A BLISTERY WINTER NIGHT

Long time, no write! I figured things would slow down around here once I went back to work and I was right. The other night, however, was one of those blistery winter nights that required a trip to Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill. If you are anything like me and grew up going out for family dinners to get the Festive Specials, then you’ll understand why Swiss Chalet and winter seem to go hand-in-hand!

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Things have changed quite a bit since those childhood days gone by! Not only have my own personal tastes changed, but in more recent years they have really re-vamped their menu. I already know that I love their perogies, but since they removed my favorite, the grilled chicken caesar salad, and I am not all that keen on the quater chicken, I decided to try out a few of the new flavours. This decision led to me making a meal out of a bunch of appetizers, as well as stealing the odd bite off my mate’s plate! Unfortunately every item we received (except the fries) seemed to be either under cooked or over cooked. We guessed that this may have been the result of ordering app’s and an entrée to arrive all together, but still, it’s not rocket science! Regardless, the flavours were still fantastic, for me at least!  I don’t know why I ever forget how much I love the different dips and sauces here, and maybe it was because I was starving, but last night everything was just so perfectly delicious!  I love dipping their fries and the chicken in the Chalet sauce (which I always forget you can buy in packets at the grocery store!). I love dipping the ribs in the barbeque sauce (which is what used to come on the grilled chicken). And I love the cajun dipping sauce that comes with the perogies (although they have changed something about it recently and it’s not as good as it used to be). I even like their gravy but I don’t know what I’d put it on because everything is already busy being dipped in something else! The coconut shrimp were a first time try for me. They would have been better if they were cooked a little longer and were crispier. The sweet chili thai dipping sauce was pretty standard, but it’s nice to know I can get some decent coconut shrimp now without spending a bundle. The spring rolls are something I will live without. There was some herb or spice in them that just didn’t sit well with me. Nevermind that they seem to be trying to put an almost Mexican type of flair in them and they add green and red peppers which could potentially be good, but just strikes me as odd. It is not the kind of flavour one would expect from a spring roll.

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And, I cannot forget to mention, though I did forget to photograph, the best garlic loaf in the city! Actually, it might qualify as the best garlic loaf I have ever had. It comes stuffed with melted cheese and absolutely smothered in tangy garlic butter. It is just so good that I had to scarf it down as soon as it hit the table! And I surprised myself by actually feeling a desire to eat it with the tomato bits! I usually brush them all off, but this time I actually made sure to eat it bruschetta style! I have never before in my life actually wanted to eat a piece tomato. But this just shows that all of the training I have been doing with myself (by leaving tomatoes on burgers and such for as  long as I can tolerate them) is actually helping me to like them! I’m so excited! I love it when I start to like something new that is also healthy!

All that you see above, plus one tea and one coffee, came to $61.50.

Swiss Chalet on Urbanspoon

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FELT LIKE A COMFORTABLE NIGHT IN

Others may not agree with me, and perhaps it is due to it’s proximity to my home, but when I visit Casey’s, I do kind of feel like it’s a comfortable night in. It’s always easy and laid back, there’s never any pressure or expectation to be anything more than whatever I am when I walked through the doors.

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It’s been a while since this meal and unfortunately I don’t remember many intricate details, but what that means is that nothing was super fabulous, but it wasn’t bad either. I know that there are other things that I love to eat here, but I don’t generally think of a sandwich as being dinner food so on this dinner trip I went for the cashew chicken stir fry. I was happy to find plenty of veggies, but the sauce just didn’t jive with me. Although this dish wasn’t a massive hit, as their others have been for me, that won’t dissuade me from continuing to try new things here.

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This visit was intended to just be a simple meal and a few drinks. We had both noticed the chicken tacos, but weren’t sure if we were hungry enough for apps and a meal, so it was convenient that we ended up hanging out for a while as at 9:00pm appetizers went down to half price and we decided we still had room for more! We got the tacos to share, just to try them out. Unfortunately I won’t be getting them again. I don’t know exactly what it was that didn’t sit right for me. Could have been the chunky style salsa. Could have been that the ranch was right on top of everything. Could have been a combination of everything. What I can say though, is although they were not perfect for me, I can certainly see other people enjoying them.

Our total, including a $10 off coupon, came to $67.69 for a pint of Bud, two pints of Steamwhistle, cashew chicken stir fry, 12oz steak, side gravy and the tacos.

Casey's Grill Bar Victoria on Urbanspoon

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A TRULY HIDDEN GEM

As often happens, we were lazing around wondering where we should go for dinner. I don’t know how we managed to come across it, but once discovering Stonegate Bistro online, and checking out the reviews, it was obvious that we had to go!

I believe the bistro opened in Februray of this year, so it is still fairly new. I really hope that they manage to make a name for themselves as, it could just be me, but I think their location may work against them. I do hope I’m wrong. I hope that downtown Kitchener will somehow find a way to bring people in and keep them coming back. At least Stonegate has plenty of signage to direct you down to their classy little cavern! And who knows, maybe they will be one of the things that keeps people coming back, I know I will definitely be visiting them again.

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Our meal was spectacular from beginning to end. To start we were presented with a basket of pita pieces and bread along with oil for dipping.  I found that I liked the pita with the oil, but the bread on its own. Somehow, for me, the herbs in the bread just didn’t seem to go with  the herbs in the oil. Next up was my soup, the starter from my 3-course prix-fix theatre menu selection. The soup of the day was a creamy tomato and lentil soup. It was so seriously deliciously creamy. I could probably live without the lentils, but I would still have that soup again any day! My mate didn’t order a starter, but the chef was making complimentary salads that day so we decided to share it. With neither of us being to big on our veggies, we were both very surprised at how much we enjoyed the mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet vinagrette with goat cheese (or feta, but I think it was goat). As you may have noticed, I especially play it safe with salads, generally going for the caesar variety, as they can be so touch-and-go. But this one was certainly a winner.

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For my main I selected the atlantic salmon with a lemon dill sauce. I was expecting it to arrive with garlic mashed yukon gold potatoes, so I was surprised to find wild rice beneath the fish on my plate. Apparently the chef had made an executive decision to switch them out because the potatoes were too dry, so we were told. Even if this was the case, a heads up about the change would have been nice but, regardless, in the end I was glad to have had the rice instead. I think it was much more flavourful and added some neat textures; from soft to crunchy! The grilled veggies the meal came with were not any that I would typically choose: asparagus (which I was not brave enough to try), zucchini, tomato and eggplant. I decided to be a little bit brave and sliced the zucchini and eggplant into teeny tiny pieces and mixed them up with the rice. That way I got at least some of my veggies without tasting, or feeling, them! My mate’s main was the prime rib with the mashed potatoes and the same veggies I had. The au jus it came with looked more like a gravy to me (what we both prefer anyways) and had much more going on than most au jus out there. It is obvious that the chef takes inspiration from all over the world. Even the sauce on my salmon had much more seasoning than just lemon and dill. Although it is obvious that the flavours come from all over, the menu still features mainly American style dishes so it is easy for someone like me to find something I’d like and then to be pleasantly surprised by how much more sensational these dishes are than other similar ones around. I found that, for fine dining, this restaurant has much more on the menu that I would actually try, and probably like, than most others of its kind.

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For dessert I chose the chocolate cake from the three options my theatre menu provided. My mate also ended up with a dessert that the chef graciously provided on the house due to the unannounced switch-up of my potatoes. This turned out perfectly as I was having a hard time deciding on whether to get the apple crumble or the cake, and this way we were able to try both. I think I am more a fan of apple crisp as opposed crumble. There is something about the added crunch for me. The crumble was soft and warm though, which is still very comfortable with an accompanying cup of tea. The chocolate cake was of the drier variety. But the various drizzles on the plate helped to moisten things up for me.

Overall, the meal and atmosphere were exactly what we needed on what had been an otherwise lackluster day. From what I have heard, I believe Stonegate does the majority of their purchasing from the Kitchener Market. For this, and many other reasons, I would really like to see this bistro succeed. Thus, I would like to make two small suggestions; 1- invest in proper menus, even just a simple folder that allows for pages to be switched out would be better than what is currently being used, and 2- add some signage to direct diners to the washrooms from the main seating area. I think those two, seemingly minor, details really do have a big effect on people, and right now they are not giving the most desireable impression.

Our whole meal, including 2 pints of Rock Cut Baysville Lager, one theatre menu 2 (included my soup, salmon and chocolate cake), one 12oz prime rib, and complimentary salad, apple crumble, tea and coffee, came to $72.04. It wasn’t until writing this up that I realized that our coffee and tea had not been charged to us. I believe this may have been due to an unfortunate scene that had been caused by a very rude, belligerent man at another table. The chef was obviously embarrassed and was very appologetic. He offered us each a drink on the house but we were just finishing up our meal so we declined.  I believe that is why the coffee and tea were not included on our bill. I hope that it hadn’t been an unintentional oversight as it was certainly unintentional on our part to have walked out without paying for them!

Stonegate Bistro on Urbanspoon

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DESTINATION: DESSERT

Being on an active job hunt has found my time very occupied and my mind very distracted. Believe it or not, these little posts take considerable effort to create (mostly due to the not-very-user friendly nature of wordpress itself). Having a couple of interviews lined up for next week has allowed me to relax a little, allowing me a chance to try to pump a few more of these out, before I forget my experiences completely! Today’s topic is dessert, with two different destinations.

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First up, The Cake Box. I had been anticipating a visit here for a while now. Ever since I had that last to-die-for cupcake, I was hoping to find something similar closer to home. Unfortunately I had no such luck. Yes, the sign out front of the shop is cute, and I’d have to say that my mind uses that same logic on a regular basis (‘chocolate covered raisins have fruit in them, therefore they are healthy!’), however, one of these cupcakes is not nearly large enough to satisfy a breakfast need, let alone a dessert need. They were all so teeny tiny. And at $2.50* a pop I cannot say that they are worth it. Sure, the vanilla cake was soft and sweet, but the icing on top, of which there was too much for the size of the cupcake, I can certainly live without. I seem to recall from childhood that the icing was always my favorite part of any kind of cake-like item, and I have no idea what all these different cupcake shops are using for their icing, but I rarely ever like it. It always leaves me feeling sick. I swear that, like fondant on cakes, they are all going for looks now and not flavour. So not my kind of thing. Then, to add to my disappointment, was the tip-of-my-pinky sized dollop (I’m not sure I can even use that word in this case!) of raspberry filling. Most of my bites, of which there were very few, were just vanilla and frosting. In future, when I want to stay close to home, I’ll just ask my mom to make me some cupcakes. Hers taste way better, and I love her icing!

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Since I was left so unsatisfied, I decided to journey on to find some other form of soft and fluffy sweetness to quench my craving. So, I made my way to Sablétine. To be honest, I doubt I will visit this place again, but that is mostly due to my finickiness. There was not much there that looked good to me, and there were less desserts than I expected. They actually have a little dining room and they serve things like salads and paninis with European flair. They just aren’t my style in flavours, or price (a little too much for me). But, what I did get, a combination of chocolate chip cookie and brownie, was totally tasty and quite large. I loved that the cookie part was soft and the whole thing was slightly chewy. This dessert item was $2.99* and considering it was one of the few things I would get there, and not being a first choice of dessert for me, I doubt I will make another trip specifically for another one.

*pre-tax

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A SECONDARY LOCATION THAT’S BETTER THAN THE FIRST

If you’ve ever spent time in the Uptown Waterloo nightscene, you are probably familiar with McMullan’s. I know I have certainly been there more than a few times for their pizza and pitcher deal to share with friends. A few years ago another location popped up, in a very different setting, on Highland in Kitchener. I was skeptical at first, a pub in a plaza isn’t what I would call ideal, but I was also curious. Turns out that I like the new location better than the original. To start, this location is not a university student hang out, which is wonderful for me. I am so over the cliquey vibes of those kinds of crowds, so perhaps a plaza in the middle of suburbia isn’t such a bad spot!

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The food, on the other hand, left something to be desired. I ordered a pub standard: chicken fingers with plum sauce and fries. The chicken fingers seemed like they arrived frozen in a box. However, the prices kind of allow for some wiggle room with quality. I have never seen a menu with such low prices. Every single item was under $12, minus the combos that come with a pitcher of beer. With prices like that it might be a bit much to expect anything to be house-made. That said, I had been contemplating getting the taco salad instead. My mate got the buffalo chicken wrap, and after catching a whiff of it, I am sure that the salad would be better than the chicken fingers. For the price, I am sure I will be back to find out.

Chicken Fingers + Buffalo Wrap + Gravy + Plum Sauce + Coffee = $26.05

Mcmullas on Urbanspoon

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TOOK ME OVER 2 YEARS TO GET IN HERE!

A girl I used to work with is the sister of one of the owners. Ever since she told me about it I’ve been meaning to visit, but being out by the St Jacob’s market, I don’t travel that way often. A few Saturday’s ago we ended up at the market just before close. We popped over to the outlet mall quickly afterwards, and by the time we were done we were both hungry. Finally, we were in the right place at the right time and were able to hit up Crazy Canuck.

I’ll be honest, it was not what I was expecting. For some reason I had thought it would be similar to Moose Winooski’s or something, but it turned out it’s quite small inside, with only a few tables there, but they have a huge covered patio with more tables outside. The indoor decor was a little bit strange to me. The walls and tables are plastered with record covers and there is a ring of the actual vinyl’s around the walls. I’m not sure what records have to do with being Canadian, but at least they chose a theme and stuck with it. The young man who took our order was super friendly so, although there were many flies buzzing around on that hot day (remember those?!), the atmosphere overall was positive and fun.

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It took me a little while to decide what to get, but in the end I saw a plate go by to another table that looked like something I needed to try, and thus I found myself ordering the boneless dry ribs. These definitely have a different flavour than anything I’ve ever eaten before. They are very tangy, I might go so far as to say that they had a bit more lemon than I would prefer in a main dish, but they were still scrumptious! My mouth is watering just thinking about them! I suppose I would describe the sauce as a lemony ranch or caesar type ‘canuck sauce’. And as much as I really did love them,  I think in the future I would order this dish to share as an appetizer. It was just too much tang for me to handle eating it all again, not to mention that it is literally just a bowl of meat! Sure, there was the salad on the side, but I think I need a carb in the mix too, to soften the sour blow a little! That said, I really did love them. The taste is something so different and refreshing, you really should try them at least once!

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My mate went for the pulled pork sandwich with a side of poutine. As you can see, they certainly give a healthy serving! And, although I didn’t try it, I love that the sandwich comes with cajun coleslaw on it! I love the crunch that cabbage adds!

The pulled pork sandwich with poutine, boneless dry ribs with caesar salad, and two pints of beer came to $39.25.

The Crazy Canuck on Urbanspoon

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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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