TRAPPED ON HESPELER ROAD

There is certainly no shortage of dining options on Hespeler Road. In fact, there are a relative plethora of options out there, many of which I have travelled specifically to Cambridge to visit. On this trip though, we were looking for something quick, easy, healthy-ish and cheaper. Plus, there is actually someone on this planet who is pickier than I am, thus we ended up at Angels Diner.

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Simply put, I really can’t be bothered with this place, except maybe for breakfast. I feel this way about all of the similarly styled restaurants in the tri-cities. There is a reason I try not to enter any of these places after noon. The Angels Salad Wrap that I ate is a very good example of just that. I promise you, even with my extremely limited skill, I could have made something much more palatable myself. It was described as containing chicken, ham, bacon, two cheeses and lettuce tossed in ranch. First of all, nothing was ‘tossed’ in ranch. Everything, including the lettuce, was bare and there was the smallest amount of ranch I have ever seen added on before the wrap was closed. The bacon bits were just that – bacon bits, like the kind you can buy in a resealable bag at the grocery store. The cheeses were also the sort you can buy in pre-shredded, two cheese blends. Due to the severe lack of condiments, and overly generous amount of cheese, there was very little flavour other than ‘cheese’ and it was so dry that it was difficult to finish. In short, this was the plainest, most boring wrap I’ve ever had. Although this wrap will probably be remembered as one of the least appetizing things I have ever paid to eat, without even containing any ‘offensive’ ingredient (along with this similarly disappointing wrap), the meal itself did have one redeeming element: the beef and barley soup. I admit that I am highly skeptical about whether or not this was made in house (considering they do not seem to be able to cook their own bacon, let alone shred their own cheese), but it did look and taste as if it was. It had lots of barley, the flavour was full, but it didn’t have the greasy layer on top that canned beef soups often have.

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My mate went for the hot roast beef. The difference in quality between these two dishes is a little bit crazy to me. A restaurant that puts no effort into its wraps will take the time to fry up their veggies with seasoning, not just steam them?! I don’t get it. Regardless of whether this dish was good or not though, the consistency is obviously not there, so I am not too eager to come here again.

Our meal, consisting of the wrap, the hot beef and a coffee, came to $26.16

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SPECIAL FEATURE!!

Unfortunately for the rest of you, this item is not available in any restaurant (that I know of!). This beautiful dessert came from the kitchen of my mother!

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This fruit pizza is half the size of what she usually makes, but I had asked for one to be made for me, personally, so full size would have been a bit much. Though, I have no doubt that I still would have stuffed it all in before the fruit went bad, even if I did make myself sick! I can only handle so much sugar at one time and really, if I’m going to over-indulge on anything, this pizza is one dessert my system can tolerate. It really isn’t overly sweet. With the top layer of fruit (coated in fruit juice glaze to maintain freshness) covering the middle layer of cream cheese mixture, all atop the sugar cookie-like crust, it’s just right. This dessert has been gracing our table tops since I was a child, and probably even before I was born! Like many children, I had a very particular way of eating this pizza and I still eat it the same way to this day. That is to say, first I remove all of the fruit and eat it in order of least favorite to most. Next, using the smallest dessert fork I can find, I smooth over the top of the cream cheese mixture, and then I eat it from tip to edge in small little bites so as to savour it for as long as possible. And I always makes sure the final crusty bites are connected to some cream cheese still. The combination of the two is just so perfectly delicious. And really, for such a tasty dessert it is relatively healthy. I could probably eat this every day and never get sick of it! I just love it!

Thanks Mom!

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NEW AND EXCITING

At least it’s exciting for me! I love when new restaurants open up near by that are so passionate about what they do that it is obvious just by looking at the exterior of the place. I love it when this is even further exemplified upon entering the establishment. This is the feeling I got on my first visit to Gastropub No. 29.

This pub is located in a surprising, likely less than ideal, location at Ottawa and Weber, yet this doesn’t seem to be taking too much of a toll on them just yet. In my lifetime I have seen multiple restaurants open in this very spot, each of them closing after a fairly short run. It is my hope that the Gastropub survives for much longer than its predecessors. If the food provides any kind of foresight into the situation, then I’d say they’ll be around for a while.

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We started our meal with Mac and Cheese Fritters. For the price ($9), I would have liked to see more of these tasty balls on the plate, especially since uneven quantities of things are just difficult (and, honestly, annoying) to split for sharing. Also, I need to make a real mental note to request no green onion on, or in, my food. I very seriously hate green onion and I am so sick of constantly having to pick it out of everything, but for some reason I can never seem to remember to tell the servers that I don’t want it. Thankfully it was easy enough to remove this time. My favorite part of this appetizer was the cilantro sauce. I wouldn’t have ever said that I specifically like cilantro, but in this case, without it, I fear the fritters may have been somewhat bland.

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Uncharacteristically for me, I decided to give the No. 29 Crispy Chicken Club a go. I do not believe I have ever had a club sandwich before. I can’t say that this was a bad way to start! Normally I refrain from ordering sandwiches that have breaded meat on them, but since it was described as tempura chicken I figured it might be a bit of a lighter batter than most, and it just sounded so good, that I had to give in and try it. I am glad that I did, even though the batter plus a bun did still prove to leave me feeling much more stuffed than I had wanted, which is exactly why I usually avoid that combination. To be fair though, I did switch out my fries for the Tankhouse Ale Cheddar Bacon Soup. This soup was creamier in taste than others that I’ve had, it didn’t contain any spiciness that I could detect, and it actually had chunks of bacon and cheddar in it! Unless I had been thoroughly disgusted by it, I could never leave any beer and cheddar soup behind! So I may have overdone it a little. But considering how satisfying my meal had been, I was able to handle the fullness without being too upset. Having never seen the portion sizes here before, I now have a better idea of what I can comfortably fit in my belly next time!

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My mate chose the burger, which was also a decent size. And yes, I had a bite. And yes, it was moist and delicious! It is certainly something I would consider on another visit, and I am not a big fan of ‘real’ burgers. My one complaint with the Gastropub, that could indeed prove to be its downfall if nothing is done about it, was the service. That is not to say that it was exceptionally horrible, but it was not congruent with the expectation set upon seeing the place. The pub appears to be a classier joint, but the service is not quite up to snuff. At first we were being served by, I believe, the bartender. Then, without warning or introduction, we were being served by a female who had just arrived with a friend (boyfriend?) in tow. She arrived, and proceeded to serve, in black yoga-type pants and a jean jacket. Yes, I even cringed while I wrote that! The yoga pants could have been pulled off if the rest of the attire had also been black. The jean jacket though… So unprofessional! The owner, and chef, himself is a friendly fellow, who also takes a somewhat casual approach when chatting with patrons. This can be good for creating a feeling of community, but there is a fine line between feeling welcomed and feeling too familiar. It is my hope that the staff here pick up their game a little bit and realize that they need to come to work and act like they are proud to be there, and not like they are happy to be chilling at their favorite hangout. I would hate to see this business follow suit and go under simply because the appearance and the atmosphere are not cohesive. (Just to be clear, I am not saying that either is inherently bad, they just don’t go together. They need to make a decision on what the over all feel is to be for their customers, and once they decide, they need to stick to it.)

Our meal of Mac and Cheese Fritters, the No. 29 Crispy Chicken Club, a burger with a side of gravy, and a coffee came to $44.07.

Gastropub No. 29 on Urbanspoon

Posted in Appetizers, Average Pricing, Dinner, Independent, Kitchener, Less-Than-Exceptional Customer Service, Pub | Tagged | Leave a comment

APTLY NAMED TO SAY THE LEAST

Wandering the village of St. Jacob’s, we were after a quick and easy meal before we got back on the road again. Although I used to work in the village, I always take a packed lunch to work so I’d never really eaten there before. Walking along it’s hard to miss all the signs that direct you up to a building that’s a ways back from the road in amongst the trees. Take a few steps and to the left there is a small bar around the corner, straight up is a shop, and to the right is the window of Treehouse – were you can grab a bite to eat, all of which are part of the larger company; Shadetree.

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This restaurant is really only a step up from a fry cart. There is no indoor seating, but there are plenty of picnic tables to choose from. Your burger is passed out of the window with lettuce and tomato sitting on top of the bun. To the left are all the condiments that you add yourself. It’s a very basic operation, but for our needs that day it was just right. This was your average greasy burger. The patty was not too thick (as I find many restaurant burgers to be). And since I applied all my toppings myself, I got what I expected. The fries were also your average french fries. And so was the gravy (obviously not pictured, oops!) There’s not a whole lot to report on this one. If you’re in the village and you just want to eat and run then this is the place for you. Though I imagine that they are only open during the summer.

Two cheeseburgers with fries, one with added bacon and a side of gravy, and two sodas came to $19.40.

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A MILE OR TWO AWAY

The recent birth of a friend’s baby, combined with a warm, sunshiny day, found us on the road to Guelph not long ago. After our visit with the wee one, we felt the familiar rumbles in our stomachs meaning ‘Get some food in me, ASAP!’. Neither of us are very familiar with Guelph, so we took advantage of that vulgar website I mentioned a while ago to figure out where we should go to eat. It turned out that Milestones Grill + Bar was just around the corner, and neither of us had been before, so off we went!

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I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to find spicy sesame green beans listed as an appetizer! I am not sure exactly what I had expected from the description, but they arrived much saucier than I’d thought they’d be. Not that this was a problem though, just an observation. When the bill arrived I noticed that they were called Szechuan beans on the bill, when they were called spicy sesame on the menu. Again, inconsequential, but for some reason I feel like putting the name as ‘Szechuan’ on the menu might give a better impression of what to expect. But that could just be me! Regardless, when they said spicy, they meant it! The beans were absolutely delicious, but being nearly the first thing I’d put in my gut that day probably wasn’t the best for my digestive system! I also didn’t have much kleenex handy, and boy did my nose run! Not that I am complaining though, I loved them!

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My main dish of choice was the salmon with pineapple salsa, rice and brussels sprouts. Oh my goodness, did I ever make the right choice! This dish was delish! Including the veggies! And when a dish comes with shaved brussels sprouts, I promise you, the fact that I even ate them is a giant surprise! I have had a massive disdain for brussels sprouts ever since I was a child. In fact, prior to this meal, I had ingested a total of five of them in my entire life. But I believe they had been boiled. I know for sure that they were whole. And that I hated them! I decided to give these ones a try solely because they were shaved and served with red peppers and onions. I thought maybe, if they were cooked together, they would take on some of the other flavours and would be tolerable. Now, I can assure you that I am not going to go forward and become some kind of brussels sprout afficianado, but I did actually like them! Granted, I did pick out the large pieces and the onions. I need to take baby steps if I am ever going to learn to like them! They reminded me a bit of cabbage in texture, which added a nice, subtle crunch. And with the way they were prepared, I honestly couldn’t tell you how they tasted, especially since I made sure to always eat them with some rice and salmon at the same time. At least I know that they did not taste bad. The salsa was also great. I just went ahead and dumped it all on the salmon right away. I love salmon with something sweet, as well as with rice. Writing about this is making me crave it like crazy, but I just checked their site and it doesn’t appear to be on the menu anymore, which is a real shame. My fingers are crossed that the menu in store is different and does actually include it. I would love to have it again.

Our entire meal; including szechuan beans, salmon, a 10oz steak and ‘Starbucks’ coffee totaled $71.18.

Milestones on Urbanspoon

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MENU CHANGES ARE NOT ALWAYS GOOD

Here I go, disliking changes again. But, when you’re a restaurant and you don’t change your menu on a regular basis, and then you do so after years of providing the same dishes, and you remove my favorite one, what am I supposed to do? I can’t be expected to like it when this happens! It gets even worse when the new menu is even more homogenized than the old one. Thus, I don’t think I will be going back to Applebee’s again.

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Not that Applebee’s was ever one of my favorites. I am not really a fan of big chain, family style restaurants. But they used to serve a quesadilla that suited my pickiness perfectly. I had tried to check the menu before we went as I hadn’t been in so long that I thought there may be a chance that the quesadilla may not be on the menu anymore. Unfortunately the menu links on the website don’t work. If they had I would have known to go elsewhere. But, since I didn’t have any warning and since my favorite item is no longer available, I went with the only thing that looked appealing to me now, the Hawaiian Burger. The picture on the menu made this one look wonderful. It had a nice slab of ham on it with a healthy spattering of pineapple pieces. As you can see, it did not arrive looking quite as spectacular as they’d made it appear. Upon first bite it was obvious that it was nothing like the picture. I kept hoping, as I got nearer to the center, that it would get better. Maybe I’d actually be able to taste a hint of ham or pineapple. I could see they were there, but all I could taste was the bland ground beef patty. There ended up being only one bite that I really enjoyed. If it had been made as it was shown I have no doubt that this burger would’ve been enjoyable. It’s too bad they decided to go cheap with the toppings, but it’s not surprising.

I had also paid extra to upgrade my fries to their new onion petals. I am certainly not an expert on onions, but whatever kind they used were incredibly bland. They were sliced fairly thick and still had very little flavour. There didn’t seem to be much seasoning in the breading and the dipping sauce didn’t help either. The whole thing was weak overall. But I guess I don’t need anything new to crave, there are already enough delicious things I want to eat on a daily basis and this would’ve just added yet another highly unhealthy item to the list. I definitely do not need more of that!

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The lighting obviously didn’t help me get appetizing photos. But I kind of think they do the experience justice, I’m sorry to say. My mate went for the chicken fingers which really weren’t anything special. The fries, surprisingly, were seasoned. And the gravy was your usual gravy. So it was nice that there was something that met at least some average expectations.

Hawaiian burger + onion petals + chicken finger platter + gravy + one coffee = $39.61.

Applebee's on Urbanspoon

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HOW DID I MISS THIS ONE?

My family has a long history with the town of Stratford. I have spent a lot of time there, from childhood right up to current day. I even worked in Stratford for a spell. Yet somehow, after countless meals in town, I never managed to make it to Fellini’s until just the other day.

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After placing our order, while waiting for the food to arrive, we were brought a basket of fresh bread. I was so hungry, and the bread was so perfectly fluffy, that I forgot to take a picture until I was on my last bite! I liked that the oils were presented separately so you can create your own mix to suit you. The balsamic was also sweeter than most, so I actually liked it a lot better than I normally do. To start our actual meal, we asked for a caesar salad to share. This salad was probably the best caesar I’ve had in a long time. It had that wonderful tang that is not always present in caesar dressings these days. And I’m sure you notice that I eat them quite often. The waitress was pleased to tell us that the dressing was made in house and that it did, indeed, contain anchovies – as any real caesar should!

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Shortly after we finished our salad, our stuffed meatballs arrived! Their description is as follows: house-made meatballs of beef and pork stuffed with smoked provolone, roasted peppers, capocollo, seasoned with Porto marinara. These were so delicious. They were also quite sizable. All around us we could see people having their leftovers packaged to go, and it wasn’t necessarily because the servings were too large, it’s just that there’s so much on the menu that you just have to try! I’m sure I could’ve finished my meal had we not had the meatballs, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to come here and not get the meatballs. They were that good!

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Next up for me was the inside out chicken parmigiana. In this case I think the photos tell you more than I will be able to. The plate was packed full and was delightfully colourful. I loved that the vegetables were not your typical pile of steamed broccoli, etc. Though they are not my favorite, the inclusion of a few chickpeas provided an interesting texture. The corn tasted like they had removed it from the cob themselves, and I would not be at all surprised if that was actually the case. I’m one of those people who, when the items are just right, likes to chop everything up and mix it all together before consuming it. This meal was perfect for that! It may have slightly ruined my ability to savour that stuffed chicken as much as I should have, but everything mixed together felt right for me, so I had to do it!

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My mate went for the linguine carbonara, which had been my second choice. Of course I snagged a bite, and I was quite pleased with the decision I had made. I found that the bits of ham and bacon (which were large and aplenty!) gave it a smokey flavour that was too over the top for my liking. It was not to the point of being unpalatable, but I’m still glad I chose what I did.

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When we both reached our halfway points we had a little ponder over whether to finish it all and leave stuffed, or to pack it up for lunch the next day, get a dessert, and still leave stuffed! Of course we voted for leftovers plus dessert! The flourless chocolate cake was the dessert we could agreed to share. Upon arrival we were both disappointed to find it drizzled with chocolate sauce instead of the expected raspberry sauce, per the menu. We did not get an explanation for the change and neither of us felt like it was important enough to inquire about, but I think if I were to order it again I would ensure that I would be getting the raspberry sauce as it just sounds so much more decadent to me! That aside, this cake surely was still an excellent choice.

Our dinner of a side caesar, stuffed meatballs, inside out chicken parmigiana, linguine carbonara, one coffee and chocolate cake came to $72.26

Fellini's on Urbanspoon

Posted in Appetizers, Average Pricing, Dessert, Dinner, Favorites, Independent, Italian, Splurge, Stratford | Tagged | Leave a comment