Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Calgary quest for macarons!

Calgary, Alberta

I have to admit that recently, I have been a bit obsessed with macarons. I asked for them on Valentine's Day because that's all I really wanted (and perhaps some nice jewellry...) but seriously. Those little delectable bites make me and my tastebuds happy. The colour, the look, the flavour, the crispness and chewiness of the meringues are just awesome! My boyfriend and I were going to Canmore for the long weekend so I figured we could stop by  Calgary to see what they have to offer for these great little French treats.

I had already done my macaron research prior to the trip. I am sure Calgary has more than two places that make macarons, but two caught my attention with the limited amount of time we had: Yann Haute Patisserie and M for macaron.  

Yann Haute Patisserie

Isn't it cute?
This wonderful, antique-looking, yellow house is situated in the Mission area of Calgary, (south of the Saddledome ) just off of MacLeod Trail. I honestly have not been to this area of Calgary, but it sure is beautiful. We drove by many eclectic looking restaurants and beautiful condos right by a small creek. I regret not taking any pictures of the interior of the bakery (everyone seemed too busy), so you'll have to imagine what it looked like, or go see for yourselves! The actual bakery/store is very small inside. The product display is a little similiar to Duchess Bake Shop; glass encases the baked goods. There wasn't a grand selection, but there were pastries, and of course, lots of macarons!
I chose all 7 different flavours that day: lemon, pistachio, chocolate, strawberry, blackcurrant & violet, Irish Cream and the flavour of the day: orange & carrot. These were some pretty interesting flavours that I have never heard of for macarons.

You can't miss the bright yellow and pastel purple!
M for macaron

M for macaron is located in Calgary's Kingsland Farmers Market.
Next stop was M for macaron. M for macaron does not have a permanent place of residence, but are currently located in the Kingsland Farmers Market in Calgary. My boyfriend and I stopped to try a sample of the pizza stand next door, when I looked over and saw what I was looking for: macarons! What an astonishing array of flavours-I felt like a kid in candy store! We chatted it up with the part-owner, who owns the macaron stand with his wife, who is also the baker. What is also great about them is that they also offer macaron classes for those who are interested in making them, as well as eating them (me for sure!). More information is available on their website.

May I have one of each, please?
 I'll have to admit that the flavours offered here were very unique and unheard of (for me) for macarons. My boyfriend and I chose 3 flavours each; he chose strawberry-banana, strawberry and green tea, and the flavour of the day, peanut butter and Welch's grape jelly, while I chose toasted coconut, salted caramel and raspberry passionfruit.

M for Macaron macarons!
Comparison & flavour tasting

My boyfriend was never a huge fan of macarons until we tried these ones from Calgary. The sizes of these macarons were 1/4 larger than the ones from Duchess (the only other ones we've ever tried). We both agreed that the slightly larger size is just the right portion for a sweet tooth. With that being said, my boyfriend gave praise to M for macaron macarons. With unique flavours, their meringue cookies had just the right chewiness and crispiness. They tasted what they should have. I'll have to second that-M for macaron did very well. Though I'm not big on crazy flavours, their flavours tasted exactly what they should have. They weren't overpowering, but prominent enough so if one would not know the flavour, one would be able to tell. Their meringue cookies were just the perfect consistency, too.

As for Yann's Haute Patisserie macarons, we both agreed they were aesthetically beautiful. The flavour and consistency were a bit disappointing for us. The meringue cookies were too dry and lacked chewiness, and the flavours weren't as prominent as M for Macaron. Perhaps they weren't fresh that day, or wasn't a good batch. Either way we thought they could of done better.

Compared to Duchess' macarons and the ones I've tried in Calgary, I feel like I am still a loyalist. Though their macarons may be small, they got the flavours and textures just right. But that is not to say that next time we are in Calgary, we won't be stopping for macarons. M for Macaron will have to be a must stop. I will still give Yann's another shot as they have other pastries I would love to try, and well, macarons don't always turn out perfect (though they are a professional patisserie).
(On a side note: the farmers' market is definitely one place you should check out when you are in Calgary. It is open year-round and they offer a great variety of produced and locally produced goods.)

Verdict: very scrumptious!

-M for Macaron is located in the Kingsland Farmers Market on 7711 MacLeod Trail (1 min. south of Chinook Mall
-Yann Haute Patisserie is located at329, 23rd Avenue S.W., Calgary , Alberta

Friday, February 25, 2011

Downtown Dining Week

Mark your calendars: March 4th-March 13th, 2011 is Edmonton Downtown Dining Week! With more than 30 restaurants participating, this might be the best ever yet. Check out the website for the listing of restaurants and menus.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pampa Steakhouse is now open!

Good news for those of you waiting on the edge of your seats-Pampa Steakhouse is now open! February 23rd, 2011 was posted on their website as their opening. Please let me know if anyone has tried it yet, it will be on my "to try" list!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Educated Palate-CocoJava

Fermented cocoa beans.

I cannot remember where I first heard about The Educated Palate, but as soon as I heard about it, I gathered a few of my girlfriends to register with me as soon as possible. The Educated Palate is put on by the University of Alberta Alumni Association to educate fellow alumni (and non-alumni, I believe) about local food and drink. It is their first set of classes and so far, they proved to be quite popular. The first two (CocoJava and Gourmet tastings with d'Lish) were completely sold out, and the third being not so popular (as of yet), The Localvore's Dilemma.

I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of chocolate or coffee. Don't get me wrong, I like it on the days I crave it but I don't need it to function everyday-nor am I in love with it. However, when this opportunity arose, $25 for a  3-hour informative session (it actually only lasted for 2 hours) on tasting chocolate and coffee and educating you about the origins of it, sounded like a great idea to me.
Their first class, CocoJava was Thursday evening, February 17th. It was located in the soon-to-be Transcend coffeeshop (formerly Axis Cafe) on 103rd Street and Jasper Avenue. This class was originally supposed to be in the former Art Gallery on Jasper, but the organizer of this event sent a last minute email updating us that the event has been moved to the new location of Transcend. Nice! We get first preview.

My girlfriends and I arrived a few minutes late, but were relieved as there were many other people arriving after us. There were tables set up on the lower level of the cafe (there is also an upstairs as well). As our names were checked off the attendance list, we were seated away from the door (thank goodness-it was -30 outside!) against the wall. The space was utilized well, and as most of you know previously from Axis Cafe, the space is very narrow. On our table was a plate of 8 different chocolate varieties, glasses of water, a sheet of paper to write down the taste palate of the chocolate, mints from the Alumni Association and a coupon for each of us for 10% at Kerstin's Chocolate Shop and a free cup of joe from Transcend.
Kerstin of Kerstin Chocolates (L) and Poul Mark of Transcend Coffee (R)
The guest speakers were Kerstin Roos of Kerstin's Chocolates and Poul Mark, owner of Transcend (now two locations). They spoke side by side, alternating on the topic of chocolate and coffee; the origins, how it's made, where it's grown and what flavours to look for. The fact that coffee and chocolate are similar because they hit the same flavour notes (i.e. acidity, nutiness, fruitiness, boldness) made it a perfect match to talk about and pair flavours with. My friends and I were quite lazy (shame on me as I planned to blog about it!-we didn't write down every single name of the chocolate and flavours (a side note that can be improved on in the future is to have the names already listed in front of you).

Me holding a cocoa pod (that contains the cacao beans) and the chocolates we tasted throughout the night. Our favourite was the small, dark and round one.
The chocolates originated mostly from South America (i.e. Ecuador, Bolivia) as well as the coffees. My friends and I agreed that the three coffees we tasted had too much of a sour aftertaste we didn't really enjoy. Most of the chocolates we tasted were also quite bitter, but the one that we all liked the most was also the most expensive-$22 a bar, this chocolate is produced in a small island off the coast of Bolivia. Kerstin explained the reason this chocolate cost so much is because of the high market value of the beans. The chocolate producer paid a high market value for the beans, which means it's of higher quality. Therefore, you get what you pay for. What I thought was amazing was that whenever the coffee tasted acidic and too strong, when paired with the chocolate, it almost drowns out some of the flavour with the chocolate balancing the whole flavour in your mouth.

I've concluded (well before I attended this class) that the quality of chocolate is very important to taste. The lower the quality, the more sugar you get. The higher the quality, the more better quality cocoa beans, more cocoa butter (the oil extracted from the cacao bean to enhance the creaminess of the chocolate) and less sugar. This brings out the natural flavour of the beans,without too much sugar or cream overpowering the chocolate.

This class was put on well with a great opportunity to learn about local food operators in the community and how it it sourced. An improvement that can be made to this class my friends and I all agreed on was the names of the chocolates and coffees. The names should of been listed on a sheet in front of us. Though there was a sheet for us to mark the flavour palates down, the actual names should of been listed as some of the names were quite hard to remember. Other than that, I feel like I learned something new. Even though I'm not a diehard fan of chocolate and/or coffee, it is always good to learn about how local operators source their goods and wherever there is food to sample, I'm in!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Lately, I've been going through a mussel-mania phase. By that, I mean I'm craving mussels and am just so darn excited by them. That is, in the different ways I can cook them. Mussels are easy to cook, are (usually) readily available, and are great for you. Mussels have a special omega-3 fatty acid that helps battle against heart disease, low cholesterol and even blood cots. The best mussels (I think) are definitely from Prince Edward Island. Because of the cold, crisp and clean waters of the Atlantic ocean, the best mussels are cultivated in this environment. If you're curious about mussels just as much as I am, here are a few good sites to know how they are cultivated, stored and cooked:
  • Discover Mussels/Mussel Industry Council-this site discusses the sustainability of mussels, great recipes on how to cook them and proper storage of them.
  • Pitchin' In- hosted by Food Network Canada's chef Lynn Crawford, chronicles her interesting food journeys on how different foods are grown, cultivated and farmed. This link will take you to the mussel episode where she heads to Prince Edward Island, mussel Capital of the World!
  • Chef Michael Smith-popular Food Network Canada host/chef has a new web series, Food Country (also mentioned in one of my earlier posts). Offered on his own site, or at PEI Flavours, you can watch episodes of Michael Smith in which he has a new adventure each week to different farmers in beautiful Prince Edward Island-from farm to plate. The above link will take you to the episode of mussel seeding.

Ready for some Brazilian Churrascaria?

Pampa Steakhouse is short walk from where I work and I was able to get a small snapshot, and a quick glimpse inside. Workers are still busy renovating and setting up.

The time has come for all you folks that love, have been craving or are curious about churrascaria. That's the term for Brazilian barbeque. Pampa Steakhouse is the first restaurant in Edmonton offering this type of dining called rodízio style dining in which servers come to your table with large skewers of meats such as pork, lamb, beef and different kinds of sausages. This restaurant was featured the last episode of Season 2 in David Adjey's The Opener. You can read more here. The anticipated opening date is February 15th but when I took a quick glimpse inside, there seemed to be quite a bit of work to be done...let see if they can make it happen!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking part in Fork Fest

Sorry for the gap in posts-I got sidetracked and forgot to update my blog!

I typically don't eat out for dinner too often, and if it's more than twice in one week...I start feeling guilty. It also depends on what I've eaten. It was Fork Fest from January 16-2o and then again from January 23-27. I didn't parttake in the first week because I was refraining from spending too much. The latter, I decided to take part with a few of my girlfriends. I was scanning through the menus of Fork Fest and decided that The Dish was the best value for money.

My salad
The Dish (formerly The Dish and Runaway Spoon-I believe they still go by that name for catering, as indicated on their signage outside of their restaurant) is a cute little bistro located on the intersection of Stony Plain Road and 124th Street. The type of fare they serve up isn't too fancy nor not fancy enough; it seems to strike a good balance. With entrees like Alberta Lamb Stew, Shepherd's Pie with whipped Sweet Potatoes, and Crab cakes with mango aioli, served with rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables,-it is enough to make your mouth water. I was waiting for about 45 minutes for my girlfriends to arrive (cellphone trouble) when I got too hungry and asked my server for my starter salad and wine (the Fork Fest deal included a salad or soup, main entree, dessert AND a glass of house wine.) The salad was seasonal greens with artichokes drizzled with a honey vinagrette.

The wine I chose was a house white wine from Chile. By the time I devoured my salad and sipped my wine four times, they arrived. After looking at the menu about a dozen times, I couldn't choose between the Alberta lamb stew or the Crab cakes. Being a fan of locally sourced foods, I finally opted for the Alberta Lamb Stew--only to hear that they are sold out of it. Next option: the crab cakes!

Crab cakes with mango aioli, rice pilaf and steamed veggies.
The crab cakes were good, but they weren't fantastic. The rice pilaf was a bit too dry and it didn't really seem like pilaf to me at all-the rice was too fluffy. The seasonal veggies were steamed and were fresh and crisp.

For dessert, there were quite a few delicious options such as raspberry white chocolate creme brulee, apple crisp with ice cream and toffee pudding to name a few. Without hesitation, I chose the toffee pudding...and was it ever delicious! Big portion, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, drizzled with caramel sauce. That finished off the meal just perfectly.
Delicious toffee pudding!

I would recommend this place to anyone who enjoys casual dining in a cozy and relaxed environment. I definitely felt like I spent my money wisely at this restaurant-and probably because it was Fork Fest, but the portions and the quality of food was very decent.

Verdict: scrumptious!