hittingthesauce

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Avec Bistro – Date Night

Since I started my new job, I have lost interest in blogging. However, my co-worker G requested I write about my experience at Avec Bistro, as he is interested in how it compares to our favourite French bistro, Cassis. So G, this post is for you.
avec
I dig the ambiance at Avec. It isn’t pretentious but inviting and informal. L and I chose to dine at the bar, and by the end of the night, we were glad of our decision. L and I were impressed with Travis, Avec’s bartender extraordinaire. It was refreshing to talk to someone who knew more about wine and food but wasn’t condescending about it. With each conversation, I felt like I learned more than I did before speaking with him.

L was pleased with the small but well chosen selection of craft beers. His pick was an Ontario beer, Hop City Barking Squirrel Amber lager ($7.50). I was a fan of the sparkling Drink French Fluently cocktail ($12.50). Normally when I indulge in a cocktail, I find it too watery or icy. Not the case at Avec. The bubbles were small and tight. I could taste a pleasant, almost floral note. Best of all, there was no skimping on booze. Two ounces of alcohol is truly two ounces, which means I plan to bring my work friends to Avec to sample more of the cocktails.

We ordered Moules ($16.00); Goat Cheese Croquettes ($6.00); Pate ($16.00); Steak Frites ($27.00); and banana bread pudding ($10.00). Travis organized the flow of the food, which resulted in a perfectly paced meal.
goatcheese

First up were the goat cheese croquettes and pate. The goat cheese was great for snacking. The combination of the crispy coating and soft goat cheese filling was perfect bar food. I thought I could taste a bit of citrus. I noticed with each course, no matter how small, we received new cutlery and plates.
pate
Creamy, cool and light, the pate was as excellent as Cassis and Model Milk’s version. The bread was crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and gave the velvety smooth pate the proper vessel to sail away.
mussels
The mussels were small and fresh. The tomato and white wine sauce was light, slightly smoky from bits of bacon. L and I both scooped up the cubes of bacon and tomatoes in the sauce. Again, we were served more of that delicious bread to sop up the rest of the sauce. Travis paired the mussels with a glass of 2012 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc ($10).
steak
Our main course was a 12-ounce serving of steak frites. Oh my! The steak was tender and well seasoned, cooked to L’s request of medium. The generous serving of steak meant this dish was a value-laden favourite. The homemade aioli was addictive while the fries were scrumptious.
bread pudding
For dessert, L devoured his banana bread pudding in record speed while I sipped on a glass of rosé ($9.00). I’m happy we checked Avec out, as we can add this bistro to our regular rotation of date night restaurants.
Avec Bistro on Urbanspoon

Pig & Duke – Canada v. Sweden

Premier Alison Redford made the announcement last Friday. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission authorized licensed establishments in the province to serve and open at 5 a.m. for the Mens Gold Medal Canada v. Sweden game. L insisted we go out to enjoy this unique opportunity.

A co-worker reserved a big table at the Pig and Duke. Packed to capacity, I estimated about three servers for the entire restaurant. In the kitchen, I could see two chefs whipping up plate after plate of food. Given the ratio, I thought service was great. Our petite blond server dealt with the crowd extremely well. If I were in her place, I would had a nervous breakdown, or at the very least, a stiff drink. However, I wasn’t so impressed with the customers.
coffee
I could hear customers at an adjacent table complain about the stupidest things. Their eggs weren’t done as specified, the toast was too toasty, and it took a long time to get a drink. Am I the only one who realizes it is 5:00 a.m.? Doesn’t anyone else understand the privilege to be served booze before the sun even rises, and to boot, there are people who are cooking us food?
breakfast
Enough of my rant, on to the food and beverages. I ordered Bailey’s with coffee. With a generous pour of liquor, the coffee was hot and creamy. I chased my coffee with a glass of Oyster Bay, because hey, its dawn and I’ll drink what I damn well want. As for the food, the egg was warm, the bacon and sausage better tasting than I make at home. The toast soaked up the booze, not that it mattered, as I wasn’t driving home. Add in the awesome energy of the crowd, and I was one appreciative customer. Thank you Pig & Duke, for hosting a great early morning party.

Lounging at Muse Restaurant

I saw on Twitter that Muse Restaurant was showcasing cocktails made from Double Cross Vodka (DCV). Produced in Slovak Republic, DCV has won high praise and accolade, as well as a gold medal for its package design. I figured drinking it would be the closest thing to me experiencing an Olympian medal, so I was game.

On Friday nights, L prefers to relax at home. I managed to drag him out by offering to pick up the tab, as well as some intimidation on my part. Thankfully, once we sat down, he enjoyed himself. Our corner booth in the lounge was cozy and private. The mood was serene, the music was mellow.

double crosser

For drinks, L ordered a Mill Street organic beer while I ordered the Double Crosser Martini ($13.00). Indeed, I could feel the power of DCV and blend of peach schnapps and Malbec. A couple of sips later, I was already feeling like a champion.

beef tartare
We ordered three shared plates, all of which were accompanied by Aviv Fried’s Sidewalk Citizen Bakery sourdough. Our first nibble of the night was Alberta Beef Tartare ($17.00). Piled on crusty buttered toast, the combination of the cool and creamy tartare and the warm crunch of the bread were toothsome. L and I were both impressed with the side of parsley salad. As the herb was strong in flavour, the dressing was equally ballsy, with a punch of tart citrus notes.
crab

Our second plate was the Dungeness Crab Salad ($19). The crab was fluffy, subtly seasoned with bits of apple, macadamia nuts and topped with avocado mousse. I really enjoyed the rich crunchy flavour of macadamia with the delicate sweet taste of crab meat.

charcuterie
The winning shared plate of the night was the In-house Charcuterie ($23), which consisted of: duck rillette; pork pistachio pate; Wagyu beef bresola; Guanciale; and pickles. The platter was so large, L and I couldn’t finish all the delicacies. The Guanciale was by far my favourite, the delicate flavour melted on your tongue. L is squeamish with fatty meats, but wrapped around a piece of bread, even he appreciated it.

Another good reason to dine here. After reading in the news regarding restaurants in Calgary serving up illegal meat and seafood, I know I can dine in peace at Muse. All the ingredients and supplies used are from local farmers and producers.

Boogies Burgers

L and I were out and about on Family Day. We picked up frozen dumplings at Lucky’s Dim Sum, BBQ duck at Sun’s, and by the time we were done, I was hungry for something sumptuous. I decided to knock one off my Urbanspoon wish list and head to Boogies Burgers.

I’m glad L was driving, because I would have done serious damage parking in Boogies tiny lot. Crash Boom Bam! That wouldn’t help cultural stereotypes one bit. Despite it being two o’clock, the restaurant was packed with customers lining out the door.
photo-6
L and I shared a Keith’s Burger ($10.00) and a small order of fries ($2.50). The two patty burger contained four slices of bacon, mozzarella, cheddar, fried mushrooms, fried onions, lettuce and tomato. Made fresh to order, the bun was light and fluffy, which soaked up the sweet pizza and mushroom sauce. The fries were skinny and crispy, brightened up with lemon garlic aoili ($1.25). The aoili was sweet and tart, a refreshing change to ketchup.

Big ass burger, quality ingredients, all served up in a unique diner makes Boogies a winner in my book. Just watch out if you see me driving into the parking lot. You’ve been warned.

Boogie's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Mimo Restaurant – Valentine’s Dinner

For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to dine somewhere different from our usual haunts. I also didn’t want to pick a restaurant that left L with a $200 plus tab. I decided on Mimo because a) the prices are reasonable, and b) I love seafood.

sausage

First up, we ordered the flaming sausage ($9.99). Made in house, our server lit up our night with this dish. I’m not a sausage fan, but I would order this again just for the fun of having a mini fire at the table. L enjoyed the sausage, which had a nice chew to it.
pork and clams

Our second dish was an order of Clams and Pork ($16.99), cooked to our specification of medium spice. The amount of heat was just right for L. Personally, I would have preferred it spicier.
paella
The star of the night was the Paella ($30.00 for 1 person). What I loved about this dish was that all the ingredients melded together. The rice was fantastic. Each grain was firm yet took on all the flavours of the seafood. The mussels, scampi and crab were particularly succulent. Next time L and I return, we plan just to feast on the paella.

MIMO Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Date Night @ Zipang

Saturday was date night. I planned to have dinner at Bonterra, but I mistakenly booked reservations for Friday. By the time I realized my error (when an employee at the restaurant called me to ask if I was still coming), it was too late to rebook a table for Saturday. Instead, L took me out to my new favourite Japanese restaurant, Zipang.
ASAHI
I called that day at 5:00pm to make reservations, however, we were still unable to land a table. Instead, we sat at the bar, which was fine, as we could watch as platters of freshly made sushi fly out of the sushi bar.
OYSTER
I ordered a main entree of Fried Oysters ($13.00), which was prepared differently from their appetizer oysters. Instead of the light, almost tempura like batter, this version was encrusted in a heavier coating with a texture similar to that of ton-kasu. L and I were in heaven, the oysters were massive in size and tasting of the sea. We would take turns taking bites of oyster, cold potato salad and chilled stalks of asparagus.
NIGIRI
Next up was a platter of nigiri. The raw prawn ($4.00) was large and fresh tasting, with a slight resistant flesh when I bit into it. The rest of the fish: surf clam; salmon; tuna; and tako were generous in size, each with the appropriate texture and taste. I have yet to encounter an unpleasant piece of seafood at Zipang.
CHIRASHI
To round out our meal, we shared a bowl of chirashi ($24.00). Chilled sushi rice was covered with the usual suspects; salmon; tuna; tako; surf clam, tuna belly; and scallop. The stars of the show were the tuna belly and scallop. The tuna belly was buttery and sweet; whereas the scallop was creamy, without a hint of fishiness.

With a large beer, a small beer and enough food to make our bellies content, the total bill was under $100.00. Considering the freshness of the seafood in a landlocked city, the price was reasonable.

Sushi Bar Zipang on Urbanspoon

OMG @ OEB – Soul in a Bowl

egg2

Jen treated me out to brunch. As usual, she let me pick the venue. Normally, I would recommend my go to place, Cassis Bistro. However, as Jen just finished her extreme 30 day cleanse, I opted for her favourite brunch spot, OEB. 

When we arrived at 10:00 am, it was a 45 minute wait for a table. An employee that knew Jaime from her serving days offered us coffee while we waited. I also appreciated that at the end of our meal, our server offered more of the delicious hot liquid to go. The coffee was moderately strong, smooth, without any obvious bitterness.

Jaime and I both ordered the Soul in a Bowl ($11.99). We received a tall takeout box full of piping hot, crispy fries. Cut into wide flat wedges, the potato filling was silky soft. My favourite part of the meal was breaking open the eggs. First, I nudged the egg with my fork, watching it gently jiggle with each poke. With a little more force, I broke the snow white exterior, letting the bright orange yolk spill all over the fries. Combined with a healthy portion of crispy bacon, cheesy goodness and a dab of ketchup, this dish was one of the most richest breakfasts I’ve consumed.

L refuses to line-up for any restaurant. However, I think he needs to make an exception for OEB, as breakfast food here is elevated, and then some. Each bite is worth every calorie.

OEB Breakfast Co. on Urbanspoon

Chinese New Year w/ Chef Roy Oh & Duncan Ly

Chef Duncan Ly (Raw Bar, Yellow Door, Chef’s Table) and Roy Oh (Anju.2) recently laid down a kick ass dinner for Chinese New Year. The talented pool of chefs included sous chef Kinhee Lee and pastry chef Karine Moulin.

soup

Tickets were $60.00 a person, and included three appetizers, a main course, dessert and a cocktail. Complimentary sparkling water was also included, which I thought was a nice touch. The first dish was Duk Guk, an oxtail consomme. The broth was hot in temperature, strong in flavour and salty. The dumpling wrapping was perfectly al dente, stuffed with soft, oxtail meat. I really enjoyed the addition of the chewy rice cakes, and raw, slivered green onions.
duck
Following the soup, was a smoked duck leg croquette, packed with soft meat, seasoned with a touch of cinnamon, licked by a pool of spicy aoli. These crunchy puppies were so good, I could have easily downed another half dozen.

tartar
Next up were the east versus west beef tartar. Both versions were delicious, though I preferred the traditional beef tartar served with potato like chips, while L enjoyed the soya and sesame beef tartar with Korean pears and won ton crisps.
cold pork
The last appetizer was Chinese spiced roasted pork, squid, papaya salad with Asian hot mustard and garlic sauce. I loved the cold clean taste of pork, chilled squid and refreshing medley of papaya and I think, daikon threads. The spiciness of the sauce really kicked the salad up a notch. Honestly though, all the appetizers were killer – I couldn’t pick a favourite.
shortrib
For our main course, we each picked the Korean braised short rib, with kabacha squash puree, broccolini, and daikon kimchi. The main course was phenomenal. L and I never ate short rib with meat that was so tender and rich in flavour. The puree was velvety smooth, the broccolini was crunchy and sweet, while the kimchi was cut in long luxurious ribbons. L and I enjoyed all the contrasting textures in each dish.
dessert
For dessert, we dined on Coconut and Tapioca pudding, with puffed crunchy wild rice and tamarind ice cream. My favourite element of the dish was the crunchy wild rice with the milky subtle sweetness of the pudding.

At the end of the night, Chef Duncan Ly took the time to drop by to say hello and to inquire if we enjoyed our meal. L and I did, immensely. We will be back on a Thursday night, when Raw Bar serves its modern Vietnamese food, paired with live music.

Charcut – Flavour Flav in the House!

I was for a short time, a happily retired blogger. Blissfully free from obligations, I could sit and enjoy my meal like any other customer. Friends weren’t force to take pictures on my behalf, or answer a constant stream of annoying questions. Perhaps I’ll blog just this once, because Charcut knocked it out of the park.
set lunch
M and I ordered the sandwich combo ($15.00), which came with fries, soup and two chocolate chip cookies. The sandwich of the day was Charcut’s version of a Philly cheese steak sandwich. Wowee, I almost stood up and shouted, “Flavour Flav is in the house!” A stack of thin slices of beef was piled high, intermingled with soft, caramelized onions and gooey melted cheese. The bottom of focaccia was deliciously buttered and soaked in jus.
Philly Cheese Steak
The soup of the day was mushroom and potato. If Campbell’s cream of mushroom was a person, and standing next to Charcut’s mushroom soup, I know it would hang its head in shame, cognizant of its inferiority. This soup was everything a real mushroom soup should taste like, bursting with earthy tones, subdued by a touch of cream.

The fries were outstanding. No little shards of overly fried potato for us. Each was well seasoned with salt and a blanket of Parmesan cheese. The interior were soft and mealy, yet crispy on the outside. Paired with homemade sweet ketchup, this was M’s favourite part of the meal.

M and I walked back to work, bellies content. I left my cookies on my boss’ table, as I avoid sweets. However, with M’s moans of enjoyment permeating the office, I took my bag of cookies back. God damn – Charcut even makes chocolate chip cookies taste freaking amazing. Made with more high quality medium dark chocolate than cookie, each bite was a nice balance of sugar and fat.

M is now a Charcut fan. I plan to get my whole office hooked on Charcut’s easy peasy $15 lunch within forty-five minutes. Good thing I never usually take my lunch. If I did, I would be rotund in record speed.

CHARCUT Roast House on Urbanspoon

Sushi Bar Zipang – Oyster Heaven

My new job keeps me too busy to blog. However, my recent meal at Sushi Bar Zipang brought me out of retirement. I’ll blog, but it will take an extraordinary experience for me to take the time to write about it.

oysters

To start, L and I ordered the Kaki Ponzu, fried oysters, ($6.80) and Tori no Karaage ($8.30), boneless fried chicken. The fried oysters were so good, I ordered another batch at the end of my meal. I would gladly swap these oysters over any dessert.

chicken

We received 3 large, meaty oysters, cooked so that it was still soft. The seasoned batter over the oyster was crispy, despite bathing in a pool of ponzu sauce. On the other hand, the karaage looked crusty, but we found the exterior surprisingly lacking a crunch. Served with a side of salt and pepper, the chicken was packed with flavour.

chirashi

Another winner was the Ryoushi no Donburi ($24), an assortment of fresh sashimi on sushi rice. The selection included generous slices of: tuna; salmon; ebi; scallop; spot prawn; salmon roe; octopus; snapper; and surf clam. Each piece of salmon and tuna was buttery in texture, smooth, firm and cool on temperature. I never had a scallop or spot prawn that tasted that fresh. The salmon roe popped delightfully on my tongue, bursting with a taste of the sea. The rice impressed me as well, it was sticky with a subtle taste of vinegar.

nigiri

To round off our meal, we ordered nigiri: Hokki (surf clam, $2); Ebi (steamed prawn $2.40), Maguro (white tuna, $2.40); Sockeye Salmon (wild salmon, $2.75); Tako (steamed octopus, $2.75) Special Scallop (scallop, flying fish roe, mayo, $3.50); Hotate (scallop, $3.00); and Botan-Ebi (spot prawn with the head-on, $4). All the pieces were bigger than I’m accustomed, but the proportion of rice to fish, at least in my book, was well-balanced. I was particularly impressed with the raw spot prawn, which texturally, was thick and creamy on the tongue. I was happy when our server offered to deep-fry the shrimp head, it tasted even better than fried chicken. Coming from me, that’s a huge compliment.

With Wa’s and Sushi Club no longer open, Sushi Bar Zipang has become my number one favourite Japanese restaurant in Calgary. My birthday is coming up this month, and I’m pondering another visit. Too little time, too many calories, and with so many great restaurants to choose from, my decision will not be made lightly.

Sushi Bar Zipang on Urbanspoon

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