Restaurant Review: Bensonhurst Pizza Co

>> Friday, May 23, 2014

There have been pizza wars around the world for centuries debating whether the thin crust or deep dish pizza pie is king. So for those that can’t decide between the thick Chicago deep dish and the thin New York style, Bensonhurst is a new pizza joint on 17th Ave where you can order the best of both worlds.

Atmosphere: Funky interior design reminiscent of a restaurant in New York’s Meatpacking district with brick feature walls and an opening dining concept.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food & Wine: I’m definitely a thin crust pizza person. I still remember the first time I bit in to my very first Neapolitan styled pizza in Italy and how it had forever changed my perspective on how pizza should be made and eaten. So it was inevitable that my eyes drifted towards all the different flavours of thin crust pizzas Bensonhurst had to offer. However, due to the various styles of thin crust, there was still quite a selection to peruse through. Was I craving the New York style, Neapolitan thin crust or Californian? In the interim while we were deciding we ordered some appetizers to start.

We were looking to try the Spicy Clams N Red Sauce, which was recommended by our server. However it was such a great seller that day, they were unfortunately out of clams and so our server recommended the Bensonhurst Caesar Salad made with romain hearts tossed with fresh herbs, agarlic and lemon aioli and topped with white anchovies. I am a huge fan of anchovies, I find that their brininess accentuates the dishes and helps round out the flavours and completes a dish (when used well). This was the case for the salad. It added a different dimension to the Caesar salad. Especially since the dressing was quite mellow. I like my caesars very garlicky, extremely so, but then again I really enjoy my garlic. My fellow dining companions…you have been warned.

We really wanted to order the Bensonhurst Classic (it came highly recommended), but alas there was only two of us and an 18” pizza meant we couldn’t sample any other flavours. Plus the Capricciosa and F and P Neapolitan style pizzas had already piqued our interest. We found out later that the kitchen is willing to do a half and half pizza if you ask nicely, if they’re off the same section of the menu. The Capricciosa consisted of pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, with mushrooms, onion, black olives and fior di latte mozzarella all on a tomato base. It’s definitely a meat lover’s dream as described on the menu. A perfect combination of salty, spicy and tanginess, the flavours melded well together. The crust was light and fluffy, not quite as chewy as others I’ve had but held up well against the tomato sauce and never became soggy.

The F and P featured sweet fig jam, prosciutto and gorgonzola cheese topped with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. I really enjoy sweet and salty combinations on pizza and the fig and prosciutto was a nice complement to each other. However, I did find that I was going back more to the capricciosa. It might be because I’ve always been a fan of meat lover’s pizzas.

For dessert we ordered the Beignets topped with a light dusting of icing sugar and accompanied by a side of melted chocolate nutella for dipping. The beignets were extremely light and even though they were deep fried, I didn’t find them greasy or heavy. The chocolate nutella was heavenly, not overly too sweet, it was delicious even on its own. We also ordered some ice cream on the side because dessert is always elevated with ice cream in my books. Nothing is better than doughy goodness with a hint of creamy cooling ice cream.

Evolution was our wine of choice, which went well with each dish beginning with the appetizer all the way through to dessert. Since the evolution white blend has been a favorite of mine since the first time I tasted it, there’s really no dish that it doesn’t complement in my mind. Light, crisp and medium bodied, it’s perfect for sipping chilled on the patio or with a light pizza or pasta dish.

My Picks: Capricciosa Pizza, Beignets (with a side of ice cream)

Overall: There are so many different selections of pizzas including styles of crusts to satisfy any craving. So if you’re undecided between a real thick pizza pie or one that’s thin and crispy. Go to Bensonhurst where you can order both to your hearts content!

Bensonhurst Pizza Co.
933 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 455-5561

Bensonhurst Pizza Co. on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review: Red Ember

>> Friday, May 9, 2014

Ever since we moved last year it’s been extremely fun exploring places in and around our neighbourhood. During our commute to and from work we notice different stores and restaurants we never saw before and made a mental note to drop by when we could. Since they’re so close now, we didn’t have an excuse not to visit. One of those restaurants was Red Ember on 14 Street. I’m always craving Japanese food, so it didn't take long before we paid a visit.

Atmosphere: Cozy interior featuring dark wood finishings, a bar opening up to the kitchen and a select number of tables, it’s best to make reservations to avoid a wait.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: I always find it hard to narrow down the different types of sushi rolls I’d like to try when ordering at a Japanese restaurant because they all sound so tempting. Add on the appetizer dishes and I’ll always manage to over order. I was craving Gyozas and these fit the bill. They had a chewy outer shell and tasty filling coupled with the dipping sauce, it helped satisfy my hunger for dumplings. We also had the Miso Glazed Black Cod, which is one of my favorite types of fish not to mention the preparation. I’ve always found miso to bring out the sweetness of the black cod and since it’s already a fatty fish, the unctuousness just adds to flavour.

For those that have a penchant for fried foods, the Prawn Tempura was light and fluffy and came as a larger order than expected. Perfect for those that enjoys their deep fried shrimp. I did find the Calamari a bit over dredged in flour and it slightly hindered the taste of the squid itself. I personally prefer a lighter coating on my calamari because I enjoy the chew of the squid.

We ordered a bit off both the classic and signature rolls menu. It’s hard not to get the standard Spicy Tuna Roll, Dynamite Roll and Mango California Rolls. They’re the typical go tos and always a delight. These ones were no different. Each roll was delicious as expected. I enjoyed the traditional use of the siracha for the spicy tuna roll and the crab mix was perfect in the California roll, barring the unripen mango but its winter in Calgary so that was a given.

I quite enjoyed the rolls off their signature menu, especially the Mexican Roll, featuring steamed prawns, crab meat, avocado all topped with jalapeno and spicy mayo. I really like spicy food and tend to gravitate towards sushi rolls that provide that bit of zing. It’s also rare to find the steamed prawns rather than tempura prawns which also makes the roll a slightly healthier choice (minus the spicy mayo).

The Caterpillar Roll was interesting featuring baked smoked salmon with onion, avocado and seaweed salad. I found it quite inventive to include onion and seaweed salad in a roll. It added a different texture and additional sweetness which layered on additional flavours especially when combined with the satly smoked salmon and tanginess of the sushi rice. Another roll that also had interesting textures were the Kamikaze Roll made with special scallop (mayo and scallop), tempura flakes and tobiko all wrapped with tuna. The bits of tempura added a nice crunch to the roll and provided a nice texture contrast. It was reminiscent of a dynamite roll but perfect for those who aren’t fans of or can’t eat shrimp (yes there really is a shrimp allergy).

My Picks: Mexican Roll, Kamikaze Roll

Overall: It’s been extremely fun exploring new restaurants in and around the area that we live. Knowing all the available options we have nearby made it quite exciting. I always enjoy trying new places and it's great that there's something close by so we don't have to go far whenever we get that sushi craving again. Especially since I know exactly which rolls and dishes to order!

Red Ember
609 14 Street NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 453-0577

Red Ember Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon


Touchdown in Sydney

>> Thursday, May 1, 2014

For as long as I could remember, an item on the top of my bucket list was to touch all of the continents on Earth. On a whim last year we decided to do just that and booked a trip to Australia since it was the last continent I needed to visit. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only did we miss the brutally cold winter months of Calgary, but we were able to visit and meet up with friends along our trip making for wonderful memories.

We were lucky enough to spend 3 whole weeks in Australia, starting off exploring their most well-known city, Sydney. After a day layover in Los Angeles and a 15 hour flight, we finally arrived in Australia and didn’t want to miss a minute of it. After quickly dropping off our belongings at the hotel, we immediately left to wander the streets. Plus, at this point we were so jet lagged there was really no point in resting since we probably couldn’t sleep anyhow. Lucky for us, our hotel was on George Street near Central Station making everything extremely close either by foot or the metro.

After a couple minutes of walking we realized that we were extremely close to Chinatown and the Darling Harbour front. I would definitely recommend Darling Harbour if you’re looking for a nice place to have dinner. There are many great restaurant selections alongside the boardwalk overlooking the harbour or if you’re looking for something a bit more unique, there are many restaurants hidden in the streets nearby like Momofuku!

One place we couldn’t miss was the Sydney Fish Market. A great place to pick up fresh seafood for locals, it’s also the perfect lunch location for tourists. Just be warned that there are lots of tour busses that stopover there, so try to go when it isn’t peak times to avoid the long lines. The fish market is a seafood lover’s dream (my husband was speechless for a good hour). Housing everything from fresh fish, shrimp, lobsters, crabs and more! You can’t go wrong picking anything you need to make a fresh seafood feast. There are also many restaurants and cafes located within which cook up all the amazing seafood that’s sold there. My favorite were the oysters, since they sell varieties that aren’t normally served here in Calgary it was fun just to sample all the different selections they had that day.

Probably the most famous location is the Sydney Harbour front, flanked by the architectural marvel of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s probably the most visited spot in Sydney. I really enjoyed strolling along the boardwalk or grabbing a coffee at one of the many cafes alongside and people watching. Due to our schedule we weren’t able to fit in a show at the Opera House but did the tour instead. I highly recommend it because they provide the history and back story to how the opera house came to be. Plus they walk you to several areas that aren’t normally seen by people attending the shows. Opposite to the Sydney Opera House is the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, built 1932 the arched steel bridge is famous for the amazing fireworks displays during special holidays like New Year’s Eve. Next to the bridge you’ll find Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood, the Rocks. This historical area now houses many restaurants and bars. If you have time, you can also join walking tours which provide great insight in to the first settlers of Sydney.

We couldn’t wait to hit the beach and head out to Bondi on our second day. Full of surfers and sun tanners, Bondi is one of Sydney’s most famous beaches with many well-known restaurants bordering its shores. Sean’s Panorama is a great little spot overlooking the shoreline boasting some amazing local seafood. It’s not only a must visit for tourists but also locals alike. From the restaurant, you can stroll down to the boardwalk and stroll along the coastline that connects various beaches and alcoves along the way. The full path takes roughly 2 hours and also a great place for a morning run due to the breathtaking scenery.

If you’re in Sydney for a couple days, I suggest taking one of the many fairies to one of the nearby islands. Located roughly 45 mins by ferry from Sydney’s harbour, Manly is a beach comprised of three sections. The local attractions include, kayaking, shopping, surfing and many amazing restaurants. We decided to visit Manly Wharf aside from its beautiful beach was because of Hugo’s Manly Pizzeria and Bar. Voted Sydney’s top pizza bar time and time again, it was hard not to make a point of stopping by. We ordered of the Chorizo and Garlic Pizzas and they were both spectacular. I’ve never had pizza so thin and crunchy before, Hugo’s pizza are crustless so the toppings are fully loaded to the edge of the pizza, add on the amazing view and one can probably stay there all day! After visiting Sydney, I couldn’t wait to hop to our next stop in Australia. Now I can successfully scratch that off my bucket list!

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