Restaurant Review: The Casbah

>> Friday, December 21, 2012


It’s the holidays where most people are either rushing to get their last minute Christmas shopping done and preparing for the festivities or they’re trying to get out of anything Christmas related and getting out of the country as soon as possible. But if you find that you’re stuck in between the two, where you don’t want to miss out on all the Christmas celebrations but at the same time looking for a little oasis in all the chaos, I highly recommend checking out The Casbah, where you will be transported right before your eyes.

Atmosphere: Like stepping in to true riad which instantly transports you to Morocco with the authentic décor and fragrant smells coming from the kitchen creating an extremely intimate and romantic setting.


Price Range: Mid – High $10s, set dinners available $30+

Food and Wine: After seeing the space and looking at the menu, I knew we wanted the full Moroccan experience. Why not go straight for the 5 course meal? I’m glad we did. Starting off with a warm and aromatic Harirra Soup with chickpeas and lentils simmered together in fragrant saffron and ginger infused tomato broth. A great way to start the evening, by warming our tummies!


Next up was the Khoudra Salad consisting of a sample of different traditional Moroccan salads – Carrot, Corn and Beets – the flavours brought me back at the Jemma el-Fnaa (city square) in Marrakech. Each salad had its own distinct flavour, the carrot being my favourite due to all the cinnamony goodness in the dressing. Don’t get me wrong, they were all very good and refreshing. The corn was sweet and had a bit of a zest to it, but wasn’t hot in any way and the beets were tangy.

We each got a choice of appetizers and decided on the Crevette and Khoubiza. The crevette is chermoula marinated baby shrimp consisting of fresh pureed tomatoes, herbs and garlic. Wrapped in a Phyllo pastry, it was crispy and well seasoned. The pastry wasn’t overly oily which was nice. The khoubiza reminded me of Greek spanikopita, essentially spinach, bell peppers, fresh herbs and feta cheese wrapped in Phyllo. Again, it was crispy and light. There seemed to be less feta cheese then spanikopita and I preferred that.


For our entrees, I had the Chicken Jilbana Tajine, tender slices of chicken were cooked in the tajine with aromatic sweet green peas, artichoke hearts, potatoes topped with preserved lemon and olives. The chicken was moist and juicy and I really enjoyed the artichoke hearts which were infused with the flavour of the fragrant spices. The Kefta Tajine which had the Moroccan meatballs stewed in tomatoes, vegetables, chick peas and olives, had a real punch of flavour. The meatballs were succulent especially when eaten with the lovely sauce. Both tajines were a good serving size so we weren’t overly stuffed at this point and still had room for dessert.

To wrap up the meal we were served Pistachio Baklava with ice cream and drizzled chocolate. It was the perfect end to a decadent meal. I love any dessert that includes ice cream and you really can’t go wrong with baklava in my books.



Our meal came with 2 glasses of a medium bodied house wine, but it’s always hard to stop after just one glass (maybe one day…maybe). So we also ordered a bottle of the Louis Latour Pinot Noir to accompany our meal, the house wine wasn't bad but we wanted something a bit more bold.  The pinot had hints of berry notes with a fuller bodied finished. The wine definitely opened up a bit more as we let it aerate, so I’d highly recommend serving it decanted.

My Picks: Crevette, Kefta Tajine


Overall: Right when I walked in to the Casbah, it was like I was back in Marrakech Morocco again. In fact, I thought the space was even more beautifully designed then certain restaurants we visited in Morocco itself. So needless to say, I wasn’t surprised that the food was of the same quality. The owners take great pride in putting their passion in to their cooking and presentation, so you can definitely can see it as well as taste it.
The Casbah
720 11 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 265-9800

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Quick and Easy Chicken Fajitas

>> Friday, December 14, 2012


I remember when I first started venturing in to the realm of ethnic cooking (anything aside from Asian that is), I have to admit that I was guilty of using some prepackaged seasonings like Old El Paco or shake n bake spice mixes. Yes I am still ashamed of it, especially because now that I know how easy it is to create your own mixes, not only does everything taste more flavourful and aromatic but the food itself just seems more appealing overall. Plus, now I can play around and add a bit more of certain spices or remove some that I didn’t think worked that well. It’s really opened up a whole new exploratory world for me. It also made cooking a lot more interesting being able to customize the dish.

Now that I have a good collection of different spices, it has made cooking ethnic dishes a lot easier, especially when you’re at a lost for what to put together for a quick dinner (no more Old El Paco). The following chicken fajita recipe is something that can be cooked super quickly and is easy because it doesn’t need to be marinated ahead of time, but if you did have time to prep and were able to marinate the chicken, you get a deeper level of flavour. Don’t let that stop you from cooking it though if you’re at a bind for time because it’s one of those recipes that work because the flavours really come together during the cooking process itself.


Nutritional Tidbit: Needless to say spices and herbs are known as extremely healthy foods. Paprika and cayenne has been shown to contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can lower the risk of cancer, while coriander can help alleviate bloating and gout. Cilantro has been used to help regulate digestion and other ailments. It’s easy to incorporate spices and herbs in to every dish you’re making by either adding them right to the recipe or even sprinkling them over top your dish!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium bell pepper (any color or mix them up a bit), cored and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 medium onion, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne powder (or a bit more if you like it spicy)
2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps ground cumin
2 tsps paprika
1 lime, juiced
8-10 chicken things, cut in to 1/2 inch strips (or 3-4 chicken breasts cut in to strips)
Salt and pepper
8-10 (6”) Corn or Flour tortillas or you can make your own using this recipe
Guacamole for serving (optional)
Salsa for serving (optional)
Sour cream for serving (optional)


Preparation:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in 1 tbsp of olive or canola oil. Once hot, gently place in the onions and garlic, sautee for 2-3 mins.

Toss in the bell peppers and cook for another 2-3 mins, sprinkle in a bit of salt and pepper. Remove everything from the skillet and set aside.

Meanwhile, add another 1tbsp of olive or canola oil back in to the skillet and once hot add in the chicken, add a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 5 mins.

Add in the all the spices at this time, the chili powder, cayenne, coriander, cumin and paprika. Stir the chicken so all the spices are well distributed.

Add the onion and bell pepper mixture back to the skillet, stir to combine all the ingredients and let all the flavours simmer together.

If you find that the chicken is starting to stick to the skillet, you may need to add a bit of water, 1/4 cup or so to prevent the ingredients from burning.

Continue to cook the mixture until the chicken is no longer pink or until all the liquid starts to evaporate, the less runny the mixture is the easier it will be to assemble the tortillas later on.

Add in a bit more salt and pepper to taste.

Once ready, remove from the heat and sprinkle the cilantro over top.

Heat up the tortillas, either in the oven or in the microwave for a minute or two.

Assemble the warm tortillas with salsa, guacamole and/or sour cream (if using) and serve!

Serves up to 4 people


If you have time to marinate the chicken the day before, in a Ziploc bag or container add in the garlic, chili powder, coriander, cayenne, cumin, paprika, lime juice, good pinch each of salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Whisk together and add in the chicken and turn to coat with the marinade. Seal or cover the chicken and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready cook the peppers and onions as mentioned above, then cook the chicken with all the marinade and add 1/4 cup of water to prevent blackening of the spices. Continue with the recipe as stated.

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Restaurant Review: OEB Breakfast Co.

>> Friday, December 7, 2012


When we wake up on the weekends, the first thing we do is run to the kitchen, open up the fridge and figure out what’s for breakfast. Seldom do we make it out of the house before at least having a snack. As you can imagine, any sort of a wait list or line up would deter us merely because it would lengthen the amount of time between us and the food, especially that early in the morning. Essentially it’s an ‘I want food and I want it now’ type of situation. So how shocked was I, when my husband proposed that we should go have brunch at OEB one weekend. We’ve attempted this several times before to no avail because there was no way we were going to make it standing there in line for 30+ mins. I don’t know how we did it, but it happened and I’m glad to not have missed out on this experience!

Atmosphere: An energetic and bustling dining space with limited seating with a first come first served basis. The décor is bright and fun, really livening up the room, with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee right when you walk through the door.


Price Range: Mid $10s

Food and Drinks: OEB is known for their famous Soul in a Bowl, a brunch-style poutine with poached eggs, potatoes and bacon smothered in their brown butter hollandaise sauce. Variations of the soul in a bowl include avocados and tomatoes or pulled chicken, you can even get it without eggs.

However that shouldn’t be the only reason why you visit OEB. There are many other amazing dishes just as delicious if not more so. The hubby decided to order the Maritime Lobster and Shrimp Scramble, which is only served in limited quantities daily, all dependent on how much fresh seafood they’ve received. If it’s not fresh, they won’t serve it. The butter poached Canadian lobster are scrambles with shrimp, eggs and green onions then served inside a thin crepe topped with brown butter hollandaise. To elevate the plate even more, it’s garnished with French kelp caviar and micro greens!


Although it might sound a bit decadent, the dish was actually quite light. The eggs were fluffy and the seafood was sweet and juicy. Even with the lobster being poached in butter, it wasn’t oily. The hollandaise sauce was what really brought the whole dish together. The crepe would have felt bare otherwise.

As for me, I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth and had the Belgium Waffle with fresh strawberries and raspberries. The waffles are normally served with either fresh strawberries or blueberries or a combo of both, but they were out of blueberries that day and the raspberries were an excellent substitution. Tart and juicy, it was perfect with the super fluffy waffle. Each bite literally melted in my mouth. I barely even had to use any maple syrup. Instead I decided on a side of whipped cream (how can I not?) which was a bit extra cost wise but well worth it. Nothing beats strawberries and whipped cream on waffles.


I wouldn’t have asked for anything more, however having a cup of the Café Umbria americano was the perfect accompaniment to the waffles and it came with a lovely biscotti cookie on the side. For those that don’t want coffee, OEB also has a great selection of Mighty Leaf Teas (one of my favourites is the tropical green tea). If you’re looking for something more to help wake you up, they also serve ‘specialty’ coffees like Baileys and Coffee or Kahlua and French Brandy. Don’t forget that you could also opt for something a bit more like the Morning Glory sparkling wine and orange juice or just go straight for the Bloody Mary.

My Picks: Belgium Waffle, Maritime Lobster and Shrimp Scramble Crepe


Overall: Now that we know what all the waiting is about, it is definitely worth it and I can see why the line up was all the way out the door. The food is fresh and flavourful with plenty of selection to satisfy all your cravings. It really is true, good things do come to those who wait. We might be on to something here. No more scrounging for food first thing in the mornings!

OEB Breakfast Co.
824 Edmonton Trail NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 278-3447
Website: www.eatoeb.com

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