“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
November 22, 2013Posted by on
My new place of employment is located in the heart of the downtown core. A quick jaunt away is Chinatown, which I prefer, due to the convenience, speed and price. I wanted something hot and filling, and Kim Chi House looked like a good option.
I ordered the beef short rib special with stir-fried beef, rice, miso soup, and marinated sprouts ($8.50). I helped myself to complimentary barley tea, which I found a warming, comforting drink.
The miso soup was salty and lukewarm. The ribs were tender but fatty. I liked the stir-fried beef the most, as it was saucy and a touch sweet. The rice was perfectly steamed, each grain was separate and firm. The sprouts were cold and crunchy, and a sizable portion.
Overall, I enjoyed my lunch. The food is filling and tasty. I’d return again, though perhaps next time, I would venture for the stone bowls or soups.
November 19, 2013Posted by on
Friday was my last official day at the university. L wanted to take me out to celebrate, but with Brut down and out with his recent surgery, I thought it best to stay at home. We opted for take out from Himalayan and ordered the following: Grilled Lamb ($17.75); Himalayan Eggplant ($14.00); and an order of Chicken Dumplings ($7.75). Included in our meal was a container of fluffy saffron rice, a small dish of chickpeas and zucchini, two pieces of naan, a garden salad, and two crisps.
The Grilled Lamb was donned in a red wine and cashew nut sauce. L enjoyed it – though I found the meat a tad tough. On the plus side, the pieces were generous in size and not in the least fatty.
My favourite dish of the night was the Himalayan Eggplant, cooked to a medium spice level. The sauce was tart, tangy and very spicy. The green peppers, onions and tomatoes weren’t overcooked, remaining crunchy and sweet throughout the meal.
L enjoyed the Chicken Momo ($7.75). The six dumplings were small, but packed full of chicken. The flour wrapper was perfectly steamed, neither gummy, nor too thick.
Overall, we enjoyed the food. Everything tasted fresh, and nothing tasted greasy. Note, if you order more than $20.00 worth of take-out, customers get 10 percent off the total bill.
November 16, 2013Posted by on
Monday afternoon, L and I were shopping at Willow Park. Restaurant wise, not much was open, except for Sho Sushi. Truth be told, based on the reviews on Urbanspoon, I wasn’t too keen to try it. However, I’m glad I checked it out, as I was pleasantly surprised by our meal.
At 2:00pm, the restaurant was in disarray. Every single table was covered in dirty dishes. Once we received our food, I’m not surprised that Sho was hit hard for the lunch rush. The food is tasty.
We snacked on complimentary nibbles while we waited for our food: nori, peanuts and kimchi. We both ordered the lunch special ($13.95), which came with 3 piece sashimi roll, magic shrimp, teriyaki chicken, salad and rice.
The sashimi roll was delicious. Each piece was topped with either salmon, tuna or red tuna. The filling in each piece was filled with either ripe avocado or chopped tuna. You could tell the sushi was freshly made, and with care. I like the contrast of the soft filling to black sesame or tobiko. The green sauce drizzled on the plate was sweet. I’m going to guess and say the sauce might consist of honey and avocado.
The Japanese style shrimp was similar to ebi mayo, but not as battered or sweet. Deep-fried, the shrimp had a satisfying crunch. Underneath the seafood was deep-fried spinach.
The teriyaki chicken was my favourite aspect of the meal. The meat was dark, the skin was crispy, and the sauce wasn’t the thick, syrupy stuff most restaurants seem to serve. Instead, the sauce was a black, fluid liquid. The salad was dressed in something sweet and creamy. I’m pretty sure it was unhealthy, because I really enjoyed it.
The portions are on the small side, though considering the richness of the food, it was adequate. Overall, I was impressed with the speedy service and the selection in the lunch special. L and I would return again, if we were in the hood.
November 12, 2013Posted by on
All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl. So on a Friday night, I told L I was taking him out to my favourite hangout, Posto. Judging from the packed restaurant, it looks like everyone else wanted to go posto. L mentioned it was odd for restaurant in Calgary to be so busy after eight.
I started off sipping on a glass of wine, while L stuck to beer. For food, we opted for the Chicken Pizza ($17), Squid Ink Agnolotti ($24), and a full order of the mussels ($18.00). My favourite employee at Posto, Elena, wasn’t serving that night as she was managing the bustling room. However, service was still great, fun and light-hearted.
The mussels were nicely cooked. Though small in size, the mussels were fresh. Each shell was open, and for the price, there was a generous amount. There was plenty of smoky pancetta in each shell, a touch of garlic and the mild taste of chilies.
Next up was the chicken pizza with mixed cheese, red peppers, and almond pesto. L and I both agreed Posto nailed the crust. It was crispy with a bit of a chew to it.
My favourite dish of the night was the Squid Ink Agnolotti. Cooked al dente, the filling was packed with fresh tasting crab. I thought I could taste lemongrass in the sauce, and something that added some brightness to it. The sauce consisted of saffron cream and shellfish oil, making this a delightfully decadent dish.
This is my third time at Posto, and it won’t be my last. Next on my Urbanspoon wishlist, Bonterra and Raw Bar.
November 10, 2013Posted by on
The month of November is truffle and mushroom mania at Muse Restaurant. I met Heather Wighton, one of the proprietors of Muse, at past functions at the restaurant. So, when I asked her about the type of truffle showcased on the menu, she invited me to pop by Muse to see the famed white Alba truffle myself. I took Wighton up on her offer, and dropped by Saturday afternoon. Executive chef JP Pedhirney and Muse’s other proprietor, Stephen Deere, were also on site.
Pedhirney brought out Alba truffle for me to smell and examine. After I found out how much white Alba truffles cost, I was scared to go near it. The going price for the two golf ball sized truffles? Two hundred and eighty dollars. By gram, white Alba sells for five to seven dollars.
Muse’s supplier for the white Alba truffle is Mikuni Wild Harvest. In Italy and France, their hunters’ harvest for truffles with trained dogs. Pedhirney is on the phone 24/7 with truffle brokers, monitoring their search for buried treasure.
The Muse team is on the hunt for an extra large white Alba. I learned that finding a big truffle is rare, which is desirable for its stronger taste and fragrance. Deere added that when the team buys the truffles for the restaurant, they pick it for its flavour and aroma. Muse also orders from Fifth Element Imports, which has a stand at the Crossroads Farmer’s Market.
Wighton and JP showed me the mushrooms featured in their six course menu: porcini; chanterelle; cauliflower; fried chicken; black trumpet; and burgundy. Deere informed me that cauliflower mushroom, which resembles ocean coral, has a meaty flavour that works well with seafood.
Mushroom and Truffle Six Course Menu
As for the set menu, I got a sneak peek. To begin, a gift from the owners. An amuse bouche shooter of Double Cross Vodka with blue cheese and black truffle Spanish olive. The second amuse bouche is mushroom flan, green onion tapioca pearls, chiffonade of tarragon, and charred onion salsa.
The first course is a cold appetizer, consisting of a 63 degree egg yolk, sliced radishes, hearts on fire greens, flower pedals, pickled radishes, croutons, sliced house cured pancetta, crimini and porcini mushrooms.
The second course is a hot appetizer. A classic favourite with Muse guests – seared quail, mushroom duxelle, dehydrated Swiss chard, chanterelle mushrooms, ricotta gnudi, dyhydrated buckwheat, sherry emulsion, viola flower, micro Swiss chard, and shaved burgundy black truffles from France.
The third course is a seafood dish. Striped bass, mushroom dashi broth with ginger, mushroom, black bean and scallop dumpling with braised cauliflower mushrooms, fried chicken mushrooms, nori vinaigrette green scallion and nasturtium greens.
The fourth course is 48 hour braised short rib with caramelized pomme puree, crispy fingerling potato, black trumpet mushrooms, shaved white alba truffle, cippollini onion pedal, and brussel sprout leaves.
A palette cleanser is offered after the four course, following a cheese course of truffle brie from Burgundy France, honeycomb, lemon gel and grilled sourdough.
The six course is a chocolate dessert. Caramelized white chocolate, coffee and chanterelle mushroom crumble, rosemary powder, pine nuts, cremini mushroom milk chocolate dipped in nitrogen, burnt lemon gel and burnt lemon sorbet.
I asked Deere about the work that went into creating the menu. Deere credited Pedhirney, noting it takes a deft hand to create six dishes with truffles and mushrooms, yet employing different methods and unique ingredients.
Deere believes the tasting menu is an experience. He finds that his customers who have eaten truffles in Italy, come to recreate their past experience. For newbies, its about having that first experience with truffles.
Before I left, I asked Pedhirney if he learned anything from mushroom and truffle festival. He responded, “I learned truffles are super expensive and it is very stressful getting that extra large truffle. It is a real challenge to get the right size and quality for our customers.”
Before I spoke to the Muse team, I was excited to try the mushroom and truffle menu. After listening to Wighton, Pedhirney and Deere, I am salivating at this chance. This is a rare and value packed opportunity for Calgarians to sample something special. The six course menu is ninety-eight dollars per person.
November 8, 2013Posted by on
Growing up, I loved eating westernized Chinese food. Occasionally, I still get a craving for this genre of food, and when it hits, I order from Pearl Express.
Based on my past visits, I found the food consistent, hot and fresh. The dishes aren’t pretty, but it is tasty. L and I normally order: ginger beef; shrimp, cashews and mixed vegetables; dumplings; salt and pepper squid; and Singapore noodles.
I think of all the noodle dishes I tried at Pearl Express, the Singapore noodles are the best. The thin noodles are coated in a rich, moist yellow curry powder. There are ample pieces of chai sui (bbq pork), shrimp, scrambled egg and red peppers.
The pork dumplings taste homemade. The meat inside is plump and juicy. The wrapper is a tad doughy, but nonetheless, delicious.
The ginger beef is always consistent. The long strips of beef are battered and dry. The sauce sits on the bottom of the container, thick, sweet, and sticky.
The salt and pepper squid is usually tender, with a still crispy batter, covered in spicy peppers. I like the liberal amount of onions and red peppers intermingled with the seafood.
The shrimp and cashew dish gives you good bang for your buck. If I made this dish at home, it would easily cost double the amount Pearl Express charges. Once you pick out all the good stuff out (shrimp and cashews), it serves as a vegetable dish.
November 5, 2013Posted by on
I received excellent news early Friday morning. To treat myself, I made an appointment at Swizzlesticks for a head of highlights and restocked on product. Though my vanity was satiated, my appetite was growing, so off I popped by Tenshi for a late lunch.
Well past one o’clock, the restaurant was quiet. I ordered the sushi and sashimi special ($11.99). The accompanying miso soup was hot and salty, filled with plenty of seaweed and cubes of tofu.
The salmon and tuna sashimi were served both at a cool temperature. The slices of fish were generous, similar to what you get at Li-Ao. Taste wise, the salmon was nicely marbled whereas the tuna was firm and not stringy. However, I wasn’t as enthralled with some of the seafood. For example, one piece of fish was so chewy I gave up trying to eat it. The scallop was large, but a little fishy. The rice was also a touch gummy.
I still haven’t given up on Tenshi. I did like my past meal there and I would return for the salmon and tuna don. However, I don’t know if it is because of my age, but I’m finding myself less inclined to eat out, though when I do, I want to make it count. Tenshi does the trick for something cheap and quick, but my next sushi venture will be a revisit to my beloved Wa’s.
November 3, 2013Posted by on
There are plenty reviews on Urbanspoon that state Spiros has the best pizza in town. My conclusion? I think Spiros is up there with other popular old school pizza joints, such as Hanni’s and Nick’s.
I ordered the Five Sisters ($27.95), which was described to me as a meat free pizza. However, when a vegetarian guest bit into it, she found a thick layer of ham. I could have called and complained, but instead, I sucked it up and whipped up a dish for my guest. Besides, the ham was delicious – it didn’t taste like that nasty processed stuff you get at Safeway. This was the least cheesy of the pizzas, as the other two were covered with a gooey layer.
Next up was Annah’s Island ($28.75), which contained chunks of white chicken, pineapple and mozzarella. The sweet and spicy tomato sauce was much more sweet than spicy. Everyone, including me, thought it tasted similar to ketchup. Spiros does not skimp on the ingredients, noticeably so with the chicken.
Last but not least, I ordered Cowboys and Heroes ($27.95), a politically correct pizza. This was my favourite of the bunch, piled high with pepperoni, salami, crumbly bacon, ham, spicy Italian sausage and meat sauce.
Overall, Spiros makes a good pizza, albeit, a tad pricier than our norm. However, for $85, we feed seven people, and had enough for lunch the next day. I would rather pay a bit more for good food, as cheap eats usually means the use of lesser quality ingredients.
October 31, 2013Posted by on
With my contract with the university coming to an end, I’ve become increasingly attached to my go to lunch spot. Truth be told, since I discovered Fuel for Gold, other food vendors have cease to exist. Since 2012, I’ve eaten here at least once a day.
To date, my favourite lunch specials include: Roast Chicken ($10.50); Coconut Chicken ($10.50); and the Maple Glazed Salmon ($10.50). Portions are filling. For ten dollars, you get a big piece of protein, a side of couscous or brown rice, and steamed vegetables. I found out from Chef Fauzy Azouz that he paired up with a nutritionist to ensure the food meets the dietary needs of their students.
One thing I’ve noticed is that protein and vegetables are never overcooked. Azouz informed me it is due to the fact that all the meat and seafood are brought in fresh, never frozen. Secondly, he uses multiple cooking methods to ensure the meat doesn’t dry out. For example, he steams the chicken and then roasts it in the oven for colour and flavour. As for the salmon, because it is brought in fresh, it won’t shrink when steamed.
I also appreciate that Fuel for Gold doesn’t overcook their vegetables. Big heads of broccoli, carrots, and chunks of green and red peppers remain crunchy. The vegetables are simply steamed and dressed lightly with lemon juice or a tangy seasoning. Azouz noted that all the vegetable and fruits are brought in from local farmers, and their staff peels and cuts it, to ensure students are getting the freshest and healthiest produce. On Sundays, Azouz shops at the farmers market to personally pick out the best of the bunch.
The homemade soups are killer. My top three picks include: lemon chicken and rice; dairy free clam chowder; and borscht. The latter was a pretty ruby hue, filled with shredded red cabbage, bits of potatoes, with a deep but subtle heat.
Perhaps Azouz will hire me to work at Fuel for Gold, so that I can learn his recipes. I’m particularly fond of his quinoa and wild rice salads. In any case, I’m hoping he will depart some of his cooking tips before I leave.
October 28, 2013Posted by on
Jen and I were out late, and before heading home, we wanted something to eat. Jen always lets me pick the restaurant, so this time around, I opted for Sun’s BBQ. We arrived at midnight, to a restaurant packed with older Asian folk and young children.
I’ve read about the poor service at Sun’s, but honestly, I’ve never had a problem in the past, or on this occasion. Service is always efficient, despite the chaos. Our server Lena was attentive, considering she had to deal with a restaurant full of customers, all vying for her attention.
Jen was craving the Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple and Mayonnaise Sauce ($12.50). To round out our snack we ordered a large order of rice ($4). The pork could have arrived hotter, but other than that, it was tasty. The pork was more sour than sweet, which we prefer. Next time around, I’ll ask the kitchen to omit the mayonnaise, as it didn’t do anything for the dish. I like the rice, which was fluffy and dry.
I really like Sun’s. The prices are a touch more than other Chinese restaurants, but I would rather pay a few bucks more if the quality of the food is superior. I also think Sun’s make the best bbq duck, roast pork and bbq pork in Calgary or Vancouver. For our late night craving, Jen and I will return.