Thursday, April 18, 2024

24 Hour Perogies

In a place known as the City That Fun Forgot, it's no surprise that there's not much happening in Ottawa late at night. The House of TARG decided to change that by celebrating its tenth anniversary with a 24-hour event. Located on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South, the House of TARG is the venue for old-school arcade games, pinball, and live music shows. But for some, the main draw is the perogies that they regularly serve. With plans to satisfy my hunger and cure my insomnia, I made my way over at around 3 in the morning. I arrived in the middle of the Graveyard Shift, which explains why there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happening when I entered the establishment. While the DJ played rockabilly and country music, the few party people remaining were milling around chatting with the staff, while some were still trying to make high scores on their favourite machines. The bands that had the room filled hours ago had long since left the stage; I even missed the comedy stylings of Gandlaf, the Wizard of Comedy, and some spoken word entertainment they had planned.  I knew I couldn't order a beer that early, but the lack of coffee was surprising, as was the lack of food (I wasn't feeling the chips that were available that early). I was kicking myself for dosing off earlier in the night, just my luck that I picked the one time in the 24 hours that was a dead zone - I almost wish there was a night mayor I could complain about this to.  Not wanting to wait until breakfast time for the cereal TARG was offering, I left soon after getting my fill of Galaga and Iron Man pinball. But what am I to do about my potato dumpling craving? Uber Eats isn't an option until the weekend, so I'm forced to rely on the recipe below. But first, some much-needed rest...


240 g all-purpose flour
160 mL cold water
1 large egg, beaten

Potato Filling:
2.30 kg Russet potatoes, peeled
115 g shredded Cheddar cheese

Sauerkraut Filling:
1 (908 g) jar sauerkraut - drained, rinsed and minced
115 g bacon
45 g sour cream
  1. Combine the flour, cold water, egg, and 6 grams of salt in a bowl. Mix everything until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl and set it aside.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with water, and bring everything to a boil. Let it cook for 25 to 35 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain and mash in the pot until smooth.
  3. For the potato filling, place 454 g bacon in a large frying and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned. Drain the bacon on paper towels, then crumble and stir it into the mashed potatoes. Blend in the shredded cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the mixture aside.
  4. For the sauerkraut filling, cook the remaining bacon in the frying pan and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned. Drain, crumble, and place in a medium bowl, and stir in the sauerkraut and the sour cream. Mix well and set the mixture aside.
  5. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a 3 to 6-mm thickness. Cut out 7cm circles with either a cookie cutter or an upside-down drinking glass, and place a spoonful of potato or sauerkraut filling in the center of each circle and fold over, pinching edges together to seal.
  6. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop the perogies in the boiling water and let them cook until they float, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the perogies from the water. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat 30 mL olive oil. Add the perogies to the pan, and sauté for 2-3 mins per side, until golden brown and slightly crispy. WIZARD TIP - towards the end of frying, add 15 g of butter and coat the perogies in it.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Working My Way Through The Works: Son of a Beech

A popular gimmick for food blogs is to eat and review every item on a restaurant's menu. This blog is no exception. These are the observations I've had while eating my way through the burger menu of The Works, a Canadian burger restaurant with locations across Ottawa and Ontario.

The WORKS (900 Watters Road)
Burger Description: "Avocado, Beechhouse sauce, sundried tomato & feta cheese."
March 25, 2024

I'm overdue for writing about these burgers. So much so that I can't help but notice a lot has changed around the site of my favourite Works location. I see some businesses have come and gone from the surrounding strip mall. Somehow they managed to wedge in a new supermarket across the parking lot from the Works.  The most concerning addition to the area, however, has to be the arrival of a new McDonald's. Having a place famous for selling billions of cheap burgers a year in your backyard can't be good for any business that sells similar food - how does one counter Rotten Ronnie's fast-food fixings? You can start by offering a better burger.  I went with the Son of a Beech,featuring the Works' own Beechhouse sauce. As burger sauces go, this is one of the better ones. The sun-dried tomato added a nice bit of tangy sweetness to the burger, which worked well with the saltiness of feta. I'm still not a fan of non-guacamole avocado being added to my hamburger, but I didn't mind the slab that came with my meal this time. No complaints either about the French fries, I'm glad the server suggested adding some gravy on the side to go with them. I did take issue with the shrinkflation that affected the size of my burger patty; if you must skimp on the meat, at least put it on a smaller bun. Overall, I was happy I decided to get lunch here. This was the busiest I've seen this location mid-afternoon, and judging by the laughter I heard from the back of the house, if the staff is worried about competition from the Golden Arches, they're not showing it. I don't know what the future holds for this location, but it's good to see and taste that they're not going out without a fight.

3.5 of 5 stars - head and shoulders better than my last burger experience here.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Random Thoughts About The I Heart Beer + Taco Festival Tour

The second edition of the two-day  I❤︎ Beer & Taco Festival rolled into Ottawa last weekend. I went to the second of three sessions, the first on Friday, and the last starting later that afternoon. These were my impressions.

  • Entering the Cattle Castle (I'll never get used to calling it the Aberdeen Pavilion, no matter how many years have passed since the last SuperEx), I was handed a plastic cup for beer sampling. Already this is more than what the Food & Wine Festival gave people.
  • I wanted to bring my son to this but after buying the tickets I learned it's a 19+ event - why? We're eating tacos for God's sake...Yes, I'm aware they're serving beer here, and that a bunch of drunk children would be a nightmare to deal with, but you're not supposed to serve minors beer. They made an exception for toddlers, however. Who knew screaming colicky babies were preferred over children who aren't ill-mannered brats?
  • You had to buy tokens to get anything to eat or drink, with most tacos and beers going for 2 to 3 tokens. I went with 8 tokens to start for $20.
  • First taco: Beef brisket, El Patcho's Tacos
    Done in a barbacoa style, the brisket tasted good, and the toppings added some freshness and balanced everything out. This is what you want in a taco, check them out if you're ever in Carleton Place.
  • This was the place to be if you like beer pong, as half of the left side of the Castle was devoted to it. I've never gotten the appeal of playing beer pong as I've never needed to gamify my drinking. If beer pong wasn't your thing, there were plenty of 1UP arcade games and some retro consoles set up for play.  With all these video games around, you'd think they would allow children to attend. If it sounds like I'm bitter about this rule, it's because I am. No refunds on tickets.
  • Second taco: Fish, Margarita Restaurant
    I didn't think to ask what fish it was, but it was nicely fried, and the slaw served with it was just as good. If I ever go for a sit-down meal at this place, the cauliflower taco that was also an option to try is what I plan to have.
  • I hadn't planned on drinking that afternoon, so I was happy to see lots of free water available for drinking and rinsing out your sample cup. I was also happy to see all the breweries that attended the event - who says that craft beer is dead?
  • Third taco: Lamb, Spring Pasture Farm
    This vendor knew more about raising and butchering lamb than making tacos. Even though the meat was cooked well, this was my least favourite taco of the day. It was essentially a basic gringo taco made with ground lamb instead of ground beef. 
    • For what it's worth, the best lamb taco I've ever had I got from Sí Señor, whose presence was noticeably absent from this event.
  • Quite a few bored security guards were milling around.
  • I would have liked more standing tables at this event, but there were a lot of tables and chairs available on the right side of the building if you're a fan of community seating and eating. Introverts like myself were forced to stand or sit off to the side.
  • To the surprise of no one, the plant-based taco booth had no lineup.
  • Fourth taco: Beef tongue, Casa Cancún
    I'm glad these guys came from London, Ontario for this thing, as they made my favorite taco. I've wanted to try beef tongue since I heard the meat was tender underneath the rough outer exterior. I also noticed that they were the only place I tried that used corn tortillas instead of flour and that they grilled them. It was a very satisfying taco topped with some hot salsa, onions, and a little cilantro. 
  • I heard there was hot sauce available to sample, but I couldn't find any.
  • Fifth taco: Pork, Picante mx
    Because I could pronounce it better than I could carnitas, I went with the pastor style of pork. For those who were wondering, al pastor is when the meat is cooked on a vertical spit, like shawarma meat, while carnitas is chopped up pork braised in its own fat, or added lard. It was a good taco, I'm certain I would have enjoyed either style.
  • This is a first - I actually felt full at a food festival. 
  • Overall, one of the better food festivals I've been to in Ottawa. If I could change anything I would have allowed people to buy tickets at the door, it seemed like a missed opportunity with so much foot traffic around. The food was great, and it was an event that the whole family could enjoy if the promoters would let them. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Need To Know Classic That Is: Red Beans and Rice

Nowadays soul food is used to describe any well-loved homemade comfort food. Traditionally, soul food is food rooted in African American culture in the southern United States during the time of slavery. Slaves were given food that was low in quality and nutritional value, foods that their masters didn't want to eat for themselves. Using the techniques they learned before being snatched from their homelands, enslaved Africans adapted their traditional recipes with the resources available. These methods became the basis of the soul food dishes we know and love today. There's a lot to like about red beans and rice. It's a classic soul food dish that's tasty, a great source of fibre and protein, and can be made relatively cheaply. The end of February may be the end of Black History Month, but that doesn't mean it's the end of enjoying Black culinary delights.


300 g dry red beans
200 g long grain white rice, uncooked
265 g Andouille sausage
10 g salt, or to taste
7 g smoked paprika
5 g chopped parsley
3 g dried oregano
3 g dried thyme
2 g garlic powder
2 g onion powder
1 g cayenne pepper
1 g freshly cracked black pepper
20 mL cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions
2 ribs celery, diced
1.5 bay leaves
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
  1. Soaking beans helps them cook faster and breaks down some of the complex sugars that make beans hard for some people to digest. The night before, add the dry beans to a large bowl and fill the bowl with water. Allow the beans to soak in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. When it's time to start cooking, slice the sausage into rounds. Add the cooking oil and sliced sausage to a large pot and cook over medium heat until the sausage pieces are browned. Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon to a clean bowl. Set the cooked sausage aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic to the pot that the sausage was cooked in. Sauté the vegetables over medium heat until the onions are soft, allowing the moisture from the vegetables to help dissolve any browned bits off the bottom of the pot as you stir. Add the smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, black pepper, and bay leaves to the pot. Stir and cook for one minute more.
  4. Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Add them to the pot along with 1.4L of water and give the pot a brief stir to combine all of the ingredients. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring everything up to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the pot boil for one hour, stirring occasionally. Replace the lid every time you stir.
  5. After boiling for one hour, the beans should be tender. Begin to smash the beans with the back of a spoon against the side of the pot. Continue smashing the beans and letting the pot simmer without a lid for 30 minutes to thicken the pot.
  6. While the beans are simmering, add the rice and 700 mL of water to a saucepan. Place a lid on top, turn the heat on to high, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let the rice simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let the rice rest for 5 minutes without removing the lid. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
  7. Once the red beans have thickened, add the cooked sausage back to the pot along with the chopped fresh parsley. Stir to combine. Taste the red beans and add salt to your liking.
  8. Serve the red beans in a bowl with a scoop of rice and a sprinkle of sliced green onions.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Superbowl Eats: San Francisco 49ers edition

For the second time in four years, the San Francisco Forty-Niners faceoff against the Kansas City Chiefs for the Superbowl. This time out, the 49ers are led by quarterback Brock "Mr. Irrelevant" Purdy, who was previously famous for being the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. Helping Purdy is league-leading rusher Christian McCaffrey at running back, talented wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and a really good tight end who's not dating a pop star in George Kittle. There's a lot to like about this team, just as there's a lot to like about the San Francisco seafood stew called cioppino. Cioppino is a tomato-based stew created in the late 1800s by Italian-American fishermen who fished off the North Beach of San Francisco. It was made with whatever seafood was leftover from the day’s catch. If you need a dish to bring to a Superbowl party, making this will definitely stand out from the usual crab and sourdough bread people think of for a Bay Area-themed menu.


350 mL chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
340 g skinless red snapper fillets, cut into small pieces (haddock can be used as a substitute)
230 g shelled and deveined medium shrimp
240 mL bottled clam juice
225 g canned diced tomatoes, drained
120 mL dry white wine
30 mL extra-virgin olive oil
30 g unsalted butter
30 g coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2.5 mL hot sauce, plus more for serving
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add the shallot and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, for about 3 minutes. Add the wine and boil until it's reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the stock, clam juice, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and hot sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for about 10 minutes until the liquid has slightly reduced.
  3. Add the clams, cover, and cook just until most of them open, about 5 minutes. Add the snapper and shrimp, cover, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until they are cooked through and the remaining clams have opened.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer seafood to 4 bowls. Add the butter and parsley to the broth remaining in the pot and cook over moderate heat for a minute, while stirring. Spoon the broth over the seafood and serve with sourdough toast.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

A Meal Fit For Rabbie Burns

“Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.”

On or around January 25 poetry lovers and people of Scottish descent get together to celebrate the life of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns. This celebration includes a Burns supper, a meal of traditional Scottish cuisine, some Scotch whisky, and lots of readings of his works. Naturally, haggis will be a part of this meal, but there's more to Scottish cooking than offal meat and oatmeal cooked in an animal's stomach. Cullen skink is a fish chowder named after the town of Cullen on the coast in northeast Scotland. Try the recipe below if you're looking for a starter for your Burns dinner or a new winter comfort food.


400 g medium potatoes (about 2), peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
300 mL water
250 g smoked haddock
250 mL whole milk
15 g unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
half a small bunch of parsley or chives, finely chopped
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion and fry for 5-8 minutes until they are translucent but not browned. Add the potatoes and the water and bring everything to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Put the haddock in another pan and cover the fish with the milk. Cook gently for 5 minutes, or until just tender. Remove the haddock from the milk with a slotted spoon (reserving the milk), transfer it to a plate, and leave to it cool slightly. When it's cool enough to touch, flake the fish into large pieces, removing any bones.
  3. Add the reserved milk and flaked haddock to the pan with the potato mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. Season and sprinkle over the parsley to serve.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Better Girl Dinners

I don't know as much about feminism as Justin Trudeau does, which is why I don't understand the girl dinner trend. According to TikTok, a girl dinner is any low-effort meal you make when you’re alone. It could be a fruit or vegetable platter, instant noodles, some sliced meat and cheese on a plate, or even leftovers. It qualifies just as long as you post a video of it as Olivia Maher did. These meals are apparently quite liberating for women, as it allows them to take a break from their traditional role of preparing complicated meals for men. I didn't think being too lazy to make something to eat was gender specific, just as I don't think a few pickles and a handful of crackers can be considered a meal. If you must eat a series of snacks for a meal, try to make healthy choices that include protein, produce, fat, and fibre sources.  If you're having trouble coming up with ideas for your next girl dinner, below are some suggestions you may want to try before the next viral sensation comes along.

Ingredients: Caprese Skewers

It's the classic caprese salad in snack form.

16 small fresh mozzarella balls
16 fresh basil leaves
16 cherry tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
  1. Thread the mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes on small skewers.
  2. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Ingredients: Eggocado

This meal is a favourite of renowned author, journalist, and speaker Alan Henry.

1 avocado
1 egg
  1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C. Beat the egg with a fork.
  2. Cut an avocado in half and de-pit it. Slice off a quarter's worth off the back of each avocado half so they lay flat. Sprinkle a little salt in each pit hole. Place the avocado halves in an oven-safe skillet, pitted side up, propped against the side to keep them steady.
  3. Pour half the egg into the center of each avocado half. Depending on the size of your avocado, you may need to scoop out some of the flesh to make room first. Add any spices or condiments you like on top. Suggestions include hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, paprika, or lemon zest.
  4. Carefully place the skillet in the oven and bake for 16-18 minutes, until the egg is set.

Ingredients: Texas Hash

NOTE: You will have leftovers if you make this.

227 g ground beef
227 g canned chopped tomatoes
50 g uncooked white rice
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 large onion, diced
7 g chili powder (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 177 degrees C.
  2. In a large oven-safe skillet, brown the ground beef on the stove. Add the celery, onion, and green pepper, and cook slightly, stirring everything together.
  3. Add the tomatoes, rice, and chili powder, and stir to further incorporate everything.
  4. Cover and bake for 45 minutes.

24 Hour Perogies

In a place known as the City That Fun Forgot, it's no surprise that there's not much happening in Ottawa late at night. The House o...