Brazilian Cooking Classes at Pampa Steakhouse

>> Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ever since I could remember I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics. I’m not sure if it’s because I still remember holding a little plastic torch when the athletes came through Calgary during the ’88 Olympics, but when they’re on television, I’ll always have it playing 24/7. Needless to say, I’m super excited about the summer Olympics in Rio this year. I would have loved to visit and not only attend all the events but also eat all the delicious Brazilian cuisine while I’m in town.

Sadly since I couldn’t make it there the next best thing would be to cook some Brazilian food here at home and as luck would have it Pampa Steakhouse has started a wonderful cooking class to educate all about Brazilian cuisine. We were lucky enough to be one of the first to be invited down to attend their class which also comes with an amazing 3 course meal at the end.

To start their interactive class, everybody was served the traditional Brazilian drink of Caipirinha which is made with raw sugar cane liquor called Cachaca. The liquor can be mixed with various juices to form different flavour combos. This one was made with lime and passionfruit, a refreshing way to start the class!

Next the chef then moved on to show us different courses that we would be helping with, you also get to keep all the recipes which is a bonus! We started with preparing the Passionfruit Mousse so it can set while we attend to the rest of the courses. Some of my classmates were very helpful and it was just fun to get people off their seats and helping with prep. Next up we made their famous Cheese Bread, which isn’t really quite cheesy but more like a popover. Something I’ll definitely be replicating at home, then came the Calamari Mango Salad, Chicken Drumsticks, Lime Coconut Prawns, Rump Steak and Grilled Pineapple (plus some other great uses for pinapple!!).

I enjoyed most about the class was being able to sample the food as it was being prepared, I would have loved to taste more but since it was their first test run, it was definitely something they will be incorporating more in their future classes. The best part of the evening had to have been when we all got to taste the labour of our hard work. All the classes end with a 3 course meal of the food that was prepared during the class.

It was extremely hard to pick out which course I liked the most because they were all quite unique in taste and texture. The Calamari Mango Salad reminded me of a ceviche but everything was cooked through. The contrast of the vinaigrette and the accompaniments in the salad made for a very refreshing starter. The Lime Coconut Prawns had amazing flavour even though they only required 10 minutes of marinating time. It just goes to show that not everything takes a long time to taste amazing. The Chicken Drumsticks were moist when roasted over their charcoal oven and of course the highlight of the night was the Rump Steak.

The Rump Steak is a Brazilian favorite, tender and juicy, the steak is roasted to perfection and served in the traditional method by Gauchos, who come around and slice off the pieces of meat for your enjoyment. The flavour of the steak is uncompromised, considering it is roasted with nothing but salt and pepper. You really taste the flavour of the meat and the smokiness of the charcoal. The charcoal is what also makes the Grilled Pineapple unique. The pineapple is one of the highlights of the meal, what’s better than cinnamon sugar with warm tangy pineapple? If that wasn’t enough we now get to taste the delicious Passionfruit Mousse that was made during the beginning of the class. The mousse is smooth and sweet with a good amount of passionfruit flavour. It will definitely satisfy those who have a sweet tooth.

So although I won’t be making it down to Brazil this year to attend the Olympics, I’ll definitely be making some of these delicious recipes that we were sent home with during our cooking class. Most likely I’ll be enjoying them while pretending that I’m sitting front row center for those Olympic events. I guess for now, visiting Brazil will have to remain on the bucket list, but cooking the food doesn’t have to be! I want to thank Chef Joao Dachery and his amazing team for making the class fun and cooking us some amazing Brazilian cuisine.

They offer 2 different sessions, one for lunch which runs the first and last Saturday of the month or an evening dinner session which runs the first and last Wednesday of the month. They’re perfect for couples, groups and even team building or if you’re looking for something different, there are tons of interesting events they also put on throughout the year. Check out their website for more information.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
521 10 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 354-3441


Restaurant Review: Alforno Bakery and Cafe

>> Wednesday, May 11, 2016

There is something about bakeries that just make the kid in me smile. Nothing beats the smell of baked goods. It literally is one of my favorite smells in the world! Which is probably why I try to always visit a bakery no matter what country I’m in, how could I resist the urge to taste specialty treats such as flaky croissants, cakes and more? So how excited was I to find out that there was a new bakery in town and not only did they serve delectable treats but also appetizing savory dishes as well. I couldn’t wait to stop in at Alforno Bakery and lucky for me it was a beautiful day to do.

Atmosphere: Bright, spacious and open dining area with a great patio for the summer

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food & Wine: The format is easy here, order your food, grab an available table whether you want to be inside or out and they’ll bring you your order. When our food arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at how generous the portion sizes were! The House Made Bread Basket, which I assumed would probably be 4-5 slices of bread was instead a whole assortment of different types of bread they had in house and served with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping. I was ecstatic! You can never go wrong with more bread in my books.

We started off with the light Mixed Green Salad, they were unfortunately out of the beet salad. I really enjoyed the mixed green salad overall. It was fresh and light with a nice assortment of greens topped with cherry tomatoes, grana padano cheese and a tangy roasted garlic vinaigrette. This would be perfect for a hot summer’s day or someone who isn’t a huge fan of overly dressed salads. There was just the right amount to elevate the greens without making them soggy.

It was hard to decide between pizza or pasta for the main and we ended up with the Orecchiette, little ear like pasta cooked with Italian sausage, broccoli rabe and a bit of chilies. They also served the dish with a side of toasted focciacia. The pasta was perfectly al dente and really was the star of the dish. The sausage and broccoli is only there to provide a bit of extra flavour to the dish. It reminded me of traditional pastas in Italy where the pasta is allowed to shine. I enjoyed the flavour of the dish overall and again the portion here was very generous.

I couldn’t wait for dessert. We decided to go back up to the counter after our meal and order dessert opposed to doing one big order at the very beginning. There were so many choices but my eye was drawn to the Dulche de Leche Cream Puff and the Lime Bar. I was extremely happy with my decisions. The cream puff had an unbelievably crispy exterior with a light drizzle of dulche de leche on top and creamy filling. I was afraid that it would be too sweet with the dulche de leche on top but it was very much the opposite. Just talking about how velvety and delicious it is now makes me want another one this minute.

The Lime Bar was a nice play on the typical lemon bar, the lime providing a different tanginess than lemon but without being overpowering. It’s the perfect dessert for those who love something tart. The base of the lime bar itself was a nice short crust pastry, I actually liked that it was a bit thicker since I love shortbread. Overall, I really enjoyed this with a coffee just to balance out all the flavours.

If you’re looking for something aside from coffee they also have a nice wine selection, especially for all those great summer patio days that are coming our way!

My Pick: Dulche de Leche Cream Puff

Overall: You can never go wrong with any baked goods in my books and Alforno has done a great job of combining savoury and sweet. Everything is well organized and they use their space well. I enjoyed the bright interior and can’t wait to visit their patio over the summer to enjoy more of their delicious baked goods and hopefully with a glass or two of vino!

Alforno Bakery and Café
222 7 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 454-0308

Alforno Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Summer Cocktails and More at The Keg

>> Monday, May 2, 2016

What warm weather we've had this year and it seems to be sticking! Patios are all officially open and what better time than for the Keg to launch their summer cocktails! Starting May 2nd, their new line up of cocktails will be available for all to enjoy and I was lucky enough to be able to sip my way through some of their delicious offerings!

We started with the light and refreshing Rosemary Gimlet made with gin, limoncello, lemon juice and fresh rosemary. This is definitely my kind of cocktail, not overly sweet with the savory rosemary adding in a nice earthiness to the drink plus it's just plain delicious. It was probably my favorite of the evening and we just only started.

Next was the Pineapple Splash. Another winner in my opinion, this screams summer to me with the fresh pineapple garnish and the muddles pineapple and mint. It reminded me of an elevated mojito. Made with gosling's black seal rum, muddled fresh pineapple and mint, brown sugar, lime juice and ginger beer. It's the perfect drink for the summer patio season.

For someone looking for something bolder, there's the Drunken Cherry mixed with tequila, triple sec, house made drunken bing cherry juice, agave syrup and fresh lemon and lime juice. You can taste the tequila here which is needed to cut through the sweetness of the cherries. It would be great as an aperitif or even just something to pair with a nice savory dish to balance out the week and tartness of the cherries.

Last but not least we have a play on the whisky sour with the Keg's own New York Sour made with whisky, fresh lemon and lime juice, simple syrup and topped off with a red wine float. The colors in this cocktail are amazing and makes it a stand out. The addition of the red wine really changes up the flavour profile of the drink adding an extra level of depth. I would recommend this if you're looking for a twist on the traditional drinks such as a manhattan or old fashioned.

We couldn't have all these fabulous drinks without some amazing food dishes to accompany them and at the Keg they have a full menu of sharing plates or appetizers to go with their cocktails. It's perfect for those who are looking for a few small bites without feeling the need to order a full meal. The Ahi Tuna Tacos were fresh and light with a creamy spicy aioli and slaw to compliment the fish. Great for those looking for something lighter. For those looking for something more, there's the Prime Rib Sliders, with housemade prime rib and dipping jus to top everything off. There's also a Blue Cheese crusted Filet for those looking for something more substantial. The blue cheese adds extra flavour without overpowering the delicate taste of the filet which is cooked perfectly medium rare. Finally, if you're just searching for the perfect sharing plate, there's the Bacon Wrapped Scallops. Salty, savoury and decadent, you really can't go wrong with them!

I can't wait to go back to the Keg to try some of the other cocktails on their new menu including the Sparkling Peach and the Mango Mojito. Everything just screams summer and what a summer we're going to have if this weather holds up!

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