Restaurant Review: Model Milk

>> Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Recently I’ve been wondering if I am really impatient. I wasn’t shocked really. Instead I attributed it to being an only child growing up. I never really had to wait for anything or anyone. We had two washrooms in my house, one for my parents, and one for me. I always got both of my parent’s attention (often way too much). So really, in my defense, I didn’t really get a good go at it from the start. But now that I’m older, I think I’ve worked well with what I’ve got. I’ve managed. Although, I’ve found a new way for me to gain some of that needed patience. What better way to work on it then to wait for a table at a restaurant. Especially now with all the new places popping up that no longer take reservations? Sometimes the stomach just edges out all else.

Atmosphere: Trendy surroundings with the iconic Model Milk brick wall logo highlighting a two level dining space. The area evokes a casual comfy cool, a place to linger and enjoy your favorite libations.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: To avoid the dinner time rush, my dinner companion and I decided to have an extra early meal (I’m working on the waiting thing), which lasted until late in to the night (sorry to all that was eyeing our table, just be patient).

Foie Gras Parfait

To kick start our long dinner feast, we started with a couple of the ‘small plate’ items like the Foie Gras Parfait. A smooth almost mousse like foie served with a thick layer of blackberry compote on top and crispy crostinis. I really enjoyed the blackberry which gave the foie the added sweetness it required. We were utterly amazed by how much foie gras came in the ramekin and had to order extra bread to finish off the parfait.

The Calamari Fricasse also came out at the same time, but I found that I was busy attacking the parfait and as such the calamari didn’t get as much attention. It wasn’t a bad dish, though I did find it to be slightly over salted. I wasn’t sure if it was the bacon or the crispy croutons or both, but they sort of over powered the plate and the calamari taste was lost.


Our server was nice enough to wait until we finished the first two dishes before bringing our next plates, which was the Chanterelles. The dish was decadent and creamy, made with none other than…you guessed it, cream and cheese. It was also served with freshly baked bread (which again we had to ask for an extra order). Many people know that I’m not a big cheese eater, but for those of you that are, you’ll love this dish. Lots of stringy cheese paired with lovely chanterelle mushrooms making it velvety and rich.

When we were finally ready for the ‘large plate’ orders, we choose the sesame crusted Walleye served over gnocchi and mushrooms in a cream sauce. The dish came with two pieces of the nicely seared fish, though I did find it a bit milder and somewhat bland. If you’re in to flavours, then I would stick to the meatier dishes.

By now we were stuffed with all the food over last couple of hours but just couldn’t bring ourselves to skip dessert. So we ordered the Pecan and Bourbon Pie with cardamom ice cream. I’ve never been a big fan of pecan pie, but serve me anything a la mode and I’m done. This wasn’t any different. I loved the cardamom ice cream, nicely spiced (and yes, we ordered an extra scoop), creamy and refreshing. I could have eaten it alone and called it a night, but I didn’t. The pecan pie was chewy with a crunchy crust, nice texture contrasts. My companion enjoyed it quite a bit.

To get us through our long night, we ordered a bottle of the 2009 Chateau Nenine Bourdeaux. It’s a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. It was a fuller bodied wine with lots of blackberry notes and a nice chocolate finish. It was a nice compliment to the creamy foie gras and chanterelle mushrooms, but did over power the fish a bit. It needed quite a bit of aeration to truly bring out its flavours, making it a nice sipping wine.

Pecan Pie

My Picks: Foie Gras Parfait

Overall: The food was definitely worth the wait and I can see why the lines continued to lengthen as our meal progressed throughout the evening. However, was my patience truly increased? That is yet to be seen, though I did find that the addition of vino to a satiated stomach definitely increased patience all around.

Model Milk
308 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 265-7343

Model Milk on Urbanspoon


Making Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

>> Friday, November 25, 2011

There is nothing better than going home after a long days work. Period. Well…there is one thing. Going home, opening the front door, smelling delicious food stewing away and realizing that dinner is ready. Don’t have to cook and still enjoy an amazing meal because it’s been brewing away all day in the crock pot while I’ve been at work. That’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Lately I’ve found that I’m using my slow cooker more and more. I wonder if it’s because the cold weather is calling for that warmth and comfort or because I want to spend more time by the fireplace and less time everywhere else in the house. Either way, it works for me. I’ve been meaning to try a slow cooker pulled pork recipe for a while now, so I really didn’t need any excuse (who needs excuses for pulled pork?).

Nutritional Tidbit: The original recipe calls for the use of pork shoulder because it’s a bit fattier and will provide more flavor, but you could also use pork tenderloin. Tenderloin is the leanest cut of meat often touted to have less fat then chicken breast. So if you’re conscientious of the fat content (especially saturated fat) of the pork then go with the tenderloin. Definitely let the meat stew on lower heat and use a bit more liquid to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

The inspiration for this recipe was one that I stumbled upon online during the summer while I was craving BBQ. I figured it would work nicely when the BBQ is tucked away during the winter, but I can still get a BBQ styled dish without actually having to smoke anything for hours outdoors. You can find the original version of the recipe here. I’ve made a few adjustments to the recipe below and added notes where I found they helped me. Also instead of serving the pulled pork on a bun, I opted to go for little pulled pork tacos, allowing the pork to shine more without having to fight with the big burly bun.

Hope you enjoy the smells of yummy slow cooked pork as you walk in through the door this frosty winter!

2 – 3 lb pork shoulder blade roast (bone in) or pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup favorite BBQ sauce (I found using a bit of the BBQ sauce gave it that extra smokey flavour that was missing when it wasn’t included)
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
Salt and Pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium to high and sear pork until it becomes brown and caramelizes all over (really adds additional flavour). Transfer pork to slow cooker.

Mix together the chili powder, coriander, garlic powder, bay leaves, BBQ sauce, worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar and brown sugar. Rub it all over the pork.

Add in water until it just about covers the pork. Toss in the onions and garlic.

Turn the slow cooker to medium for a cooking time of roughly 5 hours or high for roughly 2-3 hours of cooking. (Low for overnight or all day).

To test whether pork is done, try to remove the bone (if bone-in pork shoulder used) or shredding off a bit of the pork for tenderness.

Once ready, remove the pork from the slow cooker and place in bowl, began to pull the pork apart. The meat should fall apart without much effort.

Empty the remaining sauce in to a pot and reduce to create the mop sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready, add the pork back in to the sauce and serve.

I served them with a vinaigrette based coleslaw (recipe here), cliantro and home made tortillas. You can opt to serve them on the traditional bun or just with the slaw itself.



Restaurant Review: Haru Sushi and Grill

>> Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BBQ Squid

I like order, schedules and lists. I’ve found that I am a very organized person and will have planned things out to the ninth degree in everything I do. It could be work, dinners with friends and even outings with family. It’s very nice knowing what my calendar looks like and what my free time is for the upcoming weeks. However, sometimes things spring up on you and that’s just life. One of those curve balls occurred the other week when we looked at our groceries and decided that we just did not want to eat anything that was inside our fridge. I know, shocker, but food is a big deal to me. Luckily for me, there was a new sushi restaurant that just opened by our place and it didn’t take much convincing at that point to eat anything but what we were staring at. So off to Haru Sushi we go.

Atmosphere: A contemporary and tranquil space due to the usage of calming colors and keeping the dining area nice and open. Great for small groups and families.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: Since we arrived without me getting a chance to look at the menu online first (which is what I always do). I’ve realized that it was quite the menu to peruse. Luckily for me, we always have certain go-to dishes when we eat at a sushi restaurant. Although there was a dish that did jump out at me when I was reading the menu and that was the BBQ Squid and I’m glad I decided to go with it.

Sushi Combo

When the dish arrived, the squid came on a hot plate with a bubbling sweet teriyaki sauce on the bottom and drizzle with spicy mayo. The aromas were amazing. I couldn’t wait to dig in and lucky for me, it tasted just as good as it smelled. The combo of the sweet and spicy sauce went very well with the squid which was a bit chewy, but nicely flavoured. I could have eaten nothing but that the whole night, but our sushi quickly came to the table shortly afterwards.

We stuck with the Spicy Tuna Roll – a must whenever we eat sushi. Each section of the roll came with a good amount of spicy mayo. I found I didn’t even need to dip my roll in to the soy sauce. It was good just the way it was. Another thing we noted was how perfectly uniform the rolls were. Each with just the right amount of rice surrounding the tuna and none of the rice were falling apart when we picked it up, very impressive indeed.

Spicy Tuna Roll

The fish was fresh tasting and we both definitely noticed that when our order of the Favorite Sushi Combo arrived. It’s a sushi platter made up of 6 nigri sushi (Tuna, Salmon and Ebi aka Shrimp) and a Tuna Maki Roll. Each piece of the nigri sushi had just the right amount of rice and wasabi. A lot of restaurants no longer put wasabi in the nigri sushi so this was refreshing.

To end we had an order of the Stampede Roll, which is a Haru special roll made up of salmon, avocado and cucumber wrapped with tuna, red tuna, avocado & mango. They say you eat with your eyes first and this was definitely the case with this roll. The different combination of colors on this roll made it look really appetizing (not to mention the amazing uniformity of the rice to filling ratio as well). The balsamic reduction drizzled on top was a nice added touch. Again the light acidity from the balsamic made the use of the soy dipping sauce almost obsolete.

Stampede Roll

My Picks: BBQ Squid, Stampede Roll

Overall: The food at Haru definitely makes me to come back (if not for anything but that squid) so I may sample more of their semi fusion sushi menu. Especially the appetizers, with mouthwatering sounding items like Chili Prawns and Grilled Scallops. Plus the proximity of it to our house makes it that much more inviting. Who knew that sometimes not planning is the greatest plan of all!

Haru Sushi and Grill
150, 35 Mckenzie Towne Ave SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 457-5880

HARU Sushi & Grill - Southeast on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review: Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Naked Lobster

Cold weather always make me crave good wholesome food and since Calgary is cold 10 months out of the year…makes sense why I’m always craving food. However, it’s not always that I find a great place with great food. So when I recently got invited to the grand reopening at one of these amazing restaurants I couldn’t wait to attend, but I was crushed to find out that I was out of town during that time. Therefore when I got back I couldn’t wait to mosey my way over to this great newly renovated space to satiate not only my appetite but also my visual senses.

Atmosphere: An elegant upstairs dining area, refurbished to focus on the restaurant’s unique rustic brick surroundings. Great cozy place for a romantic evening out. If you’re looking for something more casual, check out the Oyster Bar below.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $40+

Food and Wine: We had the opportunity to try both the upstairs dining area and the downstairs oyster bar. I definitely noticed the difference in atmosphere but the food was equally delicious.

Veal Cheeks and Scallops

When were seated upstairs our waitress quickly took our orders and brought out some of their great house made bread. It was delicious and had a caramelized onion flavour (we had to ask for seconds). It wasn’t long before our appetizer arrived, which was the BC Seafood Terrine served with Pumpernickel Toast. The terrine has big chunks of seafood complemented by the creamy crème fraiche and ikura caviar (roe). The roe was very much needed because it provided that bit of saltiness which was required by the terrine. We needed quite a bit more bread to finish off the terrine and the waitress was happy to bring us more.

Our waitress suggested that we try the “Naked Lobster” as an entrée and how could we not with a name like that. It came with honey and dill glazed root vegetables and wilted spinach. This dish was made with lots of buttery goodness. The vegetables and the spinach were all bathed in the aforementioned butter, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Since the lobster was literally naked (with no shell, no sauce or seasoning) the sauce on the vegetables was required and complimented the lobster very well. The lobster itself was perfectly poached and since the shell was removed, it took away all the nuisances of eating a lobster.

Moules Frites

The second entrée dish we tried was the Qualicum Beach Scallops and Alberta Veal Cheeks served over top a cauliflower and truffle emulsion, sautéed wild BC mushrooms and gremolata. The braised veal cheeks were so tender that I didn’t even need a knife to cut through it, due to the hours of braising. Every bite was to be savoured and I wished we had more at the end even though the dish came with three good sized portions. The scallops were just as succulent. Each had a perfect sear and cooked wonderfully. Eating them with the truffle emulsion and mushrooms made for a perfect blending of flavours.

At this point we wanted to order dessert but the evening was still young. So we decided that it would be a good idea to grab a few drinks before ending the night off. Since the oyster bar was right downstairs we headed that way for the remainder of the night. However after glancing at the menu downstairs we noticed that the Moule Frites were on special that evening…how could we not order them? There’s always more room for seafood. The mussels were cooked in a classic Provencal style with white wine, garlic, shallots and tomatoes served with a side of crispy fries and aioli dipping sauce. The mussles were cooked just right and the sauce was divine. We asked for some bread (mmm more onion bread) to dip in to it as well. We could have dipped the fries, I guess that’s why they serve them together, but they were so crispy that it would have been a sin to make them soggy by dipping them in to the broth. Instead I suggest sticking with the fries and aioli with mussels, broth and breading combo.

To end off the evening we finally ordered our dessert, which they allowed us to do so from both the Catch menu and the Oyster Bar menu. After such an amazing meal we couldn’t wait to try the dessert. We decided on the Pumpkin Pie Crème Brulee with biscotti (which was a bit tough to bite through more so then the usual biscotti). The crème brulee did indeed taste just like pumpkin pie with a nice crunchy bruleed top. Our second dessert was the Toffee Coffee Cake with Berry Ice cream. When I dug in the cake was dry and crumbly, which wasn’t what I expected for a toffee cake. However the waitress noticed that we were a bit disappointed and offered to bring us a dessert to replace it. So we had the Brownie with ice cream from the Oyster Bar menu. Unfortunately this was no different, the brownie was dry and hard. I couldn’t even get my spoon in to the brownie, which was shocking. The berry ice cream was good though.


Later the waitress apologetically told us that their desserts weren’t actually made in house but catered by the Hyatt, which was really too bad since the meal was so phenomenal we really couldn’t wait to end the meal on a high note and dessert, which was the last thing we ate, was not.

Our wine for the evening was a bottle of the Tolaini Al Passo Sangiovese Merlot, which took me a while to decide on since Catch now offers their wine selections on an ipad and it was quite the selection indeed. Catch has always been known for their extensive wine list, but with this new ipad format, you really need to know which region or wine varietal you’re looking for instead of perusing through the whole list…which would take quite some time. The sangiovese merlot blend had nice cherry and earthy flavours with a nice tannic and long finish. It complimented the veal cheeks well but I found I had to put it aside when enjoying most of the seafood.

My Picks: Qualicum Beach Scallops and Alberta Veal Cheeks, Moule Frites

Overall: Catch didn’t disappoint visually or in the taste department. My dining companions and I still talk about the dinner to this day (although we do leave out the sad dessert ending). I can’t wait to go back and try more of Catch’s new menu (and the Oyster Bar) and lucky for me…there’s still another 8 months of cold weather to keep me craving for more!

Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar
100 8 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 206-0000

Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon


Lamb Casserole with Beans and Biscuits

>> Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lamb Casserole

Now that the weather is starting to cool outside, I’ve found that I’m starting to crave warm recipes and comfort foods. Nothing says cozy like something piping hot, warming you up from the inside out (even better when consumed by a fireplace in your PJs…). So I’ve broken out the crock pot again and started experimenting with different recipes that I’ve been collecting all through the summer.

One recipe that really jumped out at me was the Lamb Casserole. Everything in this recipe read delicious, lamb, beans, and dumplings. Perfectly braised lamb is succulent and tender. Then rosemary and thyme are added in to the pot and it just brings forth a whole new level of wonderful. The addition of beans not only works to thicken up the sauce, but also provides an added source of protein.

Nutritional Tidbit: Cannellini beans aka the white kidney bean like all other beans are a great source of protein and fiber, both of which keeps us feeling fuller longer. A cup of kidney beans provide 45% of your daily fiber requirement. They’re also a great source of iron, folate and magnesium. If using beans from a can, remember to by the low or no sodium versions. Canned goods often have hidden sodium content aside from just salt.

Since the original recipe called for dish to be cooked in an oven proof casserole dish, I altered it a bit to utilize my crock pot but it still turned out great. My husband and I both really enjoyed it and can definitely see ourselves eating it a couple of times throughout the long Calgary winter.

Casserole in the oven
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1/2 lb lamb shoulder, cut in to chunks (I used bone in for extra flavour)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 cups white wine
1 cup low sodium beef stock
2 sprigs of thyme or 1 tbsp dry thyme
1 rosemary stalk or 1 tbsp dry rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dry parsley
1 can of cannellini beans
Salt and Pepper

In a medium skillet, heat the oil for 2-3 minutes. Put in a third of the lamb shoulder meat and brown. Rotate each piece until brown on all sides and remove from the skillet and transfer to a bowl.

Repeat with the remainder of the lamb.

Add in the onions, carrots and celery to the skillet. Cook for 5 mins or until the onions start to become translucent.

Stir in the lamb, wine, beef broth and herbs. Add in a good pinch of salt and pepper. Heat until the liquid begins to boil.

Remove and pour it in to a crock pot. Turn the crock pot on high and let it simmer for 2 hours.

Meanwhile you can make the rosemary biscuits. (Recipe below)

When about ready to serve the casserole, preheat the oven to 350º.

Using a ladle, remove the contents in the crock pot and place everything in a 9x13” baking dish. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Remove the biscuit dough from the fridge, split the dough in to 6 or 8 sections and place on top of the casserole.

Bake in oven for 10-15 mins or until the dumplings are golden brown (you'll notice them puffing up). Remove and enjoy!

Rosemary Biscuits Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary or dried rosemary
3/4 cup milk or yogurt

Biscuit Preparation:
In a mixing bowl, add in flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Slowly cut in butter using a mandolin or pastry cutter. Working fast so the butter doesn’t melt.

Mix in the rosemary. Slowly pour in the milk a bit at a time until the dough pulls away from the bowl.

Once the dough is formed, wrap it in up and place in the fridge until ready to use.


Restaurant Review: L'epicerie French Deli

>> Friday, November 4, 2011

When I indulge, whether it be really good crispy fries with creamy aioli or an extremely decadent dessert, I want it to be just that. The best of the best. If I was going to eat a chocolate chunk cookie, I want it to be warm and soft with big chunks of chocolately pieces in each bite. If I’m going to be bending the rules (and obviously it’s something that I felt was well worth it), then why not take it beyond. So if I was craving a really amazing French sandwich, where else would I go then to L’epicerie located on Macleod Trail for what else? Their delectable French sandwiches and soups of course!

Atmosphere: A quaint French styled bistro surrounding serving soups and sandwiches du jour to fine French deli imports

Price Range: up to mid $10s

Food: I’ve heard many great things about L’epicerie for a while now but couldn’t seem to find time to visit because they’re not open on Sundays (our usual days or lounging around and brunch). So when we finally got a chance to get out of running some errands, we ran straight over to sample their delectable soup and sandwiches.

I ordered the decadent Duck Rillette Sandwich (similar to a duck pate) made with big chunks of tender duck. The creamy rillette melded perfectly with the fresh crunchy baguette and crispy lettuce. It was very rich, but perfect with a nice cup of coffee. As a side I opted for the Lobster Bisque, which you could also buy to take home. It was creamy and had a strong lobster taste, perfect for a cold day.

My husband ordered the Le Breton Sandwich which has ham, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers all stuffed inside a French baguette. His sandwich was a bit lighter than mine, but still just as scrumptious as ever. All the veggies were fresh and the ham was nicely salted. He got a mixed salad as his side, which had a very light dressing and complimented our meal well.

My Pick: Any of the Rillettes as a sandwich or to go.

Overall: Aside from the delicious sandwiches, L’epicerie also offers cassoulets and boeuf bourguignon if you’re looking for something a bit heartier. It was also fun looking through all the different French imports displayed throughout the store. It’s like having a little piece of Paris here in Calgary and I can’t wait to go back to pick up some French specialities like chestnut spread.

1325 First Street SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 514-0555

L'Epicerie on Urbanspoon

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