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Los Cabos – Day Seven

Our direct flight back to Calgary was at noon.  L walked to Starbucks for coffee and a bagel while I made another pack of ramen noodles for my breakfast. Cabo Shuttle Services picked us at 9:15 am. While our driver Macho arrived on time, he looked hung over and cranky. His mood improved when he found out that L had visited Macho’s hometown, Mexico City. I knew my place and remained silent throughout the ride to the airport. I did make one comment and Macho looked irritated that I chimed in and interrupted them.

Some interesting tidbits I overheard, as I was not part of the conversion. Los Cabos is  pricey for locals to live, particularly when compared to other areas in Mexico, such as Puerto Vallarta or Mexico City. One reason is water. Apparently it only rains about five days a year. Water has to be imported and desalination is an expensive practice that locals pay for through municipal taxes.

Hurricanes are a cyclical issue in Cabos. Our driver pointed out a pile of rubble and said it was a run down resort that was purposely left alone, because it was common knowledge that the hurricane would eventually demolish the decrepit building. In 2014, Hurricane Odile did just that.

The current president of Mexico is heavily taxing residents, facing a series of scandals,  and is rapidly losing popularity.  I already know about the drug lord escape fiasco, but our driver also told us how he had friends that were students that were mass murdered by drug lords, and no one was happy how the president handled that crisis. Gasoline prices have sky rocketed due to crazy high taxation, which is more expensive than people pay in Texas.

We got to the airport and the whole process of checking in was  a breeze compared to my experiences at the Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Plata and Playa del Carmen airports. The duty-free store was pricey. My Don Julio was double what I paid in town. I didn’t bother buying anything. I was pleased that I already bought my souvenirs at the best price.

L has a ton of clients that we see whenever we travel. These clients get vacation the same time as L, and I can always count on bumping into them. We saw two of his clients at the duty-free shop and then they were seated right next to our table at the Corona Bar. I always have to mind my manners around them. Sigh.

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We ordered Pacifico beers and shared some greasy fries. The ketchup was a Mexican brand and it looked like a gel. Our fries came automatically with the most disgusting cheese whiz. What annoyed me was that we never asked for cheese and it came at an extra charge.

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On the plane I watched my new favourite show, Fresh off the Boat. I find the show hilarious though not entirely accurate. Eddie’s parents are unrealistically laid back, optimistic and there’s no talk about losing face or bringing shame to the family. The focus on grades is dead on. Also, I think these kids get way too much play time. Why aren’t they helping at the restaurant after school? It’s like they took the Brady Bunch show and incorporated aspects of it into a Chinese family.

Cabos was a pleasant escape for a week. If I can budget it, our next winter trip will be  Havana. However, right now my focus is on Japan. L and I are looking forward to our three-week trip to Kyoto and Tokyo in the spring.

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Los Cabos – Day Six

I woke up wanting to enjoy every second of our last full day in Cabos.  I made non-fried ramen noodles for breakfast. I usually eat Asian food for breakfast anyway, and I couldn’t stomach another Starbucks breakfast.

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L and I did our usual walk by the Marina and along the beach. Around 10:30 am I was craving a margarita from Monkey Business. Naomi’s drawing of her underwear was still up on the wall.

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There was a large group of American tourists from Texas that monopolized the bar. I saw a blonde lady in her late forties grab the arm of a man and suggestively say, “Too bad your wife is here…” His expression was completely blank.

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I was peacefully sipping away at my pineapple margarita  when I looked up and noticed a really gross advertisement for Viagra. I asked L why the elderly man’s face was so nasty. L said it was to add to the creepiness factor.

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Before we left, I had to wait in line to use the washroom. That blonde woman I saw earlier (I’ll call her Jezebel) came up behind me and told me there was a hot guy there that looked like some actor I never heard of. Jezebel said that it was too bad he was with his wife. Her friend came out of the washroom and said it took her a long time to tee tee. I asked Jezebel what tee tee meant. She said Texans say tee tee instead of pee pee because it sounds nicer. I was surprised she cared enough to use a more polite word for urinating when she was so open about being a manizer.

L and I wanted a little snack at Burrito Surf. We walked near the outer skirts of Cab0s, which is about a ten minute walk from our Airbnb. Burrito Surf is known for their vegetarian friendly food, which is hard to find in Cabos.

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I received a free tamarind drink for using my Yelp check-in. We shared a bowl of guacamole and one surf and turf burrito. The guacamole is made with olive oil. Personally, I think Burrito Surf serves up the best guacamole I tried all trip. The avocado was chunky and the tomatoes tasted like it was plucked from a garden. There was more guacamole than chips, always a winning ratio in my book.

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I liked the balance and ratio of vegetables, sauce, rice, and proteins in the burrito. The beans were firm and not mushy, like what you get from a can. However, the flank steak and shrimp were so salty. The shrimp and beef tasted like it was grilled with soy sauce. Otherwise, the burrito would have been perfect. This entire meal cost about $17.00 (CAN).

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We walked around for a few more hours to work up an appetite. At around 3:00pm we were off again to check out Tacos Gardenias. If you ever come to Cabos, you must come to Tacos Gardenias. This was one of best places we ate the entire week.

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L raved about the fried fish tacos. The batter was light, crispy and not greasy. The generous piece of fish was fresh and flaky. The prices are a steal. A fish or shrimp taco is about $3.00 (CAN).

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The shrimp tacos were delicious, large, sweet and crunchy. The numerous condiments also tasted fresher than any other taco stand we visited.

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I ordered the mixed seafood soup. The broth was hot and well-seasoned. Again, all the seafood tasted incredibly fresh, like it was just caught that morning. This bowl was filled with octopus, shrimp and fish. Muy bueno!

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We walked this meal off again and went back to our place for a siesta. I was still feeling that margarita. We watched another Netflix show and showered for our evening venture. L wanted to check out the local mall and some of the luxury shops. We spent a couple of hours walking along the marina because I knew I was going to miss the view and smell of the water.

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Late that evening, we decided to dine at La Dolce. I had a craving for Italian food. The host took a liking to L and we got a prime spot on the patio without reservations. L ordered beer and I enjoyed a nice glass of pinot gris.

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L ordered fettuccine with chicken and I ordered the beef ravioli. Normally I order for both of us because L doesn’t really care or forgets what he wants by the time our server takes our order. However, I noticed throughout the trip that all our male servers found it odd that I did all the ordering. They give me a look and then look at L as to say, “Dude, you okay with this?” I also notice that when I speak to the local men (cabs, taxis, transfers, etc.) , they look like they aren’t listening to me. When L spoke to them after I attempted to talk, they were animated and would joke around.

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L loved his pasta. I thought my homemade ravioli was even better than his dish. The ravioli filling was plump and the pasta itself was al dente. The sauce was creamy and filled with goodies, like toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms. With two beers, two glasses of wine, two mains, or entire whole dinner cost about $80.00 (CAN).

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For dessert, we walked over to a churro stand right next to our Airbnb. L ate churros from here the previous night. I wouldn’t eat one before because I wanted to see if L got sick first. Each churro was 50 pesos, which is a bit more than $3.00 (CAN).

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For the filling, we requested a mixture of chocolate, vanilla and caramel sauce. The filling was like hot lava, particularly at the bottom. Oh yeah – buy your water at the local grocery stores, it’s cheaper than the XOXO convenience stores. We ended the night the only way we should – by watching Back to the Future III.

Highlights of Day Six include: finding a real taco gem – Tacos Gardenias, having a delicious and romantic last meal at La Dolce, dessert at the Churro Man, and reliving my late 80’s/90’s childhood through Michael J Fox.

 

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Los Cabos – Day Five

L and I woke up on day five in Cabos wanting Starbucks again for breakfast. We are such regulars that all the baristas recognize us. My favourite breakfast is the ham and cheese croissant. Most of the hot sandwiches are slightly different from the options you get in Canada or the States. For example – the use of ricotta instead of feta, the grilled cheese sandwich, and a savoury strudel.

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That morning, we took a purple public bus to check out San Jose. As we arrived on a Thursday and leave on a Thursday, we missed out on San Jose’s popular weekly Art Walk. The bus ride took about 40 minutes.

The bus doesn’t take you directly into town. Instead, you have to get off near the highway and navigate your way over with a map.  I’ve never been to Palm Springs before but I imagine that it looks similar to San Jose. We passed by a lot of brand new American-style stores. Everyone I saw was North American and drove a car.

The town itself is pretty, peaceful and clean. Lots of flowers everywhere and quaint art galleries. I can see Canadian seniors really digging this place. From what I could see, San Jose is quieter than Cabos and sleepier. Personally, I like cities with an urban energy.  I find it far more interesting to be in Cabos, with its louder sounds, smells and hustle and bustle.

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We stopped by Baja Brewing Company for beers to wait for La Lupita Taco & Mezcalto to open at 2:00pm. My boss Tread Lightly visits San Jose frequently and he recommended that I check out La Lupita. The beers at Baja are okay and a nice change from Pacifico. We sampled six different beers ($7.00).

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We sat in La Lupita’s outdoor patio and watched an employee make homemade tortillas. L and I both ordered Mexican craft beers ($10 CAN). My Vera Neiga was refreshing and offered a floral bouquet. My favourite beer by far.

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We started off with guacamole ($6 CAN) and a side of beans ($3 CAN). I’m glad we ordered something to nibble on because it took forty minutes for our tacos to come out. I didn’t mind because I could see the care and effort that went into each taco.

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When the tacos finally arrived – some of them were worth the wait. I found two stones in the rib filling. I was informed it was part of an ingredient.

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We sampled pork, rib meat, pork belly, steak, miso fish, and duck tacos ($2.50-$5.00). The best of the bunch were the duck tacos. It tasted like peking duck in a rice crepe. My least favourite were the more expensive ones – pork belly and the rib meat – both were bland.

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L’s favourite was one of the cheapest – al pastor with pineapple. We ordered four tacos each and that made for a filling lunch. He still thinks that the best al pastor tacos are at Pancho’s Takos in Puerto Vallarta.

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L and I walked back to the highway and waited for our purple bus. We checked with the driver to ensure we were heading back to the Marina. We went back to our place and rested up before heading out to dinner at Los Tres Gallos, which was only a couple of blocks away from our Airbnb.

I would highly recommend reservations at Los Tres Gallos, as the restaurant is packed nightly. We arrived right at 5:00pm because we didn’t have reservations.  Even though the restaurant was empty, we were still asked if we had reservations and where our hotel was located.

The open air patio is beautiful, the trees in the courtyard are lush and old. Service was excellent – everyone was polite, friendly and professional.

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The prices for the food are very reasonable. L and I shared the speciality appetizer of molten stringy cheese and sausage ($12 CAN). Delicious but very rich for even two people to share.

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I wasn’t hungry so I ordered the tortilla soup ($10 CAN), which is poured into your bowl at the table. The broth wasn’t hot. There was cubed cheese and avocado and slivers of crispy tortilla. The bowl was small.  I didn’t think the soup was anything special.

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L ordered the chicken breast mole enchiladas ($22 CAN). This dish was a winner. The sauce was rich and had a bittersweet aftertaste. The sides of rice and beans were excellent as well. If there’s only way place you could visit in Cabos, this would be it.

Just a warning – the prices for food are reasonable but the drinks are not. There also is no drink menu. For my small tamarind margarita, it cost about $14 (CAN). I could tell there was only a shot of tequila in it. L’s craft beer was $10 (CAN) and my bottle of water was $4 (CAN). If you don’t drink, this prices are a steal. If you do and are on a budget… well, maybe you pre-drink beforehand.

Day 5 highlights: Confirmation that I picked the right city (Cabos versus San Jose), and finding two of my favourite restaurants (Los Tres Gallos and La Lupita).

 

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Los Cabos – Day Four

Well that was short-lived. I have to change Mr. Round Eyes back to boring old L. L wasn’t happy with his name change, though he got that name because he jokingly reminds me all that time that his eyes are round. I thought it would be fine to call him Mr. Round Eyes because he called himself that. L said it was racist and when I asked my boss Tread Lightly at work what he thought, he backed L up.

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L and I started off our day having breakfast at Starbucks. My spinach and ricotta cheese breakfast sandwich was 69 pesos ($4 CAN) and L’s favourite breakfast – a toasted bagel with cream cheese and jam was 40 pesos ($2.66 CAN). A tall regular coffee cost 39 pesos ($2.60 CAN).

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 7.58.04 PM.pngDo you know why I loved eating breakfast here? You can flush tissue paper down the toilet. At our Airbnb, the plumbing won’t permit anything but organic material. Only a few places in Cabos had modern plumbing, such as the Puerto Parasio Mall, touristy high volume restaurants, and Wal-Mart.

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After breakfast, L and I walked to The Office and Mango Deck. Both restaurants are located on the beach and are well advertised to tourists. I overheard several tourists ask the water taxi driver to take them to The Office or the Mango Deck because they thought that was the only way to get there. L figured out there are two ways – walk around Puerto Parasio Mall or stroll along the beach. Walking around the mall was a little faster (10 minutes), but I preferred to walk on the soft sand. The water is clean and refreshing as it laps up around your calves.

I didn’t bother to take L to Mango Deck, as the restaurant hosts rowdy contests for tourists and he doesn’t have any tolerance for that sort of stuff. We went to The Office instead asked for a table on the beach. A server looked around and couldn’t find an empty spot. He told us to go up the stairs. We went up to the bar and saw  a table. We asked a server if we could sit there and he informed we would get a table soon. About 10 minutes when by and L started to poke around. He found out we were suppose to put our name on the list at the back of the restaurant. He went to speak to the host who was really rude and yelled at L because his name was difficult to spell. L got pissed off and told me we were leaving.  That was fine with me. The food and drinks didn’t look appealing.

Instead, we hopped on a bus to Wal-Mart so I could buy more tequila to bring home. At the bus stop, we met a loud, know-it-all  woman and her husband. She told me her husband booked a tour for every single day of their trip and each excursion was expensive and awful. She told us she was from Edmonton. I told L that I think she’s from somewhere far worse.

The bus drivers don’t always give you back your change. It’s suppose to be 27 pesos for tourists. A local overhead me say to L that the driver wouldn’t give me my change. He said to me, “You want your change?” I nodded and he shouted at the driver to give me my money. What a nice guy.

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At the strip mall, there’s a few random stores like Radio Shack, a BBQ store, an open air food court, a Japanese restaurant, Wal-Mart and my favourite store, La Europa. I couldn’t find Naomi’s tequila, but I did get Don Julio 70 for only 530 pesos. So cheap. An employee recommended an even better bottle for 1000 pesos, but I declined. Don Julio is good enough for my level of appreciation of tequila and budget.

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I read good things about Koi Sushi and I wanted to eat there for lunch. The restaurant has two floors and comfortable seats. When I came in, all the servers, managers and chefs would look over and giggle at me. I was the only Asian there and I think they thought it was funny or novel. I didn’t see too many Asian tourists in Cabos. Each time I did see one, I wanted to high-five them or nod my head in recognition. I didn’t of course, because that would be weird.

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L and I shared the tuna bowl and sushi combo set. The tuna tasted clean, cut into paper-thin slices. The rice was good, sticky with a nice balance of vinegar and sugar. The small bowl of rice and tuna was about $7 CAN.

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The sushi combo was more substantial. The knife skills weren’t the best but the raw fish was good. The combo was only about $12 CAN. I noticed everyone else at the restaurant was ordering fantastic looking rolls. The cost for this lunch was about $20 CAN. I would have been happy to come to Koi again but L said he didn’t come to Cabos to eat sushi. Sigh.

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For dinner, L wanted street tacos. I took him to El Gran Pastor, a taco stand open late at night. He ordered two al pastor tacos for 50 pesos. He had a couple of beers before and when he was eating them, he told me the tacos were awesome. When I asked him the next day, he said the tacos were good but not the best he’s ever had.

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I saw a crowd of tourists and locals eating at El Gran Pastor. There’s only one guy cooking and two other individuals taking money (cash only). There’s freshly grilled onions and a whole whack of condiments.

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If locals get tired of tourists, I can see why. When we were standing around eating, it seem every drunk tourist had to come over and command another customer (a local) to help them order. Some tipsy guy from the next door bar started shouting, “These are the best tacos of my life”. I thought that was funny.

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On the way home, I noticed there is a chain of strip clubs called Show Girls. An employee hollered at L to come inside. L pointed to me, made a face,  and shook his head. The guy laughed and each subsequent night we would walk past to get to our studio room, the employee would recognize L and heckle him.

Highlights of Day Four: Walking on the beach, finding cheap Don Julio 70, and watching Back to the Future II at the end of the night.

 

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Los Cabos – Day Three

L was in the mood for some Mexican food for breakfast. We picked Mamas Royal Cafe based on Yelp reviews. The restaurant looked like it would be a good place for breakfast. The interior was charming – particularly the wall of ivy plants and the colourful table and decorations. I noticed there was a picture of a gorilla sipping coffee on the wall. There was a cartoon bubble that showed the gorilla thinking “barbarians” and the image of tourists in the background. Mama, tell me what you really think!

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We ordered coffee (40 pesos), which came in tiny little cups. After I drank my thimble of coffee I politely asked for a refill. The server looked me up and down and reluctantly refilled my cup. No offense, but this liquid was not so precious that I should be begrudged a refill.

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L ordered the breakfast fajita filled with scrambled eggs and sausage and I ordered Huevos Divorciados. I liked L’s dish more than my own.

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My eggs were runny. I asked for medium and the egg yolk came out undercooked. The beans weren’t anything special and the flavour of everything was bland. Each dish was around 120 pesos and our entire meal with tip was under $24.00 CAD. I got a bad tummy ache after eating here. I didn’t get d as a result, just a queasiness in my stomach.

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We walked around the city after breakfast. The downtown core consists of maybe 6 blocks. We covered the entire area in less than three hours, including visits to the art galleries and checking out the menus of all the restaurants I recognized from my online stalking.

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What I found most interesting was observing lots in prime locations with unfinished developments. One looked looked like it ran out of money after building the foundation and another that looked like it was destroyed by the hurricane and neglected ever since.Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 9.29.08 PM.png

By lunch time, L and I were feeling peckish. We decided to walk back to the Marina to Captain Tony’s. With a name like that, I wasn’t expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised.

making-guacWe ordered guacamole and two ice-cold Pacificos. The guacamole was better than Anejo in Calgary, and cheaper too. This filling snack plus gorgeous view cost $15.00 Canadian, including tip.

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We people-watched while the tourists strolling by would in turn watch us. I wanted to lightly heckle them or at least tell them to come in for beers, but I knew L would be displeased. He hates it when I  make random conversation with strangers when I’m drinking. For the record, at this point I only had one beer (on an empty stomach).

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For our New Year’s Eve dinner, I suggested we get off the touristy area and get some real Mexican food. I picked Mariscos Las Tres Islas. I ordered a margarita, which was pretty bad. The flavour was one-dimensional and it lacked a freshness to it.

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I ordered based on what I saw the locals eating: fresh oysters, ceviche and fried shrimp. The oysters were large, warm and briny. I prefer my oysters chilled.

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I meant to order ceviche but I accidentally ordered the mixed seafood cocktail. The sauce was sweet and heavy. There was plenty of octopus, marlin, shrimp and sweet scallops.

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My fried shrimp was delicious. Large, crunchy and sweet. The batter was fine, like breadcrumbs. The rice didn’t look like it would taste good, but it was flavourful.

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L, who I will hereby call Mr. Round Eyes, thought his fish tacos were greasy and flavourless. He also didn’t like that there were no condiments to dress his fish tacos. He was disappointed with this restaurant. The total cost for this supper was about $55.00 Canadian.

After dinner, we walked around some more. I didn’t feel like drinking so we came home early to watch Back to the Future. What a classic. Marty and Doc are so likeable, even though their characters are underdeveloped.

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Highlights of Day Three: Theorizing on the urban ruins in downtown Cabos, changing L’s name to Mr. Round Eyes, and watching Back to the Future.

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Los Cabos – Day Two

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L and I woke up not wanting a heavy breakfast. We opted for breakfast at Starbucks by the Marina. The second floor is much more tranquil  on the first floor, which is packed with tourists. The outdoor patio affords a view of El Squid Roe. L didn’t want to venture inside any of the clubs. I didn’t push him because the music blaring from each bar was too obnoxious for even me to enjoy.

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My friend Asian Persuasion told me that her friends almost got shot at El Squid Roe. I asked her what happened when I return to work. She said that some of her friends look and act gangsta. I asked her to elaborate. “You know, some are Asian and Spanish with tattoos and they walk around like are like ‘Brap, brap'”. Asian Persuasion gestured her arms in a short jerky wave. I asked her what “Brap brap” meant.  She said that’s the sound of guns going off and her arm gestures were that of pumping a gun in each hand. Apparently her friends were loud and a local man gave them a dirty look and her friend said, “What the fuck you looking at man?” The guy pulled his shirt back to show a gun. Asian Persuasion screamed at her friends that they were going to get shot and they ran out to the bar next door. She has the best stories.

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L and I walked over to the Marina after breakfast. Every few steps someone would try to sell us a tour, jewelry or Romeo and Juliet cigars (most likely fake). The guy would always start off by saying, “Cigars?” Then when L would shake his head, the guy would whisper, “Weed? Blow?”. I can’t believe how easy it is to get drugs in Cabos.

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For lunch, we picked Los Claros. The restaurant was filled with tourists and locals. The place was very clean and the staff were friendly and efficient. We sat in the outdoor section.

On Yelp, reviewers commented on the freshness of the seafood tacos and ceviche. The ceviche was awesome, the vegetables of cucumber, tomatoes and onions were crisp and the seafood medley of shrimp and octopus was fresh and light. I would order this again. This dish cost about six bucks (CAN).

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Man, there are a lot of condiments and toppings for our tacos. There was a tray full of fried onions and hot peppers too. I counted about 15 choices.

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I ordered one grilled fish, one scallop and one grilled shrimp taco. The scallop taco was the most disappointing, the tiny sized scallops were rubbery. L ordered a fried fish, fried shrimp and one meat taco.  Each taco was between $2.50-$3.00 Canadian.

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L and I enjoyed the food here. We planned to come again but there were so many options we didn’t end up eating anywhere twice.

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After lunch L and I headed back for a siesta. Naomi and her sister wanted to meet us at the Rooftop At the Cape, Thompson Hotel. Whoot! I was game. We ended up paying 20 US to take a cab to the hotel, which I thought was a major rip off. I asked three taxis and they all quoted the same price. I found out later that my friend Naomi only paid $14 Canadian.

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L and I arrived at 7:00 pm and we had to sit in the lounge area because when I went to the rooftop, the hostess said we couldn’t stay there unless we had reservations for the pre New Year’s Eve party. L and I sat downstairs and waited for Naomi and her sister to show up. L drank Pacificos ($10 US) while I drank a wicked cocktail ($16 US) and some average bubbles ($10 US).

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Naomi and her sister arrived and went upstairs to talk to the hostess. She told Naomi the same thing but then changed her mind and said maybe we could sit there for an hour. We came upstairs and I overheard the supervisor tell her to give us seats. The entire upstairs was dead until 9:30pm.

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There was a band playing that L hated. He said it was soft rock at its worst. I didn’t mind – the music just blended into the background. Naomi was more impressed with the Rooftop At the Cape in Playa del Carmen than the one in Cabos. L didn’t enjoy this place so much but he doesn’t like pretentious places. I do and I enjoyed the experience. The cocktails were top-notch and the view of the sunset was gorgeous. We also saw the actor from the 70’s Show, Danny Masterson with his wife.

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We wanted to get a bite to eat so we all headed back to the downtown core. Naomi insisted on treating us to dinner. I picked Da Vinci because 1) prices were reasonable 2) vegetarian friendly 3) no one would get sick 4) Naomi could get a cab easily after dinner.

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We shared two pizzas (180-240 pesos), which was plenty of food for the four of us. The pizza wasn’t anything special. If you ever check this place out, pick the pastas which looked much better.  I ordered a glass of red which tasted off to me. I asked for a glass of pinot gris instead. I could tell the server didn’t think the wine was bad,  he started to protest, then stopped and walked over to the bartender to get me another glass.

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Unfortunately, this was Naomi’s last night. She was already in Cabos for a week and stayed at RIU Sante Fe ($2,100 all-inclusive). Naomi mentioned she went on a tour and it was awful and a complete rip-off. She and her sister spent $100 US each to get shuttled to stores to taste tequila, watch glass being blown, and went for a short water taxi ride. She told me she bought Espada Azteca Tequila for $100 on the tour. I bet her that I could find it for cheaper. She told me to not bother and to visit her soon in Vancouver, so we could try it.

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Highlights of Day Two include: Enjoying the view and killer cocktails at The Cape, hanging out with Naomi and ceviche at Los Claros.

 

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Los Cabos – Day One

My husband L and I usually go somewhere hot and cheap for a week in the winter. Since we can only travel in the high season, I try to save wherever I can. I have a Westjet credit card, which meant my husband’s airfare, using my companion pass, was only $299 plus taxes. I booked a room through Airbnb, a one bedroom in the heart of downtown Cabo for about $70 a night including taxes and the service fees. For transportation, I paid about $160 CAN roundtrip with Cabo Shuttle Service, which included a drop-off to a grocery store.

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We landed and ignored the timeshare people as instructed by Cabo Shuttle Company. We found our driver easily, as he was carrying the sign of his company. We guzzled down two cold Coronas each in our Suburban ride, making a pit stop at Walmart for limes and water, then to La Europa for tequila and beers. I saw online that La Europa sold my favourite champagne, Piper-Heidsieck for only 550 pesos, which is roughly $35 Canadian, a steal considering it costs me about $60 in Calgary. Unfortunately, there was no Piper-Heidsieck in stock. Instead I bought ice-cold Pacificos for about $1.10 Canadian and Don Julio Anejo for $33, which goes for about $68 at my local Highlander.

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After we settled into our new digs, we went searching for tacos. A popular place near our accommodations is Tacos Guss. Yelpers raved about the homemade tortillas and the large selection of fresh toppings.

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I could really taste the difference eating homemade corn tortillas, which were hot, crisper and thinner than the store-bought ones. We ordered two al pastor (pork) two arrachera (skirt steak) and one asada (beef). The skirt steak tacos were my favourite. Mouth-watering, the delicious tender meat was smoky and flavourful. I didn’t get to try the asada because L accidentally ate it.

Guss.jpgL didn’t care for Tacos Gus pastor (pork) tacos, as he found the meat dry. There was only one server and he forgot to bring us our beers (twice), as well as our tray of condiments and napkins. When I went to pay, I had to ask for the cashier to take our beers off our bill, as we never received them. I would come back for the steak skirt tacos. Tacos cost between $2.00 – 3.00 Canadian.

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We met my friend Naomi and her sister at Monkey Business. Monkey Business is a small open air bar, located next to a shopping centre full of kiosks. It’s not fancy but the quality in the booze here shines. Free wi-fi is available.

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I would estimate about two full shots of tequila are put in each margarita. Monkey Business uses fresh fruit juices and herbs for their drinks. You can watch and see how much time and care is put into each drink. My favourite drink was pineapple on the rocks, with a request of “less sweet, more booze than juice”. The margaritas are about $9.00 Canadian.

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Our bartender gave me some coloured felts and a pin. I didn’t understand why we were given these until L snickered and pointed up to the ceiling. L said, “He wants you to put your underwear on the ceiling”. I responded to our bartender, “But I’m not wearing any!” I could feel L cringe with embarrassment (for the record, I was wearing an undergarment).

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Naomi asked for a napkin and provided her contribution. I made a dirty joke (quietly of course) and her sister thought I said, “I wonder if the underwear will fall on your head.” Naomi shook her head and said, “I don’t know what HittingtheSauce said, but I know it wasn’t that. She would say something much more gross.” Naomi knows me well.

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At this time, we were all ready to eat. I asked our bartender Christian where we should go to eat. He drew L a map and wrote “Four free margaritas” on it. He said the prices were reasonable, locals ate there and there would be options for vegetarians.

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Misiones De Kino is a nice restaurant, with an open air patio. We got our free margaritas too, and there was plenty of tequila in it. Naomi and her sister shared the vegetarian fajitas and guacamole. The selection of vegetables for her fajitas looked limited.

meal.jpgL thought his fish tacos were fine. I thought it was interesting that the salsa and guacamole were served in empty avocado shells. The beans were placed in a potato shaped tin foil.

fish tacos.jpgI ordered Fettucine with Scallops (230 pesos) in Misiones de Kino’s special cream sauce. The scallops were plentiful, plump and perfectly cooked. I could not believe the number of fat scallops that were on my plate. The pasta itself could have been a bit more al dente.

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Day one in Los Cabos done. Highlights included finding  Don Julio tequila for cheap and seeing my buddy Naomi, and making a dirty joke in public.

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Roku Japanese Restaurant- Bday Lunch

Asian Persuasion is turning 31! Ah, I remember the good old days when she was a mere 29 years old. To celebrate her birthday, I booked a reservation at Roku. If you’ve read the reviews on Yelp and Zomato and seen the fan fare on Instagram, you’ll know that there is a big foodie following for Roku, more so than my favourite Japanese restaurant in Calgary, Zipang. This visit was my second time at Roku. I picked Roku because Asian Persuasion loved Zipang but she wanted to go somewhere new.

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What’s Up Hamsup protested because I picked a restaurant so far from work. He said I was exhibiting white privilege behaviour as I was married to L. I’m not sure if white privilege can be transferred by right of marriage or how picking a place that is out of the way can constitute such a claim, but I decided it was best to just not go there with him. Duly noted sir, for next time – restaurant should be within 10 minutes of the office.

Being the man that he is, What’s Up insisted he didn’t need to use his GPS (which I kept accidentally calling a UPS) to find Roku. Asian Persuasion told What’s Up to go to Sonia’s house, their mutual friend, but I guess he didn’t listen or forgot where Sonia use to live. We ended up in Rocky Ridge, passing Royal Oak by 10 minutes.

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We finally got to Roku, which is situated in a maze-like strip mall. We ordered green tea ($2.00 per person) to drink. Office Dad ordered the sashimi and chicken karrage lunch combo ($15.00), which came with miso soup, a salad, a bowl of rice and a small scoop of potato salad. He asked our server at least four times how to pronounce karrage (KAH-rah-AH-ge). Āiyā (translation -tsk tsk) Office Dad – let us order our food!

Asian Persuasian ordered the sashimi and tempura lunch combo ($15.00). Asian Persuasion thought the sashimi at Zipang tasted a bit fresher. Office Dad concurred.

What’s Up ordered beef teriyaki and sushi lunch combo ($15.00). He liked the California roll, which he claimed tasted like there was plenty mayonnaise. His bowl of rice came too late, after he had already finished his beef.

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I enjoyed my pick – the sashimi and sushi plate ($17.00). This combo doesn’t come with rice but I did get a bland salad and a hot, richly flavoured bowl of miso soup. The nigiri was well-made and the raw fish was cool in temperature and a generous cut. The rice was nicely seasoned, sticky and perfectly cooked.

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What’s Up and Office Dad thought the cooked food was good. The prices are reasonable and the portion sizes won’t leave you hungry at the end of the meal. If you’re in the hood, this is a solid place for Japanese food.

Roku Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Seasons of Bowness Park

Veggie Girl’s parents were in town. She invited my in-laws for brunch at Seasons of Bowness Park. I was game. My boss Tread Lightly has been after me to blog about the restaurants in Bowness for ages. My photos from this meal don’t do the views from Bowness Park justice. You know who is a talented photographer? Jomameeats. You should check his Instagram account here @Jomamaeats as well his food blog.

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I read the reviews on Yelp and Zomato on Seasons and here’s my take on value for food. If you want large portions and a cheap price, you won’t like this restaurant. This is the sort of place you can take guests and have a leisurely meal and absorb the scenery. If I want a cheap meal, I’ll head to Forest Lawn, where there are a plethora of amazing hole in the wall spots.

When I visited, the view of the frozen lagoon sets the mood for an enjoyable holiday meal. The prices for brunch are quite a bit less than dinner. Most brunch and lunch items were around the $16.00 mark while entrees for dinner were $30 and up.

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Everyone except for my mother-in-law ordered several beers and caesars. I enjoyed a cup of strong coffee from our communal carafe of coffee. The coffee was so good, I didn’t need to add any sugar.

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Seasons is also kid-friendly. Jackman was warmly welcomed by the servers and there was a high chair available for him. Jackman’s hair isn’t normally parted like this – this was Uncle Ben’s doing.

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Most of my in-laws ordered the burger with fries ($16). The burger itself was on the small side, but it was very tasty and made with local beef and organic vegetables. The fries were good – crispy and hot.

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Veggie Girl ordered the Vegetarian Masala ($16), which came with two thin pieces of naan bread. The presentation was lovely. I asked her if she liked it – she said yes but didn’t offer to let me try it for the blog. Thanks a lot Veggie Girl.

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This was my dish – Chicken Pot Pie ($16). A square bowl was filled with large pieces of tender, free-range chicken and organic vegetables. My husband wished he ordered this instead of the burger. Lucky for him, I saved more than half of the pie for him to eat later that day when I was out. This dish is a winner.

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The carrots were a dark orange, flavourful and still had that farm fresh crispness to it. The sauce was amazing – my brother-in-law Dave thought he could detect white wine. I would recommend that you ask for a spoon, so you get every drop of the sauce. The puff pastry was soft and pillowy.

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My mother-in-law ordered the Eggs Benny ($16). The egg yolks were a bright molten orange. She said the potatoes were scrumptious.

Service was friendly and geninue. I know my mother would enjoy the service at Seasons and my father would like the view and food. I like Seasons and would return again for a special occasion to celebrate with family and friends.

Seasons of Bowness Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tang’s Dynasty

Office Dad and I wanted something hot and soupy for lunch. He informed me that Tang’s Dynasty has new owners and the lamb dishes are great value. Tang’s serves up northern Chinese food, which is different from southern Chinese, the latter being the stuff I grew up on. Northern cuisine focuses on wheat noodles, dumplings, mutton and uses cumin and hot oily spices.

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Office Dad got a real kick out of the touch system. If you want water, service, or the bill, you press one of the options. He wondered if it worked and wanted to try it out. I told him not to fool around with the gadget if he didn’t need our server. He punched in the water button and I could hear a loud ringing sound from the kitchen. I shook my head disapprovingly as he giggled and pressed the cancel button. Too late, our server came out. She said the touch system comes in handy when it gets busy. I bet the system is a nuisance when mischievous customers are fooling around.

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I asked Office Dad to request our food with no cilantro but he forgot. He picked out most of the noxious herb and complained that all his broth consisted of was cilantro. The Lamb Noodle Soup ($13.99) was a massive portion, big enough for two hungry people. I like the stripes of tofu and the addition of black fungus. The lamb was halal and it was tender.

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The noodles are hand pulled came in long, flat wide ribbons. The noodles were soft and chewy. The flavouring of the soup was mild. I prefer to spice it up with the red oil available on the table.

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Office Dad also ordered one lamb skewer ($3.00). Cumin was rubbed all over the thin pieces of meat. The exterior was dry and the lamb itself was juicy.

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New Tang Dynasty is a welcome addition to Chinatown. Note that the restaurant gets busy at lunch and it is open for dinner in the evenings. I’ll be back to try New Tang Dynasty’s cold noodles, dumplings, pork burgers, and hot and sour soup.

New Tang Dynasty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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TD Food Court – Koya Japan

I’m not one for food courts. However, I was conducting an investigation during my lunch hour. I was on a mission to find my left snow boot that I lost the previous night. I emailed Calgary Transit to see if anyone found my boot. I also went back  to Hy’s Steakhouse, the last place I saw both my boots.

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I’m sad to say the hostess didn’t find anything in the lost and found room. Dejected, I was too tired to walk to Chinatown for a bowl of noodles. Also, without my warm winter boots, I didn’t want to walk anywhere in the freezing cold. I remembered reading Miso_Hangry’s post on Zomato about the beef brisket at Koya Japan, which was upstairs in the food court.

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I ordered the Beef Brisket Noodle Soup ($8.39). The cashier asked if I wanted it spicy. I said yes, so she added an additional 50 cents to my bill. I told her I changed my mind and I didn’t want my soup spicy. I have to save where I can to buy my new winter boots! She didn’t even blink an eye and removed the additional charge. I bet she is use to serving cheapies like me at the mall. Note cilantro haters, that you have to request NO cilantro. Even though I asked for no cilantro, I still got a couple of pieces.

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You know what? For $8.81 (with GST), the beef brisket noodle soup was pretty good. My plastic bowl was filled with a generous heaping of slippery noodles and sprouts. The broth was piping hot, though a little too salty. The brisket was tasty and I liked the addition of daikon, carrots, and onions.

Koya Japan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hy’s Steakhouse – Happy Hour

My colleagues wanted to get together after work for the holiday season. I suggested Hy’s as I’ve been wanting to try their happy hour menu for months. What’s the big dealio? Bubbles are 40% off, select wines for $8.00 and featured cocktails are 50% off. There’s also a tasty list of specially priced food, including one of the best steak sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Also note that now until Christmas, you can drop off a Christmas toy for The Magic of Christmas, a charity that gives toys to children in need.

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I started with a Manhattan (2.5 oz, hh $7.50, regular $15.00). I savoured each chilled sip. This was a perfectly balanced martini, a blend of Jim Beam Black bourbon, Cinzano rosso, and Angostura bitters.

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I also indulged in two flutes of Domaine Chandon, Blanc de Noir,
Champagne Blend California NV (hh $8.00, regular $16.00). Oh my goodness. I loved these bubbles, which went straight to my head. My co-worker Patricia agreed, preferring the Domaine Chandon over the prosecco offered by the glass.

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Marvelous Mary ordered the fish tacos (hh, $13). She thought the tacos were juicy, spicy and conveniently bite-sized.

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Our legal representative that night opted for the Beef Sliders (hh, $5.oo each) plus a side of fries. Legal thought the sliders had lots of flavor and she loved the dressing on the bun.

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My friend Cindy loves a good burger, so she opted for the Prime Beef Burger (hh, $13.99). She added bacon, mushrooms, and chose a Caesar salad for her side. Everyone at our office except for me is sick, otherwise I would have tried to snag a bite of her burger. She said she was in burger heaven.

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I wished I order the fries myself. These were soft and pillowy on the inside, and crunchy munchy golden brown on the outside. Lightly salted, steaming hot, I could eat a huge pile of fries. I sneaked a few whenever Legal wasn’t looking. She’s skinny, so I figured I was doing her a favour, doing my part to keep her slim.

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Here’s what I ordered – a New York Steak Sandwich (hh $20, regular $29). I ordered my steak medium rare and it came as requested. The steak was so tender, I barely needed to use a knife. The flavor was phenomenal, my steak was squirting with the richness of its own juices. I ordered the baked potato, which was massive and generously topped with scoops of sour cream, bacon and chives. This was the best steak I’ve eaten. I want to come back to try the featured steaks for dinner (e.g. Neptune, Filet Mignon, Oscar).

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My colleagues each brought a kid’s gift for each other to open and then donate to The Magic of Christmas at Hy’s. Some gifts were ethnically charged. Jen, always one to get politically incorrect, bought Asian Persuasion Hello Kitty themed gifts. I bought Marvelous Mary a Monopoly game because I could picture her and her family playing the game (I stalk her family on Facebook). I didn’t get a gift to open because co-worker Meagan who picked my name didn’t show up. This happens to me every year I participate in Secret Santa. It’s okay, I’m use to the disappointment.

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When the bill came, I realized I left my wallet at work. Yikes, I ain’t no scrub! Enter appropriate music here. I booted it back to my office via CTrain and returned in time to pay and get a group photo in front of Hy’s Christmas tree. In my happy stupor, I lost my winter boot somewhere, somehow between the restaurant, Foreign Concept’s grand opening and my time on the Ctrain. I don’t know what I’m going to do with only one boot! Door stopper?

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Hy’s awesome happy hour is no secret. The entire lounge was filled with customers popping bottles and chomping on those delicious sliders, steak sandwiches and oysters. I like this place so much, I’m giving Hy’s two fat thumbs up and putting it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I can see why Hy’s gets such high ratings on Yelp. Service was excellent and the food was superb.  I’m keen to come again, perhaps on my birthday in January. If you want an experience and are willing to splurge, you need to check out Hy’s Steakhouse now. If you’re frugal (like me) but still want to see what the big dealio is about Hy’s, come by for happy hour. You won’t be disappointed.

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Hy's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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The Meal Tree

The VP of Community Engagement at The Meal Tree, Landon Kennedy, contacted me and asked if I would like a complimentary meal delivered to my home. Hell yeah! On a -20 Sunday night, a vegetarian dish of Pesto Squash was dropped off at my house.

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You can see how cold it was outside from the container. I had to leave immediately after Landon brought my dish,  as I had plans to watch the Walking Dead mid-season finale. So on Monday night, I took my meal out of the fridge to eat for dinner.

If you really care about what you eat, you’ll love the nutritional information posted on each container. When do you have to eat this by? How many calories, carbs, protein and fat are in it? Well, I just happen to know the answers.

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I’m suppose to eat this by December 15, 2016. Ingredients include; winter squash, tomato, bell pepper, almonds, spinach, pesto pine nuts, and lemon. Calories: 444, Carbs (g) 41, Protein (g) (12), and Fat (g) 29.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting me, you’ll know I don’t care about nutrition or calories. At least, not enough to make me eat healthier. I care about taste and price. This dish was killer good.

I can honestly say that I was surprised that I really enjoyed the pesto squash because it was vegetarian and healthy. I also forgot to read the instructions which said to heat up the food, so I ate it cold, straight from the fridge.

The pesto squash so packed with flavour. The squash was light and refreshing. The almonds, yellow and red peppers added a crunchy element. I loved the rich creamy pesto taste, which was in every bite. I felt full and totally satisfied.

What I liked about this meal was the combination and ingredients isn’t something I would normally prepare at home for myself. In January, after I finish with this deliciously gluttonous month of champagne, late night drunk eating, and a week of tequila and tacos in Cabos, I will have to clean up my act.  I plan to order some meals from The Meal Tree. For your first week, new customers can get 10% off. For one week of meals, prices start at $82.00. Check it out. Fei Po gives The Meal Tree two fat thumbs up.

 

The Meal Tree Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Katsuten

On Saturday, I was still feeling pretty rough from my office Christmas party the previous night. When dinner rolled around I wasn’t in the mood to go out drinking or anywhere loud and fun. I looked haggard and old. We decided to try Katsuten, which took over the old Teaspoon Restaurant spot by Richmond Plaza.

The restaurant is small, so it fills up fast. By the time we left, a large group showed up, filling up half the room.  Katsuten is not a place to bring a hot date. It’s a quiet restaurant,  appealing to those with kids or customers just interested in eating a hot, filling meal.

L ordered an Asahi ($6.50) and I picked green tea to drink ($1.50). Usually when I order tea at Japanese restaurants I’m not impressed. Not so here. The green tea was served hot and strong, in my own teapot.

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L wanted to try the Gyoza ($6.99). The dumplings were deep-fried. I found the pork filling plain. I would pass on this appetizer in the future.

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L and I shared the Katsu Don ($14.99) and the Potato Croquette ($10.99). We each received a bowl of miso soup and one salad. The go to dish at Katsuten is the Katsu Don. Holy moly, this was a wicked rice bowl. I’ve never had anything like this in Calgary before.

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The pork cutlet was thick in width. The golden brown batter was airy and soaked with the most delicious sauce. An egg is cooked with the cutlet along with onions, then topped with green onions. The only thing that wasn’t superb was the rice. I use Kokuho at home and I think it’s a superior rice to whatever Katsuten uses.

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The lemon dressing on the cabbage was light and refreshing. The bowl makes the salad look small, but the amount of cabbage Katsuten gives you is enough for two people.

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The potato croquette was well-done. The batter was fluffy and light. The potato filling was creamy and soft. The curry gravy came with bits of potato. A filling meal for $10.99.

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Katsuten is going to be a regular spot us. L and I were both stuffed after sharing an appy and two mains, which cost us about $40. When we return, we want to try the tenderloin Katsu ($16.50) and the Okonomi-Katsu ($15.90). Though I nitpicked the rice and the gyoza, the katsu here is fantastic. Fei Po gives Katsuten two fat thumbs up.

Katsuten Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mill Street Brewery

I love the new Mill Street Brewery on 17th Ave, located at the old Republic Club spot. L and I were warmly greeted by a hostess and ushered into a quiet corner nook section. I dig the high energy vibe. The clientele looked to be in mostly between 20s-40s range.  The playlist was fun.  I could hear other customers squeal in pleasant surprise as Mase, Michael Jackson and Simon & Garfunkel came up.

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We started off with a sampler tray of beer ($11). There’s a huge selection of beers to try. The 5 ounce glasses were numbered on the tray and we were given a sheet that described each one we ordered. My favourite beers were: 100th Meridan; West Coast IPA; Honest Bucker Pale Ale; Twin Tips Double IPA; and Snow Day White IPA. In my humble opinion, I think the beers, atmosphere and food at Mill Street Pub are superior than Trolley Five Restaurant & Brewery, Last Best Brewing & Distillery, and Wildrose Brewery.

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L and I were only going to order the House Cut Fries with garlic aioli  ($8) and then head to another destination for dinner. However, the hot crispy fries were good so we decided to stay for dinner. Plus, I was getting a little tipsy from all the drinks.

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We ordered two dishes: Gouda Cheese Perogies ($13 half order, $19 full order) and Venison Reuben with Fries ($18). L preferred the reuben and my favourite dish was the perogies.

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The half order consisted of three super sized perogies. The dumplings were soft, doughy (in a good way) and required minimal chewing. The gouda filling was gooey. The spicy garlic sausage was sliced thin and crunchy. The caramelized onions were  sweet and tender. I really liked the addition of the pork belly bits. Mill Street’s perogies were the best I’ve tried anywhere.

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L enjoyed the Venison Rueben ($18). The venison tasted just like Montreal smoked meat. The sauerkraut and melty oka cheese were a nice addition. The rye bread tasted like it was deep-fried. The side of coleslaw and pickles were fresh.  L said the fries were too salty. I thought the fries were nicely salted. It was the quantity that he ate that was the problem.

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I really enjoyed dishes I sampled. This is refine pub food. The prices may seem more than other pubs,  but I think the quality and portion size makes it absolutely worth it. Next time I’m in, I want to try the short rib mac and cheese ($23) and the perogies (again).

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For two sets of flights, an appy, and two main dishes, our bill came up to about $60 bucks. I think that’s a reasonable amount for all that food, booze and good vibes. Fei Po gives Mill Street Brew Pub two fat thumbs up.

Mill Street Brew Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Stage West – Hollywood Hits

The girls from work organized a night out at Stage West to watch Hollywood Hits. I went online to check out the prices and I saw that tickets were going for just over a $100. My friends managed to get a deal and we paid about $78 each, which included the buffet and the show. Dinner starts at 6:00 pm and the show begins at 8:00 pm. Drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic are extra.

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I’ve been to Stage West before to watch the 80’s Solid Gold Show. The music is nostalgic for me and I found the food tasty. Parts of the show are corny, such as the MC’s jokes, but they cater to their crowd. One tip – don’t use the washrooms later in the evening. Large crowd +small washrooms + all-you-can-eat buffet = gross.

You want selection in a buffet? You got it here. For salad and cold food, you can choose from: Caesar Salad with Stage West Garlic Anchovy Dressing & Parmesan Cheese; Fresh Vegetable Florets, Celery Sticks with Blue Cheese Dip; Russian Potato Salad with Dijon Mayonnaise & Hardboiled Eggs; Athens Greek Salad; Roasted Beet Root, Orange, Fennel and Bocconcini Salad; Cranberry Coleslaw; Spicy Beef Salad with Crispy Vegetables; and Festive Hawaiian Chicken Salad.

At the make your own salad bar, pick from the: Taco Bar; Baby Shrimp Salad with Lime Vinaigrette; Taco Shell; Nachos (Red, Green and Yellow Corn Tortilla); Tomato Salsa; Guacamole; Sour Cream;  and Jalapeño Cheese Dip.

For seafood, you can try: Cold Shrimp; Ancas de Rana (frog legs) Creole Honey Mustard Aioli; and Alaskan Snow Crab Legs. Sushi and sashimi offerings include: Atlantic Salmon, Albacore Tuna and Ahi Tuna Tataki Sashimi; Yellow Pickled Daikon and Cucumber Maki Rolls; Tempura Crab Stick and Carrot California Rolls with Togarashi Aioli; Tri-colour Tobiko Roe with Wasabi & Pickled Ginger; Boiled Edamame with Sea Salt and Seaweed Salad.

There were two carvings stations: Herb-Crusted Turkey with Fresh Cranberry Sauce and the Roasted Alberta Baron of Beef with Merlot Jus (aged 15 days). At the sauté and grill section, options included the Escargot and Baked Polenta.

Hot foods included: Roasted Rosemary Parisienne Potatoes; Baked Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Sugar; Stir Fry Vegetables with Shitake Mushrooms; Lobster Mac and Cheese; Roasted Garlic and Smashed Potato with Bacon, Cheese and Green Onion; Turkey Gravy; Apple and Cranberry Stuffing; Butter Nut Squash Ravioli with Tomato Cream Sauce; Chicken Breast en Croute (Mushroom Duxelles and Aged Cheddar); Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Pepper Relish; Garlic Peppered Black Harbor Salmon (Crisp Batter with Spiced Pepper) and Sautéed Red Thai Curry Jumbo Prawns.

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Dessert options included: White & Dark Chocolate Dipped Florentine Cookies; Chocolate Rum Balls; Pumpkin Cheesecake; Cranberry Yogurt Parfait; Mocha Latte Parfait; Assorted Fruit Tart and Cheesecake Squares; Chocolate Fudge Cake; Caramel Chocolate Cake; Cranberry Butter Cookies; Eggnog Mousse Cake; Chocolate Mint Cake; Holiday English Trifle; Chocolate Christmas Log; Warm Christmas Pudding, Rum Sauce and Chantilly Cream; Assorted Canadian & Imported Cheese and Fresh Fruits.

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The selection varies seasonally. I ate mostly the sashimi, ravioli, escargot, lobster macaroni and cheese, caesar salad, crab legs, and the Thai curry shrimp. I ate all three plates, but only one piece of the ravioli as I found the pasta undercooked. I also didn’t finish the crab legs because I didn’t like the way it tasted. The sashimi wasn’t expertly cut but it tasted fresh and it was nicely chilled. The escargot was delicious, buttery and heavy on the garlic. The curry shrimp was crunchy and not overcooked.

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The food is better than what you get at places like Chili’s Texas Grill or Boston Pizza. I thought the selection was better than all the buffets I’ve sampled at all-inclusive resorts, but then again, I go to 4-star resorts, not 5.

The Hollywood hit songs ranged from James Bond Films, Saturday Night Fever, 8 Mile, The Breakfast Club, A Hard Day’s Night, Despicable Me 2, The Graduate, Top Gun, Easy Rider, Ghostbusters, Dirty Dancing, Frozen, The Bodyguard, Titanic and more. The only songs I didn’t enjoy listening to were Gangsta’s Paradise (Coolio) and 8 Mile (Eminem) mostly because the singers tried to sing the lyrics instead of rapping it. For the full list, click here.

Who would enjoy this sort of venue? Middle-aged people looking for a night out with a lot of food. I can see my parents’ friends really enjoying themselves here or the type of people who like to eat at casinos. The show is entertaining and some of the cast have an amazing set of chords. Who wouldn’t enjoy this place? My husband would find the show corny or anyone expecting to see a Broadway show. If I get an invite from my friends at work for another show, I would happily go again.

Stage West Theatre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Il Centro

On Friday, I planned and hosted my husband’s 40th birthday party so  I thought I deserved a night out by Saturday.  I picked Il Centro as my ex-neighbour highly recommended their pizza. I mistakenly thought Il Centro would have a quiet, romantic ambience like La Luna Rosso. Il Centro is more the sort of place you take that loud talking friend or that relative that can’t handle their wine. Il Centro is a casual, family friendly restaurant, popular with larger groups.

I have painfully good hearing. I don’t try to eavesdrop but what happens when you hear all the conversations around you? Anyway, when L and I were waiting for our table I overheard customers talking politics. One table was chatting about MLA Sandra Jansen’s floor crossing to the NDP party. Another table was talking about a city councillor (I’m pretty sure it was Evan Woolley) that was supporting Uber’s anticipated move to Calgary. However, I didn’t hear anyone talking about religion, so that was a good thing I guess.

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We had reservations, but we had to wait a bit for someone to set up our table. There were only three servers that night, working frantically to bring out food. I saw a server bringing out samples of wine to three female customers waiting for a table. He looked geniunely concerned that they had to wait (for about 15 -20 minutes).

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There were only two types of red wine served ($13.99). I read that the calamari (16.50) was good, so L and I started off with that as our appetizer. The ringlets were huge, but not as tender or clean tasting as La Luna Rosso’s version. La Luna’s calamari is smaller, but the squid has such a nice taste to it, almost like they soaked it in buttermilk before frying it up. The tomato sauce on Il Centro’s calamari was slightly sweet. The portion was enough for four people.

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We shared a small Stuzzicinia pizza ($18.50) and the Homemade Gnocchi ($26.50) with ham and mushrooms. If you have questions about the menu, don’t expect too much patience. When we were debating the size of the pizza, the server was abrupt, just short of rolling his eyes.

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L said Il Centro’s pizza was phenomenal. The crust was light, not thick or thin. All the ingredients tasted fresh. The raw tomatoes were cut thick, its juices made the pie a touch soggy. I ordered some jalapeno pepper and garlic oil ($4.50) on the side.

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The gnocchi was my favourite. The rose sauce was creamy and sweet. The gnocchi was fluffy and soft. Everything just melted on your tongue. I thought Il Centro’s version was even better than Mercato.

This little pizza joint was very busy and obviously popular with regular customers. It’s about the same price or a little more than La Luna Rosso. I’m still on the hunt to find my favourite Italian restaurant in #yyc. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Il Centro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Rosso Coffee Roasters

I had a document that I needed to drop off early on Thursday morning. My husband saw the confidential sign on the envelope and asked me what it was about. I responded, “It says confidential. I’m not suppose to talk about it! It’s for work.” He thought it was for something relating to our household. Nope.

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After I ran my errand, I decided to treat myself to breakfast at Rosso. I don’t normally eat out for breakfast because it’s so easy to make it myself. I ordered a bacon, egg and tomato wrap ($6.75). It took about five minutes to grill and it came with a side of salsa.

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The breakfast wrap was the size of a small six-inch sub. The amount of eggs in the wrap made this a hearty breakfast. The tomatoes gave the wrap a freshness and I also liked the generous amount of cheddar cheese. The bacon was undercooked and mostly white fat.

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I didn’t like the salsa as it tasted like it was out of a bottle. However, the breakfast wrap was flavourful enough that you don’t really need any other condiments, like ketchup. I’d like to return to compare their americano with nearby competitor Good Earth.

 

Rosso Coffee Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Brasserie Kensington

My buddy Veronica found out that my husband was away at a week-long conference. She was solo herself on Friday night, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up over dinner. Initially, I tried to get reservations at Pigeonhole and Bocce, but I couldn’t get a table. Then I remembered Brasserie Kensington. If you haven’t been yet, go!

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Veronica and I ordered a bottle of Kuhlmann-Platz Pinot Gris (France, $45). The description of the wine was “fresh pear and apricot, white flowers and lifted smokiness.” Um….  I couldn’t detect lifted smokiness but I really enjoyed drinking this delicious wine.

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We shared two dishes: Saffron Cream Mussels ($18.50) and the Alberta Beef Steak ($28). The portions for both dishes were generous. The mussels were small, silky and fresh. Instead of pomme frites we choose a baguette. Next time, I’d stick to the frites. We received crunchy toasted slices of bread. I would have preferred soft pieces of bread that would have absorbed all that nice saffron cream.

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Our 6oz Alberta Grassfed Beef Steak was gorgeous. Cooked to a medium rare, the steak was ruby red. The foie gras and roasted shallot compound butter was decadent. I used the frites to mopped up all that leftover sauce.

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Veronica ordered a coffee and she peer pressured me to order a blueberry tea cocktail ($10.99). This was one of the best versions I’ve tried in Calgary. There was a nice fragrance to the tea and the booze wasn’t overly sweet.

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I don’t know why Brasserie wasn’t jam-packed on a Friday night. If this place was in Vancouver, there would be a long line-up to get in. The prices are reasonable for the  quality and expertly prepared food. Fei Po gives Brassiere Kensington two fat thumbs up.

 

Brasserie Kensington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Soluxe – Dim Sum

Ms. Biz invited myself, Cruising and Office Dad out for lunch. Cruising hinted she wanted dim sum and Ms. Biz was curious about Soluxe. I purposely just ate a big, healthy lunch so I wouldn’t eat with them. My clothes are getting too tight and I’m not buying new clothes.  I know… your probably thinking why am I blogging about food I didn’t eat? Well, Ms. Biz has far superior taste buds than I, so you are in good hands.

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Ms. Biz waited a few minutes and noticed none of the servers were hustling to get us the menu and dim sum checklist. She got up and found the ordering list and a pencil. She shook her head and snapped her fingers, “Chop chop people! This would never happen in Hong Kong. Everyone there is highly efficient.” I gave Ms. Biz her name for a reason.

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The sui mai (pork shrimp dumplings) were juicy. Ms. Biz said we got 20% more, as we received five dumplings instead of the standard four. U & Me serves four, but their dumplings are plumper.

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I’ve never seen congee (rice soup) with squid legs. Ms. Biz liked this ‘canoe’ version, as it was served hot and filled with goodies like peanuts, squid, shrimp, dried squid, pork and green onions. Canoe means paddling through the sea or something like that in Chinese.

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The deep-fried pork and cilantro dumplings looked good. The minced meat was saucy and glistened. However, Ms. Biz didn’t like how the interior part of the pastry would stick to her teeth.

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Cruising wasn’t impressed with the tripe’s flavour. Ms. Biz was disappointed because the tripe lacked a satisfactory crunch.

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The chicken feet was only average according to Cruising. She said the flavour was off and the skin was not soft enough,

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I forgot to ask everyone about these white buns. All I can say is I enjoy a nice pair of soft, round buns. Tee-hee. According to Ms. Biz and Office Dad, U & Me trumps Soluxe. Their verdict? A solid 6.5/10.

Soluxe Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Umami Noodle Bar

After watching the results of the USA 2016 election,  I felt pretty bummed out. I dragged my sorry ass to work, humming R.E.M’s It’s The End of the World. To snap out of my mood, I asked Asian Persuasion, Office Dad and What’s up Hamsup if they wanted to go out for something soul satisfying. I had already brought my lunch, but I have a habit of eating out when I’m having a bad day. Asian Persuasion suggested Umami Noodle Bar because it wouldn’t be too busy and the ramen was good.

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There were only two tables of three customers when we arrived. However, my ramen took 35 minutes to arrive while Office Dad and What’s up Hamsup had to wait 40 + minutes. I was peeved that I came back to work so late. Let’s just say trotting into the office after an extended lunch doesn’t win you any brownie points with my boss.

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Was the food worth the wait? The Tonkotsu Spicy Ramen ($12.50 plus $1.00 for the soy sauce egg) was tasty. I didn’t like the spicy red sauce as it tasted a bit harsh to me, like Korean hot sauce. The noodles were skinny and not overcooked. That soy egg was marvellous. The creamy orange egg yolk had a subtle amount of salty goodness. The pork belly was the best part of the bowl,  the fatty edges were beautifully seared, the leaner bits melted on your tongue.

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I ordered the cha shu Don ($3.50), which was worth the calories. The cha shu (BBQ pork) was finely cubed, sprinkled all over the rice, topped with Japanese mayo, a sweet brown sauce, red tobiko, and green onions. Savoury, sweet, and creamy all at once.

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What’s up Hamsup’s ordered the Tan Tanmen ($13). The peanut broth was fragrant and nutty. I preferred his broth over mine. If we return, Asian Persuasion and I would both order the Tan Tanmen ramen.

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Office Dad thought the broth of his Tom Yum broth ($13.50) ramen lacked flavour. He said the seafood was okay. He ordered the pork and beef curry don ($4.00) and he said there was barely any meat. What’s up Hamsup concurred, but Asian Persuasion said she liked taste of the  curry, which reminded her of Redheads Cafe.

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My  favourite place for ramen is Jinya in Vancouver. In Calgary, I’ve tried Muku, Shokunin, Shikiji Japanese Noodles & Sushi, Redheads (which is the best of the bunch for the price). I’ll have to give Ramen IchinenShiki MenyaIkemen Ramen Bar, and Gagana Ramen a chance before I give my vote on best ramen in Calgary.

 

Umami Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Ghosts and Gourmet

I’m a sucker for Halloween. So when I saw that Heritage Park was hosting its annual Ghosts and Gourmet event, I was sold. For $60.00 (per person, plus GST), we were treated to a delicious three course meal at the Wainwright Hotel and a ghost tour. As you’ll see below, my photos didn’t turn out so well.

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L wasn’t initially keen on sharing a table with strangers, but it turned out the company was spooktacular. Everyone was friendly and the conversation was easy and interesting. In-between courses, we were entertained with ghost stories by our host.

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The first course was Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Star Anise Creme Fraiche. The portion looked small but it was actually quite hearty. This was one of the better butternut squash soups I’ve consumed. Hot, smooth and full of flavour, this was a delightful autumn-inspired soup.

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For my main, I chose the Certified Angus Beef Braised Short Rib with Sarsaparilla Reduction. The portion of beef was generous, the meat itself soft. Beets, broccoli, roasted parsnip and a potato galette were the sides. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, not overdone with sauce or seasoning, which allowed the freshness to shine through. I was starving when I arrived but by the time I cleaned my plate, I was full.

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For dessert, we received a sliver of Alberta Pumpkin Pie and the most delicious Raspberry Mousse. The raspberry dessert was again, a big portion, but it was so good that I ate all of it. The dessert was light and reminded me of whip cream. The crust tasted like cake. After a nice cup of strong coffee, guests were bundled in three groups for the tour with an expert guide.

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The 90-minute tour included a cemetery, two heritage buildings, the town area and hot chocolate at the theatre. For $60, this excursion was well-worth it. I enjoyed myself so much, I’m thinking about booking the Classic Christmas and the Valentine’s event.

 

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Wainwright Hotel at Heritage Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sauce Italian Market

I recently realized that I spent most of my income on restaurants and booze. I made the decision to cut back on both vices. However, I think L is getting tired of my home cooking because he announced on Monday that he wanted to eat out. We picked Sauce Italian Market as we’ve been hearing good things from our neighbours. When we arrived, the restaurant was packed.

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I ordered the Everything but the Kitchen Sink wine ($10) while L opted for a pint of the Fugetaboutit beer from Big Rock ($7). I learned from our server that the owner is a wine lover and she picked some great deals for customers. For example, Cusmano Syrah sells for $28.50 for a bottle or a glass for $7.50. On Wednesdays, all wines are 50% off.

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L picked the Clam Linguine ($10 on Sunday and Monday nights). I liked the heat and the taste of the sea in the light sauce. I enjoyed the thinly silvered crunchy red onions and the freshness from the diced tomatoes.

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I ordered the Carbonara Linguine ($10). The smell and taste of the parmesan cheese was pleasantly strong. The peas made the pasta pop. The taste of bacon was prominent. The sauce was light, not heavy like I was anticipating.

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I knew L wanted dessert but I told him to wait until we got up to leave. The market area is known for the cannoli ($2.50). We picked up two and ate them when we got home. L said it was the best cannoli he’s ever tried.

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The shell was crispy and the filling was creamy but not too sweet or heavy. $2.50 is excellent value for this pastry. L has an upcoming birthday party and I plan to buy a couple dozen for dessert. I really like Sauce Italian Market. It reminds me of an affordable, casual version of Calgary’s Mercato Restaurant and Market.

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Sauce Italian Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Glamorgan Bakery

I always buy my cakes at Glamorgan Bakery. It’s close to my house and the cakes are reasonably priced. For example, I bought a 10″inch round cake and embossed a picture for about $55.00. In addition, I also made a cake for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday party, so the 10″inch size from Glamorgan was perfect for 25 people. My sister-in-law said the number seven candle looked like a one. It looked like a seven to me. And if you can’t read the writing on the cake and put two and two together, I feel sorry for you.

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I chose the chocolate filling, chocolate cake and the butter cream frosting. For an extra charge, you can get Black Forest and other more exciting flavours. What I really like about the cakes is that isn’t too sweet. It taste like the cakes I had when I was a kid, spongy layers that taste fresh and homemade. Nothing too fancy. Plus, I’m always impressed with the screening job Glamorgan does with the photos.

If you’re in the hood, pick up some cheese buns, old-fashion sugar cookies, Florentines and scones. I hope Glamorgan stays around for a long time. This is one gem I want to return to over and over again.

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Glamorgan Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Newcastle – Happy Hour

The number of happy spots are growing in Calgary. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve noticed that my husband’s favourite local pub Newcastle offers a daily happy hour from 3:00 pm- 6:00 pm.

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Newcastle features draft beers, hi balls, domestic bottles and house red or white wine for only $4.00. So cheap! For happy hour eats,  there are four $4.00 options. We’ve tried the pickles, dry ribs and the two cheeseburger sliders.

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The dry ribs and mini cheeseburgers were alright. The best of the bunch were the fried pickles. For $4.00, you have nothing to complain about. However, I will say that the regular price food does taste better than the happy hour bites.

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Personally, I prefer the fish and chips. At lunch you can get a one piece cod with fries for $9.99. On Fridays, you can get a two-piece cod and chips for $11.99 (regular price is $16). The wings are tasty as well, and only 25 cents on Wednesdays.

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I hear Hy’s Steakhouse has a wicked happy hour from 3:00-7:00pm. Champagne is half off and cocktails are on special. I plan to check Hy’s version of happy hour soon. Stay tuned…

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Newcastle Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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La Luna Rossa Ristorante

Office Dad has been after me for a while to try La Luna Rossa, one of his favourite restaurants in #yyc. Office Dad knows the owner and chef Benny, who you can see in the picture below. I love that Benny wears a chef’s hat. I think it shows an old world craftsmanship and ceremony you don’t often see in Calgary.

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I had bought a TravelZoo voucher for our dinner. It cost me $50 for one appetizer, two mains and dessert, plus extra for certain dishes, add-ons and beverages. Though we received a big discount, the food we received was the real deal. The dishes we tried were delicious, service was great and the freshness of the seafood was incredible. Another bonus, since it was Thursday, select bottles of wine were only $30.00.

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For our appetizer, L and I shared the Calamari ($14). The ringlets were lightly battered with a thin crispy coating. The squid was soft and cooked perfectly. The heat from the spicy tomato sauce lingered on our lips. I would order this again.

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L ordered the veal special. I took a bite of his veal, which was super tender. His entree came with pasta and a side of vegetables. I haven’t tried veal since grade nine, when I made it for my home economics class.

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I ordered pasta with two lobster tails in a rose sauce. I devoured this dish. The lobster was sweet, plump and fresh. The sauce was creamy and tangy. Those noodles? Luscious, soft strands of heaven. Yum, yum, yum.

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Office Dad informed me that La Luna is popular with local politicians. Though we didn’t see Mayor Nenshi or Premier Notley in the room, we did bump into L’s colleague, Flower Child. I took a picture of Flower Child and her husband but L made me delete it. He said I was invading their privacy. I thought I was being careful as I purposely didn’t zoom in to their faces. L permitted me to use the picture above – you can only see a quarter of her face. We stopped by their table and Flower Child’s spaghetti with seafood looked amazing. I want to return to try it myself.

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L picked the homemade apple cake with caramel gelato for dessert. The apple cake was warm and it matched well with the gelato. The texture of the gelato was cool – it felt like whip cream and it didn’t melt as quickly as ice-cream. Flower Child told us her tirimisu was fantastic.

The food was so good that each time our server came to remove our dishes, each plate was scrapped clean. Our server joked that us that we were doing them a favour, as they  wouldn’t have to use as much water to clean the plates, as we had done most of the work ourselves.

La Luna Rossa is a real gem. The restaurant reminds me of the places in Italy I’ve visited. There’s an open kitchen where you can see the chef at his helm and hear the hiss of the grill. The ambience is romantic, with its white table-cloth, candle-lit room, professional service and soothing music playing quietly in the background.  I can see why La Luna maintains a lot of regulars. I enjoyed my meal so much, I’m planning my next visit for either my birthday or Valentine’s Day.

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La Luna Rossa Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Wild Rose Brewery – Birthday Bash

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My brother-in-law Dave turned 40! To celebrate his birthday, we went to the Wild Rose Brewery. With all the on-going construction in the area, it was a little confusing to find the brewery. Drive on the gravel path slowly and just follow the signs.

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Dave’s brother ordered the Nachos ($17.95), which came in a heaping pile. The tortilla chips were covered with tomatoes, green onions, banana peppers, jalapenos, and olives. There was an ample sheet of  cheddar and mozzarella layered on top of all the chips. It took six hungry people to polish off the plate.

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I shared the Pulled Alberta Brisket Sandwich ($16.95) with a side of bacon mashed potatoes and gravy with my husband. The server was kind enough to split the burger and potatoes onto two plates. I was interested in trying the Wild Vietnamese Sub, but for $16 bucks, my inner Chinese came out and I couldn’t do it. I can eat a delicious sub for $5.50 at Thi Thi or Trung Nguyen anytime I want on the weekdays.

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Service was awesome. We were allowed to bring in a birthday cake and we weren’t charged for using their plates and utensils. Bills were split up without even asking and our beers were always refilled.

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Wild Rose Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Veg-In YYC

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A fellow staffer in my department recommended Veg-In YYC, a relatively new vegetarian take-out place near our office. The unit is small with a handful of spots for singles or pairs of two to eat. For a new place, the cafe sure has caught on with the locals. Whenever I walk by, there are two to three people waiting for their food.

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I asked for a recommendation, but the male employee working at the till couldn’t offer any suggestions and just shrugged his shoulders. After hemming and hawing, I picked the lunch special, a pakora naaco with rice and vegetables ($10.00).

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It took about ten minutes for the staff to assemble my order. You can tell everything is prepared and cooked with care. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavours of the vegetables, curry and potatoes. I don’t know how healthy the dish was, as quite a bit of it was deep-fried.

I plan to go back to try a burrito or something that isn’t fried. Most dishes are around the ten-dollar mark. For the quality and flavour, I’d say the food is worth it. If you haven’t already, check it out.

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Veg-In YYC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Trung Nguyen – Vietnamese Subs

I love the subs and the owners at the infamous Thi Thi (Chinatown location), but I also really like Trung Nguyen. The line-up is also shorter than Thi Thi and the service is just as nice. I usually get the Assorted Sub ($5.50) but the Sate Chicken ($7.50) is also an excellent choice.

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The baggette is soft with a crusty exterior. The ratio of meat and veggie to bread is perfect. The assorted sub comes with cold cut meat, mayo, pickled carrots, onions, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro. I’ve added extra vegetables before but it just throws off that balance of bread vegetables and meat.

The sate chicken is good, with it’s spicy peanut flavour. However, there’s just something classic and comforting about the assorted sub. Whichever filling you pick, you can’t go wrong. The prices are great and the flavour unmatched. I noticed a duck sub ($7.00) which I’m interested in trying if I can manage to pry myself away front my beloved assorted.

The female owner told me to call ahead of time and she’ll come out to hand me the sub, so that I won’t get a parking ticket. Apparently, Calgary Parking is lurking out often enough that it’s not worth the risk of parking illegally. I don’t drive but I appreciate the gesture.

Trung Nguyen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pita Basket – Catering

My office held a meeting last week. Normally my office brings doughnuts and coffee. This time around, I suggested that we order something more substantial for the attendees. The problem is that our office has such a small budget. For 11-14 people, I couldn’t go over $80.00.

Enter Pita Basket. I ordered the Pita Wrap Tray ($63.00), which came with seven large wraps cut in half. I chose three chicken, three beef and one falafel. The next time I order, I’ll likely increase the chicken and falafel over the beef, as the former were more popular with our guests.

The portion of filling was generous and filling. The tangy sauces and addition of tomatoes made the wrap a bit wet and juicy. The vegetables taste fresh and were crunchy. The thin pita was still crisp and warm, despite waiting 15 minutes to eat after it was delivered to our room.

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I couldn’t take pictures of the platter. Sure, I can get away with that behaviour at a restaurant with my friends, but I didn’t want to look unprofessional around my boss and the attendees. Plus, we were discussing ‘serious’ topics.  I did manage to discreetly sneak one shot.

Truth be told, when I visited two years before, I wasn’t impressed with my shawarma at Pita Basket (NE location). However, I’m glad I gave the chain another try. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Pita Basket in the future.

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Pita Basket Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Shangri-La Palace Restaurant

Office Dad, Ms. Biz, Wendy and I met up for lunch at Shangri-La Palace Restaurant. Office Dad wanted to eat there as Asian Persuasion told us she really enjoyed the $13.99 all-you-can-eat buffet. Apparently, Shangri-La Palace has three chefs that specialized in Chinese, Indian and Malaysian food.

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I didn’t have much interest in eating anything but Chinese food. Office Dad tried some of the Indian and Malaysian curries and he enjoyed it. I focused on dim sum, soup and noodles. There is a large selection of food to choose from. Food is brought out frequently in small batches, so everything was served hot.

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Soy sauce, Singapore  and the Shanghai chow mein were all tasty. Not in the same league as Chong Fat or Lucky Place (which changed owners and is no longer open for lunch). However, given this is an economically priced buffet, it was good enough.

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The dim sum offered on the weekdays consists of deep-fried sesame balls, spring rolls, steamed BBQ buns, sui mai and how gow. The steamed dumplings sat empty most of the time because they are the most popular dishes.

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I waited at the buffet for the sui mai and how gow to come up. A bunch of Chinese seniors ran up as the dumplings came up and butted in line in front of me. I let two seniors cut in front of me before I grabbed some tongs and took some for myself. I can’t wait until I’m a senior and I can pull off crap like that. This whole respecting elders thing gets trying when I’m hungry. Luckily my parents don’t read my blog. They would be so ashamed of me right now.

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Ms. Biz enjoyed the sesame balls. She taught me never to get these balls cut, as it squishes the dough. You are supposed to tear it apart and marvel at the thinness of the dough and the section where the layer gets thicker. I really enjoyed this pastry.  FYI – there is no filling inside.

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I tried this Malaysian soup and thought it lacked flavour. I ended up wasting the entire bowl because I didn’t like it. Office Dad enjoyed his dish, so perhaps it was just me.

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The fried chicken could have used some salt or seasoning. However, the size of the drums were large. The salt and pepper squid was a winner. The squid was tender and the batter light.

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I enjoyed the hot and sour soup. Nice balance of sour and spice, and I liked the medley of tofu, carrots, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The soup was labelled sweet and sour but I think it might have been an error.

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The food was a solid 3.5 out of 5, but the service was a 5. The owners and staff were courteous and encouraged us to try everything. Plates were taken away and tea was refilled promptly. $13.99 for such a selection is a deal. If you like to try a lot of dishes and need to get in and out quickly, I would recommend Shangri-La Palace. Thanks Office Dad for lunch. My treat next time.

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The Keg – Crowfoot Location

Veronica and Jughead asked L and I to join them for dinner at the Keg. I was keen to see them but I didn’t have much enthusiasm to eat the Keg. My past experiences at the University location left a lot to be desired. I’m glad I went, as I found the Crowfoot location far superior in terms of service, ambience and food.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-9-07-11-amThe first table we were seated at had broken heat lamps. A server walking by jumped in and told us he would have a new table for us in a second, after he cleaned it. I was really impressed with our interaction with several of the servers we met throughout the night. Everyone was professional, friendly and pleasant. The HR department did a phenomenal job hiring their staff.

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The boys ordered beers while Veronica and I shared the Home Ranch Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah & Malbec – California by J. Lohr ($38, on tap). All wines on tap are served in a decanter, which I thought was cool.

Veronica ordered a whole bunch of appetizers. I enjoyed the sauce in the Escargot ($11). We all tasted curry notes except for Veronica, who is Indian (her ancestry is from India and she prefers the term ‘Indian’). She stated that the seasoning was not curry and we had weak tastebuds if we thought it did. I much preferred the complimentary warm sourdough bread we received over the buns that were shaped like a butt. The butt buns tasted generic, like something you would get at Safeway.

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Veronica always orders the Mushrooms Neptune Crab ($11). The mushrooms were covered in a heavy cream cheese sauce. Veronica gets annoyed when I take pictures of the food when we go out . That’s her finger-pointing at a mushroom she ate before I could snap a shot.

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My favourite appetizer at the Keg are the Scallops and Bacon ($12). The scallops were small but silky and sweet. My husband liked the cocktail sauce, which was tangy and tasted like there was some horseradish in it. The bacon was practically still sizzling when this arrived at our table.

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L ordered the 12 ounce Top Sirloin Steak ($33), Jughead ordered the Peppercorn New York Steak ($36) and Veronica ordered the Californian Greens ($12). I shared my husband’s steak and I thought it was cooked to the requested medium rare. The stuffed potato was a bit 90s but it tasted good.

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Veronica’s salad isn’t a looker but it was huge and tasted fresh. The plate was piled high with greens, tomatoes, black beans, mushrooms, avocado, and pine nuts. In the future, I would not hesitate to order a salad at the Keg.

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For myself, I ordered the French Onion Soup ($10). The broth was served warm, not hot. The cheese was soft and soggy.  I’ve tried frozen French onion soup from Costco that’s a whole lot better than Keg’s version.

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Veronica’s daughter dropped by with a friend after their movie and they shared a Brownie Sundae ($8). Kids aren’t allowed in the patio so we were moved into the dining room. Veronica and I ordered blueberry tea as our after dinner drink.

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Yes, I nitpick a couple of things I didn’t like, such as the French Onion soup and a butt shaped bun. However, the food was good and the service  at the Crowfoot location was flawless. Thanks Veronica and Jughead for a wonderful meal.

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The Keg Steakhouse + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nash Restaurant – Lunch

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My friend Veronica and I were shopping at Espy when she suggested we eat at Nash Restaurant for lunch. I was game, though I had a hankering for Spolumbos. We were greeted by a friendly hostess and we chose to dine at the bar section. We started off meal with two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc ($13).

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Veronica and I shared the special appetizer of the day – homemade ravioli with egg yolk, peas and mushrooms ($13). This was one of the best dishes I’ve tried in my life.

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The butter sauce, cheese and creamy egg yolk was so decadent. The ravioli was al dente and done right. One of my favourite ingredients were the peas. I love sweet peas so much, I could contently eat a big bowl for my meal.

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Veronica and I shared the Pacific Halibut and Heritage Breed Pork Hot Dog ($17). This similar to the  Japa hotdog you can get in Vancouver but with far superior ingredients. This dog was finger-licking good, drizzled in an addicting crack-like brown mayo sauce. When I bit into the sausage, I got sprayed with its juices. You need a shield to eat this baby. Veronica liked the fries but I found them a bit dry.

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I was really happy with my meal at Nash. I plan to return to check out more of the other dishes they have to offer. If you see the special ravioli appetizer featured again, you have to try it. Seriously, best dish I’ve tried #yyc for 2016.

 

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Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Angel’s Drive In

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EA Supreme and I were in Bowness Park for a community event. I had heard a lot of positive comments about the food at Angel’s Drive In, which is a couple of blocks away from the park. EA Supreme said she’s been coming to Angel’s for over a decade. My boss Tread Lightly has an obsession with the mushroom burger. He informed me that he’s eaten at Angel’s at least a thousand times.

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One thing you should know about Angel’s is that it isn’t fast food. Bugers are cooked to order, so it does take time. The clientele is a mix of 50 plus and hipsters. When I sat outside on the picnic bench, I watched a steady stream of cars and customers passing through the parking lot.

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I ordered a mushroom burger ($5.50) with onion rings, battered mushrooms ($5) and a chocolate banana milkshake ($5). The onion rings and mushrooms were covered in a delicious crunchy batter. Careful of the hot juice of the mushrooms, these babies were juicy. I really enjoyed the side of ranch sauce for my onion rings and mushrooms, way better than ketchup.

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The mushroom burger was yummy. The bun was big and soft. The 100% beef patty was covered in homemade mushroom sauce and plenty of thinly sliced mushrooms. I liked how the white cream sauce would ooze out from the bun.

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The milkshake was velvety smooth. The addition of the fresh fruit gave it a mellow sweetness. I noticed that the ice-cream didn’t melt right away and held its original consistency the length of time it took me to drink it.

I’m already salivating thinking of my next meal at Angel’s. Next, I want to try the mozzarella burger, fries, breakfast dishes and of course, those onion rings and deep-fried mushrooms.

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Angel's Drive In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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#YYCPIZZAWEEK – Full Circle Pizza

 

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You need to try Full Circle’s featured pizza for YYC Pizza Week. L and I dropped by for dinner on Friday. At 8:00 pm, the place was packed but we managed to get one of the few tables left. We started off with Banded Peak beers and L’s favourite Braised Octopus ($7.00).

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The octopus is braised in its own juices. The result?  The octopus is tender and juicy. I love the homemade bread, which is grilled and buttered, with a lovely charred taste.

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This Fritto Misto pizza taste like fish and chips. The cod, calamari, anchovies and oysters are triple-fried and spotted with tartar sauce. The potatoes are sweet and soft. L normally hates potato on pizza, but he really enjoyed it on this pizza. The grilled lemons and  hot peppers give it a nice acidic tang. The pizza was filling and only $20.00!

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L and I plan to come by again before YYC Pizza Week is over. That seafood is just so damn good. Such a creative pie and the combination of flavours just blows me away. I also want to try Posto’s Anatra pizza and Azzuri’s Cotto Funghi. So many pizzas, so little time.

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Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Redheads Cafe

Redheads is always tweaking its dishes or trying out something new. On my last visit, I learned that Sapporo is now on tap.  A new rice burger (not yet on the menu) has become my new favourite, beef and gobo. I still haven’t tried the Japagetti or five-course meal set, but I’ll get there eventually.

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The beef and gobo (burdock root) rice sandwich is something special. The beef is sweet and nicely seasoned. Gobo has this marvellous mild, earthy taste and crunchy texture. The rice was perfectly cooked, warm and topped with fresh spinach leaves. The nori is fresh and crisp.

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Recently, L and I have tried the Tofu Asian Salad ($6.99). What a great price for such a stunning salad. I particularly enjoyed the strands of seaweed and nori. The tofu was nicely cut and fresh-tasting. Just a tip, you probably don’t need to use all the dressing, as the sesame dressing is quite rich.

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One of my other go-to dishes is the miso-tonkatsu ramen ($9.99). I’ve been telling my friends Asian Persuasion and What’s Up Hamsup to try Redhead’s version. They want to but every time they visit, they can’t help themselves and order the tonkatsu curry. The soup is steaming hot. The broth is rich and the noodles are chewy. The pork crispy and fatty. I love the assortment of sprouts, the milky egg and all the garnishes.

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Redheads is best known for their Japa Curry, the Katsu ($10.99) or the Karaage Curry ($10.99). The katsu is well-marbled and crispy. The beef curry is thick, rich and flavourful.

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Finally, L and I were lucky to try a special dessert, apple with caramel and strawberries. Sounds simple, but so good. The tart crispness of the  apple with the sweetness of the caramel sauce was old-school delicious. Check out the crazy knife skills.

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The best time to go is in the evenings, when the cafe is quieter. The prices are a steal and the food is so comforting in the chilly weather. Thank you Redheads, for being so consistently delicious.

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Redheads Japa Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Coup – Meat Eaters Rejoice

L and I wanted to go out for dinner but he wanted something “different”. I told him to call J-Thug and ask for a recommendation. I know the name “J-Thug” doesn’t connotate images of refinement or sophistication, but this dude knows his restaurants, women and booze (in that particular order). J-Thug told L to check out The Coup.

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In the past, when I’ve recommended The Coup to L, he would never go with me. He always says that his balls would shrivel up if he didn’t eat meat with his meal. I told him we should do an experiment and do some measurements before and after. He looked at me like I was nuts  (pun intended).

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L ordered a beer which he thought tasted too yeasty. I didn’t see any beers that I liked, so I opted to go sober. I wish The Coup would start serving Banded Peak beers…

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J-Thug told us to try the scallops. The “scallops” turned out to be king oyster mushrooms ($14). The mushrooms are tea-smoked and pan-fried. At the table, hot dashi broth is poured all over the mushrooms.

The entire dish is a winner. The mushrooms have a similar texture as scallops. We used up the grilled red fife sourdough crostini to sop up all the delicious broth. The salad of seaweed and radish was lovely, clean with a taste of the sea.

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We both ordered the falafel quesadillas ($16.5). I really dig the blend of vegetables, like the carrots, purple cabbage, pickles, bell peppers and olives. The sauces included a light touch of hummus, tahini and tzatziki. I enjoyed the crunch of the toasted sprouted tortilla and the creaminess of the goat feta. Overall, a nice balance of flavours and textures. The fat rosemary yam fries were baked, soft and sweet. The extra sauce of garlic aioli I ordered added a pungent richness to the yams.

Both L and I will be back, more so for the appetizers than the mains or salads. Thank you for your recommendation J-Thug, it was a ballsy pick.

The Coup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hayden Block Smoke & Whisky

I’ve heard good things about the food at Hayden Block Smoke & Whisky. So on a sunny Friday evening, L and I decided to drop by for dinner. We parked on the street right next to Original Joe’s. Who should walk by but his colleague Bottlenick!  He was on his way home, carrying two thoughtfully chosen bottles of wine. For his wife Candy, he selected a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. He opted for an Italian Pinot Noir. I know if L ever thought to pick me up a bottle of wine, it would either red or white and on sale that week at the Highlander. That’s just how we roll.

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Bottlenick asked me if L and I were going to Original Joe’s. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic, serious or condescending. We would have invited him for drinks at Hayden’s, but it was pretty apparent that he had a hot date with Candy. And with a name like Candy, you know the date’s going to be sweet.

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L and I ordered pints of Banded Peak ($7.50), but we were positive that we were served a different beer. Oh well. We shared a half pound of pork ribs ($10), brisket ($11), beans, coleslaw and two pieces of cornbread ($2.00).

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The ribs were tender and juicy. I could taste the smoky flavour and I liked the dry rub spices on the top. I didn’t feel like there was a need to put sauce on the top.

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The brisket was a little dry and delicious. There was a trim line of fat that balanced the leanness of the soft meat. Again, I didn’t bother to sauce it up.

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The cornbread was yummy, far better than Booker’s or Palominos. Cake-like, moist, warm and sweet, it was a steal for only $1.00.

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Sometimes I like to include a link to a song to go with the post. In this case, I’d like to say….

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Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart,
The more you eat, the more you fart!
The more you fart, the happier/better you feel
So let’s eat beans with every meal!

Hayden’s version are worth farting for. The baked beans were soft with chunks of meat.

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The broccoli salad was fresh and crunchy. Personally, I’d pass on ordering the salad in the future. I didn’t like the dressing.

The prices are very reasonable for the quality and taste. Of all the other BBQ joints in Calgary, Hayden is my favourite. If you haven’t yet, check it out. Hayden offers specials all week and BBQ meat is half off after 10:00 p.m.

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Hayden Block Smoke & Whisky Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Shokunin – A Birthday and a Lululemon Shirt

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I like to post my reviews in chronological order. Thought I still need to post about my experience at The Coup, Pure Contemporary Vietnamese, Hayden’s Smokehouse and Redheads, I have to blog about my latest meal at Shokunin. My husband L and I were in on Saturday night. When we went to say goodbye to the owner and chef, Darren, he mentioned it was his birthday on the following Tuesday. Well, L and I weren’t going to miss out on this special occasion!

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Picture was used without permission from Shokunin’s Instagram account.

On Tuesday, L and I showed up at 7:00 pm to a packed house. Bottles of sake were on special, for half price. The features of the night were AAA wagyu from Miazaki and a special platter of nigiri. Both dishes were $100.00 and L said it looked well-worth the cost. Our bartender Jamie informed us he sampled the wagyu and it was superb. He said that $100 for wagyu was actually a steal considering how much it cost to bring it to Calgary.

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Picture was used without permission from Shokunin’s Instagram account.

I’m no J-Thug or BottleNick, L’s high-rolling colleagues, so I told L that we were sticking to the shared platters. No AAA wagyu for him! I joked to my friend Asian Persuasion the next morning that all the around us, customers were ordering the creme de la creme while I was happily feasting on $2.00 skewers and draft beer. I like that about Shokunin – that you can order rare dishes you can’t find anywhere else in the city and at the same time, also get delicious food on a more modest budget.

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As we were sitting at the bar, we watched Jamie make cocktails. He informed us he had just bought the $100+ shirt he was wearing from Lululemon because he forgot to bring his work shirt. I told him that Lululemon is worth it, as doesn’t wear out and you get your money’s worth in the end. I joked that if he didn’t like his shirt, he should return it. Jamie looked aghast at the idea and responded, while caressing the material of his top, “You know, I really like this shirt. It fits so well and it is breathable. I’m keeping it!”

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L and I shared the Fava Bean Goma-ae ($8). I love the crunchy, sweet and savoury tastes and textures from the lava beans, sesame dressing, and sprouted lentils. The egg tofu is light and soft. You’re suppose to mix the dish all up, so you get a bite of all the ingredients at once.

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The showstopper for us was the Japanese Sweet Pork Ribs ($28). L and I both love ribs. It’s one of our most favourite dishes that he makes for me. L was so impressed he said he wants to try to replicate the sauce at home. As your wife, I support you 110%.

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There was so much meat on those bones. The pork was so tender, it fell off the bone. The addition of the pickled red onion and green onion just added to the ecstasy. Soft, succulent and covered in the most delightful sticky sweet Japanese BBQ sauce, we stopped talking and just shovelled the meat and scoops of rice into our mouths. We were full after sharing this platter.

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Our rib plate also came with a large assortment of pickled vegetables and a bowl of rice. My favourite was the eggplant and that brown root vegetable next to it. Crunchy, munchy and punchy.

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Kudos to all the kitchen staff, servers and Jamie. He was working up a storm making these intricate cocktails, chatting with customers, and expediting with other staff to get all the drinks out. In the very thick of things, a tipsy woman sitting next to us spilled her drink that Jamie just made for her, breaking the glass all over the counter and working area. If I were him, I would have lost it. At this point in the evening, there was a line-up outside the door and everyone was working really hard to keep up. I hope that chick tipped him good, so Jamie can pay off his new shirt.

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I like sitting up on the bar and seeing all the action. You get a deeper appreciation for all the effort and skill that goes into putting a drink or a plate of food on your table. I could hear Darren calling out to servers whenever a dish was ready to go. He was cooking all the speciality dishes and making sure everything was perfect before it was sent out. Customers would come up and interrupt his work to say happy birthday, chit-chat or to say good-bye. Happy birthday Darren and please keep the ribs on the menu! Fei Po gives Shokunin’s shared platters two fat thumbs up.

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Shokunin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Vancouver – Beaucoup Bakery

I don’t know how my friends in Vancouver stay so slim. Whenever I go back, there are so many great places to eat. Sushi, Indian, Chinese and a whole whack of sweet places like Bon Ton, Chocolate Arts, Ganache, and my new favourite, Beaucoup Bakery.

This tiny bakery is busy. Despite the steady line-up, staff were friendly and welcoming. There are a handful of tables and chairs for you to sit and enjoy an espresso drink and of course, eat one of their famous croissants.

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My buddy Jaime insisted I try a croissant. I opted for a petite pain au chocolat. The chocolate was dark and intense. The actual pastry was incredibly flaky. I’ve never had a croissant in which there seem to be endless layers.

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Jaimie ordered a regular croissant, which looked massive. However, when you bite into the pastry, you see that it’s mostly air. When I’m back in Vancouver in October and I plan to bring my husband to this gem.

Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Vancouver – Rangoli

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I met my friend Jaime at Rangoli for lunch. I’ve eaten at Rangoli a few times before and I found the food consistently delicious. I particularly enjoy the vegetarian dishes, which I think are tastier than the meat options.

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Jaime ordered a chai tea and I ordered a Jongleur beer from Strange Fellows Brewery ($7). I liked the spice and orange notes, which paired well with the curries we ordered.

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Jaime and I shared two dishes: Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Curry on Paneer ($17) and the Grilled Eggplant with Basmati risotto ($18).

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The paneer on the eggplant was subtle. I really liked the char taste of the grilled eggplant. The creamy coconut curry sauce was delicious. The toasted pumpkin seeds gave the dish a little crunch.

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Of the two dishes, the Portobello Curry was my favourite. The beet salad had a nice tartness to it and I loved the crunchy texture. The red peppers were sweet. The sauce creamy and spicy and went so well with the silky, meaty mushrooms.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about our lunch was the service. Our server was curt to us from the beginning of the meal right up to the end. Though we were there for less than an hour, he made it clear that he wanted to turn the table, despite the fact I had beer left in my glass. I’m a fast eater and drinker too. Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about this but isn’t this Vij’s restaurant? Vij is the king of hospitality. I would expect this service from a cash only, no frills Chinese restaurant, not a restaurant from Vij. In any case, the food is delicious. Fei Po gives the food at Rangoli two fat thumbs up.

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Richmond -Tsim Chai Noodles

My family has frequented Tsim Chai Noodles since it opened. My brother Narc likes the fried wonton. You get about eight of these huge, juicy shrimp balls that stay crispy even when we order take-out.  My father Ludvig use to bring back sui kau for my younger brother Jacuzzi and I after he went out with his buddies. I wasn’t surprised with Ludvig`s answer when I asked him where wanted to go for his birthday. Tsim Chai Noodles! Fine with me. Better than his other favourite place, the White Spot.

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My aunt Bendy was in town, so she came as well. She ordered shrimp wonton without the noodles. Man, check out these fat shrimp balls! The broth is salty with a very distinctive smell to it.

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I ordered Sui Kau with white flat noodles. Sui Kau is a bigger version of wonton with black fungus, mushroom and I think, another beige, crunchy vegetable that reminded me of water chestnuts.

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Ludvig ordered a bowl of sui kai without noodles (you get two more as a result) and a plate of Singapore Fried Rice Noodles. The Singapore noodles were moist with a good amount of yellow curry seasoning. The onions, green onions and sprouts were cooked just so it retained a pleasant crunch. Ludvig picked out all the pork and left it in a tidy pile on his plate. He avoids meat when he can.

This cash only, no frills Chinese pit stop is popular for a reason. If there`s a better place for shrimp wonton and sui kai, let me know. For now, I`ll say this is the best place for wonton in Richmond. Fei Po gives Tsim Chai two fat thumbs up.

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Vancouver – Red Star

I like Red Star. My parents hosted my wedding reception at the Richmond location. I heard that their dim sum is pretty good too. I suggested to Beep Beep that we enjoy our last lunch together at Red Star’s Marpole location.

Red Star offers free parking, though there are limited stalls. When we arrived, I noticed several parties were ordering crab and lobster to supplement their dim sum feast. It took a while for the dishes to come out, but everything that arrived was hot and fresh.

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Beep Beep asked me to order radish cake.  The image below is what showed up at our table. I mistakenly ordered radish shrimp cake instead of radish cake with pork. She wanted the latter, which comes in stacked white pan-fried squares, soft on the inside and the perfect comfort food. I didn’t care for shrimp cake that I ordered,  as it had a gummy texture and was too oily.

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The how gow wasn’t bad. The shrimp ball was large, sweet and crunchy. However, I found the wrapper too soft and moist. The how gow wrapper broke too easily when I picked it up with my chopsticks.

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The pan-fried soy sauce rice rolls with chives and sprouts is one of my all-time favourite dim sum dishes. Red Start does a good job. The chives were a flavourful  addition.

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Beep Beep wanted to order the rice roll doughnuts. I don’t care for this dish because I always find the deep-fried doughnut greasy. We received a little dish with two dark sauces you can use to dip the doughnuts into.

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The deep-fried bean curd with pea tips and shrimp was the best dish. I found the filling vibrant from the generous amount of pea tips. Red Star doesn’t cheap out in the amount of shrimp either. I would happily order this dish again. I noticed most tables ordered the stuffed bean curds.

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The sui mai was tasty. The juicy pork, Chinese mushroom and shrimp mixture made for pleasant chomping. Again, I found the wrapper over-steamed.

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Overall, I enjoyed dim sum at Red Star. Some of the dishes are superior to what I get in Calgary but the how gow and sui mai could use a little more finesse. The total bill for seven dishes was around $60.00.

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Seattle – List

In the old days, Beep Beep and I spent most of our time in the clubs in Pioneer Square. This was actually our first time in Pioneer Square sober. So far on this trip, I drank like I was pregnant. I averaged a beer and a glass of wine a night, and that was with Beep Beep’s encouragement. Being back on our old stomping grounds didn’t make me want to drink. Instead of a beer on a patio, I suggested an ice-cold kombucha.

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There was a game going on that day and everyone was dressed up in green. A band played their trumpets on the street. Blue smoke billowed out and then a throng of fans came out like a horde of zombies on Walking Dead.

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When we returned to our hotel, we found out that Beep Beep’s relatives were staying with us – a total of four adults and a baby. The penthouse only had two bedrooms and a pull out bed in the kitchen. On the way to dinner, Beep Beep said she wanted to do a midnight run and head back to Vancouver after supper. Just like the old days when we would manufacture drama. I was game, I found this turn of events exciting.

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To fuel up for our move, we went to my husband’s favourite happy hour spot, List. On Sundays, appetizers are half price all day long. Beers and wine are $4.00. First up was the ahi tuna on a bed of lentils. The seared honey ginger tuna was perfectly rare on the inside. The lentils were too spicy which made it almost uneatable.

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The Baked Broccoli ($8.50) was simple. The broccoli tasted like it was boiled and then pan-fried. The florets retained a nice crunch. Beep Beep liked this dish but I would pass in the future.

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The Octopus Salad ($14) was a winner. The tender pieces of octopus was cut in little pieces and tasted of grill. The citrus emulsion was quite bright and strong.

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The Homemade Gnocchi with black truffle cream ($14) was so good that I ordered two plates. The fragrant truffle sauce and the soft bites of gnocchi melted on our tongue. Be warned – this is a rich tasting dish.

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I read on Yelp that the  Salt and Pepper Calamari ($11) wasn’t anything special and it was too salty. I ordered it and asked for the kitchen to go easy on salt.  For $5.50, I thought it was great. The squid was tender and delicious, nicely fried and the light batter was crispy. No complaints from me.

List is always busy and offers happy hour until 6:00pm and then again later at night. Happy hour is one of the best deals in Seattle for booze and food. I’m already looking to my next visit.

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Seattle – Lola

Beep Beep and I started our Sunday at Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. Forget the original store in Pike Market. Check this place out instead. Other Yelp reviewers have compared Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Personally, I think it’s more like a Playboy Mansion for coffee nerds. There are two floors to this super sweet pimped up Starbucks.

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We learned from our friendly barista that when this place first opened, to work here you had to 1) be a Starbucks employee 2) be nominated by Starbucks and 3) undergo months of training before even touching the coffee.

Beep Beep use to work at Starbucks too, and I still remember when Gordon Campbell picked up a latte she made. He drank a sip and make a big face, like he drank sour milk. I joked to Beep Beep that she would have never made the cut at Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. She  agreed. She’s better at writing data then pulling shots of espresso.

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I ordered a Nitro Cold Brew ($7.50). This cold brew is infused with nitrogen, which brings out the coffee’s creamy, natural sweetness. I added fior di latte (cold sweet cream) to my brew. Refreshing, but I preferred Beep Beep’s drink over mine.

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Beep Beep ordered the Classic Affogato ($7.50), which is made with two shots of Starbucks Reserve espresso, poured over a scoop of Mora Iced Creamery ice-cream. Oh my. This ice-cream is full of creamy goodness. All this pleasure for only 120 calories.

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There’s something intoxicating in the air here. I swear, when Beep Beep and I were drinking at the bar, we both felt tipsy. The prices are higher than your run-of-the mill Starbucks, but justifiably so. Service is excellent, baristas are knowledgeable, and the drinks are far superior than your standard Starbucks.

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After our Starbucks experience, we walked over to Pappardelle’s Pasta in Pike Place. I bought enough dried pasta to completely fill up my carry-on luggage. There was a team of young kids manning the pasta station. They do a good job engaging with customers and offering samples. When Beep Beep saw how the staff were having a fun time working together, she started to romanticize and theorize. “Do you think they hang out after their shifts? What do you think they do when they aren’t here?” I shook my head and retorted, “Do you realize you’re fantasizing about these kids like they are on that show Friends? Do you think they’re talking about us and saying, “Oh. There are those stalkers again. I wonder what those bored, middle-aged office workers do after working in an office all day? Besides stalking us of course”.

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We walked for about ten minute from Pike Market to Belltown for brunch at Lola. Though I made reservations, we still had to wait. We ordered the doughnuts ($9.50), Eggs Benedict ($19.25) and Fava Skordalia ($4.25)  and Kopanisti ($4.25) with freshly griddled pita. The doughnuts were fine but it was the vanilla mascarpone that made this dish so yummy.

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Cool on the tongue, not too sweet and with a rich whip cream like texture, putting this mascarpone on anything would taste good. With the cherry jam, the doughnut reminded me of an old-fashion jelly doughnut.

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Our server recommended two dips. The Fava Skordalia and Kopanisti. The fava skordalia was bland and tasted like a hummus I could make at home (by the way, my homemade hummus sucks). The kopanisti was very tasty. I liked the smooth cheese texture, herbs and the toasted pistachios. The pita was nice when it was warm, but once it got cold, it didn’t taste nearly as good.

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The best dish for me was the Eggs Benedict. Beep Beep and I shared an order, which was plenty of food. The garlic fried smashed potatoes were crunchy and well-seasoned. The Bavarian ham was high-quality. The egg was poached perfectly. I asked for the hollandaise to be served on the side. With the addition of fresh dill, the sauce was light and subtle.

I would return. The prices are on the high-end but the portions and quality make up for it. Note that Lola adds an automatic gratuity of 20% to your bill. Our server saw me exchange Canadian cash with Beep Beep’s American money (I was buying some American money off her).  I could see our server’s face contort in panic. She ran over to take a peek at the bill to ensure we didn’t give her our dreaded Monopoly money. I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with Canadian currency either.

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Seattle – A+ Chinese Restaurant

Beep Beep’s little brother, And Tony and his girlfriend Spring Time joined us for dinner on Saturday night. I told them that Beep Beep I were going out for wonton in the International District. They skipped their original plans to visit a BBQ shack and opted instead to tag along.

My first pick was Mike’s Noodle House. However, upon arrival we saw that the restaurant was closed. Odd since on Yelp states it is open on Saturdays. Spring Time noticed the line-up outside of A+ Hong Kong Kitchen. I remembered reading positive reviews on Yelp so we got in line.  We must have waited at least half an hour. Our server recommended to order our food while we were waiting for a table, as some dishes take up to twenty minutes to bake.

When Spring Time and I were discussing what to order for the group, she denied my request for a seafood rice dish. I stood up straighter and leaned in close to Spring Time face and said passive-aggressively, “Okay, since I’m the oldest and despite in Chinese culture, you know, how we respect our elders, I’m going to let you pick because I’m the nice one here.” And Tony and Beep Beep nervously laughed and Beep Beep responded diplomatically, “Just order both dishes Spring Time. I’m eating for two now and I’m starving.”

Spring Time ordered four dishes: Seafood Rice Clay Pot, Tomato Baked Pork Shop, Seafood Spaghetti Bake, and the Lamb Noodle Soup. Spring Time went overboard with the seafood and didn’t order her beef dish. I felt bad for being so hangry.

Each dish was around the ten dollar mark. Was the food worth the wait? Only one dish stood out for me and it wasn’t the seafood dish. The lamb soup noodles.

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The broth tasted like it was cooked with love. The clear soup was surprisingly rich in flavour, with an undertone of a deep, spicy heat. The amount of tender lamb slices was generous and filling. The thick, bouncy glass noodles were slippery and hard to catch with my chopsticks.

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The pork chop was covered in a mild tomato cream sauce. The rice was dry and fluffy. I enjoyed the addition of the peas in the sauce.

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The seafood and rice dish was good, but I could do without the fake crab sticks. We were given a little pot of soy sauce to pour over the seafood and vegetables. The rice on the bottom of dish was crispy but stuck to the pot.

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Beep Beep’s pick, the baked seafood spaghetti, could have used some salt and pepper and perhaps some other seasoning. The spaghetti was topped with squid, shrimp and again, fake crab sticks. I thought it was odd we got two seafood dishes when I only wanted one, but I thought it would be best to shut my mouth.

I would return but I would order what A+ does really well. Noodle soups. The regulars in the restaurants, most flying solo, would order a big bowl of noodles and slowly slurp away. I noticed these customers would monopolize a whole table for over an hour despite the servers polite attempt of trying to settle the bill. Would I give this place an A+? No. But I think a rating of A- just for the soup is fair.

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Seattle – Tilikum Place Cafe

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I’m starting to know Seattle pretty well. In my twenties, I would come with friends for a weekend away. When I hit my thirties, my husband and I would visit so he could get his Nordstrom fix. The purpose of this particular trip was to celebrate my friend’s pregnancy. Beep Beep and I did our usual round at Pike Place Market and then walked over to Tilikum Place Cafe in Belltown for brunch.

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I was impressed with our server and our table. We sat right by the window. Look upwards and you can see the Space Needle. Our server made excellent recommendations for portion sizes, food and booze.

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I ordered a glass of rosé ($9). As Beep Beep’s pregnancy makes her hungrier than usual, we picked three dishes. We ordered a stack of crumpets with plum preserves and ginger butter ($10), poached egg avocado toast ($14) and Dutch babies – baked blueberry pancakes with powdered sugar (14).

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I’ll start with the savoury – the avocado toast. The bread was thick, crusty and rustic. An appropriately hearty vessel for the buttery smoothness of the avocado. Personally, I would have liked more than one egg. There wasn’t enough yolk to eat with the carbs. The toasted Middle Eastern spices over the eggs also nicely accented the salad. I loved everything about this salad – the mix of fresh greens, the assortment of herbs, the light dressing and the generous slices of grapefruit. So refreshing, I could eat this salad all day long.

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The crumpets arrived steaming hot. I watched as the ginger butter trickled down the sides of the fluffy crumpet tower. The sugar icing added a touch of sweetness to the tartness of the plums.

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Beep Beep liked the baked blueberry pancake. The texture was smooth and eggy, like a hot custard. The exterior was crispy and the interior reminded me a bit like quiche.

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We walked around some more and found my  friend Buzzy’s favourite spot for coffee, Top Pot Doughnuts. We were too full to try the doughnuts but I did get a coffee. I can’t believe how cheap everything was – a dollar for coffee or a doughnut. With its free Wifi, friendly staff, cool set-up and inexpensive food, I would frequent this place if I were a local.Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 4.55.51 PM.png

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On our way back to our accommodations, we picked up some mugs at Starbucks to bring home for our husbands. I found another thing Seattle has over Vancouver and Calgary… wine is served at select stores…. Where was this when I was a barista?

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Seattle – Late Night at Tsukushinbo

Beep Beep and I arrived at the WorldMark Seattle at the Camlin. Beep Beep’s step-mother has a time share there and she gave us the penthouse for the weekend. We valeted Beep Beep’s car and hopped inside to check-in. That’s when the timeshare salesman pounced on us. After half an hour of hearing him talk nonstop about coupons and an Amex gift card for $150 if we attend a meeting (but don’t tell anyone because I’m just giving YOU a special deal), we finally got away to eat dinner. I picked Tsukushinbo based on the numerous and positive reviews on Yelp.

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The front of the restaurant is nondescript. Blink and you’ll miss it. The restaurant was busy and our server was attentive but she looked exhausted. From what I could see, she was the main server for the entire restaurant.

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The miso soup was thick, cloudy, rich and salty. There was lots of seaweed and slivers of green onions.

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We received a complimentary dish of edamame. These lightly salted, slightly warm pods weren’t the cheap frozen ones you get at T&T. The boiled soy beans were sweet. You know when the free stuff taste this good, the food is going to be fantastic.

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Beep Beep is pregnant and she can’t eat raw fish, oysters, and soft cheeses. She also won’t drink any booze, not even a sip. However, since she was craving sushi, I ordered Yen an ebi onigiri ($5). For her main, she wanted cold noodles ($12.99). I opted for the chirashi ($25).

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Not the prettiest onigiri I’ve seen, but it is one of the most delicious I’ve tried. The tempura crumbs were crunchy and light, and that soy soaked sauce over the perfect rice was mouth-watering. I didn’t try her cold noodles, but she said it was refreshing and yummy. Our server told us that her dish were one of the most popular items at the restaurant.

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My bowl of chirashi was worth every American dollar. The rice had a strong vinegar taste. The presentation and the cut of the fish wasn’t best, but the freshness was incredible. Each piece of fish tasted better than I can get in Vancouver. The eel and snapper, normally my least favourite, were the best. In the past, I found eel has an almost dirt like taste. At Tsukushinbo, you can taste the charcoal essence, the crispy skin and the sweet glaze. I thought the snapper had great texture.  This chirashi was without a doubt one of the best versions I’ve tried.

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I was starving when I got to Tsukushinbo but when I left I was uncomfortably full. We both would have loved to just return here night after night, but we wanted to see what else the city had to offer. Fei Po gives Tsukushinbo two fat thumbs up.

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Richmond – Bob’s Submarine Sandwiches

Beep Beep picked me up at YVR for our girls’ trip to Seattle. We wanted to get a bite to eat before the drive over to the border. I saw on Yelp that Sakana Sushi was a popular bet, so off we went.

Beep Beep parked her car and we walked to Sakana, which is a few doors past Bob’s Submarine Sandwiches. I’ve read about this sandwich joint but I never tried it. Sitting by the front window, I saw two guys with huge smiles on their faces, just about to dig into their footlong sandwiches. Screw Sakana… Beep Beep and I were going to eat subs.

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I walked up to the guys and asked them what they were eating. They told me they got a large Teriyaki and Deluxe hot subs. Each half sub is cut into two pieces, so each of their subs looked like four sandwiches. Based on the expression on their face, I wanted to try Bob’s submarines.

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Inside the shop, it’s like a time warp. The decor and set-up reminds me of a 80’s style diner, a dingier version of the coffee shop in Seinfeld. There’s a steady line-up of customers and tables filled with dirty plates. There’s one chef at the front grilling the meats for the sandwich, a young man at the cashier and a woman popping in and out of the kitchen.

I noticed an empty heater for fried chicken. There was grease and crumbs littering the bottom of the case. When we left, it was refilled with freshly fried chicken. Maybe next time…

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We shared two small hot submarines, the Super Sub ($5.90) and the Teriyaki Chicken ($5.90) and a side of fries with gravy ($2.50). The Super Sub was the best of the two sandwiches. Packed with double layers of melted mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, salami, capicollo and steak, this is one of the meatiest subs I’ve ever consumed. The toasted seasame bun looked puny compared to all the meats, grilled onions, shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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The Chicken Teriyaki sub came with big, meaty pieces of chicken. I could see the teriyaki sauce but I couldn’t taste it. Flavour-wise, both subs could use more seasoning, like salt and pepper and maybe some mustard or mayo. I found the chicken a bit bland.

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The subs were hot off the grill and messy to eat. Oddly enough, the fries tasted better when cold. Filling, super cheap and retro cool, I think this is a neat place to check out. If you’re a germophobe, I would skip this place for something more sterile, like Subway.

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Anejo Restaurant – Happy Hour

I’ve heard good things about Anejo Restaurant. My boss Tread Lightly told me Anejo makes the best chili coconut margaritas and guacamole. I know What’s Up Hamsup frequents Anejo for happy hour. So when it was time to meet up with some of my husband’s work friends for drinks, we picked Anejo.

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Every day from 3-5 p.m., Anejo offers $5 margaritas and beers, and half off tacos. I don’t particularly care for Mexican food, but I do love tequila and a strong margarita.

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Trojan ordered the Guacamole ($14). Three avocado halves, diced white onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, sea salt and a squeeze of lime were all mixed up together at our table. L and Trojan enjoyed the guacamole. I thought the chips tasted stale.

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Trojan and I ordered our margaritas half sweet. Trojan was partial to the Mango Margarita, which is made with blanco, triple sec, mango pulp, agave, and lime. I tried the Guava Margarita, which was very tart. My favourite was the Coconut Chili. The coconut syrup was subtle and the heat from the habernero was intense. I could really taste the citrus.

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Trojan ethusiastically and authoritatively informed us that Anejo has the best looking customers and staff. He would know, he’s dated half the city. Trojan makes What’s Up Hamsup seem almost monk-like.

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Robin and Batman arrived late due to their work schedule. Our server came up to our table to warn us that happy hour was coming to an end. Both doubled downed on drinks and tacos.

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I tried the chicken, bison, pork and fish tacos. I thought the fish and chicken tacos were the tastiest. The bison was a little dry. Each taco was packed with filling. At $2.50, this was a great price. Sour cream is extra. I noticed we didn’t get the bottles of condiments, perhaps because ordered the happy hour tacos.

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Our server Chad should be commended. He was professional and offered excellent suggestions for tequila, margaritas, and tacos. I wanted to discretely find out his name so I looked at our bill, which stated our server was Estrella. I asked Chad if he is Estrella. He said no, that’s the automatic name which shows up on the bills and it means “upstairs floor”.

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If you love tequila as much as I do, the entire list is 50% off during happy hour. So if you want to try some premium stuff, there is a time and a place for it. Anejo, between 3:00-5:00 pm.

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Anejo Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato