My Canada

It seems like this past week has been heartbreaking both locally and nationally. It began with the suicide of a colleague’s friend, continued with the murder of Quebec soldier,  Patrice Vincent, the terrorist triple shooting in Ottawa and murder of another soldier, Nathan Cirillo from my hometown of Hamilton, and concluded by the death of two Burlington teenagers. My heart cried for these people and their family and friends who lost a loved one so suddenly.

As the news of more deaths came with each passing day, so close to home, my heart sank further and further. Speaking to the murders of the soldiers, definitive acts of hate and rage against our country, they sought to tear down our spirit. However, the outpouring of love and support, both from Canadians and others worldwide, came as a swell. It rose up loud, strong, telling the attackers that we as Canadians will not be afraid. We will honour the dead as heroes, and we will not let the perpetrators gain the infamy they so crave.

Tomorrow, Hamilton honours Nathan Cirillo, and Canada stands by his side. Our community coming together with love makes me proud to be Canadian. No, I was not born here, but Canada is my culture and my pride.

I’m the kind of person that, no matter how long I’ve been out of the country, gets a knot in my throat and a bit teary-eyed every time the border or airport security guard says “Welcome home.” Canada is my favourite country. I’ll travel anywhere and everywhere, but I’ll never settle anywhere but here.

I just wanted to put that out there, and share this chilling video of the Highway of Heroes tradition, honouring fallen soldiers along Canada’s largest autoroute. I cried for our heroes, for our country, and at the amazing show of love and patriotism.

O, Canada.

Charlie’s Chopsticks Grand Opening

Charlie's Chopsticks Logo

My little brother got the chance to be a part of the creation of a new fresh take out restaurant! How very exciting. I got the chance to go in and sample everything and share my experience with you.

If you have passed 970 Upper James (right near the Linc) recently, you may have noticed this little shop open up in the sex shop plaza. Leading up to their grand opening, they have been giving out samples of all their menu items for everyone who walked in.

Charlie’s Chopsticks is a custom asian open concept kitchen that caters to those who want to eat well, healthy, and quickly.

Sushi Cut

Charlie’s Chopsticks offers three main items: Rolls (Sushi & Summer), Rice Dishes, and Drinks. When you walk into the store, you’ll immediately see the counter with the main ingredients that you can choose to customize your meal.

Sushi roll charlie's chopsticks

The first thing I had was the sushi roll. I really like how you really just get to choose whatever you want to make your own custom sushi roll just the way you like it. I think you can have a maximum of 5 items, which is a ton to fit inside one roll. I chose to put my favourite items: salmon, crab stick, cucumber, sweet egg, and mango. It was pretty cool to watch them roll my sushi.

sushi cutter

This blew my mind the most. They put the sushi roll into this machine and it cuts it all up for you. WHAT?! So cool. Where do I get one for my house? My carrots would be such even sizes.

Charlie's Chopsticks Sauces

This is the part that gets really interesting. In addition to the soy sauce that you usually get with sushi, you have a range of other sauces you can try too. Their spicy mayo is particularly interesting. It’s not just the Kewpie Mayo (or baby mayo, as we call it in my house) & Sriracha combination that you basically get everywhere else, but this has a great hint of ginger to it as well. I loved it. One of the workers encouraged me to try the wafu sauce as well, which is a Japanese sesame dressing, and I’m glad I did because that tasted great with the fresh sushi. I don’t have anything else to compare the wafu sauce to though, but it was great.

There is also a few secret sauces. The two of my favourite being Honey Peach and my absolute favourite: Maple Ginger. I just could not get enough of that Maple Ginger. Just the right amount of sweetness and savouriness.

Custom Summer Roll Charlie's Chopsticks

The next thing I tried were the Summer rolls that they offered. Patrons of Vietnamese restaurants may know them as fresh rolls. They are basically any ingredient you like, wrapped up in a rice paper wrap. It’s light and yummy. Traditionally, in my home, we add vermicelli into it as well, but this way you get more fun stuff and less filler. I had mine with lettuce, mango, sweet egg, cucumber, avocado, ginger beef, and a little slice of clementine, which the employee strongly suggest. I never would have guessed to put the clementine it, but the sweet burst of flavour was a great enhancement.

Charlie’s Chopsticks even offers traditional Vietnamese nuoc mam, or fish sauce. Please don’t let the name scare you away because it tastes NOTHING like fish. It is a fish sauce mixed with garlic, lemon, and a few other things that I don’t know because I haven’t asked my mother how to make it yet. But seriously, this sauce is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, and the salty lemony garlicky flavour compliments these rolls like nothing else. I think it’s the greatest compliment when I say these rolls taste just like we make them at home.

I won’t lie. I stood there and tried a few other rolls, a few with strawberries for colour, and of course, fresh bacon. The owners order many of the veggies local and the bacon come straight from Mennonite farmers in Hamilton’s Farmer’s Market.

I have never had bacon this good.

I don’t know what it was about it, but dang. It was just crispy enough with a bit of chew, my perfect texture. The taste was beyond anything else. Damn, I was just about ready to hop off the bacon train, but that piece of bacon in one of my many fresh rolls was just BEYOND.

meat dish

Lastly, I tried the rice dish. You get to choose your meat: chicken, beef, or pork, and then you have the piece of meat basted with whatever flavour you like (I got chicken with maple ginger, and beef with teriyaki). It goes through the oven (though I think they might be replacing that with a grill), and gets served with a bowl of rice and your choice of veggies. Again, I highly recommend trying the fish sauce with this dish.

Charlie’s Chopsticks will be serving bubble tea (with choices of grass jellies, fruit jellies, tapioca) and fresh fruit smoothies.

All in all, while the food is not gourmet or out of the box, it is good, wholesome, fresh food, which is definitely hard to find in today’s fast food industry. Their prices are awesome for a quick lunch, or a light, healthy dinner. The best bit is that they’re open late every night (past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) and they do delivery as well. Who HASN’T sat there thinking, oh, I could totally do sushi right now, but balked at the time, drive, price of sushi restaurants? And who really wants to put pants on to go buy some crappy day old grocery store sushi?

Charlie’s Chopsticks officially opens TODAY (!) October 18, 2014, at 11 a.m. and the first 88 people in the doors will receive a voucher for 30 free items. Spread the word, #hamont, the new take out is here.

Facebook – Charlie’s Chopsticks

Instagram – @CharliesChopsticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NàRoma Pizza Bar

Do you remember that episode in the first season of Futurama (which I am currently marathoning on Netflix) where Fry finds out that he’s a billionaire due to interest accrued in his bank account over 1000 years and then he buys the last tin of anchovies for $50 million? Well, it inspired me because I’ve never eaten a pizza with anchovies on it before. I didn’t even know if pizza places still had them as an option because I’ve never ordered them before. Of course, this would happen at 1 o’clock in the morning so I had to stave off the inspiration until the next morning. Enter the new challenger: NàRoma Pizza Bar located in the hip Locke St. of Hamilton.

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 215 Locke St S, Hamilton, ON

NàRoma is one of those places in Hamilton that consistently gets rated as the one of the top places you’ve got to visit. It was a toss-up between NàRoma and Earth to Table Bread Bar, but Bread bar did not have any mention in their menu about anchovies except in their caesar salad. Both located on Locke Street but would have to be an adventure for another time.

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When eating here, you have two choices: order by the slice at the counter, or pick your own pizza. The premade slices are great if you want to grab a quick slice on the go. Their website boasts authentic Italian pizza, but I have never been to Italy so I can’t judge.

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They have some set pizzas with very fun flavour combinations and you can also add or take away ingredients to your liking, both meat and vegetarian options. I swear, the menu is extensive. The waitress was super friendly and helpful. I informed her of my anchovy pizza virginity and asked for suggestions. At first she suggested the Napolitana pizza which comes with tomato sauce, black olives, anchovies, and chilli flakes, but try as I might, I just am not a fan of olives. She said that anchovies pair well with red tomato sauces and with my affinity for spiciness, we settled for the Calabrese: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, cacciatore sausage, and hot pepper oil, adding anchovies on half of the pizza, just in case I didn’t like it.

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Calabrese, Coppia size ($17)

Being by myself, I don’t know why I didn’t order by the slice or something, because even though I saw that their smallest size, Coppia, came in 12 slices and served 2-3 people, I still ordered it. I thought I was a beast. I thought I was sooooo cool. It was huge. I did manage to eat a third of it though, which I am proud of.

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Latte ($3.90)

I also ordered a latte because I thought it was the thing to do. In my mind, coffee doesn’t go very well with pizza, but they’re both Italian (right? or is that espresso…). She also asked me if I wanted some dipping sauces. It’s like she knew I was a sucker for sauces. I ended up getting the creamy pesto and the spicy Caesar. They were both very nice. The pesto didn’t really taste like pesto to me, but the Caesar was very garlicky and right on. Unfortunately, I didn’t know they cost about a dollar each until I got the bill.

Get to the point, Judy. How were the anchovies? Was it horrible? Did you throw your pizza at the waitress and pee on the floor???

Because usual “hate it or love it” opinion on anchovies, I honestly thought I wasn’t going to like it. I’m usually pretty sensitive to salt, but wow oh wow! After comparing the anchovy slice and the non-anchovy slice, the anchovies definitely bring a whole new dimension to the pizza. I had the slice with anchovies first, and the second one just didn’t have as much POW to my mouth. It elevated the other flavours to a whole other level. I think it’s safe to say that I will now include anchovies in my pizza repertoire.

The rest of the pizza was great too. The cheese wasn’t a soggy mess.  The base was thick, but not dense and made for a nice solid base for the toppings. The sausage was great, nice and meaty, and the chilli oil was actually quite spicy! And I am not averse to spice! However, the crust was dense, but not crispy, which was a downer for me.

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Nutella Slice ($2.50)

I always have room for dessert. This was basically a pizza base, warmed up (the bottom was toasty and crispy!), with a generous spread of nutella, topped with some cannoli cream filling, and sprinkled with icing sugar. It was a great way to end the meal. You can also order these in bigger sizes to share with a group. Yummy yummy!

I wish I had gotten a pizza with fancy cheeses, or the margherita pizza which I’ve always wanted to try, or something with a lettuce (like arugula!) on it because those are on my pizza bucket list too. I guess that’ll just be another reason for me to come back to NàRoma.

I did not pee on the floor.

Memphis Fire BBQ

headerIt’s apparently season for BBQ restaurant eatins!

Oh Memphis Fire BBQ. I’d been hearing about this place from everyone. The must try place. The oasis in the wasteland of Steel Town. Located on Queenston Road, 15 minutes east of the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a wonderful wonderful place that I had to bring everyone to. They smoke their chicken, ribs, pork, everything for at least 6 hours. They serve chicken and waffles at the beginning of the week, and it’s amazing. Though, I am happily stuffed after munching on just a few appetizers. Completely worth it.

ribs

First up, entree. Ribs, served Thursday – Sunday. Soft, meaty, huge portions of ribs on ribs on ribs. The sauce was a little too tangy and sour for my liking, but it was good nonetheless. Boyfriend and I shared just one entree together, and we were completely stuffed by the end.

mac

Chili mac and cheese. Um… YUM?! Gooey, soft, ultra-cheesy mac and cheese below a generous helping lovely smokey chili topped with more cheddar and onions. Chili mac and cheese. Why didn’t I think about that? The combination of the two is just lovely. And of course, to up the ante, I went ahead and started mixing my ribs with my mac and cheese. It just pushed it over the top. So damn yommy.

ranch friesThis is what everyone has to has to has to try:

Ranch fries.

Crispy, thick cut french fries, topped with ranch dressing, cheddar, onions, bacon, and more cheddar. It’s like Jesus jizzed on a pile of fries in the best way possible. Honestly, the best pile of fries I’ve ever had. It’s tangy, bacony, cheesy, carby, best things in the world.

pieLastly, they have an impressive selection of pies. A list of at least 10 different ones. I really wanted to try the banana cream pie, but I had a little princess with me who “doesn’t like bananas” or some ridiculous excuse, so we settled on the pecan pie, a princess favourite. The staff here are really extraordinarily nice. I asked for a buttload of extra whipped cream. Really overemphasizing the amount I wanted (a whole can, please) and they gave us a huge pile with an extra plate of whipped cream!

Both times I went to eat here, I left very happy and very satisfied. The prices aren’t exorbitant, and the food is fabulous!

HillyBilly Heaven

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Smoky. Sweet. Salivating. Seductive. SCRUMPTIOUS SOUTHERN… sfood. This place is located at Upper James and Fennell in Hamilton, where I’ve recently moved. I’d been hearing a lot about Hillbilly Heaven BBQ joint for a while. They’ve been showcased on the Food Network, and the amount of word-of-mouth buzz has been insane. I hear it from everyone that it’s so amazing, so naturally, I had to go give it a shot. Oh lordy lord did I not know what I was getting myself into.

brisket

I ordered the BBQ beef brisket with a side of baked beans, because I am a sucker for baked beans. However, these beans aren’t like those sweet molasses beans you get with breakfast. No, no. These were smoky, filling, slightly spicy, and a hint of tart sweetness from the apples. And then there’s the sandwich. A bread that’s soft and yet doesn’t fall apart. It soaks up the meaty juices without getting soggy. That is a bread deserving of a place called Heaven. The meat is piled high on the bun. It’s soft, juicy, and peppery. Wonderful on it’s own, but they offer 3 kinds of BBQ sauce that to top your sandwich with: mild, medium, and hot. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing this plate was, except for the fact that the plate you see there cost me $8.95. Now do a double take. You saw that right. Under $10 for a sandwich the size of your head and a hog sized bowl of baked beans. Ooooooh mama.
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You can expect the same with the pulled pork platter. The sandwich just as big and juicy and comes with a side of thick cut crinkle fries that are wonderfully seasoned and crisp. My cousin upped the ante by turning his side of fries into chili cheese fries for an extra $3.50 and making it into a monster meal.

Hillbilly Heaven is amazing and everyone should eat there. The staff are really friendly, the decor homely, and the food is just to die for.

Hank Daddy’s

Hank Daddy’s is a bbq food truck here in Hamilton that does the standard barbecue fare: ribs, brisket, chicken, and pulled pork, among other things. Although I’ve been trying to lose weight, I couldn’t help but to venture off to this truck because it was parked down the street from me, and y’all know my addiction to food trucks. See here and here.

Hank Daddy’s is known for their unique pulled pork parfait, so of course I had to have it. It looks so cute, and because I was taking it home, they had the ingenious way of cutting out the bottom of a takeout container to protect the mound! Presentation really is everything because that’s what you’re really paying for. It was 10$ for two scoops of mashed potatoes, pulled pork, and some beans. The barbecue sauce alone was strange and I didn’t quite like it, but when mixed with the pulled pork and potatoes, they meshed surprisingly well.

I may be biased because I just love pulled pork, but I really enjoyed this dish, despite thinking that it’s not quite worth 10$. It was a nice small lunch, and yummy, which I think is the most important part. Next time, I’ll have to try the ribs.

 

 

Some pictures and captions and talking too

1. Mado’s Pepper Sauce

Found this bottle of hot sauce on sale in one of the antique shops that Claire, Adrienne, and I visited in Parkdale, on Roncevalles. When the woman at the counter let me open one and smell it, I had to have it.It had strong pepper scent, and me, I love my pepper, with what seemed to be a bit of mustard, some dill, maybe some horse radish, and a hint of citrus.I don’t think any of those are actually in the ingredients though, but it seems to emulate all those flavours in one simple sniff. I’ll have to check the ingredients label when I get home.

Anyway, one of my bad habits is my tendency to buy things on a whim. So I bought it. Boy was I not disappointed. We went to a pub to grab a bite to eat after an afternoon of antique shopping and I opened up the pepper sauce to taste with my chicken.

It was like heaven exploding in my mouth.

It has this intense flavour and the spiciness is like a subtle kick in the taste buds. It’s like  a tiger creeping up in the tall jungle grass. Slowly… slowly… BAM. THERE IT IS. AND IT IS MAJESTIC. We had a barbecue a couple of days later and I mixed it up with some mayonnaise and slathered in on my burger with some relish. One of the best burgers I have ever had. The sauce makes it and it is beautiful.

2. Wonder Girls’ Wonder Coincidence

Ahh, the Wonder Girls. Kpop sensation full of little cute fucking asian girls.

I got dropped off in downtown Hamilton to hang out with some cousins at the local bubble tea house and the instant I walked in, they were talking about how I was the second coincidence of one sort or another. Not five minutes later, one of my uncle’s friends, whom I had only met a couple of days earlier, walked in and we had an awkward exchange of greetings.

Moving on, my cousins and I sit, talk, make fun of each other, you know the things we do best. Then a couple of people that David vaguely knew walked in and sat behind our table, but kept to their own. Ding ding, my phone announces a message from Adri.

“Hahaha I just read that the Wondergirls are in Mississauga RIGHT NOW for a concert.”

Note: I just moved from Montreal to Mississauga. So I read this message out loud because I know a couple of my cousins are into the whole kpop scene. Then, David’s acquaintances turned around and said, “Are you talking about the Wonder Girls??? We just came from their concert!!!”

This was funny because I associate kpop with girls and girly boys. So we all got excited and I got a picture of their pass, and a picture of their picture with the girls. A night of coincidence.