Restaurant Review: The Pig

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I just found out the other day that one of my friends that has never eaten pork (ok, never is a slight stretch but its pretty close) is making a change. Due to his circumstances right now, he figured that it’s now or never and to be honest I’m behind this decision 100%. He’s a huge foodie and having to avoid pork before really limited what he could and couldn’t eat. Now the world is his pork belly. While talking to him about everything pork related, I couldn’t help but think of our recent trip to Washington DC and how we visited a restaurant called The Pig, specializing in everything…pig! If only it was in town, it'd be the easiest way to introduce my friend to everything great about the pig, but since it isn’t he’ll just have to result to reading about all the great things we tried while we were there.

Atmosphere: Warm wood furnishings surrounding a boisterous dining room reminiscent of a French brasserie.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food and Wine: Walking in to the restaurant aside from the huge story of “The Pig” (posted below), they also highlighted all the locally sourced ingredients and where they’re from. I thought it was a really nice way to highlight that they believed in supporting their local farmers and businesses.

After ordering our meal, our waitress asked us if we wanted some bread and “swine butter”. I was thoroughly intrigued! I couldn’t wait to see what it tasted like. My best explanation of it is to imagine spreading delicious bacon on your toast. Smoky porky goodness! She also talked us in to trying one of their amazing cocktails.  We decided to sample the Farmhouse Smash, which was extremely refreshing with strawberries, vodka and honey, but the true star was the basil. I really enjoy herbs in cocktails and this was no different. A great way to kick off the evening.

We started with a light appetizer of Beets and Green served over sautéed swiss chard. Even though I’ve had both ingredients before, it was never together which made for a completely different flavour profile. The vinaigrette added a really nice depth of acid to the dish and really took it to a new level. The Heirloom Radish salad was another nice light starter. It came with lots of fresh arugula, crunchy pecans and a very light vinaigrette dressing.

Next up were our pork dishes and we had to order the Charred Belly. Probably the best pork belly I’ve had. The exterior was extremely crispy to the point where it didn’t taste fatty since a lot of the fattier interior was seared off. Yet the belly meat itself was still tender. The dish was accompanied by a creamy celery root puree, refreshing watermelon jam and pickled rind. All of it came together to form a spectacular dish.

After seeing the Braised Cheek, I knew we had to order it! The meat was falling apart it was so tender and we didn’t even have to cut it with our fork let alone any knife! I really liked the stone grits, adding that much needed texture to the delicate pork cheek. The Spanish sofrito was a nice added touch as well.

Clearly we couldn’t get enough of the pork belly because we also had it in our Herb Gnocchi dish. Each gnocchi were soft and plump, which tasted great with the crispy pork belly chunks and truffled corn. I enjoyed the added earthiness to the dish, truffle with corn is my new favourite combo (have you ever tried truffled popcorn?). I would have really like to see more of a sear on the gnocchi, but I liked the flavour of the dish none the less.

I would have loved to try another couple more dishes at this point (Boar Merguez Sausage, Porchetta...) however the dishes were a good size and I knew there was still dessert around the corner. When the waitress talked about the dessert menu, she mentioned the Sundae Bloody Sundae, named because they actually used pork blood to stabilize the ice cream. It totally peaked my interest and I knew I had to try it (mind over matter!). The texture of the ice cream was very unique. It was quite thick and reminded me of eating a really cold piece of fudge. It was still enjoyable and definitely still tasted like chocolate, but it did get a bit heavy. Luckily we also had the Crepe Brulee Cake, with layers of Chantilly cream sandwiched between crepe after crepe. It was nice and light, a good contrast to the ice cream.

That evening we had an amazing bottle of Lioco Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. It was very light red in color and smelled lightly of tea. Bright acidity made for a really nice mouth feel with a lingering medium bodied finish. Very smooth and overall a very enjoyable wine!

My Picks: Beets and Greens, Charred Belly

Overall: Although our time in DC was short, our foodie experiences were amazing. We really enjoyed our meal at The Pig and couldn’t wait to share it with everybody we knew. I can’t wait to go back to eat the rest of the menu! Now if only they had a restaurant up here, then I could bring my friend to enjoy everything pig, but I guess until then he’ll just have to read about all the amazing things he’s yet to try!

The Pig
1320 14th St. NW
Washington DC, 20005
(202) 290-2821

The Pig on Urbanspoon 


The US Capital - Washington DC

>> Wednesday, July 25, 2012

 Its always hard coming back from vacation, the only thing that gets me through it all is reminiscing about the trip through my blogs. That and planning for my next vacation, what can I say, I work to eat and travel, but who doesn’t? Our trip out to Washington was really a nice teaser until our longer trip in the fall. It was much needed, plus I was amazed by all the foodie experiences that happened in Washington. Since it’s not a city that’s really known for their cuisine, unlike New York, but there were many amazing finds. So for those that are headed to down to Washington, here are some of my recommendations (it was hard to pick since there were so many great eats).

I’ve heard that there is a huge Ethiopian representation in DC and decided that we would try the highly recommended Etete Restaurant. It was both my husband and mine’s first time trying Ethiopian food and it did not disappoint! The meat had the perfect amount of char to it giving it a great smoky flavour. Each of the dips were flavourful but didn’t compete with each other and even the injera aka bread was spongy goodness. I definitely recommend it if you’re in the area.

We also had to wonder over to the U street corridor and try out Ben’s Chili Bowl. World renowned for their chili, which has been served for the last 52 years! Even President Obama has made it down for their famous chili half smoked dog, which is a hot dog made with half beef and half pork. A specialty in this area! I enjoyed the chili on everything, fries, hot dog, even by itself.

I knew I had to eat at The Pig once I saw the name. How could you go wrong with a restaurant focused solely on pork?! Not recommended for some of course, but even their butter was called swine butter and tasted like bacon. I really enjoyed their pork belly, perfectly crispy with an amazing side of stone grits. I’ll definitely be writing a review on my experience so stay tuned.

Finally if you’re headed up to Georgetown, don’t miss the Tackle Box. Known for their world famous lobster roll, but we decided to get the full on New England Clam Bake Meal, 1 1/4 lb lobster with clams, mussels, potatoes and onion. The broth was so delicious that we tried to sop it all up with anything we could find. It was also happy hour at the time and one of the features was $1 oysters, so you can bet that we had our fill.

A trip out to DC is not complete without seeing the amazing museums which are all free. There were so many of them we didn’t even get a chance to go to all the ones we highlighted at the beginning of the trip. I highly recommend seeing the Smithsonian Museum, full of relics and treasures. The Holocaust Museum was eerie but in a good way, to remind everyone about the horrors of war. The Museum of Natural History to see the Hope Diamond and many more like the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art…you really can’t have too much time here.

In addition to the amazing collections there are all the memorials and monuments around the National Mall. If you walk a full circle around the whole National Mall, it’ll bring you from Capitol Hill, down through the museum row to the Washington Monument, reflecting pool (currently under construction) through the Vietnam War Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial. If you’re still interested in seeing more, there is another circle that will guide you to the Jefferson Memorial to the Regan Memorial and down to the Martin Luther King Memorial. It really gave me an appreciation for American history.

If you’re looking for something less touristy, there are also a lot of history walks. They’re all signed around the city in each district or neighbourhood. Hard to miss them in a city that’s over 300 years old, all the districts are unique and the architecture around town is amazing. It’s hard to compare it to Calgary since we are only a little over 100 years old and therefore missing a lot of the history that comes with an older city, but I guess that’s why there’s traveling. I guess I better get on planning my next getaway!


Doughnuts Galore at Jelly Modern

>> Thursday, July 12, 2012

A friend of mine was recently in a doughnut competition and it was a lot of fun helping her collect votes to win the contest where her flavour choice would be made in to a new doughnut creation! All the doughnut talk made me realize how much I missed the doughnut. For a long time North America was focused on the cupcakes and then it was the macarons. Well I believe it’s now the doughnuts time to shine and not just the ones found at your local Timmies, but handmade specialty doughnuts, which is exactly what Jelly Modern Doughnuts have done.

I was lucky enough to sample a bunch of their creations various times (especially one time when I got a whole dozen of them, but that’s a different story for another time). To this day my favourite is still the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla doughnut. It’s a classic raised doughnut dipped with a lightly sweetened Madagascar vanilla glaze and topped with pink sprinkles. The sprinkles remind me of the doughnuts I used to eat when I was a kid, but Jelly’s version is definitely the grown up variation.

The glaze itself is lightly sweetened and isn’t overwhelming. I find a lot of glazes to be overbearing but this one was just enough. I was able to eat the whole doughnut without the urge of wanting to scrape the glaze off, which can often happen to me. The doughnut itself was soft, I didn’t even want to hold it for too long because I was squishing it with my fingers (luckily that really wasn't a problem since I inhaled it). It was hard not to eat another one after finishing the first.

I’ve also had the opportunity to try several other flavours including Coconut, S’mores and Carrot Cake. The carrot cake is another one of my favourites. Nicely spiced, with hints of cinnamon aroma and flavour all topped with mascarpone icing. It was a bit sweeter than the vanilla but just as soft and cakey. Tasted like eating a gourmet carrot cake and just the right portion size, although again I could probably eat more than one at a time.

I really enjoyed all the different flavour options that Jelly provides and if you’re adventurous, there are also many other flavours like the maple bacon and gummy bear doughnuts to try. Plus, they also have a flavour of the month, so if you keep checking back there are many different varieties to sample. Jelly also does preorders for doughnut cakes, so they’re a great substitution for cupcakes or birthday cakes at parties. It’s always nice to switch it up, plus what more fun then being a kid in a doughnut shop?!

Jelly Modern Doughnuts
1414 8 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 453-2053

Jelly Modern Doughnuts on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review: The Living Room Restaurant

>> Monday, July 9, 2012

Every July Calgary goes through the same explosion of tourism during our world famous Calgary Stampede. Every year I get excited. Every year my husband…does not. He would rather leave the city during this time to avoid the crowds and throngs of people wandering around town. However, there are always places that can be an oasis in this crazy time and even though I myself enjoy the crazy atmosphere of it all. I do understand where my husband is coming from and so I often to try to blend the two. There’s nothing better then to be able to watch all the craziness from afar without being in it and a great location to do so would be from the patios on 17th Ave. What’s even better? You can even enjoy some great food and drinks while you’re at it. Here’s one of my favourites…The Living Room Restaurant patio.

Atmosphere: A great patio to watch the goings on of the always energetic and lively 17th Ave crowds. If looking for something a bit more intimate then indoors is a great option as well.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: We wanted to start off on the lighter side that evening because we knew it was just the beginning of a long food journey. The Organic Oak Leaf Lettuce Salad was just what we needed. The salad was a mix of pea shoots, sprouts, red onions topped with creamy avocado, grilled halloumi cheese and a sweet sesame soy vinaigrette. It was definitely light and I really enjoyed the fresh mixed greens with the nuttiness of the sesame dressing.

The Fiddleheads were on special that day and we took full advantage. If you’ve never had fiddleheads before, they taste like asparagus with a hint of mushroom and spinach. These ones were sautéed with some truffle oil which really added to the earthiness of the fiddleheads making for a great combination.

At this point I was really looking forward to our main which was the TLR Meat Platter and it’s quite substantial. The platter consisted of Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops with squash ratatouille, Oven Roasted Quail Breasts with grilled vegetables, Bison Sausage, Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes and a 5oz Beef Tenderloin with confit potatoes.

The lamb chops were cooked perfectly medium rare (I wouldn’t want it any other way), remaining tender and juicy. The accompanying ratatouille featured fresh and sweet vegetables that were nicely seasoned. After taking a bite of the beef tenderloin, I was amazed at how succulent the meat was. True to its name it was extremely tender and perfectly grilled.

The bison sausage had a very nice flavour and very lean without being dry, which can often happen to bison sausage because of how little fat bison has. The oven roasted quail breasts were a nice change to the normal chicken - white meat option. I am a huge fan of quail especially the Asian version of it and I believe this was a good rendition of roasted quail, although a bit drier (unlike the rest of the platter), but it was still very flavourful. I liked how crispy the skin was despite it being roasted and not fried.

There were also two accompanying sauces, classic béarnaise and an au jus. I found that each item on the platter was so perfectly marinated and spiced that neither my husband nor I really needed the sauce, but its always there for those that would like a dip of some sort.

It was really hard for me to pick the one thing I liked the most off of the entire platter since everything was so perfectly cooked and seasoned, but if I had to, I’d say it was the smoked Gouda mashed potatoes. I’m not usually a huge mashed potato fan but this version was unbelievable! Creamy and smooth, with just the right amount of smokiness from the cheese yet it did not overwhelm the palate. I couldn’t even really taste much of the cheese but there was just enough that you knew it was present. I could have probably just eaten that all evening. Writing this now makes me want to go back for more!

At this point my husband and I were full beyond imagination, but then I decided to “look” at the dessert menu. Apparently I have yet to learn that there is no such thing as looking at a dessert menu. So we ended up ordering the Banana Three-way dessert. When the dish arrived it was three different variations of banana, one done as French toast, a house made ice cream, and a brulee. My favourite was the creamy banana ice cream, which accompanied the French toast to perfection, which my husband really enjoyed. Not overly sweet and just the perfect combo. The crème brulee was light and velvety. It too wasn’t too sweet and a perfect match to my espresso.

Our wine that evening was the 2007 Toscolo Chianti Classico Riserva 55. A medium bodied red with berry notes and vanilla which pairs very well with meat dishes. Yet it’s light enough to go with bold pasta dishes as well. Not overly tannic, which made it a very nice drinking wine, always a good choice if not sure what to order.

My Picks: TLR Meat Platter

Overall: If the patio is what brings you to the Living Room, I’m sure the food is what’ll make you come back. I know for a fact that I’ll be back again soon to if for nothing else but the great meaty platter, but there are many other options available as well, like their famous fondues. It’s hard to pick and choose what to eat since there are so many great items, but that’s part of the fun at the Living Room, if you’re not too busy checking out the crowds on 17th that is!

The Living Room Restaurant
514 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 228-9830

The Living Room Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Quick and Light Crab Cakes

>> Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lately I've been watching a lot of Eat St. They started a whole new season not too long ago and they're also featuring local Calgary foodtrucks as well. It's hard to avoid, but the food looks sooo good! I want to try each item they feature, ending up making me so hungry every time I do watch it (ultimately their ploy I'm sure).

It is actually how this recipe came about. I was sitting there watching a couple episodes recently, that I've conveniently recorded on the PVR (best invention ever!) and noticed that a lot of food trucks were doing crab cakes, alone or in slider form. The seafood element got me perpetually hungrier. So I rummaged through my pantry and came up with a few quick and easy ingredients to lighten up the conventional crab cake. There's also a recipe for a quick aioli, which is a great addition to a crab cake slider if that's the route you want to take it. 

Hope you enjoy!

Crab Cakes:
2 cans lump crab meat
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
1 tbsp siracha hot sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 sprigs of green onion, chopped

Open and drain the crab meat in to a mixing bowl

Add in the mayonnaise, siracha, salt, pepper, panko and green onions (you can try a bit at this point to determine if its salty enough for you, there's no egg in this crab cake so that makes it safe to sample)

Combine slowly without flaking the crab meat

Place a skillet over medium heat and add in a tbsp of canola oil

Slowly form each crab cake and gently put them in the skillet

If you like a bit more crunch you can roll each crab cake in a bit of panko before cooking

Cook for 3-4 mins on each side or until they start to brown

Remove from heat and serve

Makes roughly 7-8 small crab cakes

Spicy Siracha Aioli:
2 tbsp low fat mayonnaise
1 tsp siracha hot sauce (you can add more if you like it a bit spicier)

Combine the mayonnaise and siracha and top each crab cake with the aioli

Can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days

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