Friday, May 31, 2013

How hard is it to make a great Burger?

One of my food pet peeves is BAD RESTAURANT FOOD.  I really hate it when I spend a lot of money or even not that much money on food and it's so bad that I toss most of it out.  I know "people are starving in Africa".   That's precisely why restaurants should attempt to make better food that people will eat.

The inspiration for this blog post comes from my recent visit to Five Guys Burgers.   I was shopping out in the west end of Toronto and was so hungry that I needed to just get something that would be quick.   Where I was there was a choice of a Pita place and Five Guys Burgers.   I picked the Burgers because this chain seems to be popping up all over so I thought I would try it and see how they were.   Well... I should have gone to the Pita Place instead.

It wasn't exactly cheap fast food.  For a Cheeseburger, Fries and a Pop it cost me $16.  I could have gotten lunch for 2 people at McDonald's for that price and enjoyed the taste a whole lot more.  While I know I shouldn't eat junk food and Burgers aren't the best selection for a good lunch, I just wanted to get something fast that would fill me up so that I could keep going.   I think I only ate about a third of the french fries,  they weren't transported and they were still a little on the soggy side and they didn't have much flavour.  The Hamburger had a couple of slices of cheap processed "American" cheese and it was just a basic Burger, no frills,  on a un toasted squished Bun.  The Burger totally fell apart in my hands while I was eating it and it wasn't even a juicy tasty burger.

Why does this chain exist?  Do we really need more bad Hamburger joints?   I get the good Burger places expanding like the Burger Priest.   They make fresh ground Hamburgers that taste really good and have creative ways of jazzing them up.   I get that.   They deserve to expand to more stores.   But the Five Guys Burgers really aren't worthy of multiple locations and charging the kind of prices they do.   I guess an indication should have been that there were plenty of empty tables in the restaurant.  Whereas if you go to a place like the Burger Priest there is always a line up out the door just for take out.   Too bad there wasn't a Burger Priest where I was, because I probably would have gone there instead.

What really bugs me is that I don't have Culinary Training but I could probably make a whole lot better food than a whole lot of restaurants I have eaten at over the years.

There really is no excuse in making a Bad Burger and Fries... and to make a Chain of stores with these underwhelming Burgers is a Sin.   It's not that hard to make a great burger.   First you get the best quality beef you can get.   Grind it fresh.  You don't even have to do anything to it.   You can just season it with Salt and Pepper and it would be great if you cook it properly.  Add a toasted fresh bun with some substance, one that doesn't fall apart when you add the Burger and condiments.   Have a good selection of FRESH condiments.   Melt your cheese on the Burger.   Serve it Fresh and Hot.   Cook the fries until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Use the double fry method.  Check your temperatures and do it right.   That's all it takes.   You can make gourmet burgers and add things like Blue Cheese or Avocado or whatever but you have to get the basic burger and fries right first.

All of those people who open bad restaurants should go away and make it easier for people that love to cook great food able to provide great food to their customers.   Stop wasting people's time and money on these crappy joints.  

Yes this bugs me.   I probably could have bought a downtown condo if you added up all the money I have spent on bad restaurant food over the years.   This isn't limited to just take out food,   I had years of bad food at a hospital I worked in, and I have had bad restaurant food in places that are supposed to be good.   Everyone has a bad day,  I get that.   But if you consistently just make bad food then you have no business running a restaurant.   Yes I am going all Gordon Ramsey on this point but this is where I agree with him.   Restaurant owners abuse people's money and health when they don't get it right.   It's not like buying a shirt.   You can donate your shirt to charity or give it to a friend.   Your bad food just goes into the garbage and into the landfill.  (assuming most restaurants don't bother composting).   While there are a whole lot of people that can barely scrape together a meal everyday.   It's just criminal to commit this food offence.

I am sure this food looks pretty good but in the big picture of the value and the quality, those 2 things didn't match.

I would much rather promote a restaurant than slag one...but I have seen a bit of a trend to sloppy cooking and service.  With thousands of restaurants in the city most people know who the ones that are doing it right are.

This is the time when I miss having a BBQ and being able to grill up some great burgers at home.
I am not a vegetarian, although I believe in eating healthy food I do crave things like Burgers and Mac and Cheese and stuff I probably shouldn't be eating.   If I cave and eat these things they might as well taste good and be worth it.

This is my opinion and obviously somebody must like this food or they wouldn't be in business.  I just wish there were more choices for better food everywhere.   I would much rather have gotten some great food off of a great food truck.

No, I don't work for Burger Priest or any other Burger chain and I don't even get paid for writing restaurant reviews.  I am not a former employee of Five Guys but I am a good food lover and want to let people know where to spend their money and where to save it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

March against GMO's - March against Monsanto

While I generally believe marches and demonstrations aren't as effective as voting with your dollars by not supporting companies financially so they become bankrupt and out of business.  In this case Monsanto doesn't seem to be going away.  I support this march and want to shed light on this subject.  I believe companies need to be legislated to consider people's lives and health over profits of a company.  The trend toward GMO's is a scary one with the results that will be permanent in the future and nobody really knows what the hard effects will be on the health of the world.  Independent farmers who want to do the right thing and produce organic fruits and vegetables without being forced out of business or being swallowed up... no pun intended by Monsanto and subsidiaries.

The one way I can support this cause to inform people about what Monsanto really does is to use this blog to inform people.

Details on this facebook page:

I couldn't make it to the rally today because of the Elevator strike.. that's another story.
 But here's a list of the companies connected to Monsanto.

Why this is important

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) are living organisms that have been genetically engineered in a laboratory using gene-splicing techniques. This science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species; creating combinations of animal, plant, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through conventional crossbreeding methods. These techniques create unpredictable genetic changes within the cell’s DNA which have never been studied for long term effects on humans or the environment. Despite the lack of evidence regarding long term safety of genetic engineering, GMO’s are found in most packaged foods and animal feed around the world. This has come about because large profit driven chemical companies who produce GMO’s have strategic and financial liaisons with governments around the world and have not been required to prove long term safety of their genetic modifications due to the claim that GMO’s are “substantially equivalent” as their conventional unmodified counterparts. The GMO/biotechnology industry has also paid for questionable studies that show GMO’s in a favorable light to ease government and consumer concerns. Despite these biased claims of primarily chemical corporations manufacturing GMOs, independent scientific research has repeatedly shown major risks with GMO’s causing countless negative environmental and health effects. Animal studies have shown GMO consumption to be especially devastating in second and third generation offspring which we are beginning to see in children around the world today. GMO consumption has been found to cause cancer, immune dysregulation and reproductive failure in animal studies and people in nations exposed to GMOs are unconsenting human test subjects.

GMO’s also endanger the existence of conventional and organic seeds through the process of cross pollination, threaten bee and butterfly populations, threaten economic sustainability of non-GMO farmers, and fail to deliver on promises of increased yield. Due to these serious risks many countries around the world have banned GMO’s entirely, banned GMO imports, required labeling of GMO’s, or restrict GMO’s heavily until long term safety can be confirmed. We need every country involved in this effort to ban GMO’s and preserve life for future generations.

Please act now and sign the petition to Ban GMO’s Worldwide and be a part of the biggest food revolution ever.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Best Fish Tacos in TO

Taco at the Distillery Food Festival

I seem to be on a bit of a Taco kick these days.  It seems as though Tacos are the new trendy food in the City again. There are new authentic restaurants, food trucks, fancy restaurants are even adding their taco versions.   I had my pulled Taco version at my Food Revolution Day event and in my researching or just getting in the mood of the event I have been trying a few different fish tacos in the past few weeks.
I think the reason I eat so many fish tacos when I go out is because of a few reasons.  First, I don't like deep frying food at home.  I never know what to do with the leftover oil and it makes a mess and leaves a long lasting smell that nobody wants to smell.  Second, finding fresh fish when I want it in my area can be tough.  Thirdly, I don't always have the ingredients on hand to whip up a couple of tacos and it really isn't worth it to do all of this for 2 or 3 tacos.  So I will leave it up to the Fish Taco pros to feed my some delicious Crunch Fish Tacos.

Let's start with one of my favourite Fish Tacos from Buster's Sea Cove. Food Truck. The shrimp tacos are amazing but the fish tacos are great too.  It's the light crispy batter and the kick of the hot sauce that gets you on this taco.

The next one I loved was from The One That Got Away on King St.   Three spicy fish tacos served on newsprint paper as seen in this photo.  There was a nice after burn from the sauce on these tacos.  The only thing was they kind of fell apart from the sauce so you need to inhale them quickly.

While I was on my way to the Farmer's Market at Trinity Bellwoods Park I passed The Happy Hooker on Dundas St. W.  I was starving and had some time to kill before the market started so I popped in to try a Cali Baja Taco.  I only had one because I also tried the Shrimp Corn Dog which was delicious.  I would recommend getting 3 of the Cali Baja Tacos because they are very small.

These Tacos came from Hooked I tried this one at their stand at a Farmer's Markets in the city but I have also had it at the Green Living Show in Toronto.

Tacos are kind of quick semi healthy fast food.  They are quick to assemble and eat once you have all the elements in place.   It's the getting the elements right and taking the time to season and cook these elements right that makes the difference.    You can dunk a piece of fish in hot oil and then stick it in a tortilla shell with some lettuce and call it a Taco or you can dip a seasoned piece of fish in a light batter and fry it to perfection and then place it in a fresh made corn tortilla with some special hot sauce, pickled slaw or spicy salsa and cilantro and then you are tasting a Great Taco from where Guy Fieri calls "Flavourtown"   No 2 tacos taste the same.  

What's your favourite taco?

Still on my Taco Bucket list are trying Playa Cabana and the Grand Electric and then there is always a trip to Mexico to taste the original inspiration of the Taco.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Food Revolution Day Fiesta Wrap Up

Food Revolution Day was created by Jamie Oliver as a way to inspire and educate people around the world to eat better food and learn cooking skills that used to be passed down from generations but in this fast food world have been slipping away.  Obesity has become an epidemic in the world because of people's reliance on fast junk food instead of having home cooked meals at home like our parents used to.

It started last year and the goal is to make it an ever expanding yearly global event.  Last year I hosted a dinner party in my home but this year I wanted to take a more hands on educational approach and extend it to the public instead of just my friends.

It's now a couple of days after my Food Revolution Day Mexican Fiesta Event.   Although the turnout was less people than I expected.  There are always no shows but you have to still be prepared with enough food in case they all show up.  That's the tough part of hosting an event.  If people don't pay for it in advance there are no guarantees they will actually show up.   So we had a small but fun group of people anyway.

The event was set up to teach people how to make Pico de gallo, guacamole and Tortilla shells from scratch at the event and then we would all sit down to a meal with the fruits of their labour and my additional items of Organic Chipotle, Tequila-Lime Pulled Chicken, refried beans, pickled red peppers, mexican crema and lettuce for accompaniment and a Mexican chocolate pudding with cookies for dessert.

There was a whole lot of chopping going on.  I picked fairly easy recipes because I didn't know the skill level and wanted it to be easy for anyone to do.  I tackled the tricky parts.

I have to thank Aprhodite Cooks for providing the great Cooking Studio space to host the party at.

I would also like to thank Yorkshire Valley Farms for providing the excellent Organic Chicken that had a couple of days of marinating before I roasted and shredded it and The Detox Market in Toronto for providing discount cards to their store and also arranging to get Mexican Chocolate from one of their vendors Taza Chocolate.  I used their chili chocolate and their cinnamon chocolate in the dessert.  I also used their recipe for the Mexican Chocolate pudding.

Without these people supporting Food Revolution Day and my event it wouldn't have been possible for me to host this event.

I wish I could clone myself when it comes to these events.   I wanted to greet people coming in, get them set up with name tags,  take photos and be able to teach them how to make the recipes, but I can't multi task that well so I had a little help from a couple of friends to make sure everything got done.

I set up a photo wall backdrop for people to have their photos taken with some Mexican and fun props. My friend Linda made some hipster props on sticks for fun picks.  My other friend lent me a couple of Sombreros from Mexico and a poncho and I had some Maracas for a little fun.

We greeted people with some fresh Strawberry Margaritas.. (non Alcoholic)  was going for the healthy and safe drinks.   Then they proceeded to have their photos taken.   It turned out to be a great warm up for new people as my friends made them feel at home.

A bit of introductions and then we were off to the kitchen portion.  I had my friends Joanne and Linda and myself help instruct people how to chop and mix the ingredients for the pico de gallo, guacamole and then the tortillas.  It took a while for them to get the hang of the tortilla press and I think we should have cooked the tortillas a bit more, but the grill didn't seem to get very hot.   I made the leftover bits at home in a cast iron skillet the next day and they seemed to be a lot better.  Tip... use a cast iron pan for best results.

We had tried to have the chicken and refried beans warming in chafing dishes but they weren't getting hot enough so we had to do a quick transfer to the oven and stove.. but once we had the pico de gallo, guacamole and tortillas ready it was time to get the accompaniments and head to the table.   Everyone was starving by that time including me.  I was so busy getting everything ready all day that I hardly had time to eat anything.  I had a car full of party items and food that I had to bring to the party.   There was a lot of moving parts to this party to make it a lot of fun.

I spent a few days making paper flowers for the event and made some Food Revolution Day stickers.

The food turned out amazing.

It was so fresh and even the one vegetarian loved everything but unfortunately didn't try the chicken which turned out great.

Everyone chipped in to help clean up and really showed great team work  Since it was space that we had for a limited time we had to have everything cleaned up by 10:30pm..  very short amount of time with all the mess we made cooking up a storm, but all hands were on deck to clean it up so we could enjoy our Mexican Chocolate dessert.

I suppose everyone had a great time because they were all talking about next year and planning other events that we could do together.   I just wish more people were there to experience the Food Revolution Day effect.

If I do it again next year I know I need to get a lot more people involved from start to finish so I can make it an even bigger event.   This isn't my business, I volunteer as an Ambassador,  so it's really challenging to do an event like this without sponsorship and help.

I appreciate all the help that my friends and sponsors provided to help me create a fun Mexican Fiesta.


for more information about how to participate in Food Revolution Day
check out the website:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Food Revolution Day -May 17th

One more day until Food Revolution Day 2013

I have been busy making Refried Beans, Marinating Chicken and will make some 
Chocolate dessert today.
Getting everything ready for tomorrow's Mexican Fiesta Bash.

Have you RSVP'd?  20 person limit so reserve your spot now.

Food Revolution Day Mexican Fiesta

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mexican Fiesta preparations for Food Revolution Day

I have been madly preparing for my
Food Revolution Day
Mexican Fiesta Party for May 17th.

I did a little test batch of Pico de Gallo... ok so I got hungry and had a whole lot of stuff already waiting to go... Now I have to go buy some more so that I can show a bunch of people how to make some on friday.

    Just a little something to tempt you to make some Mexican Food.

I have also been busy making paper flowers to decorate the party.

I am have been madly trying to spread the word and gather my items for the party.

Picking up special food and tools: 

And picking up goodies from my sponsors:

Organizing all the details and letting everyone know:

If you want to reserve one of the last few spots go to this link to RSVP: