Month: July 2013

Where there’s smoke, there’s great barbeque

I found a shrine to serious barbeque. A place that pays homage to the Southern US “Barbeque Belt.” A restaurant that upholds the sanctity and authenticity of barbeque and one that will charm even the most hardened BBQ regionalists. A place called Fatboys Southern Smokehouse Bar-B-Que.

The aroma of hickory hangs in the air, a clear indication that this establishment takes the art of grilling meat very seriously. Many a restaurant prattle on about being the best at this or that. But I do declare that these folks’ crowning glory are its Memphis-style dry rub smoked ribs. Moist, crisp and meaty. Smokey, juicy and gnaw-able. Succulent and quite pleasingly finger-licking tasty. The dry rub of paprika, black pepper, cayenne and brown sugar create complex flavours. The wood burning oven allows the smoke to penetrate the tender meat and gives them that faint taste of caramel and hickory. Sublime. These ribs are bound for stardom. While idyllic on their own, you can also slather them with some of Fatboys’ homemade sauces: Memphis Mustard, Tennessee Sweet or Hillbilly Heat.

If you don’t fancy ribs there are plenty of other offerings to be had. Carolina catfish, Memphis BBQ spaghetti, beef brisket, a smoked burger, a pulled-pork sandwich, the “American Thanksgiving” platter and some smoked bacon mac’n cheese, to name but a few.

Traditionalists may rankle at the thought of real authentic BBQ in the nation’s capital, but they would be wise not to dismiss Fatboy’s dedication to celebrating the art of barbeque in all its glory. As their website states, the “Snow Belt unites with the BBQ Belt, which is why all 13 Southern states flags fly proudly outside Fatboys Southern Smokehouse.” I would go so far as to say that they are not only upholding the BBQ heritage of the South, they are building their own BBQ legacy north of the border with great success!

Going Down South at Union Local 613

I have much reverence for the culinary contributions of the people and traditions that are at the root of Southern cuisine. Southern food is a wonderful mélange of many cultures. Native American, African, European and West Indies. Domestic workers who cooked for their own families and for their white employers developed many of the recipes that the world now identifies as Southern.

It is also a cuisine that is forever evolving. If you travel to the South, you’ll discover just how different Southern cuisine is in each locale. North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia have varying interpretations on Southern classics. The culinary influence of the South has extended far north of the Mason-Dixon line in an Ottawa restaurant called Union Local 613.

Union Local 613 bills itself as a brotherhood of growers, cookers and eaters, providing a Canadian take on Southern hospitality. It’s clear that they have a vision and they are sticking to it. The chefs at Union Local 613 are true nonconformists. While they pay homage to traditional Southern cuisine, they are unafraid to exploit combinations that are less obvious of the region. To a purist, it may seem like culinary radicalism.

Hickory smoked hog jowl, Granny Smith apples, celery, toasted walnuts and horseradish dressing. BBQ foie gras torchon, black pepper biscuits and strawberry ketchup. Roasted carrot and parsley salad, Feta, cashews, cumin vinaigrette. This restaurant is courageous with ingredients, and their dishes are more artfully executed and more technically masterful than anywhere else in the city, in my opinion.

Eating there is also a hell of a lot of fun. This, as far as I can tell, is the only place in town where one might find cat head biscuits and gravy, a spicy catfish po’boy and fried pickle spears. Though the menu is always changing, I would expect that classics like shrimp and grits, mac n’ cheese, collards, red velvet cake, fried chicken and cornbread will persist as maintains.

The seating is predominantly communal. Sharing a dinning space is not every one’s preference, but in this restaurant, it works. A nod to Southern neighbourliness. The service is friendly without being overzealous. They seem to love what they do and are proud of the restaurant’s offerings. They care about food and go to great lengths to make sure that you have a good dining experience. When I expressed an interest in the boiled peanuts, the server brought out the cookbook to show me the recipe. When I assaulted them with questions about the restaurant, they invited me to the kitchen and introduced me to the chef. Although the rest of my dinner party raved about the mac n’ cheese, I was less enthused about the flavour combo of macaroni with cauliflower and remained mute. But when the server observed that I had not consumed my serving, she excised the offending dish off my bill. “Why pay for something you didn’t enjoy?” she surmised. I was flabbergasted. Their commitment to hospitality and passion for preserving the culinary traditions of the Southern food that I revere has made me a patron for life.

Union Local 613, 315 Somerset St. W., Ottawa, ON
Sweet Tea

Buttermilk fried yard bird and pepper vinegar, fried green tomatoes and mac’n cheese
Cracker crusted Louisiana catfish, pecan puree, wilted frisée and lemon, and cheddar and roasted garlic hominy grits
A closer look at the cheddar & roasted garlic hominy grits.Yummm!

Union Local 613 on Urbanspoon

Baby back ribs hover between tender and taut; thinly sliced brisket retains its juiciness; crisp chicken skin yields to plump, smoky meat; and pulled pork is consistently moist. – See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/50bestrestaurants/story.aspx?ID=15341 Baby back ribs hover between tender and taut; thinly sliced brisket retains its juiciness; crisp chicken skin yields to plump, smoky meat; and pulled pork is consistently moist.
Baby back ribs hover between tender and taut; thinly sliced brisket retains its juiciness; crisp chicken skin yields to plump, smoky meat; and pulled pork is consistently moist. – See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/50bestrestaurants/story.aspx?ID=1534193#sthash.uSy8JKLF.dpuf

When Chobani yogurt is denied, an obsession emerges

“We always long for the forbidden things, and desire what is denied us.” François Rabelais

What makes humans covet things they can’t have? Is the unattainable always more desirable? The sought after more attractive? That which comes to us hard must be worth having, right? Glamorous jobs, luxury cars, expansive houses, out-of-our-league starlets, foreign-made Greek yogurt… Wait, what?

For the last little while, I’ve become addicted to a dairy product. Not very conventional, I know. But Chobani is not your average merch. See Chobani is the best-selling brand of yogurt in the US. And it’s not yet available in Canada. Anywhere in Canada. A pal-o’-mine has been legally smuggling the deliciousness cross-border and unintentionally got me hooked. For me, it was love at first gulp. But is it simply a case of allure of the forbidden fruit-bottom? Does the anticipation of receiving a fresh supply of yogurt from a foreign land make it taste better, exotic or even naughty?

The fact is, before my Chobani hook-up I didn’t really eat yogurt. I never paid it no mind. But there was some extra something-something in Chobani I hadn’t experienced before. It came down to taste. This stuff was creamy, it was sweet, it had real fruit (pineapple was my personal fav) and it was good for you. I did some research and found out that Chobani doesn’t use gelatin, is low on lactose (5%), big on protein (13-18g of protein per 6oz cup) and contained no artificial sweetener. Chobani even gives 10% of its profits back to charities worldwide. Pretty cool company.

And another thing. When I emailed Chobani to quiz them about their product, they wrote back within the hour and requested my address so that they could ship me some coupons for free samples to cash-in next time I visited the US.  Uh, wow!

Whether my addiction is fueled by a longing for the hard-to-get or I’m simply in the throws of passion for Greek yogurt, it will take me a little while longer to decipher. I won’t know for sure until Chobani becomes available in Canada. So Chobani people, can you hurry it up please?

The name Chobani means shepherd in Mediterranean languages and symbolizes giving but asking for nothing in return. Ulukaya started Shepherd’s Gift Foundation and donates 10% of the company’s profits to people that work to make a lasting change. – See more at: http://allgoodprovisions.com/companies-we-love-and-the-people-behind-them-chobani-and-hamdi-ulukaya/#sthash.iQYcPAeW.dpuf
The name Chobani means shepherd in Mediterranean languages and symbolizes giving but asking for nothing in return. Ulukaya started Shepherd’s Gift Foundation and donates 10% of the company’s profits to people that work to make a lasting change. – See more at: http://allgoodprovisions.com/companies-we-love-and-the-people-behind-them-chobani-and-hamdi-ulukaya/#sthash.iQYcPAeW.dpuf
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States
he best selling yogurt brand in the United States

Take it to the streets. "The Manx Pub" has the best tacos you’ll ever have!

Have you ever tasted something so rapturous, so luscious, so drool inducing that it almost made you weep? Where successive rounds of “OMIGOD’s” were uttered because it felt as if you were being transported from the here and now? Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to The Manx Pub‘s pulled-pork tacos (PPT)! Filled with copious amounts of sumptuous meat, dressed with a rich flavourful sauce and topped with buttery avocado, the chef at The Manx was able to elevate these tacos from mere plebeian to out-of-body experience.

The tacos sparked discussion. We debated on the merits of soft shell vs. hard shell and my friend astutely noted that by crisping the soft shell it allowed the whole to remain intact and impervious to pesky leakages. Not to say that the PPT’s weren’t messy. They were definitely a chin-dripping 5-napkin affair. The genius, however was in the full package. The tender meat, the blend of spices, and the outer taco shell were harmoniously unified to near flawlessness.

If there is an award for best taco, best meal, best restaurant of 2013 (and I know there is) and if there is a God (and I for sure know there is) this award must, IT MUST go to The Manx for its pulled-pork tacos. This is not an exaggeration or excessive hyperbole. It’s straight-out reverence for a job well done. Excellence must be rewarded.

These tacos are from the “specials” menu. Here’s hoping they make it up to the big leagues of the “mains.” But in case not, you must run right now to get your fix. Me? I’ll be telling the world about my taco moment!

P.S. You have but a few mere months to enjoy these blurry pictures. iPhone 5s is coming! iPHONE 5S IS COMING!!!

The Manx on Urbanspoon