Thursday, September 30, 2010

Albertan, Aboriginal-inspired cuisine

There's this restaurant in the west side of Edmonton that I've been wanting to try for the past, I'd say, two years. My sister and I decided to do a double date dinner with our boyfriends the night before our birthday to celebrate and enjoy eachother's company. She suggested Murrieta's on Whyte, but the only time they had available was 8pm or later. My sister's boyfriend is an avid football fan so after 8 would work a lot better for him, given the Saskatchewan Roughriders were playing that night. That's when I suggested to my sister that restaurant in the west end that I so keenly wanted to try: Homefire.

The decor in this restaurant is similiar to the way it sounds; cozy and warm with a pretty fireplace in the middle of the restaurant. Sure enough, the waiter seated us right beside the fire (after waiting around for almost 5 minutes with no host/hostess to greet us). The lighting is dim and the decor has Aboriginal inspirations: silhouettes and stick drawings reminsicent of the culture.

All the prices on the menu were very affordable, surprisingly. Although I glanced at the website quickly to see their menu items, I did not expect a restaurant like this to be reasonable priced. The first item that caught my attention was the homemade bannock. Yum! That definitely reminds me of the times that I've visted Fort Edmonton Park as a kid to make bannock in an old-fashioned kitchen.

Bannock bread with whipped maple butter (L); creole creamy shrimp with pizza style bread (R)

Lamb burger with Saskatoon berry relish!
We all shared a basket of bannock bread for $7, served with whipped maple butter on the side. It was tasty, but I found the bannock to be on the dry side. I opted for the lamb burger with homemade Saskatoon relish (anything homemade always gets my attention first), veggies and mashed potatoes. The burger itself was delicious. The Saskatoon berry relish was delicious--tart and sweet, it was a great addition to the lamb. The mashed potatoes were a bit too salty, but were still good. My boyfriend ordered the stir-fry dish, an interesting option at an Aboriginal inspired restaurant. Although, you will find alot of stir-fry dishes at non-Asian restaurants. The sauce on his stir-fry was a little too sweet for my liking, but he's got a sweet tooth so it worked out for him! My sister's boyfriend opted for the same choice as me (the Saskatoon berry relish got him, too). My sister settled on the buffalo meatloaf, which I forgot to try because I was too busy working on my lamb burger!

No room for dessert right now. And, I already had dessert laid out for us because I had gone to the Downtown Farmer's Market during the day and purchased 4 cupcakes for each of us from Karen's Cake in a Cup, each one a different flavour for us to eat at home.

I recommend this restaurant if you want to try original, Aboriginal-inspired cuisine. The prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is cozy, just like the name suggests.

Verdict: scrumptious!

Monday, September 27, 2010

My attempt at making sweet potato cheesecake

September is birthday month in my family. First, it's my mom's birthday, then it's me and my sister's birthday (same day) and then it's my grandma's birthday. It's almost too much cake in one week! That being said, I found it necessary to try my cake baking skills for my mom's cake. What kind of cake did I decide on? Why not make use of the yam that's been sitting in the pantry for a while...voila, sweet potato cheesecake!

From what I've read, sweet potato cheesecake is quite common in the southern States, like Georgia. The sweet potato makes the cheesecake and other cakes very moist, and not to mention healthy too!
The recipe I got was from and consisted of the following:


  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 7/8 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C ). Mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 1/2 inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool. Don't turn the oven off.
  2. Place potatoes in a baking dish. Bake until a knife inserted in center goes through easily, about 1 hour. Don't turn oven off. Cool sweet potatoes enough to handle, peel, and puree.
  3. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of sweet potato puree to a large bowl. Add cream cheese, 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar, sour cream and 1/4 cup cream; beat until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Pour filling into crust.
  4. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour. Turn off the oven. Let cake stand 1 hour in oven with door ajar.
  5. Combine brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter or margarine in a heavy small saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat, and bring to a boil. Mix in 1/4 cup cream, then nuts. Pour hot topping over cheesecake. Refrigerate.
Please ignore the melted purple icing flowers...
The recipe was very easy to following, and the outcome was great! I put a pan of water underneath the cake so it would not crack in the centre while baking. In addition to the recipe above, I swapped the graham cracker crust with a shortbread crust (I'm not a big fan of graham cracker crusts), added cinnamon to the filing (you can add nutmeg as well) and topped the cake off with toasted pecans I popped in the oven for about 15 minutes (I tossed the pecans in a little bit of oil and brown sugar). This added a lot more flavour to the cake and brought the sweet potato even more, I think.

All in all, the cake was a success! My whole family enjoyed it, as well as my boyfriend. The cake wasn't too sweet and everything was natural and free of preservatives. You can store the cake for about a week, perhaps even longer, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Verdict: scrumptious!

Visit for more great recipes.

New Vietnamese/Thai fusion bistro in Southwest Edmonton

I know, I know, I haven't written in my blog for so long! Has it been ten days already? I've been away sick for the past week, so I haven't really gotten a chance to blog about my adventures in between.

I have a new family doctor that's located in a new community in Southwest Edmonton called Summerside. Within the past year, Save On Foods, Good Earth and Brewster's have popped up, including cute little restaurants/bistros like Teriyaki Corner (which I blogged about). Most recently, I was curious about a Vietnamese/Thai bistro that had just opened. It's called minimango, and it's a small sister business of a restaurant on 91st and 82 ave called "Sweet Mango" (I've been to this place before; it's alright).

The decor is very sleek and modern looking. Dark flooring, orange plastic light covers, raised barstools and booths, accompanied by a large picture consisting of smaller pictures of the Vietnamese culture; one would want to eat here just because of the cool decor.

Their menu was electronic on flatscreen televisions. I'm personally not a fan of electronic menus, but I suppose their easier to change if their menus fluctuate. That being said, I was having sort of a tough time reading the menu, so the cashier upfront handed my boyfriend and I paper menus. I scanned and scanned the menu. All I wanted was a simple Pho soup with beef, good broth and noodles. So I opted for the beef lover's choice (beef balls, tendon, and beef slices) for $7.95. My boyfriend opted for something a little less ordinary: Tom Yum Coconut noodle soup for $11.95. I also wanted the salad rolls for the appetizer. It was a whopping $5.95 for only 3 rolls!

We waited 7-8 minutes before our food came. We both munched on the salad rolls first. Not too bad. The sauce wasn't the typical dipping sauce for salad rolls which consists of hoi sin sauce. It was still tasty, but for almost $1.98/piece, I definitely won't be getting that next time. Next up was my Pho soup. The soup could of been hotter; the broth wasn't bad but wasn't as bold as I wanted it to be. The beef slices were too tough and if I remembered correctly, they only gave me about 2-3 beef balls. On the other hand, my boyfriend extremely enjoyed his new experience tasting the Tom Yum Coconut noodle soup. Topped with shrimp and mussels, his was a bit more appealing than mine.

Overall, the restaurant wasn't horrible. It wasn't spectacular either. The prices are a bit high and for Pho, I'd rather go somewhere more authentic. But it was a great experience for my boyfriend!

Verdict: pretty scrumptious

If you are interested in going, they are located just in the new shopping complex of Summerside on 91st and Ellerslie Road (9th ave SW). They don't have a website yet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Apple season in full swing: time to make apple crumble.

Despite the frost that had to be scraped off my car this morning, it is indeed apple season! I am normally allergic to the pesticides that are sprayed on the peel of the apple so everytime I eat an apple, I must peel it.  My co-worker was giving apples away from her apple tree in her backyard and I had asked if I could have some. And such big and beautiful apples they were! And I don't have to peel the skin off! They looked like store-brought ones, and she even told me that some of them were spliced with pears so the colour of them were a bit lighter. And they did have a subtle taste of pear, too. Besides eating the apples all to myself, I decided to make some apple crumble.
Mmmmm. I love apple season!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fall Flavours, P.E.I

I know I am not going to P.E.I anytime soon again, but I do wish that I was at the Fall Flavours Festival going on now till September 30th. The event showcases local cuisine and produce of the island, as well as local talents. Chef Michael Smith will be cooking on NFL ferries, there will be picnics with great food on local beaches and clam digging on beaches.

Mushroomfest at Sorrentino's

If you haven't heard already, it's Mushroomfest at Sorrentino's!
From September 1-30, yummy dishes are centred around this great vegetable.
Mmmmmm. I love mushrooms!

I must try all the recipes in the best cook book ever!

I got this wonderful cookbook for Christmas because I had asked for it. I discovered it while reading Books to Watch For in the Elle Canada magazine. Since then, I have not been able to book that darn book down! The concept is artsy, the content is witsy and the recipes are fantastic! Anyhoot-I'm just writing about this cookbook because my goal is to try every single recipe in this book. Guinea pigs? Mostly my boyfriend and my family.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I finally caught the mobile waffle van!

It's been nearly a month since I wanted to try a waffle from this mobile waffle van. I had seen it several times driving around the city and parked at their original location on 107 Street in front of the WCB Building. Eva Sweets is the name of this mobile Belgian waffle company. They pump fresh Belgian waffles from this van regulary at their 107 street location (although I couldn't find them on some occasions...) The van is normally there from about 8:00 am to about 2:00 pm. They can also be found at the City Centre Market 8 am-3pm and at the Beverly Farmer's Market on Tuesdays 4pm-8pm and the Millwoods Farmer's Market on Thursdays 5-8pm (taken from their website).

I suggest you give it a try if you happen to be at those locations. They import pearl sugar straight from Belgian and when the waffle is fresh, the sugar is carmelized on the outside, giving it a richer flavour than most waffles. Yummiers! At $3 a waffle, that's very affordable.

Verdict: scrumptious!

Monday, September 6, 2010

My first royal icing flower cake (with a little too much buttercream icing)...

I just finished taking a cake decorating class at Michael's. My co-worker had reminded me about this course. I had taken the basic first course 2 or 3 years ago and for some reason didn't go on and progress to the other classes. She mentioned that she taught these courses and had a side business of making cakes. Bingo! I want to take the second class! I'm very spur of the moment person; if it's something that I want to do I'll do it. And quite often, I'm serious about it.

That being said, the course was only 4 weeks long. I had to miss the second class because I was on vacation. That actually left me quite far behind in class. Not only did I miss the one class, but I failed to bring royal icing to the next class to practice making flowers. Completely embarassed (face probably red), my other classmates were very kind to lend me their icing and some (most) of the materials I needed. Talk about vacay mode! But I still stuck around because the instructor wanted me to see what was going to be made for this class.

So over the weekend, I dwelled at flower making for nearly 4 hours. I'm not kidding. From making the royal icing to laying the flowers to dry and washing my tools. I had "pastry bag" hand because I was gripping the bag so tight that the tendons on my right hand were sore. That being said, I was quite happy with the results of my flowers. These very flowers ended up on my final cake.

Baking is fun. I cannot say I am crazy about it just yet because it's quite time consuming, especially these darn royal icing flowers. But do they ever look good! They taste good, too (according to my boyfriend).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ham and Leek tart anyone?

My boyfriend's friend and girlfriend flew in from Kelowna for a wedding in the city. We had been asked to go out that night for bowling with them but the attendance stats looked pretty low. I had gone over to my boyfriend's place later that night and were very indecisive of where we wanted to eat (we weren't gonna cook or do any dishes). My boyfriend then called his friend and asked if he had eaten. Apparently, they have not eaten and were highly interested in grabbing a bite to eat. I suggested to meet downtown since it's the midpoint for all of us. And then I suggested Moriarty's Bistro and Wine bar.

This place is relatively new, opening earlier this year. It used to be called Ching's Dim Sum Bar, an upscale Asian dining experience that turned into a club at night. It's located on Rice Howard Way, right beside Sherlock Holmes Pub (Moriarty was the archenemy of Sherlocke in the fictional novel of Sherlocke Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Moriarty's is also owned by the same owners as Sherlocke Holmes and the Rose and Crown Pub. Glass windows and large glass door encase this small bistro. Inside is quite contemporary. Dim lighting with black decor: black chairs and tables, black rabbit table lamps and black cushioning on the wall. Perhaps it's a little too dark? But that's not the point...I'm only here to try the food!

I decided to order a mimosa, which is essentially orange juice and champagne mixed together. Eick. It wasn't good. The orange juice wasn't sweet and the champagne was strong; perhaps I was too hungry so I felt like I got drunk rather too quickly.  I scan through the menu deciding what to order. I remember reading in another blog about the ham and leek tart.  Ham and leek tart? Mmmm. That actually sounds yummy. I like ham and I just LOVE leeks. And a tart? That could be interesting. I ask the waitress when she comes to take our orders how the tarts are. She points out the "M" indicates their signature dishes. The "M" was beside the dish I wanted to order: the ham and leek tart. Tada! Exactly what I wanted. The waitress also describes the tart pastry as being very light, not heavy like pastry usually is.

My dish comes. Piled high with layers of leeks, I can see the house-smoked ham underneath. I cannot wait and dive into my first bite of the tart. Mmmmmmmmmm.
This is good stuff! I mean, really good stuff! I can taste the base of the tart, shaped like a large rectangular pizza, is spread with seedy dijon mustard. Then there's the ham, the leeks and the parmesan cheese. There's quite a bit of pepper for seasoning on the leeks which makes it, I think, even tastier. Gosh, this is really good I thought to be myself. I would come back only for this (I apologize for the dark photos as I only had my phone camera with me).

Surprisingly my boyfriend and I had room for dessert. The other party bailed on dessert as they were too full. Without thinking, my boyfriend and I chose the Root Beer Creme Brulee as this was one of their signature dishes. Whoa! Interesting flavours in my mouth. I could taste the subtle flavour of the root beer come through in my mouth in the brulee. It was accompanied by vanilla ice cream. This is a nice top off for dinner.

Root Beer Creme Brulee response to my post title: me please!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Famous, greasy donairs in Halifax.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

I am sure most Canadians now know that Nova Scotia, specifically Halifax has the best donairs in the country. They have a large population of people who speak Lebanese who have immigrated here from Lebanon years ago. Donairs originate from Lebanon and is probably one of their most celebrated foods. Donairs consist of marinated and seasoned beef meat that's been processed to look like a huge log. They are then put on a large, rotating roaster lengthwise and kept on low heat to keep the meat at a warm and consistent temperature. They are wrapped in pita bread, topped with onions, tomatoes and of course the signature donair sauce. This sauce has a mayonnaise texture, but is a lot sweeter and has a special spice to it, which of course give the donairs it's signature taste.

My boyfriend and I were heading to Wolfville and I wanted to stop by Halifax because I've never been. We only had about an hour to kill so unfortunately, we didn't make it to down town Halifax. But not to worry. There were little donair joints in and around town. We set our GPS to the closest King of Donair. We followed and it led us to one in a shopping centre (hey, didn't Trailer Park Boys film part of an episode in King of Donair?)

I was only interested in getting a donair and nothing else. They separate the donairs by pound a price. 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, etc. We shared the 1/2 lb for $6.99 with the works on it (onions, tomatoes). It ended up being a little over $8 because of the darn HST. We sat down by, in what I think, the world's largest portable fan. This thing was massive and awesome for a beautiful day like this in Halifax. And then our donair was ready. Holy man is that loads of greasy meat. And then some. Topped with tomatoes and onions and that special sauce. Wow, that really does have a lot of flavour to it. The meat was salty and spicy. Tomatoes and onions always taste good, but the combination of the sweetness from the sauce helps balance out the saltiness of the meat.

It was pretty good. Wayyyyy too greasy though. I don't know if I'll rave about it because I've had donairs that my mom has made and they are honestly tasty, minus the extra 1/2 lb meat on top. But at least I can say I've tried a super greasy and somewhat satifisfying-for-the-tastebuds donair the Haligonians rave about.

Verdict: pretty scrumptious