Sunday, September 14, 2014

Middle sister came into town and wanted to take me out for a belated birthday dinner. She's a gluten free vegetarian and after she did a little "what's new in food in vancouver" and discovered Ask for Luigi and that they offered a g-free pasta option.
We arrived at the tiny spot that used to house the popular "Two Chefs and a Table" in crosstown and were told that there was about a 45 min wait. This spot is cozy and my guess is that it seats about 30 people. The decor and atmosphere feels upscale but not fussy. It feels like an Italian bistro.

We weren't starving and didn't mind. We put our name on the list with our contact info. We walked over to the Alibi Room and killed time with their awesome atmosphere and extensive impressive beer (and cider for the g-free) list. The wait was almost exactly 45 minutes.

The menu is fairly short and sweet with about 10 appetizers and 5-6 different pastas. And they all sound fairly delicious. Unfortunately, the options were pretty limited in terms of vegetarian options that they could make gluten free.

They've got sparkling and still mineral water on tap and a lean wine list by the bottle or by the glass (casual stemless tumbler).

We split the Fried Cauliflower & Aoili appetizer ($12). This was absolutely dynamite. Cauliflower is one food trend that seems to be everywhere and I'm definitely not getting sick of this trend. This dish was a stand out and worth the visit alone. Crispy yet soft with a bit of bite. Cheese, aioli, mint, basil, chickpeas all added some texture and played with dynamic flavours.

Ask for Luigi makes their pasta fresh in house, including the gluten free option. It's a tagliatelle (made with corn and rice flour, potato starch and xantham gum) which can be dressed with any of the sauces on the menu for $2 extra. She's a vegetarian so she only really had one option, with fresh peas, garlic and pea shoots. I had a bite and it was quite tasty with a great freshness.

I'm sucker for Italian dishes, especially anything with tentacles, so when I saw Spaghetti Nero with octopus and jalapeno ($18), I knew what I'd be ordering. This was a visually interesting dish. The noodles with black and the octopus was chopped into tiny rounds. Both the noodles and the octopus had a wonderful chew. The sauce was light with fresh tomato but not very dynamic or bold. The jalapeno was lost on me and I didn't really taste any heat. Our server was surprised when I requested salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Although the fresh pasta was truly a delicious treat, and the octopus was tasty and well prepared, but after a few bites, I found this dish overall to actual be fairly one note and not that exciting.

Overall, we had a nice experience. The space is cute, the service is efficient and friendly, and I do love a good Italian meal with fresh pasta. But this place had been pretty hyped up in social media and press reviews. And the price points are on the higher end. Ask for Luigi was good but not awesome and didn't quite live up to the hype. I was also a bit disappointed that the pricing was a unclear for beverages. Our glasses of wine we ordered ended up being a way more then we thought (we thought they were the house wine by the glass price) and there was a charge for sparkling water (they didn't let us know and kept bringing bottle after bottle of on tap sparking water to the table only for us to discover a $2 per bottle price on the bill.)

Ask for Luigi on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 1, 2014

Eating my way through Edmonton in July

I visited Edmonton in May and was wowed with some amazing meals and super impressed with the city’s enthusiastic, energetic, and delicious food scene.

Work brought me back to YEG in July. It was a crazy, busy, work trip but I always seem to be able to find time to seek out good food. Because no matter how busy things get, life is too short to eat average or boring food.

Here are some of the dishes, restaurants, meals, and culinary experiences from this past trip.

Tavern 1903
Had a delicious lunch meeting at this downtown gem. Atmosphere is slightly upscale but accessible and the menu was wide ranging in its offerings. Lunch mains hovered between $16-20. I found the where the fare inventive, playful, and delicious with generous portions.

On our table:

Watermelon Feta Salad; Fairwind Farms Feta, Cucumber, Heirloom tomatoes, mint, extra virgin olive oil
Classic Pork Schnitzel, Lemon-Caper Sauce; with cucumber salad and warm potatoes
Atlantic Lobster Roll; with side salad
Tortilla Soup; Smoked Duck, Pasilla Chiles, Avocado, Goat Feta, Cilantro, Tortilla Strips, Tomato Broth, Crema and Fresh Lime
KFC; Korean Fried Cauliflower, Sesame Seeds, Scallions

I absolutely loved my order of Tortilla Soup. What a great lunch, light but full of intense, big, flavours. Smoky yet bright with pops of flavour and texture from all of the elements.

Tavern 1903 on Urbanspoon

High Level Diner

This seemingly cheap and cheerful, unassuming diner was a delight. Fast and friendly service, décor that made you feel like you were in someone’s living room, and a large menu full of classics and interesting twists. I didn’t get a chance to try their legendary cinnamon buns but I’ve been craving their delicious house-made ketchup ever since this lunch.

I split these two dishes and really enjoyed every bite. 

Middle Eastern Appetizer Platter ($20)A medley of hummus, tabouleh salad, chicken souvlaki, tzatziki, spinach pie and pitas.  

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   $15)
Smoked salmon, Monterey jack cheese, jalapenos, capers, fresh dill and cilantro layered between two flour tortillas and baked.   Served topped with sour cream and fresh diced tomato with fresh fruit salsa for dipping.Choice of house cut fries, caesar, green or tabouleh salad.

Highlevel Diner on Urbanspoon

The Burg
This downtown burger joint was extremely close to where I was staying so I had a feeling I’d stop in at one point or another on this trip.

My colleague ordered their feature burger and thought it was okay but at $15-16 without fries, was unimpressed.

I went off the menu and decided to customize and “Build my own burger”- I called it the “Crazy Bitch”- and with my choices of Potato Scallion Roll, Red Bean and Rice Veg Patty,Lettuce, banana peppers, tomato, jalapeno, cucumber ribbon, sliced pickles, tomato relish, Ghost pepper ketchup, mustard, sautéed mushrooms, it ended up being around $11-12. I must say, I created a delicious masterpiece.

We also polished off a side….two sides of their fries at $4.00 each with some of their tasty in house condiments as dip. I remember them being thin, salty and delish but we were also ravenous and needed to eat something while waiting for our burgers. I was also soooo happy because The Burg served my favourite cider, Foundry.

The Burg on Urbanspoon


This bustling lunch spot was on my radar for their delicious soups but we ended up hitting Mkrt for dinner. Really nice experience. Feels classy but not pretentious. Wonderful, enthusiastic service. Amazing wine. And food that was delicious and actually invigorating. Fresh ingredients with care and love but keeping it simple. Loved my dinner here.

On our table:
Ceviche, warm crostini, balsamic gull valley tomato & summer greens.
Sauteed Prawns on Sweet Potato Mash, tomoato butter, white wine and miso-chimichurri
And an amazing bottle of wine

Mrkt on Urbanspoon

The Marc
Walking the line between casual and formal, I really was impressed by the Marc. The interior is simple, clean, classic with a slightly upscale feel. Service was absolutely amazing. Attentive, friendly, accommodating and really felt like the staff here care about the food and ensuring every customer has a nice meal experience.

My lunch of Smoked Salmon Potato Salad ($14); House smoked steelhead with a horseradish dill potato salad topped with pickled cucumber ribbon.
And other dishes at the table looked equally delicious, especially their Foraged Mushrooms which was incredible looking.

The Marc on Urbanspoon

Duchess Bake Shop
This place is THE Edmonton mecca for desserts and baked goods. They make all of their products daily in-house from scratch and they pride themselves in baking the best of the best. No shortcuts or fillers or preservatives. This place was busy and bumping but clientele all seem to know the rules and everyone seems to have their favourite treat that they get every time. Their glass wrap around display counter is a feast for the eyes as you take it the beautiful, delicious and artfully prepared breads, scones, pies, cookies, macarons, tarts, cakes…….I’m not a dessert afficiando but I was drooling.
We tried the Ginger Cookies, the Citrus Verrine, but the overwhelming favourite was the Key Lime Tart with was just exploding with a beautiful fresh and bright lime flavour.

Duchess Bake Shop on Urbanspoon


MEAT is a fairly new smokehouse/BBQ place located in the heart of Old Strathcona. An authentic BBQ experience with homemade sauces, savoury sides, and a casual welcoming room to indulge. Our table split a few of the meats and sides but I ordered a smoked tofu sandwich to spare myself a serious case of the meat sweats…which tend to happen when this quasi vegan consumes any volume of meat or dairy. My sandwich was good but not mind-blowing but this is worth a second visit for the great space with a fresh, funky vibe with communal tables, AMAZING sides (garlic fries, brussel sprouts, baked beans!) and an assortment of delicious BBQ sauces and mustards. I think I consumed about a half bottle of the mustard and spicy BBQ sauce.

Meat on Urbanspoon

Tres Carnales

LOVE this place! Visited this place twice on my May trip to YEG. Their food and vibe is amazing. Didn’t get any food pics but a colleague and I shared their Hongos Mixtos tacos (mushrooms sautéed with garlic and capers) and their Pescado tacos (lightly battered and fried fresh Pacific Red Snapper). SO DAMN GOOD!

Tres Carnales Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Caffe Barney on Main; Awesome Place to get your Craft Beer and Pub Grub fix

I’ve gotta give a shout out to Caffe Barney on Main as a great neighbourhood pub. I may be biased because I ADORE the management and staff (Bre and Robyn in particular) but this place is cozy, fun, with tasty, accessible grub and a fantastic drink selection. My favourite thing at Barney is the 24 rotating kegs on tap.  Yes- I said 24 lovingly selected beers on tap!!!!!
I started the night with a pint of Four Seasons Saison, straight outta Delta, BC. Its warm with wheatiness, light hints of clove with coriander. It’s a bit floral and fruity without being too precious.
 They offer a beer tasting flight of 4 for $8. My suggestion- give your server an idea a scope of your beer likes and dislikes and let them pick for you. My server was a great beer matchmaker!
I enjoyed the Pfriem Wit Belgian style wit beer , Occidental Hef, and the Chuckanut Rauc. But my very favourite was the Lips of Faith with Yuzu from New Belgium Brewing from Fort Collins Colorado. Citrusy and bold. Strange, delicious, memorable.

The Sous Chef and I shared two burgers. 
The Chickpea and Quinoa burger. Made in house, great texture, and all around tasty. 

The Salmon Burger with asian slaw topping was a generous piece of fresh tasting fish on a toasted bun. 

Other items on the table were:

Pad thai with shrimp

Coconut prawns with a side of Caesar salad

Chicken burger with bacon

Caffé Barney on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 23, 2014

Farmer's Apprentice for Lunch

I was planning a work lunch meet up with a colleague from out of town and a fellow local food enthusiast. When she suggested Farmer’s Apprentice, I was instantly intrigued and thrilled at the opportunity to check out the recently named Vancouver Magazine’s 2014 Restaurant of the Year. It’s located a short walk from my office and I’ve passed by numerous times and thought the space looked charming, and I’d heard and read many rave reviews about the food.

The room is cozy, seating roughly 30 inside with an inviting 12 seat patio. Ceilings are low, wood is mismatched, and the space feels modern and yet rustic at the same time. There is a casual vibe here. 

Sparkling and still water is served in blue-rimmed enamel tumblers and a Fleetwood Mac vinyl was spinning on a turntable towards the back end of the restaurant. There are some great touches in this space; a beautiful photo of an abandoned barn, an antique stained-glass window frame, planter boxes with herbs and flowers on the patio.

This was a long lunch and over the course of our meal we had mixed feelings about service. There were a few instances that we were made to feel like we were causing a real inconvenience with some questions and requests. But I loved and appreciated the love, enthusiasm, and knowledge that every staff member has for the food and this restaurant.

Smoked castelvatrano olives $4, beyond bread sourdough, onion butter $4
These hearty slices of sourdough bread served warm, with a crispy crust and warm sumptuous innards served with a side of extra-virgin olive oil and an onion butter that’s rich, savoury and delightful.
The olives are meaty vivid green with a big, bold, alderwood smoky flavour.

Dandelion, bacon and hazelnut strudel with ricotta $9
The smaller plate was light with a nice balance of light flaky pastry, side arugula salad greens and richness from the smoky chunks of bacon and hazelnut.

Roasted chicken breast, rye berries, nettles, mushroom marmalade, veloute $18
This was a large plate full of earthy flavours. The two pieces of large, tender perfectly cooked chicken breast with toothsome rye berries (like a chewy quinoa?), nettle greens (which also had a surprisingly meaty flavour), with a small dab of salty and slightly sweet balsamic tasting mushroom marmalade with a drizzle of creamy veloute to bring the plate together.

Spring salmon, spring vegetables, aromatic nage $17
This plate was a bit smaller but just beautiful…looked like a delicious spring bouquet. I was lucky enough to get a bite of salmon which was supple with FANTASTIC crispy skin.

There is a lot of effort, skill, creativity, and love in this food. Just reading the menu, taking in the ambience and watching plates come out of the kitchen made me smile. The menu changes daily, depending upon what’s fresh and available. The portions aren’t hefty (the chicken was pretty substantial) but are well executed with prime ingredients and beautiful flavours.

Farmer's Apprentice on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wayward Vegan Cafe in Seattle

I'm a big fan of "experience" or "activities" as gifts. This year, for Christmas, my little sister and I told my dad we wanted to treat him to a day trip to Seattle to visit the Experience Music Project and Sci Fi Museum.

Since the sous chef, little sister, and little sister's wife are all vegan... it pays to do a bit of research before any out of town trip that will require a meal out. Plus, we wanted to have some lunch options that would work for both vegans and my dad's taste preferences. We found a few options, but managed to decide on a post EMP/Sci-Fi Museum lunch at the Wayward Vegan Cafe in Seattle's University District. Everything on the menu at Wayward is vegan- they offer a wide range of all day breakfast with lunch and some dinner options too. The options range from greasy spoon-esque, tex-mex fusion, vegan twists on diner classics, and a few healthy options. This place was packed when we arrived around 2-2:30pm, feeling extremely hungry, but luckily a table freed up almost the minute we walked in.
This a pretty casual place; you place your order at the front counter, bus your own dishes, refill your own water, etc
We all left stuffed. Portions were a good size-big. Prices were reasonable. The food was straighforward and delicious. 

I ordered the Breakfast Burrito; Scrambled seasoned tofu, spicy tvp chorizo and spinach wrapped up in a king-sized grilled tortilla, topped with zesty cilantro sour cream, with salsa fresco and homefries ($8.50)

Pancake $4
Bikini Bowl $8- Quinoa over a bed of garlic steamed greens topped with mandarin oranges, diced tomatoes, and a grilled citrus-marinated tempeh cutlet. Served with a side of chipotle tahini.

The Bandito Omelette $10 with homefries
Spicy tvp chorizo, grilled peppers and onions, cheddar cheese, and topped with cilantro lime sour cream. Served with a side of salsa fresco.

Three Cheese Melt $9
Cheddar and American cheese, fried mozza wedges, turkey, tomatoes, and mayo on grilled sourdough with fries

Mac Daddy $12
Two no beef patties, reuben sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame free bun,

Wayward Vegan Cafe on Urbanspoon