Tag Archives: chicken

Cool Runnings

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cool-runnings

Cool Runnings is a classic-style Jamaican restaurant located just south of Gerrard on the west side of Main Street. It is quite appropriately named after the Jamaican bobsled team of the same title, who’s challenging journey to the Olympics in the face of prejudice and eventual earning of respect was made into a movie. On that note… Hey International Olympic committee, remember when your biggest controversy was Jamaica competing in a winter sport? I’m sure they’ll answer after clearing their diving pool of algae and their landline phone of pleading voice mails left by Ryan Lochte.

ryan-lochte-meme

I imagine it may be somewhat difficult to run a Jamaican restaurant in Toronto, while there’s definitely a strong Caribbean influence in our city, proper sit-down places have a pretty big rival. The Real Jerk–one of my favourite eateries–is such a Toronto icon that it was even featured in the music video for that terrible ear worm Rihanna made that even her biggest fans decided never to speak of again. I first heard about Cool Runnings when–work work work–no, not again!

 

Work Rihanna lyrics

For the uninformed, here are the lyrics. Don’t watch or listen to the video, it’s not worth it.

 

After recalling the cleansing sound of TV static, I can tell you that my mom actually met the head chef of Cool Runnings, who wanted us to try his place for the blog. I can guarantee you my review is completely unbiased when I say that this place blew my mind and absolutely challenges The Real Jerk.

jerk-chicken

The jerk chicken (with a shrimp skewer) from The Real Jerk

It’s surprising, I know, like when I found out upcoming thriller movie Don’t Breathe is not about that one friend who thinks Ax cologne makes them smell better. One of the biggest problems with The Jerk is, ironically, their jerk chicken. Despite being named after the dish and featuring it in their aforementioned music video, I found The Real Jerk Chicken too dry. Keep in mind that this was so long ago that I had it in their old establishment, and I get rotis or other dishes now, so the chicken there may be better.

oxtail

I mention jerk chicken because Cool Runnings’ jerk is some of the best I’ve ever had. I got a meat combo: two choices of meat (I had chicken and oxtail) over rice and peas and coleslaw on the side. Noticeable off the bat is how large the individual dinosaur pieces are, and they were cooked in just the right way. To elaborate, the meat was beautifully juicy and tender the way it should be, falling on the sweet spot between being left pink or being made dry. The skin, which was the right amount of chewy, was rubbed with a powerful blend of spices that was as strong in heat as it was in flavour. Seriously, if you are craving that quintessential jerk taste, this will more than match that.

curry-chicken

My mom’s Curry Chicken

As for the oxtail, I hadn’t eaten a whole bunch of it before, but I loved this. Oxtail is noticeably tougher than other bovine meats, with a texture somewhere between the softness of beef and the thickness of goat or mutton. It has the colour and full-bodied presence of goat as well, but falls off the bone easier and, in this case, was rather creamy with the rich oxtail gravy poured all over it. Another thing I liked was the taste of the meat itself: which felt similar to a cut of meat cooked with the fat left on, but without the unpleasant chewy vein running through it. You can see why they make gravy out of that meat, it’s smooth, meaty, savoury palate works perfectly for such a recipe.

 

Even Cool Runnings’ rice and peas were knocked out of the park. Not only was the serving size generous, but the rice had a lot of flavour impacted into it by the beans and was extremely comforting. The texture was creamy enough to feel soft, yet had enough mass to be chewable too, another perfect balance. For the record, I also found the food stayed warm unusually long during my meal, while it did eventually go cold during the following hour and a half, it kept the temperature longer. Also, the coleslaw was nice.

jamaican-patty

One thing I wouldn’t recommend is the beef patty. It wasn’t bad and actually tasted good, but I’ve honestly found either the same or better while going to the metro station (The bakeries at Kennedy, Warden and Bathurst station are good patty shops). Decor and service is decent, a comfortable atmosphere for this kind of cuisine. My mom said it was odd that we got the bill before it was clear we wanted to leave, since we were considering getting a desert before that point.

interior-cool-runnings

For a final recommendation, I absolutely say that Cool Runnings is a great Jamaican cuisine restaurant. It is at least as good as The Real Jerk, better than it at Jerk Chicken, although The Jerk has a bar, dishes I haven’t compared yet, and is one of the focal points for Toronto’s Caribbean culture. Today we learned not to underestimate the underdog: to try out restaurants serving similar food to one of your favourite places, and to let Jamaica compete in any sport they want without being racist about it. Also, if you take the six degrees of separation theory to its logical extreme, I compared a subway station to a music video.

Cool Runnings 146 Main Street

Cool Runnings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jackson’s Burger

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Jackson's burger

Despite using similar naming conventions as some gum-and-cigarette convenience stores, Jackson’s Burger turns out to be quite an interesting place, at least when it comes to the menu. There are more special burgers than I can remember, but suffice to say there’s a lamb burger, a beef patty covered with peanut butter and jam, and the usual “weird” options such as burgers topped with onion rings or lots of bacon.

 

menu

Just a small sample of some of the menu options

Quirky burger stops are practically a sub-genre in Toronto—like I said—sandwiches with fried egg or secret sauce are the norm. Jackson’s interior is nothing special: a small, downtown location with enough room for four reasonably comfortable tables and a bathroom; at least it isn’t cramped.

jackson's burger

What I found interesting was how the patties are made out of 100% Halal meat, with the option for a gluten free bun. Even the vegan option sounded intriguing: a burger with a chickpea patty that celebrated vegetables instead of making them into imitation meat. Be ye Muslim, vegetarian or celiac (or some cruel combination of the last two) this is a really friendly place.

halal

Alright, alright, we’ve already established the menu’s options are great, aware of people’s different needs and offering a lot of specialties, but that isn’t worth a bowl of gluten-free kale chips if the actual burgers are sub par. While I’m no burger aficionado—as evidenced by how my sandwich looks halfway through a meal—I can tell a juicy homemade patty from a dystopian slop squeezed out of the nearest Burger King. And Jackson’s is definitely the former, delivering savoury, moist patties with the best kind of char I’ve seen from a flat top.

 

Cheeseburger

Burgetta: with bruschetta mix, provolone cheese, fried eggplant, lettuce & pesto

During a family trip here, we got to try three different burgers: a chicken burger (filled with Philadelphia cream cheese and spinach) a Burgetta (Italian cheese, meat and herbs) and the Burgeritto (Mexican toppings, including a so-called “Avocado Explosion”). I found the Burgetta to be fascinatingly pleasant, tasting almost like a wood-oven pizza. With the melted provolone cheese infused with bruschetta. It was delicious.

chicken burger

My Nana’s Chicken Burger

Likewise, grilled chicken mixed with a creamy spinach cheese combo adds a ton of flavour to an otherwise normal sandwich. My order, the Burgeritto, was chosen as it was one of the more unusual options that I was actually willing to eat. That’s me, I’d eat crickets, but not the peanut butter/jam burger. Let’s just say they weren’t lying when saying it was an avocado “explosion”.

 

avocado burger

In case you were wondering where the guacamole was…Inside the brown fritter atop the patty

Avocado and beef go pretty well together; both bring a savoury, slightly fatty taste to the table, and the explosion’s clever breadcrumb shell kept the topping neatly inside the burger. To complement this was were some diced tomatoes and sour cream, adding a bit of tartness, and dusted onions for a little finisher. Pair this with a massive box of delicious, homemade french fries and you’ve got a perfect fast foodish meal.

avocado burger

My burger before the avocado explosion

 

Since Zomato has added a rating system, each review of mine will be paired with a 1 to 5 star ranking. While I understand the reasons for this, I feel it undermines the complexity of certain recommendations for my readers; what one person might consider a 5 star restaurant would be a one 1 star to someone else. So I decided to experiment with a loose pros and cons list.

Zomato

Pros: Jackson’s Burger intriguing burger combos, inclusive menu and the overall quality of the food itself. I’d definitely recommend it to people craving a burger while near or in downtown.

Cons: Really the only problem is Jackson’s small seating. Although I wasn’t fond of the music on the radio, that’s advanced nit-picking for a great burger place. If you live far from downtown—like in North York or Scarborough—you might want a closer establishment, but Jackson’s Burger is definitely a good Toronto meat-on-bread diner.

Jackson’s Burgers 374 Yonge Street

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Eulalie’s Corner Store

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Gerrard_Street,_Toronto

The neighborhood I live in is very interesting, mostly because it’s an experiment of how many different walks of life can fit into four city blocks. For instance, my house is located in a slightly ghetto but still safe and clean part of town, next to an abandoned store, empty used car lot and a sketchy bar. Two minutes away is the vibrant and exotic Little India, mix-mashed with more closed stores and middle class hangouts.

yuppie

Okay, here’s a bit of a problem. My neighborhood is being infused with middle class, local establishments, and that colours my review of a Canadian restaurant right in the middle of Little India. But I really can’t write about this without coming off as racist towards rich white people. What do I call them? Soccer mom and yuppie are common terms, but are derogatory, and I know I’ll get comments for using a word like dink or cracker. I’ve done my best to present things as neutrally as possible, but if there’s a way to talk about middle class Caucasians in an ethnic neighborhood without sounding bigoted, please let me know.

I mention this because local cafes Lazy Daisy and Flying Pony give off a very different vibe than what the rest of Little India gives, and newer places are opening up all the time to appeal to that same demographic. Eulalie’s Corner Store—or Eulalie’s for short—is part of this new trend, and I’ll talk about that later.

My mom and I had decided to sit outside during dinner, to enjoy the summer pleasures of being harassed by wasps and napkin-stealing breezes. An outside patio is the main seating area; the indoor space being cramped. This emphasize on outdoor seating brings up Eulalie’s first problem, albeit it’s one with their business model and not customer satisfaction. Patio dining is great during summer or the milder parts of spring and fall, but when the city gets covered in snow and ice, the novelty wears a little thin.

Oh look at that, three paragraphs in and I haven’t talked about the food, but did mention optimal business approaches and racial tensions. The blog got off course again, d@mn it. Well, at least you know how long it takes waiting for dinner at this place. We arrived at Eulalie’s probably around 7:40 and didn’t get our plates until 8:20, and that’s a conservative estimate. The long wait time gives you plenty to do: get annoyed by the loud customers, wonder what the odds are of a horrific disaster occurring within the next five minutes, or pick a fight with an intrusive wasp (I hate wasps).

 

Weird people and stubborn wasps notwithstanding, the wait time is long for a sandwich and fried chicken on waffles. My personal thinking is that Eulalie’s is intended to be a social place for friends to chat and laugh over booze—like a classy, alcoholic water cooler—and that customers would be so engrossed in loud conversation to not notice how long the food is taking. By that logic, anyone who brings an awkward first-time date might feel something closer to a relativistic effect, but I digress.

If the food was good, I might say the meal is worth bearing through all the time dilation. Spoilers, it’s not. My fried chicken pieces atop potato waffles weren’t bad by any means, but won’t be winning any awards either. The breading was crispy and edible, covering boneless chicken that was neither dry nor succulent. It overplayed thin but soft potato waffles that offered some sweetness and not much else. On the side of this John Smith of a dish was a type of wine sauce, probably the best part of the meal in terms of originality, but still average. It’s a bad sign when the best word I used to describe my meal was edible.

It’s basically the same song and dance for Mom’s fried green tomato sandwich, tasty but one could find good sandwiches at the cafe Lazy Daisy two blocks away, so I won’t go into this too much. There are some good things to Eulalie’s, such as the homemade mayo and ketchup that came with the tomato sandwich, or the wine sauce with my dish. Although anything’s better than store bought condiments, homemade stuff still adds a lot of flavour. Mom found the prices to be good, I didn’t as much because I’m a complete cheapskate. And for those who’d rather an inside pub, there is a mini bar next to a TV screen and three seating tables—like I said, it’s small.

The fact of the matter is, this is not really a place focused in food.  If you’re into the whole beer patio friend hangout thing, that’s fine. Just be sure the conversation will last till dinner arrives. At the least, Eulalie’s is part of an interesting social experiment. The people who visited Little India pre-Lazy Daisy won’t be going here, nor will many of those at Eulalie’s be seen hitting up the local buffets. So there’s a middle class suburban culture of Canadians who go to organic food markets, have evening social events and spend twelve bucks on a sandwich, right next to an Indian bazaar. And I’m not criticizing that by any means—just because I don’t like Eulalie’s doesn’t mean I don’t love going to Flying Pony or Lazy Daisy’s. In regards to Eulalie’s, if it’s all the same, I’d rather eat butter chicken or chana masala.

Eulalie’s Corner Store 1438 Gerrard Street East
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Montreal

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Don't ask me what the name of this church is, they have a lot of them in Montreal

Don’t ask me what the name of this church is, they have a lot of them in Montreal

I’ve come back from Montreal [the time of writing is Wednesday, I came back Friday], and decided to do a little catcher-upper. It’s like a fixer-upper except there’s less construction workers standing around drinking coffee in front of a dilapidated house.

image courtesy of sodahead.com

image courtesy of sodahead.com

I’ve been requested to do a post on poutine–seeing as I was basically in the capital of it–and I will be doing one, but it’ll take a while. The post will contain the history and culture behind it, a lot of which deals with the relations between the Anglophone and Francophone communities of Quebec. This whole English/Francais thing is really controversial, and a lot like the divide between communities [I’ll use a fake name to protect the feelings of the real city I’m using as an example] NotLosAngles. It’s kind of like an Internet forum about religion in that regard.

This is actually a tree that's been bent.  In some park (on an island?) in Montreal

This is actually a tree that’s been bent. In some park (on an island?) in Montreal

Seeing as this is a food blog, it is hard for me to get into the details of my vacation without boring the appetite out of somebody, but suffice to say I saw a lot of the beautiful city I went to.

Gay Village, Montreal

Gay Village, Montreal

Editors’ Note: You can give the kid an app for his iphone so that he can add notes to the pics he takes; but that doesn’t mean he’ll use it.  So please excuse the poorly captioned photos.

Old Port, Montreal

Old Port, Montreal

Montreal is named after Mont Real [translates to Royal Mountain, correct me if I’m wrong in the comments], a mountain north of the city that is recognized for it’s suspiciously hill-sized stature [Everest it is not] and the various structures on top: namely a Cross to mark a grave site, a tall antenna and what looks like a giant tuning fork.

image courtesy of montreal.metblogs.com

image courtesy of montreal.metblogs.com

Compared to Toronto, there seemed to be a lot of cafes. My sister, who has lived there upwards of 2.5 years, said Montreal was just starting to get into coffee culture. Naturally, I ran screaming out of the city shouting ‘The British are coming!’ before realizing that Montreal is an island and sinking to the murky depths to confuse future archeologists.

Instead of yelling "the British are coming!!", I actually just ate there

Instead of yelling “the British are coming!!”, I actually just ate there

I could go into the niggles of the various hot chocolates I had, but I won’t for two reasons. The first is that I didn’t give a damn enough to take notes, and the second is that everyone wanted me to have poutine [pron: Poo-Teen, Po-Tin, and Pow-Tin if you’re American].

[Sorry if I’m not as funny as I [help] usually am, it’s hard to write with a gun pointed at your [help] head by okay okay I’ll get back to the post]

from Java Café, Montreal

from Java Café, Montreal

I was kidding, don’t worry for my health or safety [help]. The first poutine I had that I’ll talk about was a curious one ordered with a sandwich at a cafe called Java [or something like that, again, no notes]. While the sandwich was so average it was most likely aired by the CBC, the poutine was something else. Its fries were well cooked and better than one would think, and added a bit of flavouring spice to the mix. The gravy was always well done in every poutine I had, probably because Montreal messing up the gravy in poutine would be akin to Toronto’s Rob Ford forgetting to bring some  crack cocaine to a party.

image courtesy of alyssamooremru.blogspot.com

image courtesy of alyssamooremru.blogspot.com

Also a staple of Quebec poutine [the one city I visited now arbitrarily represents the entire province of millions of people, just like I’m an American tourist exploring the foreign savage-lands of NotUS.] is that cheese curds shall always be generous, and they shall always be higher quality than anywhere else in the country, or the Quebec Gods will come down from the skies and drag you screaming to the dining tables of Valhalla. That didn’t even make sense.

 

Poutine with fried chicken I ate at my sister's house

Poutine with fried chicken I ate at my sister’s house

I’ve had plenty of regular poutine to counteract the crazy stuff I had, most notably the one with fried chicken on it. It was basically two meals in one, which made it an average meal for me. The poutine is already confirmed to always be good [a humoungous cheese/fry ration compared to other Pow-Tins if I’m correct], but the fried chicken was actually surprisingly good with it, making me wonder if it was also a standalone option on the restaurant’s menu. The quality of it was preserved in the trip from its kitchen to the house I was staying at, which was basically me saying I had takeout while managing to use one full sentence to even out this paragraph’s space better.

Needless to say, I ate a lot of Poutine

Needless to say, I ate a lot of Poutine

Every poutine I had the pleasure of eating came mandatorily with fresh cut, homemade fries, warm, creamy savoury gravy and big, rich, flavourful cheese curds. I highly recommend eating it there. That said, I’ve had enough for a while, before I really do run screaming into the lake.

Chilling in a beautiful Montreal park with my sister's most excellent dog, Noodle

Chilling in a beautiful Montreal park with my sister’s most excellent dog, Noodle

Keep your eyes peeled [not really, ew] for my poutine post, which I will make after the necessary researching, cross-checking and blackmailing is completed. I’ve also got a post on the food truck scene in Toronto, which is as well-respected and supported by the city’s government as Capitalism is in China.

Editor’s Note part deux:  unless otherwise noted in the captions, all photography for this post courtesy of Reighan Murphy (aka the Sister) or Callum Denault (himself)

The Real Jerk at Their New Location

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the-real-jerk
First off, I think my subscribers and anyone reading this post recently would like me to mention something about the fact that it is 2014, the year when no doubt some science fiction book or movie takes place and has us living on Mars with flying cars and no war or famine.  It was nice to be able to have a new year without people blaring about
four horsemen
The Mayan calendar, or Book of Revelations, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, not to mention the Aliens that would be coming back after having built the pyramids thousands of years ago, which made the holidays a little less doomsday than last year’s last year’s December [or the last holiday season before the one we just had… I think we’re all still stuck in 2013 even though it isn’t].
dennis rodman and kim jong un
 Hopefully this year will be better than last year and all that, but seriously, what could get weirder than finding out the world has been spied on, having Rob Ford openly admit to smoking crack, ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman become best friends with murderous dictator Kim Jong Un, and all the good stuff with Chris Hadfield [I actually can’t remember anything else that was good, but maybe that is just because I’m really into space stuff].
Another new thing is the Real Jerk, which I had frankly given up all hope on after a year or so.  It had to move because someone apparently thought ‘why eat delicious foreign food when you can get drunk and perpetuate offensive Irish stereotypes?’ and put down an Irish pub in place of the island restaurant [don’t think Irish pubs are offensive?
drunk st patricks day
 See them on Saint Patty’s day, the completely false usage of green [four-leaved clovers were traditionally blue [ooooh, brackets within brackets within brackets, bracket-ception]] and the horrible fake Irish accents…ugh].  Yes, we’re out of all the brackets now].  That last one was just to mess with you.
New Real Jerk Interior
The new location is closer to home, and is a bit of a smaller space but still pretty big for a restaurant, don’t forget the old place had the second floor.  The old staff is back, the old food is back, everything is back.
As for the food, it is still delicious.
Always have to start with a spicy beef patty

Always have to start with a spicy beef patty

I had a beef patty as an appetizer, and if you’re thinking its just like the ones sold at coffee shops or fast food restaurants, you’re wrong, dead wrong.  Even the pastry was better than that crap, as it was flaky and had flavour that complimented the filling.  As for the meat, it is excellent, with a creamy texture and spice to boot.  It is great as a big-but-not-too-filling appetizer.
I started on this before the pic was taken...

I started on this before the pic was taken…

For the entree, I had the roti, which despite its gargantuan size, I finished.  The meat is tender with a little firmness to chew, and in good, medium chunks: not too big to swallow but enough to fill your mouth.  There were potatoes as well, which added variety and also carried the sauce well.  Which brings me to a point, the curry was delicious, it was spicy, bursting with flavour and covered the inside of the roti.  Just like the patty, even the pastry was above average.
These are on my grandmother's "Last Meal" list

These are on my grandmother’s “Last Meal” list

My grandmother had the cod fritters, which are deep-fried dough balls with fish inside.  They are greasy in a tasty way: not disgusting or anything, and I think the fish is mixed in with the batter.  Regardless, they go perfectly with the tomato dipping sauce and are a great fried item on the menu, but for some reason I find them very filling, in that I can only eat a few of them but can eat large proportions of other foods.  This isn’t the chef’s fault, I’m like that with all battered fish and it’s probably because I don’t eat much in the way of breaded or deep-fried stuff, [or it’s my stomach singling out one type of food to remind me that it does have a bottom] but I still enjoy eating them.
... and cause ox-tail gravy is just always a good idea

… and cause ox-tail gravy is just always a good idea

Both her and my mom had chicken curry rice, and it is just as good as the roti.  A little bit similar, but presented differently and probably less filling then the pastry version, so there are options for gluttons and weight-watchers alike [ha, ha, you’re watching your weight while eating at The Real Jerk!  pro tip: you’re gonna lose].  Also, you can get ox-tail gravy with anything, and the staff won’t think you’re weird, [well, they will but they won’t say anything].  That also brings me to another point.
The staff is very friendly with a good dose of sarcastic humour, which makes them feel more warm and genuine.  They check up often enough but not so frequently they’re invasive, and help make customers feel relaxed.  They did a good job bringing in eaters I find.  As for the decor, is similar to the old place, with reggae and rab [oh, it’s called R and B and not rab?  that makes more sense], and the windows with that heavy yellow tint on the them.
their well stocked bar

their well stocked bar

For entertainment seekers, there is the bar, which does have a liquor license, and televisions showcase buff men in their underwear hugging and rolling on the floor violently [at least when they have MMA on*, but they have sports TV, and when we were there it was skiing].
isn't it romantic?

isn’t it romantic?

*I know what you were thinking, kind of changes your perspective on wrestling now, doesn’t it.  You can blame the dirty thinking on my mother, she’s the one who planted that thought in my head.
real jerk sunshine sign
To sum up, The new Real Jerk is just as good as the old place, with great food, great staff, great location and great everything in general [MacArthur].  There is even an add-on bar, which is ironic because the Real Jerk was forced to close down because of a bar, but oh well, but what is more ironic than NASA not being able to build a Apollo rocket because nobody kept any of the plans.
apollo rocket
 Bye bye for now.
The Real Jerk 842 Gerrard Street East

The Real Jerk on Urbanspoon