Restaurant Review: Test Kitchen

>> Friday, June 20, 2014

My husband recently told me about a new restaurant that opened up in his building and I was surprised to find out that Ric’s Grill and Mimi’s Italian Restaurant were no more. Instead the restaurant that’s currently occupying both spaces is called Test Kitchen. Since his office wasn’t too far away from mine, I figured I’d pop over for a quick lunch one day.

Atmosphere: Large dining areas in the lounge and dining room, featuring large floor to ceiling windows that really allows the natural sunlight in to brighten surroundings.

Price Range: Mid $10 - $20s

Food and Wine: After perusing the menu I really wanted to try both the Short Rib Sliders and the Fish Tacos, so I did just that. Since they were both appetizers I figured they’d be smaller and therefore 2 dishes shouldn’t be an issue. However when the food arrived I realized I was mistaken. The fish tacos themselves could have easily been an entrée dish. They came 3 to an order and were each fairly decent in size. Made with blackened halibut and topped with arugula, avocado, a sweet fruit salsa and drizzled with chili crème fraiche, they were quite delicious. All the ingredients worked well together and created a harmonious dish.

Even though I was starting to feel full after the tacos I couldn’t pass up on the sliders. Featuring braised short ribs in a tangy sauce with frisee greens, pickled onions and swiss cheese all on a mini ciabatta bun, they were perfect for sharing. They come 3 to an order as well and are a perfect appetizer size. The bread to filling ratio was good and you’re still able to taste the short ribs along with all of the accompaniments. I found that they probably didn’t even require the swiss cheese because the sauce itself was nicely flavoured.

My dining companion ordered the Italian Clubhouse which came with genoa, chicken, bacon, tomato, arugula, boccocini cheese and olive tapenade sandwiched between ciabatta. You get a choice of soup, salad or fries and she decided on the daily soup which happened to be creamy tomato that day. The sandwich itself was a good sized portion and the flavours melded well together. The soup was creamy and since they’re made daily it ensures the freshest ingredients are used.

Since we were grabbing a quick bite for the lunch, we weren’t able to sample their wine menu. There seemed to be a fairly decent selection and the servers are more than willing to suggest a wine pairing if you’re interested.

My Pick: Fish Tacos

Overall: Great lunch space! I really enjoyed the large open windows allowing the bright Calgary sun to shine through. The service was quick, perfect for those in a rush during the lunch hour. Test Kitchen is also currently running specialty dinners pairing wine or other liquors with chef selected courses. Be sure to sign up on their website to get all the info!

Test Kitchen
501 2 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 700-2823

Test Kitchen on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review: Galla Winehouse and Bistro

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My friends often complain about their dining experience in Calgary these days and the first thing that comes up is always the service. It seems with our booming economy, restaurants have struggled with finding good help. Therefore I tend not to focus on the service too much when dining out because the food often speaks for itself. However, recently I visited a new restaurant on 17th Ave and had an amazing overall experience. Galla Winehouse and Bistro opened up only a couple of shorts weeks ago in the old Sal’s building and already they have their operations running quite smoothly.

Atmosphere: Newly renovated, the restaurant exudes a casual yet classy feel, a welcomed bistro amongst the pubs within the 17th ave area, perfect for those looking for a romantic space without the rigidity of a high end eatery.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food and Wine: We were extremely lucky that evening because they were featuring a buck a shuck oysters. Galla normally has their buck a shuck on Thursdays however due to the quantity of the delivery they had more than enough for another nightly special, which we benefitted from. The oysters arrived with a strawberry mignonette accompaniment, which was tangy with a slightly sweet after taste. It was a creative change from the norm. However I’m still a huge proponent of a good oyster with tobacco and a squeeze of lemon. They were a great start to our meal especially when complemented by a crisp Prosecco.

We were intrigued by the various Bruschetta selections on their menu and were informed by the server that it was one of their best sellers. It was extremely tough to decide what we wanted to try since they all sounded delectable. We finally agreed on the Smoked Salmon, PLT and Confit Tomatoes over French baguette (you also get to select the bread on which they’re served, gluten free being amongst one of the selections). They were a decent portion size and perfect for sharing. The Smoked Salmon had a pesto spread and was topped with crispy capers, a classic combination. It was salty and tangy, hitting all the right notes. The Confit Tomatoes came with hummus and slices of fried salami. I really enjoyed the sweetness of the tomatoes which paired very nicely with the hummus and the salami adding a nice crunchy texture. My favorite was the PLT or pancetta, lettuce and tomato. Sounding simple yet forming complex flavours, the ‘lettuce’ which was arugula in this case provided a nice bitter note to the dish and really brought forward the creaminess of the spread, it was just a really great bite!

I had to order the perogies, especially a good traditional one, which is what these ones were advertised as. The periogies are stuffed with creamy potato and cheese in a doughy exterior, served with caramelized onions and sour cream. They were chewy with a good amount of fluffy potato filling, perfect with a dollop of sour cream on top. The perogies were boiled and not pan fried like some of the photos I’ve seen on their site, however I prefer them this way because they’re more traditional and allowed them to maintain their doughiness.

Our last dish was the Grilled Northridge Farms Rib Eye Steak. We ordered the 9 oz, which was perfect for sharing between two people. Served with fingerling potatoes and topped with a peppercorn sauce, it was your classic steak and potatoes dish. The steak was cooked to a perfect rare with it being seared on the outside and just warm on the inside. I did find the peppercorn sauce a bit thick, but since the steak itself was so well prepared it was flavourful enough on its own and I found that I didn’t really need the sauce. The potatoes were nice and crispy, well-seasoned and the perfect amount to accompany the steak.

For dessert we opted to try both the Chocolate Cake and the special that evening which was the White Chocolate Crème Brulèe. They weren’t kidding around with the chocolate cake, you literally get a 3 tiered chocolate cake sandwiched with thick layers of chocolate ganache and coated with dark chocolate flakes. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet, but did find the cake to be a bit dense. It was nice going back and forth between the two desserts because the crème brulee itself was in contrast, quite sweet. The base of the crème brulee was a soft creamy custard with a slightly crunchy sugar topping, it was very decadent indeed. I personally enjoy desserts that are more subtly sweet and therefore found that I preferred the chocolate cake between the two.

We decided on a bottle of the 2011 Novas Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon organic blend to complement our dinner. It was a red that definitely required some aeration, which really opened up after a bit of time. There was lots of deep coffee notes which made it pair nicely with our chocolate dessert. It was velvety, balanced, full bodied wine that had a short crisp finish.

My Picks: Bruschetta, Perogies

Overall: The food at Galla was delectable, incorporating new twists to standard fare like the bruschetta yet still remaining true to the classics, but what really elevated the whole experience for me was their amazing service. The attentive staff really made the evening memorable for both my husband and I. We’ll definitely be back soon.

Galla Winehouse and Bistro
529 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 802-3988

Galla Winehouse and Bistro on Urbanspoon


My Wonton Childhood (and a Recipe)

>> Monday, June 2, 2014

I didn’t much prefer to linger around the kitchen when I was a child, like other children I enjoyed watching tv or exploring the neighborhood with friends. Since my parents were exceptional cooks, they were always experimenting on recipes, testing different methods and of course, they wanted to pass all this knowledge on to the next generation, aka through me. There were lots of instances when my parents would tell me about how certain ingredients would enhance one another and how others would detract from the whole. At that time I never knew how important all their information would be, but I definitely do now and am trying my best to make up for lost time.

One of the first things I remember thoroughly enjoying in the kitchen which started getting me interested was when I started helping my parents make wontons. Not actually mixing the ingredients for the filling, but instead assembling each of the wontons themselves. I found it to be a personal challenge, making each wonton relatively the same

size and shape. How many wontons can I make? How much filling would I need to prevent them from bursting out the sides or so they’re not lumpy? These were all questions I tried to answer in my 8 year old brain. I think my parents secretly knew that was part of my personality and that’s how they got me hooked.

Now after all these years, every time I make wontons I still think of those moments and am glad that I eventually developed the love of food that almost resembles my parents. They’re still the star in my eyes and will always be, but at least I’m a couple steps closer than my childhood self.

So I share my wonton recipe with you today in hopes that it too helps you form memories of your own. Please let me know what you think and enjoy!


1/2 lb ground pork
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
5 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp pepper
1/2 can crab meat, drained
3 large dried fungus, reconstituted and thinly sliced
1 package square wonton wrappers (you can use the circular ones but I prefer square)
12 shrimp, cut in to small chunks (optional)


In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine ground pork, salt, sugar, sesame oil and pepper. Blend until all ingredients are fully incorporated. I like to do this by hand as not to over mix the pork which can make it tough.

Add in the crab meat and fungus and mix until evenly distributed and set aside.

Take the wonton wrappers out of the package, place on plate and cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out while forming the wontons.

Using a different plate, sprinkle some cornstarch on top to prevent the wontons from sticking to the plate and each other.

Peel off one of the wonton wrappers, hold it in the palm of your hand and using a small spoon, scoop out roughly 1 tsp of pork and place it in the middle of the wrapper (add in a small chunk of shrimp if using).

Turn the wrapper until it looks like a diamond, match the bottom corner to the top and fold the wrapper in half. Scrunch the right and left sides in until it meets the middle. Pinch it together and place on large plate. Repeat with the next wonton wrapper.

Cooking Method:

When the wontons are ready, heat up a pot of water until boiling, add in the number of wontons desired. Cook until the float to the top (roughly 5 mins).

Remove them and place them in a bowl.

You can either serve them as is, deep fry them, pan fry them or in a chicken broth.

For the broth method, open up a can of chicken broth (or boil some of your own with chicken bones, which would roughly take 4-5 hours). Add 2 cups of water to the chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Add the broth to the cooked wontons and top with green onions, cilantro and any other accompaniments you’d like including baby bok choy or Chinese greens.


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