Monday, February 28, 2011

Ongoing Discussions About Food Icons: The Bacon Cheeseburger: m:brgr review

Slumming it @ m:brgr

M:BRGR ranked #2, behind Buns Hamburger House, in the 2010 Mirror Best of Montreal burger category. The is rather fascinating because the two places are complete opposites, so how do we explain these burger rankings? Buns is no-thrills hole in the wall eating. People complain that Montreal does not allow street cart food but it has begat some interesting food joints and Buns is an example. M:BRGR is all about style and hype. 
Location, location, location, Buns has a prime great spot on the Main for that 3 a.m. post last call bite. This clientele, at least I assume, does represent a major portion of the Mirror’s readership and when asked to name their favorite burger these people must have Buns on their mind. How many people have had had one of these 3 a.m. burgers? When you consider the quality to price ratio, Buns is a really good burger bet but hell, Whoppers taste really good if you have had enough to drink. The way Buns restaurants are set up, unpretentious, they have nothing to hide behind and their focus is on their food. M:BRGR’s success in the surveys is not so much about location and good food but rather dedicated effort in creating a reputation as Montreal’s prime location for gourmet burgers by creating an image.


M:BRGR is like one of those a velvet rope clubs when it comes to their burgers. Buns is like drinking at Le Bifteck on the Main. M:BRGR is a place to be seen eating a hamburger so combined with the velvet rope it is about dressing up. How does this work? Simple, create status with your burgers. First pick your meat, there is the basic “AAA” beef but you can go all the way up to Kobe. Condiments, yes, two of them are free with your basic burger, tomato and “Moishes” pickle slice. The more expensive meat selections include V.I.P. ingredients like truffle aioli. 
The bun selection at M:BRGR is a little less sexy with regular, whole wheat and the lettuce wrap, that I assume is something for the carb conscious generation, as possible options. Speaking of sexy, the staff look like cast offs from Next Top Model but if this is not the case with your server there is some sort of “it” factor guaranteed. The host that sat me looked like the Smith Jerrod character from Sex in the City when he worked at a hip New-York restaurant. Remember the velvet rope? This place is designed to look high end trendy so why stop at the burgers? Anything besides the above mentioned meat, tomato, pickle and bun comes with an extra charge. In reading the menu I was scared that I would be charged for the mustard and ketchup and thus ensues the whole burger status vibe. The condiment options are amazing in range and scope and you could drive the price of your burger way up especially if you went with some of the Kobe and truffle options. This is the whole burger bar concept but it seems to be about quantity rather than quality. Proving our point there is a $100 burger option on the menu.
Embarrassingly, or is it shamefully, we chose some of the modest selections for our burger. We did this not just as a way of keeping the competition fair but also to see what a stripped down M:BRGR tastes like. What are the basic building blocks of this uber burger joint? The vast selection of condiments is a great way of charging extra but also to take focus away from your basic product. Remember this is a burger joint. We chose the “AAA” meat ($8.75), regular bun, cheddar cheese ($1.25) with “House Smoked” apple bacon ($2.50) and voila the $12.50 hamburger, with taxes you are closing in on $14.25 for a basic bacon cheeseburger with tomato and pickle slice. 

The $15 burger
The verdict:

Going to M:BRGR I was expecting a lot because I had heard and read the hype but that is what this place is about. Have you heard the news? You can order a burger with truffles, you can order a hamburger that costs $100. Great topics of discussions but what about the food? Is grilled pear really good on a hamburger? I have not tried this but it almost sounds like a joke. 

One word: bland, bland and bland... oops sorry
I was a bit surprised, since they claim to be burger kings, I thought I would be asked how my burger should be cooked. Despite all the luxury and opulence, or rather distracting choices, it is cooked the way they see fit. This is not a negative point because if they are the experts they should know best. The free condiments pickle and tomato take a cue from the fast food chains because they are micro thin and add no flavor to your burger experience. The apple “House Smoked” bacon offered no special qualities or flavors except that it was just bacon. M:BRGR has dressed up the fast food approach and charges you extra for it. You want condiments sure but get ready to pay for them. You need these condiments because there basic burger is a bland experience. By being bland you are taking the safe route this is obvious from the size of your pickle. This burger was nothing special and fails to live up to the hype and price. M:BRGR seems to be about $TATU$ rather than good food. Save your dough and eat at Buns. 

You've been served: Top Chef Canada contestants announced

 Top Chef Canada will premiere April 11, 2011 on Food Network.

Click here for the full list of contestants. If you click on the names you will be taken to their audition videos.

Friday, February 25, 2011

From our Kitchen: The Umami Burger

With Michael Symon's Yo! Burger making headlines Adam Fleischman's Umami burger seems like yesterday's news.

Even though we have never tasted a Fleischman burger we attempted our own version at home. The Umami burger, according to their website, consists of "house ground beef, oven roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, parmesan frico, sauteed shitake mushrooms and house made ketchup."

We used ciabatta bread, our ketchup and oven roasted tomatoes followed Heston Blumenthal's recipe for pizza sauce. Each patty used a quarter pound of meat, 70% filet, that we ground at home, and 30% butcher ground beef. The other ingredients, parmesan tile, caramelized onions and sauteed shitake mushrooms were rather straight forward in preparation.

Overall we really liked this burger, we loved the shitake mushrooms and will use them again as a condiment on our hamburgers. A very satisfying experience, we suspect Fleischman's ketchup is  sweeter than our tomato sauce, back to the drawing board, we will definitely try this inspiration again.

Open Face
Cross section

Michael Symon smashes the competition at Burger Bash

Iron Chef Symon takes top honours at the annual Burger Bash that is part of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

The Yo! Burger, features fried salami, provolone cheese, pickled onion and Symon's signature shasha (spicy) sauce and pickled onion.

Link to stories here

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chef Google to the rescue: new filter to find your recipes

New Google filter will help you find your recipes.

Now if they could only come up with a filter to get the winning loto numbers.

Link to article here.

The High Lights and Anita Lo's night

Some great pics, from the Montreal Gazette, of Chef Lo's plates at the High Lights Festival.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From our kitchen

We were very inspired by Heston Blumenthal's pizza and following his recipe we really liked some of the techniques and tips. In particular, we were dazzled by the sauce and found the dough handling techniques, especially when shaping your pizza, extremely useful. We integrated some of these techniques into our own pizza with nice results.

Our basic dough recipe sat in the fridge for three days and had two risings. We used Blumenthal's technique of adding something sweet (we want to try maple syrup) to our water and then mixed it with our flour only. After letting our dough rest for an hour we added the instant yeast and salt. We used Blumenthal's sauce, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, basil, arugula and parmesan.

And the results...

Before Blumenthal...
and after.

Wolfgang drops the Puck and releases Oscar menu

From ABC news:
"The celebrity chef said the meal will be filled with international flavors that include a sushi appetizer bar, the main dinner menu includes Dover sole, fresh vegetables from California and a little bit of Spanish ham. 'And then for the dessert, we have a fabulous raspberry lemon cake with a chocolate and beautiful flowers on top made out of chocolate.' "
 Link to video here.

If you are hosting an Oscar party here is a great idea, Oscar themed cocktails.

R.I.P. Ronald McDonald

The Food Liberation Army carried out their threat and killed Ronald McDonald by decapitation on February 11, 2011.

Link to video here.

Best Burger in America? The Umami Burger

From Alan Richman, GQ Magazine, according to Richman the Best Burger in America is Adam Fleischman's Umami burger. The burger looks like it is on the right track because it does not use too many condiments, usually a camouflage for cheap meat.

Link to Richman piece here.

Umami Burger website

This burger seems to be everywhere in the news because the Christian Science Monitor is also on the story.

Heston Blumenthal discusses umami with his pizza sauce recipe so we wonder if there are any similarities to Fleischman's ketchup - "Hello marketing? Product idea and name... Fleischman's Umami Ketchup."

Both Chefs use oven roasted tomatoes and Blumenthal's sauce is amazing so there is only one way to find out, off to the kitchen for some experimentation. Results and pics to come soon...

Coming soon to a television near you: the incredible rotating chicken channel.

From the Daily Brew, Swiss Chalet is creating a channel that will feature a rotating chicken on a rotisserie.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top Chef Master Anita Lo in Montreal for High Lights Festival

Top Chef Masters' competitor is one of many featured chefs for the upcoming High Lights Fest

Link to article here

For info on the High Lights Festival click here.

The cake stays in the picture: fashion imitates art but food imitates fashion

From, Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, was featured in Isacc Mizrahi's fashion show showcasing his new line  - CAKE.

Mizrahi's CAKE line, inspired by the work of artist Wayne Thiebaud, became the inspiration for the Cake Boss' creations who strut his stuff on the catwalk.

After watching the video, link here, we are left we one question, are the models wearing cakes on their heads?

Ongoing discussions about food icons: The Bacon Cheeseburger: La Paryse review

La Paryse

La Paryse est un petit paradis. This burger joint finished third in the Montreal Mirror's Best of Montreal burger category and their spot is definitely deserved. Strategically located across the street from CEGEP du Vieux-Montreal it looks like something out of Art School Confidential or typical Plateau apartment. You might know the place, funny-looking paint job, paintings, photography, “where Suzanne takes you down...” From the outside you could miss the place as not being an establishment that serves food. 
When you walk in you notice the crowded quarters, featuring front and back rooms, the feeling is like being in someone’s home. We love restaurants that feel like your are walking into the front of someone’s house so we were immediately transfixed. The art on the walls, music, paper place mats with retro kitchen gadgets were all cool without even trying, just imagine an arty diner. 

Paper place mat
Bienvenue chez nous
The menu is basic and demonstrates focus. What works is the little differences, you can order a glass of wine with your burger, not just any wine but a private import. Impressive when the menu boils down to burgers, fries, club sandwiches, salads, poutines and desserts. The service is casual, to the point of disinterest but this is meant to be a place to hang out. 

Perfection a La Paryse

Kaiser type bun and not too big or thick. Bacon, white uncooked mushrooms (cut razor thin), lettuce, onions (slightly grilled), mozzarella, pickle, strong mustard and mayo. The burger will set you back about $7.50.

Simple and fresh is best
The Verdict: 

This is definitely one of the best burgers in town. The reason for their success can be once-again traced to the little things that make a big difference. This burger has had more contact with humans than most burgers. The homemade approach means quality and a great burger. The meat is not perfect in shape. The Kaiser type roll is not toasted but they get away with it because it is fresh. Most burger houses treat their bread as an after thought but their bunny goodness is enhanced because it tasted buttered. Simple secret ingredient? How many places use butter on their burgers? The food is treated with respect and you can taste this pride in the food. The bacon tasted like real bacon with crispy and chewy bites. The condiments are simple but the use of strong mustard, uncooked mushrooms and what tasted like butter shows careful thought. These elements might be a bit unconventional to some but this is why their burgers are good. 

Salutations cordiales

This is a great burger experience that will satisfy any burger craving. La Paryse deserves its spot at the top as one of the best burgers in town. Not typical or conventional in approach to being a burger joint but this is what makes it good. Our server boasted that little has changed since their opening in 1980, “same owner, same location and pretty much same decor.”  La Paryse seems to be taking the right steps, student hang-out, local patrons, and tourists are all in the making of a legend or at least destination burger palace.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Burger Blog: Can't Beat the Meat

Since we love hamburgers we also love this blog. Can't Beat the Meat: A Burger Blog

Great site that highlights local regional burger stops.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ongoing discussions about food icons: The Bacon Cheeseburger @ Home

Home Burgers

We also made bacon cheeseburgers this weekend. The burger on the left has mustard, ketchup, potato chips, bacon, caramelized onion, cheddar cheese, tomato slices and salad greens. The burger on the right, Dijon mustard, ketchup, oven baked garlic and basil leaves (leftover from the oven baked tomatoes for Heston Blumenthal's pizza), prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, tomato slice, arugula and fresh basil leaf. In both cases we used challah rolls.

Our favorite of the batch: challah roll, mustard with horseradish, ketchup, goat cheese, prosciutto, caramelized onion, meat patty, baby arugula and tomato slices.

The winner

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ongoing discussions about food icons... Heston Blumenthal's Pizza

This weekend we made Heston Blumenthal's pizza and the results were excellent.

This pizza is a real winner but is very time consuming with a lot of prep work.

You make a pre-ferment for you dough the day before. You mix flour, honey (one of our substitutions) and water and let it rest for an hour before adding the dry instant yeast and salt. The pre-ferment gets added to your fresh dough the next day after sitting in your fridge. Any time you make pizza dough it will taste better if it has sat in your refrigerator for a day or two.

Pre-fermented dough
The sauce is a real winner, we will use this again, and gets made in two parts. The first part uses seasoned (salt, pepper, sugar fresh herbs) oven dried tomatoes. The second is a salty and tangy tomato sauce, almost a paste) that is partially made in the pressure cooker. The two flavor combinations and consistency of the sauce make for great flavor and crust that is not soggy. We kept the olive oil that we covered our tomatoes with the day before because it was infused with flavor.

Oven dried tomatoes
Tomato sauce: stems are put in after to enhance flavor
The finished pizza is very tasty because of the sauce and the dough is really puffy and fluffy.

Uncooked pizza
Finished pizza
Puffy crust

Friday, February 18, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Off the Strip

Great travel piece in the NYT that looks at the off-beat side of Vegas revealing that it is the cool way to go.

Link to story here.

Last time we went Downtown to Fremont we ended up getting tattoos. We also love any place where you can drink in the ambiance of a casino to the sounds of live twister music with go-go dancers - 'nuff said ?

Iconic & Neonic, Fremont 

Bill Buford à la Lyonnaise

Bill Buford, author of Heat is still in the kitchen and working on a new book in France.

Needless to say we are excited and here is an amuse-bouche courtesy of the Observer.

Link to article here

Friday, February 11, 2011

Everybody's got a hungry heart: Food Aphrodisiacs

Chefs reveal their magic aphrodisiacs for Valentine's Day.

Link to article here 

And what is food without music? Some selections from our Valentine's Day foodie playlist...



Nobody here but us superbugs: Julia Child and Jacques Pépin weigh in on the debate

Big scandal, supermarket chickens contain superbugs.

From the CBC:
"While thorough cooking kills bacteria — including superbugs — most contamination happens before the chicken is cooked through improper handling. If there's contamination by superbugs, the worry is that consumers could ingest illness-causing bugs that are then resistant to much of the available spectrum of traditional antibiotic therapy."
In reading this article this fun television history moment comes to mind. Julia and Jacques get a bit testy with each other over whether you need to wash your chicken before putting it in the oven. You need to cue the video just past the the one minute mark.

Pépin makes a rather astute scientific observation, that if you are going to put a chicken in an oven, 400 - 425 degrees, for one hour then "if the bacteria are still living they deserve to live." Those would be superbugs indeed.

Nightmares revisited

Tonight's episode of Kitchen Nightmares (8 pm on FOX) will see Ramsay revisiting past establishments that he has helped.

Also this weekend we will be making Heston Blumenthal's Roast Chicken & Roast Potatoes so stay tuned.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ongoing Discussions About Food Icons: The Bacon Cheeseburger: McKibbin's Irish Pub review

McKibbin’s Irish Pub
McKibbin’s is a typical looking Irish pub. The downtown location is housed in a turn of the century house that fits with the Irish kitsch on the walls. For a downtown location is it surprisingly empty during lunchtime and a calm, quiet place to go for some respite from the office. There are even tablecloths on the tables. Being a pub the main attraction is obviously drinking and McKibbin’s seems to be about consumption challenges. The most famous challenge seems to be the Rim Reaper. Basically, if you can down 12 wings made with Bhut Jalokia, the hottest peppers in the world according to Guinness, you get a t-shirt. Eating challenges are part of the decor at McKibbin’s at least that is what went through my mind when their burger was placed in front of me. 


In a word big, the McKibbin’s burger uses a half pound of meat. The large meat disc sits on a giant kaiser like roll. The roll itself is nicely toasted on the grill and the condiments include a big slice of pickle, lettuce, red onion, sauteed mushrooms, cheese (wow, it is not orange) and bacon. A condiment basket was full of ketchup and mayo packets but there was no mustard. The “deluxe” burger at McKibbin’s, the one with the bacon and cheese, will set you back almost $12 so this is not cheap pub grub.

The Verdict: 

The fact they do not use a thick burger is a-plus when using this much meat. I know we have complained that too much condiments can be a way of disguising cheap meat but in the case just a little more condiments might be a good idea because there is so much meat. A tomato slice perhaps and a bit more pickle also because the condiments are good quality a little more would be nice. The bacon was chewy and the meat patty juicy with some charring from the grill. Because there was so much meat it is the predominate flavor. The meat is very seasoned, so much so that you taste it before biting into it. You can really smell the meat before biting into it. The seasoning however is very salty, a bit peppery and a few bites of the meat do come off as slightly rubbery. Judging by the uniform shape of the burger and the strong, salty, seasoning this patty does seem pre-made. 


The McKibbin’s burger is made by people that have a clue about food. This is evident with their use of ingredients and their condiments alone prove the point: sauteed mushrooms, red onion, and white cheese. Despite being a very big burger this is not crude food but once-again it all boils down to the meat. The patty should sacrifice some size for more quality. A smaller burger with good meat and the same condiments would-be a winning formula in fact it could be McKibbin’s pot of gold. 

P.S. I have one of the t-shirts for eating the spicy wings at McKibbin’s but that is another story. If you would like a preview this video is rather similar to the experience.

Remember your 3 S's : Sandwiches + Scanner = Scanwiches

Brilliant site with pics of sandwiches in the scanner.

Now if we could only figure out how to put pizza in the fax machine.

Link to page here

New TV series featuring Top Chef Vigneron: Marcel's Quantum Kitchen

From the Futon Critic:
"Marcel's Quantum Kitchen follows Marcel as he embarks on the next phase of his career at the helm of his own catering and event company"
All we can say is that a trail of foam will prevail throughout.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oscar Tradition: Puck's menu revealed

Once again Wolfgang Puck will be serving it up to the stars on Hollywood's biggest night.

From E!online, the menu includes lobster, Dover sole, paella, sushi and smoked salmon on an Oscar-shaped flatbread cracker with caviar and crème fraiche. Dessert is raspberry lemon cake and of course the traditional gold-dusted chocolate Oscars.

We almost forgot, 1,200 bottles of Moet & Chandon, that's at least 4,800 glasses of bubbly for 1,600 guests (3 glasses each).

Last year Puck shared his Oscar bash recipes and we really hope he does the same this year.

Ongoing Discussions About Food Icons: The Bacon Cheeseburger Harvey's review


Not so long ago, within my lifetime at least, Harvey’s used to serve fries made from fresh cut potatoes. Then one day someone in charge made the decision to serve frozen fries instead. Could someone please explain how this was conceived to be a good idea? Obviously the people in charge have no clue.  Harvey’s, here is a great promotional idea, go back to the fresh potatoes. Who are the people making these decisions? Cara Operations Limited who bought the Canadian burger chain in the late 1970s. 
In case you are not familiar with Cara and their approach to food service it is easily summed up in two words that will paint a vivid picture: airplane food.  Again, turning to to the past, when airlines served meals, and if you had the pleasure of eating aboard Air Canada, KLM, American Airlines or British Airways then you have sampled Cara’s cuisine. Need we say more? Airline food is like stock ammunition for a stand up comedians needing material. Ironically the only thing worse than airplane food seems to be hospital food. Enough history? Where are the burgers? We feel the information about the people who are bringing you your burgers is important because it does give you idea of where it is coming from.

Our promise to you: there is meat in this burger

Harvey’s offers a bit of a spectacle when you order one of their burgers. Your burger is made and then a counter person asks you to make your condiment selection. The Harvey’s selection looks impressive all laid out in bowls like a giant salad bar. Our all dressed burger, that set us back almost $6, had the following condiments, onions, mayo, mustard, ketchup, relish, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickle slices and pickled banana peppers. Caught up in the show I talked myself down because this is after all just a ketchup and mustard station. What is good about these condiments is that the pickle and tomato slices are thick and so is the bacon. This is a nice change after the transparent bacon and razor thin tomato slices found at most big burger chain joints. The cheese was the standard orange slice of American cheese and the bun was rather plain but nicely toasted so it did not taste too doughy. 

I want to say one word to you. Are you listening? Plastics
The verdict:

The bacon was crispy and the with all the condiments  there is a definite fresh taste but as we keep noticing with fast food chains is that they pile your burger with condiments a way of hiding poorly cooked cheap meat. Think about it, ketchup how much does that cost? Cheaper than good beef that's for sure so slather that sucker up. Harvey’s has mastered the art of condiments with spectacle. The meat patty at Harvey’s almost seems plastic or synthetic not just in taste but also in look. Each shard of the ground beef that makes up the patty seems to be the exact-same size and proportion and looks like the only human contact might have been when the person turned on the machines at the factory. I have seen meat patties that look like this before and if you are really curious just buy a box of Presidents’s Choice frozen hamburger patties. 


The condiments do create a nice fresh tasting burger and the real drawback is with the meat that is like  eating nothing. The enigmatic patty leads me to believe that this is more condiment sandwich than burger. The poor quality of meat does not come as a surprise because it is from the people that brought you airplane food and frozen fries. Harvey’s, use better meat and go back to fresh potatoes for you fries because you will have “a beautiful thing.”

Ramsay in the Red?

Article detailing Ramsay's net worth. After reading this article we have one burning question...

Are hair plugs a tax deductible business expense if you are a TV Chef?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Delissio Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza Comes Full Circle

This blog has looked at a lot of bacon cheeseburgers so when we heard that Delissio was making a bacon cheeseburger pizza we thought that it was only fitting to review this product in celebration of Super Bowl weekend.


The word product is exactly what this is, true it is food that can be consumed, but judging from the taste the edible part was really an afterthought. Think about it, the Delissio pizza has its own catch phrase, “it’s not delivery, it’s Delissio.” As the ads often emphasize, Delissio does something amazing because it is a rising crust pizza. If you think about it dough that rises is not exactly a novelty when making bread. Remember making volcanos at home with baking soda and vinegar? The Delissio pizza uses a similar process, as revealed in the ingredient list, with the use of sodium bicarbonate. When heated this substance creates carbon dioxide, the same as yeast, and causes dough to rise. I am not sure but judging with how I felt magic this process seems to continue as the Delissio crust sits in your stomach. Remember the volcano?
When you look at the ads for the Delissio bacon cheeseburger pizza you notice that it uses targeted marketing, because men love these two items.

The Delissio website welcomes you with more focused marketing and “a meal your family will love you for.” Even more demographics are covered as we also find Girls night in. Crispy flatbread pizza. Worthy of your best girls. The artwork is carefully chosen to look like Sex in the City complete with mirror disco ball crowning the “i” in “girls.” When you click on the picture of the two kitchen divas you are taken to the Girls Night In Facebook page where over 10,000 people sign their seal of approval by “liking this.” In-terms of the other ingredients used in the Dellissio formula we will get into it with the tasting.

The Verdict: 

When finished the pizza looks like something that you might get from Dominos. The sauce tastes like ketchup and the overwhelming flavor is the famous rising crust that is very puffy, salty and extremely dry. The bottom part of the crust seems crumbly almost like a graham cracker crust or even tea biscuits. The more we eat and review mass produced food the more we realize that the product overwhelms the actual flavors. In this case the whole bacon cheeseburger thing is lost. Yes, your mind sees pizza because it is round, with something that resembles tomato sauce and cheese. Do you think bacon or cheeseburger? No, this is just an illusion and these elements are only part of the marketing. There is bacon, I even tasted a piece in one bite but one bite only. The hamburger meat consists of tiny meatballs that offer more illusion of food and only offer a rubbery texture. 


Melt cheese on some nice bread in your toaster oven. Be daring, after melting the cheese add chopped or sliced tomato. Top with some prosciutto and finish the whole thing off with arugula . It might not be delivery but drop down on your knees and thank the stars that it is not Delissio. The makers of Delissio have taken two food items and put them together for the sake of marketing. We thought it was funny that when looking at the Delissio ads on YouTube we were then directed to Epic Meal Time that is yet another example of combining ingredients just for the sake of grabbing people’s attention. Judging by the results it seems to be working.

Would you like the Delissio...
...or our homemade recommendation?