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

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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

Workshop Kitchen + Culture on Urbanspoon

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Pumpkin Bread (to use up the leftover halloween pumpkin)

>> Monday, November 3, 2014


Every year around this time I’m madly searching around the internet to find new recipes to use up my pumpkin leftovers from the Halloween pumpkin and one can only eat so many pumpkin pies. Its easy to let your imagination sore when it comes to pumpkin recipes because it’s such a versatile ingredient, you can use it in ravioli, make it in to fruit butters or my favorite, breads and cakes (I know, not overly imaginative but I can't help but crave them).

So even when I’m searching for that special recipe, I usually narrow it down to some sort of pumpkin bread. This year was no different. I did end up finding a delicious yet slightly healthy recipe which uses water to increase the moistness of the loaf. Since pumpkin itself is so sweet, I upped the amount of pumpkin puree and decrease the added sugar for an overall healthier recipe. You can find the original one here, but I hope you enjoy the slight tweaks I’ve made. This will definitely be one of my go tos from now on but I don't think I'll ever be able to stop the search for new and amazing recipes. ;)


Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground mace
4 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup packed pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup water

 
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a 9 inch loaf pan with parchment paper or you can grease the pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and mace. Whisk lightly until blended and set aside. Feel free to play with different spices to make the flavour all your own.

Beat the butter, sugar and oil together in a separate mixing bowl until it becomes fluffy. I prefer the use of salted butter which doesn’t require me to use salt, but if you’re using unsalted butter be sure to add in a pinch of salt for added flavour.

Mix in the pumpkin puree. Once fully combined, crack in one egg at a time and beat until it’s just incorporated.

I would suggest completing the next couple steps by hand instead of using the mixer. Slowly sift in the dry mixture while stirring by hand.

Add in the vanilla extract and the water while continuing to slowly stir the batter. Don’t over mix to avoid a the batter getting too tough.

Pour the in to the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Insert a toothpick in the center to confirm that the loaf is fully cooked. If not return to oven for another 10-15 mins.

Remove from the oven and let it cool before serving.

Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: LDV Pizza Bar

>> Friday, October 24, 2014

 
My must visit list always seems to be growing, even though I often feel like I eat out more than I should. There are too many great establishments around town, plus with new ones always making its debut, it’s hard not to indulge. LDV has been on my wish list for a while but for some reason that I can’t seem to comprehend, I’ve yet to make it down there. So when YYC Pizza Week rolled around in Sept and I realized that they were partaking, I seized the moment and immediately made a reservation before I became too distracted.

Atmosphere: Attached to La Dolce Vita, this pizzeria has a refined Italian bistro feel. Situated on the second floor, the restaurant overlooks Bridgeland and allows diners to enjoy the views of the busy neighbourhood.

Price Range: Mid $10s


Food & Wine: Although we were there for their pizza week specialty, we definitely wanted to sample some of the featured items on their menu. The Mussels, which was prepared with a white wine tomato sauce and served with pizza bread, was a great start to our meal. The sauce was robust and flavourful, perfect for scooping on top each of the mussels. It was also delicious with the accompanying bread, which is made from their chewy pizza dough. Next we had the Meatballs. Homemade beef and pork meatballs served in a tangy tomato sauce and served with the addicting pizza bread that also came with our mussels. The serving size was very generous and the meatballs themselves were moist and tender. It’s a great sharing dish for those that are looking for a small bite before their mains arrive.

We were pretty excited for the pizza, which was called the Clint Eastwood, sadly only a special for YYC Pizza Week. Made with fiore di latte cheese, tomato sauce, and topped with bresaola, arugula, shaved grana padano and smoked paprika. All the flavours of the toppings were a perfect blend, the saltiness of the bresaola combined with the creamy grana padano and fiore di latte cheeses coupled with peppery arugula and smoky paprika. Add on to that the chewiness of the crust and it made for one of the more memorable pizzas I sampled that week. I really hope they decide to bring it back!


To end our evening we ordered the homemade Chocolate cake for dessert. I really enjoyed the gooey chocolately cake and the side of ice cream was really just a bonus. For those who know me know I love hot and cold desserts. There’s just something special about that combination. We decided on the pistachio gelato and it really elevated the chocolate cake. Plus the chocolate was the perfect pairing for our Terre De Priori Chianti. An inexpensive red, that’s not quite as aromatic as a typical chianti but still provides the cherry notes that pair well with a nice chocolate dessert.

My Picks: Meatballs, Any pizza

Overall: With so many great places it’s often hard to make it out to a restaurant, but after our experience at LDV I’ll definitely be adding it to my rotation. Even though the pizza we tried was a special feature that night, I was truly impressed with their pizza dough and can’t wait to try their other offerings.

 
LDV Pizza Bar
916 1st Ave NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 263-5999
Website: ldvpizzabar.com

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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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