Sunday, August 16, 2009

J'n'B's Fish & Chips

Guest Review: Ruth & Ian

Sir George Simpson (governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company) mentions the whitefish of the north shore of Lake Superior in the early 1800s. At Webbwood, on Highway 17, we had 3 pieces of excellent seasoned whitefish and chips for $12.87, along with fresh-tasting coleslaw. Webbwood is on a long stretch of the TransCanada between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, a beautiful but slightly desperate part of the province. Commercial food establishments are few and far between along this road, so you have to pick wisely. Summer options are more plentiful and the local fishing industry makes chip trucks featuring fish options a good bet.

Best feature: Picnic tables for seating covered by a tarp—very welcome during a rainy summer.

Condiments: included seasoned salt.

View: No view of Lake Superior, but the entertainment of three tweens hanging out on a summer day, and a mufferless trail bike on a nearby track.

Nibbler's Chip Truck

Guest Post: Ruth & Ian

Nibblers Chip Truck in Spanish, Ontario, is part way along the north shore of Georgian Bay, on the Trans Canada Highway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. We stopped there on a rainy summer weekday during a mini road trip from southern Ontario to the Thunder Bay area.

The first good omen was the break in the rain that occurred just as we pulled up. We were also attracted by the petunias surrounding the road sign and the lighthouse rising up out of the chip truck roof. The clincher was the information that fresh pickerel was on the menu (the sign said “walleye”, but that must have been to attract tourists).

The attendant was ready and waiting to serve us; it was only the rain and not Spanish’s resident population or popularity as a tourist stop that had been keeping the crowds away because several other people pulled up as we were munching scrumptious battered and fried strips of pickerel at a picnic table. Among the others were a francophone couple from Quebec (we noted the latter distinction because there was lots evidence of the francophone community in the mid-north of Ontario) and a couple from Tennessee (although he had an appropriate drawl, she had retained an English accent that was surprising, especially when he identified that their relationship and life in the southern USA had lasted 20 years so far with “more to come”, he hoped).

The pickerel was wonderful, light, moist and flaky.

The chips weighed down the cardboard box; they were heavy with oil, hard to separate from one another and attractive for eating only in the interests of this review and because we were hungry.

Two pickerel dinners cost $17.80. As we dumped the chips in the trash can, we felt the fish, the decoration of the truck and surroundings, the company and the break in the rain were well worth the price.

Twilight Taters

Guest Review: Ian & Ruth

The only food to be served between Wawa and Batchewana (aside from what you might cook for yourself at a park campground) is at Twilight Taters at Montreal River Harbour.

It is in a gem of a location, especially if you arrive in the late afternoon on a clear summer day, as we did. But for this blog, you might easily miss it. We learned about it only because of one small highway sign a few kilometers in advance on the TransCanada Highway as the road winds along the shores of Georgian Bay, and then a small sandwich board right on the gravel road that turns off a steep, sharp curve of the highway down to the mouth of the Montreal River and that is the entrance to the chip truck’s home, a cabin/campground called the Twilight Resort.

Just why the river was so named was a question for us (by our map, this particular location on Georgian Bay did not seem plausibly related to a fur trade or other route from the east). It was also a mystery to the operator of the chip truck, despite his seasonal work at the campground for the past 23 years. His graying ponytail and beard, as well as the rock music that was playing on the radio as he fired up the grill for us, seemed to define his generation and interests although we didn’t find the way to ask for more personal details to see if our stereotyping was accurate. We did learn that the chip truck, which he had recently refurbished after moving it from inactivity in Wawa, was a new venture for him and was moderately successful, in part because the young staff of the nearby Lake Superior Provincial Park liked his burgers.

Given the rainy weather this summer, it was probably lucky that the truck was actually a large trailer, so the owner had been able to fit in a bench and table as well as a counter and the cooking area. He fried up a previously frozen burger and hot Italian sausage (their frozen state not begrudged by us considering our interest in staying healthy during travel and the apparent low volume of customers; we had had to find him in the resort office and he opened up the chip truck to cook for us). The chips, although advertised as fresh cut, were also likely frozen; they were inoffensive but not distinguished in any other way.

The cost was very reasonable ($4 for a burger or sausage, $3 for a large fries; $14.75 with pop in total for the two of us), there were a few condiments and there was also a variety of other grill/fast food type items on the menu.

In addition to picnic tables there was a log swinging bench with a view of the standing waves where the fast-moving river met the Bay, the sky/water horizon and rocky islands with wind-sculpted pines. The view was outstanding. And we had caught it with the sun was low in the sky spreading warm yellow/red tones over the panorama. This goes to support the idea that, with chip trucks, as with life, it may be the ambience, not the chip, which is the saving grace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reggie's Hot Grill