Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The best pork ever?

Could this be the best pork ever?



That's pretty high praise coming from me.  After all, I literally live off eating pork.  And for those of you like me, perhaps you owe it to yourself to try this delicious pork.  Many of you have tried it (some of you who have would probably agree that this is maybe the best pork ever).  Some of you may not know you've tried it but after reading this will recall a vague memory of eating some really delicious pork.

I've been hunting this pork down for years.  We've had a pretty long relationship, me and the summer pork.  It's the summer pork because that's mostly when I can find it.  It started years ago at Taste of Little Italy, where I stumbled across the delicious pork and grew into a minor obsession over the years.  I'm quite good at hunting down the summer pork now - last year I managed to eat so much that I had pretty much managed to satisfy my summer pork craving by the end of summer.

There are a few key elements to the summer pork combo you see above.  First, there is the delicious pork itself.  I think it's Ecuadorian?  I really have no idea.  You'll see it in a large cauldron, bubbling happily away in juicy delicious sauce.  The orange-y stuff on top is an oh-so-tasty salsa, I recommend putting on as much as possible.  Frankly, I'd eat it by the spoonful.  On the side is an unassuming but surprisingly pleasant salad with it's nicely marinated onions.  Hiding underneath the pork is some rice and beans.  

And that big yellow circle?  THAT IS THE POTATO.  The delicious potato.  I love this potato.  Not as much as I love the summer pork, but in some ways very close.  Maybe it is the best potato ever?  It's kind of like mashed potato, which they pan fry on two sides so it's sort of both crispy and soft.

The summer pork combo can be found at summer festivals all over Toronto.  This is where I have always found the summer pork.  Prices vary at each festival, I've paid as much as $8 for the combo or as little as $5.  The $5 combo is the best because it's also the easiest to find - Nathan Phillips Square, Tasty Thursdays.  Get there before noon or you'll be waiting the better part of an hour to get some summer pork (overheard in line: "I've been waiting a year for this!" as a businessman happily orders his summer pork and his friend nods, beaming, while ordering his own summer pork).

I guess I should tell you the name of the summer pork place.  It's La Fiesta.  But that's not really necessary because once you get acquainted with the pork, you'll just know it's the right pork.  They have an actual restaurant, but it's closed right now for renovations.  I've never been there, but I asked out of curiosity.

There doesn't seem to have been much written about the summer pork.  After encountering it a few times, I finally resorted to asking about it on Chowhound after not finding info on Google, but even on Chowhound there are only a few mentions of the summer pork.  But I think lots of people know about it.  Certainly, almost every time I've found the summer pork there is a very long line for it.  

What I always think is funny though, is when people order the beef or the chicken.  These are always the two other options you can get at the tent, and I'm sure that they are tasty, but OMG CAN'T YOU SEE THE PORK BUBBLING AWAY AND LOOKING DELICIOUS?  Lol, dear people who did not order the pork: I am giggling behind your back.  Overheard in line, customer talking to cashier: "Umm what should I order? What's your favourite?" / "The Pork!" .

The summer pork: it will put a smile on your face :)

Deli Duel

Let's cut right to the chase - whose smoked meat reigns supreme in Toronto?  Thanks to The Stop, we had the perfect chance to find out at the Deli Duel.

Goldin's?  The only place I'm aware of where you can order a Goldin's smoked meat sandwich is Free Times Cafe.  Otherwise, I think they mainly sell whole briskets.


The Stockyards?  Rowena and I dropped in for brunch right before the Deli Duel but assiduously avoided ordering smoked meat.  Our assumption was that considering the restaurant's proximity to the Deli Duel venue, we'd be getting a pretty consistent product.


Caplansky's?  The juggernaut of the three competitors, Rowena and I had both been to Caplansky's before, but I actually hadn't had their sandwich since I was there for brunch.


Rowena's take on our crazy brunch vs ice cream vs meat vs meat vs meat day:

The main event of the day was Deli Duel at Wychwood Barns.  I was excited as I wasn't able to eat some Schwartz's smoked meat during a recent trip to Montreal (sacrilegious to a foodie...I know!).  Tastings were $3, iced tea or lemonade $3, and beer from Steam Whistle $5. All proceeds from the event went to The Stop Community Food Centre and they were reported to have raised $10,000!  

Tess and I started off with Goldin's smoked meat.  It came on rye bread, mustard, with a side of pickle.  The meat was moist, fatty and full of flavour.  It was a great way to start off the duel.  We washed the sandwich down with some refreshing lemonade.  

The crowds started to pick up and we split up to stand in line at The Stockyards and Caplansky's.  The line up at The Stockyards was shorter and we actually ate it while standing in line for Caplansky's.  The Stockyards smoked meat was quite dry, and I did not enjoy the spices they used on it (and no pickle).  So far, between Stockyards and Goldin's...Goldin's, by far!

We finally got to the front of the line at Caplansky's and were given the choice between regular and spicy mustard.  Spicy (of course) and bonus pickle!  We sat down to eat Caplansky's sandwich and thought that the meat was far better than Stockyards, but ranked close to the meat we had at Goldin's.  As we were sitting, we overheard that Goldin's had run out of meat and saw that Stockyards had also run out of meat.  I later found out through Twitter that it happened at least twice during the day! 

In the end, we both voted Goldin's to be the winner based on flavour, fattiness of the meat, and moisture content.  The Overall Winner of the Day turned out to be Caplansky's.       
 
What a foodie filled Sunday with brunch, ice cream and smoked meat!  I ate so much that day, that I didn't even eat dinner!  Is this what it's like to join Tess on her foodie adventures??? If so, sign me up!
My take: 
It's interesting because when I was uploading the photos to the blog, I realized that you can really see the difference in the meats.  The touch of fattiness of Goldin's vs the different texture of Caplansky's.  We were torn between these two because we agreed that Goldin's had the right texture and fattiness but was a touch salty and could have used more flavour, while Caplansky's had good flavour but was lacking the texture and fattiness.  Even though Caplansky's won, general consensus on Chowhound seems to be almost overwhemlingly in favour of Goldin's.

This was a fun day!  Luckily, Rowena and I arrived quite early to the Deli Duel because we didn't have to wait too long and were able to get our sandwiches before the first batch of meat ran out.

Lol and yes, eating a lot of delicious food is generally a cornerstone of my adventures ;)

One last look at the Deli Duel (as I drift away to check on the Schwartz's brisket I'm hiding in the freezer...you know, for emergencies...)


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WORLD 'O HOOF

I like Black Hoof (938 Dundas St. W.) and I like Hoof Cafe (923 Dundas St. W.).  I'll randomly update this post if I eat at either for dinner. 

 

July 11, 2010: Fried chicken dinner at Hoof Cafe.  $25 gets you four biscuits, homemade gravy and hot sauce, coleslaw and half a chicken, cut up and fried.  This also makes for delicious leftovers.  I think the hot sauce was my favourite part.  The fried chicken isn't on the chalkboard menu, it's one of the specials, available Sundays and Mondays.

February 1, 2011: Goodbye Hoof Cafe! Closing at the end of the month for a revamp and reinvention. Goodbye crispy pork pita, malteaser, jesus bacon brunch, crispy beans and chickpeas, numerous iterations of suckling belly! Goodbye menu of delicious drinks, fried chicken with house-made hot sauce, apple toffee dessert thingie I had this weekend! While this may bode well for my arteries and wallet, I am sad to see you go.

Oh I was at Black Hoof this weekend also. The Lamb Tongue/Eggplant Ragu was pretty bowl-lickingly delicious. Pig Head Tacos also got a thumbs up from our table. There's also a yuzu drink on the menu and I am a mega-yuzu fan so another thumbs up.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

GRACE UPSTAIRS

503 College Street



  
Last visited:  July 7, 2010

Wednesday night at Grace Upstairs: $8 for the bbq (pulled pork sandwich or lamb sausage) / $12 for bbq + a beer / $20 for the lobster boil.
The pulled pork sandwich was on coco bread and had a side of coleslaw.  I liked this!  I lived in the southern U.S. for many years and I haven't really liked most of the pulled pork or bbq that I've tried in Toronto (to the point where I pretty much stopped eating it here).  But I liked this!  It had a very smokey flavour.  And I like the softness of coco bread.  Coleslaw was pretty good - not the best ever, but not bad.

The lamb sausage had sauce on it and a side of potato salad.  I liked the sausage ok.  The flavour was quite strong, so it was a touch gamey for me.  The potato salad was nice!  It had hard-boiled egg in it.

And then we also shared the lobster!  Because it's fun being excessive!  Pretty straightforward, they boil the lobster, crack it for you and serve with butter and chili oil to dip in.  Mmm lobster in butter - what's not to like?

This was the third bbq of the summer, I'm not sure how many they'll be having.  It was a lot of fun, I would go back.  Everyone working there was really friendly.  The place was pretty full by around 8:00 - the bbq starts at 6:00.  FYI, it's not outdoors, you go to Grace Upstairs (the little door beside Grace on College St.), order at the bar and find a seat where they'll serve you whatever you ordered.  There's a door onto the roof where they bbq but you sit inside Grace Upstairs.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

DOG VS DOG



Hot dogs - the new gourmet burger?

I'm pretty sure this is where things are headed.  Although Toronto continues to have more and more gourmet burger places opening up each minute, we are generally a bit behind the times.  I'm pretty sure encased meat is where it's at.

Don't get me wrong, my love of burgers is pure and true.  But lately I've been having a bit of a love affair with the oh-so-enticing wonders of deep-fried bacon-wrapped hot dogs and Rosemary and Garlic Smoked Chicken Sausage with Sweet Chili-Garlic Mustard and Cheese-Stuffed Marinated Hot Peppers (yes, you read that correctly; feel free to re-read, it took me a few times to process the amazingness of those words).  Here, have a look at it:



Let's start with Toronto.  I'd say our street meat is actually pretty good, it's nice that they grill the hot dogs and sausages and we get a wide variety of toppings.  Today I went to The Counter and noticed they have a foot-long hot dog on the menu.  Toppings weren't particularly exciting (not compared to what I'm going to show you) but it's a start: for example, grilled onions/mushrooms/swiss cheese and bacon.  But like I said, we tend to be a bit behind the times.

Let's head on to NYC and Chicago.  While NYC has somehow become famous for street meat, I've never been much of a fan of dirty water dogs.  I mean seriously?  Dirty water dogs over grilled?  Not likely.  Anyway, maybe it all started with Gray's Papaya for me.  Gray's is a classic but I wasn't wowed when I went.  It's cheap and I hadn't had a hot dog with sauerkraut on it so it was a bit of a novelty but didn't make much of an impression.  However, NYC is home to Crif Dogs, which I love love love.  My favourite is the classic house dog, wrapped in bacon, but I certainly wouldn't turn down a Spicy Red Neck: a house dog, bacon-wrapped, with chili, coleslaw and jalapenos.



By luck I had back-to-back trips to NYC and Chicago (the journey of encased meats?) so had an interesting comparison.  Although people may talk about NYC when they talk about hot dogs, Chicago takes the crown on this one (Yet oddly, people talk about Chicago pizza and I'd say NYC pizza is way better.  Go figure).  Here's a pretty standard Chicago dog:


Think about this.  This is standard.  This is like, boring.  I assume you're now starting to see the awesomeness of Chicago dogs over NYC dogs.  But I haven't gotten to the best part yet.  Remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off?  Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago?  He's like, real!  Well, sort of.  His name is Doug Sohn, owner of Hot Doug's.  While tastes vary, I'm pretty sure that whoever you are, you will likely find the Jesus encased meat of your choice at Hot Doug's (Doug is also really nice!  He works the counter!).


That is the Bacon and Cheddar Elk Sausage with Bacon-Garlic Mayonnaise and Black Mountain Garlic-White Wine Cheese.  Although I could only try two sausages on my visit to Hot Doug's, this one blew my mind.  Each component was soooo delicious!  And together they were an explosion of deliciousness!  Love love love!

But getting back to my original point (I did sort of have one) - I think that hot dogs may be the new gourmet burgers.  Case in point - I stumbled across the Eleven Madison Park bar menu online and noticed the Petite Hot Dog: bacon, gruy√®re cheese, celery relish and black truffles.

If this really is the next food trend, then maybe we'll get a decent equivalent in Toronto (eyeballs Hoof Cafe hopefully).