Harbour House Waterfront Eatery

My personal chef, Cathryn, wasn’t sure what to serve for dinner last night so I suggested we try the new Harbour House Waterfront Eatery (old Lilly Kazilly’s) on Riverside Drive at the City Marina. It was Tuesday and I messaged the restaurant to ask if I needed reservations. The response (on Facebook) said it was a good idea so I requested a covered table on the patio, in the shade. I was told it wouldn’t be a problem.

We experience a bit of confusion at the hostess desk while the couple in front of us tried to select a table where they wouldn’t be attacked by bees. Then they had to wait for their friend who forgot his mask. When our turn came the young lady asked where we’d like to sit and I repeated my earlier request for the patio in the shade. We were led to a tiny little table outside the covered deck, with an umbrella that only shaded half. Cathryn had to continually adjust her chair to avoid having the sun in her face. I didn’t bother to ask for another seat since the patio area was packed and business was brisk.

Service was a bit slow but we waited patiently, understanding that the patio is huge and they were really busy. We ordered a couple of draft beers while we looked over the menus. I found it odd how 4 or 5 dishes were listed as coming soon – something our inexperienced waitress wasn’t aware of when she accepted an order from the table beside us. She later returned with the bad news for the man, and delivered our slightly chilled beers. Cathryn complained and our server said she’d check with the bar.

Our waitress returned with the same beers -now even warmer. I had taken a couple sips of mine, she offered a story about how the kegs froze and they had to warm them us before they could cool them again. I kept my beer and Cathryn considered a glass of wine, until she saw the $14 price tag for a 9oz glass. They didn’t have the seltzer she asked for and settled for another. We used the glass of ice that came with it to chill our water.

We decided to share some appies, sample the menu, and started with Oysters Rockefeller and Mussels in a garlic wine sauce. The mussels were okay but I found all the garlic in one clump inside one of the shells and most of the onions in another, as if they were tossed in as an afterthought. (Not the one’s pictured on left) The oysters were dry and tasteless, probably the worst we’ve ever had. We asked for a bowl of Lobster Bisque but were told they were out and just starting to make more.

For a seafood restaurant right on the lake, I was a bit surprised they didn’t offer Pickerel. We ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna, which came with a side salad. The vinaigrette dressing was too bitter for me but the tuna was delicious. A huge serving that was cut in two pieces, was perfectly seared and encrusted in toasted poppy seeds, with fresh avocado and roasted tomatoes. It was a bit pricey at $32 but a large enough serving for us to share and be satisfied. The tuna was the highlight and best part of our experience.

And right in the middle of tuna heaven an AC/DC song started blaring over the sound system. It took a few minutes before the corrected the problem, so much for dinner music. Our bill came to $109, a bit steep I thought for 2 appetizers, 2 drinks and 1 entrée (she didn’t charge me for my diet coke because of the warm beer). So there you have it…the majority of reviews for this place have been favorable; perhaps we just hit an off night. There is much room for improvement in our opinion. We both rated it a 6 out of 10.

The Cook’s Shop Redux

Where in Windsor can you find a restaurant with excellent food and service that’s been around for 40 years? The answer is the new old Cook’s Shop Restaurant. Spencer Dawson, took the reigns when the former owner retired from the business he started in 1980. The cozy dining room and Italian menu remain mostly the same, with a few minor changes to both. The old meat display case is gone but the natural stone walls and romantic setting remains the same.

The new owner introduced himself to Cathryn and I, taking the time to explain how he strived to keep fan-favorites on the menu, and brought in a few new recipes handed down by his grandmother. Her homemade bread was the first thing to knock our socks off – a sliced loaf that was crispy golden on the outside and a cornbread texture on the inside, served with a soft herb butter. The wine list covers all bases and quite reasonably priced.

We talked about Dawson’s idol, Lino, the previous owner, who just happened to grace us with his presence moments later. We were lucky enough to chat with both men and capture a few photos of the two most passionate restaurant owners I’ve ever met. Our Caesar salads were delivered on their departure from our table, the original recipe that Dawson said he had to retain in order to prevent a riot.

I forgot about the Escargot – large and tender snails served on a bed of mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter and served in phyllo pastry. We had time for another slice of bread before the salad. Our waiter, Moe, was Johnny-on-the-spot and never far from our table. I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, with double smoked bacon, and asked to have it on the creamy side. Yep, more sauce to soak up with the bread. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

Cathryn ordered the Rack of Lamb, four thick portions stacked over a pea and mushroom risotto. Sitting on my hands was all I could do to resist snatching some while she was away from the table. It was juicy, tender, and cooked to perfection. Sadly, we couldn’t finish the last two pieces of bread. Our meals were quite generous in size.

Although we were both stuffed, I needed a pieced of cheesecake. They had two and I went for the salted caramel. Not too rich, it had the perfect combination of sweet and saltiness. We both loved every part of our meal and enjoyed the experience of meeting both the old and new regime. Giving the Cook’s Shop a 10 out of 10 was a no-brainer.

Watch for Dawson’s future plans, while he renovates the whole building, possibly adding another restaurant and living quarters above that.

Five Guys Friday

As many of you know, living with my wife, Cathryn, is like living with a personal chef. There’s good and bad that goes along with that. Obviously the good part is that she cooks and serves me gourmet meals almost every night of the week.

The bad part of having a live-in chef is that we don’t go out to restaurants as often as we did when we were dating and sampling food and wine across the county. Add to that our dietary constraints and we rarely get to visit fast food restaurants or eat junk food.

Once a month, I treat myself to a cheat day and basically eat whatever the hell I want. I had been craving a fresh grilled hamburger for quite a while, so yesterday I treated my chef and took her out to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. We now have one in Windsor, just south of the Devonshire Mall.

What a treat! Because of Covid rules we had to eat in the car, but I brought along cloth napkins and plastic lap trays for a touch of parking lot class. We brought our own drinks too so I was a bit surprised by the $26 bill for two cheeseburgers and one order of fries. Granted the burgers were double-deckers and there were enough fries for three people.

Its’ nice to custom order whatever toppings you like, including fried caramelized onions, the bun is steamed soft and the cheese is nice and gooey. The meat is freshly grilled and goes nowhere near a microwave oven. If you haven’t tried a burger from these Five Guys, you don’t know what you’re missing.

India 47 Restaurant & Bar

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Are you looking for something different to tingle and tantalize your taste buds, exotic and spicy foods that scream flavour? You have to check out the new India 47 Restaurant & Bar at Lesperance and E.C. Row, in the former Webb’s or Rygate. I don’t know a heck of a lot about authentic Indian food, only having been to a couple other restaurants serving that particular country’s fare, but this new venture caught my attention.

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Etta’s Greekish Eatery

78424932_2513138285597021_5714507940707172352_oIt will be no surprise to some of our friends who already dine at Etta’s Greekish Eatery, that it’s become our favorite breakfast place. We’d heard it was going to change hands, with a new non-Greek owner taking over, and we were a bit concerned they’d change things and ruin a great restaurant. Don’t worry, that’s not the case.

I’d just been talking Windsor Pizza with some buddies, who’ve all noticed how great Italian Pizza places have all but vanished – with other ethnicities taking them over and ruining a good thing. Etta’s seems to be an exception so far, they’re still serving the same great food and they’ve kept the same staff. They can make all the difference, as we learned from the Country Diner on Manning after the old cook retired.

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Rants, Raves & Reviews – Capone’s Grill & Pasta Shop

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Cathryn and I don’t get out for dinner much these days, mostly because many restaurants aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Who wants to pay forty bucks for a steak that’s not cooked to your liking or eat frozen veggies. Maybe it helps in our case that we both like to cook, and cook the way we like.

Not to say there aren’t any great restaurants in Windsor. Take the little Italian grill and pasta shop called, Capone’s on Wyandotte Street, in old Riverside. Owner John Fuerth is the restaurant’s first reason for success. He openly admits that he mimicked his favorite Italian restaurant, the Cook Shop, when he created Capone’s.

dinnerCathryn and I have eaten in both places and John hasn’t missed a beat. We were able to get a table on Friday night without reservations and were welcomed as if we were extended family. We started with the scallop appetizer special. They were plump, seared to perfection and served with a tasty reduction and veggie slivers.

Cathryn had the Chateau Briand and I ordered the carbonara with pancetta, asking for it to be on the creamy side. The wait wasn’t long and our meals were served piping hot from the kitchen that was only a few feet away (a very cozy place for the cooking staff). C’s filet was cooked exactly how she asked. I received a damn good sized bowl of pasta – easily the best carbonara I’ve had in many years.

desertFor dessert we had cheesecake that was made inhouse. It was not your normal triangle slab cut from a pie tin. It resembled a large scoop of ice cream, light and creamy, with no gram crust, and topped with blueberry sauce. OMG good.

Even with a decent bottle of  wine, our bill barely broke a hundred dollars. The same meal would have cost us almost double at the Cook Shop. John told us Lino recently retired and sold the downtown landmark. Not a problem for us since we’ve found our new favorite Italian eatery. Both C and I give Capone’s a 10 out of 10, and I think that’s the first time ever.

Nero’s Steak House

1491341927522What ever happened to all the good steak house restaurants? Windsor used to have at least a half dozen top notch places. Did the next generation stop eating steak or do they avoid upscale eateries? Even the Outback Steakhouse couldn’t survive in Windsor.

Not to worry folks. In case you haven’t heard, Nero’s Steak House in Casino Windsor is all things a good beef baron should be, and more. They specialize in prime cuts of meat, but also offer seafood and a full menu.

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Rino’s Kitchen & Ale House

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Formerly the Nesbitt Inn, Rino’s Kitchen and Ale House is a small restaurant on the fringe of downtown Windsor that is big on character and flavor. Meals are served inside a one hundred year old stately brick home on Elliott Street at Pelissier. It’s far enough from the bar scene to have ample parking right next door.

Chef Rino Bortolin proudly uses local ingredients for his ever-changing menu, and he offers local craft beer and wine. His prices are fair and offerings range from burger to lamb shank. The atmosphere is cozy and casual. In the warmer weather tables are set up outside on the deck and sometimes in the back yard.

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Toscana…All the Buzz

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By Cathryn Gagnon and her Dining Divas 

This month the Dining Divas experienced Toscana Restaurant and Wine Bar at 3891 Dougall Avenue, in Windsor.  When making the reservation, the restaurant was completely booked, but they were able to accommodate us in the redesigned bar area.  I actually prefer to sit in the bar area at restaurants; the energetic atmosphere is abuzz, making it a fun setting.

Although it’s a fair size, Toscana is always full. The new bar area now seats about 20, and puts diners face to face with the sushi chef. Stylish round booths surround the comfy bar stools. Our favorite way, for my husband Ed and I to enjoy Toscana, is to reserve a bar stool and share a few of our favorite starters, paired with a bottle of wine.

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