10 Year Anniversary at Catch

>> Wednesday, May 30, 2012


This past weekend was a blur, but in a good way. It felt like we were attending event after event and we truly got to experience all the great things about Calgary. All the foodie things anyhow, like the Eat Real YYC event at Casel Marche, Lilac Festival and Catch’s 10 Year Anniversary Celebration.

I usually drag my husband along to all these events. Although I know secretly inside he can’t wait for me to invite him and I wasn’t surprised at how much fun he had this weekend. Specifically at Catch’s anniversary event! It seemed like they had everything that a great party required. Starting off with a nice glass of bubbly and some truffled popcorn (which I admit to having had more than 2 bags), an assortment of interactive games, where you could win more glasses of wine or bubbly and delicious oysters served with a sweet and spicy sauce or a mignonette. They were very fresh and had just the right amount of salty briny flavour, I probably could have eaten just oysters that evening and been happy, but there was so much more to be had.

It seemed like an endless appetizers were coming from the kitchen the whole time. They served these amazing tempura styled shrimp which were extremely crunchy on the outside which were sweet and juicy on the inside. Perfectly cooked ahi tuna bites and fresh scallop ceviche. I also really enjoyed the creamy lobster bisque, with lots of flavour and I can’t forget the tangy bruschetta. However the star of the event was definitely the seafood tower.


My husband loves seafood, so we were both in awe of everything that was served on the tower, lobsters, snow crab claws, mussels, clams, and shrimp. You name it, it was there…with different sauces to sample and savour. It was a bit awkward at first to grab half a lobster and put it on your plate, however after looking at all the others that were digging in, I couldn’t hold back much longer. Regardless, it was an interesting sight. Let’s just say I had to work on my balancing skills and I also apologize to those that were sitting nearby when I had to break in to them…with no luck of finding a cracker!

When the band started playing, it was really great seeing everybody get on the dance floor! However, I knew I needed to have a couple more drinks before there was any dancing on my end. Luckily Catch was offering a lovely Pinot Noir, the Meiomi 2010. It was lush and had hints of berry notes throughout. Not too acidic which made it a very nice sipping wine. I never did get the name of the sparkling wine, possibly because I was too busy drinking it, but it was light and complimented the seafood nicely.

All in all it was a great time and I really enjoyed catching up with everybody that attended the event in addition to the food and venue. What a great way to end an amazing weekend, I personally can’t wait to see what Catch will think of for their next big celebration!

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Calgary's La Boulangerie

>> Friday, May 25, 2012


I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for the summer patio season! Just walking down 4th street the other weekend, I noticed all the restaurants setting up their patios and ones that didn’t currently have one, working hard on getting one built asap. That’s when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some very French looking chairs situated along side this new bakery. A glance at the sign and next thing I know I was sitting in one of them at La Boulangerie awaiting the arrival of my food order.

Atmosphere: Patio reminiscent of the bistros of Paris, with a large open interior bakery.

Price Range: $5 - $10s

Food: Ever since my very first trip to France I’ve fallen in love with their pastries and I’ve had a very hard time trying to replicate the experience (there are a few other places in Calgary, message me if you want to know where). So I was extremely excited to have located a bakery that offered up that potential, especially when its name was La Boulangerie. I expected nothing less.


Luckily for me, when I ordered my first croissant, the initial bit was flaky, fully of buttery goodness. It might not have been exactly like Paris but was pretty darn close. I’m sure the butter of France has something to do with that and beyond their control. It seems like I’ve finally found the bakery I was looking for and the mighty croissant can no longer elude me.

So it was only natural that I moved on to other yummy goodies they offered. Their Paris Brest which consists of a choux pastry filled with hazelnut cream is another favorite of mine. The pastry itself was light and fluffy while the cream was not overly sweet and full of hazelnut flavour. My husband, who was at first a skeptic, thinking that it looked a bit heavy was pleasantly surprised and is now a convert.

We also had the chance to try their Chaussons Aux Pommes (Apple Turnovers) and they were not like any ordinary turnover. The apples were soft and perfectly sweeten with lots of cinnamon and spices. It was all wrapped in a buttery puff pastry shell. It felt like I was eating an apple croissant because it was so light and fluffy. A perfect companion to a nice latte or cappuccino, which is also available there!


My Picks: Chaussons Aux Pommes, Almond Croissant

Overall: I think I’ve found my early morning patio hangout for the summer. If you’re nearby 4th be sure to drop by and pick up a couple goodies for the road or enjoy it in the sun, but be prepared to fight for the few coveted tables. It might not be Paris, but it’ll do.

La Boulangerie
2435 4 St SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 973-4824

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Banana Coconut Cake

>> Friday, May 18, 2012


I really felt like baking a cake one day, but I really didn’t want to go to the supermarket. It didn’t take me long to go through my fridge and pantry and come up with the following items: Bananas, Coconut flakes, Marshmallows and Coconut Milk. I decided they could all potentially pull together to form a pretty amazing dessert. So after some soul searching I landed on a Banana Coconut Cake. Eventually removing the marshmallows out of the picture, I’m sure if I tried really hard I could have incorporated them, but I was already too focused on the coconut by then (I get distracted by shiny things).

Who doesn’t love a warm ooey gooey banana cake with decadent and creamy icing? I figured I would take it up a notch and add in coconut milk and flakes to the batter itself, creating additional texture and upping the moistness of the cake. I couldn’t really find a recipe that utilized both bananas and coconut milk so I decided to try a few things, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Lucky for me it was a success and the experiment turned out really well! I could even see this recipe turning in to cupcakes, breads, pound cakes…the opportunities are endless. With a few alterations here and there it can be made to appease the most picky eater. The best part is coconut milk is a healthy ingredient and so is bananas.

Nutrition Tidbit: Coconut milk have been known to help maintain blood sugar levels by preventing the fluctuations of insulin due to the amount of good fats it provides. Along with a good amount of iron and other vitamins it’s a great substitute for those that don’t consume or can’t consume milk (lactose intolerant).

My husband pretty much summed this cake up to be a more decadent version of banana bread. So if you enjoy banana bread or any baked banana goodness, this would be a great cake to try and definitely make it your own. Add in pecans or other nuts, change up the icing (I added a cream cheese icing alternative below). It can truly be made unique. I hope you enjoy it!


Ingredients:

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 bananas
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup shredded coconut

Coconut Icing:
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla

Topping:
2 cups coconut flakes, toasted in oven


Preparation:

For the Cake:Preheat the oven to 350ºF and oil two 9” round cake pans.

Mash the bananas and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Beat the butter, until smooth and slowly add in the brown and white sugar. Continue to beat until combined. It should take roughly 5 mins.

Add in one egg at a time and turn the beater to low. Stir in the mashed bananas.

Slowly add in the flour and coconut milk. Alternating between the two until it all pulls together.

Stir in the coconut flakes.

Divide the batter among the two cake pans and bake for 45 mins or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Set aside and let cool for 15 mins, remove from pan for faster cooling.

For the Icing:
Beat the butter until smooth, slowly add in the powdered sugar until combined.

Add the coconut milk and vanilla and continue to beat until the icing becomes fluffy.

(A good variation to this recipe is using low fat cream cheese to replace half the amount of butter. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth and fluffy and add in the rest of the ingredients)

Putting the Cake Together:
Once the cakes have cooled, cut the tops off of the cakes if they aren’t level.

Ice one layer and stack the second layer over top. Continue to ice the cake all over and once complete sprinkle on the toasted coconut flakes. They should stick to both the top and sides of the cake.

Store in fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Bakes 1 two layered cake.

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Restaurant Review: Without Papers

>> Friday, May 11, 2012


Lately it seems like the basics as in (burgers, pizzas and fries) have really been taken to a whole new level! I'm going to attribute it to the food truck craze which is taking our city by storm. Where ordinary foods have been transformed by the minds of our creative chefs. As a response to the unsatiable appetite for these foods, I’ve noticed more restaurants opening up serving our favourites but with a twist. Just like Without Papers which epitomizes serving great pizza with fun and creative toppings.

Atmosphere: A casual and relaxed environment, a great place to rewind at night. Be sure to grab a table by the window which overlooks the historic and picturesque Inglewood area.

Price Range: $10 - $20

Food and Wine: There are appetizers and calzone options available but we were there for the pizza and that’s where my eyes immediately jumped to on the menu. With all the amazing sounding pizzas it was very tough to decide what we wanted to try (secretly, it was all of them). Luckily I had some recommendations which made things a bit easier.


My friend really enjoyed the Hog Wild which is layered with wild boar sausage, salami, fontina cheese, roasted garlic and rapini. I found the rapini a nice addition, giving the pizza a bitterness amidst all the pork working well with the smoky garlic. The toppings were fairly thin remaining true to an Italian styled pizza, featuring the dough more so then the toppings themselves. I liked the crispy crunchiness of the dough, but did find the crust a bit tough unlike some other places around town that are a bit chewier.

Next up was the Hutch – their best selling pizza. It’s comprised of spicy caccitore salami, spicy calabrese salami, pepperoni and mozzarella. I enjoyed the heat of this pizza and the lingering taste that provided. For those that don’t enjoy hot spicy food definitely beware, but if you’re up for it, I definitely recommend it. Adding a bit more pepper flakes on top ups the ante even more.

Our final third pizza was the Good Girls Gone Bad, with roasted peppers, shallots, tomatoes and layered with fontina and cambozola cheeses. This was our ying to the yang of the Hutch, an all veggie pizza with a bit of spice from the chili flakes. It was light yet flavourful. It provided a nice break from the other meat heavy pizzas that we had. Once of the best tasting vegetarian pizzas I’ve had.


Now that we finally had our fill of dough and toppings, it was time for dessert to round out the evening. After a quick peek at the menu we knew immediately that we’d have to go for the Banana Split. Something cool to end off the spicy night. It normally comes with only one scoop of ice cream but since the flavours sounded so delectable we added a second flavoured scoop. In the end we ended up with a scoop of the Chocolate Banana and one of the Passion Fruit. They were a perfect contrast to one another. The passion fruit was light, almost like a sorbet which was very refreshing. Then you had the chocolate banana which was decadent and creamy. All this was topped with nuts, pineapples and more bananas just like what I remembered from when I was a kid.

Our wine of choice was the Alpha Zeta Valipolicella Ripasso. It was nice and complex, with fruity notes and a fragrant bouquet. Medium bodied and a lingering finish, it was great with both with our meal and even as a drinking wine on its own. So much so that we even order another one for that reason alone.


My Picks: Hutch Pizza

Overall: I’ve been meaning to drop by Without Papers for quite some time now and I’m glad that I did. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. Although I do prefer a chewier crust, I still devoured my share of the pizzas. Since there are so many other flavours as well as appies and calzones on the menu. I’m sure I’ll be finding my way back there to sample some other fun and creative goodies.

Without Papers
Upstairs, 1216 – 9 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 457-1154

Without Papers on Urbanspoon

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Smashburger Opening!

>> Thursday, May 3, 2012


Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the soft opening of Smashburger the newest gourmet burger eatery in town (they officially opened yesterday May 2nd). It was great meeting the representatives who flew up from Denver specifically for the opening, especially the founder Tom Ryan who gave me a bit of the history of Smashburger and why it was named as such.

The name Smashburger came to be from the way the burgers are cooked. Each day the kitchen would prep fresh ground Angus beef (it’s never frozen to ensure that the quality of the meat doesn’t change) and roll them by hand to equal sized portions. When an order is placed, the ground Angus beef will then be put on the grill and smashed down with a specialized tool and held for 10 seconds. This allows the beef to form a caramelized layer, cooking the patty upwards instead of outwards, preventing the juices from leaking out of the beef. At the same time, the metal smasher (as I’m going to call it) sandwiches the meat between two heated surfaces cutting down cooking time by 5 mins. Since the patty doesn’t have to cook as long it doesn’t dry out and you end up with a better tasting burger.


When you walk in to the restaurant it’s a semi fast food, semi serviced style. Where you order first, pick a table and the food will be brought out to you and the tables are bussed and cleaned. The hardest part of the whole process is deciding on what to order, since there are so many options to mix and match. The menu is also based upon the location and since this is their first Canadian location, the menu is customized as such with a Calgary burger, a Saskatoon Berry Milkshake and Poutine as well!

We started with the Mushroom Swiss with garlic sautéed mushrooms, swiss cheese and mayo built on top of their signature patty and sandwiched between an egg bun. The first bite was really good, a nice proportion of cheese to mushrooms and patty to bun. However we all did find it a bit salty after several bites. I’m not sure if it was the meat or the mushrooms on top, but it could have used a bit less salt. Next up was the Spinach and Goat Cheese which we decided to change up and order as a burger instead of chicken. It was very fresh tasting especially with the added spinach, but I did find the goat cheese a bit much for me. So I left the rest for my fellow bloggers, who seemed to enjoy it.


As for sides, we got to try a bunch of different ones. Starting with the Smashfries, which are skinny cut fries tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic. It has good flavour and was nice and crispy. However we all enjoyed the Sweet Potato Smashfries even more, the sweetness of the sweet potato really brought out the rosemary. I also tried a couple of the Fried Pickles since they’re all the rage right now, but I found them a bit too salty for my liking. The poutine was okay, there is a choice between the Traditional Poutine and a Mushroom Poutine. We tried the traditional, not bad, but nothing too special either, maybe we should have opted for the mushroom version.


They were also walking around with milkshake samples and we got to try the Classic Vanilla Milkshake and the Saskatoon Berry Milkshake. All the shakes are made from the famous Mackay’s ice cream with unique flavours like Saskatoon Berry spotlighting Canada. I enjoyed the Vanilla the most, but I’m a sucker for anything vanilla.

It was also refreshing to hear that there are healthier options for those who are conscious about what they eat (there’s also vegetarian and gluten free options too). Although if you’re going to a burger restaurant, I do suggest trying one, everything in moderation! But if you’re under doctor’s orders to eat healthy, then I suggest the Grilled Chicken Menu. I got to try the Avocado Grilled Chicken Club and it was extremely flavourful. The chicken breast was moist and cooked well, not dry which can often happen when ordering a chicken burger. Having the avocado provided the perfect amount of creaminess. Overall a good burger substitute. They also offer Veggie Frites as a side, which are flash fried carrots and peas, a good alternative to your typical sides.


So why did an American chain decide to open in Calgary versus Vancouver and Toronto? Aside from having a strong local economy, it is also very similar to Denver’s. It’s a strategic move and a great starting point. When I asked Tom why he decided to go to the suburbs and away from the downtown core, where one would think a restaurant like this would thrive - catering to professionals – I was surprised with the answer he provided. They wanted to say close to where people lived and not just where they worked. Making it accessible to all and not those that are just downtown.

They’re planning to open 25 stores between Edmonton and Calgary over the next couple years and the second store is already being built in the NW as I write this! So if you don’t get a chance to go try a burger at their location now, don’t worry, they’re coming to you!


Smashburger
4 – 2770, 32 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 250-3156


Smashburger on Urbanspoon

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