Sunday, July 25, 2010

Accidental Folk Fest Experience

River Cafe
25 Prince's Island Park

Last weekend was Calgary's folk fest. If I had remembered that that was the weekend where hippies seize control of Prince's Island Park, I would never have gone to the River Cafe. But I digress. If you were not able to comprehend that second sentence I just wrote, River Cafe is located on Prince's Island Park in Eau Claire. Since the restaurant is located inside the park, it is only accessible by foot or non vehicular traffic. It's probably a good 5 - 10 minute walk just to get there. The things I do to eat delicious food...

I had the octopus bruschetta as my appetizer. Wood grilled octopus, lamb merguez (sausage meat) and marinated chick peas topped a slice of toasted baguette. There was a total of 2 slices for a whopping price of $13. Interestingly enough, it was not the most expensive appetizer at the table, that honor goes to my mom, who had a single scallop (albeit a large one) that cost $15... The octopus was decent. It's not as chewy as the steamed variety you get at sushi restaurants. The chick peas and lamb were really flavourful. I eat every last piece. Mostly because there wasn't that much.

For the entree, I had the spring salmon. Also known as chinook salmons, spring salmons are found the pacific ocean and are the largest of the salmon family. The filet is grilled over a wood fire and served over morel mushrooms, sea asparagus, a potato rösti and a bed of flower pedals with a goat cheese sabayon sauce. The salmon felt a little dry but other than that it was pretty good. On a side note, Is it just me or is this morel mushroom the hot new thing to be eating? The first time I had it was back 'round '04-ish... They look really weird but super tasty and very flavourful. Not to dissuade anyone from trying it but it looks kind of like a cow's stomach. Hmmm.

River Cafe is priced similar to Rouge but I felt that Rouge was a much better "deal". I use the word deal very loosely here because there are no deals to be had at either of these restaurants. The service was definitely a step down. Likely due to the number of people dining there that evening. Aside from explaining the features of the day, the server was non-existent for the majority of the night. The food took forever (Maybe that's why my salmon was dry...). It was definitely good enough to warrant a second try. Just not during folk fest. Perhaps a quiet Wednesday evening or something.

River Cafe on Urbanspoon

Is that a building code violation?

Nectar Desserts
1216 9th Avenue SE

Nectar Desserts have this weird policy of not accepting parties greater than 6 during the week. The table we were at could have easily fitted two more people but Nectar claims "the strain that serving larger groups places on our food and beverage preparation can result in our guest receiving poor service." (Read: Inept). As a result, our two friends whom arrived later had to sit at a nearby table.

I ordered the retro red velvet cake with vanilla bean frosting. It was decent. The cake might have been a little dry but not bad. The icing was quite sweet. Alana apparently really enjoyed it as she ate a good chunk on mine as I chattered with Darren and Sheila. 7 out of 10 stars.

It's also interesting to note that although they are located on the second floor, Nectar is, somehow, not equipped with an elevator. This is a major problem if you are
Stevie Kenarban and you wanted some red velvet cake. It's really unfortunate. : (

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Parting ways with Sir Robert L. Borden

1240 8th Avenue SE

Coming in at #60 in the S. Pellegrino World's best restaurants in 2010, Rouge is the first Canadian entry this year and a first ever for the city of Calgary. Rouge, opened back in 2001, under the name The Cross House Restaurant at the former home of one of Calgary's
Big Four: A.E. Cross. The house, built in 1891, is nested in the community of Inglewood near the Bow River. A number of different areas within the house, such as the Gallery, Atrium and Dining Room each offer a unique dining experience. Upon arriving, we were seated at the Gallery on the second floor. The window overlooks the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club (who knew there was a club for lawn bowling?). Despite having a fantastic view of the field, it did not offer a glimpse of competitive lawn bowling action (quite unfortunate). For the longest time we were the only table on the second floor. The setting felt very private. Probably a good thing, with our random yammering and what not.

First up was a complimentary bread roll with a berry vinaigrette and extra virgin
olive oil dip. The vinaigrette was very light with a hint of berry sweetness. It turned the ordinary crusty bread roll into a delicious piece of awesomeness. I know, I'm like super descriptive. This was quickly followed by an edamame bean Hors d'œuvre. Each perfectly deformed spoon contained 4 or 5 edamame beans over a goat cheese dressing and sprinkled with various spices and things to "excite your palate". Well consider it excited because it was delish!

In the spirit of trying out new things. I had
Kermit the Frog's legs (Don't hate till you try). The legs were dipped in a batter and deep fried like chicken fingers. And interestingly enough, they actually taste kind of like chicken. The texture was a little tougher than that of chicken wings and the flavour was quite mild. A mustard foam dip was available to add more flavour. Out of all the appetizers, this was probably the most time consuming one to eat with the bones and stuff but totally worth it.

Next up was the duck consommé with lobster and truffle mousse. The lobster mousse was served separate from the broth with the consommé along with various herbs in a
French press. This was done, as the server explained, to prevent the flavour of the herbs from overpowering the taste of everything else. As a result, the consommé was very light and complimented the lobster mousse very well.

As the only person out of the group to order an appetizer, soup and salad, I was the only one to still be eating away while all my friends patiently watched. A slightly awkward experience to say the least.

Next up was the mushroom salad. Exotic mushrooms, like
morchella were used. I believe there were a couple other types but I don't remember what they were called. The marinated mushrooms were topped with freshly picked arugula leaves (from-their-garden-in-the-back-fresh) and some red pepper(?) shavings. A fennel vinaigrette can be drizzled on top to add some additional flavour. I thought the mushrooms were quite flavourful already so I never used it. Despite the bitter than normal taste, the arugula was pretty good. Crunchy and fresh.

After quickly wolfing down the salad, the entree's arrived shortly after. I had the "candy apple" duck breast. The duck meat was likely prepared by lathering it in a "candy apple" sauce (probably a syrup or something) so that when cooked, the sugar would caramelize over the meat to give it an unique sweetness. It complimented the duck quite well since it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet like cake icing. There was a thin layer of fat between the crispy caramelized skin and the meat but it didn't taste at all fatty (Definitely a good thing). Thinly sliced sweet potatoes were layered on each other and pressed into cake form accompanied the duck. The pavé was topped with a spicy apple chutney and a dried apple slice.

Service was top notch at Rouge. Upon bringing out each dish to us, our server would explain what each plate consist of and how each is prepared. The timing between the dishes was short (For me anyway. Because I ordered all four items. Everyone else had to wait). Plates were quickly removed when we finished and the next dish was promptly brought out. 10 stars out of 10. Despite the pricey menu (which if you think about it, is not too bad considering it's top 100 in the world), I highly recommend it. You could drop a
Mackenzie King and the Queen if you choose wisely or a Sir Robert Borden or two if you want to go all out. But you know what? You only live once. I say go for it!

Rouge on Urbanspoon

Shortest Lunch Ever!

100, 207 9 Ave SW

Every time I walk by Rush, whether during lunch or dinner, there's usually three or four people sitting inside sipping a glass of wine. I always wonder to myself, how could this place continue to be in business with so little traffic?! Today (Yesterday), I found out. Hidden behind the bar counter and massive wine cellar is a cosy yet elegant dinning area with private rooms that are perfect for special functions. The ambiance of the restaurant, despite being quite dark, exudes a sense of warmth through the use of different types of lighting. I was fortunate enough to have a ceiling light shine directly on top of my portion of the table to take a sweet photo of my dish.

I had the seared ahi tuna salad for lunch. Mixed greens with cherry tomatoes and cashews drizzled with a wasabi-champagne vinaigrette is paired with four thinly sliced seasoned seared ahi tuna. Outside of cloverleaf's canned tuna, I don't think I've ever had tuna that is fully cooked. It' always been raw or lightly seared on the outside. It probably because the meat gets significantly tougher as you cook it. I can't complain though because it was amazing. The mixed greens were fresh and likely supplied from local growers, the dressing was light and didn't have the nasal stimulation one would normally experience after chowing down on a big wad of wasabi.

Despite ordering from the "larger plates" section of the menu, there wasn't that much food as I was hungry a couple of hours later. Quality and taste was top notch but size was definitely lacking. Though, I suspect most people who dine here will likely order more than one item. Again rating on taste alone, this would be a solid 7.5 out of 10.

Rush on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Creepy Crepes

Brava Bistro
723 17th Avenue SW

Back in '99, back when
boy "bands" were cool and everyone was ripping their music from Napster, Brava Bistro opened its doors to serve patrons quality Mediterranean fusion cuisines and wines at reasonably affordable prices (I'm pretty certain at that point in my life, I was raving about how awesome McDonalds was... Don't hate). I'm not quite sure what it's fusion-ed with but it's pretty damn good. The menu, though simple, offered a large variety of different foods.

I was feeling quite indecisive today, staring blankly at the menu... what was I gonna eat?! Will it be the prawn and avocado salad? The chicken and mushroom crepe? Or the feature salmon pasta? The choices! After consulting the wise waitress who caught me struggling with the menu, I decided on the chicken and mushroom crepe. And let me tell you, I have not looked back since. Until now. As I am writing this. Because I forgot what all was in the crepe. Grilled chicken and roasted mushrooms wrapped in a soft delicious crepe over a bed of baby spinach and cherry tomatoes and drizzled with a goat cheese cream sauce. The flavour of the goat cheese was toned down to better compliment the other flavours. The aroma of freshly melted butter radiated from the crepe. The grilled chicken was very flavourful. The spinach didn't leave that weird feeling in my mouth, unlike that salad I had the other day. Always a bonus. Presentation was top notch. Check it out below! 8.5 out of 10.

Brava Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Calgary Stampede
1410 Olympic Way SE

Stampede 2010 is here in Calgary and after a week of trying to get people to come with me with no avail, I decided to venture to the cowboy western fest on my own... To try out all the "delicious" foods.

First up, was the pulled pork parfait. I took me a good 45 minutes to find the place, walking around aimlessly like hobo through the grounds. Finally decided to ask the guest services people for directions. Turns out it was only a couple of booths away, sure felt stupid after that! Barbeque pulled pork filled the plastic cup and topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes with gravy drizzled on top. The pork was tender with a hint of smokiness. For $7.50, I would say it was worth every penny. All seven hundred and fifty of them. Not that I paid with pennies. A solid 8 out of 10. I was glad I got there when I did because as I was leaving the line was about 10-15 long.

I had wandered by the waffle on a stick booth whilst searching for the pulled pork parfait. Upon chowing down the parfait, I went back over the booth to get my waffles. By comparison, the waffle place was hurtin for business. As I slowly strolled up to the window, the cashier literally jumped me. Seriously, I don't even know what I want to get yet. But luckily, there was only 4 things. Waffle on a stick, waffle in non stick form, strawberry on waffles and banana chocolate on waffles. I opted for the waffle on a stick. It was a little disappointing. I got half a strawberry, a small slice of banana, one regular sized marshmallow, a half waffle with whipped cream and sprinkles on a stick that was far too short and a price that was far too high. $6? Are you kidding me? Totally not worth it. The stupid thing was difficult to hold as there was not enough stick so I ended up sitting down at a table and ate each piece individually. Lame. 5 out of 10.

At this point, I was probably maybe 75% full. So I had to be pretty picky with my remaining selections. I wanted to stay for the rest of the day but as the dark clouds started to roll in, that would seem highly unlikely. Stopped by the mini donut place for a bag of the original mini donuts. 13 for $3.50. Pretty good deal but considering I was by myself, that was probably 12 too many. The heart stopping (not in a good way), artery clogging deep fried donuts were coated with sugary goodness. Om nom nom nom indeed. Unfortunately, I ate about 6 or 7 before throwing the rest of them out (Sorry Steph...). I can hear all you hippies out there screaming "Think of the children"! But you know what? The children deserves better. I'll drop off a box of fruit loops at the food bank. 9 out of 10 on taste alone.

To finish things off, I got a "freshly squeezed" lemonade from Lemon Heaven. Very refreshing. Would have been better if the weather was hotter but delicious nonetheless. For a mere $3, this was a much needed drink to wash down all that other stuff. 8 out of 10.

I definitely would have liked to have stayed longer as I was only there for 2 and a half hours. There was quite a few things that I wanted to try but couldn't... Maybe next year... Hopefully I can round up a few people to go with me then...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Move over Pizza Hut...

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
2303 4th St SW

Famoso is a Neapolitan Pizzeria that originated from... Edmonton? The owners trained with the
Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) in Naples to learn the ways of the Neapolitan pizza. From the '00' Caputo flour to the San Marzano tomatoes grown in the Campania region of Southern Italy, the hand stretching and tossing of the dough, the fior-di-latte, bell-shaped fire ovens that cooks your pizza at 900°F in 90 seconds, everything screams authenticity.

I had to pepperoni and roasted mushroom pizza. Quite possibly the least authentic of them all. But it was good. The oven has a "
lazy susan" type contraption inside that spins the pizza around the flame. The result is a crispy yet tender crust that is evenly cooked and not burnt. That was one of my complaints at Pulcinella; The dough was sometimes too soggy or too burnt. The San Marzano tomatoes is less acidic, results in a much sweeter taste for the sauce.

Famoso describes themselves as a "fast casual style restaurant". Food is ordered at the counter similar to most fast food places but the food is brought to your table like traditional restaurants. It's kinda weird... like do I tip? I'm not sure... I did anyway to not look like an ass. The restaurant features a "dome" roof with full floor to ceiling windows that lets in ample natural light. A large monochromatic painting hangs on the wall along with 2 large flat screen tvs. The painting likely depicts the eruption of
Mount Vesuvius near Naples. Yeah?

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Triple Trouble

Vin Room
2310-4th St SW

I had the three course lunch feature at the Vin Room last weekend. The feature, updated every week, offers patrons an appetizer, entree and dessert for $25 dollars. Wine pairings are also available for an extra $10.

First up was the appetizer. Eggplant chips with a pine nut
aioli and spicy tomato chutney dip. The slices of paper thin eggplant were coated with panko and deep fried to the max. The taste of eggplant was lost in the cooking process in addition to the nutrients. All you can really taste is the bread crumbs and spices. Really crispy though. Of the two dipping sauces, I liked the pine nut aioli more. The tomato chutney was not very spicy and tasted more like a mild Old Dutch salsa. The portions were relatively generous. 4 or 5 large slices were stacked onto the plate.

Up next was the entree. The grilled
flank steak was served with green beans and potatoes and topped with a double smoked bacon jus. You may have noticed there is only 3 pieces of steak on the plate. I can assure you that this is all that was served. I didn't sneak a piece before snapping a picture. And I thought BR& was stingy with their 4 piece steak lunch. To be fair, the steak was very tender and quite good. The sauce had a brown sugar sweetness to it, I cleaned out the rest of the complimentary bread to eat the sauce because it was THAT good!

The last to arrive was the dessert. Two scoops of rocky road gelato with raspberry. Nothing too special about the ice cream. I thought 2 scoops was a little excessive. If given a choice, I would have given up a scoop for more steak. That's for sure.

Overall, I think the meal was decent. I don't think it was totally worth $25, especially considering the portion you get for the entree.
Vero Bistro Moderne offers a similar deal for a mere $15. However, Vin Room does offer a fancier meal with steaks or halibut filet as the main versus pasta, and slightly larger appetizer and dessert portions. A solid 7.5 out of 10.

Vin Room on Urbanspoon

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Sonoma Market Cafe
520 5th Ave SW

Located in the
Plus 15 between the Aquitaine Tower and Chevron Plaza, Sonoma was the preferred destinations for the lunch time pals (Lauren, John, Harry, Eric and Andrea). Being in the building brought back so many great memories! The close handed slap, the horse talk, spoon stabbings... Ohhhh the good times we had! The reason we loved it was because it offered great food at affordable prices. Friday steak sandwiches with soup or salad for $8.95. Sweeeeeet.

For the rest of the week? South western steak salad is where it's at! Romaine lettuce tossed in a spicy dressing topped with strips of steak, slices of avocado, tomato salsa, sour cream, medley of cheese and nacho strips. Amazing. The mixture of flavours complimented each other very well. The nacho strips were still crispy despite a 15 minute walk back to the office. The steak, cooked to medium rare, was tender and soft. I think they mix the dressing in the kitchen as it was not as spicy as the last time I ordered it. Bonus! 10 out of 10. Still one of my favorite restaurants but it's only open during the day Mondays to Fridays. I highly recommend it to all the downtown folks. Even if you don't work downtown, you should make a trip to check it out. Totally worth it. Totally.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Kilkenny's Irish Pub
3630 Brentwood Rd NW

Celebration with the other
CSSC sports champs at Kilkenny's on Tuesday. I arrived at approximately 6:30 and the place was packed already! Thank goodness for Hazel and Harley who came early to save the team seats! Yay!

Upon finding my friends in the nooks and crannies of the pub, I promptly ordered my food when the first server strolled past our table. 45 minutes later, my prime and stout
boxty arrived. Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. Wrapped between the potato mixture are prime rib cubes, mushrooms and roasted vegetables in a Guinness gravy. Looks kind of like a taco. It was decent, not too spectacular. The steamed vegetables on the side? Not so much. It almost feels like the cook was too lazy and just loaded a couple scoops of veggies and called it a day. I realize that it was busy but that's probably not the best way to impress the patrons. As a whole, I would rate this a 5 out of 10.

After painfully watching the MC take his sweet ass time handing out the league champ shirts, we were finally called up to receive ours an hour later. We then proceeded to handing out our own team awards. Special thanks to Ali for making awards for everyone. I'm glad I had a real award (Most Improved Player) this time around rather than "Most Committed Teammate" like last year. Seriously! That's not even a compliment! It's almost as if he felt obligated to give me something because I would some how kick him off the team if I didn't.