MS Walk 2012

I know I haven't blogged in a while, but I'm going to use the lamest excuse ever and say it's because life got in the way. Going through the wedding, honeymoon, and just enjoying life as newlyweds - can a girl ask for anything more? It's truly been a wonderful 2012 so far.

I promise that I will get back to food posts - there is so much I want to share with you all! From delicious to even-more delicious; I will go back to writing about food; this I promise!

However, today I come with a personal request. You see, my oldest and dearest friend has MS and every year, I pledge to do the MS Walk to raise money for this horrible illness. This year, with life moving so fast, I actually forgot when it was - and just remembered to register today...and the walk is 4 days away. That doesn't give me much time to fundraise, but every dollar counts - just like every step I take on walk day counts.

So please, click here to donate to a cause that means so much to me, and help us get closer to finding a cure.

Happy New Year

2011 was full of wonderful memories and meeting new friends. I have been lucky to not only discover a lot of great new restaurants, but have also met a lot of amazing people in the process. For something that started off as a whim one afternoon just over a year ago, this blog has been something I've really enjoyed updating. Who knew that my love of food would lead to the opportunities that I've been so blessed to experience? I truly am a lucky girl.

Looking forward to what's to come in 2012, I am anxiously awaiting the next chapter in my life, and discovering more gastronomical delights along the way. I can't wait to share my adventures with you, and thank you  for your support.

A few days late, but I just wanted to wish you a very, very happy new year.

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