Review: Joe Tomato’s

August 25, 2009

Joe Tomato's

Address: 1020 10th Street West, Owen Sound

Alana had: A panzerotti with olives, feta, and tomatoes, and a beer.

Rich had: Cheese tortellini in a rose sauce, with garlic bread and a Caesar.

Plus: Tasty Caesars. Decent panzerotti.

Minus: Weak pasta. Generic atmosphere.

Rating: 6 trivia cards out of 10

Alana sez: While in cottage country to celebrate our 1-year anniversary, Rich and I decided to boost the romance by taking in some haute cinema: G.I. Joe. We had some time to kill before the film, so we headed across the parking lot toward the nearest restaurant, Joe Tomato’s, to grab some lunch.

The inside of the place is decorated like your typical chain family-style restaurant — it actually reminded me a lot of Jawny Bakers, which is to say it had a very generic feel about it. The lunch menu covered your usual pub grub, pasta, and pizza selections. We quickly decided on pasta (Rich) and a panzerotti (Alana) and placed our order, lest we miss the beginning of our movie. Because that would have been a tragedy. And by “tragedy,” I mean “blessing” — G.I. Joe was brutal.

Rich sipped on his Caesar and I on my beer while we waited. Our food took no time at all, and I was soon digging into my panzerotti. I had asked the kitchen to stuff mine with feta, fresh tomato, and black olives — the result was a gigantic and super-flavourful Pizza Pop, with the perfect dough-to-filling ratio. I was somewhat impressed. The only real downside was the small bowl of cold marinara dipping sauce on the side, which had obviously gone straight from jar to plate.

Considering it’s the only restaurant in the area, we could have done a lot worse than Joe Tomato’s. That said, our lunches were really nothing special. Joe Tomato’s turned out to be a great precursor to G.I. Joe — the perfect pairing for those days when you want to celebrate mediocrity. Like your 1-year anniversary. Blerg.

Rich sez: Before you read this, keep in mind that I was just getting over food poisoning or some sort of stomach flu when we ate at Joe Tomato’s, so my judgement might be altered. And here we go…

The cheese tortellini in rose sauce … I am all for cheese, love it, can’t live a day without it, but there was more shredded Cracker Barrel marble cheese melted on top of my dish than there were tortellinis in my bowl. And what was up with the giant chunks of green onions?! The garlic bread tasted like frozen garbage, and the tortellini was definitely pre-packaged. I honestly think they just gave me one of those pasta dishes from Pizza Hut — you know the commercial with the family who is blind-folded, driven around the block a few times, sat down at their own dining room table thinking they’re at a fancy restaurant, fed some Pizza Hut pasta, and when the blind-folds come off they are shocked to find that they could get such high quality pasta by delivery? If you pay close attention to the disclaimer at the end of the commercial, it says “You can also enjoy this dish at your local Joe Tomato’s.”

Much better than the pasta was their Caesar. It was really tasty — for the rimmer they used hot sauce , and for more flavour they squeezed lime and lemon wedges into my drink. It was also served in a mason jar style glass. GOOD ONE, Joe.

JT FUN FACT: They have trivia cards at every table from various board games, so if you are out on a romantic 1st date(or in our case, 1 year anniversary … LOL. Sad.), and you need an ice-breaking conversation starter, look no further than Joe Tomato’s.

Review: The Kit Wat

August 24, 2009

More 004

Address: 71 Sauble Falls Rd, Sauble Beach, ON

Rich ordered: Veggie omelette, with homefries and toast.

Alana ordered: Fried egg sandwich with a side of homefries.

Plus: Very friendly staff. Great patio.

Minus: Mediocre breakfast. Rich got a tummy-ache.

Rating: 5 cottages out of 10

Rich sez: I have been going to Sauble Beach with my family every summer, for as long as I can remember. It’s like a second home to me, so breakfast at the Kit Wat is nothing out of the ordinary. The staff is amazingly friendly and they know my family by name. I’s located near the marina, attached to a motel across the street from a small grocery called Joseph’s. The inside has a small-town feel, with beachwood-like furniture and, when you step outside, you find a relaxing patio overlooking the marina. As people in paddle-boats pass, they greet you with friendly waves and high-spirited “good morning”s while you shovel your breaky down.

I usually order the ham and eggs, but decided on to switch it up on this particular occasion and went for the veggie omelette. The breakfast this time around seemed more store-bought than the home-made, heart-warming cooking that I’ve had at the Kit Wat in the past. I don’t want to knock this restaurant from this one bad experience, because it has filled my life and stomach with so much joy, BUT, the potatoes were very dry, the omelette was oddly-spiced, and I think I had some sort of bad reaction to the food. I can’t say for sure that my breakfast was the cause, but I ended up spending most of my cottage weekend in dire tummy pain. The weird thing about my stomach-ache was that the waitress at the Kit Wat had said to me, before I took my first bite, “the cook put something special in the middle of your omelette for you.” I didn’t taste anything unusual, but I definitely felt that “special something” donkey-punching my insides all weekend. That said, this recent weekend-ruining experience has not altered my view of this cozy restaurant at all but, next time I order, I will just get the ham and eggs.

Alana sez: On my first-ever visit to Sauble Beach, I was excited to try out some of Rich’s favourite childhood restaurants. Near the top of the list was the Kit Wat, a greasy-spoon hotel restaurant on the water, purported to serve up some pretty tasty breakfast — just what I was looking for on this particular morning.

Like Rich mentioned, the Kit Wat is a cozy, small-town diner with a great patio overlooking the lake. We took a seat outside, and our very friendly and accomodating, if somewhat absent-minded, waitress was quick to take our drink order. I ordered a Diet Coke, but ended up with a coffee — no biggie. I was a little chilly anyways, and it was nice to wrap my hands around the piping hot beverage.

From the pretty standard breakfast menu, I decided to try the fried egg sandwich. I also ordered some homefries, because a diner breakfast is not complete without potatoes. We enjoyed the scenery during the short wait for our food. When they arrived, my sandwich and potatoes looked appetizing — I quickly learned that looks can be deceiving. This wasn’t really a bad breakfast. It was just extremely boring. The potatoes had no flavour, and had clearly been previously frozen. The fried egg sandwich was also nothing special, served on Wonder bread and with absolutely no seasoning to speak of.

It’s too bad that our meals were so uninspiring, because the Kit Wat is a charming little restaurant and has the potential to be a great go-to breakfast joint in cottage country. However, unless the food improves greatly, I’ll be sticking with cereal next time I visit Sauble Beach.

Review: The Keg Mansion

August 5, 2009

lobster

Address: 515 Jarvis Street, Toronto

Alana and Rich both had: The tempura asparagus and snap pea appetizer, and a trio of mini-desserts.

Alana had: A whole steamed lobster with a baked potato, and a pint of Creemore.

Rich had: Grilled tiger shrimp skewers with mashed potatoes, and a mojito.

Plus: Amazing service. Cool atmosphere. The steaks, probably.

Minus: Seafood was good, not great. Dessert was disappointing.

Rating: 6 rock lobsters out of 10

Alana sez: It’s tough, and maybe even a little douchebaggy, to review a steakhouse when you don’t eat steak — as fish-eating vegetarians, Rich and I aren’t able to comment on the seared cow parts that the Keg is best known for. However, after a gift-card purchase mishap, we recently found ourselves with $25 in Keg-dollars during the restaurant’s annual “Lobster Summer” festival — if  these fishetarians are going to eat at beef-village, we might as well do it when seafood is on special.

We decided to head down to the Keg Mansion on a quiet Monday evening. Stepping into the restaurant is like entering a very old and very rich relative’s home — dark wood floors, rich carpet, dark red walls, ornate and fussy decor, and gorgeous lighting fixtures. I loved the spectacle of it. The place was deserted, so we were quickly led to a table near a window — it was nice to have some sunlight in the otherwise dim space.

After our excellent waiter had swung by to take our drink order, Rich and I didn’t need much time to settle on our meal choices — there aren’t a lot of beef-free options on the Keg menu, even during Lobster Summer. We ordered some tempura asparagus and snap peas to start, and I decided on the two-pound whole lobster for my main. Since I had never eaten a whole lobster before and I was a little frightened, I asked to have my sea-bug cracked in the kitchen for me. The Keg was happy to oblige my wimpiness.

Our appetizer came out quickly. The plate was piled high with deep-fried asparagus and snap peas, and came with a little bowl of soy-based dipping sauce. The batter on the fresh-tasting veggies was light, crispy, and not greasy at all. This tempura rivaled the efforts of most of the Japanese restaurants I have tried in Toronto.

Our meals arrived just as promptly as the appetizer, my giant lobster taking up most of the table. The monster, split down the middle as promised by our waiter,  came with drawn butter and a baked potato. I wasn’t sure where to start — claws? tail? legs? feelers? — so, I grabbed the nearest body part and dove in. The lobster meat was fresh, tasty, and generally tender, but I found the tail to be a little tough. The baked potato was pretty standard — I was disappointed to find its skin leathery and chewy and, as I gnawed on it, I grew envious of Rich’s huge mound of mashed potatoes.

After dinner we were prety stuffed, but the server who cleared our table convinced us to try some of the Keg’s “mini-desserts” — 3 oz. shots of sweetness. We settled on the cherry cheesecake, the chocolate fudge brownie, and the lemon blueberry tart. As promised, they each arrived in a large shot glass. Cute presentation, but our first bites failed to impress. Each of the desserts tasted generic and store-bought. Meh. Not the best way to end our meal.

Although the service was stellar at the Keg Mansion and the atmosphere was fun, the food we ate was generally pretty average (with the exception of the tempura appetizer). It’s true that we didn’t try the steaks, which may be amazing, but you would think that a restaurant celebrating “Lobster Summer” would come through on the party’s guest of honour. I didn’t have a bad experience at the Keg, but I’m sure I can find a tastier $130 two-person meal in Toronto.

Rich sez: My past experiences at the Keg have been meh. The first time I had their steak, it was amazing — one of the best I have ever had. Over the next few visits, however, they were some of the worst. So, now being a  “fishetarian,” I thought it might be worth trying out their seafood menu. Tiger shrimp skewers ahoy, with some mash-it-up potatoes.

The presentation was great, the tiger shrimp were huge , but they were also over-cooked and a little stringy. Sad. The mashed potatoes were as good as the instant microwavable ones — you know the ones — Betty Crocker’s box full of powder, add water, milk and toss in the microwave and, presto chango, potatoes that are surprisingly delicious. Well, the Keg’s were even better then Crocker’s, and if I were ever to feel like going back and over-paying for my dinner, I would just order a big plate of those mashed taters.

I just want to add my two cents to the disgusting dessert — it was disgusting.

If you’re going to the Keg, order the steak – obviously.