Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dunn's and The French Baker - Nov. 5th

It was my mom's day off, and my brother Andrew also had a half-day at school. With that, my dad was pushing to "treat" everyone to lunch. He was undecided and asked Andrew what he wanted for lunch. Andrew never knows what he wants. I think his mind just goes blank when we ask him for a suggestion. I suggested smoked meat sandwiches, and surprisingly, my dad agreed.

I've been watching too much food shows. I admit that I've been wanting to try smoked meat ever since watching Man vs Food and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Since neither Andrew or I have had smoked meat before, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Dunn's Smoke Meat Sandwich1

Andrew and I dropped in at Dunn's, while my parents went to A&W. Not sure why they didn't want to try Dunn's. I had their small smoked meat sandwich, while Andrew chose the smoked meat platter (includes fries, coleslaw, pickle and “bottomless” soft drink). I wasn't that hungry, so I packed half of my sandwich away, along with Andrew's fries. I didn't bring Lucy's camera, so these pics were taken at home. My parents tried the smoked meat and said that it didn't compare to the one they used to have at Kardish.

"It tastes more like a steamed spiced ham," my mom said of Dunn's smoke meat once we got home. It kind of looks like it too. Thinking about it, I agreed. "Kardish was more spiced," she reminisced. More on that later.

Dunn's Smoke Meat Sandwich2

They gave a generous portion of juicy smoked meat. I wish I had asked for a fattier cut. I found it strange that the first half I ate at the restaurant was quite lean, but the second half (eaten at home) had a good amount of fat. I want to try end pieces. I'm sure they're amazing.

On a side note, I've heard about Nate's smoked meat sandwiches and how their establishment closed earlier this year. I didn't know that two gentlemen, who used to work at Nate's, has opened up another place down the street called Bobby's Table. Here's a link to one of the articles I read. Anyway, I digress.

After lunch, we dropped by The French Baker that I've heard much about. The bakery was tiny! I thought it would be larger.

I was going to get two croissants and two pain-au-chocolat, but my mom told the gentleman to grab a raisin bread instead of the second pain-au-chocolat.

The French Baker3

Once we got home, my mom made some coffee and warmed up the pastries in the toaster oven. When they were done, my mom asked if I wanted to take pictures. Of course I did! I grabbed the camera and snapped off a few shots before the batteries died on me. And of course the batteries died just as I was about to take pictures of the croissants. I ran up to quickly charge the batteries, while my dad hovered above the fragrant pastries. I killed some time by showing my parents videos about Schwartz's Deli and Katz's Deli. Must... buy... some time for my batteries to charge...

The French Baker2

My parents dug into the raisin bread and commented that it just tasted like bread.

Lucy's comment: I totally inhaled the few pieces that were left.  I ate them so fast, I couldn't really tell you what it tasted like.  I remember butter and a slight sweetness.

On a semi-related note; back in the day, my parents used to work at Kardish Deli. It was my mom's first work experience with cooking and baking. They were saying that Kardish's smoked meat came from Montreal, but they didn't know where. Lester's maybe? That's when I suggested Schwartz and showed them videos. Hmm, I should take them to try Bobby's Table. Anyway... moving along.

We ate the pain-au-chocolat next.

The French Baker4
It was alright. The pastry was a bit on the heavy side though. Reheating it in the oven and then letting them cool off a bit wasn't the smartest idea. It dried the pastry out a bit.

I ran up the stairs, grabbed the batteries out from the charger, put it in my camera and took some pictures of the (now cool) croissant. We dug into the croissants. I was so excited and eager to try what people claim to be Ottawa's best croissants. Take a look at what greeted me when my mom split the croissant.

The French Baker5

Oh the layers! The butter! The crispness!

I asked what my mom thought of them. She shrugged, "they're okay." When my mom says that, it really means that she thinks she can make a better version. I was expecting that answer.

The only thing left of the first croissants was a pile of flakes. My mom grabbed a bunch and ate it. She told my dad (in Cambodian) that it's really tasty.

I called my mom on it, and she eventually admitted that it was good. My mom cut the last croissant in half and warmed it up. We all had another piece.

The French Baker 6

I asked Jimmy what he thought of the croissant. "It's okay. I don't really taste a difference between this and the other ones we had," he was referring to croissant that my mom gets from Super C grocery stores in Aylmer.

"Oh no. This is high quality. The other one doesn't have layers. This is a little sweet and you can taste the butter," my mom countered. It seemed as though she was defending the croissants now. Those weren't her exact words, but it paints the picture.

A few minutes later, my mom decided that she wanted to make croissants. What was funny was how much she wanted to make croissants to show us the difference between hers and those from The French Baker. Even funnier, my dad egged her on - intentionally or not.

"I don't remember what your croissant tastes like."
"Here, I'll make it. I'll show you." I could feel the fire burning in my mom's belly. That's how competitive my mom is. It's so funny!

Unfortunately, we couldn't find my mom's baking scale. Ah well.

Lucy's comment: I took a big bite out of the croissant, and it shattered in my mouth, choking me.  I sputtered out crumbs and flakes of pastry, like a cartoon cat would sputter feathers after gulping a bird.  After the initial shock, I began to think about the flavour and whether the croissant deserved its stellar reputation.  It was very sweet and fragrant with butter, but I think it was a little bit underbaked.  I prefer my croissants crispier and flakier.  As you can see in the photos, the layers are definitely there, but the innards still look doughy.  I criticize, but it was truly the most delicious pastry I had ever eaten.

At about $2 a piece, it seemed quite expensive - but that's before we ate it. It's all about quality after all. And it's a bonus and compliment that the croissants got my mom fired up about baking again. She only tries to recreate things that she enjoys/appreciates.

I don't eat enough pastries around town, so I can't say if these are the best. They're pretty damn good, though.


Dunn's Famous Deli on Urbanspoon

The french baker on Urbanspoon

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