Restaurant Review: Big T's BBQ

>> Thursday, July 14, 2016

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

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

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Red Racer Beer Pairings at Local on 8th

>> Friday, July 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Second Cup's Cafe of the Future

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Most people crave coffee in the morning due to the need for caffeine to keep them awake. For me it’s the opposite, I love and crave coffee because of the flavour. I’m actually very sensitive to caffeine and most of the time I end up all jittery due to it. However, I believe the taste of the rich velvety coffee outweighs the cons. Because of that fact, I have to admit that I have a huge preference for artisanal coffee. The type that is made with care and precision to ensure that the taste of every cup of coffee is exceptional.

Second Cup recently introduced their Café of the Future, a place where you can go relax and enjoy a cup of coffee that is different from what they normally serve. Here they offer a slow bar, where coffee is slowly brewed using the pour over method or the steampunk method (quite literally a science based on what type of coffee you’ve ordered and the first of its kind) opposed to their typical drip coffee. I found the flavour of the coffee to be smooth and more robust. The slow brewing really allowed the flavours of the coffee to come through. The taste of the beans was velvety without the acidic aftertaste. They also offer a milk bar, where you have a selection of milk and cream on tap so you don’t have to worry about it running out.

The surroundings have completely been renovated to create a calming, open space that really allows patrons to sit and relax while enjoying their specialty brewed coffee and treats. The menu of hot and cold foods has been revamped. I tried the Roast Beef Sandwich, which was flavourful and well balanced with lots of greens and gooey cheese. All of the food is made fresh daily and heated to ordered. To top it off I got to sample their smoothies, which is a nice alternative to coffee for those who are looking for something aside from caffeinated beverages. Second Cup also has upgraded their baked goods with a great selection of muffins and loaves which are also baked fresh daily.

Currently their Café of the Future is located in Braeside, which is the first of many more to come. If you’re intrigued by the different coffee offerings that they provide, they also offer coffee tastings. Be sure to ask the barista for more information. I can’t wait until they open one closer to home so I can enjoy their specialty brews because there really is nothing better than a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, caffeine and all.

Second Cup – Café of the Future - Braeside
1919 Southland Dr SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 259-4771

Second Cup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Restaurant Review: Azzurri Pizzeria

>> Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ever since our trip to Europe, I've always been on the search for the best pizza, not just in town but every where I visit. So I was really looking forward to trying out Azzurri Pizzeria, when a fellow foodie friend told me about how much she enjoyed the pizzas there. It took me a while to finally get over there but I was pleasantly surprised when I did.

Atmosphere: A small welcoming dining area, great for an intimate meal out.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food & Wine: After seeing the alforno oven I couldn’t wait to for the pizza, so we skipped the appetizers and ordered two different pizzas instead. The first being The Martino, which is more traditional with a tomato sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, topped with fior di latte cheese, fresh basil, sea salt, EVOO, and prosciutto di parma. The toppings were simple but flavourful and really allowed the amazing pizza dough to shine through. I definitely have to focus on the pizza dough for a second, it was crispy and chewy, what a perfect pizza dough should be. I was amazed at how chewy it was even though the crust was extremely thin. It really elevates the whole pizza itself and rates among some of the best I’ve had.

Our second pizza was the daily special - The Cotto Funghi consisting of onions, cremini mushrooms, with fior di latte cheese, essentially a white pizza since there was no tomato sauce. It was a nice contrast to the Martino. Normally the pizza is also topped with goat cheese, which we opted out of. I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese (I think I just heard gasps as I typed that). Leaving the goat cheese off didn’t affected the flavours for me. Instead, I felt like I was able to taste more of the mushrooms, which were sweet and juicy. I would have liked to see them use a variety of mushrooms, but I didn’t mind what was presented. Again the dough was the star here, super chewy with a wonderful mouthfeel. I could literally just eat the dough by itself!

Since we opted out of an entrée, we were definitely not going to miss dessert, especially since they mentioned the Housemade Strawberry Raspberry Tart. What a treat to have a freshly made tart! It was the perfect combination of tartness and sweetness. Coupled with our order of the Stracciatella ice cream, I found it even better a la mode. Isn’t every dessert better with ice cream?

My Pick: The Martino

Overall: I’m glad that I did make my way over to Azzurri. What a great little hidden gem on Edmonton Trail. As always, I’m hesitant to share because now that the word is out it’s going to be hard to find a seat in their 10 seater dining area. Although when the food is great, it’s hard not to spread the word. I hope everybody enjoys their pizzas because I sure did!

Azzurri Pizzeria
2404 Edmonton Trail NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 299-8774

Azzurri Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Brazilian Cooking Classes at Pampa Steakhouse

>> Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ever since I could remember I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics. I’m not sure if it’s because I still remember holding a little plastic torch when the athletes came through Calgary during the ’88 Olympics, but when they’re on television, I’ll always have it playing 24/7. Needless to say, I’m super excited about the summer Olympics in Rio this year. I would have loved to visit and not only attend all the events but also eat all the delicious Brazilian cuisine while I’m in town.

Sadly since I couldn’t make it there the next best thing would be to cook some Brazilian food here at home and as luck would have it Pampa Steakhouse has started a wonderful cooking class to educate all about Brazilian cuisine. We were lucky enough to be one of the first to be invited down to attend their class which also comes with an amazing 3 course meal at the end.

To start their interactive class, everybody was served the traditional Brazilian drink of Caipirinha which is made with raw sugar cane liquor called Cachaca. The liquor can be mixed with various juices to form different flavour combos. This one was made with lime and passionfruit, a refreshing way to start the class!

Next the chef then moved on to show us different courses that we would be helping with, you also get to keep all the recipes which is a bonus! We started with preparing the Passionfruit Mousse so it can set while we attend to the rest of the courses. Some of my classmates were very helpful and it was just fun to get people off their seats and helping with prep. Next up we made their famous Cheese Bread, which isn’t really quite cheesy but more like a popover. Something I’ll definitely be replicating at home, then came the Calamari Mango Salad, Chicken Drumsticks, Lime Coconut Prawns, Rump Steak and Grilled Pineapple (plus some other great uses for pinapple!!).

I enjoyed most about the class was being able to sample the food as it was being prepared, I would have loved to taste more but since it was their first test run, it was definitely something they will be incorporating more in their future classes. The best part of the evening had to have been when we all got to taste the labour of our hard work. All the classes end with a 3 course meal of the food that was prepared during the class.

It was extremely hard to pick out which course I liked the most because they were all quite unique in taste and texture. The Calamari Mango Salad reminded me of a ceviche but everything was cooked through. The contrast of the vinaigrette and the accompaniments in the salad made for a very refreshing starter. The Lime Coconut Prawns had amazing flavour even though they only required 10 minutes of marinating time. It just goes to show that not everything takes a long time to taste amazing. The Chicken Drumsticks were moist when roasted over their charcoal oven and of course the highlight of the night was the Rump Steak.

The Rump Steak is a Brazilian favorite, tender and juicy, the steak is roasted to perfection and served in the traditional method by Gauchos, who come around and slice off the pieces of meat for your enjoyment. The flavour of the steak is uncompromised, considering it is roasted with nothing but salt and pepper. You really taste the flavour of the meat and the smokiness of the charcoal. The charcoal is what also makes the Grilled Pineapple unique. The pineapple is one of the highlights of the meal, what’s better than cinnamon sugar with warm tangy pineapple? If that wasn’t enough we now get to taste the delicious Passionfruit Mousse that was made during the beginning of the class. The mousse is smooth and sweet with a good amount of passionfruit flavour. It will definitely satisfy those who have a sweet tooth.

So although I won’t be making it down to Brazil this year to attend the Olympics, I’ll definitely be making some of these delicious recipes that we were sent home with during our cooking class. Most likely I’ll be enjoying them while pretending that I’m sitting front row center for those Olympic events. I guess for now, visiting Brazil will have to remain on the bucket list, but cooking the food doesn’t have to be! I want to thank Chef Joao Dachery and his amazing team for making the class fun and cooking us some amazing Brazilian cuisine.

They offer 2 different sessions, one for lunch which runs the first and last Saturday of the month or an evening dinner session which runs the first and last Wednesday of the month. They’re perfect for couples, groups and even team building or if you’re looking for something different, there are tons of interesting events they also put on throughout the year. Check out their website for more information.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
521 10 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 354-3441

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