Saturday, February 18, 2012

Medium is Hot.....

...Medium hot is very hot and hot is very, very hot. That’s the slogan for Duff’s Famous Chicken Wings. They of both Toronto and their origin, Buffalo. Of course, that means we’re talking about Buffalo Style Chicken Wings.
First things first, let’s talk about what a Buffalo Chicken Wing (here on referred to as a wing or chicken wing) actually is. It’s basically a flavour. Ya, the wings are some of the largest wings you’ll find but for the most part, it’s about the sauce. Depending on which recipe (or legend) you care to believe there’s as few as 2 ingredients, butter (or margarine) and Franks Hot Sauce. Or as many as this. The wings are separated at the joints (tips discarded) and deep fried naked. They’re then tossed in sauce and served along side celery sticks and blue cheese dip. These wings are meaty, tangy and spicy. A bit salty as well.
In 1946 Louise Duffney opened a tavern in Amherst, New York,  outside Buffalo. It wasn’t until 1969 however that she started serving Buffalo’s latest food craze, the chicken wing. While credit for the invention of the chicken wing almost undisputedly goes to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, there’s little doubt that Duff’s wings now reign supreme.

Living in Toronto a day trip to Buffalo is a pretty simple jaunt for myself and many other residents. Heck people even make the trip simply for chicken wings. This wasn’t lost on twin brothers,  Hy and Rob Erlich. They approached Duff’s about opening a Toronto location. A deal was hammered out and in 1998 they opened their first location in the Davisville Village neighbourhood. They’ve gone on to open two more. One near the University of Toronto and the other, not too far from my house in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Located in a strip mall about a 10 minutes north of the city the newest Duff’s boasts a nice patio and large glass windows on two sides. Inside it’s really rather basic and functional. Wood tables and chairs in the dining room and a small bar where you can wait for take out or a table when it’s busy. Of course, beer and chicken wings are always made much better with sports and the ample TV’s are always showing games or tournaments. Duff’s boasts a pretty well rounded menu so those not interested in the tasty appendages can be satisfied as well.

So anyway, on with the food.

Poutine is a delicacy in Montreal and the Eastern Townships. Fries covered in cheese curd and smothered in gravy. While most purist will tell you you can’t get good poutine outside Montreal that’s simply not true. Duff’s makes a very respectable version. 

The Buffalo shrimp are breaded, deep fried crustaceans that are tossed in wing sauce. While the subtle flavour of the shrimp is slightly over powered by the  sauce all in all these are very tasty.
The star of the show is of course the chicken wings. As noted in the title and preamble they claim that medium is actually hot. I disagree. I find medium to be medium and hot to be hot. Unlike many places that serve hot wings that barely dampen your nose. These babies will make you sweat and clean out your sinuses all at once. While I love ‘em hot Mrs. Sippi isn’t quite there so we always order medium and then get some hot sauce on the side. This allows me to get my heat fix and satisfy my love of all things saucy. Rather than dipping in hot then blue cheese sauces I mix the two together and then dip the wings in the red and white mess.

The Triple Fudge Chocolate Cake for dessert is a winner too. Not made on site but brought in from a local desert maker. A chocoholic's delight. The ice cream is just of the store bought (whatever is on sale) variety and should probably be upgraded.

So there you have it. What I consider the GTA’s best chicken wings. 

You can find Duff’s at any of 3 GTA locations.
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You can also find them on the web.
 Duff's Famous Wings on Urbanspoon

That’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Matt’s Big Breakfast

For most people the name Duncan Hines conjures up thoughts and memories of birthday cakes. They know only of the name they see on boxes and cartons of cake mixes and ready made frostings.  The male counterpart to Betty Crocker as it were. What they don’t however realize is that Duncan Hines was indeed a real person. A traveling salesman from Bowling Green, Kentucky. At least, that’s where our story begins. 
In the 20’s and 30’s there was no interstate system and virtually no chain restaurants. Travellers were more or less consigned to eating at mom and pop type restaurants all over the country. Having eaten literally hundreds of meals across the country Hines began keeping a list of restaurant ratings he would share with friends and family. So popular was his list that in 1935, Adventures in Good Eating hit the shelves and Hines would become a household name. He would go on to pen another book rating lodging and a newspaper column featuring recipes he collected along the road. Adapted for the home cook. Almost literally, the forerunner to the modern day food blogger.

If Hines were around today you can rest assured that in his list would be an entry for Matt’s Big Breakfast in Phoenix, Arizona. Long a popular establishment for Phoenicians, Matt’s gained nation wide notoriety when Guy Fieri and Triple D gang paid them a visit. (Just scroll down to view the segment.)
Matt’s consists of two small brick boxes, one smaller than the other. So small in fact that they don’t have room for a freezer or even a microwave oven. The dining areas are as cramped as they can get. With popularity come crowds. Lineups, as you can see are common but the whole operation hums along at a pretty good pace so your wait isn’t too long.  All in I was only out 45 minutes of my time.
A dispenser of ice water with citrus wedges is a complimentary way to keep from dehydrating in the dessert sun. I’m not a real fan of water flavoured like that. So it really didn’t do a whole lot for me.

So let’s see what comes out of the tiny kitchen.

I had my mind made up (salami scramble) but the waiter/host talked me into the daily special. The Three Meat Scramble was 3 eggs scrambled with pork sausage, tenderloin and ham. Fresh jalapenos and cheddar joined the party and it came served with a flour tortilla and side of home fries. Fresh squeezed apple cider is available seasonally and, fortunately, t’was the season.
The scramble was fantastic. The ham and tenderloin nicely played in the back ground while the sausage shone. The jalapenos added a fresh component and some heat. I was a bit surprised that the whole thing wasn’t hotter with all the chilies but not so. I quartered the tortilla and used it like bread. A fantastic meal.
The home fries came with sautéed onions and rosemary. I thought the rosemary flavour was a little lacking. Especially with such a powerful herb. All in all though these were good. Nothing that would “Wow” you but solid none the less.

The cider was like drinking a delicious apple. So fresh and apple-y tasting.


So there you have it folks, a great little spot to get your breakfast feedbag on. While you wait you can check out this Website. A "Where are they now" of places featured by Hines.

You can find Matt’s Big Breakfast at 801 N. 1st St. in Phoenix, Arizona.
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You can also find them on the web.
 Matt's Big Breakfast on Urbanspoon
Matt's Big Breakfast on Foodio54

Well that’s all for now, see you next time in the food court.