DISHCRAWL (WESTDALE VILLAGE)
Here I go again, expanding my gastronomical horizons with another Dishcrawl. For this edition, our fearless leader, Dishcrawl Hamilton organizer Dave Haley, set up a fun night in Westdale Village. It always feels a bit like a homecoming to be back in that neighbourhood, having attended McMaster.
For my guest this session, I brought my friend and #HamOnt celebrity Mark Furukawa, owner of Dr. Disc. Not only is Mark an expert when it comes to music, but I consider him to be a foodie too, so he was the perfect Dishcrawl accomplice. When I first arrived, I met another Hamilton online personality, Andrea Kovacs, who runs momstown Hamilton and her husband, photographer Mike Kovacs.
There are so many possibilities in Westdale, but I had a feeling our first stop was going to be on the itinerary – Bean Bar (1012 King Street West). The restaurant is in its impressive 20th year. We learned that it was actually the first Internet cafe in Hamilton, and the business was originally founded by three sisters.
I had only been to Bean Bar before for a sandwich/wrap/appetizers and didn’t associate them with their fine dining, so this was a treat. Special Dishcrawl menus were printed out for us and our plates were artfully presented with Beef Short Ribs (served with seasoned boiled potatoes and seasonal veggies), Eggplant Napoleon (with goat cheese, asparagus, and oven-roasted tomatoes), and Calamari “Fritti” (with a spicy smoked jalapeno aioli). How cute is that little stack of Eggplant Napoleon?
For our next stop, we got our usual instruction from Dave – that we would know when we got there. Outside Koosh Bistro (1047 King Street West) we were greeted by a fire-breather. Subtle! As coincidence would have it, Mark knew the street performer, Murray, who is a regular customer of Dr. Disc. That made me laugh – of course Mark, man-about-town that he is, knows the fire-breather!
Mark and I were the last ones inside Koosh and the place was already packed, which left us with seats at the bar. That worked out well, because we had the best view of the space and we were able to chat with owner, Koosh, and his wife. She joked that we had the best access to the bar, and Mark took her up on her offer to try their special Koosh caesar.
We were presented with our plates – a staple of their menu, Koosh Pasta (fettuccini with prosciutto and mushrooms in a garlic white wine cream sauce), Veal Gorgonzola (veal scaloppini in a cheesy gorgonzola sauce with whiskey candied apples on a crostini) and bruschetta (as Mark noted, pronounced the correct way!). Koosh makes everything from scratch and their pasta is made fresh daily.
When chef Koosh was describing the menu, the ladies in our Dishcrawl crew were particularly vocal when he mentioned the white wine and whiskey. On our way out, Koosh and his wife treated Mark and I to a shot. We were a boozy bunch, apparently!
Scanning the menu online, I just noticed their dessert menu has crèpes, crème brulée, and something called an English Trifle Martini. Plus, a delicious-sounding brunch menu on the weekends. Breakfast and dessert – my two faves. Have that barstool ready for me, Koosh! I’ll be back.
So, I recently finished reading Eat, Pray, Love – you know the part where Liz is at the “Pleasure” portion of her spiritual journey and is eating her way through Italy and needs to buy some new pants, having outgrown the waistbands of all her jeans? That’s the direction I’m headed this summer. Like, I’m this close to busting out my old Modrobes. I fancied myself to be Elizabeth Gilbert as we moved from one Italian restaurant to another.
Luckily, we got to walk it off a bit on the way to stop number three – Valentino’s Place (824 King Street West). Our new pal Murray awaited us in the parking lot with more fire-breathing, and he upped the ante with another trick. This time, he crushed a lightbulb beneath his foot and ate some of the glass with great panache. Needless to say, the food we were about to eat was much tastier.
The Italian family restaurant is a classic to the city, having been in business for 35 years, with a new location which just opened in Stoney Creek. I had eaten at the restaurant before but was pleased to try their revamped menu. We sampled the gnocchi (which I’ve had before, very good!), arancini (fried rice balls), and pizza (new to their menu). It was a neat little plate and probably all we could muster at this point. Little did we know, our last stop would be a big one!
After that, it was time for the best part (for me, anyway) dessert. There was much speculation where we would end up, but as we ventured back the way we came, I heard a familiar voice. Local songstress Sara London serenaded us as we walked up to Bean Bar.
Bean Bar is revered for their desserts and specialty coffees, but I hadn’t yet had the pleasure. As Mark, Andrea, Mike, and I grabbed the same table we had for our first course, the server explained that we were about to go on a “cake tour.” Say no more, friend. I am being a tourist in my own city, after all.
In groups, we went up to view the display case of at least 20 cakes and the servers described them all, one by one. Thinking we had to make a decision, I made a mental note that I wanted the Red Velvet. They made the difficult choice easy for us – we returned to our seats to find a plate with three different pieces of cake, chosen at random. The cake gods were with me – I scored the Red Velvet, as well as Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake and something deliciously chocolate. Bam!
What a night! Another excellent Dishcrawl filled with new discoveries. We waddled out of there, stuffed to the brim. Thanks to Mark for joining me and to Dave for another fantastic evening!
Note: I received a media pass to attend Dishcrawl, but all thoughts about the night are my own.