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.

The pizza was served and it looked already much better than the old ones.

Starting with the crust, which is a far superior one to the previous recipie they used. Here was an actual pizza crust, with the charred bubbles from the super hot pizza oven. A nice crisp on the outside and a soft, chewy, bready mouthful on the edge. Good stuff.

The mozza was nice and goey, as opposed to stretchy. For the cheese, they use Fior di latte (literally “milk flower” ), a mozzarella-style cheese made from cow’s milk, originating from Campania and Puglia in Italy. It was sweet, rich and had a creamy feel. On top, plenty of basil, which is much better than the silly habit some have to put one leaf per quarter.

The tomato sauce was fresh and tangy, very simple but well done. The problem, however, was with distribution. Perhaps it was a spreading issue or a quantity problem. Or more likely, it is because of the shape of the plate, slightly slopping towards the middle. A fresh tomato sauce like this, by nature, is not very thick. Therefore, the sauce (and the cheese, somewhat) was pooled in the middle of the plate, which made the crust soggy. Disapointing, considering its quality.

Nevertheless, this was a pretty good effort.

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.

Something doesn’t quite add up in their pricing, if you buy your burger as is or if you customize from the plain Angus. Let’s compare:

Angus Burger$6.39Angus Burger$6.39
Angus Burger with Cheese$7.19Extra Cheese $7.19
Angus Burger, Cheese and Bacon$8.39Extra Bacon$8.29
Angus BBQ Bacon Ringer Melt$8.79Extra Onion Rings$8.99

Bottom line, if you want an Angus Burger with Cheese and Bacon, order an Angus Burger with Extra Cheese and Extra Bacon. If you want cheese, bacon and onion rings, order the Angus BBQ Bacon Ringer Melt. You are welcome.

Obviously, that is what I did. I asked for lettuce, tomatoes, onions, two pickles, relish, hot peppers, BBQ sauce and Chipotle sauce – which is what appears to be on the glamour shot above. And that’s what it looked like:

Obviously, it wasn’t going to look like the official glamour shot from Harvey’s. Partly because it was a to go order, but mostly because of the way Harvey’s wrap your burgers: they have a tendency to every so slightly squeeze your sandwich. It looked pretty good anyway.

Of course, it tasted like a Harvey’s burger. Their particular grilling and seasoning technique is unique. The cheese was a gooey, delicious mess. The bacon was sadly underdone, a bit chewy. Despite the copious amount of sauces and juices, the bun held together nicely.

What about the star of the burger, you may ask? Well, the onion rings were underwhelming.

When you add onion rings to a burger, you are trying to create a different mix of tastes, and more importantly, textures. Onion rings need to be crunchy. Perhaps because of the packing squeeze, perhaps because of the sauces and juices from the veggies on top, they were not crunchy. Without being mushy, they just didn’t stand out. Underwhelming, I said.

Overall, it was a good burger. But the bottom line is, if you are craving onion rings in an Harvey’s burger, order them on the side and add them at the very last minute. On a to go order, it didn’t quite stand the test of time (about 10 minutes).

Harvey's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

‘Tis the Season to try something different

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Before we nestled the children all snug in their beds,
We had to eat and feast, as after all,
‘Twas the night before Christmas!

Now, we were going away for a few days, so the thought of planning a traditional ‘Réveillon’ was overwhelming. So I suggested we would follow a long-establisehd Jewish tradition and eat Chinese food for Christmas.

The kids were confused, so I had to explain. It’s been documented a-plenty that North American Jews have been patrons to Chinese eateries while Christians are celebrating. Historians believe that the tradition began in New York’s Lower East Side, at the tail end of the 19th century, with an early wave of Eastern European immigrants. Chinese immigrants were settling down nearby, in what became Chinatown.

First thing, many Christian-owned and operated restaurants were closed on Christmas Day. Chinese shops didn’t follow the same calendar. A match made in heaven! It also helped that, when it came to kosher law, Chinese restaurants didnt use dairy and therefore, there was no mixing of meat and dairy. That one is easy.

But what about pork? Pork is not kosher food (neither is shrimp) and it is used in Chinese cooking. But it is usually concealed inside something, like a wonton or an egg roll. Apparently for many, if you can’t see it, you can’t know it’s there, making it safe to eat. Plausible deniability! A true Christmas miracle!

And so the decision was made to order from Ding Ho, a Gatineau restaurant located in small strip mall, at the corner of St-Louis and the Alonzo bridge, in a space that was occupied for the longest time by a Patio Vidal franchise. Five years ago, Vidal was gone and Ding Ho was opening for business.

Now, we basically never order Chinese food for several reasona. For starters, Ms. Waffle is wary of MSG and the kids are not too familiar with this type of food. So this was a momentous occasion! Ding Ho’s menu is classic Chinese-Canadian fare: Chop Suey, Chow Mein, Foo Young, Fried Macaroni, Fried Rice, etc.

Ms. Waffle was weirdly excited by this and took control of the online order. Chow Mein and other noodle dishes were ruled out, she has strong opions regarding what she terms slimy noodle dishes.

The only existential question I was asked was, Spring Rolls or Egg Rolls?
“It’s Christmas. Let’s get both!” I magnanimously pronouced, like a Wise Man packing Myrrh for the Messiah.

Ms. Waffle made sure to order the classic Chicken Balls and added some Breaded Shrimps for good measure. A Chicken dish, a Beef dish, some Spareribs for Mini-Waffle et voilà! Bonus, our order being over $50, we were getting an extra Chicken Fried Rice for FREE, a saving of $8.95!

1 x Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls$12.95
4 x Egg Roll$6.80
4 x Spring Roll$6.80
1 x Salt and Pepper Chicken$14.45
1 x Garlic Spareribs$12.95
1 x Beef with Green Peppers$13.95
1 x Breaded Shrimps with Garlic Sauce$14.95
1 x Chicken Fried Rice (Special) FREE

The food arrived in the planned time frame. A whole bunch of styrofoam containers were soon emptied into more presentable dishes. The table was set and we were ready to celebrate!

Most certainly, it smelled good and looked good! The Waffle jr. is not keen on fried rice, so we added some leftover white rice to the table to keep her content. We all filled up our plates and dug in.

The Chicken Balls were meaty and actually quite decent. Nice white meat, not overdone. The fried batter was a bit doughy but the ratio was good. That was not the case for the Shrimps, where there was too much dough. I ate mine with the Cherry Sauce and left the garlic sauce alone.

The rolls were pretty good. The Egg Rolls were nicely crispy, with plenty of delicious filling. The Spring Rolls were not as good, a bit oily in my opinion. I stayed with the classic Plum Sauce to eat them.

The Garlic Spare Ribs were uneven, as is often the case for this dish. Some were really meaty, nice and tender. Others less so, with more cartilage than flesh. Luck of the draw or expert eyes will get the best pieces! There was plenty of the sweet and garlicky sauce. It was a tad fatty.

The Salt and Pepper Chicken was a nice, simple, crispy dish. The chicken had been deep fried than mixed with very simple sauce, not too salty with a good peppery flavour. Lots of chicken too, with some onions and a few pieces of green peppers.

The Beef and Green Peppers had a different ratio, with lots more veggies than the S&P Chicken. Which is fine, I guess, considering that it is called Beef and Green Peppers. The beef was crispy yet tender. The peppers were still firm. Some sliced onions, too. Pretty good dish even though I would like more beef!

Finally, the Chicken Fried Rice was also good. Nice and salty from the soy sauce, the chicken flavour was punching through too. Nothing to complain about this freebee!

All in all, we all enjoyed our Chinese Christmas meal. The portions were quite generous, so there is plenty more left for us to enjoy at a later day. The food was plenty hot and we all had a fortune cookie. Apparently, one of my investments will bring solid returns.

Bahama Breezin’

The four of us had landed in the Land of the Free for a few golf rounds and some beach time under the Florida Sun. Upon arrival, however, we were short on supplies, so our first meal would have to be out there in the danger zone. Bahama Breeze Island Grille was thus selected.

Bahama Breeze is an Carribean-inspired restaurant chain, owned by Darden (Olive Gargen, Longhorns Steakhouse). Bahama Breeze is specialized in island fare, including seafood, chicken, steaks, and of course, tropical drinks. The Fort Myers location is one of 43 franchise across the United States, with almost half of them being situated in the Sunshine State.

We elected to sit on the patio, which seemed a safer bet in these uncertain times. It was also a bit of a condition set by Ms. Waffle to grant me the green light for the trip.

The patio was busy but not overcrowded, which allowed for our server to be promptly with us to take our drink orders.

I went for the Mojito Cubano ($8.49). It is made with Bacardi Superior Rum, sugarcane juice, fresh lime and mint. Garnished with a sugarcane stick, it was a simply made but well made drink. Refreshing! Perfect to start the weeklong hostilities.

Meanwhile, BMac had doubts about his frozen margarita, which had an orange hue. It tasted limey and tequilaey, but he had a hard time getting over the colour. In both cases, they certainly didn’t skimp on the booze.

The food menu is meant to bring you all over the Antilles, and, presumably, the surrounding area. You’ll find Empanadas and Tostones, Bahamian Seafood Chowder and Cuban Black Bean Soup, Tacos and Tostada. But also Burgers, Fried Chicken, Steak and Ribs. Also, lots of Jerk on the menu.

Speaking of which, I decided to try their new Jerk Shrimp Pineapple Bowl ($17.49). Sautéed shrimp, diced pineapples and sweet peppers tossed in a jerk pineapple glaze. Served on white rice in a fresh-cut pineapple bowl.

Of course, it didn’t quite look like the promo picture. I mean, I am not one to complain, but compare and contrast I can do.

It certainly wasn’t as full. And the glaze was obscuring the colours, everything was kind of brownish.

But using the carved pineapple is a fun novelty idea. Flavour wise, it tasted good. Some hint of spices, fresh pineapple. The rice was fluffy. The sauce was working well with the pineapple and the peppers. The shrimp were cooked well, not rubbery.

If you are looking for a jerk flavour that packs a punch, you’ll be disapointed. Let’s say it is jerk-inspired, very mild and a tad sweet. It needed more kick.

On the table, two hot sauses. The classic Tabasco, I thought, wouldn’t work.

But since Jerk is coming from Jamaica, it seemed to me that this Walkerswood Seriously Hot Jamaican Jonkanoo Pepper Sauce would do the trick.

Not quite in the Jerk palette, but it worked with the dish. Hot pepppers, cane vinegar and cane sugar made for an interesting combination. I have never heard of cane vinegar before, to be honest. It did the trick.

All in all, it was an agreable dinner. It was nice to be outside in the warm evening of Florida. The mood on the patio was festive but not crazy. Our server Noah was attentive and efficient.

We were off to a good start.