Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chaise Cafe: 4/5

The Frenchman Burger
Platter: $13
Score: 4.2

The Behemoth Burger
Platter: $15
Score: 3.8

The Super Burger
Platter: $16
Score: 4.2

Chaise Café knows how to show Burger Club a good time! It all started with an e-mail from Chef Sopel that said simply “My grill holds lots of burgers.” The Chaise Café’s regular menu includes three burgers -  their popular veggie burger, a grilled chicken burger, and the Frenchman. Now these all sound great, but at Burger Club burgers are made of beef so Chef Sopel created a special “Burger Club Menu.” In addition to the Frenchman we could choose from the Behemoth and the Super burger.

Chaise Café is a stylish new restaurant in the French quarter that opened in the spring. April commented “The décor is really nice - great lighting and ambient music.” Bess added “Very classy décor! The jazz added a touch of sophistication to the meal.“ There were 18 of us dining and they were ready for us. We were setup in the private room upstairs and it was nice to be able to put all our heavy winter coats on the couches in the adjacent lounge. The lounge was also a nice space for conversation before and after the burgers arrived. Our tables were already set with side plates, linen serviettes, cutlery and waters. Our waitress, Jamie, was great. She really made it all a pleasurable dining experience. Robin summarized nicely with “Great local restaurant and loved the personal service - chef came up to chat!”

We usually dine early and this week we pre-ordered to save time in the hope we’d continue to have jobs to go back to. Chaise asked when we’d like our food on the table and I said 11:45. Well, the meals started arriving at 11:48 and we all had out burgers by 11:51. This was all the more impressive as Chaise had a full dining room downstairs as well. The meals were beautifully presented on square dishes with a closed burger and the plate rounded out with salad, fries, dip  and a quarter dill pickle.

The burgers seemed to give everyone plenty to think about – people write their reviews in tiny illegible script on the back of little rating slips, and this week I had to squint at over 950 words to transcribe onto the official Burger Club spreadsheet.

Chaise makes everything in-house including the bacon, and a lot of bacon was smoked in preparation for Burger Club. They also have their own baker and created a new “bun” to try out on us. It was a large flat pan of soft multi-grain bread carved up to fit the burger and it was very good!

At least half the group wanted to try more than one burger so several diners paired up with a “burger buddy.” Of course I wanted to try the new burger creations and Karen and I shared a Super and a Behemoth. Brett used a different selection criteria: “I thought we had to order based on nationality, super powers or body size … so I ordered the Behemoth.”

The Super Burger was “made with AAA Hanger steak ground and spiced in house, the burger stuffed with haloumi cheese, seared and fried in bacon drippings, topped with bacon and all the groceries.” It was snuggled between two slices of the flatbread. I quite enjoyed the flavour of the patty, the beef was rich, but lightly seasoned. Like any good steak chef, the kitchen seemed loath to overcook a fine cut of beef so it was prepared very moist and soft. Some diners commented they would have preferred a firmer textured patty. Esther observed “Everything looked great until I actually tried to eat the burger then it disintegrated on me.“ Nelson liked it: “The Super melted in my mouth. “ Dani commented “The meat was beautifully moist and tasty. Nicely spiced. I'm amazed it's all staying in one piece and not falling apart.“
The nugget of Haloumi cheese in the stuffed burger presented a firmer texture than the surrounding patty. It added some nice saltiness. I quite enjoyed the slightly sweet, soft leathery bacon. It was one more flavour and texture for the party in my mouth! The bun to burger ratio was good and as the Super burger had a steak knife impaled in it, I cut mine in half so had pretty good success keeping it all together. The softness of the bun matched the patty and didn’t present any incompatible stratum issues. The always eloquent Scott wrote “Taste was very balanced. All floors of my "burger tower" could be identified. The first bite was as good as the last. I was 4 bites in when I found the gooey cheese tucked inside. It was gratifying to have the line of cheese going from the burger to my lips. It had the excitement of pizza, with the taste of a burger!

My tomato was very ripe and the greens, both on the burger and in the salad, were fresh and tender. Chaise Café is known for its in-house flavoured Balsamic vinegars and the salad dressing was blueberry, honey, chili flake and Dijon.  It was delicious and had the occasional nice kick. Les agreed “Tasty salad.” The fries came with a garlic/basil aioli dipping sauce on the side. Bess commented “Frites were delicious! Loved the dipping sauce.”

The other burger I tried was the Behemoth, made “with beer sautéed onions and mushrooms between two grilled cheese sandwiches, the grilled cheeses have smoked provolone, jalapenos, and bacon in them.” Many of us had a similar creation at Rudy’s back in August 2012 and found ourselves comparing the two. For me the Behemoth was all about the grilled cheeses. They were squished crispy-good and filled with provolone - the cheese flavour stood out. There was also plenty of yummy bacon and the occasional bite of a pleasantly spicy Jalapeno pepper. The amount of bread wasn’t excessive (as was the common complaint at Rudy’s) but it still trumped the burger patty. Some thought the patty could use more seasoning to compete, others thought it was perfectly seasoned.
The grilled bread crusts were fairly hard and a few of our group thought it would be better with the crust removed.  April wrote “Behemoth was tasty. I liked the Jalapeño cheese; however the bread was a little too toasty/crispy.” Russ noted “Yummy burger. Once you get through to it.“ Most burgerers today ordered the Behemoth, I think because it’s hard to get past the allure of a burger between two grilled cheeses even though you know it’s going to be a lot of bread! The patty was firmer than the Super so stood up to the pressure plates of bacon-grilled bread. My Behemoth was topped with a big delicious slab of Shitake mushroom and that was a little bit of heaven for me. The fried onions were delicious and added moisture. This week it was Russ’s turn to unhinge his jaw to devour the Behemoth! As big as it sounds though, I finished mine and I think most people did. Karen said “Great size servings.”

Several people had the Frenchman: “Our spicy beef burger with arugula, cheese curds and a fried egg on top.” Stan had this to say: “Everything was perfect for me! The burger patty was done just right and had a very nice flavour. I especially liked the "bun". All the other components were just right! I wasn't sure how I'd like the egg on top, but it really worked for me.” Bess commented “The Frenchman burger was messily delicious with a mix of subtle flavours.” Mike liked his Frenchman: “That's some fancy burger. Patty was extremely flavourful, I'm still wondering what spices were in that patty.” Robin’s experience was “The yolk made this burger. Patty was a bit dry and the bun crumbled after first bite.” Robin has the pulse of dining in Winnipeg and writes the Peg City Grub blog. You can read her review of Burger Club’s visit to Chaise Café here.

As usual, I was running around taking pictures of burgers and Esther asked me “How many pictures on your camera are of burgers?” All of them - there’re no baby pictures on my camera!

When it came time to pay, that all went smoothly too. Chaise already had the separate bills broken out and printed at the till, and I don’t think there were any mistakes. The pastry cooler might have caught a few people on the way out though – it’s hard to resist!

Chaise Café really is the whole package. It’s a beautiful setting. Staff are clearly enjoying themselves and it shows – the service can’t be beat. They pay attention to the details from table settings to delivering a pre-order on time to refilling drinks and making sure everyone’s happy with their meals. Where many restaurants look elsewhere for their baking, Chaise has a very talented baker. I’m a fan!

This week the question of record keeping came up. If there was an audit of the Burger Club results, could I produce the original review slips and ratings? Yes, yes I can. I have a highly secure envelope (it has a little string to hold it shut) that now contains more than 700 tiny little pieces of paper.

April baked some cookies for a Movember fundraiser and some people tried theirs on. I ate mine.

Chaise Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Eddy's Place: 3.8/5

Bacon Cheese Burger


Score: 3.9

I love the look and feel of Eddy’s. The front facade is unassuming, but there are beautiful murals on either side of the building. Once through the doors you see an open kitchen with orange laminate counter tops and stools to watch the cook at work. As you venture further back into the long building, you find yourself in a double row of cozy booths – with the same orange tops. To the left are two magnificent 6 x 12 billiard tables – and they’re always in use. The bottom half of the walls are covered with the same basement carpeting your parents had in their rec-room in the 60s. As you reach the back, the walls turns to dark brown wood and brick paneling. Geoff remarked "The old fashioned décor is a nice touch, as is the eclectic collection of wall decorations, from moose antlers to a beer can fishing rod, to a picture of dogs playing pool."

I let them know we were coming and someone was nice enough to reserve four booths for us. I thought my booth was snug, but Dani said hers was roomy and Geoff's had a bar across the middle which made getting a second person in and out quite tricky. Bendy Bess had no problem though. Choose your booth carefully! Our server was quick and friendly. Cary ordered a float and our comedic waitress veered into the corny when she brought it out and said "Don’t let it float away!" Nelson noticed they serve "both Coke and Pepsi products. Bonus. No cups. Classy! Love a good restaurant that has soda floats."

I've been to Eddy’s a few times and came last week to case it out for Burger Club. The restaurant was packed and for whatever reason our burgers took quite a while. When the waitress scampered out with our meals she said, "I hope these are the most delicious burgers ever after waiting so long!" They were really good and when I asked "what happened at the grill?" She replied, "we’re really busy today – I guess we’re out of practice. We need to train more."

Fast forward a week and they must have practiced lots because our burgers came out fast. The patties were handmade and had great variability in size and shape. Dani noted “Hand formed patty a little bigger than the bun.” The flavour of the plentiful and perfectly cooked bacon came through; so did the generous portion of great tasting real cheddar cheese. Nelson observed “Tasted the bacon more than the burger.” Bess reminisced: “The burger reminded me of my father-in-law's burgers. "Kenny" burgers are the standard by which I judge all others. Too much mustard though.” I don't know if it was the waitress’s power of suggestion, or I was so hungry by the time the burger came out, but I thought last week’s burger tasted a bit better. I think this week’s patty was thinner and may have got lost in the mustard. The burger came with lots of fried onions which were really good, but they also contributed to a soggy bottom. Nelson described it as a "A 6-napkin burger!!" and was equally excited about the fried onions. Russ was enthused about the cheese: "I spy with my little eye: real cheddar!" The greens were fresh and there was lots of tomato. The soft sesame seed bun was tasty and a good size for the patty.

Geoff liked his burger: "Burger itself was solid, nice crispy portions of bacon. Definitely not a "cookie cutter" burger, the patty was obviously hand crafted, and done to my liking. I will come back for more." Mike wrote "Patty wasn't flavourful but the toppings made up for it. Bacon was great, and fries were good too." Eddy’s is inexpensive and Cary commented "Platter is a pretty good deal AND you can get BEER (or wine) with it!"

Esther tried the Poutine and said "The fries were really good. Gravy in the poutine really good as well." Dani said "the onion rings are awesome!"

When I was doing my research I came across Marion Warhaft’s nice review from 2012 where she mentioned that Eddy’s is known for its corned beef sandwich. The article has a great picture of the long time grill queen - Annette. On examining the menu, Geoff was "intrigued by the non-burger portion and may have to come back for the $9 Kuby + Perogies."

Heard Around the Booth

It’s been a while since we've been educated on the obscure by Cary. Today we learned he used to work at McDonald's where they used caulking guns loaded with Special Sauce, Tartar Sauce, and Mayonnaise to "Shoot the Goo" onto McBurgers.

It Takes a Community to Order a Burger

April was late arriving so texted in her order en-route. Geoff was placing the pre-order, but he doesn't pack a cell phone so I got the text: "Please order me a mushroom Swiss burger with bacon no pickles or onions no relish." I passed this info on to Geoff. The problem is, Eddy’s only lists one burger on the menu and it’s not a mushroom Swiss.
Geoff is a scientist and he was now faced with an unsolvable equation. He asked Esther to take a picture of the menu for April so she could see there was no mushroom Swiss burger and modify her order. Esther did, and April texted back: "I want a mushroom Swiss burger" and added "Order a second one for Bess." Geoff writhed and squirmed, took his hat off, put it on again and realized to make matters worse, the discussion of fries hadn't even come up. He was forced to make a compromise.
April and Bess arrived, and shortly after our waitress brought out their meals: two bacon-cheese burgers, one with fries. The punch line here is there's a menu next to the till, and when it came time to settle up with Annette – head cook and cashier - there it was: "Mushroom Swiss Burger" written on the wall.

Eddy's Place on Urbanspoon