Restaurant Review: Dolce Sapori

>> Friday, February 25, 2011


Roasted Bell Peppers

The weekend is again upon us and like all other weekends, it fills up pretty fast with dinner invitations, drinks and other activities. All of which I enjoy tremendously and look forward to each and every week, but it also lead to me wonder…who decided it was a great idea to work five days and only get two days off in a week? Seriously, who thought that it was a good bargain to not work two days out of seven. Plus, one of those days don’t really count already, since on Sunday nights I’m usually prepping and stressing about the upcoming week? All I can say is that person better have gotten quite the bribe to sign away every person’s so called weekend. But since we have to live with the general decision to work most of the week, I say we push the limits a bit and go out on Thursdays to make the week all that much more bearable and really who needs to worry when they’re tired on Fridays, you can practically countdown the hours until freedom (as I write this blog dead tired on a Friday, I’m starting to regret this suggestion, but not enough to reschedule my plans for next Thursday evening!). I guess Dolce Sapori has picked up on this tidbit as well and is open every Thursday to Sunday (only!) to cater to those that live for their weekends!

Atmosphere: A hidden spot in bustling Kensington, where modern and sleek furnishings outfit this quiet and petite dining room contrasting the lively serving area downstairs.

Pears and Prociutto
Price Range: Mid $20s - $30+ (Entrees)

Food and Wine: If you’re in a rush and have after dinner plans that you can’t miss, then I wouldn’t suggest dining at Dolce Sapori, where the service, like it’s Italian menu are meant to be enjoyed without haste. When we first entered Pulcinella, where Dolce Sapori resides but in the dining area upstairs, we were greeted by a slightly frazzled hostess, who was trying to serve the patrons of Pulcinella and take out diners alike. Once we were finally shown to our table upstairs, it was like walking in to an entirely different restaurant all together. You can feel the difference in the atmosphere. We were given our menu, which is very concise and divided in to appetizers, salads, first and second courses, and the waiter suggested picking a few from each to truly experience the chef’s full culinary point of view served family style.

We started with the Pears and Prociutto with a side of Whipped Goat Cheese, the plate was quite generous with the sweet pears contrasting nicely with the salty prociutto and savoury dip. I was surprised at how light the goat cheese dip was and thought it would have been a great spread on some nicely toasted bread. However, we didn’t get our bread basket at this point so I had to resolve to spreading it on the breadsticks that accompanied the dish (still yummy though). Next, we sampled the Tuna Stuffed Roasted Bell Peppers. It was agreed around the table that we’re now all going to be making this as an appetizer at home.

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
With the appetizers complete, our Fennel and Blood Orange salad came next, again the serving size was more then generous. The dressing of navel and blood oranges kept the salad light and citrusy. However, I did find that it was a bit blander then I anticipated and could have used a bit more contrast in flavors or additional salt.

The salt did make an appearance that night, in our main entrée of Grilled Prime Rib with Porcini Mushrooms, which was the Chef’s special of the evening and one that our waiter spoke highly of, which made it slightly disappointing when the steak came out medium well and over salted. Being a devourer of rare beef, it was very hard to for me to witness this and I moved on quickly, only to be met with the overdone Rack of Lamb. Luckily the flavourful lamb remained fairly tender under the circumstances. I believe the herbed stuffing helped in that regard and it was definitely much more palatable, sadly mister salt made a sad appearance in the sauce here as well. For our third entrée and I’d have to say my favourite, was the Veal Chop, served with a nice tomato cream sauce. The creamy sauce was able to maintain the moistness of the chop without overwhelming the dish.

Prime Rib and Porcini Mushrooms
My friend mentioned to me that she’s heard great things about the house made Tiramisu so we couldn’t possibly pass on dessert (who passes on dessert?!). After a quick peek at the menu we also decided on the Panna Cotta as well. I’d have to say both desserts were delicious and light, especially with the mascarpone cheese in the tiramisu, it was quite surprising that it wasn’t overpowering.

There was a good selection of both old and new world wines on the list varying in price. The waiter is also willing to pour tasters for any of the selections where they offer either glasses or half liter options. If you’re unsure of what wine to choose you can always go with the half liter option, which isn’t offered in many restaurants in Calgary, but more so a European thing. It was definitely nice to see, since this allows you to taste and share several different grape varietals throughout your meal.

Stuffed Lamb Chops
My Picks: Pears and Procuitto, Tuna Stuffed Roasted Bell Peppers

Overall: It’s important to realize that our weekends are short, so it’s nice to be able to enjoy each and every moment of it. I believe that since we rush through most of our days, it’s definitely a treat to sit back and let Dolce Sapori take you on a culinary adventure. Right now, Dolce is definitely heading in the right direction, but with a few more tweaks, this place will definitely hit it spot on.

Dolce Sapori
1147 Kensington Crescent NW (Upper Floor)
Calgary, AB
(403) 283-1333
Website: http://www.dolcesapori.ca/

Dolce Sapori on Urbanspoon

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Herbed French Toast Bennys and a Half Marathon

>> Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Herbed French Toast Benny

As some of you may or may not know, I somehow got swayed in to registering for our city’s first half marathon this year in April. The Calgary Police Half Marathon is set up annually to support our local authorities and other charities. It’s usually the first big run to kick start the whole year and gets quite the showing (I’ve also heard that it’s quite the course as well). The route starts off at Mount Royal University, around the glenmore reservoir, up a nice little “hill” called the weaselhead and back towards MRU.

Hearing about the incline at roughly 17 km, got me hitting the gym faster than you can say dim sum (I don’t know why I wrote dim sum, because it’s a short food related word? And because I’m possibly craving it right now?). There’s really nothing like running up a constant slope when you’re already at the point of collapse. So a good training regime was what I needed. A little search around the internet and I found several pretty good half marathon training guides. More than a few things remain quite similar throughout all the running guides including: rest days, training length and speed buildup. After that, what it really comes down to is preference on which days you want to do your long runs or cross training. Most often people tend to train their longest on Sundays because it’s usually the easiest, I find, to get enough time to fit in an hour to two hour run. Then again this is all preference, so if you prefer to change your longest running days to Monday or even Friday, it’s really up to you! Just make sure you’ve made those adjustments on your training plan as well.

French Toast
Here is the current training plan that I’m using and have been enjoying quite a bit. I’ve made slight changes to it by upping my cross training days (instead of taking two rest days, I only take one a week) and including a bit more weightlifting as well to increase my core and muscle strength. When you cross train, it allows your legs to recover while still building up your lung capacity and endurance. Strength training also builds your muscle’s conditioning allowing you to run harder and longer without pain and soreness. Building up muscle strength in turn cushions your joints against the hard impacts of having your foot hit the pavement and if you think of how many times that happens during 13.1 miles or 21.1 kms, you can see why that would be important.

Another aspect of training for long distance runs, whether it be a 5 km, half or full marathon is the diet. It’s important to ensure you maintain good nutrition throughout your training. I find that eating at least 2 hours before your run (since anything shorter than that and you could potentially start cramping around the midway point) and definitely grabbing a snack or recovery drink after is essential. Before your run make sure to eat something light and higher in carbohydrates since you’ll be relying on your glycogen stores to be full. Since cardiovascular workouts tend to utilize your pre stored glycogen, which are normally created through synthesis of carbohydrates in food, fruits make good options for a preworkout snack. Then afterwards, you can enjoy something with a bit more sustenance, with some protein, like a homemade fruit smoothie, a sandwich or even this twist on two classic recipes:

Herbed French Toast Benny

This is a recipe that I’ve recently put together because my husband has started to grow tired of his breakfasts, so as I looked in to our fridge Saturday morning, it came to me. Why not try a savory French Toast recipe with a twist on an Eggs Benny (more so in thought than an actual Eggs Benedict). Plus, this would make for a nice post workout snack or even a nice early brunch meal. Since this was a savory French toast recipe the poached egg replaces the usual (and unhealthy) syrup. The yolk gives the dish the same visual appeal when you cut in to the poached egg and mouth feel you’d get when eating French toast. Hope you like it!

Herbed French Toast Benny
Ingridients:
3 whole eggs
1 egg white
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp salt
4 slices of whole grain bread
1 tbsp vinegar

Preparation:
Scramble one egg and one egg white together in a bowl; add in the skim milk, oregano, thyme, pepper and salt.

Warm up a non stick skillet (which allows for less use of oil) on medium heat.

At the same time also heat up 2 cups of water in a pot with the vinegar.

Place a slice of the bread in to the mixture and allow it to soak on both sides then slide it in to the skillet.

Allow the bread to cook for roughly 2-3 mins on each side. Remove and set aside until all the bread has been cooked.

Meanwhile as the bread is cooking, slowly crack an egg in to the vinegar and water mixture boiling on the stove. (This will make the poach egg which will be placed on top of our French toast.) Repeat with the last egg. Turn off the heat and allow the eggs to cook slowly until all the bread is prepared.

Once all the bread has been thoroughly cooked, scoop out the poached eggs with a slotted spoon and place them over top the French toast.

Top with some arugula or other greens and serve.

Makes 2 servings

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Health Articles, Steak and a Side of Veggies

>> Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Steak and Veggies
Lately I seem to be inundated with the opposing nutritional trends every where I look online, so it’s really no wonder that people have no idea what they should and shouldn’t be eating! You’ll read an article where they suggest that carbohydrates create fat stores in the body and therefore are bad for diets, while another article will insist that not eating carbohydrates will cause your body break down muscle because of low glycogen stores. Carbohydrate isn’t the only topic that’s targeted; sodium, protein and fat are highlighted just as often.

So how do we know if we’re eating a balanced nutritious meal with everything a body needs? Well it’s easy, firstly, STOP reading all those articles and secondly, eat a bit of everything (real food, not processed fried chicken or anything), like what the human population has been doing for eons. Of course, the only problem now a day is that people seem to be eating literally everything, without the thought of portion sizes. I wouldn’t doubt that reading those articles doesn’t help either.

For a while there I was confused and started breaking down and analyzing everything in my meals. Did I get enough protein with my carbs for breakfast? Or should I pack more healthy fats to ensure that I’m getting the most out of my vegetables for lunch? Maybe I need to lower the amount of salt and sugar that I’m taking in on a daily basis and cut out my beloved desserts? Eating just didn’t become enjoyable anymore and I started realizing that I never really ate that bad to start off with so why am I so concerned!

Medium Rare Steak
I realized that this had to stop because I was starting to become obsessed with food! I enjoy eating but really, what fun is it to sit there and calculate everything you’re ingesting. So the next thing I did, I stopped reading all the food articles and decided to make myself a delicious steak dinner with a lovely side of veggies and a yummy dessert.

So for all those out there that is following the Paleo, Atkins, or Vegan diets, kudos to you for being able to stick to your guns and know your path, but for the rest of us that can get confused with the information overload provided online now a days. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and realize that we just need to start with a healthier outlook on food. That eating all natural non processed foods are healthy for us and not everything has to be calculated to a tee as long as we understand that intake of all foods in moderation is the key (and yes that does include Alberta beef and dessert!).

Sautéed Beef Tenderloin with Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers and Asparagus
(Recipe is adopted from the epicurious website)

I opted to change up the recipe a little bit and used beef tenderloin instead of flank steak. Beef tenderloin is a better cut of beef and still has relatively little fat, which allows the steak to remain juicy and tender (tenderloin, duh) after searing. Since I prefer to have my steak on its own, I also didn’t prepare the red pepper sauce that the original recipe called for. Instead I just added in a bit of Dijon mustard to the coating of the crust and left it at that.

Instead of cauliflower, I used Asparagus because they were sitting around lonely in my fridge and I figured that it would taste pretty delicious with the red peppers and arugula (which it did).

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus
2 red bell peppers
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 pieces beef tenderloin
1/2 tsp canola oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 oz baby arugula

Steak and Veggies
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 500ºF.

In a baking pan, toss together, asparagus, red bell peppers, garlic, olive oil, 1 tsp chopped thyme, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Place the pan in the oven and roast, occasionally rotating the vegetables until they are slightly charred. (I like the veggies a little under cooked so I only left them in there for 10 mins but you can leave them in there for up to 23-30 mins).

In the meantime, stir together the rest of the thyme, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Add in the mustard and canola oil.

Pat the steaks dry and rub both sides with the mixture.

Add a bit of oil to the skillet and place the steak in to sear. If you want the steaks to be medium rare 3-4 mins per side should do it or until there’s a slight bounce back when poking the middle of the steak.

Remove from heat and let the steaks rest for 5 mins on the plates before serving.

At this time, remove the veggies from the oven and toss in the arugula so they will wilt slightly.

Transfer to steak plate and serve with a dash of pepper on top.

Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Globefish Sushi and Izakaya

>> Thursday, February 10, 2011


Rainbow Roll


It’s amazing how quickly food photos can add up on the computer’s hard drive. Those photos have slowly started infiltrating our external hard drive space as well (don’t tell my husband!). So you can see how easy it is for me to miss place photos of what has been blogged and what I was planning to blog, especially when you get a good couple of weeks where foods were baked endlessly, the holidays encouraged non stop cooking and friendly gatherings were arranged at different restaurants around town. I feel like I’m always playing catch up sometimes! Then it just so happened that I found a folder of all my photos that I’ve dumped in as “to be sorted” and found that there were some great yummy looking ones of the delicious sushi at Globefish, which I’ve failed to post. Since they look so scrumptious and because I thoroughly enjoy their sushi, I figured it was time to give them justice on this site.

Atmosphere: Cozy booths that allow for privacy in a trendy and energetic restaurant setting.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food and Sake!: Known for their delicious and inventive sushi rolls, Globefish has been on most people’s go-to sushi restaurant lists for as long as I can recall. I think there are few people that haven’t heard of this place or their sister restaurant of the same name in Marda Loop (and now in Chinook as well). All the sushi rolls that we ordered came artistically arranged in a style reminiscence of sushi restaurants in Japan. One look at them and I couldn’t wait to try each and every kind, except for the slight second hesitation of ruining such a beautiful showpiece, but that didn’t last that long.

Crazy Buster Roll
We ordered the Crazy Buster Roll, consisting of spicy tempura wrapped in fresh tuna with a spicy sauce and green onions. I love the combo of green onion and tuna, the green onion gives the tuna a different flavour profile and it’s always a winner. Next up we had the Cherry Blossom Roll with salmon and avocado wrapped with red tuna and served with seaweed salad and tobiko over top. Again, staying with the staples of salmon and tuna always creates a great roll, especially when paired with seaweed salad. The sweetness of the seaweed brings out great flavours in the fish. The Crab Paradise had a nice twist with salmon, mango and avocado wrapped in soft shell crab. The spiciness of the sauce was a nice touch to enhance the taste of the sweet crab.

We also had a chance to try their traditional sashimi and rolls (spicy tuna, California roll, roll combos ) and they were all delicious and fresh as well. Globefish also serves a great variety of appetizers and noodle bowls for those that aren’t necessarily looking for something raw. One of our friends purely goes for Japanese to have all the yummy cooked foods rather than the fish itself and she highly enjoys all the different selections. I’m sure everything tasted even better after a couple glasses of hot sake!

Spicy Roll Combo
My Picks: Spicy Tuna Roll or the Flames Combo, which includes Spicy Salmon and Spicy California Rolls.

Overall: Well known already around town as one of the best sushi restaurants (maybe subconsciously I didn’t forget to post the pics because subconsciously I was trying to keep all the delicious goodness to myself?!), there’s not much to say about Globefish except that people have got it right! The fish is fresh, the service is fast, which makes for a great evening out with whomever is up for some great food!

Globefish Sushi and Izakaya
Kensington
332 14 St. NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 521-0222
Website: http://www.globefish.ca/

Globefish Sushi and Izakaya (Kensington) on Urbanspoon

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Chinese New Year - The Foodie Perspective

>> Saturday, February 5, 2011


Lo Bak Go - Chinese Turnip / Daikon Cake

Chinese New Year is upon us again and being the foodie that I am, how could I NOT love this holiday?! My parents are very traditional Chinese. We pretty much celebrate the New Years for the full 15 days! It’s fantastic, everyday there are different dishes cooked and served, excess food spilling out of the fridge and all over our countertops and not to mention there are enough desserts, fresh fruits and other treats to feed a small nation. Seriously, if you know of somebody that’s in need of a good fattening up, just send them my way and I’m sure my parents are more than happy to feed them (or plump them up). Luckily even my parents are on the road of change (I’ve been trying to get my parents in to the health kick as well), everything is made from scratch and therefore all ingredients can be controlled and made healthily, so we can indulge even more!

Most people are surprised when I tell them that Chinese New Years lasts for 15 days and they wonder why that is. Well it’s all related to the cycle of the moon, some of you may be familiar with how the Chinese calendar is very much in sync with the moon cycles, hence the lunar calendar and “Lunar Chinese New Year”. It starts on the first of the lunar calendar and goes until the full moon on the 15th (which equates to February 18th this year). Everyday there will be new dishes that are cooked and served to celebrate the significance of that day. For example, on the second day of the lunar New Year, we celebrate the actual beginning (not on the first day like you’d think, yes confusing) or “hoi lien”, the seventh day is the day of the people “yun yat” and so on and so forth. There are meanings to each day and you can find that here.

Steamed Lo Bak Go
Some of my most favorite new years dishes include abalone, lobster, oysters and last but not least chicken. A lot of these things can be ordered year round now, so it almost takes away from the specialty of having it during this time, but since each dish signifies a different auspicious meaning and they’re tweaked a bit more for the special holiday, it always ends up being different and refreshing. For example, the oysters are often served with fungi to give it the Chinese meaning of “great status and wealth” or “ho see fat choi”.

Since it’s my first year after being married and moving away from my parents, I figured that I would cook a little something that reminded me of Chinese New Year and share it with everybody here! Hopefully this recipe will exemplify the joys of the new year to all and wish everyone a “sun lien fai lok” aka Happy New Year!

Slices
Turnip (aka Daikon) Cakes or Lo Bak Go in Chinese are often served during Chinese New Years. The Chinese enjoy eating cakes during this time because it represents prosperity and sweetness. Now a days, you can also get lo bak go at your nearby Chinese restaurant during dim sum. It literally is cake made out of turnip (daikon) with meat, mushroom, chives and grilled to obtain a perfect crispy outer layer, yet remaining chewy and soft on the interior of the cake.

Ingredients:
1 large Chinese turnip or Daikon (roughly needs to be big enough to produce 4 1/2 cups after grating)
4-5 medium sized dried shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup dried shrimp (you can find these at any supermarket in the Asian aisle)
1 bunch of green onions aka chives
2 cups rice flour
2 cups water
2 links of Chinese pork sausage (also at your friendly neighborhood market)
1 tsp salt

Pan frying
Preparation:
Presoak the mushrooms and the dried shrimp in 1/2 cup of water each and leave for roughly 30 minutes or until the other ingredients are ready.

Start a pot of water boiling on the stove. Meanwhile, grate the Chinese turnip/Daikon to obtain about 4 1/2 cups. Place the turnip/daikon in the pot and turn the heat down to medium low and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain off the excess water, but keep it for later use.

Remove the mushrooms and shrimp from their respective soaking liquids but save the water. Chop the mushrooms, shrimp, pork sausage and chives and add them to the drained off turnip/daikon.

Mix in the rice flour, salt, the reserved mushroom and shrimp soaking water. Stir the mixture slowly.

Slowly add in 1 cup of the reserved turnip/daikon water, until the consistency turns pasty.

Start a water bath, with a steamer attachment on top. Oil a 8” pan and pour the mixture in to the pan. Allow the pan to steam in the steamer for about an hour, until the cake is set.

Allow cake to cool, at this point you can wrap it in saran wrap and aluminum foil and put it in to the fridge for a week or the freezer for up to a month.

Once you’re ready to enjoy the cake, remove it from the fridge or freezer. Allow it to come to room temperature.

Place a skillet with oil on medium heat, cut the cake to 1/8” pieces and slowly pan fry them and serve with the yummy dipping sauce (recipe below).


Spicy Dipping Sauce
Ingredients:
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp hot sauce (I like to use the garlic hot sauce from Rooster brand)

Preparation:
Mix all the ingredients together and serve with pan fried lo bak go! Yum!

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