Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pork Sundays

4611 Bowness Road NW
After leisurely running 11k on a chilly Sunday morning, I headed out to NOtaBLE for some brunch. The place was definitely hopping when we arrived shortly after noon. We were told seats were only available at the bar in front of the kitchen unless we wanted to wait. I was hungry, so we sat at bar. I actually enjoy sitting at the bar. You can see all the exciting action up close. 'The chef grabs the bread, unsheathes his knife and in one smooth motion halves the helpless bun. The crowd goes wild! Chef - 1. Bread - 0. It stood no chance.' 
I ordered the eggs Benedict. It was a simple dish but oh-so-amazing. Perfectly poached eggs sat over a slice of ham on a piece of super soft squishy english muffin. Hollandaise sauce drizzled over the tasty sandwich. The eggs benny was served with a side of crispy hash browns. The potatoes were cut to thin little shreds and fried to a golden brown. So good. 

My mom had the salmon hash. It was pretty good, really flavourful. Decent portions. She was unable to finish it, so being the great son that I am, I cleaned it up for her. Rotisserie salmon laid over a bed of crispy golden hash with tasty bacon, corn and bell peppers and finished off with two poached egg on top. It was really good. The salmon could have been a little fresher but good overall. 

Some of you may be wondering why this post is called 'Pork Sundays', some of you may have just realized this. And I'm sure some of you could care less (and if that's the case, the you can skip the rest of this paragraph). So basically, there is a featured rotisserie served every night and Sunday night happens to be pork. As we waited for our food to arrive, we watched in amazement three juicy pork belly roast spinning over the soothing fire (kinda like watching the Yule log on TV). Grease drip from the delicious golden meat, sparks were flying (literally), love was in the air. I will definitely have to go back to check it out!

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Bustling atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the bar. If that's not your thing then make reservations. Early too. Seems like they fill up really quick.
Food: 10 out of 10. Everything looked delicious! I want to eat it all! On nom nom nom.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. For a brunch dish, the presentation was above average. It didn't look like it was slapped together in an assembly line of cooks. Clean cutlery. 
Price: 6 out 10. Pricier than other diners such as Nellie's... But it's well worth it.
Service: 7 out of 10. After the initial slow service, the staff picked up their game and service was top notch.
Overall: 9 out of 10. NOtaBLE. Where amazing happens. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


O Restaurant and Lounge
2018 33 Ave SW
Weekend lunch with my mom. I was jonesing for some tasty sashimi the whole week and figured I could get some from my favorite Japanese restaurant on Saturday. Unfortunately for me, my paranoid mother will not have any of that. Somehow all the fish in the world have been contaminated with radioactive green gobbly goop. And if you so much as look at it, you will grow a third arm on the side of your head. So instead we decided to check out O Restaurant and Lounge over in Marda Loop. The restaurant was quiet when we arrived shortly after noon, a couple of occupied tables here and there. We were quickly seated by the window and presented with the two page menu. 
Nothing peaked my interest as I leafed through the menu. I was secretly hoping there would be a sashimi section on the back. No dice. Because I need to satisfy my cravings, I ordered the fish and chips. No - Halibut and chips. It sounded pretty fancy. It's got nothing on Saint Germain's description of their "Frites et Poisson" during Dineout Calgary 2010 though; kronenbourg battered gougettes of cod, frites and orly sauce. What the hell is a gougette?!? Stop making up words. Anyway. Halibut and chips at O was decent. The batter was crispy, the meat was firm and fresh-ish. Hard to tell since it was deep fried to the max. Can't say the same for the fries though. A little inconsistent. A couple of crispy ones here. A couple of soggy ones there. But unfortunately for O, there was definitely more soggy than crispy fries in my bowl. My halibut and chips also came with a side of leafy greens. Nothing too fancy. Decent overall. 

Also, because my mother is a hypocrite, she ordered the salmon fettucini. Because, FACT: thoroughly cooking one's food removes harmful radiation.
No it doesn't. I just made that up. Here's what I though of it.
Atmosphere: 6 out of 10. It's an interesting setup. It's kinda like a quasi-resto-lounge type deal. Liquor wall in the back followed by a continuous row of vacant bar tables, which is then followed by some regular tables with small children running around like it's a daycare. Trendy looking decor though. 
Food: 6 out of 10. Nothing to write home about. Decent portions.
Presentation: 5 out of 10. Not the cleanest cutlery. Crusty water spots everywhere. Almost rivals that of grungy Chinese dim sum restaurants. Food presentation was decent. 
Price: 6 out of 10. Average pricing. Leaning to the high side.
Service: 7 out of 10. Slightly above average service. Could have been better given the number of patrons there. 
Overall: 6 out of 10. O for okay.

O Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Final Taste

Jacqueline Suzanne Bistro
1219 9 Ave SE
Last entry for the 2011 Big Taste Event. Dinner at Jacqueline Suzanne Bistro in Inglewood. Stepping through the doors of the bistro, you get a feeling that you’ve travelled back to the early 1900s. You reach into your pocket and pull out your swanky new smartphone. No. Definitely did not travel back in time. Really amazing atmosphere nonetheless. From the original pressed tin fourteen foot ceiling to the rustic furniture and decor that is surely not purchased from ikea, each item has its own unique story to tell. Love it? You can put in an offer, it might look well with your Piero Lissoni sofa. Maybe... 
Featuring a $25 lunch and $35 dinner menu, Jacqueline Suzanne's Bistro offers a wide variety of dishes for each course. Three delicious choices of appetizers were available; soup, ravioli or salad. Everyone except Steve chose the ravioli (such a non conformist). Stuffed with butternut squash, the ravioli was topped with a brown butter sage cream sauce and pieces of candied yam. A little sweet to the taste which kind of caught me by surprise but it was pretty good overall.

Main course featured a choice of prime rib, chicken, basa fish and lamb rack. To be different from the group, I decided to go with the New Zealand lamb rack. Served over a medley of vegetables and roasted potatoes, the lamb rack was super tender and didn't have an overpowering gamey taste. Maybe it was the port reduction. It was really good overall. The meat to bone ratio on the lamb rack was decent. The roasted vegetables were crisp unlike some other places that I've been to. I wasn't a huge fan of the way the purple cabbage was cooked. Just not my style.

For my dessert, I had the baked apple. What's a baked apple you ask; think apple pie, but without the pie part. Or an apple crumble I guess. Yeah. AMAZING! Taking a cross section of the ramekin would reveal the following sequence of tasty ingredients; ice cream, crispy oats, apples, apples and more apples. So good.

Here’s what I thought of it in numerical form:
Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. Nice relaxing atmosphere. A classy historic feel. Although it did feel a little crowded at times.
Food: 7 out of 10. Good food. The baked apple was DEliciOUS! Om nom nom nom.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Some looked better than others. Alana’s ravioli swished back and forth on the plate as it was carried out.
Price: 7 out of 10. Decently priced. 
Service: 8 out of 10. Friendly and helpful staff. Attentive service. 
Overall: 7 out of 10. A steaming DeLorean parked out front would complete the vintage look.

Jacqueline Suzanne's Bistro & Antiquities on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Musical Taste

Bistro Piq Niq
811 1 St SW
Big Taste outing number 4. Went out with the work crew for Russ's birthday at Bistro Piq Niq. Located in the historic Grain Exchange building which was built in 1910 and featured one of the slowest elevators ever made (according to Arvid, you can walk briskly up the stairs to the fourth floor faster than taking the elevator), Bistro Piq Niq is located on street level and as such, we were unable to verify this claim. The restaurant is fairly small on the main floor with a lounge type dealio downstairs which features live jazz music by pros and amateurs at night. It's pretty sweet. You can find additional event information here
For Big Taste 2011, Bistro Piq Niq is offering a $25 lunch and $35 dinner. For the lunch feature, two choices were available for the appetizers. I chose the feature soup of the day. It was a purée of carrots with a ginger extract and some sort of leafy green vegetable (maybe parsley) on top. I’m just a blogger who likes food. Don’t hate. The soup was very smooth and creamy. Probably pureed with a Tom Dickson Extreme Blender or something. What can't it blend?!?

Entree consisted of a choice of the feature quiche of the day with salad or duck confit over a boar bacon cassoulet. Not to be confused with a casserole. It looked pretty amazing (and tasted as such. I can verify this as Jordan was gracious enough to offer me a small scoop of duck and beans). I actually got the quiche. Brie, asparagus and mushroom filled the flakey pie crust along with an egg mixture. So good. The quiche was very flavourful. My only complaint was that it was too small. Each serving only consisted of 1/8 of the entire pie. I could have eaten the whole thing. Or at least two slices.

The dessert featured a Callebaut Chocolate mousse. This is the second mousse in two days and I'd have to say this one was much better than the mousse at La Vita e Bella. Served in a cocktail glass, the chocolate mousse is topped with some blueberries and a crispy pastry stick. It was so smooth and creamy, melted in my mouth like that snow mount on the side of the road during a chinook. Delish. 

Trying something new for this post. Rather than giving a rating, I will answer some of these common questions one asks before venturing to a new dining establishment.
Are the chairs comfy? Yes, the seats were pretty comfy. If I didn't have to go back to work, I would have had a nap there.
What type of background music do they play? Jazz music play in the background. If listening to anything other than Justin Bieber makes you vomit in the mouth, then I suggest you expand the breadth of your music taste and go back to your algebra homework.
Was it tasty? It was very tasty. 
Do you have to rob a bank to dine there? F-Log For Thought does not endorse such criminal activities. Please apply for a loan at your bank prior to dining at Bistro Piq Niq. It is worth every penny though.
What if I'm a vegetarian? Don't order the meat dishes.
Is there parking nearby? Yes. Street parking is available if you are lucky and a pay lot around the back if you are not.
How many thumbs up would you give it? Two. As I only have 2 hands. 

Bistro Piq Niq on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Satisfying Taste

La Vita e Bella
401 12 Ave SE
It is Thursday (Thursday at the initial time of writing, Day 7 of the Big Taste) and this is only post number three. When I fired off the bazillion emails early last week, I had envisioned a few more outings than this. But between plans falling through and lunch and learns at the office, y'all will have to settle for 3. Don't worry, I have two more posts coming for sure and debating whether I want to treat the family out to eating something that isn't Chinese food and will not be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. 
Anyway, lunch outing with Russ at La Vita e Bella. I was surprised he was up for such silly antics with me as he is skipping yoga AND paying $25 for lunch. Could he be finally turning a new leaf or succumbed to such bullish peer pressure? Located in the Dafoe Building just outside the Stampede grounds, La Vita e Bella features a $25 lunch, $35 dinner and $85 gourmet menu for this year's Big Taste. Similar to Escoba, items featured for the Big Taste are dishes from the regular menu (For lunch anyway). A choice of two items was available for each course. 
I selected the Caesar salad for my appetizer. Romaine lettuce tossed in a Caesar dressing was topped with grated grana padano cheese, pancetta, crunchy foccacia croutons and red wine eggs. It was really good overall. I can't say that I was a huge fan of the red wine eggs though. Hard boiled in a red wine, the eggs had a reddish tone on the outside and cut into quarters. It tastes a little pickley. It's weird. It wasn't bad or anything. I just didn't enjoy it as much as a regular egg. It sounded neat.

A choice of spagettini or risotto was available for the main. I had the spagettini while Russ tried the risotto. The pasta noodles were likely laced with either a puree of red bell peppers or a tomato paste when it was made and as a result were orangey red in colour. It was really good. Served over a tomato sauce containing various herbs and olive oil, the dish is then topped with a VERY generous amount of garlic and shallots (I can’t even count that high), andouilli sausage and little itty bitty grape tomatoes. The pasta and sausage were very flavourful and a little spicy. The tomatoes were firm and sweet. It was pretty good. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For dessert, I had the double chocolate mousse. A white chocolate and dark chocolate cream cheese mousse sandwiched a thin crispy wafer cracker and finished off with a mint leaf. The mousse was really thick and heavy. The texture was smooth and melted in my mouth. Despite begin extremely full, I still devoured it like a champ and then took a nap after.

Here's a brief summary of what I thought of it,
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Nice relaxing atmosphere. 
Food: 7 out of 10. Good food, fresh ingredients. No vampires will be bothering me for the next little while. Maybe don't get this if you're trying to hook up with Edward. I'd imagine it'd be a deal breaker for him.
Presentation: 7.5 out of 10. Good presentation.
Price: 7 out of 10. Good deal overall. It's still a whopping $25. So it's not exactly cheap. Just think of how much food you get and don't worry about it.
Service: 7.5 out of 10. Attentive service, plates are cleared promptly. 
Overall: 7 out of 10. Decent overall. Not as good as my first time.

La Vita E Bella on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Intoxicating Taste

Escoba Bistro and Wine Bar
624 8 Ave SW
Entry number two documenting my experiences in this year's Big Taste event. Escoba Bistro and Wine Bar is the location of my dinner. My victim being my good friend from high school Darcie. Escoba featured a $35 dinner menu for this year's Big Taste event and the options available were pretty impressive, covering a board variety of tastes. Red meat carnivore? You got your steak. Itching for some seafood? There's a grilled Atlantic salmon. Veggie eating Hippie? No problem. Try the grilled vegetable bake. Do vegetarians even eat cheese? Straight up vegan? You might be out of luck. Maybe inquire beforehand. You can always get a bowl of steaming water.
To start things off, a trio of tasty appetizers were brought out for us - A spinach, almond and feta spring roll with sweet chili dip, Southwestern crab cake topped with a guacamole and chipotle aioli and a double smoked bacon stuffed mushroom cap topped with asiago cheese. They were all equally amazing, but I think I like the crab cake the most. It was fried to a perfect golden brown, so crispy. The sauce was a little spicy. So so so sooooooo good! I wish I had another plate or two right now. 

For my entree, I selected the herb roasted chicken supreme. A juicy piece of chicken supreme (chicken breast with the wing bone attached) laid over a bed of smooth creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes, giant tree trunk asparagus, bell peppers and baby carrots. The chicken meat was fairly tender and very flavourful. The asparagus stocks were massive. I almost had to ask our waiter for a chainsaw in order to cut it to manageable pieces. Thank goodness it was so tender and didn't require much effort on my part as I sliced and diced that asparagus like a ninja into bite sized piece for my consumption. 

For my dessert, I selected the parfait. Chunks of raspberry and passionfruit were solidified in a blob of frozen whipping cream and egg yolks mixture. The fruity block is served over a mango coulis with a small helping of mixed berries on the side and topped with a mint leave and some sort of pastry stick. It was decent. I thought it was maybe too frozen? Or I hadn't waited long enough for it to properly thaw out. But if you put something that looks so tasty in front of me, you can't expect me to not devour it instantly. Which was a terrible idea by the way. Major brain freeze. Clearly didn't think that one through. -20 weather... Frozen parfait. Get your head in the game David! Get your head in the game... It was definitely the less sweet (flavour wise) choice of the two options. The tiramisu with chocolate truffle looked pretty amazing as well. And tasted as such, I’m told.

The verdict; drum roll please...
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. The interior was renovated to give a rustic wine cellar look. It feels pretty dark but it's not really that dark. There's ample lighting. My photos turned out alright!
Food: 9 out of 10. Not too shabby. I wasn't a super huge fan of the dessert. It was good. But it could have been better given their stellar track record to date.
Presentation: 9 out of 10. Presentation was top notch. You could tell effort was put into eat dish and it wasn't just thrown together.
Price: 8 out of 10. With more and more restaurants going for the $35 dollar menus, sometimes it feels like they aren't even deals anymore but rather an opportunity for restaurants to showcase their stuff or gain exposure. I can assure you that you will be getting a deal at Escoba though. There are cost savings when you add the three items together.
Service: 8 out of 10. Our waiter was very friendly. Service was good. Very attentive.
Overall: 9 out of 10. Pretty amazing overall. Check it out. Escoba. You won't be disappointed.

Escoba Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Big Taste

Bistro 2210
2210 4 St SW
Big Taste 2011 is officially here (two days ago)! Formerly known as Dineout Calgary, it is one of my favorite times of the year! I've been looking forward to it since the menus were posted online a couple of weeks ago. All of my free time the last week has been dedicated to organizing lunches and dinners! For those who have not been, The Big Taste is an event held in the beginning of March where participating restaurants around the downtown area offer 3 course lunches and/or dinners for a set price of $15/$25/$35 and a gourmet menu that comes with a wine pairing for $85. There are good deals to be had, and some not so great deals.
First up, Bistro 2210. One of my favorite restaurants of all time, this restaurant, located in the Mission district featured a $15 lunch and a $35 dinner menu. I rounded up some friends from work this past Friday to check it out. Bistro 2210 is not the biggest restaurant in the world, so I decided to phone the day before to make reservations. No one picked up and I was sent to voicemail. "Thank you for calling Bistro 2210. We are open for dinner Tuesdays to Sundays from 5 pm..." I was like WHAT?!? Why do you have a lunch menu posted?!? I left a super convoluted message asking if they were going to be open for lunch for the duration of The Big Taste event. I got a phone call back later that evening confirming that they will be indeed open for lunch. At 11:30. I was like sweet. I decided to not make reservations at the moment as I needed to confirm who all was still in since I told everyone that they might not be open. I phoned back at 11:00 on Friday to make reservations. No answer. Uh oh. Phoned again half an hour later and a lady finally picked up and confirmed that yes they are actually open and they did not take reservations for lunch. 
We arrived at the restaurant right at noon. I pulled on the handle. Locked. I was like what...? I swear I phoned and they said they were open! I stood around the entrance feeling like a complete idiot. Thirty seconds later, the door suddenly burst opened, confetti flew from the rafters with a choir singing hallelujah (slight exaggeration) as one of the staff members invited us in. Hooray! We took a seat at the booth at the back of the restaurant as our waitress brought over the menu and some tasty water. There wasn't really a choice as to what we could actually get and really, we were here for one reason only. The $15 dollar Big Taste feature. Just sayin’.
First course consisted of mixed greens over roasted beets with a walnut dressing. It is then topped with a perhaps too generous amount of goat cheese. Maybe just a right amount if you love the stuff. Me and goat cheese are not BBFs. It's a nice cheese. Just not my style. The dressing was not all that walnuty either. And it looked about the same as Jon’s salad which came with a regular vinaigrette since he was allergic to nuts. He didn’t need to be rushed to the ER after chowing down so I presume he got something different.

Good ol fashion mac n cheese was the second course. A thin layer of aged cheddar and gruyere cheese were melted over a generous pan of macaroni with smoked ham and tomatoes. It was really tasty. The cheese sauce was a little runnier than that of other places I've tried but I think I like it better than the super thick variety. Probably more milk than flour. It was pretty flavourful. Way better than the KD you buy at the grocery store for 99 cents. 

Dessert featured a vanilla creme with a mixed berry coulis and a chocolate pocky stick in a jar. The vanilla creme was a little sweet which offset the slightly less sweet taste of the berry purée. Chunks of real berries can be found in the coulis. So good. The pocky stick was a nice touch. I haven't had one since I was a young'un. Good times all around.

Points as follows:
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Sitting up at the elevated giant booth gave us a nice view of the restaurant. Simple decor furnished the restaurant with many of the original parts of the building restored.
Food: 8 out of 10. Aside from the goat cheese salad, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. So tasty.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. I loved the Pot de Creme. It was so cute. And tasty too.
Price: 10 out of 10. 3 course lunch for $15? Probably one of the better deals off the Big Taste menu. 
Service: 6 out of 10. Good service overall. Our only complaint was that they were a little slow given the number of people that were there (2 tables). 
Overall: 8 out of 10. Bistro 2210. Check it out. Great deal. Not open for lunch during the week after the Big Taste event. Unfortunately. Dinner is equally amazing so I guess it's not that big of a deal. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No Chicken

200 8 Ave SE

Celebrating the February birthdays at the office, we headed out to Teatro for lunch. Browsing through the menu, we quickly realized the cheap(er) deals we enjoyed last summer were gone (Click here and here for previous reviews). I guess it's a sign that the economy has officially recovered as I can no longer get half of a rotisserie chicken for $15 at Teatro. Not that I ever had a chance as there was never enough supply to meet the demand. But now I have to pay the full price of $16. Outrageous (Just kidding)! 

There were four plump chicken sitting over the rotisserie when we first arrived. The skin golden brown in colour. That number went down to three before we even ordered. Could this be the day? The day where David finally gets his Teatro rotisserie chicken? Natalie and Ryan both ordered the chicken before me. As the waiter approached me, I took a quick glance at the rotisserie. Still three left! He asked me what I wanted and I replied 'the gnocchi.' WHAT? Did you just dedicate a paragraph and a half talking about their chicken and then not get it?!

Yeah I did. I couldn't bear the disappointment of being rejected again. Plus the gnocchi sounded amazing (it was). 

Little gnocchi dumplings lined the bottom of a oversized sparkly white plate. Cooked with a spicy tomato purée, the gnocchi is topped with some additional crushed tomatoes, arugula leaves and grilled chorizo. This plate of deliciousness is then finished off with a generous sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese. The good stuff (parmigiano-reggiano). Not the kraft shaker bottle variety. The spicy dish brought warmth and comfort in a week that featured a high of -20 something. Too bad there wasn't a +15 to the local coffee shop and back to office. Can't win them all I guess.

Some numbers after the rant - 

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Beautiful decor featuring some interesting works of art. Definitely check out the eagle sculpture composed of hands (not real hands) by the bar, it looks so crazy. 
Food: 8 out of 10. Amazing food.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Nice presentation.
Price: 7 out of 10. Not exactly cheap stuff. But you get what you pay for. Jordan and Russ were concerned I was gonna get the lobster cannelloni and kindly preordered a bowl of hot water soup with saline crackers for me. Unfortunately, they serve no such thing and I ended up getting the gnocchi.
Service: 7.5 out of 10. Good service. Bread basket was continuously topped up with delicious bread. 
Overall: 8 out of 10. Decent overall. I feel that I'm overhyping the rotisserie chicken a little bit. Maybe someone who's had it leave a comment below on what they thought. Anything short of spectacular would be a disappointment for me at this point.

Also, I do realize gnocchi is not really a pasta. But I'm not sure what else to classify it as. So pasta it is.