Restaurant Review: Bocce

>> Monday, July 28, 2014

 
Friends often ask me about my favorite restaurant in Calgary and with all the great choices it’s always hard for me to pick just one. However Mercato’s has always remained a top restaurant on my list. So when they opened a Mercato West near Aspen landing, I had to make my way out there and it was no different when I heard they were opening a restaurant specializing in pizza on 4th street. It was inevitable that I would have to stop in to Bocce and order myself some pizza pie.

Atmosphere: Bright modern dining area featuring white and green décor, patio seating and extensive bar.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20


Food and Wine: The mussels sounded intriguing so we got an order to start. Cooked in a white wine garlic broth with semi dried tomatoes, fennel and caper berries, the mussels
were fragrant and flavourful. The broth was perfect for dipping. It was light and didn’t mask the taste of the mussels, a great plate for sharing.

It was hard to choose from the menus since everything sounded delicious, but we knew we were there for the pizza and ordered one red and one white. The Calabrese Rosso Pizza had spicy fennel sausage, black olives, and roasted red peppers topped with mozzarella cheese. It had a bit of a kick due to the sausage but that just added to the allure of this pizza. It wouldn’t be the same without that bit of spice making it a delicious bite. The extremely thin crust was truly amazing, both chewy and crispy, epitomizing the perfect pizza pie.


My favorite was definitely the Boschetto Bianca Pizza featuring mortadella, pistachios, semi dried tomatoes, olive oil and both mozzarella and parmigiano cheeses. Everything on this pizza was a winner from the meaty mortadella slices to the crunchy pistachios, it all made sense and packed a whopping flavourful punch. Couple that with the amazingly thin dough and it’s a true taste of Italy.

We sampled both the Umani Ronchi montepulciano d’abbruzzo and Castello Romitorio chianti colli senesi wines with our meal. The chianti was smooth, medium bodied and a nice pairing for the mussels or lighter fare. I really enjoyed the Umani montepulciano, with flavours of plum and cherries, this medium bodied wine really opened up and had an amazing finish. Both our wines were served in little glass cups as opposed to wine glasses to elicit the feeling of eating in an Italian bistro on the streets of Naples.


My Picks: Boschetto Bianca Pizza

Overall: After dining at Bocce I have definitely added it to my list of restaurants to recommend to family and friends. Not only a great dining space, but the food and service were excellent. If you haven’t gone, definitely make your way over to sample some of their delicious offerings.

Bocce
110 2207 4 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 516-6162
Website: eatbocce.com

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Restaurant Review: Black Pig Bistro

>> Wednesday, July 16, 2014

 
Bridgeland has always held a special place in my heart. When I young I attended the local Langevin Elementary school when I lived nearby. Now when I drive or walk by it still brings back great memories. It hard to imagine what the old Bridgeland community used to look like now with all the new development since they tore down the old General Hospital, but everything looks amazing and I’m so glad they revitalized that area. Especially with all the new great stores and restaurants opening in the area, it’s really turned in to a quaint little part of town. Plus with the new addition of The Black Pig Bistro, it was just what the area called for.

Atmosphere: Bright dining area with windows providing natural light


to the room contrasting the dark eye catching décor. An intimate space well suited for romantic dinners or small group get-togethers.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food & Wine: It’s not often you see Iberico ham on the menu and therefore whenever we do, we indulge. The Fermin Jamon Iberico is a Spanish delicacy, it’s a top grade cured ham made from black pigs that are served with an acorn diet. At the bistro they serve the ham with traditional tomato olive oil rubbed baguette slices which allow the taste of the salty ham shine through. The best part of the iberico ham in my opinion is the fatty slices, which melts like butter on the tongue and best eaten by itself.

 
Another item that’s our usual choice is the Chicken Liver Parfait when it’s on the menu. There’s just something special about the whipped creaminess of the parfait especially when spread over some crispy crostinis. It’s also the perfect pairing for wine and makes for a great sharing platter. The Salt Cod Tortellini definitely caught my attention. We could never get enough of bacalao (salt cod) while we were in Spain and Portugal, another specialty of the region and not very prevalent in North America. The tortellini had a nice chewy pasta layer encompassing the briny cod mixture inside. Served with a piquillo pepper puree and crispy kale chips, it made for a visually striking dish.

For the mains we started with the Beef Cheek Risotto, made with mascarpone giving it a nice buttery texture and saffron which provided the beautiful golden hue. This is the perfect plate for sharing because of its generous portion size. Plus, then you can also sample the other mains such as the Pork & Beans. It’s a combination of edamame, broad and white beans with fennel and mint served with roasted porchetta. I really enjoyed the different textural contrasts of the various beans used in this dish combining it with the au jus and smokiness of the porchetta the overall plate was well composed. The Alberta Rib Eye Steak was prepared with latin flavours utilizing chimichurri on the dish to bring forward the meaty flavours of the rib eye. Accompanied by crunchy broccolini spears, it’s perfect for those who are carb conscious. The rib eye itself is tender and cooked perfectly to order.

 
There were quite a few different dessert selections that caught our eye but we decided on the Flourless Chocolate Cake and the Passion Fruit Panna Cotta. They were a nice contrast to each other, the chocolate cake being dark and decadent with peanut butter fig ice cream and a velvety smooth chocolate pudding. Out of the two I would have to choose the panna cotta due to the citrusy passion fruit. Along with the coconut brioche, pistachios and toasted coconut, it was truly amazing. The flavours were so bright and perfectly balanced, not overly sweet yet still enough flavour so you can taste the passion fruit in each bite plus the panna cotta was so smooth. The perfect ending to a great meal!

My Picks: Jamon Iberico, Pork and Beans, Passion Fruit Panna Cotta


Overall: A bistro was exactly what Bridgeland needed especially one with Spanish flare. I was extremely excited to hear about the new restaurant and it’s definitely lived up to its hype. I’m looking forward to what’s next at the bistro and can’t wait to come back.

Black Pig Bistro
825 1st Ave NE
Calgary, AB
(403)460-0350
Website: blackpigbistro.ca

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Healthy Herbed Chicken

>> Thursday, July 10, 2014


Seeing as its stampede week there's quite a bit of indulging. Who can resist trying all the new goodies on the grounds like red velvet donuts, bacon wrapped pork belly, cotton candy flower and the scorpion pizza?? Well maybe I’ll skip out on the last one but I definitely need to get the infamous 'Those Little Mini Donuts' and the turkey drumstick. It's become a yearly traditional for us and it just wouldn’t be stampede without them.

With all those indulgences, it makes sense to want to eat cleaner at home to maintain a balanced diet. For this reason I wanted to share a flavorful herbed chicken recipe which is healthy and satisfying. Pair it with a fresh salad and some potatoes and you have a meal that's quick and delicious. Plus, since our weather has been so warm recently, this recipe also works great on the grill!

 
Nutritional Tidbit: Herbs pack a powerful punch when it’s comes to the health benefits they provide. Since they’re extremely concentrated, using only a bit of them in our recipes not only enhances the flavour of our food but also increases the nutrition of our dishes. Simple herbs as basil and parsley can prevent cancer, lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease. Some herbs also reduce inflammation in our body and helps lower blood glucose. All these great benefits plus being flavour boosters, there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t be included in every recipe!

Ingredients:
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oregano, dried
1 tbsp basil, dried
1 tbsp thyme, dried
1 tbsp chili flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 lbs chicken drumsticks
4 tbsp olive oil


Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Using a smaller bowl, combine the garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, chili flakes and fennel seeds. Feel free to use fresh herbs, which is what I did but double the amount of herbs used because dried herbs are more concentrated. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the chicken drumsticks and rub with salt and pepper.

Coat the drumsticks with olive oil and slowly sprinkle on the herb mixture until each drumstick is evenly covered. If you have time, leave the drumsticks to marinte for an hour or overnight in the fridge for even better flavour.

Place the drumsticks on the baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch between each to avoid crowding and undercooking of the chicken.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve with sides.

Makes 4 servings.

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A Stampede Drink - The Cowboy's Breakfast

>> Thursday, July 3, 2014

 
The whole city is gearing up for the biggest outdoor show on earth, the Calgary Stampede, officially kicking off this Friday July 6th! Definitely the largest celebration in the city, the stampede represents not only our historical culture but also a generation of new traditions. Drawing travelers from around the world, everybody is out to experience their own part of the stampede whether it is the rodeo, pancake breakfasts or the infamous Cowboys. There is a bit of something for everyone.

As part of the celebration this year Bar C is creating a brand new cocktail to showcase what the Calgary Stampede means to them with a drink called the ‘Cowboy’s Breakfast’, which is served during the 10 days of the Stampede. We recently got a sneak peek of the drink paired alongside some delectable dishes and amazing cocktails at Bar C’s patio, truly a hidden oasis on busy 17th Ave.


The Cowboy’s Breakfast combines bourbon, tequila, bacon infused maple syrup, egg whites, liquid smoke and topped off with a piece of candied bacon. A bit sweet and a little savory, each sip is reminiscent of the ingredients required for a perfect stampede breakfast especially with the addition of the liquid smoke. Our drinks were paired with Seared Scallops served with spinach, charred tomato, bacon and a whiskey maple vinaigrette. The scallops remained opaque inside while developing a nice brown crust due to the searing process. I really enjoyed the whiskey maple vinaigrette which enhanced the subtle sweetness of the scallops. The spinach and tomato added additional texture and flavour contrasts creating an overall harmonious dish, which left me wanting more. Overall the different hints of maple flavour from both the drink and the vinaigrette in the dish played well off of each other highlighting different elements of each!


A couple other cocktails that Bar C is currently featuring on their menu include the New Old Fashioned, a lighter take on the original Old Fashioned with sherry whiskey to smooth out the taste of the bourbon. The Mojitolatoialato-aia, quite the mouth full but something I wouldn’t be able to stop ordering because of how delicious it is. A perfect patio drink during our hot summer months. It’s their version of a strawberry mojito with black pepper and balsamic. It’s dangerous because of how delicious and how easily it goes down, I can probably drink a pitcher of them! Both are great accompaniments to the bison or tuna tartars, something light and tasty for summer.

 
So for those that are looking to do something a little different this stampede, be sure to drop by Bar C to try their unique Cowboy’s Breakfast cocktail. Who kn
ows, maybe there will be a new tradition created this year!

Bar C
340 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 984-3667
Website: bar-c.ca

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Restaurant Review: Test Kitchen

>> Friday, June 20, 2014


My husband recently told me about a new restaurant that opened up in his building and I was surprised to find out that Ric’s Grill and Mimi’s Italian Restaurant were no more. Instead the restaurant that’s currently occupying both spaces is called Test Kitchen. Since his office wasn’t too far away from mine, I figured I’d pop over for a quick lunch one day.

Atmosphere: Large dining areas in the lounge and dining room, featuring large floor to ceiling windows that really allows the natural sunlight in to brighten surroundings.

Price Range: Mid $10 - $20s

Food and Wine: After perusing the menu I really wanted to try both the Short Rib Sliders and the Fish Tacos, so I did just that. Since they were both appetizers I figured they’d be smaller and therefore 2 dishes shouldn’t be an issue. However when the food arrived I realized I was mistaken. The fish tacos themselves could have easily been an entrée dish. They came 3 to an order and were each fairly decent in size. Made with blackened halibut and topped with arugula, avocado, a sweet fruit salsa and drizzled with chili crème fraiche, they were quite delicious. All the ingredients worked well together and created a harmonious dish.

 
Even though I was starting to feel full after the tacos I couldn’t pass up on the sliders. Featuring braised short ribs in a tangy sauce with frisee greens, pickled onions and swiss cheese all on a mini ciabatta bun, they were perfect for sharing. They come 3 to an order as well and are a perfect appetizer size. The bread to filling ratio was good and you’re still able to taste the short ribs along with all of the accompaniments. I found that they probably didn’t even require the swiss cheese because the sauce itself was nicely flavoured.

My dining companion ordered the Italian Clubhouse which came with genoa, chicken, bacon, tomato, arugula, boccocini cheese and olive tapenade sandwiched between ciabatta. You get a choice of soup, salad or fries and she decided on the daily soup which happened to be creamy tomato that day. The sandwich itself was a good sized portion and the flavours melded well together. The soup was creamy and since they’re made daily it ensures the freshest ingredients are used.

Since we were grabbing a quick bite for the lunch, we weren’t able to sample their wine menu. There seemed to be a fairly decent selection and the servers are more than willing to suggest a wine pairing if you’re interested.


My Pick: Fish Tacos

Overall: Great lunch space! I really enjoyed the large open windows allowing the bright Calgary sun to shine through. The service was quick, perfect for those in a rush during the lunch hour. Test Kitchen is also currently running specialty dinners pairing wine or other liquors with chef selected courses. Be sure to sign up on their website to get all the info!

Test Kitchen
501 2 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 700-2823
Website: www.testkitchenyyc.ca

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Restaurant Review: Galla Winehouse and Bistro

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2014

 
My friends often complain about their dining experience in Calgary these days and the first thing that comes up is always the service. It seems with our booming economy, restaurants have struggled with finding good help. Therefore I tend not to focus on the service too much when dining out because the food often speaks for itself. However, recently I visited a new restaurant on 17th Ave and had an amazing overall experience. Galla Winehouse and Bistro opened up only a couple of shorts weeks ago in the old Sal’s building and already they have their operations running quite smoothly.

Atmosphere: Newly renovated, the restaurant exudes a casual yet classy feel, a welcomed bistro amongst the pubs within the 17th ave area, perfect for those looking for a romantic space without the rigidity of a high end eatery.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

 
Food and Wine: We were extremely lucky that evening because they were featuring a buck a shuck oysters. Galla normally has their buck a shuck on Thursdays however due to the quantity of the delivery they had more than enough for another nightly special, which we benefitted from. The oysters arrived with a strawberry mignonette accompaniment, which was tangy with a slightly sweet after taste. It was a creative change from the norm. However I’m still a huge proponent of a good oyster with tobacco and a squeeze of lemon. They were a great start to our meal especially when complemented by a crisp Prosecco.

We were intrigued by the various Bruschetta selections on their menu and were informed by the server that it was one of their best sellers. It was extremely tough to decide what we wanted to try since they all sounded delectable. We finally agreed on the Smoked Salmon, PLT and Confit Tomatoes over French baguette (you also get to select the bread on which they’re served, gluten free being amongst one of the selections). They were a decent portion size and perfect for sharing. The Smoked Salmon had a pesto spread and was topped with crispy capers, a classic combination. It was salty and tangy, hitting all the right notes. The Confit Tomatoes came with hummus and slices of fried salami. I really enjoyed the sweetness of the tomatoes which paired very nicely with the hummus and the salami adding a nice crunchy texture. My favorite was the PLT or pancetta, lettuce and tomato. Sounding simple yet forming complex flavours, the ‘lettuce’ which was arugula in this case provided a nice bitter note to the dish and really brought forward the creaminess of the spread, it was just a really great bite!


I had to order the perogies, especially a good traditional one, which is what these ones were advertised as. The periogies are stuffed with creamy potato and cheese in a doughy exterior, served with caramelized onions and sour cream. They were chewy with a good amount of fluffy potato filling, perfect with a dollop of sour cream on top. The perogies were boiled and not pan fried like some of the photos I’ve seen on their site, however I prefer them this way because they’re more traditional and allowed them to maintain their doughiness.

Our last dish was the Grilled Northridge Farms Rib Eye Steak. We ordered the 9 oz, which was perfect for sharing between two people. Served with fingerling potatoes and topped with a peppercorn sauce, it was your classic steak and potatoes dish. The steak was cooked to a perfect rare with it being seared on the outside and just warm on the inside. I did find the peppercorn sauce a bit thick, but since the steak itself was so well prepared it was flavourful enough on its own and I found that I didn’t really need the sauce. The potatoes were nice and crispy, well-seasoned and the perfect amount to accompany the steak.

 
For dessert we opted to try both the Chocolate Cake and the special that evening which was the White Chocolate Crème Brulèe. They weren’t kidding around with the chocolate cake, you literally get a 3 tiered chocolate cake sandwiched with thick layers of chocolate ganache and coated with dark chocolate flakes. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet, but did find the cake to be a bit dense. It was nice going back and forth between the two desserts because the crème brulee itself was in contrast, quite sweet. The base of the crème brulee was a soft creamy custard with a slightly crunchy sugar topping, it was very decadent indeed. I personally enjoy desserts that are more subtly sweet and therefore found that I preferred the chocolate cake between the two.

We decided on a bottle of the 2011 Novas Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon organic blend to complement our dinner. It was a red that definitely required some aeration, which really opened up after a bit of time. There was lots of deep coffee notes which made it pair nicely with our chocolate dessert. It was velvety, balanced, full bodied wine that had a short crisp finish.

 
My Picks: Bruschetta, Perogies

Overall: The food at Galla was delectable, incorporating new twists to standard fare like the bruschetta yet still remaining true to the classics, but what really elevated the whole experience for me was their amazing service. The attentive staff really made the evening memorable for both my husband and I. We’ll definitely be back soon.

Galla Winehouse and Bistro
529 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 802-3988
Website: www.gallabistro.com

Galla Winehouse and Bistro on Urbanspoon

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My Wonton Childhood (and a Recipe)

>> Monday, June 2, 2014

 
I didn’t much prefer to linger around the kitchen when I was a child, like other children I enjoyed watching tv or exploring the neighborhood with friends. Since my parents were exceptional cooks, they were always experimenting on recipes, testing different methods and of course, they wanted to pass all this knowledge on to the next generation, aka through me. There were lots of instances when my parents would tell me about how certain ingredients would enhance one another and how others would detract from the whole. At that time I never knew how important all their information would be, but I definitely do now and am trying my best to make up for lost time.

One of the first things I remember thoroughly enjoying in the kitchen which started getting me interested was when I started helping my parents make wontons. Not actually mixing the ingredients for the filling, but instead assembling each of the wontons themselves. I found it to be a personal challenge, making each wonton relatively the same

 
size and shape. How many wontons can I make? How much filling would I need to prevent them from bursting out the sides or so they’re not lumpy? These were all questions I tried to answer in my 8 year old brain. I think my parents secretly knew that was part of my personality and that’s how they got me hooked.

Now after all these years, every time I make wontons I still think of those moments and am glad that I eventually developed the love of food that almost resembles my parents. They’re still the star in my eyes and will always be, but at least I’m a couple steps closer than my childhood self.

So I share my wonton recipe with you today in hopes that it too helps you form memories of your own. Please let me know what you think and enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground pork
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
5 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp pepper
1/2 can crab meat, drained
3 large dried fungus, reconstituted and thinly sliced
1 package square wonton wrappers (you can use the circular ones but I prefer square)
Constarch
12 shrimp, cut in to small chunks (optional)


Preparation:

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine ground pork, salt, sugar, sesame oil and pepper. Blend until all ingredients are fully incorporated. I like to do this by hand as not to over mix the pork which can make it tough.

Add in the crab meat and fungus and mix until evenly distributed and set aside.

Take the wonton wrappers out of the package, place on plate and cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out while forming the wontons.

Using a different plate, sprinkle some cornstarch on top to prevent the wontons from sticking to the plate and each other.

Peel off one of the wonton wrappers, hold it in the palm of your hand and using a small spoon, scoop out roughly 1 tsp of pork and place it in the middle of the wrapper (add in a small chunk of shrimp if using).

Turn the wrapper until it looks like a diamond, match the bottom corner to the top and fold the wrapper in half. Scrunch the right and left sides in until it meets the middle. Pinch it together and place on large plate. Repeat with the next wonton wrapper.

Cooking Method:

When the wontons are ready, heat up a pot of water until boiling, add in the number of wontons desired. Cook until the float to the top (roughly 5 mins).

Remove them and place them in a bowl.

You can either serve them as is, deep fry them, pan fry them or in a chicken broth.

For the broth method, open up a can of chicken broth (or boil some of your own with chicken bones, which would roughly take 4-5 hours). Add 2 cups of water to the chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Add the broth to the cooked wontons and top with green onions, cilantro and any other accompaniments you’d like including baby bok choy or Chinese greens.

Enjoy!

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