The McRib is back!

It had been a long time coming. Ever since the McRib first made its debut in 1981, the McDonald’s delicacy has been standing out as a unique and beloved creation. So when McDonald’s announced on January 25th that it was bringing back the iconic sandwich to Canadian menus, people got excited.

The McRib is more than junk food, it is a cultural phenomenon, as evidenced by social media platforms lighting up with posts celebrating the McRib’s return, and by mainstream media covering the story.
Even Tania was caught in the frenzy, sharing with me the Ultimate Homemade McRib Recipe from Serious Eats.

The McRib has appeared on and off on the menu but was last sold in Canada in 2014. Many Canadians had given up on ever seeing the sandwich again, as McDonald’s USA had announced in 2022 that the elusive McRib was finally back… embarking on a “Farewell Tour”.

They said it couldn’t be done. Never say never. You’re welcome Canada, the McRib is back! McDonald's Canada #missionaccomplished✔️ #promisemadepromisekept  #neversaynever #tomorrowneverknows #mcrib #McRibMania #TeamMcRib
They said it couldn’t be done. Never say never. You’re welcome Canada, the McRib is back! McDonald’s Canada #missionaccomplished✔️ #promisemadepromisekept #neversaynever #tomorrowneverknows #mcrib #McRibMania #TeamMcRib

Other members of the Waffle’s family had no idea what they were missing. Inspired by Justin’s working class leadership, I was going to fix this. No, not that Justin. This one!

The anticipation and excitement was contagious. Ms. Waffle agreed to pick up some McRibs on the way back from a shopping trip. Turns out, the saucy sensation is not available at every location, so she had to make a long detour to make it happen. God bless.

Soon, we all had the pleasure of indulging in the magical McRib. Well, not quite, as the Waffle Jr. opted for a cheeseburger. I wanted to ban her to the outlands but I figured it wouldn’t be worth the drama and would keep me from rediscovering the flavors, textures and smells of the elusive and exclusive sandwich.

The McRib was designed to be a pork alternative to the traditional beef patties that dominated the McDonald’s menu. Served on a roll with sesame seed, it has a distinctive rib-shaped pork patty, is smothered in tangy barbecue sauce and topped with pickles and onions.

The distinct shape, the aroma of barbecue sauce, it looked bigger than I remembered. I stared at it, not sure what to do. Mini-Waffle expressed some disappointment because there was no actual rib meat in the McRib. I am not sure why he expected rib meat. The name, maybe? Not sure.

At any rate, I wouldn’t let his high standards bring me down. Even though the McRib may draw inspiration from authentic barbecue, it ain’t it. It bears minimal resemblance to genuine ribs and doesn’t have the depth of slow smoked BBQ ribs. Indeed, it is not smoked and doesn’t even undergo grilling, it is instead cooked on a griddle. The McRib is just a delicious fantasy.

The generous coating of tangy barbecue sauce was everywhere. Even on the box. This could get messy. I was also not going to be discouraged by the botched construction, with uneven distribution of the onions and picklers. One of them was even folded! But I am a forgiver. After all, they must be swamped by all the orders pouring in!

The McRib’s unique texture is legendary. It is tender yet has some chew, offering a satisfying mouthfeel.  The bun was fresh and soft, the meat juicy, the sauce thick and sticky. To contrast, the crunch of the pickles and the onions creates a delightful textural contrast that adds to the overall enjoyment.

The star of the show is probably the barbecue sauce. It is sweet, tangy, and slightly smoky.  It works great with the pork, creating a delectable combination of sweetness and savory. The pickles provide a refreshing and slightly acidic touch while the sliced onions add some pungency. My mind wondered how it would taste with the McD’s classic rehydrated onions.

Maybe I’ll experiment next time.

Because yes, there will be a next time. Soon. Because in this corner, we may be hoping that the McRib is here to stay. But we know the clown wants to play games. Not today, clown! 

Tacos Del Rancho justo lo que necesitaba

I woke up at 2 AM, awoken by the arrival of yet another snow dump. My alarm was set for 4 AM, for a United flight out of Ottawa which was originally scheduled at 6:25 but had already been delayed by half an hour the night before.  I knew the heavy snow would cause further delays and my layover in O’Hare was impossibly short to begin with. Perhaps for that reason, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Or perhaps I was too much aware there was no other flight to Tucson out of O’Hare. I was already assuming that I’d spend the night in Chicago and my plan B was a deep dish pizza adventure and a visit to the United Center to see the Blackhawks play the Predators.

We landed late in O’Hare, but United had decided to hold the plane for the few of us who needed that connection! Even my checked bag made it!  Long story short, I was really impressed with United. But not impressed enough to order their food.

After getting my bag, getting the rental car and checking in at the hotel, I had been awake for far too long while having only had a small bag of plane pretzels. It was well overdue to get some real food. I drove back towards downtown, having passed a whole bunch of restaurants along the way. I ignored the KFC, Arby’s and other McDonald’s and ended up at Tacos Del Rancho under the Arizona afternoon sun.

Tacos Del Rancho is a fairly new joint, located in one of the numerous small strip malls on Oracle road. Established in September 2021, it is 100% family-owned and operated. They say that their tex-mex menu is inspired by the Sonora desert. Points for making their own salsas and also their own fresh corn and flour tortillas. Bonus points for using certified Angus beef. On the menu, you’ll find Nachos, Asada Fries, Gordita, Burritos and of course, Tacos! The decor is minimalist, but polished with bright colours.

I relied on the staff’s advice before ordering. They told me that the most popular item on the menu was the Taco Del Rancho ($4.50). Frankly, if the dish is named after your restaurant, it HAS to be the best thing you offer. So I ordered it in a combo! Two tacos, served with  beans, rice and a choice of side – I picked the Chile En Rajas – and a soda. Read more!

A pizza in a Cage (II)

It had been a while since I last tried a pizza at La Cage, which is no longer “Aux Sports” as the Waffler nation well knows. In fact, pizza wasn’t on the menu for a while, although they did have flatbreads on the menu a while ago. Not the same dough, so not the same, though.

Now available in some locations, a selection of Neapolitan pizza. I was intrigued, because unlike before, they now have a dedicated pizza oven in select locations. Options include Prosciutto & Arugula; Bacon, Sausage & Onion; Margherita; Italian Sausages. I decided to go ahead and order the Margherita.

Margherita pizza is a traditional culinary specialty said to have originated in Naples, Italy. Very popular for its simplicity, this napoletana pizza is topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. The colors of these three ingredients are meant to represent the Italian flag. It seems to have been first described, in 1830, by Riccio in the book Napoli, contorni e dintorni.

So if it is so simple, why is it so popular? If simplicity is the base, the real secret of a Margherita pizza lies in the use of high quality ingredients. You want a very fresh, fairly raw pizza sauce, made with San Marzano tomatoes. You want real fresh mozzarella di Buffala, coming in balls, not the industrial blocks. And of course, the freshest of basil, sweet with large leaves.

Read more!

Not the ringer we expected

Fast Food chains are always looking for new offerings to attract consumers. Variations should be limitless yet it is rarely really out of the ordinary. Still, here in this corner we decided to give a shot to Harvey’s newest burger:

The Angus BBQ Bacon Ringer Melt.

So you get a 100 per cent Canadian, flame grilled Angus burger topped with BBQ sauce, cheese, bacon and Onion Rings on a toasted bun. As always, you top your burger with your choice of fixings.

I fired up the app to get it to go from the Saint-Joseph Boulevard location in Hull. First things first, Harvey’s informed me that they were currently experiencing supply challenges with their gravy. As a result, their Poutines may temporarily be unavailable on the menu at some locations. I had no interest in a Harvey’s poutine so I cannot confirm if it was actually available, but the app kept offering it to me as an option.

Harvey’s sells it’s Angus BBQ Bacon Ringer Melt for $8.79. The regular Angus Burger goes for $6.39, with cheese for $7.19, with cheese and bacon for $8.39. So basically an extra 40 cents for a couple of onion rings.

Read more!

Hitting the spot on Christmas Day

We arrived at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal with plenty of time to spare before we boarded the Queen of New Westminster to Nanaimo. We only had snacks on our journey so far.

It being Christmas Day, lots of things were closed in the terminal area. Vending machines were not a wanted option. So I headed over to the Tsawwassen Quay Market to check it out, fingers crossed. The air was fresh and the wind was brisk.

Tsawwassen market is a small retail market that showcases a West Coast theme and lifestyle, featuring fashion and crafts. There are usually plenty of food options but today, only three were open. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory was immediately ruled out by me.

Two options were in the running: Salsa, a Mexican joint offering tacos, quesadillas nachos, enchiladas and burritos. And Frankie’s Barbecue Grill, featuring hot dogs, hot sandwiches, beef dip, pulled pork and smoked meats.

I texted the menus over to see if the Waffle family were interested. They were. The question was: did they want to come over or would they like me to deliver? The food might get cold if I walked back to berth 3 with it. So the decision was made to enjoy the fresh air.

Once we set up our new base camp at a counter by the back corner window, the kids decided that Frankie’s had what they wanted : hot dogs. Mel wanted Frankie’s Famous Philly Cheesesteak. I strolled over to order. I got there just in time to be third in line : sailing time was getting closer and more people were showing up.

I ordered two Double Dog Specials ($8.99) (two with ketchup only, two with ketchup and mustard), the Cheesesteak ($8.99) and I opted for Frankie’s Signature BBQ Beef Sandwich ($8.99). I paid and was then informed that it would take 15 minutes. That seemed like a lot.

I got to stand on the side and watch. The steak for the Philly Cheesesteak was pre-cooked. It was unwrapped, put on a plate and in a steamer it went. While the meat was warming up, the sandwich was being prepped. A large hot dog roll was stuffed with a mix of shredded cheese. Once the meat was ready, it was added in the sandwich, and it went back in for a steam to melt the cheese. After pulling it out, BBQ sauce and raw white onions were added.

Next, the hot dogs. Frankie’s Franks were no babies. Jumbo weiners, a whole bunch steaming in a big tray. Fresh hot dog rolls were pulled from the bag, the sausage put in them, and the dogs went into another steaming device – they barely fited.

Next, my Beef Sandwich. First, the hamburger bun was toasted on a panini press. The meat was different than the Cheesesteak, it had a nice pink colour from the package before going in the steaming machine. Mayo went on the bottom bun, followed by the beef, BBQ sauce, coleslaw and more mayo.

Anyone who ever had a Philly Cheesesteak would be appalled by this sandwich. Sure, the steak was minced thinly. But there was no apparent caramelization of the beef, as you usually get when cooked on a griddle. Hot dog rolls are not hoagie rolls they are not as long, anyway. But the bun was honest. Cheese wise, the cheaper versions are usually made with American cheese or even Cheeze Whiz, fancier versions use Provolone. Here, we had a cheddar blend, so the texture was a bit off. The addition of raw onions is not unheard of, but I prefer grilled onions.

The hot dogs were fine, too. Meaty jumbo weiners. Fresh commercial buns. Kids engulfed them.

As for my beef sandwich, it was probably the most interesting of the bunch. The meat was juicy, steaming does that. The coleslaw was creamy. It worked well with the BBQ sauce, a darker kind of sauce, providing sweetness and bitterness. There was mayo, too, which might have been a bit much. Thankfully, the sandwich held togheter fine. The bun was fresh enough to absorb the moisture well and the toasting was done on the outer crust.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves here. An attentive reader might have noticed that despite Frankie’s labelling itself a “Barbecue Grill”, this is not a Barbecue joint and no grilling is ever involved. This is not haute cuisine. This does not even quality as fast food. It is overpriced. But we were so hungry, it hit the spot. And that is all that really mattered, there and then.

We made our way back to Berth 3 to watch the Queen of New Westminster arrive at Tsawwassen. We were all set to sail away.