Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pizza and Grits

In 1976 in Columbia, Tn. Glenn Truelove's dream started taking shape. While working at his best friend's parents pizza restaurant, Pizza Maker, Glenn would learn the pizza business and fantasize of owning his own place. He later went on to University and managed restaurants in Alabama before returning home to work as a Funeral Director. The restaurant business was always in his heart though and in 2008 he started crafting a business plan for his own place. He'd had his eye on a local bar he knew would be closing up shop. One day after the doors closed for good he was in a bank pitching his small business idea.
Trueloves Pizza & GritsGlenn was lucky to have met (and fallen for) a veteran of the restaurant business, Kathy McIntyre. Together they opened Trueloves Pizza and Grits in October of 2011. "He's a little bit pizza and I'm a little bit grits" Kathy claims. A philosophy that serves them well both in business and real life. The rest of the staff has been rounded out with Glenn's brother and his twin daughters. A real family affair.

Truelove's is really all about family meals. There's a sense of informality about the place. There's no wait staff. You go to the counter, order and wait for your food at your table. You may have to go get your goodies or they may be brought to you. Drinks are self serve and patrons are encouraged to mix and mingle. Most people there when we visited were very friendly.

Interior (2)The restaurant sits atop a hill in what looks like an old Pizza Hut. The bright yellow building with red trim has a big sign so you can't miss it. There's plenty of parking as well.
Inside is a nice spacious dining room with a small bar area near the order counter. There's seating for a few dozen.
Truelove's is very community conscious. Desserts are catered by legendary bakery, Pie Sensations and various local charities benefit from their generosity.
Glenn and Kathy make everything from scratch with the exception of the desserts. So let's take a look shall we.
GritsWe opted for the “Regular” grits which were anything but. Basically, these are Ro-Tel grits. For those not familiar, in the south, Rotel means two things. Canned tomatoes and Queso Dip. Just think ground corn mixed with the latter. The recipe was developed by Glenn and Kathy. It’s creamy, cheesy and spicy with a little bit of tomato and chili flavour in there. Just all ‘round fabulous. Even Mrs. Sippi who’s first impression of Rotel and grits was “Blasphemy” loved them. You can also get them plain, with chicken or the Low Country classic, Shrimp and Grits.

Meat LoversThe Pizza is top notch. We went with the True Meat Lovers and it was a hit with both of us. First off, they make the pizza dough themselves and it’s right up there. Simply fabulous. The toppings were very good as well. My only complaints, and this would just be fine tuning to me personally, I’d like the sausage dialed back a bit and a bit more sauce. Like I said, that’s just me personally. That’s not to say that the next guy in the door thought that the amount of sausage was what made the pizza.

Turtle PieThe Turtle Pie took first place at the Tennessee State Fair. It’s very easy to see why. Nice crust, chocolaty, caramelly, pecanny. It’s like a slice of Turtles. And “I love Turtles.” While not over the top decadent it is more than enough to please those who worship at the chocolate altar.

So there you have it. A unique combination of tastes that could only exist in the south.

You can find Truelove's at 1144 Riverside Dr. Columbia, Tn.

View Larger Map

You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Truelove's Pizza and Grits on Urbanspoon
Truelove's Pizza and Grits on Foodio54 

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


Monday, January 21, 2013

Experience the Different Taste

In 1951 Fooad Haba did an Aliyah. That is to say, his father Sason packed up the family and moved them from their native Iraq to the holy land, Israel. A baker by trade, Sason brought his taboon and established the first Iraqi bakery near Mahane Yehudah Market (referred to as The Shuk) in Jerusalem. Sason also brought with him generations of experience as a baker. Which he would pass on to Fooad. The bakery specialized in the popular Iraqi bread, Laffa. 
Eventually Fooad's son, Sasi would settle in Canada. First in Montreal and eventually, Toronto. Having turned his back on his baking heritage Sasi worked many different jobs. In the fall of 2008, while working for a pool company, the jobs ran out. At the urging of his father, he decided to get into the bread business. He brought the taboon with him and his father would teach him the ropes. With his business partner, Yoram Gaby (a baker as well) they opened Dr. Laffa. Serving some of the most authentic Israeli food in the GTA. In fact some say the best anywhere outside Israel.

Dr. Laffa sits in an industrial area just inside Toronto’s northern boundry.
There’s a fairly small dining room and plenty of room for those there to get take away. The star of the show though is the taboon that's in the open kitchen. So let's get a look at what's cooking.

LaffaLaffa, for those who don't know about his unique and rare bread, is of Iraqi heritage and is cooked on a taboon. It's a fair bit larger than a regular pita, is quite light and fluffy on the A side and crisp and golden brown on the B side. It doesn't tear easily and is, if flattened, rather thin. It puffs or blisters, up quite a bit when baked and doesn't have much flavour. It really doesn't need much though, it's more or less a canvas on which other things shine. Seeing as how bread is my favourite food, I still love it.

PicklesYour greeted at the table with a selection of pickles. Cucumbers, carrots and cabbage. The slaw is fine as are the carrots. The pickles are quite nice though. They’re half sour and have some nice crunch.

Shakshouka Shakshuka is a dish that's North African in origin and very common for breakfast in the Middle East. It's name is derived from a common last name in Tunisia, Chakchouk. That said, Turkey and Yemen also lay claim. Given that it reminded me of the Merguese sausage dish I had at a Tunisian restaurant, I'll go with the former.
Basically, it's eggs poached in a mildly seasoned (with harrisa) tomato broth that's loaded with chilies (mild ones), onions and roasted garlic. Quite frankly, there's a ton going on in this dish.
The Shakshuka Special, which is what I had is the basic dish with the addition of Merges sausage. This Middle Eastern lamb sausage is highly seasoned and incredibly tasty. Pretty much every bite with this dish is different. A deep, rich tomato flavour permeates, sometimes a bit garlicky, other times rich from the egg yolk. A hint of spice once in a while or sweet from a different chili. Just an incredible dish that's comfort food at it's best. Mostly served in the winter months in Israel.

Turkey ShawarmaThe Shawarma meat was something I've never seen. Instead of the usual chicken, Dr. Laffa was using turkey. The turkey was embedded with lamb fat as it's basting agent. The meat wasn't heavily seasoned but more left to stand on it's own merits. The sandwich was stuffed into a laffa with a nice mixture of sauces and vegetation. I think my bread of choice for shawarma is still pita but this was a nice change. All in all, this was a great sandwich. And big too. No, not big, HUGE!!

SufganiyotIn the run up to, and during Chanukah, Jews will often eat things deep fried.
Commemorating the miracle of the temple oil. Sufganiyah (SOOF-gone-ee-AH) are traditional jelly filled donuts that fit this bill nicely. Dough balls are fried, filled with jelly and topped with powdered sugar. These specimens are good but I think could be better. For me, there wasn’t enough jelly in them. Outside of that, I really liked them. I found them a bit more savoury than most donuts and to a degree, a bit more like bread than donut. These are totally not like the light, airy Krispy Kreme Original Glaze donuts. They’re denser and savoury balanced out the powdered sugar nicely. I rather enjoyed the chewiness.

FalafaelBaklava is a traditional dessert all over the Middle East. Chopped pistachios are sandwiched between layers of phyllo or, as in the case here, dressed up a bit more nicely. There’s plenty of sugar, usually in the form of honey to sweeten these up. While I really like baklava, I don’t love it. These specimens here are among the best I’ve had though.

Well there you have it folks, a little taste of Israel right here in TO.

You can find Dr. Laffa at 401 Magnetic Dr in Toronto.

View Larger Map

You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Dr. Laffa Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Revenge is a Dish best Served Cold

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (2)Thornton Prince of Nashville, Tennessee was a noted womanizer. Back in the 40’s and 50’s he was known to stay out all hours of the night philandering. After one particular night out gallivanting around town he returned home to his girlfriend. Fed up, she figured she’d fix his little red wagon. She whipped up a breakfast consisting of his favourite dish, fried chicken. There was however a little surprise. She’d laced it with cayenne pepper. Unfortunately the joke ended up on her. Prince loved it so much he tinkered with it and started selling it in his restaurant. A local legend was born. Everyone has now heard of Prince Thornton and no one knows his girlfriend’s name.
While there is no way to verify this anecdote the simple fact is, it’s way too good a story and as far as I’m concerned, can now be considered the genesis of Nashville Hot Chicken. A subsection of fried chicken. Though they say the current incarnation only dates back to the 70’s, Thornton's idea of incinerating peoples mouths with fried chicken still remains.
Hot Chicken (2)There are no less than a half dozen places that serve only hot chicken and a number of others who have it as a menu option. Of course, every restaurant will make it a bit different but the basics are pretty much the same. As you can well imagine, recipes are guarded like state secrets. A couple things you can be sure of are that the chicken is marinated in a molten liquid and finished with a fiery paste. It’s served on white bread and topped with pickles. The word is that Prince’s puts cayenne in just about every step of the process. From the dredges right down to the cooking oil. The specimens at Prince’s are fried up in a cast iron skillet.
Stories of this fiery chicken are the stuff of legend. "Some guy came in here once and ordered the extra hot chicken. He said it filled him up, cleared his sinuses, and killed his Athlete's Foot." Another story sees one man not showing up for work for 2 days after consuming the Extra Hot version. Supposedly there's no shortage of people who, um, bite off more than they can chew as it were and have to make a mad dash outside to, shall we say, divest themselves of their meal. I read that one customer brings a half gallon of chocolate milk with him. Ya, it's freakin' hot.
Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (1)Prince’s is located in a strip mall about a mile off I 65 in the Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood. Their hours are mostly geared towards the late night, after the bars close crowd. Word is, it can get pretty crazy by the time they wind things down around 4am. Thornton himself is long gone but his great niece, Andre Prince Jefferies now runs it. Soon, it’ll be passed along to her daughter.
InteriorThere’s seating for about two dozen and a number of chairs for those who are taking away to wait. You go up to the window behind the Cake Lady and place your order. Then you wait. And wait. It’s so busy they just crank it out piece after piece after piece. Every piece of chicken they serve is fresh cooked. Mostly because it’s all they can do to keep up with demand.
When I first started this little blog I began searching for places to visit. Prince’s immediately turned up and went to the top of the list. Sadly, it took me almost 4 years to finally make it. Well, let me tell ya, I’m sorry I didn’t make it sooner. It was well worth the wait. Let’s have a look.

BeansThere are a few different sides from which to choose. Mrs. Sippi decided she wanted beans. Pretty much your standard pork and beans done very nicely. We can’t decide if they were doctored, canned beans or made from scratch. I asked and just got a smile. Whatever their pedigree, they were very good. The gravy was a little thinner than usual and a little sweeter.

Hot Chicken (1)The chicken comes in 4 different heat levels. Mild, Medium, Hot and Extra Hot. It also comes in quarters, halves or whole. We ordered 3 hind quarters in the mild, medium and hot heat levels. Each comes pinned, with some pickles, to some white bread by a tooth pick. The pickles were quite good and I didn’t bother with the bread. (cw from bottom right: mild, medium, hot)
The chicken is rather salty but definitely in a good way. The heat isn’t just in that crispy coating but all the way through. If you could eat the bones I’m sure you’d find them spicy too. Honestly, this stuff really isn’t for the timid. It’s all about fire so caveat emptor.
What most wing places would parade out as medium, Prince’s calls mild. Easily hot enough to discourage those not into the spicy stuff. At this level the saltiness in the spice blend really stood out. All in all, really good but this chicken was too mild.
The hot was absolutely Blazing. While I’ve eaten hotter things, this was close. Way hotter than what you might expect. At this heat level I found the spicing and chicken flavour were overpowered by the heat. This chicken was too hot.
The medium was the perfect balance of heat, spice and chicken. This chicken was juuuuust right.

Cake Lady (1)I suggest making sure there’s room for dessert. The Cake Lady (Irene. That’s her daughter in the picture) makes several varieties and if the two samples we had were any indication, they’re all good. The thing is, I dove into a piece of cake and by the time I surfaced the raging inferno in my mouth was gone. The cake had put the fire out. So let’s have a look at what we had.
Cream Cheese Chess PieThe Cream Cheese Chess Square is basically a chess pie made into a sheet cake and cut into squares. The cream cheese added a bit of flavour and some structure. It wasn’t as custardy as the Chess Pie I make but it was mighty tasty.
Ms Mud CakeThe Mississippi Mud Cake was phenomenal. A nice chocolate, almost brownie like, cake topped with fluff and covered in a rich chocolate icing. There were a few pecans on top that I let Mrs. Sippi have. Being a chocoholic I absolutely loved it.

Well there you have it folks. The dish that put Nashville on the fired chicken map.

You can find Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack at 123 Ewing Dr in Nashville, Tn.

View Larger Map

You can also find them on facebook.
Prince's Hot Chicken Shack on Urbanspoon
Prince Hot Chicken Shack on Foodio54

Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court. Now where’s that Alka-Seltzer?? 


Saturday, January 5, 2013

No Vampires

Bubi's (1)“Welcome to the only establishment in Windsor and surrounding area that isn't afraid to use garlic to spice things up.” Says Buddy Miloyovich, owner of Bubi’s Awesome Eats in Windsor. His “House of garlic and pleasure.” I can now tell you from first hand experience, if you love garlic and/or are not a vampire, Bubi’s is the place for you.

Bubi's (2)Armed with an array of frozen yogurt recipes and a garlic fervor, in 1984 he set up shop in his grandmother’s (Bubi’s) house. The business grew as did the menu. Eventually expanding out of the old house. As it sits today, Bubi’s is a full sized bar and grill serving the Windsor area and in particular UW. An eclectic mix of burgers and other foods fill out a menu that “Reads like a book.”

Catch-UpBuddy Milyovich seems like quite the character. Excessive in his compulsions he also has a real zeal for the silly. A look at the menu will tell you that or you can just look at the “Catch-Up” (Ingredients: Red Stuff, Detroit River Water, Gum) bottle on the table. Buddy implausibly passes it off as his own, though it’s so obviously not. Give it a read, things like “Quality Questionable” and “Picked by underpaid Mexican’s. Viva la Free Trade” are printed on it. BTW, it’s Hunts Ketchup that’s actually in the bottle.

Detroit (1)Bubi’s sits just steps away from the university and two blocks from the Detroit River. Directly across from the Joe Louis Arena. A stroll down to the rivers edge reveals, perhaps, the best view of Detroit. You can also sit and watch the ships go by in the summer months. For those not familiar with the Great Lakes region, ships from all over the globe venture inland on these mammoth waterways. But I digress.

Bubi's Interior (3)Inside Bubi’s is set up somewhat like a house. There’s a large party room, much like a rec room and several smaller rooms. There’s of course even a kitchen and bathrooms. There’s a really nice bar and plenty of TV’s for all you sporting pleasures. The bulk of the staff are young, eager and either students or grads of the university. Put that together with Buddy’s sense of humour and you have a really nice, laid back setting.

I was aware of a great burger place in Windsor from various message boards over the years but unless I was reading it at the time, I would forget the name. Eventually I put it on my “To do” list but since we rarely stop there it was pretty much an after though. Then I see John Catucci and the You Gotta Eat Here team pay visit and I realize, this is a place we need to make an effort to visit. We were staying over night in Windsor and decided that this would be the time. So let’s have a look at how they did.

Bubi's SauceI guess the first thing to do is tell you about the Bubi’s Sauce. This Balkan condiment for kabobs is available for just about anything on the menu. Make no mistake, this stuff is powerful. If there was ever such a thing as “too garlicky” this sauce probably stops on it’s door step. It’s fantastic. Mayonnaise based with some seasonings, anchovies, capers and onions but just about everything is relegated to the role of “Extra.” They add depth but there’s absolutely no doubt who the star is.

Pizza CrustsIn the appetizer department a good bet is the Pizza Crusts. Really just bread sticks, the ones we ordered came with cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms. Sides of marinara and Bubi’s sauce accompany as well. On their own the crusts are nice. Dolled up with pizza fixin’s they’re even better. When you take all the toppings and the two sauces all together they’re excellent. Even the next day Mrs. Sippi was commenting on how much she loved them. A nice, albeit huge, way to start things off.

Dillon FriesYou can “Dillon” your fries which is to say, add garlic parmesan. The wedge fries themselves are nice but the adornment is really great. A wisp of garlic (compared to the sauce anyway) and nice parm really give some life to the ordinary potato.

Potato Cheddar SoupYou can substitute soup for the fries with you meal and on this day the soup du jour was Potato Cheddar. Home made it was really nice. It was a bit on the delicate side. We both had hoped for a more assertive cheddar taste and as such were a bit disappointed. That said, it was a nice, warm bowl of soup on a cold, wintery night. So no complaint there.

As much as anything, Bubi’s is about burgers. Their standard size is 1/3 lb. but you can “Bubi size” your burger up to 2/3 lb. You can build your own from the ground up or opt for one of the preordained selections. Not for the faint of heart (or the intellegent) you can also attempt the Bunda’s Big V8 Challenge. Both of us chose option 2 though.
Truck Drivin' Bubi'sMrs. Sippi had the Truck Driv’n Bubi’s (lettuce, tomato, mayo, bacon, slice cheese) and she said it was good but not great.
Philly BurgerI kinda got the same feeling from my Philly (cream cheese, grilled red & green peppers & onions, shaved philly steak). The burger itself had really good beef flavour and, oddly enough, I enjoyed every bite more and more. Not sure why my first bite wasn’t all that impressive (maybe I built it up in my head too much) but the more I ate, the more I thought, this really is a good burger. So it wasn’t the awe inspiring burger event I’d hoped for but a good solid burger is always welcome.

So there you have it folks, some good pub fare in a nice casual atmosphere.

You can find Bubi’s at 620 University Ave. W. in Windsor, Ontario.

View Larger Map

You can also find them on the web and facebook.
Bubi's Awsome Eats on Urbanspoon
Bubi's Awesome Eats on Foodio54

Well that’s all for now folks, we’ll catch ya later in the food court.