Restaurant Review: Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey

>> Thursday, March 23, 2017

It feels like BBQ season is just around the corner and I can’t wait! After being cooped up inside all winter long, I’m extremely excited to break out the grill and whip up some favorite BBQ recipes of mine. Although we’re not quite there yet…almost. For the time being, to satisfy my BBQ cravings I’ve been heading down to Hayden Block to get my fill!

Atmosphere: Pub style interior with long benches perfect for larger groups or chatting up your neighbour!

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food & Drinks: The menu at Hayden Block is split between either 1/2 lb orders for specific cuts of meat versus single orders of their chicken, short rib or hot link aka sausage. It’s a great way to sample all the items on the menu if you’re not sure what to order. Their items are all smoked for 14 hours using a dry rub. If you like your BBQ ‘wet’, they offer different BBQ sauces to mix and match for all your dipping needs.

We decided to start with the Brisket (you can’t go to a BBQ place and not get the brisket!), the Pork Spare Ribs, and the Hot Link with sides of Cornbread, Coleslaw and Green Beans. The brisket came in nice thick slices and had wonderful flavour. I liked that it was tender but had a nice texture to it. It was delicious on its own but would probably be equally wonderful in a sandwich. The ribs also used their signature dry rub, although I’m personally enjoy ribs that are smothered in sauce, I didn’t mind these because you could taste the smokiness of them.

Surprisingly one of my faves for the evening was the hot link, which had a perfect ratio of fat and spices to the meat. Often sausages can be salty and overwhelming after a couple bites, but these were different. They were tasty without being heavy. We contemplated ordering another link however there was still more on the menu to taste!

The sides are a must to put a bit of a breather between all the meat heavy components of our meal. Coleslaw and cornbread is quintessential, being as much a BBQ necessity as ribs and brisket. The green beans were crunchy and sweet. All in all good accompaniments which lots of other selection available as well.

We decided to add an order of the Smoked Wings as well and they were delicious! They brine them for 24 hours which really packs in the flavour. They’re also on special every Wednesday for half off which makes them an even better deal!

To top off the evening, we had to try their Pecan Pie. It’s the proverbial icing on the cake. Nothing better than finishing the meal off with something sweet and sugary. The chewy center was perfectly balanced with the crunchy pecans and the sweet whipped cream on the side.

My Picks: Smoked Wings, Hot Link

Overall: With different daily specials, you can always count on Hayden Block to satisfy your BBQ needs. I’m looking forward to heading back for their wings and also try out other items on their BBQ menu such as the pulled pork and the short ribs! Also while you’re there don’t forget to check out their whiskey menu such as the smokey old fashioned, lovely twist on the original. They do have whiskey in their name for a reason.

Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey
1136 Kensington Road NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 283-3021

Hayden Block Smoke & Whisky Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Big Taste Calgary 2017

>> Monday, March 6, 2017

Wow, it feels like I blinked and its already March! Although here in Calgary snow is still on the ground making it feel more like winter so it’ll probably be a while before it actually feels like spring. Luckily for us the Big Taste Festival - Calgary's dining week is currently on making it a great time to get out and try a new restaurant! Even amongst this cold weather.

The Big Taste festival runs from March 3-12 this year and has many of Calgary's downtown restaurants showcasing some of their delicious cuisines through specialized set lunch and dinner menus or through special Big Taste events! For a full listing of the restaurants involved check out the Downtown Calgary website.

I'm always excited to try out the menus each year and have a couple reservations made for the upcoming week (reservations are highly recommended!). To kick start our dining journey we stopped by Buchanan's Chophouse for their delicious 3 course menu.

Buchanan's offered 2 options for each course, which allows you to pick and choose the dish to satisfy your cravings. For the first course it was a choice of either a Cajun Seafood Chowder or Sweet Chili Glazed Pork Belly with Mixed Green Salad. I opted for the latter because who doesn’t love a good pork belly dish? The sauce was sweet and tangy which helped cut through the fattiness of the pork. The lightly dressed greens were also refreshing. I did wish that the pork belly was a bit more tender but aside from that thought it was a great start to the meal.

Next was a choice between the New York Steak with red wine balsamic peppercorn reduction, fresh seasonal vegetables, Yukon gold mashed potatoes or Charbroiled Spring Salmon Filet with wasabi cilantro vinaigrette, curried rice and fresh seasonal vegetables. Since we were at a chophouse, I decided on the NY strip and was not disappointed. The steak was cooked perfectly to order with a good amount of seasoning. I enjoyed all the accompaniments, especially the creamy mashed potatoes. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good meat and potatoes dish especially when paired with a glass of Bordeaux.

Finally for dessert it was either the Sticky Toffee Pudding or Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream. I went with a combo of the two choosing the sticky toffee pudding with an extra scoop of ice cream on the side. The pudding was covered with a lovely caramel sauce which I couldn’t stop swooning over. I was extremely happy that I added the ice cream because it did help balance out the pudding itself which was quite sweet due to all the chunky dates. Although the sweetness did go quite nicely with a cup of coffee to end the evening.

Overall we were quite satisfied with our selection and was happy that we made it out to kick start the first day of the Big Taste! I’m looking forward to our other meals this week and am debating whether I should check out more places before I blink again and it’s all over. Be sure to make your reservations if you’re interested because the Big Taste ends soon and the reservations are already booking up quick!


Restaurant Review: Bridgette Bar

>> Thursday, March 2, 2017

People who know me well know that I love family style eating. Being Chinese, family style dining has been what I was brought up on. So I’m so happy to hear more and more restaurants offering dishes that allow sharing of different plates and features. When we visited Bridgette Bar, I noticed they had a whole section of small plates and I knew right away what I was going to order

Atmosphere: Upscale retro decor surrounding a beautifully designed interior reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour and style a la Mad Men.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30s

Food & Drinks: Starting with the Oysters off their snacks menu, we figured it would be a nice way to start our meal that evening especially when paired with a bit of Varichon & Clerc bubbles! The oysters came with a unique dill pickle granita (think tiny ice chunks), where the salty and sour dill brought out the brininess of the oysters that I love.

It was hard not to order all the small plates since it was just the hubby and I (well..and baby but unfortunately he can’t contribute just yet). To start we had the Grilled Octopus which was nicely charred from the grilling process, while the orange and fennel provided a nice citrus and textural component. I love octopus and wish it was served more often!

Next was the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio dressed with a mushroom vinaigrette and topped with a mushroom salad. Steak and mushrooms go well and its no different here. The mushrooms were perfectly paired on this plate while the vinaigrette added the extra zing, which I find is much needed for carpaccio to really bring out the sweetness in the rare beef.

Another light dish we had was the Smoked Tuna Crudo, the fish benefitted from the crunch and freshness of the cucumbers as well as the creamy avocado. None of the flavours overwhelmed each other and it was definitely light on the palate overall. Similarly the Endive Salad was also refreshing! Reading mozzarella dressing on the menu made me a bit hesitant and I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was not heavy what so ever nor did it overpower all the delicate flavours. The orange slices along with the pecans made for a wonderful dish. I could eat this salad every day and not surprisingly it was one of my faves for the evening!

We decided to also try the Italian Pork Sausage with conchiglie pasta and I’m so glad we did. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the chili added an extra kick to the salty Italian pork sausage. It reads as such a simple dish but the flavours were literally exploding off the plate.

To end our evening we tried the Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding with pickled red wine grapes and topped with hazelnut ice cream. The bread pudding was quite sweet, but that was mellowed with a lovely French press coffee on the side. I think the highlight was definitely the hazelnut ice cream, but I do have a thing for ice cream so I may be biased. =)

My Picks: Endive Salad, Italian Pork Sausage

Overall: Sitting in the surroundings of Bridgette Bar it just felt right to order a Manhattan and how could one resist, it felt like a place where Don Draper from Mad Men would be found after a long day at the office, especially if he enjoyed family style dining like I do. We had a blast that evening and even the baby enjoyed his night out (super happy that they’re family friendly)! Can’t wait to check it out again maybe when I’m hankering for another Manhattan or maybe a Old Fashioned.

Bridgette Bar
739 10 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB

Bridgette Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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