Tag Archives: Kingston

The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro

15 Jun

Hello! I’m Calvin, Megan’s boyfriend/personal assistant. I was asked several months ago to do a guest post on this blog, an offer that I immediately accepted and immediately after that did everything in my power to put off, not because I dreaded doing it, but because I am incredibly lazy. Megan’s in Sudbury(!?) at the moment* so I figure that I’ll get this post up before she returns this afternoon so it’ll be all surprise!!! Here’s your two week late guest blog post!!*

Anyway, the place I am reviewing is the Kingston location of The Works, a chain gourmet burger joint that we’ve visited a few too many times recently, mostly because of Megan’s crippling addiction to a particular burger there (to be explained later). I was previously aware that there was one in Downtown Toronto but according to the website there is a whole shitload of them there, as well as in Ottawa.** The Works wor…operates and looks much like your typical wings place, only substituted with burgers. They’ve got stupid names for their food but at least the ingredients are listed, so you if get duped into ordering some burger with peanut butter and bananas*** on it then it’s your own dumbass fault. It’s not fast food either, since the burgers usually take 15-20 minutes to be prepared, which is their angle for pitching you the TOWER OF RINGS right after you order. It’s just a bunch of onion rings stacked up to…shampoo bottle height? Beer bottle height? I’m just looking around the room for something to compare it to. The onion rings are a tad iffy actually, mainly because the ratio of fried batter to onion is so hilariously skewed to the former that there might as well be nothing inside. Or maybe onions are just really scarce in Kingston. Regardless, I would avoid it and opt for something else if you’re in need of an appetizer—there are quesadillas and steamrollers? that could be worth a shot.

As for the burgers themselves, well…they’re burgers. They’re cooked adequately and the portions are sizable (apparently this is the correct Canadian and American spelling, whereas sizeable is the preferred British and Australian spelling. I looked it up! THE MORE YOU KNOW★★★). They will taste slightly or dramatically different depending on what kind of shit you fancy stuffing in there, and The Works will give you a healthy variety of shit to choose from—you can even choose what type of meat you want (beef, turkey, elk, and a few more) to go with your choice of the 70 or so topping combinations that are offered. The food is good, but the appeal of the place is going back and trying a new burger and picking your favourites—without the gimmick, the burgers aren’t that far off quality–wise from say, South St. So it’s basically Pokemon, only instead of capturing and training them to the very best like no one ever was, you just eat them.‡‡

Here are the types of Pokeburgers Megan and I have tried thus far:

Chili Millie – our famous chili, cheddar cheese & a dollop of sour cream

Tastes like someone snuck some lukewarm Tim Horton’s Chili in your burger. Not too much though, like two spoonfuls. RATING: EHHH

Fire Station #6 – avocado, salsa loco, sour cream & jalapeno peppers

Better! Tastes like flames or perhaps Daenerys Targaryen. RATING: FIRE & BLOOD

The Mother of Dragons definitely got a horse meat patty for her burger.

Jamaican Jerk – fiery jamaican jerk spices, sweet green chilies, monterey jack & ripe tomato

Sounds interesting, but honest to god it just tasted like a plain burger with some relish to me. Maybe I was expecting something more like Fire Station #6 and got the burger equivalent of Kofi Kingston instead. RATING: SNEAKY AND RACIST

M-Ange’R Burger – caramelized onions, avocado & havarti cheese

“Oh my god I love this! It’s the best! I want to have its children so I can eat its newborn baby burgers! ONOMOMOMOM” RATING: A++ WOULD CONSUME AGAIN

Looks terrifying.

Sopranos – pesto, grilled eggplant, sliced tomato & havarti cheese

I don’t remember if this was any good because it was too long ago, I can’t even make a crappy Sopranos reference here because it’s one of those shows I keep on putting off because they’re off the air and there is no urgency to catch up for the upcoming season(see also: The Wire, Deadwood). RATING: ???

Teriyaki Melt – sauteéd wild mushrooms, teriyaki sauce & swiss cheese

Self explanatory, it was aight but you can probably do better. I only ordered this because I’m Asian and I felt that it was expected of me. RATING: SLANT–EYED


So it’s definitely a mixed bag. I think the best way to approach The Works is to drag along a bunch of friends/co-workers/siblings you can bully, make them all get different burgers, sample all of them, pick your favourite, then forcibly remove said preferred burger from your friend/co-worker/sibling if it happens to not be your own order, which is almost certainly the case. Megan would do this to me all the time if she weren’t so fond of her MAN-JUR burger.‡‡‡


*That was written 5 weeks ago.
**They have since added even more locations, including Markham and Aurora which means I will be a fatty EVERYWHERE I GO.
*** Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love – peanut butter, strip bacon and fresh banana slices. SOUNDS DERICIOUS.
‡ Not quite World’s Shortest Man height.
‡‡ I wonder if that’s an ability you can give to one of your Pokemon in the games, that they can eat other Pokemon in your party to automically gain levels and maybe learn a technique from the recently pokechowed or something. Is it cannibalism if Pokemon eat each other? But they’re all so different! 
‡‡‡ Overheard pronunciations of the M-Ange’R Burger range from MAN-JUR (amurrican) to MON-SHAE (poor french) to some retarded hybrid like MON-JUR which is probably correct. Personally I’m waiting for ME-ANGRR or even better, MANGA. 

Baby It’s Cold Outside :: Spin Dessert (Kingston)

30 Jan

I’ve never been warm to the idea of dessert as an entire meal in of itself; yet when Spin Dessert opened their new Kingston location, I knew our meeting would be imminent. Already a veteran of the dessert-café game, Spin Dessert found a new home on 260 Princess St. for the same delicious fare and urban chic aesthetics of its original Toronto venue. A little different from its neighbors traditional design scheme, Spin’s most attractive feature is its open concept design. The first level is split up by demi-stairs into levels. The elevates section in the back is a smattering of Parisian café tables that is a nice alternative to the plushier, banquette seating arrangement at the very front of the store. Take another look and you’ll notice there’s an entire basement level that is visible from above through a transparent balcony. Exposed piping of course, is just icing on the cake to cap off this atmosphere of cozy sophistication.

We set our minds to attempting the biggest, baddest thing on the menu, thought our larger than life appetites could handle it. It also doesn’t hurt, certainly, that the workings of the bakery and espresso bar are on full exhibition and the selection of in-house cakes behind their shiny glass displays speak for themselves.  We ordered “Baby It’s Cold Outside” which is one of many tempting options amongst the January Red Velvet promotion. It’s a red velvet party of red velvet cake smothered in red velvet ice cream, white chocolate shavings and whipped cream. I was worried the cake would drown in the ruby sea of liquid velvet but it positively held its own—super moist and unbelievably rich cream cheese flavor.
Next up is the very interesting “On the Floor”; pistachio ice cream on waffles might be intimidating to some but it was something I swore I needed to try. Being a bit harder to find and unconventionally savory, I commend Spin Dessert for venturing outside of the box. Pistachio ice cream is great for having a salty bite that can pull ice cream’s sweetness in new and interesting directions, but unfortunately Spin Dessert’s rendition fell a little short and offered an ice cream that didn’t taste too different from your traditional, vanilla based ice cream, albeit a little nuttier—but definitely still incredibly creamy like all their ice creams and generous with chunks of real pistachio nuts. To wash it all down, I ordered a great chai latte but ended up clutching to my iced water for the most part to cope with so much ice cream.

Overall, there are mixed emotions about Spin Dessert; the ingredients are amazing so all the waffles, ice creams, crepes taste flawless, yet there’s something to be desired in terms of originality and diversity of flavors to keep me coming back.  I don’t mean different flavors of ice cream because Spin has got that covered, but outside of that flavor range, it would be more exciting to see less traditional desserts to match its modern aesthetic. Keep in mind that I am speaking purely from the dessert perspective since Spin does also offer a savory crepe selection and all day breakfast menu that is waiting for you to try. The portions also seem a bit excessive and I spotted quite a few people sharing an order between each other.  I recommend coming to Spin Dessert with lots of company, a big appetite, and a fair sweet tooth. For a moderate dessert lover like myself, it has been a great day for new experiences but will definitely be purging my system before my second visit.

New York 2011: Nougatine at Jean-Georges

11 Jan

Nougatine was a surprise favourite. Being away from home and walking 8+ hours a day through tourist-ridden Manhattan triggers the lizardy part of my brain to crave humble, hearty home cooking. So Nougatine, being the swanky affair that it was, was not initially very appealing to the cranky, weary traveller in me. Once the actual food made an appearance however, Nougatine quickly became one of the highlights of the trip for me. It’s a strange fusion of classic french cuisine and rustic french cooking that’s elegant and comforting at the same time.

Jean George is the genius behind every fried appetizer lover’s dream–fried calamari with basil salt, citrus-chilli dip. Amazing crunch that doesn’t at all sacrifice the tenderness of the calamari nestled inside. Then again, rubbery calamari is probably the last thing one would expect from Jean George, even if Nougatine is the smaller storefront attached to Jean George proper, the actual restaurant that is astronomically more expensive.

Slowly cooked beef tenderloin, miso butter and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Sautéed red snapper, spaghetti squash, sesame broth and chili oil

Spiced pear clafouti hazelnut crunch, roasted almond ice cream

Warm apple crumble tart granny smith sorbet, date puree


25 Oct
AquaTerra is one of those little gems that can make you think twice about Kingston’s food scene. First off, Kingston is one of those odd self-contradictory places not unlike most other college-towns. The “downtown” is edgy, modern and borderline hipster but take one step north of Princess St. and suddenly you’re teleported to pre-emancipation Kentucky. You expect the food here to be as literally bland as it is culturally monochromatic. But in reality, some of the best pho, vietnamese bun, and lamb korma is made in the mom and pop shops that litter the university and downtown district. And AquaTerra proves its contemporary Canadian fare is equally surprising in both quality and sophistication.

You can find it in the lobby of the Radisson by the waterfront and its absolutely gorgeous to see the water come right up to the picture windows. Being naturally deterred by large bodies of water, I’ve never actually had a “waterfront dining experience” and was jarred to see actual little boats bobbing up and down in the harbour. the restaurant’s “entrance” is really the lobby of the hotel which is a bargain, considering the hotel has provided shiny gilded surfaces and a marble fountain.

Kingston Waterfront from the other side. AquaTerra should be somewhere to your right. (Courtesy of TheKanqueror) 

The interior of the restaurant also confirms it as a great place to take a date–dimmed lighting, cushy corner-sofa seating and the waiters do the thing where they place the napkin in your nap for you (a service that stood out to me as appreciated by very much unnerving for anyone with personal space neuroses).

I scanned the menu and knew AquaTerra would be delicious when I saw that they really make the effort to source their ingredients locally. Truly, everything in the starters and the mains were incredibly fresh and better yet, in season.

Executive Chef Clark Day

The starters were my favourite part of the meal and were so creative that it was actually a bit weird making the transition from appetizer to main. For one, the starters seemed so much more congruous with the restaurant’s image and elegant decor. Not only were the mains a lot less inventive with presentation, it was also much larger in terms of portions (which I won’t wail about obviously). Still I think I was perfectly happy with the mains though they were more traditional (literally, meat and potatoes) but it was the contrast that was a little hard to ignore.

Despite these minor baffling details, I’ll definitely be heading back to AquaTerra for date nights and occasions when I can bother to put on pants.

Pan-seared Sea Scallops with pork belly hash, microgreens and apple julienne

Cinnamon Butter (!)
My disturbing obsession with flavoured butter is alive and well

Tuna Tartare with shallots, soft herbs, jalapeno aioli, crostini (sourced locally from Fred’s Bread) and jalapeno and lemon oil.

Escargot & Mushroom Fricassee with parmesan twist
The fricassee (meat stewed in gravy-like sauce) had the most phenomenal cream base, so rich and full-bodied.

White Stripe Lamb Rack with herb crust, roasted chipollini and tri-colour carrots, pomegranate gastrique (reduction), country potatoes and port demi-glace (rich brown sauce made with Port)

My lamb was ordered blue, which was a bit too rare in my opinion since it became hard to tell whether I was eating lamb or steak by the time I reached the cooler centre. Ideally, it would have been medium rare I think. The most impressive thing about the dish is probably its glaze and sauce, really complex and interesting to eat.

Grilled Rib Eye with peas, garlic mash, pearl onions, and bordelaise sauce.

weighing in at a whopping 16. oz. and cowboy cut, this was a might impressive steak (the picture really doesn’t do it justice, I say). The menu suggests that this should have come with summer succotash, which explains the oddly rustic selection of peas and mash. It’s a little too ‘cowboy’ when you consider how the meal began but definitely satisfying and delicious.
I’m also using a new camera! My old compact finally gave up the ghost and this one was so small and better yet, on sale. I’ve been really pleased with it so far–it’s outrageously impressive in low lighting (which is the case for pretty much every higher end restaurant) and the macro is so intuitive and easy to use.


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