Restaurant Review: GreekTown Kitchen & Wine Bar

>> Friday, October 10, 2014

 
One of my good friends recently returned from her trip to Greece and I couldn’t wait to meet up with her to discuss all of her wonderful experiences there. It really brought back memories of our trip a couple years back where we were lucky enough to visit the amazing country. I’ve always enjoyed Greek cuisine, but being able to savor the true tastes of the food in its native land was something special. When I close my eyes I can still taste the tender roasted lamb, the flavourful gyros, flaky sweet baklavas and the freshest most amazing fish stew, Kakavia. Luckily for me, as I was wandering down 4th street one day I noticed this quaint new restaurant that just happened to be called Greektown and I was there not long after that.

Atmosphere: Bright and open dining room with the iconic blue and white colors of Greece transporting the diner not only in cuisine but also in scenery. There’s also a great little patio which allows the guests to enjoy the ongoings of everything 4th street in Mission.


Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food & Wine: One of my favorite things to eat is pita and dip, hence it’s usually found on my dinner table when eating at restaurants that offer it on their menu. This time was no different, the only hard part was deciding which one to order, but lucky for us there was a 4 Dip Platter that allowed us to sample a bit of each. The Tzatziki was my favorite made with fat free greek yogurt, cucumbers and lots of garlicky goodness. There’s just something definitive about tzatziki and pita, but of course I couldn’t ignore the Hummus either, which is equally as classic. Featuring garlic, chickpeas and feta cheese, it’s the quintessential Greek spin on the hummus that everybody loves so much. The other two lesser known but delicious dips include the Taramosalata, a lemon and carp roe caviar blend, and the Tyroafteri with roasted red pepper dip made with feta and yogurt. My reasoning behind why I enjoy dips so much is because it makes dinner an interactive affair. Sharing and sampling, everybody enjoying the different flavour combinations always tends to add more to the conversation around the table.


The Zucchini Chips that we ordered were also a good compliment to the dip platter. The chips themselves reminded me of Japanese tempura, with the extremely light batter just covering each slice of zucchini. It comes with a side of tzatziki and was a perfect complement to the chips, but we couldn’t help trying them with the different dips as well.

Our last starter was the Chicken Chops, which is half an Alberta free run chicken, roasted and grilled with a traditional housemade marinade. The portion size was much bigger than what I had envisioned. It can even double as an entrée for some who are looking for something a bit lighter for dinner. The chicken itself was flavourful and I liked the hint of tangy lemon which really came through bite after bite. Served with a side of arugula, it helped cleanse the palate after every bite, plus the peppery aurugla added a nice punch to the dish.


We ordered the Hoirines Brizoles aka Pork Chops as our entrée. Thick cut, locally raised Alberta pork chops in a lemon, olive oil and oregano marinade similar to the one used with the chicken. Served with fresh roasted seasonal vegetables and a choice of greek salad, ceasar salad, lemon potatoes, saffron rice pilaf or fries. The entrée was perfect for the two of us due to its generous portion size. The pork itself was tender but the sear was a bit over what I’d prefer since I enjoy my pork with a bit of pink. I appreciated that they left a bit of fat around the chop which imparted extra flavor. There was the option to order lots of greens on the plate or not if you’re not a huge fan of vegetables.

After perusing the dessert menu, we had to order the Baklava and Gelato. Described as layers of filo pastry filled with chopped walnuts and sweetened with cinnamon and honey syrup is the perfect description for those who have never had a baklava. It sounds simple but the combination of crispy filo, crunchy walnuts and the sticky sweet honey perfectly caps off the evening. The side of vanilla gelato and chocolate syrup is the proverbial icing on the cake.

 
My Picks: 4 Dip Platter, Zucchini Chips

Overall: The dishes were all simple yet flavourful, similar to the food found in Greece. I really appreciated the hefty portion sizes as well as the service which truly captured the essence of the Greek people. I’m looking forward to my next dinner there and hoping to discover more amazing dishes to savour.

GreekTown Kitchen & Wine Bar
2005 4 St SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 460-0911
Website: www.greektowncalgary.com

Greektown Kitchen & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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17th Annual Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Fest Tickets Giveaway!

>> Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 
It’s officially fall in Calgary and although it’s sad that the leaves are starting to turn and the weather has gotten a bit chilly, in my opinion it’s also one of the prettiest seasons of the year. Plus, autumn also means the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival is back!

Again, I have a set of tickets for Saturday October 18th afternoon session (12-4pm) to give away as well! So message me through twitter or respond to this post and I’ll do a random draw next week for the winner.

For all of you that are interested, here’s a bit more information. Plus there are still additional tickets available for purchase, but they might sell out soon so don’t wait too long! Also, new for this year, they’re holding an afternoon tasting session for those that want to avoid the long lines and big crowds. It’s also great for those that already have evening plans!

 
Sip, Sample and Savour at the 17th Annual Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival

What: The Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival is back for two days of indulgence, offering a little something for everyone. The Grand Tasting Hall will be bustling with more food and beverage exhibitors than ever before, leaving taste buds seduced and craving more. The Festival offers the opportunity to sample an extensive variety of world-class wine, scotch, premium spirits, import and micro-brewed beer along with gourmet culinary creations from local restaurants, hotels and food purveyors.

They’re excited to welcome Sobeys Liquor as the 2014 Title Sponsor! While at the Festival, stop by the on-site Sobeys Liquor store to purchase your favourite finds to enjoy at home. Also be sure to sign up for Sobeys Liquor eFlyer for great deals on the wines you love by clicking here, and take advantage of this printable 10% off coupon today for savings at the Sobeys Liquor store nearest you!

Who: Wine, spirit and beer enthusiasts, food lovers with healthy appetites will unite to indulge in a tasty selection of mouth-watering delights. It’s a weekend of excitement and flavourful fun for those who are passionate about wine and food.

Why: To celebrate the art of food and beverage creations brought to light by talented local restaurants, hotels and food purveyors, as well as wine, spirit and beer providers. The weekend presents Calgarians with an exclusive night of indulgence, sampling and savouring with friends, family and co-workers alike.

When: Friday, October 17, 5-10 p.m.
            Saturday, October 18, 12-4 p.m.
            Saturday, October 18, 6-10 p.m.

Where: Stampede Park’s BMO Centre, Halls D & E

For ticket information visit: http://www.rockymountainwine.com/calgary.html
 

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Simply Better Chocolate Cake

>> Wednesday, September 24, 2014


This past weekend I had the sudden urge to bake. Not necessarily having anything particular in mind I started rummaging through my pantry and fridge only to be disappointed by not finding any eggs (ate too many for breakfast) or butter (ate too much of it for dinner). So I started feverishly searching the internet for any recipe that can be made with what little I had left on hand. Lucky for me something interesting popped up, a cake recipe which didn’t require any butter or eggs. That was my simply better moment of the day.

There is nothing that brightens me up more than realizing that you can make something happen with what you’ve got. I have the adapted cake recipe below to share my simply better moment with everyone. Please let me know if you’ve got one as well. Would love to hear from everyone!

Check out simplybetter.ca for more information.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp canola oil
1 cup water


Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Grease and line an 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper. The parchment paper makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan.

Fold a piece of parchment paper 4 times like in the photo. Place it the point around the middle of the pan, cut the outer edges of the paper. Unfold it and it should fit right in to your baking pan. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt.

Add in the vinegar, vanilla, oil and water.

Fold the batter until all the ingredients are fully combined. Do not over mix.

Scoop the batter in to the baking pan.

Bake for approximately 35 mins or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the pan cool for 5-10 mins, remove the cake from the baking pan and let cool entirely before decorating.

You can ice the cake or simply serve it with a dusting of icing sugar on top. It’s also great with melted chocolate on top.

Enjoy!

 

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Restaurant Review: Anju 2.0

>> Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 
I remember back when I first heard of Anju, a little hidden away restaurant just on the outskirts of downtown. Korean tapas, they said. I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to try it. After just the first outing, I was hooked. Then no before long, I heard that they were closing and I was distraught. Where else was I going to get my Oxtail Tortellini fix? Or Crispy Tofu? Luckily for us, Roy Oh, chef of Anju was out growing their space and was looking for a new location where he can truly showcase his talents. Welcome Anju 2.0. Everybody waited in anticipation. Nobody was disappointed.

Atmosphere: A nice contrast to the original Anju location which had its own unique charm, but this new stylish spot is elegant and larger mirroring the amazing dining selections on their bulked up menu.

Price Range: Mid $10 - $20+


Food & Wine: We had to start off with some of my classic Anju favorites. The Yam Fries with the addicting truffle oil and gochugaru aioli have been one of my favorites since they first opened and I’m glad to see they haven’t changed the recipe, we were so excited they were back we had to get 2 orders. Actually I believe we ordered 2 of all the favorites, the Crispy Tofu, Sunworks Chicken Wings with Gochujang glaze and the Oxtail Tortellini. For those who never tried the Oxtail Tortellini when Anju first opened, make sure not to miss them when you visit their new location. Again the truffle oil is used just perfectly here to highlight all the different notes of the pasta from the melt in your mouth oxtail to the al dente tortellini shell. It is truly one of the best bites in town.

Although I could have more than filled up on the originals, I couldn’t pass up sampling their new items and I’m definitely glad I didn’t. The Green Onion & Seafood Pancake, reminded me of the traditional Taiwanese oyster omelets, the pancakes included prawns, squid, mussels and clams served with a side of chili soy sauce for dipping. Fluffy and gooey, the pancake has just the right amount of seafood distributed throughout that every piece is juicy and just as tasty as the last.


The Mussels & Clams were another winner at our table with the flavours of the shellfish brought forward through the expert use of the black garlic. The broth enhanced the sweetness of both the clams and mussels while the toasted baguette was the perfect vessel to sop up all that deliciousness. Another great option for those looking for something soupy was the Kimchi Ramen made from pork broth featuring pieces of pork belly and kimchi. The noodles were well cooked and the broth well-seasoned, this was a pig lover’s dream dish.

It was intriguing to see Lemongrass Brussels Sprouts on the menu and since we definitely required some greens to accompany our protein heavy meal, the sprouts sounded like a delectable choice. However what we received was beyond expectations. The combination of the Chinese sausage (lap cheong) with the fried brussels sprouts was divine. The hints of fish sauce really blended well with the bitterness of the sprouts. The addition of the walnuts and lime only added to the appeal of this side dish and elevated the lowly brussel sprout.


The other side greens we ordered were equally as tasty. The Artisan Green Salad although sounding simple is anything but. Made with fuji apples, romaine hearts, dried cranberries, almonds and a tangy yuja vinaigrette. The salad was both fresh and light, which really helped break up our meal and refresh our palates for more spicy goodness.

We were extremely full at this point it was hard not to order dessert, especially when one stated that it was for adults only. The Black Sesame Punch, a sophisticated twist on your after dinner nightcap was perfectly balanced, not overly sweet or pungent served with some freshly baked gochujang chocolate cookies, made it more appealing as a dessert. The cookies were soft and chewy with a nice lingering spiciness like a hot Mexican chocolate. Take a bite, sip some punch. Repeat.


To finish we had the Apple Pie made with puff pastry and stuffed filled with roasted apples and topped with caramel ice cream. A stark contrast to the first dessert, this one was reminiscent of a childhood apple pie, warm and gooey. It’s perfect for the whole family or those who enjoy a traditional classic.

There’s a nice selection of various wines, which has increased significantly from their last offerings and I found both the Il Feduccio Cerasuolo Rose and the Rusina Cabernet Sauvignon a nice compliment to the various plates we had. The Rusina was a nice full bodied fruit forward wine that was clean on the palate and well balanced. It held up well against the spicy tanginess of the Korean flavours without overpowering them.

For those interested in cocktails, one not to be missed is their infamous Shin Ramen Ceasar, made with a mix of anju’s secret spices, the outcome tastes just like the ramen noodle cups that I remember savoring as a child. Combine it with a thirst quenching ceasar and what’s not to love?


My Picks: Crispy Tofu, Oxtail Tortellini, Mussels & Clams, Lemongrass Brussels Sprouts

Overall: It was exciting to find out that Anju took over the corner spot of 4th and 17th, a great location that was left empty for far too long. Not only does the new space look amazing, but the dishes are equally so. I couldn’t wait to order my favorites but how quickly I realized that the new dishes have gained my adoration. Welcome back the bigger and bolder Anju!

Anju Restaurant
344 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 460-3341
Website: anju.ca

Anju Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Canvas Bistro's Autumn Menu Launch

>> Thursday, September 4, 2014


Now that fall is just around the corner many restaurants are starting to roll out their autumn menus featuring seasonal ingredients. A couple of us were lucky enough to be invited to Canvas to preview their fall menu which officially rolls out this month. Before we started Chef Guru Singh mentioned that the menu at Canvas is meant for sharing and the dinner was laid out to showcase his preferred way of sampling the food – family style.


We were treated a number of different appetizers starting with a light Bocconcini Carrot Salad. When the plate arrived it looked like a painting with splashes of color from the rainbow carrots and beets, accented by the pesto oil and crispy basil on top. Whimsical and inviting the plate really pleased all senses and was a nice play on the traditional Italian bocconcini salad. The frying of the basil really enhanced the aromas of the herb and the dish was a beautiful way to start off our meal.

 
It was hard to miss the aroma of the Risotto when it entered the room. Truffle oil brings elegance to any dish when incorporated perfectly and this was a classic use of the ingredient. Creamy arborio rice cooked with saffron and topped with wild mushrooms and black truffle oil. I do prefer my rice a bit more al dente but aside from that everything was excuted well. I could probably eat this for the rest of the evening.


Our Filet Mignon appetizer was presented in a deconstructed format with the filet resting on top of a phyllo wrapped mushroom pastry and served with a creamy pea puree resembling a beef wellington. It was a creative twist on a classic and in this case it worked out well. It was fun to try some of the meat with and without the pastry elements allowing the guest to choose which they preferred, but in the end everything was devoured.

 
The next two courses were presented at the same time. The Rabbit was braised and served similar to a rillette style with bell peppers and roasted garlic that is meant to be eaten on top of an olive naan crisp. The rabbit itself was extremely well seasoned and I could have easily eaten it all on its own, but the naan was a nice additional making the dish more interactive. The Prawns were accompanied by spinach pulled pork, sundried tomatoes and some charred lemon on the side. My favorite on this dish was the pulled pork, savory and moist, it was sublime.

 
I was nearing capacity at this point due to all the wonderful appetizers and libations, but the entrees were up next and I had to muster up some room to forge on. The Duck Breast was complemented with a hearty seven bean sauce, such as chickpeas, black beans, red beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and more! The dish tasted like home with the robust sauce reminiscent of a heartwarming chili on a cold winter’s day, a perfect dish for fall!

 
Next came the Seafood course and it sure did make an entrance, served over sizzling hot stones, the basa was wrapped in banana leaves with sweet pears, carrots, coconut milk and lemongrass, a true fusion dish. We were afraid that the hot stones would overcook the fish but that wasn’t the case. The basa was done to perfection. The fragrant spices mixed with the aromas of lemongrass which all got absorbed in to the vegetables making them sweet and juicy, just lovely with the rice that was served on the side. I was quite surprised at how delightful the pears tasted and it was a hit among all guests that evening.
 

At this point, it was tough to not throw in the towel so to speak but we still had the dessert course left. The platter was composed by Brulee Patisserie and consisted of Chocolate Ganache Cups which were dark and decadent, a true chocolate lovers dream. The Walnut Brownie was rich and chewy with a nice textural crunch of the walnuts, the third being a Coconut Lime Cakelet the lightest of the three dessert offerings where the tang of the lime and the milky coconut was a nice compliment to each other.

 
Everything that evening was perfectly executed from the wonderful plating and presentation to the artistic dining room featuring various pieces of artwork from the Gerry Thomas Gallery (including a cozy outdoor patio with fireplace). There is no better name for this restaurant then the one that it already has, a true Canvas for Chef Singh’s creativity.

Canvas Bistro
602 11 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 353-1299
Website: canvascoffeeandwine.com

Canvas Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Scopa

>> Wednesday, August 27, 2014

 
We’ve been talking about Europe a lot lately, how we miss the scenery, the coffee, wine and most importantly the food. We really should plan for another visit soon, but until that can happen we heard of a new restaurant in town that was cooking rustic Italian in the Tuxedo area of town. Since it’s so close to home we had to drop in one evening.

Atmosphere: An intimate dining room with rustic charm making one feel like they’ve stepped in to the countryside of Italy.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s


Food and Wine: Their pane selections sounded divine and we decided to order the Polenta Bread to start. Composed of creamy polenta, smoked pancetta and topped with buttery goodness, sweet honey and chilies, it was an exquisite first bite and introduction to our meal. I easily could have eaten the whole order and more, but reminded myself that we’ve only just begun our meal.

Our first appetizer were the Polpettes, moist veal meatballs topped with a tomato based marinara sauce and lots of grana padano. The meatballs were incredible! They were very well seasoned and generously portioned. Each bite of the meatballs was a burst of flavour and the marinara was the perfect complement. I felt like I was invited in to the home of an Italian grandmother. I relished the sauce and even used it as an accompaniment to the Calamari, our second appetizer.


The calamari was lightly coated in batter and fried, served with arugula, pickled cucumbers and mild chilies. I liked the contrast of the pickled cucumbers and chilies providing the needed punch of flavour, but did find that it was still missing an element and found the marinara from the polpettes to be the perfect addition. The main course was the Ippoglosso, pan seared halibut with asparagus, fingerling potatoes and pepperonata, Italian for slow cooked peppers with onions and garlic. The dish was light and fresh where the ingredients elevated the halibut as opposed to overwhelming it. The fish itself was well cooked with each portion showcasing a nice crisp exterior while remaining flaky inside.


For dessert we wanted to end with something that wasn’t overly too rich, so we ordered the Panna Cotta. The White Chocolate Panna Cotta was the perfect dessert. Light and refreshing, it was a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The buttermilk complimented the tangy berries and the praline provided a nice texture contrast making for a perfect summer dessert.

My Picks: Polenta Bread, Polpette Veal Meatballs


Overall: Great portion sizes and delicious menu selections made our visit to Scopa quite memorable not unlike some of the food we experience in Italy. We might not be heading to Italy right away, but we can definitely stop by Scopa whenever we are craving some Italian.

Scopa
2220 Centre St. NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 276-2030
Website: scopacalgary.com

Scopa Neighbourhood Italian on Urbanspoon

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Ready, Set, Sushi Roll! Edo Japan Sushi Roll Competition!

>> Wednesday, August 20, 2014


To showcase Edo Japan’s new sushi menu, Edo hosted a fun sushi roll showdown. Where I along with six food bloggers were challenged with the task of coming up with a creative and delicious sushi roll within 20 minutes. Looking around, I was up against some pretty stiff competition! We all had shared ingredients that were provided and was allowed a secret ingredient. The sushi expert gave us a quick sushi rolling demo and then we were off.


After what felt like a second, who knew 20 minutes could fly by as quickly as it did! I fortunately had my sushi rolled and ready for judgment. Everybody was able to finish their rolls and they all looked fabulous. Each entry was unique including a surf n turf roll, a roll that didn’t even include nori (seaweed) or fish, one that featured goat cheese and the list goes on. I was pretty nervous because my secret ingredient required some finesse, I figured over charred sushi probably doesn’t taste too good.


The judges did their rounds and when it was time to announce the winner I was pretty shocked to hear my name! I guess the blowtorch did the trick! All in all it was a fun experience to battle alongside my fellow foodies. My only regret was not being able to taste everybody else’s rolls as well! They all looked delicious and in my mind we were all winners.

As part of the win, I received some gift cards to Edo Japan and would love to share them with you guys, my readers! Please respond in the comments below or tweet me @ScrumpFitFood if you're interested!


My creation - the Autumn Fire Roll - creamy crab mix with avocado, cucumber and topped with strips of tuna and salmon, a bit of tobiko, all flamed and served with a tangy ponzu sauce.

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