different items, I took Jersey to see what this was all about. We should have been warned when the menu itself says, “a warning though must be attached to this culinary experience – the quantity and variety of dishes is immense, a true assault on your taste buds.” Instead of being intimidated, I took it as a challenge and decided that my taste buds needed assaulting.

Sokratis is in the West end of Burlington, in the heart of Aldershot. Over the years I have known it to be a Greek restaurant, a breakfast place, and now, back to a Greek restaurant again. There is a large patio outside and plenty of parking around the building. Walking in, there are murals on the walls and a cozy atmosphere with lots of seating. 

Since we ordered the Meze, there wasn’t really a need to look through the menu considering we were about to eat the world. However, the menu was extensive and when I come back, there are definitely items there that I want to try (mmm, moussaka). It was also this outing that I learned Jersey had never tried the flaming cheese before, so we ordered it in addition to our meals just so he could experience pyrotechnic dairy.

Saganaki Opa! ($9.99) is a triangle of keflotyri cheese that comes out on a small frying pan (apparently saganaki is Greek for “little frying pan”) that is held by the server.  The cheese is flambĂ©ed at the table and the flame is doused with lemon. The cheese itself tastes a bit like hardened feta, very mild and a little salty. Being in the hot frying pan, the outer layer is crispy and the warm inside is softy and goeey. It’s a fun dish when you’re out with people to yell OPA! when the cheese is lit on fire. 
The food for the Meze came out quickly (I’ll number them so you can appreciate how much food there is), and at first, we thought we had this one in the bag – small ramekins of (1) fresh Tzatziki – creamy, cool and garlic-y, (2) Hummus – smooth and full of garlic with a drizzle of olive oil on top (3) Eggplant Dip – by far my favourite dip, with big chunks of mashed eggplant, tomato and onion and (4) Beet Salad – sweet and tart slices of beets with oil and vinegar, were served with a plate of (5) crispy, warm Pita bread. The dips came at the same time as the (6) Cyprus Village Salad, which was a fresh Greek salad without the lettuce and lots of cheese. Served extra cold and crisp, this was a delicious start to the meal.
This was followed closely by (7) Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions and (8) Homemade Dolmades – stuffed leaves filled with ground beef and pork, and rice in a lemon-cream sauce. I don’t normally like stuffed leaves because I find the leaves extremely tough and the filling bland, but these were delicious. The leaves melted in my mouth, and the stuffing was perfectly seasoned with plenty of meat.
Next up was the (9) Halloumi – two very generous V’s of grilled Cypriot cheese served with fresh tomato slices. Think of it as a salty mozzarella, with a soft texture. It was delicious, but at this point, I was beginning to wish that we didn’t order the Saganaki Opa because I was getting a little cheesed-out.
(10) Grilled Eggplant in tomato sauce with feta cheese on top reminded me of eggplant parmesan, but the sauce was a little bland for my liking. The eggplant itself – I love eggplant – was grilled perfectly and didn’t have the chewy outer layer that sometimes comes with over-grilling.
(11) Smoked Sausage was a few slices of delicious grilled sausage that had the perfect amount of moisture in them. I hate when sausages are over-cooked because they get dry and lose all flavour.
Now, at this point, I will be honest and say that both of us were full. Normal people would have stopped at this stage because there was no need to keep eating. However, with the meal, our server came out and said, “Hope you’re ready, because here comes the big stuff!” I’m pretty sure we both looked at her like she was nuts ... big stuff? We had no idea what we were in for.

She came back with a huge platter that held the rest of the food from our meal: (12) Pork Souvlaki – perfectly seasoned, moist cubes of pork, (13) Grilled Chicken Breast – one for each of us that was grilled well, but I found it to be lacking in flavour, (14) a mountain of sliced Gyro meat that was probably my favourite I’ve ever had because it was so tender and well seasoned, (15) Roasted Potatoes that were almost the size of my fist (though with how full I was it felt like they were basketballs, and finally (16) fluffy Rice to add to the assault.  Though delicious and we tried valiantly to try everything, we barely made a dent in half of the platter before waving our white flags in surrender. 
As we sat and digested this insanely yummy but could-feed-a-small-country feast, our server came back and said that the chef wanted to treat us to a Cyprus treat that he just made – a delicious citrus-y cake topped with coconut. Well, no one needs to twist my arm to eat cake, so although I was pretty sure I was going to explode, somehow the whole piece of light, and not-overly-sweet cake (we shared one!) disappeared. The citrus was actually the perfect end to our meal because it was light and sweet and helped with the digestion. Or so I tried to tell myself. Either way, it was delicious.
If you like Greek food, and are looking for something a little different, try the Meze. You can’t beat the value for how much awesome food you get, and it’s a fun experience to share with friends. Next time, I probably won’t take warnings as personal challenges, although it was fun to try!

Sokratis on Urbanspoon
437 Plains Rd. E., Burlington