Decent meat pies from Nadege

Nadege in Yorkdale mallAddress: 3401 Dufferin Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.nadege-patisserie.com/

I just got a couple of meat pies from Nadege in Yorkdale — beef bourguignon and chicken basquaise — and they were both fine.  they were so middle-of-the-road that I’m having a hard time mustering up the enthusiasm to even write a few words about them, but this is a food blog.  It was food.  Let’s do this.

They both had the same puff pastry crust, which was light and flaky, if a bit dry.  Like everything else about these things, it was fine.

Nadege in Yorkdale mall

They heated them up for me, but clearly not enough, because they were vaguely hot in some places, and lukewarm in others.

The beef bourguignon had big, tender cubes of beef interspersed with carrot chunks.  It wasn’t bad, but nothing about it particularly stood out.  There just wasn’t much going on, flavour-wise, and the sauce was nonexistent — it was just dry chunks of beef and carrots.

Nadege in Yorkdale mall

The chicken basquaise had big chunks of chicken interspersed with pieces of peppers (red and yellow peppers, I think?  I ate this just a couple of hours ago and it has already almost completely faded from my memory).  Like the other pie, it was a bit bland.  It was also entirely sauce-less, and the chunks of chicken were kinda dry.  But it was fine.

I know I’ve said “fine” an awful lot, but it’s really the best word to describe these things.  By tomorrow they will have both entirely receded from my memory, like they never existed.

Pizzeria Libretto, or: The Inventor of Pizza is Rolling in His Grave

Pizzeria Libretto
Location: 545 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://pizzerialibretto.com/

So, here’s a not-so-delightful tidbit: apparently I’ve ruined Neapolitan-style pizza for myself by eating my way through Naples for a week, because I just got a margherita pizza from Pizzeria Libretto, and it was hot garbage.

I didn’t think the gulf in quality would be so severe, but absolutely everything about this pizza was wrong.  The proportion of sauce was off, but in a really baffling way — the pizza was simultaneously too dry, and too soft.  It was weird.  The flavour of the sauce was about right (the sauce in this style of pizza is just plain tomatoes, so it’s hard to mess up), but I don’t think there was enough of it.

Pizzeria Libretto

The cheese was okay, but again, the texture was off.  It was too dry.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly was wrong, because I’m not a pizza expert, but something was clearly wrong.  None of the pizzas in Naples developed brown spots on the cheese like this one, and the texture was slightly rubbery.

The worst offender was the crust.  It was somehow over-charred around the edges — it was unpleasantly bitter in spots — and under-charred on the bottom.  I mean, look at the almost entirely colourless bottom of this slice:

Pizzeria Libretto

That’s not right.  It was insanely bland, and had barely a fraction of the amazing chew that the pizzas in Naples had.  It was like Wonder Bread; there’s no there there.

Everything else was quite good, at least.  The buttermilk fried calamari featured a perfectly crispy, tasty exterior encasing squid with a great balance of tenderness and bite.  It came with some really tasty romesco sauce that accompanied it perfectly.

Pizzeria Libretto

I also tried the Prosciutto di Parma, and like the calamari, it was quite delicious.  Granted, all the restaurant had to do was slice it, but it was very tasty nonetheless.

Pizzeria Libretto

But that pizza, though.  What was that??  It was disastrously bad.  It was like the Neapolitan pizza equivalent of Pizza Pizza.  Actually, it was worse than Pizza Pizza, because at least Pizza Pizza knows what it is and doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur.

Waffle Double Down at KFC

Waffle Double Down at KFC

As ridiculous as the Waffle Double Down looks (and yeah, it is ridiculous), it’s basically just an oddball presentation of chicken and waffles.  And everybody loves chicken and waffles.  So it follows that this thing must be pretty good too, right?

Right?

Well… it’s not awful, I’ll give it that.

The Waffle Double Down is actually pretty simple: it’s two fried chicken patties encasing a Belgian waffle with maple aioli.

Waffle Double Down at KFC

I sort of figured that the aioli would be subtly sweet, but I think it might actually be sweeter than just plain maple syrup.  As soon as I unwrapped the sandwich (assuming that this thing even qualifies as a sandwich, which is questionable), the maple aroma hit me in the face like a ton of bricks.

And that was one of the main issues: the sandwich is way, way too sweet.  I like the combo of sweet and salty, and I quite like chicken and waffles, but this is leaning way too hard in the direction of in-your-face sweetness.  It’s almost dessert.

The other issue is the chicken itself.  You can get it regular or spicy; I went with spicy, because if someone asks you if you want something spicy, the correct answer is always yes.  And it’s not bad — the exterior was crispy and tasty, with a decent kick.  But the chicken was overcooked and dry, and since there’s so much of it, that’s an issue.  I had to constantly chug water between bites just to keep my mouth from completely drying out.

Waffle Double Down at KFC

The waffle was exactly what you’d think it would be.  If you’ve ever had prepackaged Belgian waffles, then you know what you’re getting.  It’s fine.

I actually wish that they’d drop the gimmick and just make this a regular waffle sandwich.  Because as it is, there’s an absurd amount dry chicken and not enough waffle.  The proportion is off.  It doesn’t taste right.

Oh, and this thing cost about $10.50 with tax, which is crazypants.  It is absolutely not worth that much money.

Eggs Benedict (?) at Smash Kitchen

Smash KitchenLocation: 4261 Highway 7, Unionville
Websitehttp://www.smashkitchen.com/

Is eggs benedict still eggs benedict if you don’t include the hollandaise sauce?  Traditionally, that dish consists of an english muffin topped with meat (usually ham or bacon), a poached egg, and hollandaise.

That’s four things; the hollandaise is 25 percent of the dish.   How far can you change something until it’s no longer that thing?  Is it still spaghetti and meatballs if you replace the tomato sauce with alfredo?  Probably not!

Which is to say that I just ordered the Smash Benedict from Smash Kitchen, and they replaced the hollandaise with gravy.  To be fair, they also have a traditional eggs benedict on the menu, so that does kinda give them license to mess around with it in their other offerings.

The problem is, I missed the hollandaise.  This particular benedict featured an english muffin topped with pulled pork, cheese, the standard poached egg, and the aforementioned gravy.  The pulled pork was tossed in a very vinegary barbecue sauce that, while tasty, absolutely dominated the dish.

A heaping serving of creamy hollandaise might have helped to cut the vinegary sharpness of the pork, but the gravy was completely lost.  It may as well have not even been there.  I had to eat most of this with some hash browns to help mellow out that strong barbecue sauce flavour.

Still, it certainly wasn’t bad, and the crispy fried hash browns were a very tasty accompaniment.  But if I came back, I’d probably just stick with the classic benedict (there was also a crab cake benedict that looked tasty, and yes — that one had hollandaise on it).

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s

Wendy's

Wendy’s is probably my favourite fast food burger joint (it’s neck-and-neck with A&W).  But of course, being the best fast food burger chain isn’t exactly a tall mountain to climb.  That’s why I was so shocked at how much I enjoyed the Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s.

It’s topped with mushrooms, bacon, aioli, fried onion tanglers, and Asiago cheese.  It’s easily the best fast food hamburger I’ve had in a long, long time.

It’s still a fast food burger, so the patty itself wasn’t particularly great — but it wasn’t too dry and it didn’t have any off flavours.  For a big fast food chain, that’s about as good as it gets.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's

Burgers from a place like this tend to be more about the toppings than the burger itself, and that’s where this one really stood out.  The Gouda was pleasantly sharp and creamy, the aioli was tasty, and the bacon was substantial enough to not get lost among the other flavours.

I’m normally not a huge fan of mushrooms on a burger, but these were well cooked and suited the burger well.  But what really put this over the top were the fried onion tanglers.  I assumed these were going to be the typical crispy fried onions that come out of a bag, but they were actually little onion rings that had clearly been freshly made. They were great.

Smoky Mushroom Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's

At first I was thinking that the price was a bit much — it’s about $7.50 with tax for the burger alone — but then I ate it, and yeah.  It’s worth the money.  It was good.  Not just good for fast food, but good, period.

I should note that the Wendy’s I went to was staffed entirely by adults who seemed to know what they were doing.  It was obvious that all of the components were relatively fresh, and it was assembled with care.  But it could have just as easily been thrown together by a bored teenager, so as is always the case with fast food, your mileage may vary.