Monday, October 29, 2012


StackYou’ve probably heard this story before. Boy’s father is in the restaurant business, eventually boy opens up his own restaurant. Well, meet Bill Panos. The son of a restaurateur he opened up his own place with his wife. Unfortunately for Bill, being a franchisee meant doing things one way and one way only. The corporate shackles just didn’t work for him.

Stack2Armed with a love for and knowledge of food, Bill went into business with Todd Savage. Eyeballing the burgeoning smashed burger market in the GTA they found a spot and set up shop. Freed up from the constraints of a chain restaurant Bill and Todd filled out the menu as they saw fit. The result was Stack Smmmoked. Basically, a slightly upscale sandwich shop, which just happens to have a smoker. Burgers, tacos and BBQ round out the menu as well as donuts and shakes.

What first put this place on my radar was the S’mores Donuts. My friend Abbey raved about them on her blog. So when the Smashed Burger Showdown came about, Stack made the itinerary. We purposely placed it as the anchor so we could finish with the donuts for dessert. What I found when I got there was a really terrific restaurant with a dedicated and enthusiastic owner. 

InteriorThe uptown restaurant has a bistro meets sports bar look with plenty of seating and some flat screens sprinkled in, in a clean, modern space. The feel though is more laid back. Reflecting the owners. There’s murals on the wall and it even has an upstairs. The two tops beside the window up there look to be great seats. There's also a small patio out front. Downstairs, in front of the kitchen you’ll find the smoker. It has its own room and is vented outside so you don’t get that great smoker/meat aroma that so many great BBQ joints have. Sigh.

In the kitchen they use top quality ingredients from right here in Ontario and craft them into some tasty food. They also tinker. Constantly trying to improve their wares. With dedication like that you can rest assured that what comes out of there is first rate. Not just slapped together, jumping on a craze.

So let’s have a look shall we??

Fresh-Cut FriesStack fresh cuts their fries in house every morning. That’s nice but if you don’t do things right, you’re better off with a good frozen fry. Too many places use the wrong potato, don’t cook them long enough or fail in some other way. Not Stack. A good size, nicely crisp and lightly salted. Perfect for those who like ‘em a little less salty. Easily salted for those who love ‘em salty. These fries are simply great. Some of the best. They also can be had with BBQ seasoning on them.

Mac n CheeseI'm a big fan of the Mac n Cheese. This is not likely to bring about some noodle epiphany, being a typical old school, creamy example but that's perfectly fine. It's served in a small cast iron skillet and topped with bread crumbs. I found it slightly loose (soupy) but that's probably more a preference thing. Typically that would make it watery but not so in this case. It had a good cheese taste that was nicely rounded. The pasta wasn't over cooked either. Al dente the way it should be.

BurgerBack in June during the Showdown they produced a good burger but it wasn't without it's flaws. Most notably, the bun. Well that old bun is gone. Replaced with a gorgeous poppy seed burger bun from Ace Bakery. The gind on the burger seems a bit better as well. The result is a fantastic sandwich. Their smashed burger 2.0 can rightfully take it's place with the likes of Burger's Priest, Holy Chuck and Stockyards now. I got the simple Applewood Smoked Bacon Cheeseburger.  I'm a believer that a smashed burger needs American cheese but for those who hate the stuff, this is for you. They use real cheddar on it. The bacon gets a second go ‘round on their smoker so it’s extra good. It's juicy, tasty and as you can see, pretty photogenic with that bun. 

Pulled Pork w Lexington BBQ SauceThey do a really  nice Pulled Pork. Normally served in a sandwich, this sample shows the nice barque and smoke ring. It’s very piggy, nicely smoked and quite simply, great as is.
The accompanying Lexington Vinegar Sauce was very nice but totally unnecessary. This stuff just didn’t need it.

Brisket w Chipotle~Jack Daniels SauceThe Brisket is some of the best I’ve had. Very moist, tender, smoky, beefy and with a magnificent crust. It had just enough fat on it as well. Again, usually in sandwich form but here for photographic and sampling purposes.
The Chipotle/Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce was really good but again, this meat didn’t need it.

Smoked Chicken w Peruvian Pepper SauceAn “Airline Breast” is, in the restaurant biz, a breast with a wing (or part there of) still attached. Here we have it smoked and slathered with a Peruvian Pepper Sauce. OMG this is incredible. The meat on its own is very moist, tender and smoky but the sauce just kicks it up another couple levels. Best chicken breast in the city.

Smoked Meat SandwichI just really can’t say enough about the Smoked Meat Sandwich. Plain and simple, it’s incredible. NOT Montreal Smoked Meat but an homage to it, at Stack they use their own spice blend, brine and then smoke it in the same manner as MSM. This tastes more like a heavily smoked, overly tender, juicy ham. (Yes I know it's cow and not pig but that's what it reminds me of) It comes on rye bread with regular mustard but Bill tells me he’s looking to bring in Keen’s. The ultimate mustard for smoked meat sandwiches in my humble opinion. Hard to believe this could get any better.

There's a donut maker in the kitchen and you can have them in a number of different ways. All served in a cone shaped vessel.
I’ve had the pleasure of trying a few of them plain. (Well, dusted with cinnamon sugar that is). To be honest, they really don’t need any sprucing up other than that. Slightly crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. There's sometimes no better way to enjoy something than au natural.  But if you like all the fixin's......
Strawberry DonutsThe "Strawberry" is simply the donuts with strawberry sauce and whipped cream. While I would never in a million years think that these could outdo the Rocky Road donuts, I may be willing to concede it may be a toss up as to which is better.
S'mores DonutsThe "Rocky Road" donuts are incredible. Crumbled graham cracker crumbs, whipped cream, toasted marshmallows and chocolate sauce dress these babies up beautifully. Every bit as good as they look. There's a decadence to them however they're not too "Over the top."
Oreo donuts 
The “Oreo” donuts  are certainly the best in my books. Crumbled Oreos, whipped cream and vanilla sauce these babies are just incredible. If you love Oreos, you’ll love these.

You can find Stack Smmmoked at 3265 Yonge St in Toronto.

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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.

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Well that's all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.


Monday, October 22, 2012


Perhaps the biggest thing that makes up the character of the United States is the many different regional accents or topolects. (regional dialects). One could never confuse a person from rural Louisiana with someone from Brooklyn for instance. As much a part of the fabric of the US it’s also part of the Pop Culture. Go to your local Books-A-Zillion and you can find many, many dictionaries on the subject.
In the American Rust Belt there are a few variances on a certain dialect and one can be found in and around Pittsburgh. The fine folks of Steeltown have a speak that while similar, is different from those of Buffalo or Chicago. Affectionately known as “Pittsburghese.” Of course not all residents speak it and in fact, it’s considered more how people think Pittsburghers speak than how they actually do. But if you find yourself faced to face with some speaking this local tongue, just use this handly little translator.

Eggs n AtPlaying on this topolect in Pittsburgh is Eggs N’At. The little breakfast and lunch place “with plenty of home made recipes and a jaggin' around (fun) kind of atmosphere.”

Sometimes I think the single best word you can use to describe a breakfast place is “Solid.” Since they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it gives you a solid foundation for your day. Without that, it’s just a house of cards. Couple that with a very friendly staff. You’ll have a happy tummy and mind as you set out for the day. (or continue your day if it’s lunch you’re after) Walking in the door you’ll immediately be confronted with your first Pittsburghese question, “Jeet jet?” If you haven’t, you’re in the right place.

EnA InteriorEggs N’at’s dining room is comfy and cozy. Which is to say not very big. Two dozen or so seats if you don’t  count the ones on the back deck. The place is clean, bright and decorated with framed Classic Rock album covers. For someone of my age, it was a trip down memory lane. There’s also a couple flat screen TV’s for your entertainment pleasure.

So let’s have a look at these solid breakfast items. Or as the say in Steeltown, “a looky at dese solid breffis items.”

Sausage n EggsMrs. Sippi's sausage and eggs were straight on good. There's not really much to say about the eggs. Over easy, cooked to perfection they were just as they should be. The link sausage was quite nice. Not overly seasoned but with a hint of country breakfast sausage but tasting mostly of pork. The whole wheat toast was really nice. Fresh made every morning from a local bakery. The best part was the home fries. Chopped up potato griddled on the flat top with some onion and a bit of bacon. Ya, I said that, BACON!!! How could they possibly be bad??

 Corned Beef HashMy Corned Beef Hash was very good. Again, prepared on the flat top for a nice crust it was pretty much a 50/50 mix of potato and meat. I'd like to have seen some onion but I won't complain. The eggs were just as Mrs. Sippi's. My toast however was excellent. Caraway Seed Marble Rye. It was fantastic. Nicely toasted with a nice taste of rye and caraway seed. Just terrific.

You can find Eggs N’at at 8556 University Blvd. in Moon Township, Pa.

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Woll ats alls fer now folks, see ya next time in da food court


Monday, October 8, 2012

Nostalgia and Whimsy

The Flaky TartSometimes I think it’s best to just let the place speak for itself. “The Flaky Tart is an old school bakeshop that marries nostalgia with whimsy.  Using only the freshest ingredients, Chef Madelaine Sperry creates and builds tasty pieces of art that both satisfy her creativity and her passion for the business.”
Madelaine comes from a baking background. Learning at the side of her mother as a child. From there she studied at George Brown College in Toronto and then it was off to Europe. Returning home she was Executive Pastry Chef at the very prestigious Rosedale Golf Club. From there she went into business for herself. 
Madelaine also offers up some of the most beautiful Wedding Cakes you can imagine.

Perhaps the best thing about The Flaky Tart is that the goodies aren’t cloyingly sweet. A lot of times these bakeries load things up with sugar. So much so that it tends to drown out the flavour of what it is that flavour is supposed to be. TFT’s goody’s flavours come through very boldly. I would also say that the lack of sugar (or perhaps I should say the use of exactly enough sugar) is really what makes this place so addictive. There's nothing to stop you from eating too much. There's no sore teeth from all the sugar. There's no DT's from all the sugar. Nope, there's just good common sense to tell you when you've had enough. Should you have any.

I should also point out that The Flaky Tart also offers up some savoury options like Meat Pies. But I’m just here for the sweets.

FT InteriorTFT is just one of a number of store fronts in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Village. Inside the place just smells like a bakery. If you didn't already know that from the outside. Just last week I walked by and was drawn in like I was being beamed aboard a space ship. The smell of fresh ginger wafting out the front door was irresistible. Once inside you'll see a wide array of goodies from which to chose on either wall and a "Trophy Case" beside the cash register. All the baking is done in the back behind the magic curtain.

So let’s take a look at that baking.

English Toffee BrownieThe English Toffee Brownie is as you can imagine excellent. One look will tell you that. The brownie isn’t quite as dense as most brownies but certainly far from cake like. The thick fudge icing is quite nice. The English toffee is perfect and glued to the top with caramel drizzle. It’s missing a richness that keeps it from being decadent IMHO. So if you were looking for that, you may be a bit disappointed. It’s so good otherwise that it can be over looked. In fact, for most adults, it would be too much if it was knee buckling. 

Spicy Pumpkin CakeThe Pumpkin Spice Cake is ridiculously good. Ranking up there with some of the best non chocolate desserts. It has a very distinctive pumpkin pie spice flavour which was rich in clove. The whipped cream is nice and light and what dessert isn’t better with some caramel right??

Butter TartThe Butter Tarts are among the best in the city. Not my favourite (my moms are) but still awfully good. They have an incredible rich taste but are a bit runny and I’m not a big fan of the runniness. You may notice that there’s a fair bit of extra crust. That extra crust is there so you can break pieces off and dunk them in the ooey goodness. I do like that aspect. I think my friend is addicted to them. 
A special thanks to Jen of FoodPr0n for the use of this picture.

Old Fashioned Fruit TartThe Old Fashioned Fruit Tart is excellent. Sour cherries are cooked down to a jam like consistency but with a few whole cherries in there as well. The balance between sugar and tart is quite nice. It's just about right in the middle. Not particularly either. It really seems to let the fruit shine. While eating this I happened to bite it so perfectly that I got a great cross section of the pastry. It's beautiful. Very flaky. You could actually see the different layers of dough with a microscopic space between each layer.

Giner Cupcake w Vanilla ButtercreamCupcakes are also available of course. This specimen is a Ginger Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream. Oh man this is good. Like a mild, soft, gingerbread man with a beautiful icing. I thought the vanilla could’ve been a bit stronger but it was fine as it was. I do love vanilla so maybe it’s just me.

Triple Chocolate Chip cookieMadelaine makes a pretty mean cookie as well. This Triple Chocolate Chip known as Jason’s Favourtie, is Milk, Dark and White Chocolate Chips in a nice cookie batter. For the most part the batter is just there to hold the chips together. You gotta love that. I’ve been told that the Ginger/Molasses Cookie is phenomenal but I haven’t tried it. Yet!

Coconut MacaroonsMrs. Sippi loves her some macaroons and seeing these nice “To Go” bags I figured I’d have to treat her. The subdued sweetness really works well with these and seems to make the coconut flavour stand out even more. Mrs. Sippi absolutely loved them. They’re everything she could’ve wanted. 

You can find The Flaky Tart at 711 Mt. Pleasant Rd. in Toronto. 

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Well that’s all for now kids. See ya next time in the food court.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Smokey Hollow

156For Chuck Baker, BBQ isn’t just a passion it’s his life. Almost literally. Chuck is there in there in the evening putting pork butts in the pit. I can only assume he goes to bed sometime after that. First thing the next day, the butts come off and the ribs go on. Thus begins another day for Chuck. If you’ve ever smoked at home, you know that BBQ is a painstakingly long endeavour. If you’ve ever owned a restaurant (or any business for that matter), you know that it’s life consuming job. Marry the two vocations and it pretty much is your life. Good thing Chuck loves what he does. It shows too. Chuck is cranking out some high quality Q from his little smoke shack just off the square in Lynchburg proper.

154Barrel House BBQ is really two separate buildings. The big one is the restaurant. Complete with a kitchen and dining room it even has a small section for souveniers. The smaller building is the smoke house and where pigs go to become delicious.

153Chuck makes everything himself. Including the restaurant. He remodeled it and even built some of the furniture. Repurposing spent barrels and such for some thematic tables and chairs. The whole restaurant, as you can imagine, is decked out as much as possible in Jack Daniels.

158One of the neatest things at Chucks place is the "Post Cards." Chuck has flipped over some acoustic ceiling tiles and uses them as pseudo post cards. Different tiles for different countries. That’s me in the very top left obviously. As you can tell, this is the Canadian tile.

So let’s have a look at some of what Chuck has to offer.
I should start off by saying that the general feeling among locals is that the meat is top notch while the sauce leave a bit to be desired. My mileage differed as you are about to find out.

162There are two house made sauces, both of which are fantastic. The vinegar sauce is really that. Vinegar. It's pumped up with BBQ flavours and hot peppers for a little bite if you like. The other, a thick, slightly chunky sweet sauce that's the complete antithesis of the vinegar sauce. Equally good IMHO. For me though, a 1:1 mix of the two proved awesome. The sweet and tart from the two performed a beautiful balancing act that when used as a dipping sauce for the ribs was perfect.

164The Pulled Pork was very tasty although had a bit of a stewed flavour to me. Perhaps it was over steamed in a warming tray. That's one problem with pulled pork is it can lose a lot of it's goodness if it isn't fresh. Not that it loses so much it's not good. Far from it. All in all it's just good solid pigness.

161The ribs, dry (aka Memphis Style) were good. Nothing special other than a flavour to them that I couldn't quite place. Mrs. Sippi didn't care for that flavour, I didn't have any opinion one way or another about it. It was just there. Where they did really well is with the sauce. The golden rule is "If the "Q" good, it doesn't need sauce." I'm somewhat in this camp. I can however attest, sometimes the sauce can make it better. This is one of those times. Especially since I'm a sauce guy. As I said above, the two sauces combined were magical with these ribs.

The Tater Salad and Beans were run of the mill if not very solid sides. These didn't jump off my plate as seminal additions however that doesn't mean the weren't very enjoyable. The beans were nicely balance in that they weren't sweet, savoury, spicy, BBQ'y (is that even a word??) or any thing. They were smooth and tasty and there isn't anything wrong with that. Add creamy to the description and that's what you get with the other side here. Just good old BBQ style potato salad. Well done.

So there you have it. Good food in the Mecca for Tennessee Whiskey aficionados.

You can find Barrel House BBQ at 105 Mechanic St S. Lynchburg, Tn.

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