Restaurant Review: Ristorante Pulcinella

>> Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kensington is a great place to stroll around during the summer months and with the weather warming up I’m really looking forward to doing just that. It really is a bonus to also have lots of restaurants just around the corner..or more so on every corner. There are so many choices when it comes to dining options in Kensington that it’s hard to pick and choose where to go. So I’m not surprised that I’ve yet to make my way down to Pulcinella until my friend brought it up one day. Since I’m usually in other parts of downtown, when I was in Kensington last, I made it a point to drop by.
Atmosphere: Open dining area with modern ristorante decor yet keeping a casual Italian trattoria vibe.

Price Range: Mid $10s – Mid $20s

Food and Wine: We were there for a pretty early dinner that evening, which meant we got one of the coveted tables by the window. After ordering our drinks (I recommend starting with a prosecco..or two), we decided on some appetizers to start. We had the Calamari Fritti and Tuscan Bruschetta. The calamari was very lightly breaded and coated in a spicy lemon tomato sauce. I really enjoyed the bit of spice that lingered afterwards.

The Tuscan Bruschetta is a great dish for sharing. It came with three good sized portions of their house pizza dough topped with tomatoes, olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, and roasted peppers all drizzled with olive oil. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy with the addition of olives and capers giving it that additional tanginess, which brought the dish to a different level, making it not your usual Bruschetta.

We were in the mood for pizza and I was intrigued by their forno oven, so we ordered the Capricciosa to share. My girlfriend and I were both craving different ingredients, which all so happened to land on this one pizza. Fully loaded with mushrooms, prosciutto, olives and artichokes, the only thing I could think of that would bring it up another notch would be to add some truffle oil (what doesn’t taste better with truffles?)! I did find the pizza to be a bit doughier in the middle than what I’m used to because I prefer my pizza dough to be on the crunchier or crispy side, but I did enjoy the toppings and the smoky flavour infused in to the pizza from the forno baking process.

For dessert we shared the Fresh Unbaked Cheesecake topped with a slightly sweetened fresh berry coulis. The texture of the cheesecake is a bit lighter than the conventional baked cheesecakes. Since it’s unbaked, it has a whipped cream cheese mouthfeel. The berries overtop were a nice contrast providing a bit of both sweet and sour to the cheesecake, which can be muted if you just eat it alone. Since I’m not in to overly sweet desserts, the cheesecake was a nice way to end our meal.

My Pick: Calamari Fritti

Overall: With so many great restaurants in Kensington, it’s always hard to pick and choose where you want to go and what you want to try. Pulcinella is a great space to people watch (I have some friends to go there for that specific reason) while sipping on some great beverages and sampling some delicious appies. I’ve also been told they’ve got a great patio in the summer. So why not stroll over?

1147 Kensington Crescent NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 283-1166

Ristorante Pulcinella on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review: Roosevelt

>> Thursday, April 11, 2013

A new trend has seemingly taken off recently. Amazing new diners focusing on sandwiches are starting to pop up in many different cities. No longer is the focus on just the mighty burger, but people are starting to crave a well made porchetta or smoked meat sandwich as well. Calgary is no different, enter Roosevelt a new restaurant that features just that, delicious sandwiches (well..they have burgers too).

Atmosphere: A new aged diner featuring a large open kitchen and dining area. A great place to hang out for lunch or even for a pre / post dinner drink.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food & Drinks: When we first stepped in to Roosevelt, no word of a lie, my husband’s first words were, “have we been here before?” seeing as that was our first time there...No was the answer. However, the design of the interior just reminded him of Roosevelt’s sister restaurant 80th & Ivy, which can be found just further down 17th Ave. With the high bar tables and lighting fixtures, I too thought it reminded me of the bar area at 80th.

Aside from the interior however, the food menu is very different. Roosevelt’s focus is more on sandwiches and diner type fare. We started with the Down South Salad, which is probably the lightest tasting take on a taco salad that I’ve had for a while. Featuring fresh crisp greens with cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, feta, black beans, topped with blistered jalapeno vinaigrette, crisp tortillas and a side of avocado relish. It sure does sound like a lot but it all works well together. The tortillas providing the crunch that compliments the creamy avocado, if Roosevelt continues to churn out salads like this, then I can definitely see myself straying away from the sandwiches and ordering salads for lunch, which is extremely rare.

I was intrigued by the Mediterranean Cured Meat Sandwich, featuring Spanish ham, soppressata, marinated eggplant, rosted peppers and a creamy goat cheese spread. Since I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese (gasp, yes I know…I tried, but I just can’t do it) so instead they were extremely accommodating and offered a creamy mayo spread instead. The sandwich all comes on a fresh ciabatta bun along with a side of fries, soup or salad. There was a good amount of cured meat in the sandwich, which could have gotten a bit salty but I found the creamy mayo helped mellow it out without taking away the amazing flavours of the different types of meat. I decided to splurge that day and got an order of their fries, which came with house made ketchup. They were extremely crispy, just the way I like it, perfect pairing with a good sandwich.

The hubby ordered the Smoked Meat Sandwich, as the name suggest, is slices of smoked meat layered with caramelized onions, braised cabbage and topped with gruyere cheese and mustard all between slices of rye bread. We didn’t find that the meat had much smoke flavour, but it was still tasty due to the bit of fat that helped prevent the sandwich from becoming dry. We got a side of the cream of broccoli soup. It was tasty and not overly salty or heavy (often happens to cream based soups), it was a nice compliment to the plate.

For dessert it was hard not to succumb to the Coconut Cream Pie, featuring toasted coconut layered over top a creamy center and crispy crust, served with a vanilla whip cream on the side. Each bite was just as amazing as the first. Not overly sweet, but enough to satiate your dessert craving. The pie was full of coconut goodness and it was definitely a good sized portion of pie.

My Picks: Mediterranean Cured Meat Sandwich, Coconut Cream Pie

Overall: Long gone is the pub food that used to be Classic Jack’s (the lounge that use to occupy the same space), instead replaced by fresh salads and sandwiches for both the lunch crowd or those looking for a quick snack. With a nice selection of drinks and beverages that accompany their menu, I’m looking forward to going back and checking out the other items on the menu…oh and the brunch!

933 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 719-9330

Roosevelt on Urbanspoon


Mendoza - the Argentine Wine Country

>> Monday, April 8, 2013

Now that Calgary is on the cusp of spring (we’ve actually been getting some pretty decent weather the last couple weeks). It’s got me thinking of the countries down South that are beginning their fall, specifically Argentina and Chile, which I was lucky enough to visit at the end of last year. Autumn means grape harvest and wine production time for those countries and while we were in Mendoza, Argentina last year we had the opportunity to visit some beautiful wineries.

Once you land in Mendoza, the first couple things you see is all the wine barrels they display in the airport and along the side of the road welcoming you to their wine country. The city of Mendoza itself isn’t overly large, but the greater Mendoza area, which includes the Maipu region, making it the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country and they produce 70% of the country’s wine.

The city is made up of four different plazas situated around the centre Plaza Independencia, which is also the largest. To the west there is Plaza San Martin and Plaza San Lorenzo. To the east is Plaza Italia and Plaza Chile. Each plaza is designed differently to represent its name. It was wonder roaming around the city and admiring the differences of each.

For most travelers that come to Mendoza (I’m talking 99.9% if not more), it’s the wine that draws them in. You can easily sign on to wine tours through the hotel or hostel you’re staying at. They run daily and the main regions they go to include the Maipu and Lujan regions. The tour we took drove us to the Maipu area where we visited a large commercial winery and contrasted it with a small family owned winery. Both specializing in Malbec grapes but also producing other varietals. It was amazing being able to compare the large vats of wine in the commercial winery to the small hand powered machinery used in the smaller winery. After the tour of the winery we were always provided a tasting to showcase the wines produced at each. It was hard to only buy a couple bottles since they were all so delicious, plus the price couldn’t be beat!

As part of the winery tours you also have the option to visit an olive oil factory, which we did. It was eye opening the amount of olives required to get just one bottle of olive oil. At the sampling, we were treated to both flavoured oils and oils that weren’t fully filtered giving the olive oil a cloudy appearance. When you taste that particular type of olive oil, the unfiltered oil provides a lingering grassy taste, which can’t be found at your typical grocery stores. It was definitely my favorite, although the garlic olive oil was hard to beat as well.

There are many different resorts located in the maipu region where you can stay and enjoy everything the wineries have to offer including spa getaways and amazing dinners. But if you’re not there just for the wine, Mendoza is also located just east of the amazing Andes Mountains. We decided to join another day tour which took us trekking through the Andes and we also go to repel down beside a 40 ft waterfall. Although the Andes Mountains aren’t quite the same as the Rockies (they’ll forever be my favourite mountain range), it was nice to compare and contrast the differences between the two. After the trek we decided to stay mid mountain and treat ourselves to a lovely Argentinean lunch along with a bottle of Malbec (of course).

Talking about food, there area some amazing restaurants that we were able to visit and during the summer months in Mendoza the main street to people watch while enjoying a bite is definitely Ave Sarmiento. Argentineans enjoy their offal (innards) as much as their meats so I highly recommend it when you’re in the country. At Patrona, they offer a mixed grill featuring beef, pork, chicken and offal meats. It’s a perfect size to share amongst two people.

A famous wine bar in Mendoza is The Vines of Mendoza, where you’re able to mix and match different wine varietals and possibly even create your own wine. At the Park Hyatt, they do a feature of food and wine pairings each week where you get unlimited tapas once you pay for the wine tasting. It’s a great way to relax while comparing and contrasting the different wines they have featured with each course. The hotel and restaurant itself was amazing and shouldn’t be missed.

One thing I am missing the most right now is the amazing wines that are being produced in the countries south of the equator. Now that we’re fully headed in to spring and soon enough summer (fingers crossed), the South American countries are in full wine production mode. It’ll only be a matter of time before the bottles are shipped north so we too can enjoy their harvest. However, there will always be those special wineries that do not ship their wines up north and those are the ones that I will truly miss. I guess it just means it’s time to book another wine vacation…right?

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