Restaurant Review: The Guild

>> Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It’s great to see Calgary’s urbanscape still changing even though it’s been a tough year for our city. Even iconic buildings such as the Hudson’s Bay Building downtown can be transformed to allow for new additions such as the new Oliver & Bonacini restaurant – The Guild. Focused on hearty cuisine and local sourcing, the new restaurant is a great addition to this historical building on Stephen Avenue.

Atmosphere: Amazing nuevo industrial décor with the use of the original rustic Hudson Bay building accents.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food & Wine: Everything on the menu sounded delicious and I literally wanted to eat it all, but decided that we should probably pace ourselves and started with a couple appetizers. I definitely couldn’t pass up the Steak Tartare and Roast Bone Marrow. The plating of the dish is amazing! The steak tartare arrives served atop the hollowed out beef bone and topped with shallot rings, crispy capers and pretty flower petals. I liked the flavour of the tartare but one thing I did miss was mixing the yolk in to the steak, regardless it was still a very pretty dish.

Next we had the Pork Country Pate served with fire roasted bread, apple puree and a fresh green salad. The texture of the pate reminded me of a rillete in flavour, which is meatier and less similar to liver or foie gras. I really liked the accompaniments, the salad was a nice touch to lighten up the dish and provide the extra tartness.

When it was time to order our mains, we had the same issue of wanting to eat everything listed. Luckily for us our server suggested the West Coast Octopus and am I ever glad that he did. It was easily the dish of the night for me, maybe even my favorite risotto dish right now. The dish is called octopus and even though it does come with perfectly grilled octopus, that’s not all. It is served over an unbelievably flavourful squid ink risotto with sea asparagus, clams and pureed squash that provide extra sweetness. I could not stop eating it and am still dreaming of it as I’m typing this.

We also had the Maple Glazed Brisket with a wildtree glaze, Saskatoon style wild rice, prairie corn and pickled leeks. I really enjoyed the glaze which was sticky and sweet, adding flavour and depth to the brisket itself. The meat was well cooked but I prefer my brisket quite fatty and was hoping for a bit more marbling in the meat itself.

For dessert we had both the Sticky Maple Butter Pudding and the Flourless Dark Chocolate Tart, both with added ice cream of course! The pudding was similar to a bread pudding (which they also have on the menu and I need to go back and try!) served with a green apple puree and crème fraiche. It was moist and was slightly sweetened, perfect with a delicious cappuccino.

The Flourless Dark Chocolate Tart was unctuous with a crisp outer layer and velvety center. Its flavour was even more elevated with a sumptuous glass of red wine. The tart itself was satisfying without being overly dense or too sweet, it’ll for sure satisfy that chocolate craving.

With this hot weather we couldn’t help but crave summery drinks and ordered the Sangria made with old vine Spanish garnacha, brandy, watermelon, oranges, lemons, strawberries and soda. It was literally summer in a glass with all that fruit! For dinner I also had the Angels & Cowboys Rose, a light and crisp rose with citrus grapefruit notes perfect pairing for seafood or sipping on a warm day.

My Picks: West Coast Octopus

Overall: Not only does the interior space take your breath away, so does the food that’s served from their amazing kitchen. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to taste everything on their menu. I already have my eye on some dishes that I can’t wait to order the next time I’m in. I was excited when I hard Oliver & Bonacini was opening a restaurant in Calgary and they have not disappointed, truly a great addition to our city and to the Stephen Avenue food scene!

The Guild Restaurant
200 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 770-2313

The Guild Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Nomme Towa Event!

>> Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ever since getting pregnant even though we still enjoy going out for dinner, its definitely been a lot harder since I've been so tired, especially now with a newborn. We found that instead we have been ordering in a lot more so we can still enjoy delicious food while taking a break from cooking (even though that's one of my favorite things to do!!). Luckily for us there are many new apps available which allows us to order in from restaurants that we would normally go to such as Greektown, Shibuya, etc. Recently I was invited to a foodie event where they're celebrating the launch of a new app called Nomme, which allows you to order in and they coupled up with the new Towa Sushi location out west which just opened to showcase their delicious food.

After a brief introduction by the Nomme and Towa staff we were treated to many amazing dishes, starting with their BBQ Skewers which is new to Towa and only available at their new west location. We got the opportunity to sample the BBQ Pork Belly, BBQ Chicken Wings and BBQ Chicken Skewers. They were all nicely chargrilled with a light charcoal taste and served with their house special BBQ sauce. Be sure to check out their menu for other great skewer options.

The Salmon Tataki which is seared salmon with ginger, lemon, red onion and ponzu sauce. The slices of salmon were nice and thick which is quintessentially Towa. I enjoyed the light sweetness of the ponzu sauce coupled with the spicy red onion and ginger. A bit of sweet, salty and tart made for a very nice start to our sushi filled meal.

Next up was all the delectable sushi rolls. First was the Spicy Salmon Roll made with salmon, cucumber and spicy mayo sauce. It was one of my favorite rolls that evening. I enjoy my foods with a kick and I liked the spiciness of the mayo especially when combined with the big towa style sushi rolls. Those who have visited Towa on 4th know what I mean when I say ‘big sushi rolls’. It’s a signature Towa style and they haven’t changed it here. The Rainbow Roll is a classic, with white tuna, salmon, shrimp, cucumber, avocado, and flying fish roe. It’s a roll for traditional sushi lovers who aren’t in to sauces or all the fusion style sushi additions. Here you truly get a taste of the fish itself which gives the roll a light and fresh quality that can’t be beat.

If you’re into rolls that have a bit more flare then the next two rolls would be highly recommended. The Mango Paradise Roll has tempura shrimp, cucumber, kani, unagi, mango, masago, avocado, house special mango and unagi sauces. The presentation itself is amazing and when it arrived at the table, it caused quite the commotion and all cameras started flashing up a storm. I enjoyed the mouthfeel of this roll with the crispness of the tempura in combination with the rice and nori. It definitely is a sweeter roll due to the use of the mango and unagi (the unagi sauce being sweet as well). Its perfect for those looking for a sweet and salty combination.

Our last dish and roll of the day, the Playboy Roll truly was playful. It came to the table flaming and needed 5 minutes for the flames to stop before we can unveil the deliciousness inside. The roll includes tuna, yam tempura, shrimp tempura, kani, spicy mayo, ebi, house special spicy sauce. The main difference here is that the use of flame provides the roll a bit of a charred taste similar to aburi sushi or the use of a torch. I really enjoyed the taste of the roll and would definitely order it again! What a great way to end the evening!

Its always nice knowing that there are different dining options and with the introduction of apps such as Nomme ordering in has never been easier. Congratulations to both Towa West and Nomme and can’t wait to try the new app, possibly ordering in from Towa! You can never have too much sushi!

Towa Sushi & Lounge
105, 8560 8A Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 727-4383


Restaurant Review: The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen

>> Thursday, July 28, 2016

I remember a time when we would be out with friends and I would order my gin and soda and all my friends would give me the look of bewilderment. Why would I drink gin? They’d ask as they’re all sipping on their vodka drinks and other mixes. They didn’t know what they were missing and I’m glad to see that there are pubs and restaurants out there that now utilize gin as their main source of inspiration. One of those being The Derrick Gin Mill and Kitchen, where gin is prominently part of their name.

Atmosphere: Pub style eatery, great for happy hour get togethers and more.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food & Drinks: To start we decided on the Smoked Beef Tartare made with gherkins, cognac and served with house made chips. The presentation of this dish is quite dramatic. When it arrived at the table the lid is lifted off to showcase a smoke infused beef tartare dish (which you can taste). The tartare itself has a nice balance of salty, tart and smoky, a great way to start our meal.

The Mushrooms on Toast also caught my eye and I’m really glad we decided to try it. It was heaven, the mushrooms were tender and juicy, perfect in the demi glaze with lots of truffle oil. Everything in this dish just made sense. I couldn’t stop eating it and didn’t want to waste a drop of the sauce so I was scooping it all up with the toast!

For our main we ordered the Lamb Pot Au Feu which is slow cooked lamb shoulder with potatoes, carrots and parsnips. The lamb was fall off the bone tender and the accompaniments were soft and cooked through. It’s definitely elevated comfort food and reminds me of delicious home cooking. Our second main was the Fish Stew with Stewed Tomato and Fennel. This dish was extremely light and a nice contrast to the lamb dish. It came with mussels, clams, Atlantic grey cod and topped with a spicy aioli to give it some richness. All of the seafood was cooked well which is important since overcooked seafood can often be chewy and dry. The broth was flavourful but didn’t overpower the delicate flavours overall. It’s a great dish for those who love their shellfish.

We had to try some of their cocktails to accompany our meal starting with the Newly Fashioned, an update on a classic, with bourbon, raisins, rosemary syrup and bitters. It has similar flavours to the original but with a twist due to the use of rosemary syrup. I really enjoyed the herbaciousness and would order it again. I was surprised at how well the rosemary complimented the bourbon. We also tried the Apricot Sour made with cognac, apricot brandy, lemon juice, mint syrup and bitters. The closest I would compare this drink to would be the whiskey sour but with a hint of sweetness coming from the apricot syrup. It’s a nice change if you’re looking for something different without going too far from the norm.

My Picks: Mushrooms on Toast

Overall: Come for the gin but stay for the food! Since their menu’s always changing, be sure to check out what’s the latest for each season. There are many different dishes on their current menu that I can’t wait to try, possibly along side some more delicious cocktails.

The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen
620 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 475-7226

The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Restaurant Review: Big T's BBQ

>> Thursday, July 14, 2016

Stampede is in full swing and what’s better than a bit of BBQ to satisfy your stampede cravings. Yes you can make your way over to the grounds to get your fill or you can avoid the line up frustrations and get some delicious BBQ at Big T’s. I’ve been meaning to visit Big T’s for as long as I can remember but for some reason never made my way there. Luckily for me I did earlier this year because boy have I been missing out.

Atmosphere: Family style restaurant serving big portions in a boisterous surrounding.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food & Drinks: Knowing that we were going to have a pretty meat heavy meal, we decided to start with some greens. Both the Mixed Green Salad or the Caesar are classic and safe choices. They’re exactly what you expect the salads to be so you don’t have to worry about ordering something you’re not expecting.

As our starters we had the T’s Smoked Chicken Wings, that’s correct, smoked chicken wings! They were cooked in their signature wing rub and served with a spicy ranch dip. It was nice to see wings being served differently opposed to the normal fried version. They were tasty and full of flavour indicating that you can still get a great wing without the use of the deep fryer. We also had a side of the Shack Fries, which is a basket of fries covered with spicy homemade chili and cheddar cheese. I’m normally not a fan of toppings on my fries, but I really did enjoy the chili so it was a nice change. Essentially you’re looking at elevated chili cheese fries.

Now on to the mains, if you’re here for lunch I recommend their Brisket Sandwich. It’s nothing fancy, sliced brisket piled high on a bun, but the brisket truly is the star. You can mix and match the different flavour of BBQ sauces that they offer (sweet, mild and spicy) to see which one suits your taste buds best. The brisket itself is tender, full of smoky flavour, not to mention the seasoning they use here matches it perfectly. Needless to say it didn’t take long to inhale the entire thing.

If you’re looking for something more substantial, they also offer various platters that are made up of each of their signature meat dishes. We ordered the Priscilla Platter which was perfect for 2 (or even 3 people). It came with that delicious sliced brisket, pulled pork, their famous St.Louis ribs, half a chicken, coleslaw, beans and cornbread. The portion size is more than generous and it’s a great way to sample a bit of each type of meat. My favorite was the brisket and the ribs. I did find the pulled pork and chicken a bit on the drier side but that’s because I love dark meat chicken and a bit of fattier pork. They were still delicious when doused in their housemade BBQ sauces.

To end the meal, you have to try the Wild Turkey Bourbon Pecan Pie. Not just a pecan pie, but made with added bourbon to provide that extra depth of flavour and topped with chocolate sauce. They also serve it with a side of vanilla ice cream, which is just the proverbial icing on the cake. The pie is chewy and crunchy at the same time. Its nicely sweetened and the flavours just all go very well together. Truly a classic and more!

Big T’s offers lots of different beverage choices, but if you’re not looking for something alcoholic then I highly recommend their Housemade Iced T. Brewed to perfection with just the right amount of sweetness, nothing like the store bought iced teas that we’re used to, this is classic stuff and made just the way I like it!

My Picks: The Brisket with Spicy BBQ Sauce, Wild Turkey Bourbon Pecan Pie

Overall: Since my initial visit I’ve already been back more times than I can count, helps that it’s just around the corner from my neighbourhood! So stampede or not I know I’ll be there again and again for some of their amazing BBQ eats.

Big T’s BBQ & Smokehouse – Banff Trail Location
2138 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 284-5959

Big T's BBQ and Smokehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Red Racer Beer Pairings at Local on 8th

>> Friday, July 1, 2016

When you think of food pairings, the first thing that comes to mind is what type of wine you would like to drink with the meal. However, recently there’s been a growing trend in the food industry that’s making waves. We’re talking about food and beer pairings. It’s not necessarily a new concept, when you go to the pub you’re eating pub food and drinking a beer, but it could be any beer and whatever food craving at the moment. More recently beer enthusiasts are bringing the pairings to a different level and recently I was able to attend an event that featured Red Racer Beer, a local Canadian beer pairing with specially selected dishes at Local on 8th.

Before we got started we were educated on the different types of beers they were serving that evening and how each of the beers were selected to pair with the certain types of dishes. Lighter dishes were served with more balanced – well rounded beers, whereas spicier foods were chosen to accompany the bolder stronger beers. This seems pretty straight forward, however listening to the representatives from Central City (Canadian brewery out of Surrey BC and the maker of Red Racer beers) talk about how each was chosen, you definitely get the sense that it is an art form in itself and without understanding the background of each beer, you might not get the pairing outcome that you anticipated.

When it came time to order, I immediately knew I wanted to have the Baja Fish Tacos, one of my favorite fish tacos in the city. It was specially paired with the Red Racer beer. The sweetness of the Hopping Mad Cider Radler was a nice compliment to the beer and the spiciness of the tacos. The apple and grapefruit flavours from the beer was perfectly paired to the cabbage slaw and the beer battered goodness of the fish adding that extra kick, it was definitely a great combination.

The hubby ordered the Local Burger made with spicy hot sauce, topped with jalapenos, both cheddar and jack cheeses was paired with the Super Stellar IPA. The IPA is hop forward beer with intense citrus notes which stands up well to the big bold flavours of the jalapenos in the spicy burger. The carbonation of the beer provides a palate cleanser after each bite, refreshing the senses before the next mouthful. The hubby enjoyed the pairing of the two, stating that he normally wouldn’t order an IPA otherwise since it can be quite hopping and intense, not something he would choose to sip on. However when paired with the burger, the flavours really melded together well.

To finish off our meal, we had Churros with the Copper Ale. The churros themselves were to die for, fluffy and crunchy all at the same time. Served with a side of hazelnut cocoa for dipping it was perfect the way it is, but sipping the copper ale brought out caramel flavours with a slight malty aftertaste.

We didn’t get to try the Veggie Burger or the Chicken Sandwich with the suggested pairing of the PILS. The Red Racer PILS is a very easy drinking beer, think of a lager with light well rounded flavours. It’s the perfect beer for sipping and will not over power the delicate flavours of vegetarian or chicken dishes. We did get a sample of th
e PILS and I would highly recommend starting the evening off with this beer since the other Red Racer beers would be more robust and overtake the flavours of the PILS.

After the meal and chatting with the reps, I definitely grew to have an appreciation for beer and food pairings. I want to thank the people at both Central City and Local for educating me about the slight nuances of each beer varieties and I can’t wait to try some new beer and food combinations myself!

Local on 8th
310 8th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 264-7808

Local Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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