Saturday, August 29, 2015

Don't Bank on this Cramped Tim Hortons

Today for lunch I stopped by the Tim Hortons on Bank Street at Heron Road (1611 Bank Street, Ottawa).

I entered and almost stumbled over the front counter all of three steps in.  Not sure who built designed this Tim Hortons interior layout, but there is virtually zero space for customer queing forcing people to stand in the doorway if the there are more than two customers waiting to be served.

Add in a smaller customer seating area compared to a conventional Tim Hortons restaurant things seem to get worse.  This location is almost like the Tim Hortons Head Office merely pointed at a map and said "let's stick one here", then shoehorned  a store into a too small existing plaza.

Tim Hortons on Bank Street at Heron Road
Tim Hortons on Bank Street at Heron Road

I strategically waited at the front as two Tim Hortons employees were flabergasted on how to put together an order of 50 Tim Bits for the customer ahead of me. They started with two boxes and the first one, who took the order at the cash, was explaining that with two boxes there should be 25 Tim Bits a piece.  Next, a manager came up and said use the box for fifty Tim Bits and to use that.  The 2nd employee was dumbfounded, he'd just finished computing how twenty five Timbits in two boxes equals fifty.

Eventually after the second employee was told to count fifty Tim Bits into a box of fifty, computed that and then, somehow, was able to also remember to come with manager to do another task after counting the fifty Tim Bits, I was able to order with the first employee.

The Order: 1 Chicken Salad Sandwich on a White Sandwich Bun with Kettle Chips and 1 Medium Black Coffee

 The first employee took my money, made change and asked me to step to my left to wait at the pickup counter for my coffee and wait for the sandwich and Kettle Chips.

The visit get even better as two minutes elapsed and I was told by the lady making the sandwiches that they were out of White Sandwich bun, would I like Whole Wheat?

Really? Dare I ask for a refund of my purchase and walk across the street to the Tim Hortons in the Esso Gas Station and then walk back in hopes of getting a seat?  I digressed knowing that would be at least 45 minutes which would include the time for the employees to figure out how to even process a refund. As well, it's 11 O'Clock in the morning?  How in the heck is a Tim Hortons location out of white buns before Friday lunchtime even truly gets going?

"Sure that'll do" was my reply to the offer of Whole Wheat Bun.

Three minutes later I had the sandwich and Kettle Chips with me and was ready to go.

I found a semi dirty table and sat down.  I carefully straightened the table and pair of chairs. Then I strategically wiped the sesame seeds off the table.  I quickly surveyed the other tables to find them also in need of at least a quick wipe.

Tim Hortons Chicken Salad Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bun
Chicken Salad Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bun

The Chicken Salad sandwich was o.k., but obviously would have been better to my tastes if served on a white bun as requested. Otherwise, the sandwich was decent with average toppings of tomato lettuce along with chicken salad mix.

Tim Hortons Small Kettle Chips
Small Kettle Chips

The Kettle Chips at Tim Hortons are usually kept warm slightly.  Not so at this Tim Hortons location as the sandwich bar preparer dished them out of a white bag with a ripped hole in it into the standard paper bag the Kettle Chips are served in.  Presumably the Kettle Chips are shipped via the Tim Hortons freight system in these white bags and are supposed to be transferred into the standard warming trays in the Tim Hortons franchise locations before being dished out to customers.  It seems the last step was missing.

Overall, combined with dirty tables, askew chairs, missing food items and being behind on food preparation, this Tim Hortons location is need of corporate office attention and training.  Sure the food was average for Tim Hortons, but the lack of following straight corporate procedures to ensure on hand quantities are sufficient and food preparation procedures are followed is concerning.  I wouldn't bank on this location for a standard Tim Hortons meal.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's a Farm Boy Day! So Shop the Farm Boy Kitchen!

Sunday for lunch my wife and I decided to try out the Farm Boy Kitchen (665 Industrial Avenue, Ottawa).  Located within the grocery store itself, the food is laid out in a buffet serve yourself hot table style format and billed by weight.  Current pricing was $1.99 per 100 grams for salads and regular entrees plus $2.99 for 12 oz of soup.

After selecting from an assortment of options including chili, soups, spaghetti and more, customers check out via the regular grocery store checkouts before being able to sit in the front food court style seating area or exiting the store to take their food home.

We gathered our order, checked out and seated ourselves in the food court seating area.  But we had made a big mistake.  We didn't get the Farm Boy Salad Bar Card that entitles customers to purchase ten salads and receive one free.  With out combined order we would have had two salads.  We tried later on, with our receipts, to obtain a Farm Boy Salad Bar Card and load the points we would have had with the same cashier, but we were out luck and needed to do that at time of purchase.  Ah well, at least we tried.

The Order: "Power Packed Quinoa Veggie Chili" with Potato Salad and an Organic City Roast Coffee.

After checking out and sitting down I noted I made a big mistake.  I somehow had loaded up on twenty dollars worth of potato salad.   That is one of the dangers of paying by weight, some foods weigh more than others and this potato salad was apparently pretty chunky in the weight category.

Potato Salad
Potato Salad

The potato salad itself was quite tasty with potatoes sliced into chunks and mixed into a mayonnaise based  potato salad dressing. Worth having again, but in lesser quantities.

Power Packed Quinoa Veggie Chili
Power Packed Quinoa Veggie Chili

The Power Packed Quinoa Veggie Chili was indeed power packed.  Yes, in the spice department! Otherwise the Quinoa chili was an interesting texture as I slowly ate it due to the spiciness.

Organic City Roast Coffee
Organic City Roast Coffee
The Organic City Roast Coffee was labelled a "medium blend" but it turned out to be a little more of a dark roast.  Sure the coffee was flavorful but a little strong on average taste buds.  At $0.99 for a cup about the size of a Tim Hortons Medium and better quality coffee it's worth a trip.

Overall, the Farm Boy Kitchen is worth the trip to try it out.  Lots of selection to choose from but be careful in the weight department to avoid a nasty surprise at the check out.  Apparently some people try to forgo purchasing the Farm Boy rice and instead cook their own at home while purchasing other items at the Farm Boy Kitchen like the curried dishes to save on cost but still take part in the convenience.  If you're in the area for groceries and are looking for a quality lunch, the Farm Boy Kitchen is worth a look.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Pricey Continental Bagel

Friday for lunch I headed to the Byward Market to try out Continental Bagel in the Byward Market Square building (55 Byward Market Square, Ottawa).

  It was 11:00 a.m and one customer was just leaving after having their order prepared at a Subway sandwich shop counter like set up.  Another customer in front of me was putting in their order which, ironically, was the same as what I was going to order.

In the background was another employee working at a wood fired oven carefully rolling, placing and inserting the bagels into the oven on long wooden planks to bake. The whole restaurant set up looked like a Kettleman's Bagel set up fined tuned to fit into the historic Byward Market Square building.

I waited patiently for the single server to ring up the previous customer's purchase, slowly put the bagel sandwich together. I almost considered going elsewhere to grab a bite as I watched the previous customer's order come together slightly faster than a snails pace.  But eventually everything was wrapped up and, knife polished and I was ready to order.

The Order: 1 Turkey Sandwich (lettuce, tomato, deli sliced turkey, etc.) on a Poppy seed bagel. $6.75 including taxes.

The server punched in my order, I paid, and he proceeded to put together my order at the sandwich bar.  First grabbing a poppy seed bagel from the glass front display, cutting it and then going from container to container of ingredients.  Nothing fresh looking about any of the ingredients.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if, like subway ingredients, they come presliced in a package from some warehouse and placed in the containers then brought and inserted into the sandwich bar.  After the sandwich was completed and placed in the container, the server then went onto wipe his knife and the sandwich bar before then handing me my sandwich.  

Next, I headed over to Maple Valley Tea World for a Peppermint Tea before finally landing in Major's Hill Park for a fabulous lunch outdoors while being overlooked by Ottawa's Parliament Buildings.

Turkey Bagel Sandwich from Continental Bagel
Turkey Bagel Sandwich from Continental Bagel

The bagel sandwich was average.  A slightly hardened crust outside gave way to an average tough inside similar to any store bought bagel.  Nothing really fresh about this, perhaps the bagel I had a was mere day old.  The toppings, as expected, weren't that special at all in freshness.  But to be fair, the bagel bakery is meant for fresh bagels and not fresh lettuce, tomatoes or toppings.  But at six dollars and change with tax I had expected a little more than an average bagel put together like fast food subway sandwich.

Overall, an average nothing special sandwich.  Was it decent? Yes, but is it the best food offering in that building let alone the Byward Market?  Nope, far from it.  This place will be fine for the picky eaters under the age of eighteen looking for something to eat while Mom and Dad enjoy better quality food from elsewhere along with the ambiance of the market.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Babies love Words

As a new father I've noticed that my daughter has not only grown in size but grown in personality.

It's been over eight months since her birth and watching her grasp new concepts and objects has been fun.  To watch her face light up as she drinks water from her cup or surprises herself at scooching across the floor is priceless.

But what I can't get over is some of her interesting individual nuances especially word sounds.
Early it was words like "zing" or "zoom" that would give her the giggles.  Of course she has gradually out grown these words and no longer smiles at them.  That is unless I surprise her and say them out of no where.

I love every day I find a new word that makes her laugh.  One day I was changing her diaper and was doing up her onesie.  For whatever reason I decided to count the snaps out loud:

"one snap"


"two snaps"


"three snaps"


hmmmm... I thought,

"four snaps?"




"snappy, snaps, snaps"


To this day "snaps" and "thump" are my two favourite go to words when my daughter is showing signs of being upset.  Coupled with a hug and it turns that emerging frown to an ear to ear smile.

I'm not sure what why the words "snaps" and "thumps" are funny.  But sometimes as a parents you don't question it, especially when you can add them to your arsenal to turn an emerging melt down around into something worth smiling about.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Original Souvlaki from a Food Truck....Er...Trailer at Ottawa Street Eats

For August 1st, I received an invitation from TW Events to attend the first ever Ottawa Street Eats festival.

Basically the Ottawa Street Eats festival, located at the Aviation & Space Museum, was an assortment of the Ottawa area's food trucks accompanied by interesting special event only food stands and craft breweries.   Before the event, I reviewed who would be attending the festival to get a feel for who would be there and which food and drinks I would have.

There was quite the collection to choose from with everything from Asian to Greek to Hot Dogs & Fries, heck there was even Brewbar's awesome caffeinated beverages available.  Lots to choose from to be paired by some of Ottawa's best craft beers.

Ottawa Street Eats Banner
Ottawa Street Eats Banner

After arriving at the Aviation and Space Museum on OC Transpo and easily finding the Ottawa Street Eats festival, I reviewed my selection of food trucks to confirm my original first choice, The Original Souvlaki food trailer. I had my heart set on having a traditional souvlaki platter with either pork or chicken souvlaki, rice, potatoes and salad accompanied by tzatziki sauce.

The Original Souvlaki Trailer
The Original Souvlaki Trailer
With not many festival attendees having arrived yet, I was able to order.

Souvlaki Platter
Souvlaki Platter
The Order: 1 Souvlaki Platter.

The Souvlaki platter was $10.00, not bad overall and, like Jimmy the Greek, only had one skewer.  Hmmm, seems to be a theme, less Souvlaki than the traditional two skewers found in the Toronto area.  I paid for the plate and left to find an outdoor table at the festival.

The Souvlaki itself was not bad from a food truck, but not gourmet either.  Just plain straight up Souvlaki served on a skewer displayed with all the usual food offerings like any Greek fast food location.  Nothing gourmet but nothing terrible either.  Just regular straight up Greek style Pork Souvlaki.

The Pita bread was a nice touch.  Add a Tzatziki sauce with it, and the odd vegetable, it was delicious!

The rice was a little to be desired, it was dry and slightly overcooked.  This was probably because for speed of service in assembling orders the rice needs to be cooked and held to be served. The rice, thus, can't be served up fresh as perhaps a regular restaurant might on a per order basis.

Overall, the Original Souvlaki food trailer is a welcome addition to the Ottawa food scene.  Since the Ottawa Street Eats festival, the trailer has secured a permanent home at 680 Bank Street next to Kunstadt Sports in the Glebe.  A little fine tuning of the rice and this new addition will be a welcome addition to the Glebe.

Ottawa Streets Eats festival was an enjoyable experience once inside.  A variety of food trucks complimented the craft beers of such Ottawa area breweries like Kichesippi Beer, Mill Street, Whitewater Brewing Company, and many more.


The final best piece of the festival was Brewbar, the portable coffee bar that appears at many of Ottawa's events.  With the skilled hands of Paul Klutchert at the coffee bar, I enjoyed a creamy Latte to go.  The Latte provided a fine end to a great day out investigating this interesting, yet tasteful, hopefully yearly event.

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