Sunday, March 27, 2011

Downtown Dining Week Part II: Niche for Dinner

Sorry for the delay...I had other things to do :-S

My friend and I decided to partake in Downtown Dining Week on a Thursday, but given her change of schedule, we went on a Wednesday instead. The both of us agreed that the menu of Niche sounded superb.  

It is a tiny downtown eatery located right beneath the Hardwood Plaza complex just off of Jasper Avenue and 110 street (formerly Hardwood Cafe). It was a perfect location for me to have dinner that night as  work is a stone's throw away and indeed I was hungry after work. My friend and I got there early and we had no reservations. I called earlier in the day to reserve a table for the both of us. No one answered but eventually went to voicemail. The voicemail message indicated that they were no longer taking reservations as Downtown Dining Week was superbusy. And given that it is only a 32-seater restaurant, it's no wonder.

My friend arrived first and I arrived a few minutes later. We were seated right by the window close to the bar. The waitress arrived shortly to explain that this table that we were seated as was already reserved for a party at 7:00pm. All their tables were completely booked, but it wasn't until after 7:00pm would these people start showing up. My friend and I agreed that she didn't exactly make us feel welcome...and we understood that she had the table booked, but her tone wasn't exactly 'friendly'. She then told us that the kitchen doesn't start serving food until 5:30pm and it was just a little past 5:00pm when she told us. Our stomachs were growling with hunger, while we contemplated whether we should stay here or not. If the menu didn't sound as good as it did, we would of bolted out the door as we didn't really feel welcomed at all...however, we decided to stick with the original plan.

The Downtown Dining Menu consisted of a soup or salad/main entree/dessert.  The appetizers consisted of yellow lentil soup with braised pork or quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and spinach in a lemon tahini vinaigrette. The entrees consisted of Spring Creek braised beef cheeks in a wild mushroom sauce tossed with broad egg noodles; Confit of Brome Lake Duck with golden mashed potatoes with lemon thyme gravy; roasted pork loin in a blackberry gastrique; or curried cauliflower with sundried apricots and wild rice. And don't forget dessert-salted lemon brownie served with a lemon honey yogurt cheese.

I opted for the quinoa salad while my friend chose the lentil soup. Personally, my salad was way too oily because of the vinaigrette and that basically masked everything else; I didn't care much for it. My friend's soup on the other hand, was delicious! It was creamy without being too salty and the braised pork added a perfect touch to it. 
Quinoa salad on spinach.

Adventures in Canmore Part I: Korean BBQ Restaurant

I've been procrastinating, so I am still writing outstanding reviews from a while ago. My boyfriend and I went to Canmore over the Family Day long weekend. It was a well deserved break as we both needed a vacation, especially him.

Canmore has expanded immensely over the past few 10-15 years. I remember for our family vacations, we would stop in Canmore on our way to Vancouver. Back then, it was nothing compared to what it is now. With many different ethnic restaurants and unique shops, Canmore has now become a great place to dine, shop and vacation. We stayed at The Drake Inn, a very reasonable hotel with affordable rates, right in the heart of downtown Canmore. When on vacation, there's always the great question of "where should we eat tonight?" My parents had gone to Canmore during fall of last year and they had mentioned that they went to a Korean restaurant with excellent food. I was curious as to where this place was (my parents couldn't remember the name of the restaurant) so we decided to search this place out. 

My boyfriend isn't familiar with too many ethnic foods, though I've already opened many doors for him. Korean food was foreign to him, and already wasn't a big fan of kimchi. I convinced him to go for Korean for dinner that night and he didn't seem to mind at all, as long as I ordered. I figured this place wouldn't be too hard to find since there aren't many Korean restaurants in town. My parents did tell me that it was located right by the Howard Johnson hotel, just off of the Bow Valley Trail. However, when we drove down the trail, there wasn't a Howard Johnson in sight which probably meant they changed names. Instead of driving around looking for the place my parents went to, we went to the first Korean restaurant we saw: Korean BBQ Restaurant.

Wood paneling surrounded the interior of this restaurant, along with several built-in BBQ's with large hood fans. We were seated at a table without the large fan, but with a built in BBQ.  We took note of the special that night: all you can eat Korean BBQ for $24.pp/pp, equipped with all the sides (picked vegetables and rice, in case you were wondering). My boyfriend and I thought that was way too much food for us to handle, so we decided to order off the menu. Of course it was up to me to order food off of the menu; I've honestly never ordered off a menu in a Korean restaurant. It's always been a buffet. I was scanning the menu furiously to order something both my boyfriend and I will eat. Well, mostly him. I eat mostly anything. I decided if we ordered one rice, one soup, one meat dish would cover all the basics. We ordered Bulgogi, which is a must dish to order in any Korean restaurant. It consists of marinated beef strips, stir fried with vegetables. We also ordered Duenjang Chigae, a soybean based soup with seafood, and B-Bim-Baab with raw beef (we were feeling a little bold that night), topped with a raw egg yolk. It is a rice bowl dish consisting of meat and pickled vegetables.
I  love pickled vegetables!

We got started off with picked vegetables, which is traditional in Korean cuisine. Pickled daikon, kimchi, cold bean sprouts and a leafy vegetable similar to kale. Our food followed quite quickly after wards. Our first dish was the Duenjan Chigae, which is very similar to Japanese miso soup, except this one was with seafood. It was very salty; my boyfriend didn't enjoy this dish, so I had to finish most of it.

Steaming hot miso soup.

The bulgogi, on a sizzling hot cast-iron dish came out next, followed by the B-Bim-Baab dish.
Isn't the cast-iron dish great?

We both enjoyed the bulgogi very much. Sweet and salty with stir fried onions and carrots, my boyfriend this dish the most. The B-Bim-Baab dish was something neither of us ever tried. With pickled daikon, carrots, bean sprouts, lettuce, raw beef seasoned with sesame oil topped with a raw egg yolk, this dish was very "out there". I was afraid at first to eat the raw beef, but I had had it earlier that week as beef carpaccio so that was okay. Surprisingly, the dish was quite tasty. My boyfriend enjoyed it as well.
Mmmm. Raw beef topped with a raw egg yolk.

Overall, the restaurant was good. The food wasn't spectacular nor did it exceed our expectations because we didn't have any. It was the first time that I had ordered off the menu myself so I probably didn't make the best decisions, except the bulgogi. It was also my boyfriend's first time in a Korean restaurant, so it'll take a few more times of eating this food to see if he actually likes it.

Verdict: pretty scrumptious!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Creperie is celebrating 35 years with a $35 dinner special (and $25 lunch special)!

For as long as you have been in Edmonton, The Creperie was probably there already. The Creperie is a formal, yet casual relaxed environment that offers French Classical cuisine. First opened by Hans Kuhnel, a few of  my relatives have had some history toiling in their kitchen. Anyway, that's another story. From now until April 15th, they are celebrating 35 years of business in Edmonton by offering a wonderful dinner special for $35 consisting of a salad, crepe entree and a dessert. The lunch special for $25 is similar to the dinner special. My boyfriend and myself, along with another couple, sure enjoyed the delicious meal. Great service and great food! You can go to their website for more details.

I ordered the Seafood Jambalaya crepe. It came with orzo pasta with steamed vegetables. The crepe was delicious, although the sauce was a bit too thick and salty. Still very tasty though!

For dessert, I ordered the half raspberry sauce, half chocolate sauce ice cream-filled crepe because I wanted the best of both worlds. And surely that's what it was. What a fantastic meal at a amazing price! (I didn't take a picture of the salad).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Calling all fans of Duchess Bake Shop (myself included): they are expanding!

Great news to fans of Duchess Bake Shop and myself. They are expanding! The Tu Gallery will be shutting down end of this month and they will be taking over the space. You can read more about it here. Liane also blogged about it here. With my recent obsession of macarons and fancy pastries, I will definitely get my fix! Praise you, Duchess! Keep up the awesome work.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Slow Food Edmonton presents Eat Alberta: A Celebration of our Local Food Heroes

I am not a Slow Food Edmonton member (currently looking into it), and as much as I want to attend this event, I most likely will be out of town this day...but perhaps some of you may be interested in this.
We who are so passionate about the local food opportunities that our city provides are acutely aware that food expertise (in a variety of forms) lies within each of our neighbourhoods. This is our first Eat Alberta conference of what we hope to be many that will celebrate local food throughout Alberta.

This is a DIY conference! Some of the hands on sessions include:
· Sausage making
· Cheese making demonstration

· Apple pie and pastry making

· Bread making

· Pasta making

Tasting sessions include:
· Fruit wine tasting
· Honey tasting

· Coffee tasting

· Canadian wine and cheese pairing

· Goat Cheese Tasting

There will also be opening and closing keynote sessions on urban gardening and urban homesteading, respectively.

What the day looks like:
· 8:30 to 5 p.m.
· Continental Breakfast followed by the morning keynote
· Two morning break out sessions (choose from 8 different sessions)
· A charcuterie and cheesetasting lunch with artisan breads
· Two afternoon break out sessions (choose from 8 different sessions)
· Closing session followed by a “wine” down

To register, or for more information please go to 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Downtown Dining Week Part I: Wildflower Grill for Lunch

My co-worker and I decided to go out for lunch during Downtown Dining Week to partake in the specials offered during the 9 days. I've been to Wildflower Grill twice before this time and wasn't overly impressed with their food, despite good reviews and other positive comments from friends. Wildflower happened to be within walking distance (less than 5 minutes) from our workplace out of the other restaurants taking part in Dining Week, so I decided I'd give it another shot. 

My co-worker has never been here before, so I thought it would be a nice chance for her to try it. Prior to arrival, I had already known what I wanted to order off their $15 online lunch menu:  Pan Seared Striped Bass. My co-worker opted for the Churassco Mesquite Grilled Flat Iron Steak with fries as her side.

The wait wasn't too long, considering it was quite a busy lunch crowd. When my dish arrived, I was surprised by the portion of my fish. The size of the two pieces of fish were roughly the size of my index and middle finger put together, piled on top of the vegetable confit and baby potatoes. The pile wasn't that high either. The bass was crisp on the outside, but didn't really have a fishy taste to it. The fennel and onion confit underneath the bass was quite good. Underneath the confit were small baby potatoes covered in a creamy brown butter sauce. After finishing this dish, I couldn't believe I was still hungry. My friend didn't really enjoy her dish immensely; there wasn't anything special about the steak, and the waitress gave her fries (which were merely burnt) instead of the salad she had asked for.
My Pan Seared Striped Bass.

Churassco Mesquite Grilled Flat Iron Steak with the (burnt) fries.
As mentioned before, I have never been too impressed with this place. I went here for lunch two years ago with a friend, and evening appetizers with two of my girlfriends last year. This time wasn't any different from the others. The service has been okay in the past; this time it was mediocre--she seemed to forget about us the whole time we were there. Though the food was pretty good, the portion sizes are too small and too expensive for what I would pay for. And, I was still hungry after lunch. 

Verdict: pretty scrumptious

Monday, March 7, 2011

Small sips and small bites: d'Lish urban kitchen & wine bar

My girlfriend and I were looking for a place where we could eat, relax and talk. There have been many places opening in the downtown area for a great place to have sips of cocktails and wine, while eating appetizers and/or charcuterie. The Educated Palate featured their second class (now sold out) at d'Lish urban kitchen & wine bar, so we were both curious about this new establishment.

d'Lish was formerly a meal assembly business under the same name. We chatted up with our waitress as I questioned about the newly opened business. The owner, Amanda Babichuk, was named Top 40 under 40 in Avenue Edmonton's magazine in 2010. The reason they changed from a meal assembly to a urban wine and kitchen bar was because of the recession. Not many people were willing to fork out $$ to have supper already made for them. Instead, heading to the grocery store and making your own food was the best way to save money. They have created a new concept of ordering desired portion sizes; mix and match appetizers and charcutie one would like, and the size of drinks (2 oz. is the smallest you can order for wine, and they have specials like flights, which are a trio of  small cocktails offered at a special price a certain night). This works out perfect for people who do not wish to drink a lot or would like to taste a sample of drinks. It works out great for me, because, well, ahem, let's just say it doesn't take much for me to get my cheeks nice and rosy.

We went on a Friday night and it didn't seem too crowded. Although, it was a good idea I made a reservation because not long after we arrived, it started getting busy. My girlfriend and I ordered the same drink special that night: a flight of mimosas. Mimosas are yummy. I don't go out very often to drink them,but I know they are sweet and bubbly! I chose vanilla bean, pear and berry, while my girlfriend opted for the pear, berry and grapefruit. We decided to share charcuterie and a salad together, since we can try a bit of everything. We ordered a warm salad that consisted of wilted spinach, butternut squash, Mo-Na mushrooms, wheat berry, and zucchini with a very light tasting vinaigrette, pulled pork sliders and for our charcuterie, we ordered chorizo (from O'sol meatos) and edam cheese from Sylvan Star Cheese Farm. The charcuterie was also paired with homemade crackers, olives and housemade marmalade.

My flight of mimosas (first set) L to R: berry, vanilla bean and pear.
The warm salad was pretty tasty, but sort of bland. My girlfriend, on the otherhand enjoyed it. The charcuterie portions were quite small, definitely not enough for two people. The cheese had enough flavour to it, wasn't too strong or too weak. The chorizo, I thought, could of been spicier. Most of the chorizo I've had has always been spicy, so that's what I was expecting. The homemade crackers and marmalade were delicious-the crackers were crisp and buttery and the marmalade tastes just like homemade!

Charcuterie plate.

Warm'd  spinach, wheatberry, Mo-NA 'shroom and butternut squash salad.
 The bun on the pulled pork sliders were buttery, soft and fresh. The actual sauce and meat didn't really taste unique to me in anyway. My girlfriend enjoyed them very much, nevertheless.

Pulled pork sliders.
We waited quite a while for our food, at least 30 minutes. Our waiter, who is also the restaurant manager, came and apologized for the long wait. She offered us dessert on the house, in which my friend refused at first. Refuse dessert? And it's free? Never, not me! We both decided to share the creme brulee on the menu. The creme brulee was infused with blackcurrant, though I found the flavour to be on the weak side. The flambe sugar was a little too burnt for my liking. Though I've had better creme brulee in the past, I certainly appreciated that it was kind gesture.

Creme brulee for dessert. Sorry, a little on the dark side.
 Overall, my girlfriend and I enjoyed this place. The prices were somewhat affordable, nice ambiance, though we both agreed that it was incredibly difficult to hear one another over the conversations of others beside you. Aside from that, and the service that night, we'd probably come here in the future.

Verdict: pretty scrumptious!