Adventures in Restaurants: The Consequences of the Fast Food Franchise.

RestaurantLogoIt feels like fast food has been around FOREVER. As a matter of fact, the first fast food franchises were White Castle and A&W. Both started in the US after WWI, so it’s an anniversary of sorts. Now you can’t drive downtown without seeing at least one burger joint.

There are some places in the US where there are no grocery stores, only fast food restaurants. They have a name for it too – “food deserts”. These are poorer neighbourhoods where access to healthy foods is all but impossible. It’s frightening when you think about it.

https://newsone.com/1540235/americas-worst-9-urban-food-deserts/

There is something insidious going on. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it’s a conspiracy.

http://mashable.com/2015/12/08/supermarkets-food-deserts/#_JPLPIvLGSqh

http://www.businessinsider.com/where-have-all-the-inner-city-grocery-stores-gone-2012-4

Yet are franchised restaurants just as bad? You know the ones I’m talking about. Sure the food takes longer to prepare and it looks fresher than fast food, but they have their secrets too. Sithboy’s first job was at one of these franchised restaurants (no, I’m not naming it), and he told me that the side dishes of mashed potatoes were actually instant, even though they used real potatoes for an appetizer. All the pulp of the cooked potatoes were thrown out instead of used because (get this) – consistency. Instant potatoes tasted the same and were easy to keep to the same texture than real mashed potatoes. It was the same when I worked at a franchised pizza place. We had lasagna (and it was good), but it was frozen. People couldn’t tell the difference. It’s still processed food, just made up to look less processed.

If fast food is one of the main reasons for obesity, then who is to blame for their popularity? Is it the consumer? Are we as a society so busy that we can’t take thirty minutes out of our schedule to prepare our food? Have we become so dependent on big chain grocery stores that we are incapable of growing our own? We can’t blame the franchise; they are only responding to a growing need. People have to eat, and in some cases a burger and fries at McDonald’s is the only alternative.

Do you think the owners of A&W or White Castle knew what they were starting?

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Adventures in Restaurants: The dinner that wasn’t.

RestaurantLogoI enjoy going out to dinner with my husband. Even after twenty-four years we still find things to talk about. His day, my day, our son, what the hell we’re going to do with the house; light conversations and antidotes. Relaxing in a nice restaurant with a good meal is something we’ve just started doing, so my birthday outing (which started all this in the first place) was going to be an anniversary of sorts for us.

Too bad it didn’t work out that way.

Now, like I said, I enjoy a good conversation with dinner and when we go out it’s expected that other patrons feel the same way, but the restaurant we had reservations at this time out was so loud with talking, neither of us could hear what the server was saying, even though she was RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Literally! Bent over, no less than a foot from my face and I still could barely understand what she was saying. Disappointed was not the emotion that reared up either. It was a small, intimate dining room, but the McDonald’s play room would have been quieter.

So we left. I apologized to the server, explained that it was too loud and we high-tailed it out of there. Husband didn’t even get a sip of water from his glass. We went to a few other places close by, but as we suspected (because it was the weekend) they were full. It was also a really nice night too. That always brings out the customers.

I think our first mistake was going on the weekend. Looking back, our other restaurant adventures were during the week. Weekends are always busy, but Husband had a reservation, and as it was someplace we’d never been to, and we had no idea what to expect. Atmosphere is everything to a restaurant and as I’ve worked in a few, I know that it only takes one or two tables to ruin it. Trust me, I could tell you stories . . .

I’m debating whether or not to try this place again, but not on the weekend. All the reviews said the food was excellent and it is one of the places on our list. I’m just afraid of it being the same again. We ended up at our old stand-by; Red Lobster. At that point, after walking around downtown for half an hour I was so hungry if that place had been busy I would have settled for McDonald’s.

Second time a charm or not?

Adventures in Restaurants: It’s all about the seafood!

The holidays were murder on me, especially Black Friday weekend so Husband took me to dinner at Red Lobster! We haven’t been there in a while so it was a nice treat at the end of a long, hard day. Surprisingly, the restaurant wasn’t that busy either so we got in and settled in no time.

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I haven’t had escargot in a while, so I had to start with that. They brought garlic toast (more toast than garlic) to dip, and I let him have the extra biscuit that came ahead of time. I have to admit, it wasn’t as nice as the dish I had at Le Chein Noir. The cheese was kind of glopy, but it was still good.

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Husband had Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp. They were huge. I didn’t try one because I’m not a fan of coconut (never have been; never will be).

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For our main course I had the Grand Seafood Feast. Wow, now I was impressed. The hollandaise sauce on the crab cake was so good. A little spicy (but I’m a wuss) and the shrimp and lobster were so good!

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Husband had the Bar Harbour Lobster Bake. Quite a bit of food with that; lobster tails with shrimp, sea scallops and mussels, piled over a bed of linguini in a garlic and white wine broth.

Again, no desert. After a meal like that, I just wanted to go home. For a chain restaurant, Red Lobster always has good food.

Adventures in Restaurants: When in Rome!

It’s been a while since Husband and I went out to dinner, so the first free night we had, we headed downtown to see what restaurant piqued our fancy. This night it was a popular little Italian “trattoria” across from Kingston City Hall called Olivea .
img_20161104_180038img_20161104_180123We started the dinner with several slices of bread, but no butter. Instead, our waitress placed two bottles on the table. One was a dark vinaigrette, and the other was olive oil. I’ve never eaten bread that way. So different. Then we had Arancine al telefono with fontina and mushrooms; crispy, fried rice balls with cheese and mushrooms. The regular serving is three, but as there were only two of us, the waitress gave us an extra so we could have two each, and you really don’t need any more than that.

 

 

 

img_20161104_182156For our main course, Husband had celery root-stuffed ravioli. Very yummy with just enough blue cheese to enhance but not over-power the other flavours of the dish, and as you can see, they’re not huge either. He said with each piece there was a different set of flavours that came through. He said this meal was so good, he’ll judge all future meals against this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_20161104_182200I had Chicken al Mattone with salmoriglio, potato gnocchi and seasonal vegetables. I’m not a fan of gnocchi, but the flavour of the chicken was incredible. There was a lot of garlic (I love garlic) and the chicken was juicy and tender.

 

We didn’t have desert tonight, instead went to a movie, but it was a great night and I can’t wait to see what place we venture to next!

Adventures in Restaurants: Opa! It’s all Greek to me!

It’s been awhile since Husband and I had a night out together, so when he called and asked if I’d go out to dinner with him, how could I resist?

Finally the heat wave broke and downtown was nice. Not too hot, not too windy and the sun was just setting over the buildings so it wasn’t glaring down on us. Part of Princess Street is still hacked up (The Big Dig; Part Deux), and I was surprised we found a parking spot for Big Red.

We strolled up Princess Street looking for someplace new. Husband saw Greco’s and we headed in. Now I used to work for a Greek man, so I’ve seen my fair share of Greek food, but not until tonight did I get the chance to sit down and enjoy.

Oh and we enjoyed.

First, the waiter brought us over some bread with a sample of either Taramosalata (zesty fish dip blended with oil & lemon), or Skordalia (whipped potato with fresh garlic lemon & olive oil). Might have been a bit of both.

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I had to start off with an appetizer. I’m not very brave, especially when I see that escargot are on the menu. Not as nice as Le Chien Noir, but it was tasty, and of course, I dropped a small piece of cheese on the girls (I don’t care, they’re my boobs).

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For entrees it was Souvlaki for me. It came with rice, a salad (Greek for me) and the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Even Husband said they were ‘wicked’, and he doesn’t use that word often.

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Husband had the Mixed Grill; a porkchop, lamb chop and chicken breast. He’s wanted to try lamb for some time, but wanted it done right so he could compare it if he has it again. It’s a different flavour to it. Like a burnt grease taste. He thought it was really good, but I didn’t care for it. It did taste oddly familiar too.

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We had no desert tonight. There was too much food and no room.  Excellent meal. We will definitely be going back.

Adventures in Restaurants: Ich bin ein Berliner

I’m not sure if it’s accurate or not, but it seemed fitting for this post. Ocktober Fest is the closest I ever get to German food. I’ve made German potato salad (yum!), but with a lot of authentic foods, unless you’re shown how to do it by someone from that country, you really don’t know what it tastes like.

We went to Amadeus after work one night. It’s another of those small, cozy places nestled in between stores on the main street in the city. It’s another one of those places we kept meaning to visit, but never got around to until now, and this time we sat as far away from the window as possible.

Husband likes to sample draft beer from foreign countries. I don’t normally take a picture of that, but the glass has a hole in the base.

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Our dinners came with either soup or salad, so we had the cabbage soup. It was not what I thought it would be. I envisioned a thin, watery soup with strips of cabbage and bland tasting. This was anything but bland. Creamy, with onion and either caraway or rye seeds. We couldn’t figure it out, but it was so good.

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For entrees, Husband had Zigeuner Schnitzel; pork loin schnitzel topped with green and red peppers, mushrooms and onion in a homemade paprika sauce.

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I had Rouladen; beef rolls stu­ed with onion, mustard, bacon and dill pickle. Yes, there was a slice of dill pickle rolled up in my dinner. Both came with something called spätzle. As far as we could tell, it’s just twisted up pieces of pasta dough that’s been boiled, and mine came with warm red cabbage.

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I’m seriously starting to like cabbage.

We didn’t have desert. The meal was too filling as it was. Definitely going back.

Adventures in Restaurants: The French Connection

We did something for my birthday we haven’t done in years; went out to dinner. Our place out in the country was always such a long drive, that it was rare for us to get out anywhere fancy, but this year we decided to throw caution to the wind and go someplace really nice.

There’s a little French bistro in the city called Le Chien Noir that Husband and I have wanted to visit for a while. We thought about taking Sithboy, but after looking over the menu outside, realized there wasn’t anything he’d like on it. Ah well…

The restaurant itself was small and cozy, and we sat by the window. It was nice to see people walk by, but then I realized they’d see us too, while we eat, and that kinda put me off on window seats.

Anyway, appetizers were Escargot Grautin and P.E.I mussels.

 

I *love* escargot and get them whenever I can. These were incredible. Done in garlic and wine sauce with cheese melted over top, I had to restrain myself from eating them too fast. Husband had mussels roasted in red wine-tomato broth.

 

Entrees were roasted duck with white beans and sausage for Husband and roasted chicken for me. I could have made a meal out of the mushroom dressing for the chicken. The sauces for both meals were rich, probably made with cream. I don’t care. They were incredible.

For desert Husband had grapefruit mousse with toffee candy crumbs. Sorry, I forgot to get pictures. It was so nice; not too sweet or bitter. I had a specialty coffee with a couple shots of liquor and whipped cream in it. Enough so that I caught a buzz after drinking only half of it.

Over all, it was a great night. So glad we went out.

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