Monday, July 23, 2012

The goat that was meh: Clocktower Brewpub

North America: the marriage between burgers and pubs is not as healthy as we might like. This is a completely unscientific statement but my hypothesis based on nothing is that most pubs just don't serve a very good burger. The exceptions are flocked to, but for some reason the majority just don't seem to get the picture that overcooked beef cardboard  gives a terrible legacy to a fallen creature.What should be such a culinary no-brainer is not.

The problem is that I like pubs. I lived in England for two years and spent a lot of that time in pubs. Studying. Lots of studying. (Love you mum and dad!) Many English pubs offer poor burgers as well but for some reason I gave that a pass because most pubs served pretty bad food regardless if it was traditional local fare or imported Americana. When I go to a pub I want a burger because that fat-carb-protein mix is a perfect culinary foundation for an evening of responsible drinking. Then I get disappointed. That said, as part of my great burger quest I insist on hitting up some of Ottawa's notable pubs to see how they fare.

One of these things is more shrivelled than the others.

Amy and I went to the Westboro location of the Clocktower Brewpub, an outpost of the Ottawa brewpub institution located in one of the many new condos perched above Richmond. I love Clocktower's beer, and have been happily drinking it since my Carleton University days. A large location inside, it has this rather grand patio that stretches between a gym and a Running Room location, each with posters not exactly congratulating you on ordering your third k├Âlsch. There we sat and ate burgers amongst the Lulu-clad regulars.

They actually offer six burgers for those looking, all fairly standard fare but a nice selection nonetheless. I had the so-called "Angry Goat" burger, which included a 7oz beef burger topped with herbed goat cheese, hot peppers and spicy mayo.

Was it angry? Read on to find out!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Beast of Toronto: Holy Chuck Burger

Amy and I took a whirlwind adventure to Toronto to see family and friends. I put that reason first to assure my family and friends that indeed we did not visit just because I wanted a burger review from the GTA!

Making a decision of which joint to go was the tough part. From the Burger's Priest secret menu to the very upscale Bymark Burger, the selection here is outstanding and I don't envy the task ahead for some of the 416/905/647/etc burger bloggers out there. The craze has completely enveloped the city. The deciding factor was that one of our friends is pescatarian and so we had to choose a noted burger joint that catered to her tastes in a creative manner.

There she is, freshly unwrapped. A very nicely built monster.
We settled on Holy Chuck Burger, a new but fiery competitor in the great jungle of Toronto burger joints. Open for less than a year, this modern diner at Yonge and St. Clair places its kitchen out in the open and its meat grinder in the fore of that kitchen. Chances are they are grinding your meat as you're staring at their menu considering what spin on the burger you want to try. It's quite the menu indeed. You can get a burger 'twixt two grilled cheese sandwiches or topped with a braised veal cheek or steeped in maple syrup and topped with foie gras or ground up with bacon, etc.

I of course settled for their signature burger, the "Holy Chuck", which is a double cheeseburger topped with thick-cut bacon and caramelized onions. There is a little note that follows the menu item asking the customer not to add any toppings on it, and since I'm not very contrarian I ordered the burger as-is.

So read on if you're a Torontonionian or TO-bound and want to know what the chuck's up with this cliche.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Eating a mystery: the case of the Wakefield nut burgers

As you know I like a little splash of fact in my prose.  I tell you how long a burger joint has been around, and that the place before it served amazing roti ten years ago, which you find interesting but not very useful given that you left your flux capacitor at home. Despite that, y'all are reading my blog in greater numbers.

So there once was a guy in Wakefield named JD who cooked up a delicious vegan nut burger called the Nutstravaganza patty, but I know little about him or his product because there's little online footprint about JD. At some point he rebranded himself as a company called Nut & Noix Co. and renamed the burgers "the Nutburg," but there's still bubkus about them online. It's all a great, big, tasty mystery.

A colleague of mine from that fair village on the river was a fan of these burgers, knew that I penned this here blog, and brought them in for me to try. They were delicious so I decided to write about them anyway, despite not having facts about the person responsible for their creations. This isn't normally my modus operandi. I like a bit of context around my burgers.
Their Internet presence is lacking, but they've got a sweet box!
(Photo by Pascal Berthiaume)

Nut & Noix Co. doesn't have a website or an updated Facebook page for their wares, so I can't point you in their direction nor tell you where the burgers are offered in Ottawa beyond The Red Apron on Gladstone. Otherwise jump on the highway and head to the Wakefield, stop for a grilled cheese sandwich at Le Hibou, and then to the Wakefield General Store to nab some nut burgers. It's a bit perplexing how this small business can idly coast under the radar given this age of self-promotion, but there we are. Nuts with a bit of mystery.

The Nutburg is made from a crushed and spiced blend of cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, onions and carrots crushed into a patty maybe 1cm in thickness. There's no soy to be found here, which is a good thing, because soy plants are Triffids looking to devour the planet. (I'm largely kidding-ish)

I probably should have made this a vegan prep to give props to my plant-dedicated friends, but when I tasted a bit of it raw I immediately thought to top it with "halloumi," the Cypriot cheese that is one of my favourite foods of all time. I also topped it with a thick slice of tomato, shiitake mushrooms and some Somerford & Hall Ontario vine-ripened ketchup, served up on a multigrain bun.

Read on after the break to see how it cooked up.