Category Archives: Sheldon Says

Sheldon Says: Toronto Trip Proves Delicious

It’s been a while since Mrs. Sheldon and I have had a weekend away, so when one of our favourite bands from our days at university announced a surprise show in Toronto, we hustled mini-me off to the grandparents and headed to the big smoke early on a Friday afternoon.  Since we had no obligations to visit family or friends, and no real schedule to keep (save for the show Saturday night), we decided to make the most of our trip by trying out some culinary hot spots we hadn’t experienced before.

Friday Night
The first stop on our whirlwind tour was The Bohemian Gastropub on Queen St. East.  Those of you who’ve read some of my previous StuffedOttawa posts know that the Wellington Gastropub is our favourite restaurant here in town, so we were excited about trying another gastropub experience.  We certainly weren’t disappointed.
The Bohemian is a small, relaxed restaurant that opened mid-summer and is already gaining quite a following in the Toronto scene.  True to the pub concept, the service is friendly, unhurried, and most of all, unpretentious.  The menu is creative, fresh and focused.  Based on Bavarian cuisine, Chef Christopher Scott combines non-traditional ingredients to create inventive selections, including spaetzle poutine, and curried bratwurst.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try the poutine, featuring diced bratwurst, bratwurst gravy and local cheese curds.  In a word – delicious.  The diced sausage added a bit of texture to the dense, chewy noodles, while the gravy was flavourful and salty.  Mrs. S opted for the fried zucchini dumplings.  These were an interested take on the more traditional fritter, filled with aged cheddar and served with a concorde grape chutney.  The sweetness of the grapes offset the sharpness of the cheddar, giving the dish a definite depth of flavour.
For our mains, I opted for the bratwurst.  The sausage came served in a gigantically thick slice of multi-grain bread, top slit almost in two.   The curry in the sausage was a little overpowering, although the mango chutney did manage to cut some of the spiciness.  Mrs. S was served what had to be the largest portion of veal schnitzel I’ve ever seen.  It was literally hanging over both sides of a full dinner plate.  Served with a warm potato salad, this entrée could have easily fed two people.
Despite its enormous size, the breading was nicely crisp, the meat inside tender and moist.  Our server mentioned that the secret was the buttermilk marinade that’s used on the pounded veal for 24 hours before cooking.
The beer selection was relatively small, with a strong focus on local Ontario brewers.  Beaus Lug Tread, Hop City and several others were available.  Our only real disappointment of the night was that the dessert menu was not available.  Apparently the kitchen staff had a late start to prep that day, and had no time to prepare the house made offerings.  Hopefully we’ll get back to sample again.

Saturday
The next day we started our food tour at St. Lawrence Market, an amazing collection of vendors selling almost everything you can image.  Butchers, bakers, fresh veg, fresh pasta.  It’s truly an amazing spot if you’re a foodie.  (Aside: While I enjoy trips to the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, The Byward Market and the Parkdale Market; none of these compares to what I saw here.  It’s a shame that the concept wasn’t incorporated into the Landsdowne Park redesign.  But that’s another whole post).
Lunch was a couple of shared appetizers on the patio at OB Cafe Grill.  The chicken and leek pot stickers were perfectly cooked, while the jalapeno ponzu sauce was an interesting mix of sour and spicy.  The vegetable spring rolls were crispy on the outside, while the veg remained fresh and crunchy on the inside.
After lunch it was back to the hotel for a brief nap (hey – we’re parents.   Sleep while you can) before prepping for our big night out.  Dinner was a short walk from the hotel to Beer Bistro.  This place is a beer lover’s dream.  Every menu item incorporates beer into the ingredients.  There are (count ‘em, I did) 20 different offerings on tap.  Want something from a bottle?  Choose from over 100 different selections that are on the menu, or ask your server about some tasty specialty offerings that are stored in their custom beer cellar.  Can’t decide?  Try the draft sampler – three small tasters to help whet your whistle and maybe try something a little different.  Our greatest discovery of the evening was Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA.  This Ontario craft brew is a hoppy, crisp food friendly ale.  In the word’s of our server, it’s Dangerously Drinkable.
The design of the restaurant gives the feel of a modern bistro, complete with Chef’s table, open kitchen and a jazz trio playing in the bar area.  Mrs. Sheldon and I opted to enjoy one of the few remaining warm evenings in the fall and chose a seat out on the patio.
Dinner started with shared Kobe beef tacos.  Mrs. Sheldon went for the Hog Wild pizza (pulled pork, smoked sausage on a crispy flatbread crust), while I went for the tartare.  Tacos were amazing, filled with a Vienna lager chilli.  The pizza was equally good, with a light airy crust, and a smoky undertone from the Berkshire port.  While the tartare was enjoyable, it was slightly bland.  I have had better on a few occasions.  The star of the show, however, were the fries.  Served with a house-made, smoked tomato ketchup and house- made mayonnaise.  Blanched in a combination of duck and beef fat, these crispy little taters were the BEST fries I’ve ever had.  That’s a bold statement from me, consider I love to make duck fat fries at home.
Despite the copious amounts of food, we couldn’t resist sampling dessert (especially since we got shafted the night before.)  The ice cream sandwiches feature a house- made coffee porter Rocky Road ice cream scoop pressed between two walnut stout cookies.  Did I mention they make the marshmallows for the ice cream too?   Mrs. Sheldon was in heaven when she saw the chocolate, peanut butter and banana spring roll.  Elvis himself couldn’t have devised a better dessert.
After dinner, we rolled ourselves down to the legendary Horseshoe Tavern for the show.  A great end to a great foodie tour.  Next stop, the LCBO for some more Mad Tom!~SS

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Ballygiblin’s Restaurant & Pub: Sheldon Says It’s Worth the Drive

A few days ago, Mrs. Sheldon and I were heading to the cottage for a little R & R.  Being kid free (he was already at the cottage with the grand-parents), we decided to stop for some refreshment along the way.  We’d heard good things about this little pub in Carleton Place called Ballygiblin’s, and stopped to give it a try.
I’m really glad we did.  The restaurant succeeds at presenting a pub-like atmosphere, while staying true to higher-end dining that follows the 100 mile principle.  The menu changes weekly, as Chef Roger Weldon tours local farmers markets for ingredients and inspiration (Ballygiblin’s is a member of Savour Ottawa).  While technically not “100 mile”, the wine list features only Canadian producers, and the well stocked bar taps pour predominantly Ontario craft brews.
Presentations were also interesting.  Mrs. Sheldon ordered the pulled pork, which was a generous serving of local, organic pork doused in Ballygiblin’s own Dr. Dusty’s homemade barbecue sauce.  The sauce was delicious.  Sweet, with a touch of heat at the end.  What made the presentation unique was that all the pork itself was tucked inside a phyllo pastry, and rolled into the shape of a pork tenderloin.  Served with hand cut fries and house made ketchup, it made for quite a meal.
I chose the beef ribs braised in Beau’s seasonal brew, also served with the hand-cut fries and some grilled vegetables.  The meat was fall-of-the-bone tender, with excellent flavour; while the veg was crisp yet nicely caramelized.
What topped the experience off for me was the opportunity to try some Ontario craft brews that I’ve been meaning to sample for a while.  I started off with a Beau’s Beaver River, an interesting take on IPA.  I followed that with a Hop City Barking Squirrel , an amber coloured lager with a lightly hoppy finish.  Delicious!  Other offerings included Kichesippi Blond, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and Beau’s Lugtread Ale.
The overall experience reminded me of a night at the Wellington Gastropub.  Ballygiblin’s hasn’t quite duplicated the experience yet, but they’re getting close.  If you want to go a little out of your way, this is a gem in the Valley that’s worth the drive.~SS

Sheldon Says: More Street Food Please!

The culinary scene in Ottawa has improved significantly over the past few years.  New restauranteurs continue to open fresh, vibrant places that feature local (often organic) menus that change with the seasons (or more often), and wine lists that favour smaller producers over multinational conglomerates.  They are a welcomed alternative to the chain restaurants where a large percentage of the menu comes frozen or from a can.
That being said, there’s one culinary area that hasn’t yet broken through Ottawa’s collective mediocrity – street food.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good sausage and poutine, but with a few notable exceptions (such as the Stone Soup Foodworks truck), that’s about all you can get from your local street vendors.
Food trucks have become the latest foodie trend.  I recently read an article about the street food scene in Portland Oregon, where offerings include: pad Thai, crêpes, tacos, bacon and eggs, and fried chicken.  In L.A., there are so many different offerings,  a website lists all the street vendor’s Twitter handles, so diners can stay up to the minute on where their local truck will be.
Earlier this month, Mrs. Sheldon was watching The Great Food Truck Race on The Food Network, which featured one of L.A.’s most renowned, the Nom Nom truck.  Nom Nom specializes in Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches, which are essentially baguettes filled with various spiced meats, and a variant of pickled coleslaw.  The sandwiches looked so good that I tracked down  a recipe to give them a whirl.
While it seems daunting, the recipe is actually quite easy.  After a trip to our local Asian food store to pick up a few of the ingredients (daikon and fish sauce aren’t usually hanging around my pantry), I was ready to go.  Shredded the daikon and carrot, to mix the slaw.  (A word to the wise:  pickling the slaw does take some time, and does smell up your kitchen.  You may want to crack a window.)  Mixed the pork meatballs, and prepared the sandwich dressing.
About 20 minutes before dinner, I browned the meatballs in the skillet, and finished them in a 300⁰ oven for about eight minutes.  Once finished, the sandwiches were easy to assemble with the prepared ingredients.  The result:  a flavourful combination of savoury, spicy heat, contrasting the sweet crunchy slaw, and the chewy fresh roll.  Would I make this again?  In a heartbeat.

By the way, if you’d like to see more variety in the Ottawa street food scene, the good folks at the Wig.ca have put together a petition for more options.  I encourage you to sign up and be heard.~SS

Sheldon Says: Easy Grilled Pizza

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were faced with a rather perplexing dilemma.  We both had a craving for pizza, but it was just so darn beautiful out that a hot, greasy take out full of pepperoni just didn’t seem right.  The solution:  a fresh, homemade grilled, veggie pizza.
Confession:  it was too nice out to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and since I knew it would take some work cutting all the veg, I cheated and used Greek pita (the kind without pockets) for the crust.  I cut up some Roma tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, zucchini and onion.  I then marinated them all in a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice, along with some store-bought, pre-mixed Italian spice.
To assemble the pizzas I spread a little olive oil infused with roasted garlic on the pita, topped with a mixture of the grilled veggies and then some grated mozzarella .  On to the Q for about 10 minutes (until cheese melted) and then topped the hot pizza with a few fresh arugula leaves to add a little peppery taste.  Perfect with a deep earthy red like The Lucky Country Shiraz (Australia) we picked up at the LCBO. ~SS

Sheldon Says: Spicy Turkey Meatloaf Kicks It Up A Notch

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of turkey burgers, turkey meatballs, turkey meatloaf etc.  Ground turkey tends to be overly dry, tasteless and boring.  Kind of like a Pizza Pizza crust.  Did I mention I’m not a fan?
Last week, our local grocery store had some ground gobbler on sale, and since Mrs. Sheldon and I are trying to stay on a budget, we bought a pound.  The question was “what to do with it?”.   After searching some of my favourite foodie sites, I finally settled on a curried meatloaf variation.  I say variation because I didn’t really follow a recipe – just winged it based on some ingredient suggestions.  The result was spicy, flavourful and moist.  Served with some steamed carrots and brown rice, it made a tasty, healthy meal.   Much better than Pizza Pizza.  Hope you like it.

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 shallot, diced
1 small onion, diced
One red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup of milk
2 tbsp. yellow curry powder
2 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. white pepper (more if you like it hotter – I used a tbsp.)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Place mixture into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350⁰ C.~SS

Sheldon Says: Juniper has buzz…

My wife and I love to go out for dinner.  Our “go to” place is the Wellington Gastropub.  The food is outstanding, the service top-notch and the atmosphere is extremely casual.  A former colleague of mine who was very knowledgeable about all things restaurants once told me you need three things to make it:  great food, great service and buzz.  The term “buzz” was his way of combining decor, atmosphere and experience into one intangible quality.  In our humble opinions, the Welly has buzz to spare.
Unfortunately, business has been slow lately.  Really slow.  So slow in fact that we’ve had to limit where and when we’ve gone out to eat.  Our anniversary was last weekend, so we were really excited to have a night out.  Rather than opt for a usual suspect, we decided to try a place we’ve never been before.  Our choice:  Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.
First impressions:  Juniper has buzz.  You enter into a large dining room, featuring rich shades of brown, and soft lighting augmented by table candles.  The floor to ceiling windows (the location used to be a BMW dealership) are impressive, giving guests a wonderful view of a renewed Wellington Village.  (Not completely – the low budget motel and gas station across the road are a bit of an eyesore, but you can’t fault the restaurant for their neighbours.)  The dining room was full, adding to the atmosphere and the sense that we were in for a great experience.
Unfortunately,  the rest of the trifecta – great food and great service, was a little hit and miss on this night.  It was our anniversary, so we opted for a pre-dinner cocktail.  Our server ordered our drinks, and then returned to see if we had any questions on the menu.  A few minutes later, he returned to say that our drinks were on their way, and take orders for our food.  The kitchen then sent our amuse bouche (a plantain, ricotta and cashew fritter drizzled with balsamic reduction – delish), and then our drinks arrived.  Our appetizers appeared almost immediately after.  We would have preferred to relax with our cocktails for a few minutes, enjoying our time out and soaking in the atmosphere.
I was having trouble deciding whether to have the Quebec pork loin main and the beef tartar appetizer, or the pork belly appetizer and the Alberta beef tenderloin main.  The decision was made for me – pork belly wasn’t available that night.  My wife chose the apple cucumber curried salad with house made feta, along with Indian buttered chicken breast.  Both of my wife’s selections were absolutely delicious – with the perfect amount of curry.  The tartar was some of the best that I’ve ever had – topped with an olive tapenade to give the beef some additional flavour.  The maple pork loin tasted good, if a little dry.  The highlight of the plate was the sweet potato fritters – perfectly puréed on the inside and golden crispy on the outside.
Sommelier Eric Belchamber was extremely helpful navigating the extensive wine list and choosing an option that would suit both the curried butter chicken, and the sweeter maple pork.  After offering his advice and a taste of two options, we settled on a 2009 Domaine St Roch chardonnay.
Dessert consisted of a banana fritter in a sesame coconut batter served with homemade peanut ice cream (to quote my wife, “heaven on a plate”) and the lemon orange crème brulé (less than satisfying).
Overall, it was a good but not great experience.  Given the buzz that Juniper gets from numerous people whose opinions I value, I suspect that we caught the staff on an off night.  Will we be back?  Probably, after we knock a few more “must try’s” of our list.~SS

My Name is Sheldon, and I’m an Addict.

“My name is Sheldon, and I’m an addict.” I never thought I’d ever say those words, but it’s true.  Recovering addict actually, but addict just the same.  I don’t attend AA or NA meetings, I don’t wear a patch to help curb the cravings.  Nope, just cold turkey for me.  As of writing this post, I am 7 days, 8 hours and 21 minutes clean.
My drug of choice:  Soda pop.  Laugh if you must, but I’m convinced that this is just as real an affliction as a compulsive gambler, or a pack a day smoker.   According to information obtained from the Mayo Clinic, signs of addiction include:

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day CHECK
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug CHECK
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug CHECK
  • Spending money on the drug even though you can’t afford it CHECK (I don’t know about the can’t afford it part, but I certainly spend a LOT of money on pop)
  • Doing things to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing – Thankfully, no
  • Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems – No
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug – I drive and drink pop all the time

The article I read states that if you exhibit at least three of these signs, you suffer from a real life addiction.  Unfortunately, I’m not alone.  It’s estimated that there are several million North Americans who are afflicted with soda pop addiction.  What’s worse , most are unaware they have this problem, and are completely in the dark about the ongoing health effects.    My wife and I had dinner with friends last week, when the subject came up.  My wife has been bugging me for years about the amount of the stuff I drink, and I never gave it much thought.  “Yeah, I know it’s bad for me, but it can’t be that bad.”  Our friend, more health conscious than I am, started listing off some of the negative effects.  So, I spent a little time doing some basic Internet research to see what else I could dig up.  Boy, was I wrong!
Robert Lamberton a Canadian biologist has done extensive research in this area, documenting the health problems that arise through long-term exposure to aspartame, other artificial sweeteners and dyes that make up most of the commercially available soft drinks.  You can read much of this information on his site, including testimonials from others who have developed this problem.  In a nutshell, those who consume high volumes of soda suffer from higher instances of: diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, joint pain and a host of other problems.
So no more afternoon pop for me.  I still get the 2 p.m. craving, but I’ve managed to fight it so far.  I think I’ll just drink beer instead….~SS
For more information:
http://www.dietdrinkaddiction.com/
http://www.overcaffeinated.org/
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/11/21/the-expenses-of-a-soda-pop-addiction-and-how-to-defeat-it/
http://www.lifetrainingonline.com/blog/why-i-stopped-drinking-coke-and-why-you-should-too.htm
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/158674/ten_reasons_to_quit_drinking_soda_pop.html