Restaurant Review: Craft Beer Market

>> Friday, September 30, 2011

Fast Food Sushi

For those who are not aware, it is currently Oktoberfest right now in Deustchland and I figured in honor of all the beer that’s going to be drank during that amazing festival, I needed to do a review of a beer market here in town (aside from the German beerhall that I’m sure most are familiar with which I reviewed earlier and can be found here). Since I can’t go back to Germany for the Oktoberfest experience why not try to live it out here in Calgary through a blog.

Atmosphere: Laid back pub environment with a large bar area showcasing an expansive number of pipes carrying draft beer from barrels to tap.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Beer: We happened to head to Craft on a Sunday where they had certain beers on special and half price appetizers. This allowed us to sample all of the appies they had on the menu (before you think start to think that we’re gluttons, which we sort of are, there were 13 of us after all so there were lots of appies to be had).

So I’ll just go down the list…starting with the Hawaiian Ahi Poke with cucumber chunks, fresh garlic and ginger in a semi sweet soy glaze. It wasn’t a bad poke but definitely not the same as the ones found in Hawaii. The dish was light, if you’re looking for something to tone down the heaviness of the fried dishes. This would be the way to go. Speaking of dense appies, nothing quite compares to a Poutine, with gravy, cheese and fries. However, Craft has managed to keep it’s very fairly light tasting (as much as a poutine could be “light”). I believe the fresh cheese curds has a hand in that.

The Baja Fish Tacos were one of my favourites, you can get them as an appie or an entrée. If there are more people in your group, there is an option to order additional tacos at $3.25 a piece. The fish was nicely juicy and nicely seasoned served with a nice spicy hot sauce in a soft tortilla shell. My friends really enjoyed the Fast Food Sushi. Essentially a deconstructed and reconstructed burger, beef and cheesy goodness all wrapped up in bacon sushi style. They even serve them with chopsticks. Fun!

Veggie Platter
I almost always order the flatbread and hummus appies when I see them on the menu and this was no exception. The flatbread was chewy and freshly baked, which is a great accompaniment to the hummus. Although I did think the hummus could have used a bit more salt. The veggies were nothing special, carrots and celery but it did help cut through some of the greasier food items that night including the Wings. Many many wings, which came is a plethora of different flavours, I suggest you just pick your own and roll with it..trying as many different flavours along the way. I thought the wasabi honey was interesting and unique.

There were also Dry Rubbed St.Louis Ribs, Crab Cake Sliders and Crispy Onion Petals, which all tasted like the way you’d imagine dry ribs, crab cakes and onion rings to taste. So you really can’t go wrong with anything you choose. If you’re in a smaller group, they also have a Crafty Platter (which doesn’t go on special) that you could order to sample a bunch of different appies and not order the whole menu!

As for beers, the servers will be glad to help you pick since Craft has quite the array of beers from all over the world. They also have a beer club, enough said. There are certain beers that are on special, so don’t forget to ask before your order! Although patience is key here, there were times we had to wait quite a while in order to get our drinks, seems the bartenders were a bit slow as well.

Baja Fish Tacos
My Picks: Baja Fish Tacos

Overall: Although we’re not close to Germany there are places in Calgary where you could try to find that little piece of beer heaven. With so many different selections of beer, plus on certain days Craft will tap new barrels, you can definitely try to find your little beer niche in this crazy world.

Craft Beer Market345 10th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 514-2337

CRAFT Beer Market Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


Ancient and Modern Beijing

>> Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Temple of Heaven

Being jet lagged sucks. It’s probably the worst thing about travelling (aside from the flight delays which happened all too frequently), it totally throws me out of rhythm and my comfort zone. But travelling isn’t about being routine or comfortable. The great thing about travelling is the unknown spontaneity of everything. Never really knowing where your next meal is going to be, when it’s at and whether you’re going to be lost just looking for it.

We did plenty of that on our recent Asia trip, kicking things off in Beijing (after a 2 hour flight delay which resulted in me eating everything at the airport including a stale starbucks chocolate chunk cookie to pass the time. Who says travel days are light eating days must not have been stuck at the airport with nothing better to do but I digress). Beijing, the capital city of China, a city still coming to grips with its capitalism in a communist country. Everywhere you look you could see pieces of old and new China, contrasting Ming dynasty palaces with the new large five star hotels and the mega shopping centers. It was quite a sight indeed.

Forbidden City
We were told that Beijing is set up as a cross, with the main road running straight through the city from north to south. Starting from the bell and drum towers through the Jingshan Park, the Forbidden City, Tianenmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. Nothing reminded me of olden day China more than the Forbidden City. Walking through the vast complex gave me the shivers. I couldn’t imagine how one could spend their entire lives in between the walls, seeing nothing more than the 9999 rooms within the city. Actually less since most of those rooms would be restricted to the Emperor and his high advisors only. I found it quite interesting to have the entrance of the Forbidden City begin at Tianenmen Square with Mao Ze Dong’s well-known portrait identifying it’s entrance. It definitely reminds you that China is still a communist country. If you’re near this area, JianShan Park is not to be missed since it allows you to see all of Beijing from different viewpoints, the highest pagoda in the city.

Great Wall
We had the opportunity to set up a private tour to the Mutianyu portion of the Great Wall, which I highly recommend over the Badaling area. Less touristy, therefore it wasn’t overcrowded, since most tour groups go to badaling. It was a unique experience to walk the great wall. There is a saying in Chinese that roughly translates to “You’re not considered a true Chinamen unless you’ve climbed the great wall”. So I guess I am now a Chinamen? I’ll just stick to Chinawomen, thanks. Through our private tour they also took us to a lovely restaurant near the Mutianyu area which served traditional Northern Chinese cuisine. We got to sample the locally grown eggplant, a very well known chicken dish (gong bao jie ding) and delicious tofu.

Seeing as there were so many places to see and things to do in Beijing a quick summary of other interesting sites include: Summer Palace (you can literally spend all day here…or more if you have the time, definitely pay for full entrance fee to climb the pagoda), Olympic Plaza (site of the 2008 summer Olympics), Temple of Heaven and Beihai Park just to name a few. If you’re ever planning to visit Beijing, be prepared to spend at least 5 days straight sightseeing and eating your way through the capital of China. In a city that’s so diverse, no matter where we went there was food to be had, even at locations where you least expected food to be served, you would be surprised to find a small food stall or a tiny outdoor restaurant serving up traditional small eats.

Pan Fried Baos
Since this is a food blog, there was no way I was leaving out all the delicious foodie eats I experienced around Beijing, from the street food to Peking duck. I sampled it all and no I did not try the bugs. To be brutally honest, nobody local actually eats the bugs, they’re more so to attract tourists and they do. We (yes, myself included) all flocked towards all the stalls selling the bugs so we could take endless shots of how those creepy critters are being sold at the market. However, if you look really closely, nobody was actually ordering them. Instead everybody got the delicious skewers of grilled beef or lamb sprinkled with a bit of spicy peppers over top. They were amazing and well priced, I ate my fair shares of them and left the bugs for all the photographers out there. We tried several food streets ranging from the famous Da Dong food market to the Wangfujing market which is just down the street and more hidden equaling better prices and more local selection.

Some of my favourite street foods included the meat skewers, Shaolongbao aka Shanghai soup dumplings, stinky tofu (yup I said it, ate it and it was amazing, stinky but amazing) and the king melon. The melon is cut in to slices and placed on a skewer, they looked like really big cantaloupe slices from afar but tasted amazingly sweet, just like honey. One thing not to be missed is this eggy crispy crepe snack that’s sold along the streets, not necessarily in the food markets. We ran in to one outside the Summer Palace, I had no idea what it was when I ordered it, but my stomach my hungry and it smelled good when I saw somebody else order it. If you see a stall with a portable burner that looks like a crepe making flat top, eggs on the side and a bunch of crispy fried wrappers on top you’ll know you’ve found it.

Crepe Goodness
We also had the opportunity to eat at little shops along the busy street by our hotel and tried several including congee (rice porridge) shops, steamed bun shops and noodle stalls. They were all equally amazing. It was a treat to be able to walk down a street and sampling food items as we went. Since most places was an eat and go establishment, they didn’t find it odd that we just sat down for a bowl of soup and headed off. Although, I think they found it more so odd that we were stopping by their neighbors shops shortly after leaving theirs. Most of the shops will sell congee with pickled radishes and you tiao (Chinese donut) first thing in the morning and then convert to selling meat dishes with rice or noodles later in the afternoon. You could literally eat yourself up and down a street all day and continue to try new items on the menu.

Street Market
Of course we couldn’t leave Beijing without trying the ever famous Peking duck. Since it wasn’t our first time eating the dish, we already came with some preconceptions as to what the dish would taste like. My friend who used to live in Beijing suggested that we try one of the restaurants that she quite enjoyed as opposed to the typical touristy spots and we did. The skin of the duck was not crispy like what I’m use to here in Calgary, but more spongy and definitely lacking in the five spice department. The duck meat itself was super tender and extremely juicy, which highly showcased their preparation skill and the quality of the meat. The order came with a bunch of different dipping sauces (most of them were sweet and sour), veggies (ranging from cucumbers to pickled cabbage), wrappers as well as steamed bread. There definitely was a lot more variety then what is served here, where all we get are wrappers, hoisin sauce, cucumbers and green onions.

Peking Duck
It was interesting trying all the different combinations of items in the wrappers and bread, but I’d have to say I still enjoyed our local Calgarian version a bit more, as did my husband, now if only we can get the duck to be just as tender and juicy here. We did find another Peking duck place on our last day in Beijing that served the duck similar to Calgary, which is surprising. I guess they’re starting to alter their duck as well. I hope not though, since it’s better to try something new and different when travelling.

Shiao Long Baos
So with our bellies full all the time, we managed to trek our way through Beijing a bit at a time. All of it culminating in to a great experience, which unfortunately included jet lag as well. At least that prepped us for our next locale, Xi’an and the Terra Cotta Warriors!


Restaurant Review: Tilted Grill

>> Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tiger Shrimp Cake

To commemorate summer and all the lovely patios (I’m probably going to be missing any additional Calgary patio weather because we’ll be travelling for the next couple of weeks), I wanted to do one last restaurant post. It has been a great summer for enjoying the outdoors especially with a glass or rather a bottle of wine. We found ourselves down by 17th Avenue the other day and moseyed in to Tilted Grill since they’ve got a nice big patio. Plus, with all the food truck craze in the city, I was intrigued by their take on street food, restaurant style.

Atmosphere: Bright indoor dining room with a casual steak house feel. Great open patio with loungers and open fireplaces to keep you cozy.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: The concept of tilted grill is really quite unique, take interesting street food (which is huge on the foodie scene right now) and turn it in to something that can be featured in a restaurant. Seeing as I’ve been chasing all the food trucks in Calgary, it was only a matter of time before I visited Tilted Grill to see what their take was on street food.

Gogi Burrito
For our appetizer we ordered the Tiger Shrimp Cake, which was inspired by southern Thailand. It had chunky prawn pieces mixed with shallots, ginger, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass with a drizzle of spicy curry sauce on top. The shrimp was moist and perfectly cooked with a nice tangy sweetness. The sauce was a nice complement to the shrimp and we were very pleased with the first dish.

Next were our entrée dishes, each came with a choice of sides ranging from homecut or yam fries to salads and rice. I decided on the Gogi Burrito (I heard good things about their Gogi Sliders) with a side of seasonal vegetables. The burrito was stuffed with Korean BBQ bulgogi styled steak, lettuce and rice (lots of it). I felt there wasn’t enough flavour in the burrito and it was lacking a sauce of some sort, overall it was a bit bland and dry. I ended up taking all the rice out of the burrito and eating it with the meat itself. I was slightly disappointed since I’ve been looking for a place that served Korean Mexican fusion for a while now. The seasonal veggies were a nice side though, a little greasy but very flavourful and bright!

Veggie Pad Thai with Shrimp
My husband got the Veggie Pad Thai with additional Shrimp (or you can add chicken) and a house salad on the side. The pad thai was pretty traditional, noodles, egg, tofu, bok choy, roasted peanuts, bell peppers and red onions all tossed with a tamarind sauce. I had a couple bites after my husband complained that it was a bit too sour, which it was. There was too much tamarind paste used overpowering the dish. The side hoisin dipping sauce made it a bit better but it was really hard to get over the high acidic flavours. The shrimp however was again cooked very well. I think next time we go we’d probably stick to ordering the appetizers and call it a meal.

We could never end a meal without ordering dessert and since our meal has been mediocre so far, we really weren’t expecting much. Boy were we wrong! You have to try the Glazed Donut Satay dessert! If anything we’d come back for nothing but the dessert. It was that good. When they bring out the dish, you see two skewers of baked banana mini donuts topped with caramelized banana slices and served with a side of dark chocolate dipping sauce (we also added a scoop of ice cream, it should be mandatory in my opinion). My husband bit in to them before I could even cut in to my first one and he was blown away. I quickly followed suit. The donut literally melted in my mouth along with the flavours of cinnamon sugar and bananas…matches made in heaven. We could barely wait to take the next bite, each one better than the one before. When we were all done, we almost ordered another one. Had we not been so stuffed we probably would have!

Glazed Donut Satay
We were luckily enough to get to the restaurant before 6pm that evening so it was still happy hour, which features all their wines at a 50% discount. We ordered a bottle of the Terrazas Malbec 2008. It is a deep crimson red wine, with notes of blackberries and plums. Medium to full bodied, it required a bit of aeration, but tasted delicious none the less.

My Picks: Glazed Donut Satay

Overall: There are always new food trends, whether it is al fresco dining, tapas or street food, it never gets boring or one noted. It’s great to see restaurants in Calgary embracing all of them and at Tilted Grill they take it to a different level where all of the above are covered. You can enjoy small fusion plates outdoors (or in) depending on what you feel like. A great concept and with a bit more tweaking I believe they can truly bring something new and different to Calgary.

Tilted Grill
1800 4 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 229-3366

Tilted Grill on Urbanspoon

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