Burger Wars: Round 3. Reggie’s Hot Grill

Awhile back, I started a blog mini-series on the “burger wars” of Peterborough.  Here at Farm to Table, we take our burgers pretty darned seriously and feel that it is our responsibility to report on the state of burgerdom in this here Peterburger town.

The first part of the series gave a bit of recent burger history.  You can find it here.

The second part was a review of the new burger kid on the block: The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro.  You can find that review here.  The conclusion:  A quite pricey (though definitely large) franchise burger with an impressive array of tasty condiments.  Hand cut (and somewhat crisp) fries.  Excellent customer service.  7/10.

Next up in the better burger battle is Reggie’s Hot Grill.  Reggie’s has a soft spot in the hearts of many local burger aficionados.  While this soft spot is most likely made up of a combination of cheese and french fry grease, it exists nonetheless.  In short, Reggie’s is definitely a favourite in this town.  It became so as a result of a combination of innovative burger options and a pretty darned good product.  It didn’t hurt that they ran the best darned burger/chip truck in town (sadly, now closed).  For a good long while, Reggie’s could do no wrong.

Of late, however, Reggie’s grill-flamed halo has begun to sputter.  There have been reports that the once-keen eye for detail has begun to wander. After all, owners Cameron Green and Rejean Maranda have opened a few other restaurant properties over the past few years, including El Camino’s, Kettle Drums, and the newly purchased McThirsty’s.

In fact, whenever I have posted about the restaurant over the past year or so (on Facebook and Twitter) I’ve heard fairly equal measures of praise and regret.

The Reggie burgers that Krista and I have bought over the past two years have ranged from pretty good to disastrous.  I mean, ingredient-wise, they are better than fast food franchises, but sometimes burned, other times missing condiments.  On one occasion, both.

For the sake of this review, I decided to give the Reggie’s kitchen the best opportunity they could to knock it out of the park.

I popped in midweek, at 11:15am.  Knowing I would likely be the only customer, I wanted to check out what a fully-attentive staff could do with a burger.

The woman working behind the counter was fresh-faced and keen.  Say what you will about Reggie’s, those kids that they hire are always a chipper bunch.

Having had a few very well-done burgers from the restaurant before, I decided to try to mitigate the over-grilling.

“I know you folks have to cook your burgers to 71 degrees,” I told her.  “But if you could keep it as rare as you can, that would be great.”

She nodded.

I took off for 10 minutes and returned to find my burger still on the grill and the waitress talking to her co-worker.  The conversation quickly ended and the cook hightailed it back to attend to my food.

The result?

My Pepper Jack Burger was blackened on one side and definitely a very, very well-done puck of beef.  The cheese, I have to believe, was thrown on when I came in the door and quickly wrapped up with the burger — definitely without any time to even slightly melt.  While the other condiments, including their quite delicious Creamy Jalapeno sauce, were bang on, the burger itself was a bit of a grilling disaster.  And this was with me being the first and only customer of the day.

The fries, on the other hand, were excellent.  Piping hot and golden brown, they almost made up for the burger.  Almost.

Before assigning a score on this one, I’m going to factor in my previous visits to Reggie’s — and the fact that I have had some great burgers there in the past, and likely will again.  That bump, however, is not enough to put it into the above average realm of burger mastery.

As with the Works, I’m pretty certain that we’re not dealing with local ingredients.  Other than the generic “6oz Ontario Beef Burger,” I’ve seen and heard no mention of local sourcing.

The verdict: Reggie’s has the history and potential of a great burger shack.  They have good, fresh condiments (even if they are sometimes mislaid), notable fries, and great customer service.  They also have some consistency issues and a seemingly growing list of disgruntled patrons.  Their burger is quite a bit smaller than the Works, but comes in at a lower price.  I got away with just around $15 for a burger, fries, drink, tax and tip — still pretty pricey for a overly-charred chunk of cow.  While they remain my burger go-to, they need to return to the level of detail that made them so good in the first place if they are going to keep my business. 7/10.

It’s your turn, folks.  Chime in with your Reggie’s experience.  Let us know what you think of the Works.  Or tell us where you think the best Peterburger is served.

Italian Pub Night Recipes

Friday and Saturday nights are pretty mellow around the Farm to Table household — particularly in the Fall and Winter. Krista will have spent a long week teaching. I’ll have spent a long week writing, consulting, promoting local foods, or doing whatever it is that my ever-varied career throws at me.

Foodwise, we try our best to whip up something both fun and easy. Friday nights are almost always pizzas. Nothing says Friday like pizza and either a cold beer or a glass of wine. Saturday nights are hockey nights. Krista does some of her weekly food prep — making cheese, yogurt, and granola — while I tune into Hockey Night in Canada. With hockey as a backdrop, I usually try to create something pub-like and, well… moderately unhealthy. You only live once, right?

While the pizzas always vary — they change with the season — the dough is almost always hand tossed, the sauces homemade, and the cheeses artisanal. Longtime readers may recall my decadent BBQ Grilled Pizza with Garlic Scape Pesto, Lemon/Herbed Chicken, and Double-Smoked Bacon. This time around, I’ve decided to offer up something a bit more healthy:

Autumn Harvest Pizza
Pizza Dough
Garlic Scape Pesto
OR the autumn seasonal Basil Pesto
Toscano Cheese
Pearl sized Buffalo Mozzarella balls
Swiss Chard

  • Preheat your oven to 450F. If you are using a pizza stone, let heat for 40 minutes.
  • Very thinly slice eggplant. Remove large veins from chard and rip into bite-size pieces.
  • Cut your tomatoes and broccoli into topping sized pieces.
  • Finely grate toscano.
  • Roll out your dough to your desired thickness and size.
  • Spread your pesto to taste.
  • Sprinkle toscano over pesto. A thin layer, you don’t need a tonne.
  • Add a single layer of eggplant and chard.
  • Dress with tomato and broccoli.
  • Add mozza balls — a few go a long way, trust me.
  • Bake on pizza stone or on a baking sheet: 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

For our dough, we either make it from scratch, using a breadmaker and then hand rolling/tossing, or (if we are really feeling lazy) we purchase Lisa’s really great roasted garlic/rosemary dough from Black Honey Bakery (located behind the Black Honey Desserts Café). You can definitely use some local Merrylynd Farm organic wheat flour in your dough, but you’ll want to balance it out with a finer sifted flour in order to have a more workable dough and lighter crust. Krista and I always make a tonne of garlic scape pesto in the spring and freeze it in ice cube trays for later use (dumping the frozen cubes into freezer bags for bulk storage). Because basil is also abundant in the early fall, you can also use a basil pesto. We alternate between using an aged Spanish Manchego and a Toscano from Mariposa Dairy — both available from Chasing the Cheese. The Manchego is a better fit for the dish, but the Toscano is local.

Up next: the Fallslaw. Cabbage, carrot, apple slaw with a balsamic dressing.

Coming Soon: Italian Pub Night Recipes

For some reason, there was Italian on the menu throughout the weekend. Pizza one night, meatball subs the next. We had some tasty seasonal slaw to keep things moderately healthy. Coming soon, the recipes: Autumn Harvest Vegetable Pizza, Messy Meatball Subs, and Fallslaw with Cabbage, Carrot and Apple.

The bulk of the ingredients were local. The subs featured meatballs made from local beef, homegrown garlic, cayenne, and oregano (plus a few other local ingredients) on homemade bread, with sauce made from all homegrown ingredients. The pizza was a hand-tossed crust, again with the homegrown sauce, and featured chard, eggplant, brocolli, and tomatoes — all from our garden — along with garlic scape pesto that we made and froze early in the summer. Finally, the slaw was made from cabbage and carrots from our garden, with local apples for sweetness. I can thank Krista for growing most of this food. Without her gardening skills, we’d probably have starved by now.

“Chipotle Hurt” Recipe and Results

The “Chipotle Hurt” hot sauce. Another success from the Farm to Table hot sauce test kitchen.
A few days back, I posted about the creation of a new Farm to Table hot sauce.  Click here for that post.  I’m excited to report that the “Chipotle Hurt” was a fantastic success.  Smokey, hot without being painfully so (though the pepper-timid may beg to differ), deep and rich in flavour.  It is a hot sauce that I would be excited to find on any restaurant table. Last night we had it with Autumn Harvest pizza (look for that recipe soon), and it was the perfect match.

Use this sauce for pizza, burgers, mexican food, eggs…  really, anywhere that you think a splash of smokey chipotle would suit.

Note: Do not adjust the ratio of vinegar to vegetables in the sauce if you are canning.  The PH level needs to be high enough for safe storage.

Farm to Table Chipotle Hurt Hot Sauce
Makes Roughly 1.75 litres, or 14 x125 ml jars.

4 1/2 lbs green tomatoes
1  lb cayenne chilies
1/2 lb green pepper
12 dried chipotle chilies
12 dried cascabel chilies
3/4 lb small cooking onions
1 1/2 heads of garlic, broken into pieces
3 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar

  • Place chipotle and cascabel chilies in bowl; add 2 cups boiling water.  Let steep.
  • Clean and stem tomatoes and peppers.
  • Cut green pepper in half.
  • Grill tomatoes, cayenne chilies, green peppers, onion, and garlic on a medium-high grill, remove from heat when charred but not burnt, roughly 20 minutes (tomatoes should brown not blacken, chilies should blister and just start to blacken at the tips, peppers should slightly blister and just start to blacken).
  • Peel onion and garlic.
  • Roughly chop tomatoes, chilies, peppers, onions, and garlic.
  • Add sugar and salt to vinegar, stir.
  • Combine all ingredients in a stock pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Run contents through a food mill.
  • Follow canning instructions for “hot pack” canning — the Barnardin canning website is probably your best source.  Prepare approximately 14x125ml jars. Process for 15 minutes in a hot water bath canner.

Tomatoes, cayennes, garlic: The Farm to Table Gardens.
Dried chilies: The Firehouse Gourmet.
Onion and green pepper: Beyer Farms, Douro (I think… Krista grabbed them at Market, and we often shop Beyer’s).

New Farm to Table “Chipotle Hurt” Hot Sauce

it begins small

What happens when you fire-roast end-of-harvest green tomatoes, the last of the season’s cayenne chilis, onion, and garlic, and then boil them up with some chipotle and cascabel peppers?  The short answer is that I still don’t know for sure.  But I’ll definitely be certain within the next 24 hours.

In the latest Farm to Table test kitchen quest for hot sauce excellence, I decided to tackle a good hot chipotle sauce — it is, after all, a wonderfully versatile sauce that is great for livening up pizza, burgers, wings, eggs, quesadilla, nachos, rice and beans…  you get the idea.

While I already make an excellent Caribbean sauce (“the Habanero Death”), and a pretty good Louisianna (“the Cayenne Killer”), I haven’t really tried my hand at a true chipotle sauce.

Until last night.

the flames small

And then I made over a half gallon of it.

The “Chipotle Hurt” still has one boil to go through, and then the canning process, but I can tell you this: the early results are fantastic.

I’ll post a recipe soon, but in the meantime, a teaser:

I started by tossing a bunch of green tomatoes on the BBQ, heat cranked almost to high.  I added my onion and garlic to the grill at the same time.  Turning frequently, I allowed the tomatoes to brown and slightly char, without blackening, and pulled them when they started to soften.  I then put the cayennes on — using a vegetable grilling basket to keep them falling into the flame.  I roasted them until they were, like the tomatoes, starting to soften and char, but not burning.  The onion and garlic kept on cooking alongside them.

almost ready small

I took everything inside, peeled the garlic and onion, chopped up the entire mess, and added a brine of cider vinegar, salt, and a bit of sugar.  I mixed it in a BBQ safe pot and then brought it outside to boil.

Within minutes, the entire Farm to Table neigbourhood was aware of that something was a-cooking.  Chipotle and cayenne were carried on the breeze, making for a potent autumn evening.

45 minutes later, I brought the pot inside, ran the entire contents through a

The boil small

food mill, and allowed it to cool.

And, wow, was it beautiful.  A rich, nutty brown colour.  Thin enough to pour, thick enough to stick, it has just a bit of lumpiness that I will fix tonight.  Smoky on both the nose and the tongue, with a medium heat and a full taste.  So far so good.

As I said, though, there is still a boil to go — I want to adjust the consistency just a tad.  And then it has to be processed.

But if it holds the flavour that it currently has, they we will definitely have a winner.  And another potential hot sauce for future sales.

I’ll give you a verdict, a recipe, and a photo of the finished product tomorrow.  Stay tuned!