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#MezcalMeetup – Tacos & New Friends

Mezcal Hamilton

A rambunctious group of Hamilton bloggers congregate at Hamilton’s hottest new taco and tequila bar for what would end up being an exuberantly fun-filled night! Located at 150 James St. South, Mezcal has a wonderfully saloon-y feel to it that is warm, local, and rustic.

[Click here if you hate people and just want to read about the food]

The Crew

Chanry

Chanry – The Hungry Gnome

The blog in 3 words: Sassy Food Rants

Twitter: @TheRealChanry

Instagram: @TheRealChanry

If you were reincarnated as any animal you wanted, what would it be?

Sloth. (Because “Eat all day. Sleep all night. Party never.”)

What is your catch phrase?

“On point” – that ass is “on point”. The pasta dish was “on point”.

What’s your favourite Hamilton restaurant?

Tung Hing for banh mi. Not a restaurant but for $2.50, it’s a spot on meal.

Andrea @MmadhungryAndrea  – I’m Mad Hungry

The blog in 3 words: Make you hungry

Twitter: @MMadHungry

Instagram: @MMadHungry

If you were reincarnated as any animal you wanted, what would it be?

An owl. (Even though she’s seen that weird gif of the five freaky owls doing freaky things.)

What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Sea cucumber! And I still don’t like it. People might think pig ears.. Or animal organs are weird but in any Asian culture it’s not! 

I grew up eating all that XD

If you were to plan a themed party for yourself, what would the theme be?

This is difficult! Umm studio ghibli themed party!

What’s your favourite Hamilton restaurant?

Korea House

Priya @_Kitchen_WORLDPriya  – Little Kitchen. Big World.

Twitter: @_kitchen_WORLD

Instagram: @littlekitchenbigworld

If you were reincarnated as any animal you wanted, what would it be?

A penguin. 

*Note: Priya has divulged that she loves the way they walk, and if she were to be confronted with a penguin, she’ll probably freak out like Kristen Bell with sloths and cry.

 

Justin @the_JMoneyJustin  – Eating Your Content

The blog in 3 words: Cheap Food Joy

Twitter: @the_JMoney

Instagram: @the_Jmoney

You get unlimited money to travel to one place. Where would you go?

I’d travel to Japan for sure. I know almost nothing about Japanese cuisine and the range of food from dirt poor to the highest in refined dining is something very intriguing to me.

What were you obsessed with when you were 8?

Are we talking food obsession at 8? That would be Lasagna for sure and Italian food as a whole.

What’s your favourite Hamilton restaurant?

Favourite nowadays is a tough call. Best food I’d say Rapscallion. Place I think of every time someone says “where do you want to eat” is The Collins Brewhouse in Dundas though.

Jessica @HungryinHamiltonRachel  – Hungry in Hamilton

The blog in 3 words: Honest, silly, informative

Twitter: @HungrynHamilton

Instagram:  @HungryinHamilton

If you were reincarnated as any animal you wanted, what would it be?

A cat.

You get kidnapped by aliens. You get to either travel to their planet or they’ll leave you back on Earth, but 500 years in the future. Which would you choose?

Stay on earth 500 years in the future!

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

When I was a teenager, I stole my mom’s car and drove to Wasaga Beach to meet friends! I swear I’m not that much of a bad-ass any more!

What’s your favourite Hamilton restaurant?

NaRoma Pizza Bar!

Leslie and John @HungryinHamONTLeslie & Jonathan  – Hungry in the Hammer

The blog in 3 words: Infrequent, irreverent, delicious

Leslie

Twitter: @HungryHamOnt

Instagram:  @HungryintheHammer

If you were reincarnated as any animal you wanted, what would it be?

One of my dogs. They are spoiled!

What would you say your catch phrase is?

I didn’t have one until last night. Now it is pedantic.

What’s your favourite Hamilton restaurant?

Charred. Good, honest food at a good price.

Jonathan

Twitter: @Johnnywedekind

Gardening Blog: Wedekind’s Garden

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
Hahaha what a great question. I don’t know to be honest. I have had a lot of fun and exciting times. I guess if I had to choose just one, it would be going to teach in Africa. I had never been outside of North America till that point and it was a huge and amazing experience

Fill in the blank: I would do anything for love but I won’t do ______________?

Answer 1: [REDACTED]

Answer 2:  I would say I won’t do murder or killin’. I am not a violent person and I couldn’t hurt an animal or person.

What’s your favourite Hamilton restaurant?
Right now, I would say my favourite is The Tavern on George. The ambiance, hands on service from the chef, the food, the drinks, everything is just amazing. I want to while away Friday evenings their sipping on cocktails listening to Frank Sinatra.

Sid, Charaya, Matt

They don’t have blogs but the atmosphere just wouldn’t be the same without @Charaya, @Sidman, and @MCSattle . Charaya is the funnier of the Thach sisters and never fails to mention it. Sid is the glue that keeps the Belly Monsters together and fighting and loving. And Matt, well, he’s lucky that Chanry brings him along.

The Food

Drink

We all started off with a round of drinks and appetizers. The salsa and chips & guacamole and chips (not pictured) are STRAIGHT OFF THE CHAIN. The salsa was chunky, not watery, chock-ful of salsa goodness. The chips are made fresh in-house and when drizzled with lime, become incomparable to anything you’ll ever buy in a grocery store. The Jicama salad was refreshing, crunchy, and bountiful.

I had the drink called “El Burro” ($12). I didn’t get a picture of the menu, but it had ginger beer and mint, and probably tequila. It was SO delicious. Fresh and not an overly strong alcohol taste. I definitely did feel it even after only one drink!

Chicharron Mezcal

Whatever you do, if you go to Mezcal and you don’t order the chicharron. You need to get out, because what’s the point? It’s crispy. It’s tender. It’s topped with pickles, feta, cabbage, hot sauce. It’s melt in your mouth. It’s spicy. It’s everything you ever want in a lover.

Tacos Mezcal

This is what most people come to a taco bar for. 3 tacos for $15 is a quite pricey, but when you take a bite into these, you’ll know why. Full of flavour, fresh ingredients, and love. And probably crack, but I’ll let the kitchen keep that one a secret. The crispy cauliflower surprisingly holds its own among the meaty tacos, so don’t write it off! It’s cooked perfectly, crispy exterior, soft but not mushy. Perfect seasoning. The Chorizo Pastor taco tastes like summer. The chorizo is wonderfully smokey. It’s topped with sweet pineapples that compliment the meatiness. Eating this taco makes you forget that it’s barely above zero degrees outside. The bistec adobo  is tender and sweet. And I love that it’s topped with nice crunchy cabbage for a playful texture contrast.

One of the winning aspects of these tacos is that the shell does not fall apart!! You take a bite, and then you aren’t left with soggy taco shells in your sweaty fingers with taco filling all over your table and lap. That would be the worst.

Also, you’ve got to try the two sauces that are on the table. One is an avocado-lime crema and the other a delicious housemade hotsauce. Do not neglect these sauces!

For dessert, skip the chilli chocolate tarro in favour of the rice pudding. The chocolate is nice if you want to play it safe, with it’s warm, soft, fudgey chocolate cake topped with ice cream and fun, delicious pumpkin seeds, but there was no chilli flavour at all. The rice pudding though, oh mama. Served warm, topped with ice cream for that temperature play that some of the BDSM folk are so fond of. The rice isn’t mushy, it’s just got the perfect bite to it, balanced, sensual, delicate flavours. SO GOOD.

The night continued across the street at Radius for buck-a-shuck oysters and then over to the Owl of Minerva for late-night Korean, because really, with the Belly Monsters, we never eat at just one place.

So what did we learn this night?

  • Jonathan has THE MOST infectious laugh you have ever heard. In your life. Ever.
  • Charaya and Chanry’s mom never let them prepare food while laying on their bellies because they’d turn into alligators.
  • Leslie informed us that back in the good ol’ days, you find your mating partner in grocery stores and there’s a whole science in how to pick someone up. If a guy only has frozen food in his cart, he’s definitely single.
  • Sid reminded us all not to mindlessly eat whatever is on his plate because he chewed and swallowed a biiig hunk of pickled ginger, like a champ.
  • I also learned that to up my pickle game, I have to go to the Mustard Seed on York to buy a $12 jar of pickles that will change my life.
  • And lastly, it’s reinforced that food brings people together, whether you are long-time friends or just stalk each other on the internet.

Charlie’s Chopsticks Grand Opening

Charlie's Chopsticks Logo

My little brother got the chance to be a part of the creation of a new fresh take out restaurant! How very exciting. I got the chance to go in and sample everything and share my experience with you.

If you have passed 970 Upper James (right near the Linc) recently, you may have noticed this little shop open up in the sex shop plaza. Leading up to their grand opening, they have been giving out samples of all their menu items for everyone who walked in.

Charlie’s Chopsticks is a custom asian open concept kitchen that caters to those who want to eat well, healthy, and quickly.

Sushi Cut

Charlie’s Chopsticks offers three main items: Rolls (Sushi & Summer), Rice Dishes, and Drinks. When you walk into the store, you’ll immediately see the counter with the main ingredients that you can choose to customize your meal.

Sushi roll charlie's chopsticks

The first thing I had was the sushi roll. I really like how you really just get to choose whatever you want to make your own custom sushi roll just the way you like it. I think you can have a maximum of 5 items, which is a ton to fit inside one roll. I chose to put my favourite items: salmon, crab stick, cucumber, sweet egg, and mango. It was pretty cool to watch them roll my sushi.

sushi cutter

This blew my mind the most. They put the sushi roll into this machine and it cuts it all up for you. WHAT?! So cool. Where do I get one for my house? My carrots would be such even sizes.

Charlie's Chopsticks Sauces

This is the part that gets really interesting. In addition to the soy sauce that you usually get with sushi, you have a range of other sauces you can try too. Their spicy mayo is particularly interesting. It’s not just the Kewpie Mayo (or baby mayo, as we call it in my house) & Sriracha combination that you basically get everywhere else, but this has a great hint of ginger to it as well. I loved it. One of the workers encouraged me to try the wafu sauce as well, which is a Japanese sesame dressing, and I’m glad I did because that tasted great with the fresh sushi. I don’t have anything else to compare the wafu sauce to though, but it was great.

There is also a few secret sauces. The two of my favourite being Honey Peach and my absolute favourite: Maple Ginger. I just could not get enough of that Maple Ginger. Just the right amount of sweetness and savouriness.

Custom Summer Roll Charlie's Chopsticks

The next thing I tried were the Summer rolls that they offered. Patrons of Vietnamese restaurants may know them as fresh rolls. They are basically any ingredient you like, wrapped up in a rice paper wrap. It’s light and yummy. Traditionally, in my home, we add vermicelli into it as well, but this way you get more fun stuff and less filler. I had mine with lettuce, mango, sweet egg, cucumber, avocado, ginger beef, and a little slice of clementine, which the employee strongly suggest. I never would have guessed to put the clementine it, but the sweet burst of flavour was a great enhancement.

Charlie’s Chopsticks even offers traditional Vietnamese nuoc mam, or fish sauce. Please don’t let the name scare you away because it tastes NOTHING like fish. It is a fish sauce mixed with garlic, lemon, and a few other things that I don’t know because I haven’t asked my mother how to make it yet. But seriously, this sauce is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, and the salty lemony garlicky flavour compliments these rolls like nothing else. I think it’s the greatest compliment when I say these rolls taste just like we make them at home.

I won’t lie. I stood there and tried a few other rolls, a few with strawberries for colour, and of course, fresh bacon. The owners order many of the veggies local and the bacon come straight from Mennonite farmers in Hamilton’s Farmer’s Market.

I have never had bacon this good.

I don’t know what it was about it, but dang. It was just crispy enough with a bit of chew, my perfect texture. The taste was beyond anything else. Damn, I was just about ready to hop off the bacon train, but that piece of bacon in one of my many fresh rolls was just BEYOND.

meat dish

Lastly, I tried the rice dish. You get to choose your meat: chicken, beef, or pork, and then you have the piece of meat basted with whatever flavour you like (I got chicken with maple ginger, and beef with teriyaki). It goes through the oven (though I think they might be replacing that with a grill), and gets served with a bowl of rice and your choice of veggies. Again, I highly recommend trying the fish sauce with this dish.

Charlie’s Chopsticks will be serving bubble tea (with choices of grass jellies, fruit jellies, tapioca) and fresh fruit smoothies.

All in all, while the food is not gourmet or out of the box, it is good, wholesome, fresh food, which is definitely hard to find in today’s fast food industry. Their prices are awesome for a quick lunch, or a light, healthy dinner. The best bit is that they’re open late every night (past midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) and they do delivery as well. Who HASN’T sat there thinking, oh, I could totally do sushi right now, but balked at the time, drive, price of sushi restaurants? And who really wants to put pants on to go buy some crappy day old grocery store sushi?

Charlie’s Chopsticks officially opens TODAY (!) October 18, 2014, at 11 a.m. and the first 88 people in the doors will receive a voucher for 30 free items. Spread the word, #hamont, the new take out is here.

Facebook – Charlie’s Chopsticks

Instagram – @CharliesChopsticks

NàRoma Pizza Bar

Do you remember that episode in the first season of Futurama (which I am currently marathoning on Netflix) where Fry finds out that he’s a billionaire due to interest accrued in his bank account over 1000 years and then he buys the last tin of anchovies for $50 million? Well, it inspired me because I’ve never eaten a pizza with anchovies on it before. I didn’t even know if pizza places still had them as an option because I’ve never ordered them before. Of course, this would happen at 1 o’clock in the morning so I had to stave off the inspiration until the next morning. Enter the new challenger: NàRoma Pizza Bar located in the hip Locke St. of Hamilton.

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 215 Locke St S, Hamilton, ON

NàRoma is one of those places in Hamilton that consistently gets rated as the one of the top places you’ve got to visit. It was a toss-up between NàRoma and Earth to Table Bread Bar, but Bread bar did not have any mention in their menu about anchovies except in their caesar salad. Both located on Locke Street but would have to be an adventure for another time.

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When eating here, you have two choices: order by the slice at the counter, or pick your own pizza. The premade slices are great if you want to grab a quick slice on the go. Their website boasts authentic Italian pizza, but I have never been to Italy so I can’t judge.

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They have some set pizzas with very fun flavour combinations and you can also add or take away ingredients to your liking, both meat and vegetarian options. I swear, the menu is extensive. The waitress was super friendly and helpful. I informed her of my anchovy pizza virginity and asked for suggestions. At first she suggested the Napolitana pizza which comes with tomato sauce, black olives, anchovies, and chilli flakes, but try as I might, I just am not a fan of olives. She said that anchovies pair well with red tomato sauces and with my affinity for spiciness, we settled for the Calabrese: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, cacciatore sausage, and hot pepper oil, adding anchovies on half of the pizza, just in case I didn’t like it.

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Calabrese, Coppia size ($17)

Being by myself, I don’t know why I didn’t order by the slice or something, because even though I saw that their smallest size, Coppia, came in 12 slices and served 2-3 people, I still ordered it. I thought I was a beast. I thought I was sooooo cool. It was huge. I did manage to eat a third of it though, which I am proud of.

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Latte ($3.90)

I also ordered a latte because I thought it was the thing to do. In my mind, coffee doesn’t go very well with pizza, but they’re both Italian (right? or is that espresso…). She also asked me if I wanted some dipping sauces. It’s like she knew I was a sucker for sauces. I ended up getting the creamy pesto and the spicy Caesar. They were both very nice. The pesto didn’t really taste like pesto to me, but the Caesar was very garlicky and right on. Unfortunately, I didn’t know they cost about a dollar each until I got the bill.

Get to the point, Judy. How were the anchovies? Was it horrible? Did you throw your pizza at the waitress and pee on the floor???

Because usual “hate it or love it” opinion on anchovies, I honestly thought I wasn’t going to like it. I’m usually pretty sensitive to salt, but wow oh wow! After comparing the anchovy slice and the non-anchovy slice, the anchovies definitely bring a whole new dimension to the pizza. I had the slice with anchovies first, and the second one just didn’t have as much POW to my mouth. It elevated the other flavours to a whole other level. I think it’s safe to say that I will now include anchovies in my pizza repertoire.

The rest of the pizza was great too. The cheese wasn’t a soggy mess.  The base was thick, but not dense and made for a nice solid base for the toppings. The sausage was great, nice and meaty, and the chilli oil was actually quite spicy! And I am not averse to spice! However, the crust was dense, but not crispy, which was a downer for me.

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Nutella Slice ($2.50)

I always have room for dessert. This was basically a pizza base, warmed up (the bottom was toasty and crispy!), with a generous spread of nutella, topped with some cannoli cream filling, and sprinkled with icing sugar. It was a great way to end the meal. You can also order these in bigger sizes to share with a group. Yummy yummy!

I wish I had gotten a pizza with fancy cheeses, or the margherita pizza which I’ve always wanted to try, or something with a lettuce (like arugula!) on it because those are on my pizza bucket list too. I guess that’ll just be another reason for me to come back to NàRoma.

I did not pee on the floor.

HillyBilly Heaven

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Smoky. Sweet. Salivating. Seductive. SCRUMPTIOUS SOUTHERN… sfood. This place is located at Upper James and Fennell in Hamilton, where I’ve recently moved. I’d been hearing a lot about Hillbilly Heaven BBQ joint for a while. They’ve been showcased on the Food Network, and the amount of word-of-mouth buzz has been insane. I hear it from everyone that it’s so amazing, so naturally, I had to go give it a shot. Oh lordy lord did I not know what I was getting myself into.

brisket

I ordered the BBQ beef brisket with a side of baked beans, because I am a sucker for baked beans. However, these beans aren’t like those sweet molasses beans you get with breakfast. No, no. These were smoky, filling, slightly spicy, and a hint of tart sweetness from the apples. And then there’s the sandwich. A bread that’s soft and yet doesn’t fall apart. It soaks up the meaty juices without getting soggy. That is a bread deserving of a place called Heaven. The meat is piled high on the bun. It’s soft, juicy, and peppery. Wonderful on it’s own, but they offer 3 kinds of BBQ sauce that to top your sandwich with: mild, medium, and hot. I don’t know how else to describe how amazing this plate was, except for the fact that the plate you see there cost me $8.95. Now do a double take. You saw that right. Under $10 for a sandwich the size of your head and a hog sized bowl of baked beans. Ooooooh mama.
chillay

 

You can expect the same with the pulled pork platter. The sandwich just as big and juicy and comes with a side of thick cut crinkle fries that are wonderfully seasoned and crisp. My cousin upped the ante by turning his side of fries into chili cheese fries for an extra $3.50 and making it into a monster meal.

Hillbilly Heaven is amazing and everyone should eat there. The staff are really friendly, the decor homely, and the food is just to die for.

Hank Daddy’s

Hank Daddy’s is a bbq food truck here in Hamilton that does the standard barbecue fare: ribs, brisket, chicken, and pulled pork, among other things. Although I’ve been trying to lose weight, I couldn’t help but to venture off to this truck because it was parked down the street from me, and y’all know my addiction to food trucks. See here and here.

Hank Daddy’s is known for their unique pulled pork parfait, so of course I had to have it. It looks so cute, and because I was taking it home, they had the ingenious way of cutting out the bottom of a takeout container to protect the mound! Presentation really is everything because that’s what you’re really paying for. It was 10$ for two scoops of mashed potatoes, pulled pork, and some beans. The barbecue sauce alone was strange and I didn’t quite like it, but when mixed with the pulled pork and potatoes, they meshed surprisingly well.

I may be biased because I just love pulled pork, but I really enjoyed this dish, despite thinking that it’s not quite worth 10$. It was a nice small lunch, and yummy, which I think is the most important part. Next time, I’ll have to try the ribs.

 

 

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