Restaurant Review: Q Haute Cuisine

>> Friday, May 31, 2013


Now that the weather is starting to warm up, it’s been great getting out for a few runs and freeing myself from the dull indoor treadmill. The best part about running outside, aside from the much needed vitamin D, is the view. One of my favorite running locations in Calgary is along the Bow River pathway. On one of these runs, I realized that I passed by the old La Caille on the Bow restaurant, which has been Q Haute for a number of years now. I remembered how much I enjoyed my meals at both La Caille and Q Haute. So feeling nostalgic I figured it has been far too long since I’ve paid them a visit.

Atmosphere: An elegant and bright dining area with beautiful views of Princess Island Park and the Bow River.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $40+

Food & Wine: We went specifically for the Chef’s Tasting Menu that evening. It’s hard not to get the full experience when at Q Haute because of the care and attention Chef Michele puts in to the progression of the meal.


The evening began with a light Spinach Egg Yolk with fig and bacon dust, which had a very unique texture due to the yolk being formed using molecular gastronomy. Once you pop the yolk, you can really get a sense of the spinach flavours coming through. Alongside, we also had a goat cheese and orange jam amuse, creamy yet tangy to contrast the crunch of the crackers along side. Next we were presented with Buckwheat Bellini’s served with cantaloupe caviar. I really enjoyed the presentation of this dish. The caviar was very whimsical, light and also provided interesting texture to the bellinis. All this and we had just begun our dining journey.

Our first course was the Mushroom Truffle Terrine wrapped with cucumber and served with seasonal vegetables. The plate was almost too pretty to eat, but I could only hold off so long. The terrine was very intriguing in flavour and texture. It reminded me of a specific a Chinese dessert with a kick of truffle at the end. The consistency of the terrine was similar to a jelly. I would have really like a bit of crunch in this dish to add a slight contrast, although the veggies were a nice addition.


The second course of the evening was a rich and creamy Risotto featuring peas, shrimp and tuna. I never would have thought those ingredients would go so well together, but they did. It was one of my most favorite dishes because the flavours were all very well balanced. The risotto itself was cooked perfectly and I was definitely craving for more after it was done.

Next was our main, the Beef Tenderloin served with a quail stuffed sausage, artichokes and pickled asparagus. Another beautifully presented plate, however the taste of the dish was even more phenomenal. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly, remaining moist and tender with just the right amount of au jus and creamy mashed potatoes to kick up the flavour profile (who am I kidding..I would have probably eaten a bowlful of just the mashed potatoes). It was also a treat to taste quail, which is a meat that isn’t used enough in restaurants but yet has amazing robust flavours. Alongside our main we were also served croquettes, peas and ramps. Everything was just perfectly paired.


To end our meal we had a trinity of desserts. First being a Honey Cream Lollipop with Orange made straight off the antigriddle (I need to get one of those). It literally was a melt in your mouth treat to prep us for the decadent Chocolate Ganache Cake. The cake was served with a tableside presentation of nitrogen made pistachio ice cream. Since the ice cream is made using liquid nitrogen as opposed to the traditional method, it produced a very unique outer shell with a lighter creamy interior. The ganache was very decadent, perfect for the chocolate aficionado. We also got to sample the banana liquid nitrogen ice cream and I believe everyone at the table preferred the pistachio because it had a nice nutty flavour, whereas the banana seemed to have gotten lost in the freezing process.


Our very last treats included perfectly formed Apple Macarons, velvety Chocolate Truffles and tart Beet Lollipops, all culminating in a fabulous end to our amazing dining journey.

In addition to each course we were served amazing wine pairings selected by the restaurant that evening. Q Haute offers those pairings to any Chef’s Tasting menu, just ask your server.

My Picks: Risotto, Beef Tenderloin


Overall: Not only is the view from the restaurant a beautiful one, but the food is equally as pleasing to the eye (and stomach). Chef Michele has truly captured the stunning ingredients on his plates by utilizing seasonal items to highlight their flavours. Add in a bit of molecular gastronomy and each dish is made even more glamorous.
Q Haute Cuisine
100 La Caille Pl SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 262-5554
Website: www.qhautecuisine.com

Q Haute Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Mini Falafels

>> Friday, May 24, 2013


Lately I’ve been testing out some vegetarian dishes to balance out the protein heavy meals we’ve been consuming while we’re out. I thoroughly enjoy my steaks, pork and most of all chicken, so sometimes I find it hard to eat vegetarian and be satisfied. But lucky for me, I had some chickpeas lying around one and wanted to try making something aside from my usual hummus.


After a bit of searching on the internet I found an interesting baked falafel recipe. Falafels are said to be healthy since they’re fully vegetarian, but since they’re normally fried, it really takes away from that aspect. So I was pretty intrigued by a baked version.


What I found was the falafels were just as satisfying without feeling heavy afterwards due to the grease from the frying process. My husband even mentioned that he would prefer eating them this way as opposed to the falafels we’re used to. That was enough to make me want to share the recipe with all. I’ve changed the original recipe a bit. I like the spices a bit stronger, therefore I’ve upped their amounts, but you can find the original recipes here.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Falafel Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained or you can use 1/2 cup dried chickpeas and boil them ahead of time
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps ground cumin
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped (cut down to 1 tbsp if using dried parsley)


Falafel Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425ºF, prepare a baking sheet.

In a food processor, add the chickpeas, chopped onion and minced garlic. Pulse for 1-2 mins until combined, remember to scrape down the sides of the food processor. The mixture shouldn’t be smooth like hummus but still a bit coarse.

Add in the cumin, coriander, salt, cilantro and parsley. Pulse for 15-30 secs until everything is incorporated. Remember to taste everything!

Form the mixture in to small 1 inch sized balls and place on the baking sheet.

Place in oven and bake for 15 mins, flip them and bake for another 15 mins or until the exterior becomes brown and crispy, but not burnt.
Meanwhile, assemble the ingredients for the pita.


Pita Ingredients:
Mini pitas
Hummus
Tomatoes, sliced
Lettuce
Cilantro
Onions, sliced

Pita Preparation:

Once the falafels are ready, in a small pita spread a bit of hummus on the side.

Add in tomatoes, onions, lettuce, place a falafel ball in the middle, top with cilantro and Tzatziki.

Serve and enjoy!

Makes roughly 24 mini pitas.

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Restaurant Review: Xocolat

>> Friday, May 17, 2013


Earlier this year I’ve started to take Spanish lessons and it’s been quite a blast. People have told me that learning Spanish is easier when you know French, but unfortunately for me, I stopped French classes after Grade 7 and that was a loooong time ago. What I have found is that knowing Mandarin and the pin yin system has actually helped because the pronunciation of the alphabet in Spanish is quite similar to pin yin. Who knew right? So it was quite interesting to find myself speaking Spanish at the new Mexican restaurant, Xocolat, where the waiter was very a great sounding board for my elementary Spanish.

Atmosphere: Elegant and posh interior highlighted by splashes of fushia to create an avant garde dining environment.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+


Food and Wine: I was extremely excited to try Xocolat ever since the attending their opening event. It’s nice to see a Mexican restaurant go beyond your typical burrito and highlight dishes that are more local and authentic. After being greeted by the owners (they try to stop by every table), he also suggested we try several of their popular dishes and so we did!

Starting with the Trio de Mariscos appetizer, there were three types of seafood which is cooked by using citrus, like a ceviche. The shrimp was served with a cucumber gelee formed using molecular gastronomy, the octopus was paired with a cilantro salsa and the scallop topped with pineapple. My favorite was the shrimp, it was sweet and the cucumber gelee added an interesting texture. Since Calgary is land locked, the seafood can just never quite compare to cities by the sea and unfortunately I think that really took away from the flavours in this appetizer, which had an interesting concept.


I was really excited about my entrée, the Mole de olla. It’s a braised short rib served with a pretty (the color just pops) carrot puree, guajillo sauce (chili peppers) and veggies. The short rib was extremely tender and had lots of flavour. I really enjoyed the creamy smooth carrot puree, adding just the right amount of sweetness to contrast the guajillo sauce which wasn’t spicy but more provided umami to the dish.

The hubby ordered the Puero Pibil, which had pork two ways, a pork belly and pork shoulder served over a black bean puree and garnished with a bit of green onion. The pork belly didn’t have the typical sear we expected but was served more in a braised form. It’s different but in this case it worked because the braised pork shoulder ended up being a bit on the drier side. So a bit of the belly and shoulder together balanced things out.


For dessert we decided to go with a decadent one, Churros with chocolate and a refreshing one, the Tequila mousse. The tequila dessert is quite a sight. The outer shell is formed using molecular gastronomy, which is filled with a light tequila mousse. You’re meant to break the shell and mix it in with the mousse to get a combination of flavours and textures making for a very interesting mix. As for the churros, they’re not quite the traditional churros but a bit doughier, which I enjoyed. They come with a silky chocolate sauce on the side so you can choose to dip your churros or not, but who doesn’t!


We decided on the La Crema Pinot Noir that evening, which is one of my favorite pinots. It’s light but still has a rich, smooth finish. The owner mentioned that it’s a great pairing for Mexican food because it doesn’t overwhelm the flavours nor does it get muted by the robustness of their cuisine. It is also a great wine just for sipping, if you weren’t enjoying it with a meal.


My Pick: Mole de Olla

Overall: It’s really nice to see a Mexican restaurant serving true Mexican food, yet it’s not so traditional that you’re just expecting plain mole on a plate. They’re changing things up with molecular gastronomy and different flavour combinations, using a bit of the old and a bit of the new to create dishes that are unique and exciting. Combine that with the distinctive dining environment and great cocktails, sounds like a great place for me to go practice my Spanish. Yo necessito practicar espanol!

Xocolat
816 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 264-6555
Website: www.xocolat.ca

Xocolat on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Bonterra Trattoria

>> Thursday, May 9, 2013



With the weather warming up in the city, patio season is seemingly in full swing. Driving down 17th Ave you can see how busy it is and how hard it is to get a table outside. It’s great to enjoy the hustle and bustle of that area, but when I just want to relax and really put my feet up, I swing by Bonterra. They have an amazing hidden patio just off of 10th Ave and a nice menu selection to accompany the ambiance.

Atmosphere: A patio reminiscent of an Italian courtyard in the countryside of Tuscany with the interior boasting an open dining area with heightened ceilings and brick façades.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food & Wine: It’s hard not to pick at the breadsticks sitting at the table waiting for our food to arrive, but they’re just so good. I can easily go through a whole jar full. Luckily the waiter stopped by and dropped off some amazingly fluffy focaccia, taking my attention away from nibbling on the breadsticks…for a while anyhow. The focaccia was remarkably soft and went amazingly very well with the herb infused olive oil. I probably could have just eaten focaccia and olive oil all evening with a few bites of breadsticks to cleanse my palate (yes, I enjoy my carbs).


For our antipasti dish we had the grilled calamari served over a bed of fresh spinach and sun dried tomatoes topped with olives, roasted almonds and golden raisins, drizzled with olive oil. It was a nicely well rounded dish, perfectly spiced with a hint of sweetness that lingered at the end. A very refreshing way to start the meal and a nice twist on calamari, where many places tend to deep fry them, the way it was served here it retained its flavour while remaining tender.

We had the Gnocchi di Ceci as the pasta dish, served with spicy lamb merguez sausage, chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes, fennel and topped with plenty of fresh ricotta. The gnocchi was soft and doughy with the accompaniments providing a punch of flavour. I did find the merguez a bit strong after a couple bites so I’d recommend sharing the dish if you enjoy milder flavours.


As a secondi, we ordered the Tonno, which is fresh tombo tuna seared on the outside to a medium rare on the inside and served over top cous cous, cipollini onions, pistachios, sundried tomatoes and paired with a bit of quince jam. The tuna itself was cooked perfectly, with a charred smokiness due to the grilling process. The taste reminded me of flame broiled sushi I’ve had before. The cous cous was cooked al dente, which slightly less done then what I’m used to so it was a bit of an adjustment for me, seeing as it is an Italian restaurant I wasn’t surprised. I suggest getting a bit of the sundried tomatoes and cous cous with the quince for added sweetness and pistachio for crunch in each bite to really balance out the flavours.

To end our meal we shared the Cheesecake with lemon coulis and blackberry compote. The cheesecake itself is more traditional, which is a bit richer in texture, without being overly heavy. I enjoy creamier cheesecakes, so this one definitely fit the bill. It’s smooth and velvety with a nice amount of sweetness. Nothing pairs better with cheesecake then a good fruit compote, a simple yet decadent way to end the meal.

The server recommended I try the Costanza wine by Castello Romitorio that evening to pair with all the seafood we were having. It’s a vermentino chardonnay blend with lots of fresh fruit aromas. Not overly sweet, with a dry finish. It paired very nicely with the calamari dish and the smokiness of the tuna.


My Pick: Calamari

Overall: Always an enjoyable meal at Bonterra, the experience is heightened when you relax in their patio. Off the beaten path but an oasis in itself, its one of the few hidden escapes within Calgary. Although word is starting to get out, so be sure to get there early because you can’t reserve seats in the patio!

Bonterra Trattoria
1016 8 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 262-8480
Website: www.bonterra.ca

Bonterra Trattoria on Urbanspoon

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Banff Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Fest - Tickets Giveaway!

>> Monday, May 6, 2013


The Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival, which is being held in Banff on May 10 & 11, 2012 at the Fairmont Banff Springs again this year! It’s a great time to sample the best that Banff has to offer along side some amazing wines and spirits. Even better with this amazing weather we’re having lately.

I have a set of tickets to give away for the Friday May 10th from 7-10pm session (they are entrance tickets only, sampling tickets will need to be purchased). Please let me know if you’re interested in the draw by replying to this post or send me a tweet (@scrumpfitfood). I will announce the winner this Wednesday.

For those who are interested in attending the other sessions, I’ve posted additional information below. The tickets to the events are selling out fast (Saturday evening session already sold out), so be sure to pick them up soon!

THE BANFF ROCKY MOUNTAIN WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL RETURNS TO THE ROCKIES

Banff’s largest wine and food Festival is taking place at the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs

WHAT: The Bow Valley’s favourite wine and food event is celebrating another gourmet weekend in the Rockies. The Banff Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival invites guests to sample from a wide array of wine, scotch, beer and other libations, paired with delicious food samples. Wine and beverage experts will be available to share their knowledge and suggest tasting notes as attendees sample their way from booth to booth. The Grand Tasting Hall will feature the best cuisine that Banff restaurants and eateries have to offer including samples from The Bison Restaurant & Terrace, Rimrock Resort Hotel, Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Balkan - The Greek Restaurant, Bear Hill Brewing Company, and many more. Liquor Depot will once again feature an on-site liquor store, where attendees can purchase their favourite finds. Liquor Connect will also be available to demonstrate how LiquorConnect.com can help locate all liquor products offered at the Festival in stores across the province.

WHO: Wine, spirit and beer enthusiasts as well as food lovers with healthy appetites will unite to indulge in a tasty selection of mouth-watering delights. The Festival offers a weekend of fresh mountain air and the chance to enjoy a fun outing with friends or loved ones, while discovering new favourite food and beverage products. The Festival is also the perfect setting for those looking for a special Mother’s Day weekend activity. 

WHY: To celebrate the art of food and beverage creations brought to light by talented Banff and area restaurants, hotels and food purveyors, as well as wine, spirit and beer providers. The Festival presents Albertans with an exclusive weekend of indulgence, sampling and savouring in the Rocky Mountains. 

WHEN: May 10, 2013 7-10 p.m. Friday Evening Session
               May 11, 2013 2-5 p.m. Saturday Afternoon Session
               May 11, 2013 7-10 p.m. Saturday Evening Session Sold out!

WHERE: The Fairmont Banff Springs
Conference CentreVan Horne Ballroom,
President’s Hall & Concourse
405 Spray Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1J4

Tickets are available online at rockymountainwine.com. Sampling coupons are required for sampling and can only be purchased onsite.

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Banh Mi Subs Made Healthy

>> Thursday, May 2, 2013


Banh mi sandwiches have been quite the rage these last couple years because it is truly one of the few foods that have existed way before the whole fusion movement. One could say it’s one of the original fusion foods. Made with different types of cured meats, layered with Asian pickled vegetables, jalapenos, cilantro and all stuffed inside a crispy French baguette. Nobody can deny that it makes a tasty combo. However, it’s not exactly the healthiest for you due to the processed meats, pate, mayo etc that’s added in for flavour and not for health. The good news is its extremely easy to switch out ingredients to make it healthy yet not lose the tastiness of the sandwich.

Many (especially food trucks) have taken this twist on the banh mi sandwich to a whole new level with creations such as satay, vegetarian, grilled chicken, really…anything goes! So I decided to play around with several simple yet quick recipes to find my own healthier version and came up with the following. It works for either when you have a bit of preparation time or if you’re in a bind but still craving a homemade viet sub, but note, it’s still quite time consuming so I wouldn’t recommend it for a 20 min dinner occasion (yes we all have those nights…).


Pickled Vegetable Ingredients:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup carrots, cut
1/4 cup white daikon, cut
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced

Pickled Vegetable Preparation:

In a sauce pan, mix together rice vinegar, water, and white sugar.

Set over medium heat and bring it to a slow simmer. Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Combine the carrots, daikon and onions in a medium sized bowl. One that is large enough to submerge all the vegetables in the vinegar mixture.

When the vinegar has cooled down, pour it on the vegetables until they’re fully submerged.

Set aside for at least 30 mins, but better if it can be left overnight for the flavours to really penetrate. Place plastic wrap over the mixture and put it in the fridge overnight.

When ready for use, pour out the vinegar and set the veggies aside.

Pork Ingredients:
1lb pork tenderloin or boneless pork chop
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chili garlic sauce (optional)

Pork Preparation:

Cut the pork tenderloin or pork chop in to slices.

In a bowl, combine the garlic, dark and light soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, sugar and chili sauce (if using).

Allow the pork to marinate at least 30 mins or overnight if possible.

Once ready, heat a pan or wok, pour in a bit of oil (~1 tbsp), add the pork and allow it to brown a bit. Turn down the heat if the pork browns too quickly. It needs to cook through evenly so the center also cooks without just burning the exterior.

Taste and adjust with a bit of salt and pepper if necessary. Continue to cook the pork until the juices evaporate.

Set aside and allow it to cool slightly.


Banh Mi Ingredients:
French baguette
Light mayonnaise
Cucumber, sliced thinly lengthwise
Cilantro
Jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut thinly

Preparation:

Slice the baguette (highly recommend baking your own baguettes, and I have a great recipe, but I guess that's another blog for another time) lengthwise but not all the way through, open it up and slightly toast it for 2 mins or so.

Once ready, spread the baguette with a bit of light mayo.

Add a bit of pork, top with the pickled vegetables, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and a cucumber slice.

Serve and enjoy!

Should make 4 good sized portions!



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