Restaurant Review: Jacqueline Suzanne's Bistro

>> Saturday, May 29, 2010


Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

When I was driving the other day I looked at the Calgary downtown skyline and commented to my fiancé at how different our skyline looks now compared to 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. It now stretches from Princess Island Park all the way to Macleod Trail and is growing width wise as well with the new developments in East Village that’s coming through (aside from the lonely Arriva tower). It makes you think back to a time when Calgary was literally nothing more than a little small cow town, with the main areas being Crescent Heights, Bridgeland, Downtown and Inglewood. Now all those areas have been transformed in to the new hip inner city communities that all lie within a stone’s throw away from our hustling and bustling downtown core (although we need to do something about how quiet it gets after 6pm). With the new transformations in all those communities it’s often hard to find an older piece of Calgary and what it was like back in the good ol days, unless you step in to Jacqueline Suzanne’s and let them take you away.

Atmosphere: You’ll immediately notice the décor when you first walk in to Jacqueline Suzanne’s in Inglewood. It immediate brings you back to the flapper era, when both people and food were stylish, great place for a romantic and cozy dinner, plus if you wanted you can sit in the bay window table at the front!

Price Range: Mid 20s-30s

Jambalaya
Food and Wine: After seeing the setting in Jacqueline Suzanne’s, I couldn’t wait to try the food. I could only imagine that it would be as unique as the surroundings of the restaurant. There were a wide variety of foods to choose from off the menu and the server made our choices even harder by presenting us with the daily specials, which was the Herb crusted full rack of lamb with roasted potatoes, veggies over a sweet chutney sauce, how could we refuse? After I heard the herb crusted part I forgot what the rest of the daily specials were. The rack of lamb was cooked perfectly medium rare and the chutney gave it just the right amount of sweetness to accompany the gamey taste of the lamb. Of course I couldn’t leave without trying something off of their main menu as well, so I ordered the Jambalaya - a more southern dish, which isn’t seen too often in restaurants around Calgary. The dish was a good hefty portion loaded with seafood, so if you’re a seafood lover and got a healthy appetite, this would be the dish for you, jumbo prawns and mussels but don’t forget the chicken and Spolumbo’s Italian sausage all mixed together over a bed of slightly spicy rice. To top off our meal, the server mentioned that they make their desserts fresh daily and it’s a can’t miss, so we had to order the Apple Crumble, topped with lots of creamy vanilla ice cream (they even gave us seconds on the ice cream because we couldn’t portion out the sizing correctly).

A meal in this nature wouldn’t be complete without the accompaniment of a great glass of wine. The selection was good, but we decided on the house wine (Folonari Valpolicella, Italy) which came in a ½ litre which is perfect for sharing between two people, plus the carafes that it arrived in reminded me of how wine is served in Europe!

Apple Cobbler a la Mode
My Picks: It would be the Herb Crusted Full Rack of Lamb, although it’s a daily special there is an Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb on their menu.

Overall: I really enjoyed how I was brought back in time for a little while at Jacqueline Suzanne’s, but the delicious food and the healthy portion sizes definitely is a plus. Who doesn’t enjoy to step out of their normal daily lives once in a while and enjoy a different setting?

Jacqueline Suzanne’s Bistro
1219 9th Ave SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 266-1005
Website: http://www.jacquelinesuzannes.ca/

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Healthy Yogurt Cheesecake Souffles

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Yogurt Cheesecake Souffles - Scrumptiously Fit Food

Just the other day I got my new magazine in the mail and still like a little kid that can’t wait to get mail (how often do we get mail that aren’t bills?), I started rummaging through the magazine to see if there were any new good recipes or ideas that I could try and blog about. Except I’ve noticed that a lot of the articles were focused more so on eating lighter and introducing new diets to slim down for the bathing suit season. These diets tend to incorporate healthy foods (which is good) and cutting out sweets, fats and carbohydrates (which is not so good) to increase the likelihood of losing weight quicker. Like all things us North Americans love, is things that are fast. We enjoy fast food, fast service and even when it comes to our health, fast diets. As an advocate of eating well and still being able to treat yourself, I don’t necessarily agree with cutting out all things that are “fatty” or “sweet” since there are healthy fats such as omega 3s that our bodies require and sweet foods including fruits that are just as important (plus I don’t really believe that eating dessert every now and again is going to cause anybody to gain excessive amounts of weight), just so we can lose the weight fast. Losing weight should be a matter of lifestyle and happens slowly over time due to eating well, when our body requires it and exercising. It should be a nice balance, everybody knows that but it’s often hard to follow due to work, other stressors in our lives or the lack of time to cook a healthy meal.

There I go off on a tangent again. This post was to talk about how we can enjoy the healthy sweet treats and still living a well balanced lifestyle. Balance being the key word here. So today I wanted to share with you this recipe that I found online at Baking Bites, while I was looking for a recipe to use up some of the yogurt that I had in the fridge. This recipe is great because it allows you to eat “cheesecake” without the cheese part, lowering down the amount of saturated fats or even total fats you consume (if you use non-fat yogurt). The original recipe suggested consuming these soufflés fresh out of the oven when they’re still warm, but I actually prefer to chill them overnight so they really solidify into more of a cheesecake consistency, but the soufflé unfortunately does fall a little. I hope you all enjoy my little tweaks to the recipe and instead of running to the mailbox this time for my magazines, I’m running to the kitchen instead!

Ingredients:
1 cup plain yogurt (greek style if possible, but regular plain yogurt works as well, or vanilla if that’s all you’ve got)
2 large eggs, separated in to yolks and whites allowing them to warm up to room temperature (makes it easier to beat the egg whites to form a meringue)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract – if using vanilla yogurt, this can be omitted if you wish
1/8 tsp cream of tartar – which helps the soufflé rise
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon – I enjoyed adding in cinnamon, but you can omit this if you would rather a plain NY cheesecake taste
Oiled ramekins

Whipped Egg Whites
Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF

Make sure the ramekins are oiled, if you’re using 4 oz ramekins, you might need 12 or so.

Pour a little sugar into each ramekin and roll it around until coated.

In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, egg yolks, flour, salt and vanilla extract until combined, set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the egg whites and the cream of tartar together and beat on medium. Slowly add in the sugar a little at a time until the egg whites form stiff peaks and a nice meringue (as shown in photo).

Slowly fold in the egg whites to the yogurt mixture in 2-3 separate batches.
Pour in to the individual ramekins, you can sprinkle cinnamon or sugar on top and put the ramekins on a baking tray before putting them in the oven.
Bake for roughly 15 mins, until all the soufflés have risen and are browning on the edges.

Take out of the oven, you can serve immediately or let them cool down (this is where the soufflés will fall a little)

Once they are cooled, cover and put them in the fridge overnight. Serve the next day!

Uncooked Souffles

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Scrumptious defined in Sweet Potato Gnocchi

>> Thursday, May 20, 2010


Sweet Potato Gnocchi - Scrumptiously Fit Food

The Merriam Webster dictionary website defines scrumptious as an adjective meaning delightful, excellent and delicious. All words that conjures to mind a sunny mid afternoon filled with mixing of ingredients, patiently waiting in front of the oven while the aromas rise up in the kitchen and the final satisfaction of savouring the mingling flavours when one finally gets to taste the labours of their day. That is what scrumptious means to me. What does it conjure up in your mind when you see the word?

For those who are wondering why I’ve decided to post an entry based on this, its merely due to the fact that I’ve noticed many have been searching for the meaning of the word and have landed on my little page in the wide dot com world. Since the masses have been asking for the definition, the masses shall receive (ok maybe not the masses but more like 5 people, yet still enough to get me thinking), which has drawn in my reflective side and made me wonder what scrumptious truly defines.

Gnocchi Dough

To me, nothing brings to mind delicious and scrumptious more than gnocchi, a staple savoury comfort food in Italy. The process of making gnocchi from potato to dough to final product is calming in its entirety, something you would find me doing on a mid Sunday afternoon when I’m trying hard not to think about the crazy week I have ahead. Instead of the typical gnocchi made with potato, I prefer the sweet potato kind, maybe it’s the orange color or the slight sweetness given off from the use of sweet potato but I enjoy the accompaniment of it more so. I have found that sautéing the gnocchi after they’re done in the water bath gives them a nice texture, especially if done with a nice sage butter sauce, but if you wanted to keep it healthy, serving them with a balsamic reduction is also quite tasty. Hopefully you too will this recipe as scrumptious, delightful or delicious!

Uncooked Gnocchi

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe
Ingredients:
2-3 Sweet Potatoes (yellow in color) or Yams (orange in color)
1 egg
2 tsp of nutmeg (I like to experiment with different flavours including herbs and garlic powder, which I find add a nice touch)
All purpose flour (added to a certain consistency)

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Put in the sweet potatoes on a sheet pan and let them cook for 1 hour or until the juices start to leak out of the potatoes. Remove and let cool for 10-15 mins.
Once cooled, remove the skin of the sweet potatoes and mash using a potato masher or press them through a potato ricer.
Form a small well and add in the egg, mix until the egg is fully combined. Add in the nutmeg (or herbs) at this point and stir until thoroughly mixed in.
Slowly add in ½ a cup of all purpose flour at a time until the consistency of the dough is a little not sticky so you can roll it in your hands (if you add too much flour the gnocchi will be hard, so be careful not to put too much in).
Once the consistency is correct, roll out the dough into 1 inch tubes and cut into 1 inch pieces and roll with a fork to form the ribbed edging.
Place a pot of water on med heat and once water is boiling, slowly put the gnocchi in and cook until they’re floating. Once they float (around 5-8 mins) remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and set them aside to dry.
When about ready for consumption, head up the pan with some oil and pan sear the gnocchi slightly before serving with balsamic reduction sauce (or any other sauce you have created! The gnocchi is equally as good if you prefer not to pan sear them).

Balsamic Reduction:
Pour a cup of balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan and set it on the stove on low-medium heat. Once the vinegar starts to boil, turn down the heat slightly and stir often (remember not to put your head too close to the pot because when vinegar is boiling off, the steam is quite pungent). When the vinegar starts to become slightly thickened, turn off the heat and let it cool. Once the reduction cools it will thicken up on its own and become sweet due to the natural sugars in the vinegar. If you like it a bit sweeter, feel free to add in a tsp or two of sugar. Drizzle over the gnocchi and serve with your favourite entrée as a side.

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Restaurant Review: Loungeburger

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010


Fries Spectacular Platter

There is nothing like a milestone birthday to really make one reminisce about the good ol times of the past. All those memories of junior high and high school, all the days of hanging out at MacEwan Hall in University while eating some of the not so great meals; days when the words calories, fat and protein were just that, words in the English vocabulary, seldom used or cared about. One such thought brought me back to when I was in high school and fries were my food of choice, it didn’t matter whether they were from McDonald’s, NY Fries or even yam tempura, I would eat them any time I got a chance to (with mayo of course, well except the tempura). Thinking back, I’ve noticed how my diet (like our age) have changed, so it seemed fitting that we went to Loungeburger for our friend’s big 3-0 birthday, if only for a quick flashback to the good ol times.

Atmosphere: Casual and laid back, Loungeburger would be a great place to catch that great playoff game or even just to “lounge” with a custom made gourmet burger and fries.

Price Range: Mid $10s-20s

Lamb Burger
Food and Wine Beer: If you enjoy sweet potato fries, then you won’t be disappointed. I think I had 3 plates of them by the end of the night (I know, not exactly an example of FIT in Scrumptiously Fit Food, but it was scrumptious and yummy food, so 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, right? =P). All the signature burgers come with a choice of fries (many different types to choose from), poutine or salad. If you’d like to stick to the healthier choices, the salads looked pretty delicious as well. We started off the night with the Crab Dip, which was served with fresh garlic and herb flatbread where could definitely taste the crab and was a great sharing platter for 2-3 people, but once the crowd started to show up we had to move on to the Fry Spectacular. The dish came with three different types – homestyle fries, yam fries and waffle cut – each served with a unique dipping sauce, I really enjoyed the curry flavoured sauce paired with the waffle cut fries.

For our mains several people decided to go adventurous and built their own burgers from the 14 different patty styles that Loungeburger provides. As for me, I decided to stick with the Lamb Burger – you can’t go wrong with Mediterranean style anything. The burger was served with roasted red peppers, tzatziki and feta cheese on a fluffy focaccia bun (which isn’t like your normal focaccia bread and I’m still debating whether I enjoyed it), oh and did I mention I had a side of sweet potato fries? Oh right, I did. =) I also had a few bites of his burger which was made from Tiger Shrimp served with garlic and scallions and Asian slaw, also on a focaccia bun with a side of onion rings. The burger was juicy and well marinated and paired well with all the Asian infused flavours; the onion rings didn’t hurt either.

As for drink selections, Loungeburger has a great bar featuring daily specials, which I took full advantage of with the Grey Goose Vodka’s. They also had many different types of beer on tap, which would satisfy the sports fanatics I’m sure.

Tiger Shrimp Burger
My Picks: Build your own burger or Tiger Shrimp Burger with Sweet Potato Fries!

Overall: If you’re like me and craving fries, this would be the place to go, they did have entrée choices for those who weren’t looking for a burger, but then you’d be missing the best part. Plus, who doesn’t want to feel 18 again and eat whatever they want? (every now and again that is)

Loungeburger
270, 14th Avenue SE
Macleod Trail South
Calgary, AB
(403)250-2747
Website: http://www.loungeburger.com/

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Seafood Extravaganza - Cioppino

>> Saturday, May 8, 2010


Cioppino - Scrumptiously Fit Food

My better half, or so he would like to think, loves seafood and anytime there is seafood on the menu you can be sure that he’s going to order it, reminds me of the time when we were in Seattle a couple of years ago and he decided to order a dungeness crab sandwich because 1) it was full of crab and 2) did I mention that it had crab in it? While the rest of us ordered a clam chowder, oh don’t get me wrong, of course he also ordered the clam chowder as well because…it too had seafood in it. Then to top things off he had to order a full crab for dinner that night as well. So logically, as I was busying myself with errands this past weekend and had to leave it up to him to pull something together for dinner, you can assume what we had, which then made me curious. How nutritious is seafood or more so shellfish?

Nutrition Tidbit: I’ve always heard that seafood is full of protein, but also a lot of cholesterol. As always, fish is the healthiest with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, especially in salmon, but you have to be careful of the mercury content, which have been found to be high in fishes like tuna, but what about shellfish? Well shellfish is chock full of protein, but beware of all the bacteria that it can harbour because they can be tramped in the shell or outer carapace and needs to be cooked through carefully before consumption. As for cholesterol, shrimp is usually known to rate the highest in cholesterol but remember ingesting cholesterol doesn’t necessarily raise our own cholesterol levels, you also have to watch saturated and trans fats. Like all other foods as long as they’re incorporated in to a healthy diet there is no reason why cholesterol should be a concern, plus think of all the crab sandwiches you could be missing!

Halibut
So the first thing he did was go online and do a quick search for cioppino because honestly if you love seafood that much, cioppino is your heaven, fully loaded with crab, clams, calamari, shrimp and fish. I’ve also noticed that it’s been on a lot of restaurant menus as of late and after eating it a few times, I knew he wanted to try it himself. I suggested the Guy Fieri Nor Cal cioppino recipe and we were not disappointed, plus it was nice to have somebody cook dinner and really I can’t say that I too don’t enjoy my seafood, how else can I keep up with my so called better half?

Seafood
Ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
4 cups diced yellow onions
1½ cups thinly sliced fennel
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup minced garlic
½ cup tomato paste
1½ cups red wine
6 cups tomato sauce (we used a can of crushed tomatoes instead)
½ cup clam juice
¼ cup lemon, juice
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons red chili flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
4 pounds Dungeness crab, whole, cooked, cleaned, cracked and broken into 4 pieces
2 pounds littleneck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
2 pounds halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds shrimp, shell on, deveined
2 cups squid, cut in to calamari rings (a little addition of our own)
1 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
Fresh bread, for serving (tasted great with sourdough)

Preparation:
Saute the onions, fennel, pepper and garlic over medium heat in a large stock pot.

Once they’re slight browned, add in the tomato paste and let it cook for 2-5 mins.

Slowly add in wine, tomato sauce, clam and lemon juices, water, bay leaves, red chilli flakes, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. The original recipe also called for 1 ounce of sambuca, which we left out but feel free to add it in here as well.

Allow the mixture to slowly simmer for about an hour or until 30 mins before serving, add in the crab and allow it to cook for another 20 mins.

Add in the clams, squid, halibut and shrimp to cook for another 5 mins.

Plate with the parsley, serve with the bread and enjoy.

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Restaurant Review: Mercato Italian Gourmet Cultura

>> Monday, May 3, 2010


Mercato - Scrumptiously Fit Food

After the horrendous weather we’ve been having in Calgary lately, everybody should be treated to a nice vacation in Tuscany, to feel the warmth of the sun and the rolling hills of Italy. Can’t you just imagine riding a little scooter, with your baskets full of fresh vegetables and bread accompanied by a lovely bottle of wine fermented from grapes grown right in the Tuscany region? Unfortunately that isn’t the case and we’ve all got to face reality some times (although I do prefer to be delusional often), so we’ve all got to go find the little bits of Italy within our own city, insert Mercato.

Atmosphere: Great little Italian Ristorante with a Trattoria feel, making me reminisce about my time in Italy. Ideal for group gatherings or just a nice dinner out with that special somebody (the attached fresh market is a bonus!).

Price Range: Mid $20s-$30s

Goat and Mushroom Gnocchi
Food and Wine: Immediately after opening the menu at Mercato my eye immediately lands on the word gnocchi. I enjoy any type of gnocchi whether they’re made from potato or sweet potatoes, you can guarantee that I’m going to order it (I’ve also made a mental note to post my gnocchi recipe). Since we were sharing our plates and my dining companion mentioned that she preferred bit size portions of pasta, I knew that the gnocchi had to be on the table. At Mercato they served the dish with braised goat and what I believed to be porcini mushrooms, which really gives a contrasting texture to the gnocchi’s doughy-ness and created a great flavor infusion. It would have been lovely paired with a nice cabernet sauvignon, but seeing as it was still brunch time, I guess I’ll just have to go back and try it sometime for dinner!

Our second shared plate was the veal stuffed cannelloni, topped with plenty of mozzarella cheese. For those who know me, know that I’m not entirely a huge cheese fan (I know, gasp! I’ve heard it many MANY times) but I’m willing to try anything at least once (or sixty, in this case) because you never know what you’re missing if you don’t try it. The dish was well flavored, with just enough veal to not overpower the delicate cannelloni pasta, but I have to say that this dish is definitely not for the faint of heart. The cheesiness will overwhelm those who are not prepared, which is why it was a great sharing dish for my companion and I.

Veal Stuffed Cannelloni
My Picks: This one was a no brainer – the goat and porcini mushroom gnocchi

Overall: The portion sizes at Mercato are amazing and you will not leave feeling hungry, plus they’ll always give you more of their yummy complementary bread and olives!

Mercato Italian Gourmet Cultura
2224 4th Street SW
Calgary, Alberta
(403) 263-5535
Website: http://www.mercatogourmet.com/


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