Restaurant Review: Modern Steak

>> Friday, January 23, 2015


When I heard that Muse was closing, it was inevitable that I was saddened by the news. My husband and I have had some pretty spectacular meals there plus we celebrated our anniversary there making it extra special. An institution of sorts in Kensington, so when it was revealed that they were going to turn it in to a steakhouse, there were lots of skeptics. Saying Calgary already had too many steakhouses and don’t need another one. Well we are the province of steak and we’ve all got a penchant for it at heart. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a soft opening late last year and afterwards I couldn’t wait to bring my husband back to check out the newly renovated space and most importantly the updated menu.

Atmosphere: A contemporary space designed by the owner, really showcasing the beautiful split level design with lighter colors that really opens up the room.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $40s

 
Food and Wine: I had the honor of tasting their wonderful seafood selection the first time so I figured I’d stay with the steak and potatoes route this time order the Beef Tartare to start. Being a huge fan of tartares I’ve found that I’m very particular about the ingredients they use to flavour the meat. The version at Modern Steak was done perfectly. We really enjoyed the subtle tanginess which brought out the fresh flavours of the steak itself. The plate is served with house made salt and vinegar poplar bluff potato chips, but we opted to go with toasted crostinis which I found was easier to scoop up the tartare with and held up better as well. Although salt and vinegar chips are tasty!

I’m a sucker for Tenderloin and ordered the 8oz Heritage Natural Angus, which is sourced locally. All of the steaks come with a choice of side and I got the Sauteed Exotic Mushrooms. The steak was succulent and cooked to a perfect rare, I personally like my steaks rare especially when it’s tenderloin due to its lack of fat. I enjoyed that it also came with some roasted garlic which added some umami to the dish however I wouldn't have minded a bit more char on the exterior. Mushrooms were a classic choice, but the medley included crimini, shitaki and oyster mushrooms to change it up a bit.


The hubby ordered the Arctic Char served with crunchy Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, capers and a pistachio lemon butter sauce. Everything on the dish complimented each other well. All of the ingredients were fresh and nicely cooked. The fish was extremely moist and flaky with a nice crispy skin. I liked the light but flavourful sauce, which didn’t overwhelm the fish. It’s definitely a great option for somebody looking for something aside from steak. We also ordered some Parmesan Fries and they were truly addicting. Each one was crispy and crunchy, it was hard not to eat them all except for the fact that I was already so full from everything else and I knew there was still dessert to be had.

We saw Cinnamon Bun on the dessert menu and could not pass it up and I’m glad that we didn’t. It was decadent and chewy with a crispness that only comes with a good amount of butter used to form the dough. Couple that with the gooey caramel sauce on top and creamy vanilla ice cream and you’ve got yourself a winner. I couldn’t stop eating it!


Wine for the evening was a beautiful Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley called Foppiano. It was a good wine for both those that are eating seafood and steak. Not overly bold or tart, the pinot had enough body to hold up to a steak but won't overshadow the fish. With lots of cherry and bright fruit flavours, it also makes for a great drinking wine.

My Picks: Beef Tartare, Cinnamon Bun

Overall: Although it was sad to see Muse close its doors, I’m glad that the space has been reinvented to a restaurant that isn’t only a steakhouse but does steak with a twist. Somebody once told me that change is good and I have to agree, but I’d say that change is delicious!

Modern Steak
107 10a St NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 670-6873
Website: modernsteak.ca

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Starting 2015 Off Sweet and Spicy - Honey Sriracha Popcorn

>> Thursday, January 15, 2015

 
Happy 2015! Albeit a little late but I’m still shocked that its 2.0.1.5 seems like yesterday that we were just welcoming 2014, but there is a lot of rejoice about this year. It’s been officially 5 years since I’ve started this food blog and through this journey I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my recipes and thoughts with all! Plus I've had the opportunity have met some amazing people that have forever changed my life. It truly has been a wonderful experience and looking back it has also been a learning experience as well. In the world of food there is never such a thing as knowing too much because there is always more out there to discover and it’s a big culinary world with things changing all the time.

Talking about discovering new items, just earlier this month I started to use more coconut oil in my kitchen and also for its beauty benefits (soothing body lotion anybody?). I’ve read a lot about it online and I know tons of people are already enormous fans. Due to its multitude of uses it truly is nature’s gift. So to continue sharing my wonderful experiences on this blog here is a sweet (and spicy) way of using this ingredient to kick off hopefully another sweet year! Recipe has been adapted to make it even healthier from here.


Thanks again to all those that have followed my blog and provided me the support I needed the last couple years. Here’s to many more of everything! Experiences, meeting wonderful people and last but not least - great food~!

Nutritional Tidbit: When sourcing coconut oil you want to ensure that it was made using the cold pressed method, raw aka virgin. Anything aside from that would indicate that it was chemically produced and refined which would degrade the health properties of the oil. Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides which are shorter in length than animal fat and are metabolized differently in the body providing a fastest source of energy. It has been linked to increasing metabolism as well.

 
Ingredients:

1/2 cup of popcorn kernels
3/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup honey
3 tbsp sriracha or a bit more if you like things really spicy
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts (optional)

 
Preparation:

Air pop the kernels using a popcorn machine. Feel free to double the amount of kernels (1 cup popcorn kernels) if you prefer the popcorn to have less caramel coverage per kernel.

Preheat the oven to 300ºF and line two sheetpans with parchment paper, I had to use foil since I ran out of parchment which I prefer, set aside.

In a saucepan over low to medium heat, bring the coconut oil and honey to a boil, stirring occasionally. Be careful that it doesn’t boil over which happens very easily.

After 5 minutes or so, remove the pot from the stovetop.

In a small bowl, mix together the sriracha, baking soda, salt and vanilla extract.

Add the mixture to the honey and coconut oil. Stir everything together quickly to avoid it from foaming overtop the pot.

Pour the caramel over top the popcorn until thoroughly mixed and add in the walnuts if using.

Transfer the popcorn to the two sheet pans and spread out evenly to allow them to crisp up since the popcorn will be a bit mushy at this point.

Place in oven for approximately 45 minutes, mixing every 15 minutes or so to avoid the popcorn from clumping.

They’re ready when the caramel turns brown in color. Remove from oven, they’ll still feel a bit gooey and soft at this time but will harden up as it cools.

Store in airtight container for up to one week (if they last that long).

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Restaurant Review: Muku Japanese Ramen

>> Friday, December 19, 2014


We’ve had a pretty warm and snow free winter so far, but somehow this hasn’t stopped me from craving warm and comforting dishes. I suppose it’s just that time of year where I just want all things soothing, which is why I’ve been finding myself eating more warm soupy meals lately. Ramen is definitely up there on my list when I think of something warm and comforting.

Atmosphere: A tiny cozy noodle house meant for smaller groups of diners. Be sure to arrive early to avoid lineups.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: When you first enter Muku you’re reminded that you’re at a restaurant specializing in ramen noodles and ramen alone. They don’t serve sushi here. They do however have some small bites to start off your meal while you’re still waiting for your noodle bowl and we did just that. Starting with some crispy Deep Fried Squid served with mayo for dipping. The squid were crunchy and lightly battered. It went nicely with the mayo which is my dip of choice. However, I did find that they were a bit oily but since it was only a snack sized portion it wasn’t too overwhelming.


I was super excited for my Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen with pork (chashu), fresh green onion, baby corn, Japanese fish cake (Naruto) in a thick savory pork bone and soy based broth topped with a dollop of hot sauce. Before I even dug in I admired the cloudiness and aromas coming off of the broth, both signifying a great tonkotsu bowl. I really enjoyed the broth used, you could really taste the depth of flavour and how they’ve been able to extract the essence of the pork bones. There weren’t too many toppings included but the noodles themselves had a really nice texture. They were chewy, not gummy and held up well against the broth. I liked the added spice to the soup. It wasn’t too hot but just a touch of lingering spice at the end of the bite.

The hubby ordered the Miso Ramen with chashu slices, green onion, corn kernels, boiled bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, carrots and dried seaweed all in a chicken and fish broth with miso paste for flavouring. Again the noodles were perfectly cooked in his bowl of ramen. The broth was still hearty, with lots of nutty sweetness even though it’s made with the use of chicken and fish instead of pork bones. If you like your chashu aka slices of pork then you’ll like this option. The pork at Muku is much leaner than what we’re used to but it’s also perfect for those that aren’t a fan of the fatty pork, but the flavour of the pork itself is still very good. My husband did find the portion sizes a bit smaller than other ramen places we’ve visited, so for those that have a larger appetite make sure to let your servers know so they can suggest either additional noodles or toppings so you don’t leave feeling unsatisfied.


My Pick: Tonkotsu Ramen (regular or spicy)

Overall: Specializing in ramen means they do it well. The noodles are perfectly cooked and the broth is hearty and flavourful. Personally I enjoy more toppings on my ramen, there is an option to add additional items to your bowl so feel free to experiment and I hope you all keep warm during this season especially with some ramen in your stomach!

Muku Japanese Ramen
326 14 Street NW
Calgary, AB

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Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

>> Wednesday, December 10, 2014


When cooking, rarely do I ever measure out the exact amounts of each ingredient that I’m using, which can make it difficult to share my recipes. A lot of what I cook is based on estimation depending on how much broth I’m cooking or how big the roast is. Everything is done by feel and taste since I don’t always knows the exact weight of all the drumsticks or the pork chops, although I’m getting a lot better now, especially knowing that I need to capture the quantities I’ve used in order to share it with all my readers.

When it comes to baking you can’t use that same approach. Baking is much more methodic and requires exact measurements to ensure that the results achieved are exactly as intended. So when I find a good recipe I tend to adhere to it pretty closely, changing it only slightly to make it more of my own. Sometimes I might lower the amount of sugar used because I personally find it a bit sweet or change the type of flour or sugar used to accommodate what I have at home. However, the recipe that I used for this year’s Food Blogger Bake sale sounded perfect and therefore I really didn’t change the amount or type of ingredients, but instead I altered the preparation and cooking time for a chewier cookie. You can find the original recipe here. Let me know what you guys think!

Nutritional Tidbit: It seems a bit of a stretch to call a cookie healthy but these do have some nutritional benefits with the use of dark unsweetened chocolate. Dark chocolate has been shown to contain antioxidants which protect our bodies from harmful free radicals. It also has a good amount of minerals required by your body. Although sources say that it may lower LDL and cardiovascular risk, we should still remember that chocolate is a treat and like all other foods, eaten in moderation.



Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
4 oz dark unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips



Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325ºF and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and spices. You can choose to use the ones suggested or add in additional flavours like nutmeg or cardamom. Feel free to experiment.

In a microwave safe bowl heat up the butter and unsweetened dark chocolate for 30 secs at a time until melted, stir the mixture each time until they’re well blended. I know a lot of recipes call for unsalted butter but I prefer to use salted butter and just remove the salt from the recipe, if you’re using unsalted butter just add in 1/2 tsp of salt!

In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well blended together.

Slowly fold in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. This may take a bit of elbow grease but I prefer to do it by hand to avoid over mixing.

Add in the chocolate chips and continue to fold the batter until they are evenly distributed throughout.

Roll the dough in to roughly 1 1/2 inch balls, place on the parchment about 1 inch apart. Slightly press down the batter since the dough itself doesn’t spread much while baking.

Put in the oven for roughly 8-10 mins depending on how chewy you like your cookies. I prefer to mine half-baked so I take them out closer to 8 mins.

When you remove the cookies from the oven, remove them from the baking tray and allow to fully cool. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last that long).

Recipe makes about 2 dozen.

Enjoy!


A group of food bloggers around Calgary also thought it would be a great chance for us to share our holiday baking recipes with the Sweet Holiday Blog Hop. Check out these delicious recipes for your Christmas baking!

Food Mamma - Candy Cane Bark
Bakers Beans - Orange Gingerbread Cookies
Dish N The Kitchen - Salted Pistachio Sablés
Julie Van Rosendaal - Sticky Toffee Pudding
Because I Like Chocolate - Vegan Nanaimo Bars
Heathers Eats - Butter Tarts
Miss Foodie's Gourmet Adventures - Hazelnut Shortbread
Merry About Town - Nutella Pretzel Cranberry No Bake Cookies

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Restaurant Review: Barcelona Tavern

>> Friday, December 5, 2014


A couple of my friends recently returned from Spain and was telling me all about the amazing tapas they had while they were there. It has been a couple years since I visited Barcelona but I can still remember the taste of the amazing food and more so the atmosphere of the crowds all gathering in a little restaurant sampling the tapas specialty of the evening. Recently as I was wandering to the mall, I noticed that there was a new restaurant called Barcelona Tavern where the old Belgo used to be and thought to myself that I’m in luck. It seems Barcelona has come to me!

Atmosphere: Redesigned open dining area with splashes of art featured in sections of the restaurant showcasing local artists and their talent. A second floor is also available for those looking for a bit more privacy.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+


Food & Wine: With so many different options on the menu, it was really hard to decide what we wanted to try since everything sounded amazing. Luckily we were craving tapas that night so we kept our focus on the sharing menu (it was tough, our eyes kept wandering!). We ended up going down the list and ordered based on a whim. Starting with one of my favorite appetizer dishes, the Patatas Bravas, you really can’t go wrong with tiny deep fried potatoes right? These ones were served with an artichoke lemon aioli, housemade sriracha and grated duck eggs. A bit spicy and a bit savory they’re a good change from fries. Since you get the whole potato you also get a bit more of the fleshy interior making it a bit more substantial. Although they do offer fries as well if you’ve got a hankering for them.

I’m also a huge fan of Calamari, the ones served at Barcelona Tavern have a thicker batter and served with two sauces, an avocado salsa verde and a romesco - tomato based - sauce. It was nice to have the contrasting sauces especially when sharing to allow for different preferences. The salsa verde was creamier while the romesco had a slight tang, but each went well with the calamari alone or you can even mix them together for a different flavor combination.

 
Their version of a braised pork slider called the Spanish Slammer was topped with an apple slaw, the aforementioned avocado salsa verde, all sandwiched between a sweet brioche bun. The pork was tender and well-seasoned plus all the fixings on top made for a melt in your mouth experience. I would definitely order these again.

Our last tapas plate was the Ahi Tuna Crudo recommended by our server. It was light and refreshing, a nice contrast to the other dishes we’ve had so far. The plate arrives deconstructed and is meant for the diner to put together before consuming. If you only taste one or two components of the dish alone, it will feel a bit off, make sure to get a bit of the aioli, wasabi, the soy all on top before taking a bite. I did find the wonton a bit tough and therefore stuck with the tuna crudo with just the fixings, which some might feel would be lacking the texture component, but I didn’t mind.


To ensure we had a well-rounded meal we had also tried some of the sides. The Roasted Cremini and Portobello Mushrooms were creamy, flavourful and just plain delicious. Some might find it a bit heavy, but since there was a good selection of other dishes it helped to cut through the heaviness. We also ordered the slow roasted Truffled Beets. I never would have thought of putting truffle oil on beets, but it works. Since beets are sweet and hearty, they held well against the strong pungent flavours of the truffle.

For dessert, it was hard not to order the Spanish Coffee Sticky Toffee Sticky Date Pudding. It just sounded so decadent and it was. This is definitely a dessert for those with a sweet tooth. With the salted brandy caramel, creamy kahlua gelato from Fiasco (we also added a scoop of vanilla) and the rum soaked raisins, it culminated in to big sugary bite. I would recommend trying it with a coffee, since the flavours definitely play well together.


One thing that caught my eye was the Gin & Tonic menu. It seems they’re trying to bring back the gin and yes please! I didn’t get a chance to sample their selections that evening, but I definitely made a mental note to come back and try it. With amazing drinks like Kiwi and Cucumber, Strawberry and Basil, I can see it being the start of one of those nights.

My Picks: Spanish Slammer, Roasted Mushrooms, Truffled Beets

Overall: We can always use more Latin and Spanish inspired cuisine in town and I’m really happy to see one open right in downtown. Although the delivery of the food is slightly different from the cramped quarters of the little pubs in Spain, I still love tapas and anything that is meant for sharing family style is a winner in my books.


Barcelona Tavern
501 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 265-6555
Website: barcelonatavern.com

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Restaurant Review: The Block Kitchen and Lounge

>> Monday, November 24, 2014


Not sure if it’s possible but traffic seems to have gotten worse in Calgary lately. Especially because I’m one that is quick to anger on the road, I’m glad that 1) I live close to downtown and 2) I don’t have to drive too often and leave it to my husband. I still remember a time when I loved cruising in my car, but now I avoid it like the plague, which is why it’s great to have so many delicious food options close to our house. One of them being The Block which recently opened up earlier this year and we decided to stop in one day after work to check it out.

Atmosphere: Large dining area with a simple rustic charm fused with a modern day feel, a nice place to meet friends for a drink in the lounge or grab a bite outside the craziness of downtown.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

 
Food: We were ravenous and couldn’t wait for dinner, so we found ourselves at the restaurant quite early (I guess work tends to drain both our minds and stomachs). To our surprise, there was a happy hour special and we decided to order a couple dishes to sample. We were amazed at how large their portion sizes were when they arrived. Being priced at 5 dollars a plate we figured they would be smaller plates of the original but they were full orders! Definitely a great deal for those that are hungry and happen to be in the area. Not to mention that they were delicious as well.

The Calamari was crunchy and addicting. Served with pickled red onions and a garlicky aioli, it was something you can pick at all night. We also ordered some Parmesan Fries off the same menu. I’ve found there are too camps when it comes to French fries, soft or extra crispy, I’m part of the latter group and if you are too then you’ll enjoy these! They come with a side of ketchup and a side of aioli, to satisfy all parties, plus you can never go wrong with more dips for fries.

 
We were craving appetizers that evening so we also ordered the Spinach Artichoke Dip off their regular menu. Normally I find we always need to ask for additional crostinis for all the dip that is served, but not in this case. The dip was served with more than enough crostinis, each being the perfect bite sized portion. The dip itself was velvety with lots of chunky spinach and topped with a layer of gooey cheese. Again it was a good portion size and perfect for sharing amongst several people.

For the entrée, we had the Pork shoulder with a celery root white bean hash and green beans. I really liked the hash, which enhanced the smokiness of the pork. The meat itself was flavourful and the green beans were cooked perfectly. The dish came together nicely and made for a hearty plate.


Since we were overzealous with all the appetizers we unfortunately didn’t save room for dessert, which means we’ll need to make another trip back to sample some of the delectable sounding desserts they have on their menu.

My Picks: Pork Shoulder

Overall: Not only is closer to our house but couple that with delicious food and generous portion sizes, it’s a great alternative to driving downtown and searching for parking! Looking forward to visiting again to sample different seasonal items and features.

The Block Kitchen and Lounge
2411 4 Street NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 282-1339
Website: eatdrinkblock.com

The Block Kitchen and Lounge on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Workshop Kitchen Culture

>> Thursday, November 13, 2014

 
There’s something to be said about comfort food on a cold day. It not only warms you up from the inside, but it’s also satisfies the soul and those nagging cravings. It was only appropriate that with our cooling weather we decided to drop by Workshop where they elevate homey dishes to the next level.

Atmosphere: Rustic meets edgy in the dining area right outside the Grand Theatre, the contrast resulting in a cozy place to grab a bite before catching a show or to catch up with friends.

 
Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food & Wine: The server immediately told us the format of the menu was family style and meant for sharing, which was perfect. Dinner doesn’t feel the same if I’m not sharing plates and chatting about the nuances of each one. To start we had the Albacore Tuna Tiradito, slices of fresh tuna served with a soy and chili dressing and topped with cilantro and pickled vegetables. The combinations of flavours were amazing! Everything on the plate had a purpose. The salty soy coupled with the tangy crisp vegetables really enhanced the tuna without overpowering it. I really enjoyed the pickled vegetables and probably could have eaten a whole side of them!


Next we shared the Roast Organic Chicken with mushrooms, pancetta and kale, truffle and lemon jus. The chicken itself was moist and tender, both the white and dark meat were well cooked. Mushrooms made the dish homey and addition natural addition of the truffle elevated the flavours. A bit of the kale and pancetta with the chicken and mushroom made for a really lovely bite.

We also decided on some sides, which are not to be missed. The Potato Gnocchi was delectable, each one was a fluffy pillow covered in parsley and parmesan cream. Comfort food at its best and perfect for sharing due to its generous portion size. The Roasted Sweet Potatoes reminded me of a thanksgiving dish with the cumin spice and brown sugar. It’s nice to see sweet potatoes presented in a different way other than fries (which are delicious, but variety is key).
 

It was hard to pass on dessert when we saw the Root Beer Panna Cotta. It came with a white chocolate root cake and pop rock dust. Each element of the dessert was good on its own, but the flavours literally popped when you had them all together. I’m still a kid at heart and anybody that an incorporate pop rocks in to dessert get a big thumbs up from me!

My Picks: Gnocchi, Root Beer Dessert


Overall: Everything was amazing and I’ve already been back to try some of their other dishes since this first visit. Now with winter hitting our city, this is the perfect place to warm up! So grab your friends and family and head over to Workshop and see what they’re cooking up.

Workshop Kitchen Culture
608 1st Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 266-7062
Website: www.workshopcalgary.com

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