Pluckers Wing and Crab Shack

One of the first reviews I wrote on this blog was for JTPluckers, back before I thought to bring my camera when we went out to eat. Thankfully, Pluckers recently opened a new location in town, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to redeem my blogging ways and go back. I would have gone back to the original location I reviewed on Walkers Line, but it closed for renovations (though I have it under very good authority that it is re-opening soon).

The new location is in Aldershot, an older part of Burlington that seems to be rejuvenating itself with the addition of new stores and restaurants. I hope the area is revitalized, I grew up in the area, and the church I’m going to get married at is also in the area. It deserves attention – North Burlington’s been stealing the thunder for too long, and it’d be nice to see the area West of IKEA get a facelift.

But I digress. The new Pluckers (notice that the JT has mysteriously dropped from the name) is where the old Chaps used to be, and has been given a pretty sophisticated makeover. There are no chickens flying airplanes here, but there are lots of televisions, a gorgeous bar and an even more gorgeous fireplace. They’ve really classed it up, and it now looks like a modernized sports bar.

On the night we came, the place was full of people watching the hockey game and a few local softball teams as well. That being said, we were seated right away, and the service was friendly and timely. We had a fantastic server, and although I don’t remember her name, she was awesome. She knew the menu inside-out, and was attentive to our every need.

To go along with the new decor, the menu has been amped up significantly as well. There are still the same items as before, but there are some neat additions like the Lobster Poutine – which we had to try. When our server brought the dish to our table, I was shocked at the size of it. Plated on a long rectangular plate, there was a mountain of fries, light peppery gravy, plenty of cheese curds and a surprising amount of lobster and crab. The fries were hot and crispy, so the cheese melted into delicious strands as you pulled it away from the plate. The sweetness of the seafood, the saltiness of the cheese and the pepper in the gravy made this a fantastic dish. I have never seen a seafood-based poutine before, and after tasting this one, am waiting to see it start popping up on menus everywhere. It was delicious and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes poutine.
An order of Cheese & Bacon Biscuits came four to an order with a side of same gravy used in the poutine. For under $2, we thought that it was good value and ordered it for fun. Unfortunately, the biscuits were a disappointment as they were dry and crumbly. My idea of a perfect biscuit requires it to be buttery and flaky, and these missed the mark. The taste was odd; almost like a dried herb seasoning was heavily mixed into the batter, and there was no cheese or bacon to be seen.
Remembering how much Jersey liked the wings on our last visit, we ordered a pound of wings in the House sauce, and a side of their hottest sauce, Mayday, on the side. The wings were large with just the right amount of breading on them to give them a slight crisp but not overwhelm the meat. They were juicy and came to the table piping hot in a mini fry-basket. The sauce was as good as we remembered; slightly sweet, smoky and peppery. Mayday sauce was indeed spicy, and even I couldn’t have more than a few tastes of it. I’m glad we asked for it on the side because I have no idea how someone could order their wings tossed in that. It makes my eyes water just thinking about it.
We wanted something different and our server recommended the Po Po Boy: hollowed out baguette halves stuffed with fried seafood, coleslaw and a mayonnaise-based sauce. The dish comes with a side, and we asked for a garden salad, but alas, the salad never did come. (So if I ever get scurvy, you can’t say I didn’t try.) The sandwich was sadly, our least favourite item of the night. Jersey was sad at how few ingredients were used to stuff the bread, as there were maybe three chunks of fish per half loaf. I was more disappointed in the bread, which tasted stale to me due to it being hard and tough. With so many other items on the menu that caught my eye, this will be a dish that I will pass next time.
Finally, I have to mention the fantastic service we received – not from our server, but from the owner of the restaurant, Todd. He came by when he noticed I was taking pictures and we had a nice chat about how the new place was going, plans for the Walkers location, and so on. When the food came, he made it a point to ask us how things were going, and I was honest with my feedback. Here is where I was really impressed: instead of making excuses or placating me, he took my feedback humbly and openly. He didn’t try to tell me I was wrong, or that it must have been a bad night because they’re always perfect,  rather, he took what I said and really listened. It was probably the most sincere reaction I’ve received when giving feedback, and I appreciated it. Now, will changes be made because of me? I don’t know, but I am so impressed that he took the time to genuinely care and want to listen to what I had to say. That, my friends, is good management and great customer service.

Pluckers Wing and Crab Shack
355 Plains Rd. E., Burlington

Cafe du Lac

We wanted to celebrate our engagement/anniversary by going out for a nice meal, but Jersey (aka the boyfriend aka the fiancé – figured if we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together and I keep blogging, I should give him a name) said he would surprise me by picking the place. Not one to turn down a gastronomic surprise, I was curious and excited to see where we were going to end up. No pressure on him or the place of course, but it better be special and awesome because it was going to be etched in my memory forever. My great-grandchildren were going to hear about how their great-grandfather took me to such-and-such a place after he proposed, and I really don’t want to crush my fictional great-grandchildren’s views of romance by saying that it was a horrible restaurant. But again, no pressure on my soon-to-be-betrothed or the unsuspecting establishment; you know, just the mental stability and view of love by our future lineage. No biggie.

Anyhoo, knowing my love for foie gras – no, I don’t want to think about how it’s made and how bad it is for me, because it’s delicious and I love it – he took me to Cafe du Lac, a restaurant that specializes in Quebec-style French food. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know the difference between Quebec and France style food, but I think it has to do with the addition of poutines and the use of maple syrup in Quebec? Someone correct me if I’m wrong?

Cafe du Lac is on the Lake Shore, tucked in a row of numerous other shops and whatnot, with a small patio outside its front door. It doesn’t look fancy-fancy, but I don’t know if I’d walk in there in shorts and tank top. The restaurant itself is long and narrow and seats about 40, with a long bench along one side of the wall with pretty cushions for extra comfort and pizzazz. Tables are situated fairly close to each other, and it could get pretty loud if there were a lot of people. It slightly deterred from the romance of a quiet, intimate place.

There was one server on the night we went, and she also happened to be the owner. Extremely helpful for us because I always have lots of questions about the menu, and she was able to let us know of dishes that were available but not on the menu. She also told us the ingredients were sourced fresh and they never froze their meat. Throughout the night, she made sure to talk to every table as though we were all her friends, and you could really tell she was passionate about her business. That in itself makes for good service in my opinion.

The menu is simple and changes with the seasons, and written in both French and English. This is not a place to go if you are meticulous about counting calories, FYI. This is a place to go if you want to splurge on creams, cheeses, foie gras and decadence.

As we waited for our food, we munched on fresh bread, baked in-house and served with a creamy, soft herb butter (one of my biggest pet peeves in the world is hard butter that mutilates the bread). Crispy on the outside with a soft, doughy inside, we were off to a good start. It was so good in fact, we asked for seconds. And by “we” I mean me. I love bread. Don’t judge my carb intake.
To start, we shared the “all-dressed” poutine: cream sauce, pulled beef short-ribs, cheese curds and foie gras on top of a bed of fresh-cut fries ($20). This is not your average poutine. The cream sauce and the cheese and the fattiness of the foie gras makes it very rich, and I definitely recommend it as a sharing plate because I’m pretty sure although we shared it, we ate enough calories to feed a large third-world country for about a week and a half. The fries were fresh, but not as crispy as I would have liked – keeping in mind that I have a very high crunch-quota that needs to be filled. The sauce although creamy, had very little other flavour to it, but it was aided by the flavours of the other ingredients. There were surprisingly few cheese curds and I wish there were more because the saltiness would have cut the creaminess of the sauce a bit. The beef was delicious and plentiful, sweet from some sort of flavour I couldn’t quite place, maybe maple syrup? Lastly, the foie gras was perfect. A petite portion perched precariously (how’s that for alliteration?) on top of the mountain of fries, it was seared on the outside and soft and rich on the inside. I love foie gras, and this poutine delivered it well.
Jersey opted for the Wild Boar Tenderloin ($27) which came with a sweet potato mash, veggies and crispy radish chips on top. The mash and veggies were ok; not overcooked and mushy but nothing overly special either. The meat was perfectly pink in the centre and tender – not tough as I was expecting game meat to be. The seasoning was subtle but really brought out the flavour of the meat itself. It was juicy and the crispy radish chips – which I have never seen before – were a great addition with the different texture to the dish.
One of the specialties at Cafe du Lac is the Duck in a Jar ($36), normally only available on weekends unless ordered ahead. I was lucky that night and they had a few already made so I decided it was a sign that I should have one too. It sounds too interesting to not try, “foie gras stuffed duck magret immersed in a port reduction with savoy cabbage, leeks and Berkshire pork double smoked bacon served on a bed of rustic mashed potatoes.” Damn you, foie gras, and your delicious temptation. So, although it was a going to be a long wait (upwards of 30 minutes) I just had to have it, or else risking the rest of my life thinking of what could have been.
Why no, I am not melodramatic, why do you ask?

So back to the duck in a’s actually pretty neat, and I could smell it before I could see it. And. It. Smells. Amazing. Words cannot describe how awesome this dish smells, but know that as I type this sentence, I am drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs thinking about it. The dish actually comes to the table with the jar still on the plate, and the server unveils the deliciousness with a flurry of panache and a quick lift of the jar to keep the meat-tower intact underneath. After the jar is lifted away, the smell literally fills the whole restaurant (plus as the dish is being unveiled, the restaurant stops to stare at the wondrous concoction, so be prepared to have everyone looking your way with envy in their eyes). There is a thick layer of fat on one side – do not be alarmed, because it helps to add such wonderful flavour and moisture to the meat. The duck itself was a little tough and a bit rarer than I was initially prepared for, but the flavour was intense. The foie gras in the middle was plentiful and added a subtle creaminess with every bite. I am sad to say that I wasn’t able to distinguish any bacon, but the onion and cabbage mix was soft without being mushy and soaked up the juices perfectly. The potatoes, though simple, were actually the best choice for a side dish because it really let the juice of the duck shine through. Overall, it was a fantastic dish that I would not hesitate to order again.
Upon hearing that we were celebrating our engagement/anniversary, Kathryn, the owner, did the following:

1) Took our picture
2) Tweeted about us
3) Congratulated us and all-around made a big fuss over us so that I felt super-duper special
4) Asked the kitchen to whip up a gigantic dessert platter for us

Like the bread, all the desserts are made in-house by the talented team in the kitchen, using fresh and seasonal ingredients. We were treated to an intensely rich, chocolate cake that tasted like it was pure cocoa. Very chocolate-y with the slight bitterness of pure chocolate, you could taste the quality of the ingredients that went into making it. The maple pie was Jersey’s favourite, and it was delicious. A maple filling on a thin, melt-in-your-mouth crust...we probably could have eaten a whole pie for dinner itself. Finally, the crème brulee trio was creamy with just the right amount of crunch from the burnt sugar on the top. All the desserts were fantastic – I just wish we weren’t so full from our dinners so we could have finished the whole thing.
So did he do well in choosing a place to celebrate a monumental step in our lives? Did he ever! It was a fabulous experience, the meal was delicious and I made a new Twitter friend. Cafe du Lac is not the place to go if you are in a hurry; our dinner took over two hours on a fairly non-busy weeknight. That being said, it’s not really a meal you would want to rush because you want to take the time to savour the different flavours and textures of each dish. If you’re looking to try it, and don’t want to spend quite so much money, I believe they have a number of different budget-friendly options such as a Prix Fixe menu and are a part of the Summer/Winterlicious promotions. Go. Enjoy. Just don’t count your calories that night.

Cafe Du Lac on Urbanspoon
Cafe du Lac
2350 Lakeshore Blvd W., Toronto

Mickey's Pizza

If you’ve ever doubted the power of word-of-mouth advertising, then I am here to prove you wrong. Case in point: Mickey’s Pizza. I hadn’t heard of it until someone on my Twitter account posted a picture of one of their pies, and my interest was piqued. A little bit of research and asking around the office and a few people mentioned that they heard about Mickey’s and how good they were. My interest piqued some more.

The website is interesting. Mickey’s has a “thing” for dragons and feeding them, and a cute story about the dragon fuelling their oven. There are cute videos on their website under “What’s with the dragon?” that had me hooked. That, and their guarantee that you’ll love their pizza or they’ll give you every penny of your money back, and I *had* to try it. Something that claims to be the “best tasting pizza you’ve ever had” is bold. Because I’ve eaten a lot of pizza.

We pulled up to the plaza one night when there were a group of boys playing hackey sack outside Mickey’s doors – kind of an inconvenience to walk around/through the group when the entire rest of the strip plaza was closed due to the hour, but I guess they liked playing with the smell of pizza wafting by. The store itself isn’t set up for dine in (no tables) and is brightly painted and lit. The walls are covered in quotes printed off from satisfied customers, and a chalkboard on another wall asks a question of the week where patrons can doodle their own answers with the available chalk.

There is a long counter of toppings behind glass (think a Subway or something like that) so you can see your pizza being made – or be like me, and ask for more/less toppings as they make them. A large round oven unlike anything I have seen before takes up a fair size of the space as well. It reminds me of a hair dryer you sit under at the salon, but I liked that it looked futuristic and it was completely open so you could see it. They were really nice at Mickey’s and even let me come behind the counter so I could get a good picture of our pizza while it was spinning around in the oven!
Speaking of really nice, the service here was phenomenal. Everyone was friendly and patient with all of the questions I had, and also with my indecision with what we wanted to eat. Although they have their version of a Chicago-style pizza, called the Killer King, we opted for the traditional crust (I couldn’t handle all that cheese so late at night) and went with their vegetarian pizza, the Green Dragon.

A large Green Dragon ($21) was enough to feed four of us, and was loaded with mushrooms, sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers, green peppers, caramelized onions and olives. We got a mixture of the kalamata olives and the black olives, and topped it off with goat cheese. We had asked for artichokes on it as well, but didn’t notice until we got it home that they forgot it. Regardless, it was still delicious. The dough was the perfect thickness so that it was a little crispy on the outside edges but soft in the middle. Actually, I would have probably preferred that it was cooked a little longer because the dough was so soft that the slices were a little flimsy with all the toppings, and could have stood a little more structure and crunch to it. That being said, the dough tasted fantastic. There’s a slight buttery smell/taste to it that really made it stand out. I know, buttery and pizza dough don’t usually go together, but trust me – it was delicious. The toppings were fresh and plentiful, and I’m glad we went with the goat cheese (feta or mozzarella were also options) because the bite worked perfectly with the subtle vegetables and buttery dough.  Hands down, the best tasting vegetarian pizza I have ever tasted. The boyfriend (I guess I should call him the fiancé now) is normally a meat eater, but he remarked that there was so much flavour and texture happening, he didn’t even miss having meat on it. Now there’s endorsement, for you.
A gem in Clarkson, Mickey’s stands out from the mundane pizza places that sit on every street corner. It’s brought a touch of gourmet excitement to a market that has been saturated with mediocrity. You think you know what pizza is? You have no idea until you try pizza at Mickey’s. They’ve certainly awoken my dragon, and he wants to be fed!

Mickey's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Mickey’s Pizza
1900 Lakeshore Rd. W., Mississauga