Restaurant Review: The Block Kitchen and Lounge

>> Monday, November 24, 2014


Not sure if it’s possible but traffic seems to have gotten worse in Calgary lately. Especially because I’m one that is quick to anger on the road, I’m glad that 1) I live close to downtown and 2) I don’t have to drive too often and leave it to my husband. I still remember a time when I loved cruising in my car, but now I avoid it like the plague, which is why it’s great to have so many delicious food options close to our house. One of them being The Block which recently opened up earlier this year and we decided to stop in one day after work to check it out.

Atmosphere: Large dining area with a simple rustic charm fused with a modern day feel, a nice place to meet friends for a drink in the lounge or grab a bite outside the craziness of downtown.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

 
Food: We were ravenous and couldn’t wait for dinner, so we found ourselves at the restaurant quite early (I guess work tends to drain both our minds and stomachs). To our surprise, there was a happy hour special and we decided to order a couple dishes to sample. We were amazed at how large their portion sizes were when they arrived. Being priced at 5 dollars a plate we figured they would be smaller plates of the original but they were full orders! Definitely a great deal for those that are hungry and happen to be in the area. Not to mention that they were delicious as well.

The Calamari was crunchy and addicting. Served with pickled red onions and a garlicky aioli, it was something you can pick at all night. We also ordered some Parmesan Fries off the same menu. I’ve found there are too camps when it comes to French fries, soft or extra crispy, I’m part of the latter group and if you are too then you’ll enjoy these! They come with a side of ketchup and a side of aioli, to satisfy all parties, plus you can never go wrong with more dips for fries.

 
We were craving appetizers that evening so we also ordered the Spinach Artichoke Dip off their regular menu. Normally I find we always need to ask for additional crostinis for all the dip that is served, but not in this case. The dip was served with more than enough crostinis, each being the perfect bite sized portion. The dip itself was velvety with lots of chunky spinach and topped with a layer of gooey cheese. Again it was a good portion size and perfect for sharing amongst several people.

For the entrée, we had the Pork shoulder with a celery root white bean hash and green beans. I really liked the hash, which enhanced the smokiness of the pork. The meat itself was flavourful and the green beans were cooked perfectly. The dish came together nicely and made for a hearty plate.


Since we were overzealous with all the appetizers we unfortunately didn’t save room for dessert, which means we’ll need to make another trip back to sample some of the delectable sounding desserts they have on their menu.

My Picks: Pork Shoulder

Overall: Not only is closer to our house but couple that with delicious food and generous portion sizes, it’s a great alternative to driving downtown and searching for parking! Looking forward to visiting again to sample different seasonal items and features.

The Block Kitchen and Lounge
2411 4 Street NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 282-1339
Website: eatdrinkblock.com

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Restaurant Review: Workshop Kitchen Culture

>> Thursday, November 13, 2014

 
There’s something to be said about comfort food on a cold day. It not only warms you up from the inside, but it’s also satisfies the soul and those nagging cravings. It was only appropriate that with our cooling weather we decided to drop by Workshop where they elevate homey dishes to the next level.

Atmosphere: Rustic meets edgy in the dining area right outside the Grand Theatre, the contrast resulting in a cozy place to grab a bite before catching a show or to catch up with friends.

 
Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food & Wine: The server immediately told us the format of the menu was family style and meant for sharing, which was perfect. Dinner doesn’t feel the same if I’m not sharing plates and chatting about the nuances of each one. To start we had the Albacore Tuna Tiradito, slices of fresh tuna served with a soy and chili dressing and topped with cilantro and pickled vegetables. The combinations of flavours were amazing! Everything on the plate had a purpose. The salty soy coupled with the tangy crisp vegetables really enhanced the tuna without overpowering it. I really enjoyed the pickled vegetables and probably could have eaten a whole side of them!


Next we shared the Roast Organic Chicken with mushrooms, pancetta and kale, truffle and lemon jus. The chicken itself was moist and tender, both the white and dark meat were well cooked. Mushrooms made the dish homey and addition natural addition of the truffle elevated the flavours. A bit of the kale and pancetta with the chicken and mushroom made for a really lovely bite.

We also decided on some sides, which are not to be missed. The Potato Gnocchi was delectable, each one was a fluffy pillow covered in parsley and parmesan cream. Comfort food at its best and perfect for sharing due to its generous portion size. The Roasted Sweet Potatoes reminded me of a thanksgiving dish with the cumin spice and brown sugar. It’s nice to see sweet potatoes presented in a different way other than fries (which are delicious, but variety is key).
 

It was hard to pass on dessert when we saw the Root Beer Panna Cotta. It came with a white chocolate root cake and pop rock dust. Each element of the dessert was good on its own, but the flavours literally popped when you had them all together. I’m still a kid at heart and anybody that an incorporate pop rocks in to dessert get a big thumbs up from me!

My Picks: Gnocchi, Root Beer Dessert


Overall: Everything was amazing and I’ve already been back to try some of their other dishes since this first visit. Now with winter hitting our city, this is the perfect place to warm up! So grab your friends and family and head over to Workshop and see what they’re cooking up.

Workshop Kitchen Culture
608 1st Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 266-7062
Website: www.workshopcalgary.com

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Pumpkin Bread (to use up the leftover halloween pumpkin)

>> Monday, November 3, 2014


Every year around this time I’m madly searching around the internet to find new recipes to use up my pumpkin leftovers from the Halloween pumpkin and one can only eat so many pumpkin pies. Its easy to let your imagination sore when it comes to pumpkin recipes because it’s such a versatile ingredient, you can use it in ravioli, make it in to fruit butters or my favorite, breads and cakes (I know, not overly imaginative but I can't help but crave them).

So even when I’m searching for that special recipe, I usually narrow it down to some sort of pumpkin bread. This year was no different. I did end up finding a delicious yet slightly healthy recipe which uses water to increase the moistness of the loaf. Since pumpkin itself is so sweet, I upped the amount of pumpkin puree and decrease the added sugar for an overall healthier recipe. You can find the original one here, but I hope you enjoy the slight tweaks I’ve made. This will definitely be one of my go tos from now on but I don't think I'll ever be able to stop the search for new and amazing recipes. ;)


Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground mace
4 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup packed pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup water

 
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a 9 inch loaf pan with parchment paper or you can grease the pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and mace. Whisk lightly until blended and set aside. Feel free to play with different spices to make the flavour all your own.

Beat the butter, sugar and oil together in a separate mixing bowl until it becomes fluffy. I prefer the use of salted butter which doesn’t require me to use salt, but if you’re using unsalted butter be sure to add in a pinch of salt for added flavour.

Mix in the pumpkin puree. Once fully combined, crack in one egg at a time and beat until it’s just incorporated.

I would suggest completing the next couple steps by hand instead of using the mixer. Slowly sift in the dry mixture while stirring by hand.

Add in the vanilla extract and the water while continuing to slowly stir the batter. Don’t over mix to avoid a the batter getting too tough.

Pour the in to the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Insert a toothpick in the center to confirm that the loaf is fully cooked. If not return to oven for another 10-15 mins.

Remove from the oven and let it cool before serving.

Enjoy!

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