Restaurant Review: Clive Burger

>> Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burger places have really exploded in Calgary within the last year or so with each restaurant specializing in a different way of showcasing the burger. I’ve been to a good many of them, but I couldn’t believe how many people kept asking me if I’ve been to Clive Burger yet. So it was inevitable that I had to drop by and experience it myself. Since hearing it from everybody else was getting pretty much unbearable.

Atmosphere: Bright open seating area which overlooks the grill, similar to the diners of old with additional seating in the back for those looking for a bit more room.
Price Range: up to mid $10s

Food: The first thing I noticed when I walked in - aside from how busy it was - was the adorable mascots all over the restaurant. I was recently in Las Vegas and was drawn specifically to the mascot at a burger joint they had displayed throughout. I thought it was such a great idea to make a restaurant synonymous with a mascot because when people see them, they not only remember the food, it’s also a potential merchandising opportunity. If Clive Burger decided to sell their mascot as a T-shirt, I would indeed buy one.

I was actually glad that the line was a bit long since it took me a while to decide on what to order. It was pretty straight forward really. You can either get a one, two or three patty burger or a smokie, each with specific fixings you’d like. The hard part was figuring out whether you wanted to burger or the smokie or both and of course the inevitable question of, would you like fries with that.

So between my friends and I, we decided to share some large fries. They’re cooked in peanut oil and were extremely crispy. Normally I try to search for the crispy ones, but with these fries, no searching was required. Any one I picked up was good to dip in the delicious clive sauce (a spicy mayo) or some ketchup. The bag of fries is a very decent portion, good enough to share among 2-3 people.

I got the smokie Clive style and they got the burgers also Clive style with additional cheese, mushrooms, veggies, etc. My smokie came with some sautéed onions and was quite a bit larger than the bun, which made for some messy eating, but I don’t expect to eat a hot dog neatly. It’s just one of those things. I really enjoyed the flavour of the smokie itself, not too heavily spiced. You can still taste the meat itself and it wasn’t overly fatty. The casing provided just the right amount of snap. A must for a good smokie in my books, or else it just ends up getting mushy.

My friends both enjoyed their burgers, the patty themselves are made with a 1/4lb of hormone and antibiotic free beef. You can really taste the difference! It’s juicy so be careful, you’re going to get messy but again…it’s the best part about eating a burger. Some might find it a bit small, but just add an extra patty, there’s a lot of flexibility here. You also get a chance to customize each burger with the free fixins that they provide including clive sauce, sauerkraut, fried onions, mushroom, etc. For a $2 more you can even get a fried egg on top.

I found out that everything at Clive Burger is also environmentally friendly and compostable. From the (very adorable mascot) take out bag, to the straws and wrapping paper! What a great way to create sustainability!

Overall: A great restaurant aiming to be your neighbourhood burger joint with great food without all the fuss. It definitely beats the typical fast food restaurants and the prices are fairly comparable. Now if only I can convince them to make little Clive burger plushies…

Clive Burger
736 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 461-7088

Clive Burger 17th on Urbanspoon


We All Scream for Village Ice Cream!

>> Wednesday, August 22, 2012

As I was driving home the other day I noticed the leaves starting to turn yellow along the side of the road.  Immediately I began to panic because I am not looking forward to the ensuing cold weather that occurs once the leaves change color.  I am not ready for autumn or winter.  No matter how much I enjoy snowboarding or snowshoeing, I want to be able to BBQ outside, sit on a patio and dine al fresco! 

However I know that winter is inevitable, especially when living in Calgary. But one thing I refuse to give up just because its winter is ice cream! I will eat it when it’s hot out, cold out, on dessert, on it’s own, in a bowl or straight from the tub.  You get the idea.  I love ice cream and the recently opened Village Ice Cream shop allows me to indulge to my hearts content.

Located just around the corner from the Arriva condo tower on 10th Avenue is the new quaint little ice cream parlor.  Serving specialty hand crafted ice cream in unique flavours like Bourbon Butter Pecan, Lemon Poppyseed and Huckleberry.  Even though its easy to be tempted with all the different flavours, my fave is still the Village Vanilla Bean.  Smooth and richly flavoured with Madagascar vanilla beans, where the flecks of the seeds can be seen throughout the ice cream!  It’s not overly sweet but very indulgent.  I can definitely see it being a great accompaniment to many desserts.  However, I prefer it on its own.

The Toasted Coconut is another great option.  Full of coconut flavor, nicely creamy and smooth.  Great with a crunchy waffle cone! I enjoy getting it and then sandwiching it between cookies at home. Yum!  Hopefully it’s not just a summer specialty!

I’ve also had a chance to try some of their sorbets, which are very light and refreshing.  Perfect for the summer weather we’re having now, but I can see it being just as lovely during the winter months, especially when you’re craving something sweet but a little less creamy.  When we were there they were featuring a sorbet with hibiscus flower, which was very unique. The hibiscus added a nice floral note to the sorbet and made it a whole new flavor experience.

I know ice cream won’t be on many people’s minds especially during the long cold winter months in Calgary, but hopefully I’ve been able to convince some of you otherwise. It would help the winter blues! Or if you’re planning on having pumpkin or apple pie in the fall, I highly recommend pairing it with a gigantic scoop of ice cream!  All this talk about it has got me craving some right now…now if only I wasn’t so far away from downtown!

Village Ice Cream
431 10 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 261-7950

Village Ice Cream on Urbanspoon


Pork Tenderloin with Apple Onion Chutney

>> Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My husband isn’t one to enjoy lean protein, if he had a choice he would order the fatty prime rib or a rack of ribs. He believes that fat = flavour, which I don’t deny but I also believe that flavour can come from multiple sources like spices and sauces. So I decided that I would try to convert him. Ok, convert might be a bit strong but I’d at least have him admit that lean meats weren’t as bland and flavourless as he thought.

There really isn’t anything leaner than tenderloin and especially pork tenderloin and it’s a great choice when looking at injecting it with additional flavour. It doesn’t take long to cook either which really helps if you’re in a bind for time. I enjoy tenderloin because it’s very flavourful and when cooked well retains the succulent pork flavour without the fat.

Nutritional Tidbit: Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts of pork, containing a good amount of protein (~15g for a 3oz serving) and very little saturated fat (1g per serving). So when cooking pork tenderloin, you don’t want it to be completely cooked through or else it will be very dry. The tenderloin should be just slightly pink in the middle to maintain the flavour and juiciness of the meat. Combining the lean pork with healthy apple cider vinegar and is a great way to boost vitamins and antioxidants.

Since it’s so low in fat content, tenderloin does require a nice sauce or chutney to up the flavour of the dish and there is where you can really play around with the spices. I figured apple and pork is a very natural combo. By adding in a bit of sour from the cider vinegar and spice from the chili powder, it will really bring out the natural sweetness of the pork.

Another important factor in cooking tenderloin is not to cook it for too long. Once tenderloin is over cooked it will be stringy and dry, not very appetizing or palatable. Just cook it until it’s still slightly pink in the center but not raw. This usually takes 15-20 mins dependent on cooking temperature. And as always, never cut in to the meat right away when removed from heat. You need to let it rest, so all the amazing juices remain sealed tight within the meat. By leaving it alone for 5-10 mins, this ensures that the meat will remain juicy and succulent when you cut in to it.

After taking his first bite, my husband really enjoyed the flavours of the dish and agreed that the tenderloin was tasty and not at all dry like what he had imagined it to be. He also really liked the apple onion compote, with the tanginess contrasting the chili flavours of the spice. He might not be a convert from his usual choices all the time, but he's more open to trying them! I hope you too enjoy this recipe and decide that not only fatty cuts of meat taste best!

2 Pork tenderloins
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper

2 Medium onions, cut in to slices
1 Apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup Apple cider
2 tbsp Maple syrup
1 tsp Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Combine the chili powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub over both pork tenderloins. If you enjoy a bit more spice then add a bit more chili powder in to the mixture.

Wrap with seran wrap and let it marinade. The longer the marinating time, the more depth of flavour the tenderloin will have. If you don’t have much time, you can also start cooking it right away.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place aluminum foil on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a skillet, heat a bit of canola oil on medium to high heat. Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides until slightly brown all over.

Transfer the pork tenderloin to the baking sheet and place in the oven for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, add the onions in to the skillet and cook until semi translucent, about 10 mins.

Add in the apples and cook for another 5 mins.

Turn down the heat and pour in the apple cider if you notice the span starting to stick and any point or the onions and apples getting to dark.

Add the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Let it cook until the mixture becomes a bit thick. Roughly 5-10 mins. Turn off heat.

Remove the tenderloin, let it rest for 5-10 mins before cutting in to medallions. Add a bit of the onion and apple chutney to each dish and serve.

Makes 4 servings.


Restaurant Review: Downtownfood

>> Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer is the perfect time to eat local, especially in Calgary since it isn’t exactly known for its amazing weather. Summer is the season where we can actually grow fruits and vegetables in the open air and not just in a greenhouse. Plus, summer produce always tastes better, but that might be because I’m also sitting on a lovely patio most of the time. Either way I found the locally sourced, seasonal menu at Downtownfood to be brilliant none the less, really bringing out what it means to eat fresh.

Atmosphere: A cool and calming space, utilizing earth green and brown wood accents to highlight a beautiful dining area.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: Our server mentioned that they focused on sourcing local organic ingredients and changes the menu seasonally based on availability, which is always exciting because it means you never have to worry about getting tired of the menu options. However I will be sad when they remove certain items that I enjoyed. Like the Braised Pork Cakes that was reminiscent of a crab cake, with an extremely crispy exterior, but when you take a bite you get all the amazing sweetness of the braised pork inside which was flavoured with Asian spices.

I really enjoyed the housemade kimchi and pickled vegetables that were served as an accompaniment to the pork. Each vegetable was bright and refreshing with the perfect balance of sweet and sour, not overly spicy either for those sensitive to spice (just avoid the pickled hot pepper!).

The Chicken Pate was extremely light and had a mousse like consistency. The creaminess of the pate reminded me of eating foie gras. It was served with buttery brioche toasts. We had to get another order of the brioche because there was quite a bit of pate left, plus I really enjoyed the toasts themselves.

The Ceviche was very unique. Unlike other ceviche dishes I’ve had before, the mussels and scallops were served with a creamy curry sauce and topped off with popcorn and fish roe. A very nice Asian spin on a South American dish! The sauce was more like a broth and didn’t overwhelm the delicate tastes of the scallops and mussels, which is very easy to do if the chef wasn’t careful, but it was done to perfection. The fish roe and popcorn added whimsicalness to the dish and also a nice texture contrast.

We were served the Summer Watermelon Salad as a complimentary dish from the chef and lucky for me, since I was debating between the watermelon salad and ceviche and got to try both! The sweet watermelon was wrapped in cucumber, served with watermelon gelee and feta then drizzled with lemon vinaigrette. It was extremely refreshing, both sweet salty and cooling, it couldn’t have a better name because it was perfect for summer.

Our main was the Roast Leg of Venison with potatoes, oyster mushrooms and chipotle ovaltine sauce. I was intrigued by the ovaltine in the sauce, which normally tastes like cocoa. I didn’t really taste the ovaltine, which isn’t a bad thing because the sauce was perfect for the tender medium rare venison. Slightly tart and smoky it really brightened the succulent venison. The potatoes were crispy, oyster mushrooms added a nice earthiness to the dish and I enjoyed the texture of the added lentils.

To end the meal our server brought out complimentary petit fours consisting of a caramel almond tart, which consisted of light crispy pastry and caramel layers yet wasn’t overly sweet and a Truffle. The chocolate truffle had a crispy outer shell which held a creamy chocolate interior perfect for our wine.

Even though we were quite content from all the food and the petit fours, our server managed to twist our rubber arms and got us to order the Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert. I really enjoyed the crispy hazelnut tuile along with the salted caramel sauce (there was quite a bit of it). The cake wasn’t dense, which can often happen because there was no flour in it and had a good dark chocolate flavour. It was served with a vanilla cream on top, which made me miss my usual ice cream.

Our wine for the meal was the Chakana Malbec 2010. It was extremely high in tannins, oaky and full bodied. It definitely needed to be decanted for some time before consumption. It’d pair well with steaks and chocolate but definitely avoid lighter fare where the wine would easily overwhelm the delicate dishes.

My Picks: Braised Pork Cake, Roast Leg of Venison

Overall: Not only did Downtownfood showcase the local organic ingredients, but it brought forward an Asian flare to plates that aren’t normally known for Asian flavours. It was definitely a unique dining experience and due to its seasonal menu, I can’t wait to see what dishes I’ll be sampling the next time I go!

628 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 353-3474

downtownfood on Urbanspoon

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