Monday, January 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Burgers. Two Sheratons, Toronto Ontario, Canada

Oh the joys of business travel. The shear glamour of it all. The freshly scented chauffeured ride to the airport. The stunning architecture of the modern airport, truly awe inspiring. The comfort of air travel followed by yet another chauffeured, although vaguely different scented ride to the hotel. And then the hotel itself makes me giddy with excitement, maid service, the crisp starchy feel of freshly pressed linen bed sheets, the faintly detectable aroma of commercial disinfectant, unparalleled gourmet cuisine at my fingertips and the fabulous view of the snow covered cars in the adjacent parking lot.

This week I find myself visiting two glorious Sheraton hotels in the Toronto area.

And thus….. A tale of two burgers.

The Sheraton, Richmond Hill, North Toronto.

Stuck in a hotel, middle of now where, it's late, damn cold outside and a hotel burger is a convenient thing, I don’t expect much. And, yup, that’s what I get here. A middle of the road hotel burger, let's call this one the "chef is trying too hard burger".

On the surface it sounds ok, fresh ground prime rib, a whole Portobello mushroom, square ciabata bun. The buns a bit hard, the patty is way to small for the whole shin dig. The portobello mushroom tasted great, I haven't had portobello on a burger in a long time, it added a great earthiness to the burger. I enjoyed the wasabi and chipotle dipping sauces. The fries, frozen, I can still taste the salt on my lips hours later.

A 6.5/10 hotel creation, ho hum, but a mans gotta eat and it might as well be a burger.

The Sheraton Gateway Toronto

After 3 days of company meetings I'm feeling a bit burned out. I'm at the Sheraton Gateway at the Toronto airport with friends from work and all 5 of us are having burgers and beers. It’s nice to have guest reviewers. My friend April is loath to participate in the ratings, this has something to do with my rating of Webers a while ago. I gave it an 8/10, where in Aprils book its more in the "crap" range. General census at the table is that in fact Weber’s has gone down hill recently, just saying.

Average score: 7.75/10. April finally broke down and participated and gave the burger an 8/10. I was not so generous. This was a pretty good burger actually but I couldn’t get over the fact that the burger came dry. That is, no mayo or mustard or any sauce. We had to ask and the waiter for options and he brought us those cute little miniature bottles of mustard mayo and ketchup. We were left to our own devices for application. My fellow judges did not seem to have my issues in this regard, they were happy to apply the condiments themselves. I deducted points.

Gotta love the travel.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Edge Restaurant, Sooke, BC Canada

The Edge Hamburger, Swiss cheese, home made butter pickle strips, bacon and lettuce.

This is the most unique burger I have had in some time,

A Completely out of the box burger.
A completely fantastic burger.

First of all this thing is triangular. Who does that? Maybe Costco. It's funny how our minds are conditioned to branding and marketing. Isn't that wonderful? BTW, I've never had a Costco burger and it's not on my list. But I am a big fan of the "mechanically separated, chlorinated, mystery meat" 100% pure beef Costco hotdogs. Go figure!

The bun here is of course not a Costco bun, it's made by a local bakery and it works perfectly, just the right texture the right thickness.

The patty, to compliment the bun, is also formed into a triangle. The meat is AAA chuck ground in house and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, cumin, paprika and cayenne. The flavour even though this is beef totally reminded me of lamb kabobs I had at Vij's a while back. It's spicy, it's tasty, it's really unique, the triangular corners take on some yummy crispiness but the seasonings completely take over, so, if you are a burger purist and really like the taste of beef, this probably isn't the burger for you, but if you like originality and kick ass flavour then this burger is right down your ally. I thought it was fantastic; in fact, I'm drooling just thinking about lamb kabobs.. sorry I mean this burger right now. If I lived in Sooke I would be totally addicted to this thing.

My dilemma then is how do I rate this thing? Can you really truly call this a burger? And not just because of its shape but also because of the flavour. I'll describe this burgerish thing as a killer spicy flattened lamb kabob ground meat sandwich without the lamb. In my mind, on the basis of fresh everything, made in house everything and the flavour I have to go with 10/10 with a caveat. The caveat being that in the purest sense of the term this is really not a burger, so the "burger purest" probably would have issues with my rating. But if you want to step out of the burger box and into a tasty triangle of flavour head for the Edge restaurant in Sooke and enjoy the creativity.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Milestones, Abbotsford BC Canada

Just another late night on the road and another burger at a chain restaurant. This time I find myself at Milestones in Abbotsford. I haven't been to Milestones for some time and thought I'd check it out see what their burgers are about.
I can’t remember the last time I had a burger at Milestones. A quick chat with the server confirms that the patty comes to the restaurant frozen. Really? I would expect more from Milestones. "Hello Mr Milestones, your competition, Earls down the road, uses fresh beef. Come on get your act together". OK, I'm going to have this burger but Milestones is off my list until they start giving a damn. Want to know how much a restaurant cares about the food they serve? Check out the burger, it is the restaurants barometer. It’s easy slap something half descent together and this is what I got here a 6.5/10, it’s just ho hum. But it’s hard to do it right, which, makes you wonder how much they care about the other stuff they serve.

Mr. Milestone’s I will remember this burger. You may want me to forget.

Can someone out there in blog land please recommend a mom and pop local establishment in Abbotsford that serves fresh, great burgers?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Amsterdam Café Pub. Whistler Village Canada

“Drinking…we are known for drinking”

That was the answer from the waitress when, holding my menu, I was foolish enough to ask “what are you known for?” And I believed her because it wasn’t just what she said but the way she said it, a little quirky smirk that twinkle in her eye and that faintest intimation that she had a long night the night before sealed the deal.

Right there and then I knew exactly what my burger was going to be all about. It will be somewhere from a 5 to 7 out of 10. An 18 year old Aussie, who is probably a bit hung himself and pissed he is not on the slopes, is slapping together a frozen patty, and suspect condiments between stale Kaiser buns.

Turns out 6/10 (the bacon was good) bull’s-eye on my earlier premonitions.

So, when in Whistler and when looking for a place to have a few drinks or maybe more then a few drinks head for the Amsterdam Café Pub and after you’ve had many bevies and you get the munchies and taste is no longer essential order the Amsterdam burger and enjoy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

100 Days at the Opus Hotel Vancouver BC Canada

Temporary restaurants are a new trendy concept I’ve read about popping up in major cities throughout North America. Is your restaurant starting to get flat? Are your customers starting to decline? No biggie, tear up what you have and in its place design a whole new temporary concept. Don’t forget to promote the hell out of it, its new! It’s fresh! And hurry its only open for a limited engagement! Restaurant reviewers, grasping for something interesting to write about will rave about this new concept, how fresh. Customers will flock. And so here I am at 100 days restaurant, named for the number of days the restaurant will be open, at the Opus Hotel in Vancouver, I’m just another sheep flocking to the latest buzz. But I hear they make really good burgers and that’s my excuse.

The day that I’m here is day 114, restaurant name change required, so I guess the buzz really is working. The waiter told us that they plan on being open for another couple of months before they tear down and rebuild, this time to what will be a permanent concept. Why be in a hurry to make changes to something that is obviously working.

The concept is a bit lame; they are trying to sell the place as Art + Food – Remixed. But the whole place just reminds me of a cheesy half finished 80’s graffiti rap music video set. They whole design is trying a bit too hard to look authentic, kinda like white rappers, you know what I mean? But then I’m not here for the décor, picnic tables or white linen.

It’s about the burgers and fortunately the burgers are really good, a solid 8.5/10. The burger patty is fantastic, chopped up, not ground, in house, giving the burger a little extra texture. And because it’s processed in house you can order the burger cooked to your choice. I like mine medium rare with just a little pink in the middle. Most outstanding, so why only an 8.5/10? Sadly, the bun sucked. I think it this one backfired on the chef. The bun was baked with dried basil flakes. Sort of like those 99 cent pizza by the slice places around town that also try and get a bit fancy and throw dried basil flakes in the flour dough mix. In the end all you can taste is the bitter dried saw dusty basil all day long. And that’s the way that it was here, a really really poor choice on the bun, all three of us at the table concurred. The more I think about the crappy bun and remember the lingering bad taste the lower I want to go on the burger score, it was just that bad. However, everything else was absolutely fantastic, so in the end a happy medium at 8.5 is reached. Just like the restaurant, I hope the bun is also temporary and will be replaced along with the concept.

Thumbs up on the desert burger, loved it, if only for its creativity and anything burgers is usually a good thing.

Donut (tasted more like brioche) for the bun, a fudge – cookie vanilla ice cream patty, kiwi for the lettuce, strawberry for the tomato, short bread cookie fries, raspberry purée for the ketchup and whipping crème for the mayo.

OK, I’m thinking of increasing my rating to 9/10 for the whole dual burger experience. No can’t do it, that bun was horrendous. Unfortunately one stupid misstep and it throws everything off. So so close to a truly excellent burger.