Category Archives: Local

Road trip! Wildfire BBQ in Perth

Despite being a chilly, cloudy day, the ever changing fall colour palette of buff to amethyst and everything in between makes a drive through rural Eastern Ontario a feast for the eyes. The native sumacs are at their fiery peak. Honey locusts glow golden and look as if they could light the way at night. Fall is quick upon us and Wildfire BBQ and Smokehouse in Perth will only be open until Thanksgiving (Canadian, the real one).

Wildfire 1With Josie packed into the back of the car, we head out on our hour trek to find out if the Wildfire is the real deal Southern Q we have been searching for in the Great White North.

Perth itself is worth the drive. A charming, quaint town on the Tay River, it offers a few eateries and pretty main street shopping. BBQ is just a bonus.

Wildfire 16We pull up to a tidy red trailer, attached to another out building.  The patio dining area is fenced with rustic cedar rails and features picnic tables and an oversize Adirondack chair you could photograph a family of five in.

Wildfire 4Parking is in the rear, as is the smoker and piles of split hickory and cherry wood.

Wildfire 7We head around front where a biking couple is just finishing up. Other than that, we are the only other diners. We order up brisket and ribs which come with four sides. They allow Josie to eat on the patio, so I know this is a classy joint.

Wildfire 5Food comes out in in plastic baskets and red and white checkered paper. Classic. Wildfire offers both metal and plastic cutlery which is appreciated. We tuck in.

A nuisance of wasps arrives but for some reason leaves after about three minutes. Wish I knew that secret.

The brisket is ‘wet”. We were not offered a choice of wet or dry (fat or lean) as you often are in Southern USA joints, but I would have ordered the wet anyways because it is the tastiest. Wildfire brisket does not disappoint. It is as delicious as it looks. Rich, deep, rosy smoke ring and beautiful dark bark. It is lightly sauced and a squirt of their own bbq sauce on the side makes for a more than decent brisket. Wildfire 10This is probably the best I have had since Kreuz Market in Texas, which I pine for weekly. Josie also enjoyed the brisket. Happy puppy mouth.

Wildfire 15Two sides come with the each meat order. My mac and cheese is underwhelming. Large, overcooked elbows of pasta swimming in a mild cheesy sauce. The maple cream corn is interesting. While tasty, it is very loose.

Rob’s ribs are fantastic as well. Wildfire is two for two on the meat. The pork ribs are meaty and smoky sweet. Again, the meat succulent with a beautiful, pink smoke ring, is perfectly smoked and sauced.

Wildfire 14Wildfire’s BBQ beans are also a standout. Navy and kidney beans are slow cooked medium sweet and smoky, Rob’s second side is coleslaw which is a decent homemade cabbage slaw but nothing out of the ordinary.Wildfire 12Wildfire certainty has done the South proud and done honour to the pig. A few things are missing but they are minor. Some pickle and white bread would be nice. The over cooked, ubiquitous corn on the cob of the South is happily absent.  Wildfire offers homemade sweet tea but does not offer unsweetened or half sweet so I passed.

Wildfire 6I look forward to trying some of Wildfire’s other menu items on a future road trip in true BBQ weather.

 

 

Dosa! Excellent Veggie Street Fare

Sigh. Another incredible early fall day in Ottawa. Time to take advantage and hit up another food truck. I hope I will steel my nerves and visit them during the winter months but I can’t promise. We certainly have enjoyed them this summer when weather and time permits. Added bonus is that they are one type of resto where we can bring a pooch and Josie is quickly becoming a seasoned food truck gourmand.

Dosa is located at the SW corner of Dundonald Park at Lyon and Somerset streets. So far this is one of the best located trucks, at least by this diner’s point of view. Buy lunch and settle in on a bench or at a table in the dappled shade of pretty Dundonald Park, open to dogs on leash. The Dosa Inc. truck has a QR code on the back and you can scan it with your phone and a menu will pop up to peruse while you wait.

Dosa 1The truck had no line today, but many patrons were already chowing down in the park when we arrived after noon. Service is fast, friendly and helpful. And had never served a dog before. Dosa, a vegetarian staple from the south of India, combines rice and lentil batter to form a large, thin crepe. The crepe is served with a variety (13 choices at Dosa) of meat-free fillings. Each dosa comes with a lightly spiced stew, called sambar, a cooling chutney and a good scatter of thin, crisp, well-made plantain chips. According to Wikipedia, “Sambar is a vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind and pigeon peas”. Dosa Inc’s version, thin and very mild heat-wise also has some eggplant. The chutney, nothing like the bottled mango chutney most of us are familiar with, tastes blandly of coconut and I found to be ideal when paired with the mild spice of the dosa.

Dosa 2Josie decides on a breakfast dosa, spinach, fried egg and cheese with no sides. Rob got the #3, a classic Masala Dosa, filled with potatoes, vegetables and spices and I ordered a dosa stuffed with sweet red cabbage, spiced mushrooms and cheese. We choose to eat our dosas with a fork and knife but it could easily be rolled and eaten by hand. My dosa #7, the Gooey Gouzenko, had nice texture provided by the cabbage. The mushrooms added spice and a mild , pleasant heat. I assume the cheese was paneer. A little more cheese would have been nice, but overall, it was quite filling and a really nice change to a sandwich or a chip truck for the Ottawa lunch crew.

Dosa 4Rob’s masala dosa was full of a classic Indian potato and vegetable mixture. The potatoes were perfectly cooked and not mushy. The dosa doesn’t give you impression of eating carb-on-carb, perhaps because of the the lentils in the pancake or the texture of the extra vegetables. Dosa 8While yellow with spice, it had a very mild heat. A home-made hot sauce was available at the truck for those with more adventurous tastes, but if you’re wary of spicy food, you can eat at Dosa without a concern.

Dosa 6Josie gobbled her dosa, licked her lips and then begged for plantain chips. A dog of few words, Josie heartily endorses the Dosa truck as a great addition to Ottawa’s street food scene. Dosas are both vegetarian and gluten-free.

Dosa 9$25 for 3 dosas, one canned drink and one mango lassie. Note: Josie’s dosa was discounted $2 because we asked that they not include the sides. We were refunded the cost of one dosa because I had emailed Jake about not being there on time yesterday at lunch. The refund is not reflected in the price quoted here.

 

 

Urban Cowboy. Woah!

Indian Summer here in Ottawa, sunny but with the crisp of fall hovering on the air. Another great day to check out Ottawa’s food truck offerings. We intended to check Dosa Inc out, but they were very late to their stated location and did not update their Twitter feed. Jake answered my email to apologize. We will try again on the next sunny free day. So, plan B: Urban Cowboy at its permanent location, Bank and Glen streets.

UCAs it turns out, Plan B would have been a fabulous Plan A. Parking, unmetered at this point, can be found fairly easily. Only six people wait in line ahead of us today. Our orders are taken by a friendly fellow outside the truck, who inputs it into an iPad for the kitchen. Rob selects the Belcher Burger Combo (A BBQ brisket sandwich), which includes a drink and a side of Sweet Potato fries. I choose the Shrimp Taco Combo, and go with the Truffled Mac and Cheese to round it out. Josie is getting a treat today and has decided on the Belcher burger with no sides.

UC 1After about an eight minute wait, food begins to hit the street and soon we are laden down with good sized baskets and looking around for a shady place to eat. There are not many within easy sight but we managed. We tied Josie to a tree and spread out our picnic.

First off, the side portions are extremely generous. The truffled mac and cheese, delicious and creamy, topped with fresh green onions, satisfies with the first bite. The kitchen uses a light hand with the truffle oil so as not to overpower the delicate cheesy pasta. Rob’s sweet potato fries are tempura battered, lightly salted with sea salt, topped with some fresh green onion and served with Urban Cowboy’s own sweet, tangy aioli. The fries are firm, large cut and not greasy. Quite possibly the best sweet potato fries in the city.

UC 2The mains are equally well considered and executed. The brisket burger had a small bakery bun but was packed with thick slices of smoky beef brisket in a sweet, homemade BBQ sauce. My shrimp taco was one of the best ones I have had anywhere, off a truck, or in a restaurant. Sweet, succulent shrimp are piled into a soft flour tortilla with slaw. The taco is the perfect combo of a little sweet, a little heat, and a little crunch. It was so satisfying, in hindsight, I should have forsaken the very excellent mac and cheese for another one of these.

UC 3Josie gave me her dill pickle and then polished of every molecule of her Belcher Burger and gives it three paws up. Four and she falls down.

UC 5$30.50  for two mains with combos which included canned drinks, and a main, no combo. Highly recommended. The only improvement this truck could make is location and I’m not sure how much of that is under their control. Near a park with lots of seating would be awesome.

 

Bap by Raon Kitchen

It is a glorious hot, sunny day in Ottawa this Friday. Time to take advantage of the city’s new food trucks and carts. Bap by RaonKitchen, a Korean cart specializing in bimbimbap is close by, located on Bank St. between Albert and Slater.

Bap 1We head on over and get in line with about 20 people ahead of us. The wait, just under fifteen minutes allowed us to soak up the beautiful weather. Three types of bimbimbap are on offer, tofu, beef and chicken. I choose the chicken, advertized as spicy, and Rob gets the less spicy beef option so we can share a bit with Josie.

Bap 6We snag a nearby street-side bench and dig in. Bimbimbap, Korea’s national dish and a a meal in a bowl,  is characterized by a crispy, chewy, delectable rice with a crust, that forms when serving the dish in a hot stone vessel. I was curious as to how this would be accomplished by a small cart serving takeout. It’s not. The bap, although missing this component is still a thoroughly satisfying rice dish, flavourful, creamy and studded with mushroom, spinach and shredded carrot.  The obligatory fried egg topping is added to the dish in omelet strip form. This really adds little to the overall taste. The bap would be markedly improved by adding a whole fried egg although I admit this may be difficult to accomplish given what they are working with on the street.

Bap 3The proteins, chicken and beef, add taste and texture and round out the ingredients. They soak up the Korean BBQ sauce and spicy kimchi adding to the overall deliciousness of the bap. The chicken bap packs a flavourful chili heat that leaves your mouth tingling for a good ten minutes after. Quite nice. The beef added a meatiness to the overall dish.

Bap 4$17.00 for two meat bimbimbaps (about two cups of food each) and two cans of San Pelliegrino. I would certainly enjoy this for lunch if I were in the area. A nice addition to the Ottawa street food scene.

Long-Awaited Bao Cart

2013 is the year Ottawa finally jumped on the exciting food truck bandwagon that most major cities have already embraced. Offerings include BBQ, Texan, Korean and Indian among others. Rob and I have been awaiting the opening of the Gongfu Bao food cart for some time. When Ottawa announced the introduction of these new restos on wheels back in May, we headed to the corner of Elgin and Slater for a quick lunch. Alas the cart was not to be found. I started stalking them on Facebook and learned that they were not operational, working out kinks, waiting for the cart and on and on.  I soon forgot about them. Then finally in August they are up and running.

Bao Cart 1

Today the dog and I walked over, braving threatening weather. Rob was meeting us there between meetings. When I arrive at 11:30 there is a small line up. I’m eighth in line. They are a half hour late getting started. The young man taking orders in line says the steamer takes at least 10 minutes to get to temperature and then it has to cook the buns. Gonfu offered up two steamed buns today, Maple Charsiu Pork Bao and a Tofu Spinach Curry bun. Those of you who know me know I wrote tofu off last year after many failed attempts to like it, and so I ordered us two of the pork buns with the Killer Slaw. I actually ordered twice, because when the line was only 10, the young man asked us what we wanted so they could get going. He then came around 15 minutes later with a pen and paper and did the same thing over again. When all was said and in my hand to be gobbled, I had waited in line for 40 minutes. I’m glad I do not have the office job most people in line were trying to get back to.

Bao Cart

We settled down on a nearby bench with fellow bao dinners and dug in. The Killer Slaw is well, …killer. Excellent. Tangy with a bit of heat, crunchy with paper thin mandolined vegetables, peanuts and crispy fried onion. The bao itself was decent. I would prefer a little thinner, stickier dough. The bbq pork interior was plentiful, tasty and sweet. Did not detect any discernible maple,  but it was quite flavorful. $20 for two buns, slaw and two locally made ginger beers.

Bao Cart 3Bao Cart 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gongfu cart offers good value and pretty good fare. Would I wait 40 minutes in line for it again? No. I was really waiting for this particular rolling resto to get up and running. I sincerely hope the young guys putting their heart and souls into this enterprise succeed, but they really need to get organized and open on time. People are fairly patient in this city but they, for the most part have to eat and return to work and other options are plentiful. Located at Confederation Park, corner of Slater and Elgin Streets

Bao Cart 2Bao Cart 6