17th Ave · Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Sandwiches

Nim’s Fried Chicken

I’ve noticed Facebook posts about Nim’s Fried Chicken on Calgary Food – FoodYYC. So on Sunday, after L and I finished a couple of beers at Tailgunner Brewery, I picked up an early supper from Nim’s Fried Chicken. For this post, let’s listen to “Mutha Uckers” by Flight of the Conchords.

Nim’s Fried Chicken only offers takeout, as it shares Universe Restaurant‘s kitchen but not the space in the dining room. Based on the comments on Facebook, L and I shared the Classic Sandwich Combo ($14.90) and a Tender Box ($9.50). For the combo, I requested mac and cheese wedges.

When we got home and unpacked our food, I was shocked by the size of the tenders and the sandwich. Never have I ever seen a tender so big! The tender looks like it is a whole chicken breast. If I bought these two chicken breasts at Safeway, it would cost me more than $9.50! I ordered medium heat, and L said it was just the right amount of spice.

I cut our sandwich in half. The batter was reddish brown, spicy and smelled predominantly like cayenne or paprika. Between bites of chicken, the sweet pickles and coleslaw drippings would intermingle with the bread and crunchy, battered chicken thigh. Both the thigh and breast meat was juicy and tender.


The mac and cheese tasted like KD but covered in a thin crispy batter and still creamy despite being deep-fried. The waffle fries were standard and not overly salty. I would probably skip the sides next time, as sharing one burger and two tenders was enough food for the two of us.

I liked that the meat had that natural texture as most fast food joints’ chicken products have a squishy texture. While we ate, I didn’t find the food salty, but I must have chugged a litre of water later that night. Of course, the afternoon beers would have been a contributing factor. In any case, I recommend trying the chicken burger and tenders. Nim’s doesn’t cluck around!

Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – Birthday dinner

I didn’t even have to ask L where he wanted to celebrate his birthday. Instead, I just requested a day that he wasn’t working late. For this post, let’s listen to “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords. 

Though we have eaten at Sukiyaki House countless times, this Friday was the first time we sat by the front window, which affords a city view of the lit up office buildings and skyline. I like this table, as it feels more secluded and date-like. 

Judith recommended the feature carpaccio made with Hachibiki (Pacific Bonnetmouth), flown in from Japan. Whenever she makes a suggestion, it always blows our mind, so of course, we ordered the Hachibiki Carpaccio ($24). 

Chef Koji Kobayashi slayed the presentation – the multi-coloured roes, ruby-pink fish, yellow petals, and purple and green greens sparkled in the light. What a beauty! Judith suggested a creamy sake to pair with the carpaccio. The mouthfeel of the sake was so sensual, with soft fruit and floral notes. 

Hachibiki is a gentle-tasting fish, delicate and sweet. The roe was hard and crunchy, with a sea-like flavour. L loved the spicy heat in the ponzu sauce. He mentioned Chef Kobayashi’s dishes are very Japanese, but he puts his creative stamp on them. It amazes me how much talent and skill he displays consistently, time and time again.

We were lucky that night and the owner, Anna, made our tempura. The batter was so light, and the shrimp was so sweet and toothsome. The ultra-fragile batter, ginger, matcha salt and tentsuyu (dipping sauce) make Sukiyaki House’s version a standout. 

I’m addicted to the California Roll ($13), which tastes nothing like the cheaper versions you can find in the city. Instead, the crab is sweet and meaty, the nori is freshly roasted, and the sesame seeds are noticeably toasted. 

We ate the usual suspects – big fat scallops, hot and juicy deep-fried shrimp heads and crunchy cuts of octopus. Sweet Bejesus, what a feast!

The birthday boy didn’t want dessert. He only wanted a quiet night with no late partying. I was happy to oblige for this one weekend. Happy birthday, L! 

Happy Hour · Seafood · Special Occasion

Pigeonhole – Happy Hour

After sampling so many delightful wines at Bricks Wine Co, I asked Erik where Turned and I could go to continue our afternoon of merriment. I specifically requested recommendations for restaurants that serve wines from Juice Imports.

He recommended Business and Pleasure, Frenchies, Ten Foot Henry and Pat and Betty. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants he recommended weren’t open that afternoon. Then I remembered Erik posted about Pigeonhole on Instagram. For this post, let’s listen to “Leggy Blonde” by Flight of the Conchords.

I was too lazy to cross-check Pigeonhole’s wine list with Juice Imports’ website, so I wasn’t sure what was what. I was also reluctant to quiz our server about which wines were from Juice Imports because I didn’t want to be “that” customer. So instead, I looked for wines from regions I know Juice Import showcases. I recognized Jura in France, so I picked Arbois ’18 ($72).

Maybe I was just pooped out from the afternoon of tasting wild, natural wines because I didn’t have any feelings toward the bottle I selected. Turned, and I thought the wine was nice, but no imagery or fanciful descriptions poured out of our mouths.

We did have a lot to talk about the food. Turned was starving, so we ordered the Skinny Fries ($8), Wagyu Beef Tartare ($20), Charred Cabbage ($17), Ricotta Dumplings ($25), and Roasted Caramel Apple ($13).

The fries arrived blisteringly hot. The fries were long and skinny, crisp and salty. The garlic aioli was so rich that I only dabbed a bit on each fry and then started eating the fries naked.

Turned enjoyed the Waygu beef tartare and appreciated that it wasn’t covered in the typical creamy, garlicky sauce. I also preferred tasting the full natural flavour of the meat, dill and capers. I also liked the generous side of warm buttery bread instead of the potato chips that most other restaurants serve.

My favourite dish was the ricotta dumplings. Holy smokes – what little morsels of joy! The mixture of the egg yolk, dijon, tomato leaf pesto, shallots and dill pickle was bright and lively. The dumplings were soft and fluffy. I got tingles when I ate this. I would order this again.

Turned favourite dish was the charred cabbage. She raved about the crispy charred bits and the soft underbelly of green cabbage. The jalapeño cream was so decadent I could feel my waist expanding with each bite.

The dessert is worth ordering again. The poached apple was so soft we only needed to press our spoons to cut through the warm flesh. I loved the crunch bits of oatmeal – this was so wholesome but gourmet at the same time.

Our last treat was our bill. We found out that on Saturday and Sunday, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, all customers receive a staff discount of 25%. The food and excellent service at Pigeonhole deserve high praise. Hitting the Sauce gives Pigeonhole two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Laurent Saillard – Juice Imports

So, it’s official – I’m a groupie. I should start wearing a Juice Import tee shirt to show my support for natural wine importers Erik Mercier and Mark Couillard. On Sunday, I took my sister-in-law Turned to Juice Import’s Laurent Saillard wine tasting ($20) at Bricks Wine Co. For this post, let’s listen to “Foux du Fafa” by Flight of the Conchords.

Bricks Wine Co. has one of the city’s most pleasant tasting rooms. The sunlight emitted through the windows adds warmth, while the roominess makes it comfortable to tuck into a session. Sequestered in a quiet nook in the back of the shop, guests remain mostly hidden from customers shopping in the store.

Erik began our session by delineating Laurent Saillard, a small winery in the tiny town of Pouille in Loire Valley. The owner, Laurent, and his team produce only 2,000 cases yearly. I took the information to mean I had to act quickly to pick up some of Brick’s stock, as these wines won’t hang around for much longer.

The first bottle we tried was Blank (Sauvignon Blanc, $41.95). Made from one hundred percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Erik described this as the antithesis of Sauvignon Blancs, so if you typically hate Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll relish this one.

Oh my goodness – what a pretty fragrance! Erik said this was the most sought-after bottle in the line-up. I loved it. Since I was buying a bottle, I asked Erik what food to pair with Blank. Considering the grassy and gooseberry notes and high acidity, he suggested something bitter, like radicchio leaves and/or goat cheese.

The second tasting was White ($37.95), a delicately sweet wine made from fifty percent Ugni Blanc and fifty percent Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is a rarity, as the wine production resulted from Laurent losing most of his crop. The White vintage is a collaboration with his neighbour and a winery in the south of France.

Erik described this wine as “lush, with body, weight and a ripeness to it.” I asked Mark what he would pair with White. He suggested cooked vegetables that are mild tasting in a creamy sauce. I bought a bottle to share with my vegetarian friends.

The third bottle was Un Ete Partage Grolleau ($37.95). The fragrance was floral, and the texture was silky. Erik described the wine as light, fresh and herbaceous, with a nuttiness similar to sunflower seeds.

The fourth wine was La Paire Gamay Noir ($37.95). I found this a lively, wild wine with a bite to it. Erik mentioned the whole cluster of grapes and stems are kept on while being pressed. I asked what the branches add to the wine-making process. I learned that the stems are still alive and metabolizing throughout fermentation, contributing to a softer feeling of the wine.

The fifth tasting was La Pause Gamay Noir ($37.95), which reminded me of the smell of a plastic Barbie doll. Turned said she smelled whiskey. I guess our lived experiences do influence what we taste in new wines.

The sixth bottle we sampled was Ca Se Discute Pineau d’Aunis ($37.95). I smelled raisins. Turned tasted Dr. Pepper. Her neighbour said he could taste Cola. Erik described this wine as peppery with pomegranate, and he could envision eating this with salami on the steps of a cafe in Paris. Turned joked that this wine would pair perfectly with a cigarette.

The seventh tasting was Grenache ($37.95). Erik characterized the wine as supple and aromatic. He recommended slightly chilling this wine and all the other wines we tried before drinking it. He noted the cellars in Loire Valley are cool, so the wine is brought up and served colder than room temperature. The coolness gives the wine more structure and grip and allows the flavours to pop out.

Erik and Mark surprised us with a bonus bottle from their cellar- 2017 La Pause. He described this wine as everything you could want from a Gamay Noir – soy and dried leaves backed up perfectly with cherry Cola.

As with all of Juice Import’s tastings, we received a ten percent discount on the wine we sampled. I left with two bottles, Turned with three, and another guest picked up a case of Laurent Saillard wines. With the wine seminar only costing twenty bucks, the discount on wine, and factoring inflation, this is the deal of the century! Hip, hip, hooray to Juice Imports.

Beer · Fusion · Korean · Restaurants

Best of Kin

L came home early and asked if I wanted to start the long weekend on the right foot. Before he even finished his sentence, I rattled off a list: Best of Kin, The Greek Corner Calgary, or Hanbo. We decided on Best of Kin, as the roads were still icy, and the brewery was closest to us. Let’s listen to “Inner City Pressure” by Flight of the Conchords.

We each ordered a flight of beers ($12 for 4 x 4oz pours). As we sampled each other’s selection, I noticed the crowd reminded me of the professor emeritus at the University of Calgary. L and I were the only ones not wearing North Face jackets. I kept waiting for Dr. B, my master’s supervisor, to jump out and ask me how my stats class was going. The volume of the music was audibly quiet, which suited the clientele.

Barley Pop was our favourite beer, as we found it light with pleasant notes. I thought Dad’s Beer was clean and easy to drink. Summer Crush was sweet and reminded me a little of Kool-Aid. L enjoyed the IPA, which I found bitter with less carbonation than the other beers.

I liked the Sailor’s Delight – it was a tasty coffee stout. Mom Perm was another standout – fun, light and a little sour. I appreciated the beer’s subtle flavours, almost wine-like and quaffable.

L and I were blown away by the food, particularly the Smoked Korean BBQ Chicken Sandwich ($17). The fragrance and taste of the smoke were unreal. The Kewpie mayo added another layer of richness. The chicken thigh meat was satiny smooth. The jalapenos and kimchi slaw mingled with spicy heat and a pickled, tart crunch. This chicken is the best BBQ I have ever tasted. Personally, I think the prices are too low for the quality they are serving up. Cost-wise, this place charges less than your average pub on 17th Avenue.

The Fish and Chips ($19) was wickedly decadent. Our server, when asked, told us the seasonal day boat fish was blue cod. I loved the flaky, buttery filet and the crispy, melt-in-your-mouth batter.

The tartar sauce was thick and herby, similar in freshness to the homemade tzatziki we would eat in Greece. Even the coleslaw rocked – the vegetables were crunchy, and you could taste the freshness of the ingredients.

The fries were fresh-cut, thick cut and mealy on the inside. The golden brown fries were so good we didn’t need any dip. The portion of fries that came with the fish was more than generous. I could feel myself puffing up from all the salt and deep-fried goodness.

I noticed the chefs put great care into prepping the plates. You can taste that same attention to detail in the flavour and quality in the food. Days later, we were still raving about the smoked BBQ chicken. I’m dying to try the beef brisket on my next visit. The BBQ chicken is so mind-blowing that Best of Kin is on Hitting the Sauce’s list of best eats in Calgary.

Happy Hour · Restaurants

Merchants Restaurant & Bar

My friends told me that the scene at Merchants Restaurant & Bar on “Wine Wednesday” is a real hoot. Apparently, the crowd makes for great people-watching. So for our monthly girls’ night, Kournikova, Betty, Québecoise, and I decided to check it out for ourselves.

I called ahead to make reservations. However, a staffer informed me that the restaurant doesn’t take reservations on Wednesdays because it is too busy. After some prodding, I learned we could get a table if I came before 5:00 pm or after 7:00 pm. I landed a booth that afforded a bird’s eye view of the lounge.

I often go with friends on half-price wine night at Earls or Cactus Club, which draws a mostly female crowd. However, this is different for Merchants —these suited-up dudes like their discounted wine! Let’s listen to something from Flight of the Conchords for this post.

I looked up the wine list before and knew I wanted to order a bottle of Simonnet Febvre Chablis ($80, HH $40). However, the restaurant was out of this bottle. So instead, I ordered Louis Latour Macon Lugny ($70, HH $35). I found this wine light and a touch sweet. Québecoise said she enjoyed it and would order it again. However, I wasn’t sold and asked her to pick the next bottle.

Québecoise did select a superior wine – a French Sauvignon Blanc – Alain Gueneau ‘La Guiberte’ ($80, HH $40). Damn – she’s got the best taste. Kournikova said she could taste green apples. Québecoise and Betty thought the wine tasted sour because we had just sampled the last bottle, but it was so loud that I missed the full explanation. I was distracted because I overheard the scandalous conversation at the following table. I felt like I was watching a live episode of the Real Househusbands of Marda Loop.

For food, we shared the Shrimp Gyoza Dumplings ($16.95), Calamari ($15.95), Carpaccio ($22.95), Mixed Salad ($15.50), Filo Baked Brownie ($10), and the Decadent Chocolate Cake ($10).

The carpaccio was delicious! Each bite was pure beef heaven. The tenderloin was silky, tender, and flavourful. I loved the creamy mixture of truffle oil, shaved parmesan, mustard and horseradish aioli. The capers added a tart, salty bite, and the arugula was crisp and peppery. The portion was so generous too. I would get this again.

I also liked the mixed green salad. The maple pepper balsamic vinaigrette was zesty and went well with the cherry tomatoes, toasted pecans, crumbled feta cheese, and slices of cucumber. I would get this salad again too.

The gyoza and calamari were standard and not nearly as good as the carpaccio or salad. If I could do it over again, I would get a pizza or wings instead. A table over to us ordered hot wings, and the fragrance of fried chicken was intoxicating. There’s just something about deep-fried chicken that makes me weak in the knees.

When we received our bill, we were shocked at how inexpensive it was. Ah, wine Wednesday, how economical you are. And the entertainment was free! Sometimes it pays to go out midweek. Hitting the Sauce gives her friends two phat thumbs up.

Beer · Patio · Pubs

Tailgunner Brewing Company

When L came home on Friday night, he felt like doing something different. I suggested checking out a new brewery, either Tailgunner Brewing Company or Best of Kin Brewing in Sunalta. For this post, let’s listen to “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)” by Flight of the Conchords.

Tailgunner is a stunner! I loved the high ceilings and neutral, classic colours. L pointed out the sleek patio space facing the busy 10th Avenue S.W. Along the wood wall panels were oversized leather booths. By 6:30 pm, all the communal tables were occupied by customers.

I ordered a Zesty Zee Wheat Ale (Blind Enthusiasm, Edmonton, AB, $9.50, 500 ml) as I prefer Hefeweizen (German beer). I found the ale herby, spicy, fruity, with a gentle carbonation. However, I enjoyed Tailgunner’s beers a tad more.

The Lint Stephenson, a Czech pilsner ($5.75, 300 ml), was one of my favourite beers of the night. L thought this beer tasted fresh and delicious. We both thought it was a clean, crisp pilsner with pleasant little bubbles.

L was a fan of the S.O.S. Hazy I.P.A. ($5.50, 300 ml). The I.P.A was tropical and hoppy, with no bitterness. We also enjoyed Tailgunner’s dark lager, AJAX ($5.75, 300 ml). I could see myself drinking a whole pint during the upcoming holiday, as it was smooth and sweet with a creamy coffee-like flavour.

For a snack, we ordered the charcuterie plate ($14.75). For two people, this was a hearty portion of cured meats, cheese, olives, and cherry tomatoes. There was the right assortment of different flavours, carbs and dips to satiate our munchy cravings. The olives were juicy and slippery with a zesty marinade. My favourite dip was the roasted red pepper, which tasted superior to the packaged stuff I buy. I would get the charcuterie plate again.

L commented the customer service was excellent – despite how busy it was, the staff were attentive. Someone was always around to answer any questions about the beer menu.

I would bring out-of-town guests here, as it is a beautiful space. Tailgunner would be a great place to rent out for a party. Hitting the Sauce gives this new brewery two phat thumbs up, and it makes it on my list of best breweries in Calgary.

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Sushi

Ki Sushi

L was craving sushi, but his beloved Sukiyaki House is closed on Sundays. I suggested Ki Sushi as an alternative as it is located minutes away from us. Ki Sushi replaced Katsuten, one of the OGs of katsu in Calgary. Since I’m on a Flight of the Conchords bender, let’s listen to “Rejected.”

We ordered a Salmon Maki ($5), Tuna Maki ($5), Salmon Nigiri ($2), Tuna Nigiri ($2), Tako ($2.70), Scallop Nigiri ($3), Chicken Karaage ($9), and Loin Katsu ($15). I enjoyed sipping on the miso soup, which was steaming hot, filled with tiny cubes of tofu and seaweed.


The first appetizer to arrive was our chicken karaage. The light, crumbly batter and the dry, KFC-like seasoning reminded me of Tawainese-style chicken popcorn. The reddish-orange dipping condiment reminded me of plum sauce.

We were fans of the tuna and salmon maki. Both rolls contained more fish than rice, and the nori was still crisp. The tuna filling was creamy and smooth. I could taste a touch of sweetness in the sushi rice. I found the wasabi particularly delicious, as it was creamy and extra spicy. I would get the maki rolls again.

The raw scallop was silky in texture and chubby. The size of the tuna and salmon nigiri was generous, though the temperature of the tuna and tako was a little too cold for us.

Our katsu came with steamed rice and a small side salad. The feathery bread crumbs were buttery and fluffy. The pork itself was thick and soft. I could detect a little cinnamon in the katsu sauce, which tasted homemade. This dish was a winner, but be warned, it is heavy.

If you visit, I would suggest making reservations and being as patient as possible, as Ki Sushi is a popular spot. When we were eating, there was a constant stream of customers dining in and picking up takeout. I’m glad Ki Sushi is located in our neighbourhood. It’s a solid choice for inexpensive and tasty eats.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Kindeli Wines – Juice Imports

On Sunday, Kournikova joined me for a wine tasting ($29) at Vine Arts. Hosted by the co-owner of Juice Imports, Erik Mercier showcased Kindeli wines from Nelson, New Zealand. Let’s listen to “Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Conchords for this post.

Our welcome drink was Kindeli Primavera, a rosé with a dark, raspberry-like hue and a light sparkle of carbonation. Erik informed us that this wine is made from several grapes: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir. He noted this rosé drinks more like red wine. Kournikova liked this one so much that she bought a bottle.

Our first official tasting was Blanco ($39.37). I was surprised when I took the first sniff, as I’d never smelled a wine like this before. Kournikova thought the wine smelled grassy. Erik described this wine as “rocking” and said it smelled like the Sauvignon grapes in Kindeli’s vineyard. He mentioned the wild fermentation process Kindeli employs results in a wider range of flavours.

Kournikova enjoyed the Luna Nueva ($44.91). This wine consists of a blend of Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Erik said this wine had a crazy texture, describing it as round, soft and bright.

When I asked him to define “texture” to me, he compared the difference between skim and whole milk. Erik told me to think about the words “fatty” and “saturation” and what that sensation would feel like in my mouth. For example, he stated Viognier is an oiler and heavier white wine.

My favourite wine was Verano ($44.91). Erik described this dry, fresh wine as savoury, with notes of dried apples and Oolong tea. I knew right away my girlfriends would love this bottle. I bought one bottle for my friend Sunflower, who has a penchant for orange wines.

Erik recommended pairing this wine with something funky and sweet, like a Japanese curry. He stated that Verano represents a complete picture of Kindeli’s farm, as every variety is blended into this bottle: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

The Otono ($44.90) is made from Gewurztraminer grapes, fermented on skins for five days in an amphora (Greek vase). After the pressing, Riesling and Pinot Gris juice is added to the “spent skins”. Erik noted this wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and without sulphur.

Erik loved the smell of Ivierno ($44.83). He stated one of the many reasons he likes natural wines is the different breadth of flavours it produces. This wine contains about 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris.

Kournikova thought Tinto ($44.83) smelled peppery. Erik described the flavour as dark fruit juicy with a violet floral. Of the red wines, this was my favourite. With each sip, I noticed a new tasting note.

The last wine we tried was Luna Lena ($44.90). Erik described Luna Lena as sweet, with dark fruit characteristics. I asked him why my initial reaction to his wines changed with each sip. At first, I was unsure if I even liked the wine. However, with each quaff, I started to appreciate different flavours I didn’t pick up at first. I told him this experience is the opposite when I drink terrible wine at a pub, as even though I keep drinking it, it never tastes better, no matter how hard I wish it to be.

Erik believes it’s because we initially don’t like unfamiliar flavours that we can’t describe. It is our body’s way of warning us about poison. But after we try something new, such as wild fermented wines, we get used to the unique flavours and begin to taste other things.

I’m looking forward to Erik’s upcoming events in November and December. I already booked up each class he’s teaching. These wine seminars are so cheap that I can afford to splurge on fancier bottles for my forthcoming Christmas parties. Hitting the Sauce gives Erik’s evident passion for natural wines two phat thumbs up.

Bakery · Brunch · Dessert · French

Le Comptoir, by François

My friend Bex.oxo told me about a new French cafe in Marda Loop, Le Comptoir, by François. Her roommate Valentina recently arrived from Ukraine and started working there, so we decided to visit on a sunny afternoon. Let’s listen to “Le Gorille” by George Brassens for this post.

This quaint cafe only fits a couple of people inside, but the patio is outfitted with a fireplace and a heater, complete with piles of folded blankets and stacks of wood. We chose to sit on the couch in front of the fire. Between the crackling flames, the French music filtrating the air, and the general adorableness of the outdoor / indoor room, we were transported to somewhere else. I felt like I was in a scene in one of my favourite books.

I ordered the Mushroom Quiche ($12) and a glass of red wine ($13). Bex.oxo picked the Pistachio Crumble ($8.75), and she bought me the Almond Croissant ($4.85) and Mediterranean Cake ($11) to eat the next day.

Bex.oxo cut her cake in half to share with me. I refused to eat her treat, but I did take a bite for the blog. She appreciated the thin crust, as it’s more delicate than the pies she bakes. For the record, my friend bakes the best pumpkin pie, all from scratch. I thought the nuggets of berries added a nice tartness to counter the sweetness of the pistachio cream.

The quiche is not the soggy, eggy mess I make at home. Instead, the pastry was thin and crispy. The custard was silky, hot and cheesy, studded with savoury, crunchy mushroom slices. Bex.oxo mentioned the owner comes in every morning to bake everything fresh.

Valentine told us the staff from the shop next door, Gardenia Flowers, bought cake to cheer themselves up. Three of the employees are from Iran, so they too, were dealing with shock and sadness from the crisis occurring in their homeland. I stopped by Gardenia to handpick a bouquet to brighten my living room.

Valentine also told us about a two-table “secret” speakeasy inside a beauty salon at the back of the building. We visited at 5:00 pm, but it wasn’t open yet. So instead, we decided to walk home and try visiting again in the future.

I shared the Mediterranean cake with L. Holy cannoli! The sweetness of the almond icing paired beautifully with the citrus in the orange cake. The cake was bright, citrusy and fragrant. I would order this again.

The next day I reheated the almond croissant in my air fryer. I was impressed with the soft, buttery layers of pastry. What I loved was the exterior of the croissant was flaky and not the dry, crackly type that leads to a thousand uneaten crumbs.

Bex.oxo wished more places like this existed in Calgary. I don’t generally hang out in Marda Loop, but Le Comptoir, by François, will be a regular spot for us. This cafe is worth a stop if you have half an hour to an hour to spare. I recommend stopping by for leisurely breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack. Hitting the Sauce gives Le Comptoir two fat thumbs up.

Fusion · Special Occasion · Vietnamese

Foreign Concept

Jacuzzi is in town! For his first night in, I took him to Foreign Concept and then to the Comedy Cave. For this post, let’s listen to “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” by Elton John.

We sat in the back, near the bar section. I peeked through the screen and saw Duncan Ly, the owner and chef of Foreign Concept. Even if he weren’t in the restaurant, we would be in good hands, as I hear he trains his chefs exceptionally well.

We ordered the Fish Sauce Caramel Brussels Sprouts ($15), Pork Belly & Foie Gras Steamed Buns ($32), Lemongrass Glazed Duck Breast ($37), and the Squid Ink Spaghetti ($29). Three entrees and one appetizer were the perfect amount of food for the three of us.

When the tantalizing aroma of the brussels sprouts hit our table, I knew this appetizer would be a winner. The Brussels sprouts were crispy, saturated with the hot juices of fish sauce, caramelized sugar and sausage. The layer upon layer of flavour was fabulous. This dish isn’t something I could make at home. I would order this again.

The squid ink spaghetti arrived next, nestled with chili prawns, clams, and charred octopus. The black noodles were el dente, coated with a subtle Panang curry emulsion, and spicy from the crunchy jalapeño slices. I enjoyed the scent of dill and the sweetness of the peas. The prawns were plump, with a texture that made me think the prawns were fresh and not previously frozen.

Jacuzzi and L raved about the pork belly steam buns. We were impressed with the super thick, tender slabs of pork belly. The soft meat melted in our mouths. Jacuzzi commented that the white buns were pillowy and warm. The pate added umami, while the pickled cabbage added a crunchy acidity to each bite. I enjoyed the noticeable fragrance of the basil leaves.

The yuzu cucumbers were nicely pickled and tasted like Hendricks gin. The Asian pear added some sweetness and softness. L said the Ssamjang aioli gave this dish a nice kick. What I loved is the condiments aren’t just an afterthought. You can tell a lot of preparation ensures every component of the dish is top-notch. L said this was his favourite dish of the night.

Jacuzzi was impressed with the quality of the braised duck leg confit and the breast. He pointed out that the colour of the duck was a perfect hue, and it wasn’t greasy or overcooked like the Peking duck in Vancouver. I noticed the crepes were thin, smooth, and light. Jacuzzi noted the wrappers held the ingredients together and didn’t have the gummy texture of the wraps in his hometown. We topped our duck with zingy strands of cucumber, scallions, pickled carrot and papaya. Jacuzzi doesn’t generally like duck, but even he said this was the night’s best dish.


The food was so yummy, L and I wondered why we don’t eat here more often. After last night’s experience, Foreign Concept will be on our regular roster.

Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Korean

Chicken Omnibus

L and I visited our adorable nephew in Bowness. After a successful playdate, we decided to order dinner from Chicken Omnibus. I’m glad we checked it out, as this is our new favourite place for Korean-style fried chicken. For this post, let’s listen to “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Loving’ Spoonful.

I noticed K-Pop music playing in the background when we entered the restaurant. The interior is bright and colourful. While we waited to order, we looked at the pictures on the menu, which described each item in detail. We ordered the Dak Gang Jeong Combo ($12.99), Chicken Combo ($12.99), and Onion Rings ($5.50).

Our combos came with a pop and a sauce. We each asked for the sauce on the side because we planned on eating our food at home and didn’t want the chicken to become soggy. But after seeing some of the food come out of the kitchen, I told L we would eat at the restaurant.

This small mom-and-pop operation cooks everything fresh. Our food arrived at our table within ten minutes, so hot I burned the roof of my mouth.

The portions are generous. The double-battered fries were piled high on our basket. The coating on the potatoes reminded me of Costco fries. The onion rings looked like it was the frozen type, but it was still good. The batter was thin and melted in your mouth. We dipped our onion rings in the spicy aioli, ranch, and a sweet, spicy sauce.

The star of the show is the chicken. My pieces were juicy and meaty. The chicken tasted real, unlike the congealed stuff KFC sells and superior to the texture and flavour of Popeye’s. The batter was light, crusty, and so well seasoned that I didn’t need any of the sauces. The plumpness of Omnibus’s chicken reminds me of Church’s and LA Chicken in Richmond, BC, but with a crunchier, tastier batter.

L liked my chicken over his Dak Gang Jeong (sweet, crispy boneless chicken). I tried his nugget-like meat, and I also preferred my order of regular bone-in chicken.

L said the food tasted authentic, and Omnibus reminded him of the local places he would frequent in Korea. Omnibus isn’t a chain, and the chef was so genuinely friendly it made me want to return. I heard two customers exclaim this was the best chicken they ever ate. I saw another customer digging into a plate overflowing with katsu (breaded chicken cutlet) that looked delicious.

The next time I have a cheat meal, I’m getting the fried chicken again or perhaps a chicken burger. Hitting the Sauce gives Omnibus two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Fringe France – Vine Arts

On Friday evening, L, Bottlenick, and I went to the Fringe France wine tasting ($50) at Vine Arts on 17th Ave. Klaire McCallum, our host for the evening, selected wines from France’s lesser-known regions from wineries that produce only a small number of wines each year. Choosing this class was a no-brainer for me, as I have an infinite love for French wines. For this post, let’s listen to “A Bicyclette” by Yves Montand.

Vine Art’s tasting room is brand-new, located on the store’s second floor. We sipped a glass of sparkling wine and introduced ourselves to the guests closest to us.

Everyone was given a gorgeous cheese and charcuterie plate from Peasant Cheese. The brie was ripe and creamy. The gouda was even better, hard yet smooth, with a bit of texture. The charcuterie was so tasty that I chewed slowly to extract the most flavour from each bite.

The first wine we tried was the Domaine Vendange Cremant de Savoie 2021 ($26.67). We learned the location of the winery borders Switzerland and Italy, and the region produces one percent of France’s wine production. Bottlenick commented the wine was toasty. There was a breadiness to it that reminded me of champagne. Klaire recommended pairing this bubbly with alpine cuisines, such as a tartiflette. I bought a bottle of this wine and planned to bring it out while hosting a raclette dinner party.


The second wine was Domaine Nigri “Confluence” Jurancon Sec 2019 ($29.73). This winery is located in the southwest of France, close to Spain. Klaire described this wine as intense, with notes of passionfruit. L said it tasted tropical, while Bottlenick thought it was soft, interesting, and unique. Klaire advised pairing this wine with something rich, like foie gras or duck.

I enjoyed the third wine – Domaine des Carlines La Vouivre Cotes du Jura 2018 ($41.19). Klaire noted Jura is famous for its yellow wines and known for its dry and sweet white wine. Bottlenick and L were fans of this wine as well. Bottlenick thought it was oily, while L said it was slightly sweet. I thought it tasted good.

The fourth wine hailed from Cotes de Provence – Clos Cibonne “Cuvee Speciale Tibouren” 2021 ($58.30). Although the region is famous for its rosé wine, we tried a red wine with a see-through ruby hue. Klaire described this wine as herbal, with rosemary, thyme and lavender notes. L thought the wine tasted peppery.

There were two very interesting points Klaire shared with us about alcohol content and acidity. First, she pointed out the rosé’s alcohol content was 14%. She explained that the higher the alcohol, the more texture and feeling a wine has. Second, she mentioned that wine with high acidity makes the mouth water, while wines with lower acidity create more of a mouth-coating sensation. Klaire stated acidity in wine is desirable when paired with certain dishes, as it helps to cut into the fattiness.

The winning wine for me was the fifth tasting – L’enclos des Braves “Les Gourmands” Gaillac 2017 ($37.29). Klaire suggested pairing this wine with charred food, a stew, chili, or soup. I loved this wine so much that I bought a bottle. I’ll break this wine out the next time I burn a dish for a party.

Our last tasting was Thunevin-Calvet Maury 1982 ($79.06). L joked that the wine was almost as old as me. I thought this wine wasn’t as sweet as it smelled and tasted a little like a raisin. This is one of the best ports / dessert wines I’ve tried. We learned this wine is produced on mountain landscapes in a dry, hot, rugged climate. The shrubbery the grapes grow on has deep roots. Due to the poor soil, the stress on the grapes produces the best wine.

By this point in the night, everyone was comfortable, and I heard shouts of “walnut” and “bitter almond” thrown around. When asked what makes a wine worth aging, Klaire listed three things – it must have complexity, tannin structure, and acidity.

Klaire detailed how old this wine was and how this type of wine was made 400 years before the port was made through the mutage mechanism. I piped up and said I didn’t think 40 years was very old at all. The person across from me reminded me we were talking about wines, not people.

These wines were not easy drinking, patio-crushing bottles I usually consume with my girlfriends. However, Klaire noted that she picked unique wines that paired exceptionally well with food. She wanted us to try wines with attitude, not face-ripping weird wines. She succeeded – as I thoroughly enjoyed her selection.

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Noble Pie Pizza – Round two

My beloved Jaime is in town! I haven’t seen my vegetarian friend since COVID. I suggested Noble Pie Pizza for our dinner date, as I know she appreciates a good pizza. For this post, let’s listen to “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd.

We ordered the Marinated Olives ($8) and a glass of the Venturini Baldini Lambrusco rosé ($13) to start. The green olive was our favourite of the bunch because the flesh was buttery and juicy. I loved the flavours of the fennel, citrus and rosemary in the marinade. 

We ordered three pizzas in the new dine-in 13″ size – the Sweet Cheesus ($19), Brooklyn White ($19), and the Magic Pie ($19). We purposely ordered too much food, as we wanted to try everything. So much food was left over that we took an entire pie home. 

The Sweet Cheesus was the simplest of the trio. Jaime thought this was more of a dessert than a savoury main because of the honey. The pizza was saucy and cheesy; the two prominent flavours were honey and Sicilian oregano. I can see this pizza being popular with kids. I learned this at my last family reunion, as my nephews and nieces would only eat cheese pizza. 

Jaime’s favourite was the Brooklyn White. Man, this is one tasty pizza! The rich, heady flavours of the caramelized onions and sesame seeds were prominent. The ricotta was creamy and paired well with garlic, parsley, and cheeses. I would get this again. 

I would also order the Magic Pie again. Miss Foodie recommended this secret menu item. She never steers me wrong. The fennel sausage was fatty (in a good way) and spicy, with a hint of licorice. The cream, basil, and fresh mozzarella made this gloriously decadent. 

Jaime mentioned that New Yorkers eat their pizza slices folded in half. I tried this method and found one benefit – the crust enveloped all the saucy goodness. However, I’m not 100% sold on “To Fold or Not to Fold,” but I’m willing to try this methodology again.

I can’t wait to see more of Jaime in the future, now with COVID restrictions on the decrease. Perhaps our next visit can be to Italy, her favourite travel destination. 

Korean

Namsan Korean Cuisine

I love going out on Friday night. I figure I have the perfect excuse. By the end of the week, we are out of groceries and too tired to cook, and we can celebrate the end of a busy week. For this post, let’s listen to “That’s All” by Genesis. 

I wanted to check out Namsan Korean Cuisine. I’ve heard only good things about the food, but a Facebook Calgary Roast and Toast inspired me to dine here, detailing how the owner of Namsan went out of his way to help a stranger in need.

I called beforehand to make reservations, as I heard it gets busy. Namsan is located in an old house on the edge of the downtown core. L wondered how this house survived when none of the other buildings remained. 

We shared a large Asahi ($9), Seafood Pajeon ($17) and Cheese Dak Galbi ($42). While we waited for our food, we munched on the complimentary banchan (side dishes) and sipped on our beer after cheering each other in Korean. Geonbae!

Of the bunch, our favourite side dish was the sweet pickles. The texture was unique – crunchy yet bendy. The kimchi was red and wet from the spicy seasoning. I found the julienned fish cakes sweet and chewy. The chilled sprout and macaroni salad were standard. 

Our seafood pancake was crispy, hot and a little oily. The sweet flavour of the crunchy onions and charred green onions were prominent. The batter was light and just enough to bind all the vegetables and calamari together. I didn’t mind that there wasn’t an abundance of seafood because the pancake was so delicious that I didn’t even need to use the dipping sauce. L taught in Korea for a semester and thought the pajeon was authentic. I would order this again. 

I was excited when a big skillet full of spicy stir-fried chicken arrived at our table. Our server turned on the burner. We watched patiently as the cheese melted over the chicken, sweet potatoes and rice cakes. L noted the chicken was of good quality. I didn’t find the sauce spicy, though L could detect some heat. I liked how every time we went to scoop a piece of chicken or rice cakes, the strands of cheese would stretch from the skillet to our bowl. When grilled, the rice cake was chewy and gelatinous. 

After we made a dent in our dak galbi, our server added a bowl of rice and made a stir-fry. I preferred the dak galbi with the fried rice because the sweet potato, rice, and cheese melded together into a tasty, Korean-style risotto. 

There was so much food we made three meals from the leftovers. The following day, the cold pancake was nearly as delicious as the previous night. Namsam is popular for good reasons. The service is warm and friendly, and the portions are generous. Since it is open until 1:00 a.m., I bet it’s a fun spot with the youngins. When we left, a large crowd of customers was waiting for a table. Hitting the Sauce gives Namsan two phat thumbs up.

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Golden Child

L has been busy burning the midnight oil. By Friday, I was itching for some TLC, so I announced he was taking me somewhere nice for date night. Without a moment’s hesitation, he suggested Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Son of a Preacher” by Dusty Springfield.

I spend an extraordinary amount of time reading about restaurants. If there were an award for knowing the most random tidbits about the best food in Calgary, I would win it. I recalled seeing an Instagram reel showing Steve, the former owner of Sushi Club, handcrafting the gyoza at Sukiyaki House. As a student, I would pop by Sushi Club in Kensington for lunch as often as possible. I still remember how much I enjoyed those solo meals, as I had just moved from Vancouver to Calgary.

We sipped on ice-cold glasses of Asahi beer as we poured over the menu. I was feeling piggish, so I wanted to order a whack of appetizers. We selected the Chicken Yakitori ($9), Gyoza ($12), Spicy Prawns ($13), California Roll ($14), and an assortment of nigiri ($3.20-$5).

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a gift – tuna tataki. What a beauty! His creativity always makes me shake my head in wonder. I scooped a little of the fish eggs, raw tuna, avocado and pea shoots on top of the nori and pushed it together like a taco. The fried seaweed curled like a dry leaf in my hand and melted in my mouth. The fragrance of the ponzu sauce and the delicate crunch of all ingredients made this appetizer sensational.

L and I haven’t enjoyed yakitori since Japan, pre-Covid. I loved how the chicken was meaty and still juicy. The crevices were nicely charred. The teriyaki sauce was subtle and not sweet, letting the flavour of the grilled green onions come through.

What was the big surprise of the night was the house-made gyoza. Wowee! Now, this is a mother f#%*# dumpling! Steve doesn’t play around. The wrapping around the toothsome filling was beautifully crimped. The chicken and vegetable filling was hot and sausage-like, bursting with flavour. The rayu rice vinegar sauce was spicy and tart, brightening up the rich taste of the meat. L said this was the best gyoza he’s ever had. I would order this again.

This was my second time trying the spicy tiger prawns. If you like calories, you’ll love this dish. Each prawn was giant and battered like a fritter. I don’t know where Sukiyaki House purchases shrimp and prawns, but it’s the best I found in Calgary. The shrimp is always sweet, with a snappy texture.

I would order the spicy prawns again, but only if L ate his share. The chili aioli was so decadent that I felt dizzy. I blame L, as he kept pushing all the shrimp on me because he knows how much I love all things creamy.

Sukiyaki House offers two types of California rolls – one with capelin (fish) roe and another with sesame seeds. I’ve tried both. The version with caviar comes with rice paper, which gives a chewier texture, like the tapioca dumplings (banh loc tom thit) at Song Huong. The pairing of the crunchy fish roe, mango sauce and real crab meat was sublime. I have to say, though, that I prefer the version with sesame seeds a smidge more because of the flavour profile of the fresh crabmeat, roasted nori, avocado and toasted sesame seeds. Sukiyaki House may not have invented the California roll, but they perfected it. This is the only Japanese restaurant I’ll bother ordering a California roll.

It’s impossible not to snap out of a bad mood while eating Koji’s food. L said he felt sorry for people who come to Sukiyaki House and don’t appreciate it because they are used to McDonald style sushi. I thought those people wouldn’t want our pity nor appreciate us looking down on their taste buds. If someone said something similar about me as I’m happily devouring a Dave’s double cheeseburger, I’d tell that person where to go.

The food here is eye-rollingly good. L and I ended the night by morbidly proclaiming that we would die happy if we died that night. I don’t know why we always equate excellent food with our deaths.

My younger brother Jacuzzi is visiting me for the first time in Calgary. He doesn’t want Chinese or Japanese food, as there’s a plethora of both in Vancouver. However, I’m still tempted to take him to Sukiyaki House for certain dishes they do so well that aren’t sushi, like the tempura, butter clams, agadashi tofu and various tatakis.

Pizza

Actually Pretty Good – Pizza

On Monday, L had a long day. I didn’t want to cook when I came home, so I told him I was taking him out for dinner. We wanted some place close, so I suggested Actually Pretty Good in Bankview. For this post, let’s listen to “Manic Monday” by The Bangles.

On the day we visited, all pizzas were on special for $15. The restaurant was packed, so we purchased tall cans of Cabin Brewing Company Supersaturation NEPA ($7), Eighty-Eight Brewing Co. Tiffany Rosé Saison ($7) and chilled out on the bench outside. We landed a patio seat in about ten minutes. Personally, I think restaurants with a queue should encourage drinking around their vicinity, as it takes the bite out of waiting.

Outside the restaurant, the music was more of a whisper. Even though we were in the parking lot, the makeshift patio worked. I noticed the hanging flower baskets emitted a sweet fragrance. L pointed out the lights strung up in the trees. The owners created a nice space.


We ordered two pizzas, the Full Nelson ($25, Monday $15) and the Capricciosa ($24, Monday $15). The first pizza to come out was the Full Nelson. The dough was light and crisp, with a clean taste. The crust was puffy with crispy air pockets. The pizza was creamy from the four kinds of cheeses and white sauce and salty from the minced-up prosciutto. The honey added a pleasing touch of sweetness.

The Capricciosa was the heavier of the two pies. This pizza was loaded with fior di latte and juicy from the artichokes, green olives, and cubed chili smoked ham. The sundried tomatoes added a tart brightness to the whole flavour profile.

There’s a lot to like about Actually Pretty Good. The beers are reasonably priced, the staff are friendly and hardworking, and the pizza is a wicked deal on Mondays. We had four pieces left over, and when reheated in our air fryer two days later, it was just as good as when we ate it fresh out of the oven. Hitting the Sauce gives Actually Pretty Good two phat thumbs up.

Patio · Vegetarian

Vegan Street (Beltline)

To celebrate Summer’s successful internship, we went out to celebrate. I checked around, and most places couldn’t accommodate a group of our size. Sunflower mentioned Vegan Street is one of Summer’s favourite restaurants. I called, and they were happy to accommodate our group. For this post, let’s listen to “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams.

Vegan Street reserved two tables for us in one room. Our table was between the bar and the patio. It had just started to rain, so with the open door, the air was cool and fresh.

On Wednesday, wine by the bottle is half off, and appetizers are three dollars less. I ordered a bottle of Landlust Organic Dry Riesling ($39, HH $20) to share with Dalhousie. We debated a little as to if the wine was tart or sweet. As we are both pretty chill people, we decided we found the wine acidic and/or sweet.


Sunflower and Queen’s Gambit ordered a Virgo cocktail ($15, HH $10). Queen’s Gambit mentioned she always gets the featured drink because it is seasonal and won’t be on the menu for long. She remarked her cocktail wasn’t overly citrusy and nicely balanced with matcha tea’s flavour.


When the rest of the crew arrived at our table, I recited the specials and gave my recommendations: the kalamari and fish tacos. I mentioned the fish is made from heart palm, which gives it a creamier, smoother, superior texture than fish. I also said that I heard the Chickin Bites ($16.50, HH $13.50) were supposed to be very tasty, as well as the mushroom tacos and truffle mushroom burger. Field asked if I had shares in the restaurant because I knew the menu so well. I said no, I just had a deep love for delicious food.


Vegan Street makes its Kalamari ($16.50, HH $13.50) from local blue oyster mushrooms. The firm texture mimicked squid’s bounciness but without any fishy flavour. The batter was light and melted in my mouth. The best thing about the kalamari was the flavour of the seasoning and the creamy, zippy tzatziki sauce.

There were pops of flavour from the pickled capers, spiciness from the jalapenos, and aromaticness from the onions. This dish is so good that I could happily eat this vegan version over any other ‘real’ kalamari.


I tried Dalhousie’s sweet chilli chickin bites. I thought the outer skin layer of the tofu imitated the toothsome texture of real chicken. Lighty breaded and heavily sauced, the tofu bites were finger-licking good.
I want to take L here for the fish tacos and the mushroom truffle burger, even though I know he will resist. He’s a die-hard meatatarian. However, if Vegan Street can make a version of calamari and fish better than the real thing, they can convert anyone. Hitting the Sauce gives Vegan Street two phat thumbs

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Noble Pie Pizza

The Executive has the best after-work life. In the last month, she’s been to Vintage, Donna Mac, Pat and Betty, Wise and Wright and PD3 by Blake. I love hearing her recaps so much that it inspired me to try a new restaurant. Let’s listen to “Smooth Criminal” by Micheal Jackson. 

Based on what I’ve read, Noble Pie Pizza has an excellent reputation with its customers. I’ve always wanted to go, but the no reservation policy deterred me. On Thursday night, I told L we had to go. He agreed and said if there were a wait, he would be okay with it. Lucky for us, there were still spots at the bar. 

You access Nobel Pizza through the back alley by Metrovino Wines and the Cookbook Shop. When we walked in, I noticed four chefs lined up side-by-side, each intensely focused on their work. I could tell right away we were in good hands. The restaurant is small but spacious, as the tables aren’t crammed together like most popular spots. The room is dimly lit, with a funky vibe. I mentioned to L that the music wasn’t generic. He nodded and said, more importantly, it was at an appropriate volume. Noble Pizza seems popular with families, as parents and their kids occupy most of the booths. 

When I saw the wine list, I knew I had to bring my friends here for girls’ night. I ordered a glass of the Venturini Baldini Lambrusco rosé ($13). Our server gave me an extra big pour because he was near the end of the bottle. His unexpected generosity gave me a burst of giddiness. The sparkling rosé was fresh and light. 

We shared the Noble Caesar Salad ($15). This salad is pure joy. I was shocked to see the mountain of parmigiano reggiano piled on top of the lettuce. I asked our server if we could get extra cheese. She looked alarmed and then smiled when she realized I was joking. The romaine lettuce was crisp and cool. I prefer Noble’s Caesar to Una’s, because the former has a softer, fluffier texture, and the proportion of garlicky anchovy sauce to lettuce was spot on, so each piece of lettuce was glossy from the dressing. The toasted panko added a subtle crunch.

We ordered an 18-inch Half Roni / Half Extra Fancy ($37) pizza. Holy Cheesus, what a beauty! The crust was glorious – the edges billowed out, creating beautiful air pockets. The dough was crisp and light. The last time I had a pizza of this calibre was at Savino Pizzeria and Rocket Pie

The pepperoni in the roni was rich, salty, and still sizzling. I thought the oregano and pop of garlic in the tomato sauce were pleasantly pungent. The tissue of the bread was chewy. What was music to my ears was the blistering sound of the crunch and crackle of the crust as we chomped throughout our meal.

I enjoyed the fancy pizza the most because of the meaty pieces of roasted mushrooms and the crunch of the red onions. If you don’t like spicy food, ask to omit the jalapeños. I bragged to L that the jalapeños weren’t spicy, and then I bit into one with some seeds.  

To quell my tingling tongue, I asked for a glass of red wine that was full-bodied and not heavy with tannins. Our server recommended Monte Bernardi Italia ti Adoro ($13). The wine was so damn smooth that it should be criminal. 

The slices were massive. I could only eat two while L ate three. We had leftovers, enough for L’s breakfast and lunch. We are planning our second visit, where L wants to try the Sweet Cheezus pie. This place has it all! Fantastic wine, excellent service and some mind-blowing quality pizza. Hitting the Sauce gives Noble Pie Pizza two phat thumbs up.

Greece

Athens – Last night

L and I departed Naxos to Athens for our last day before heading back to Calgary. I love Naxos, but I also enjoyed my time in Athens. The mix of different architectural styles amongst ancient ruins creates an incredible backdrop to explore. For this post, let’s listen to Billy Joel’s “Longest Time.”

We checked into our hotel and then walked around the neighbourhood. I noticed several permanently closed stores with Asian names. The buildings themselves looked old and historic, reminding me a little of Hastings Street in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. We grabbed a gyro and cold glass of beer for lunch, then ducked back into our hotel to cool off. It felt like such a shame to stay in our hotel room due to the overbearing heat.

I looked up restaurants in Athens, and one in particular stood out – Atlantikos. I almost exploded with unbridled delight when I found out we were within walking distance of this seafood restaurant. I told L I had to eat here.

Psiri is an offbeat, bohemian neighbourhood. We enjoyed walking around, admiring the quaint-looking streets. L picked a place for a pint of beer and a glass of wine for me. Then, after the evening cooled down, we made our way over to Atlantikos. Located in an alley, customers lined up to the busy restaurant all night. Oh my Cod, the food here is my idea of perfection. The seafood is fresh, simple and inexpensive.

We shared a Greek Salad (€6.50), Fried Calamari (€7.50), Mussels Saganaki (€6), and Grilled Shrimp (€11). The salad was huge. The feta was creamy and smooth. I noticed the tomatoes were bright red and juicy.

I just learned that calamari is a type of squid, and the “calamari” I’ve always eaten before is squid. The difference in texture is calamari is thinner, and there’s a delightful bulb-like air bubble that makes for satisfying munching.

The mussels were tasty morsels – fat and fresh. Perfectly cooked – each mussel was soft and hot. I would use the crusty pieces of bread to mop up the rich, tomatoey sauce.

The meat in the shrimp was delicately crunchy, sweet and juicy. The shrimp shells were so blisteringly hot that I burnt the tips of my impatient fingers.


I told L that one day, we have to return to Greece. I would go back to Naxos and Athens in a heartbeat as they are both on the top of my list of favourite places to visit.

Restaurants

Naxos – Day four

For our last day in Naxos, we left it a do as we please day. The only problem was there wasn’t anything we wanted to do. None of the excursions interested us. We don’t like lying around a beach, and I strongly dislike submerging myself in public bodies of water. For this post, let’s listen to “Summer in the City” by The Luvin Spoonful.

We ate breakfast at our favourite spot, then walked along the beach to the port. We shopped, purchased a few items, and then went for one last gyro. By the late afternoon, it was so stinking hot that we called it quits and drank ice-cold cans of Mythos beer on our balcony.


For our last supper in Naxos, I booked To Ellinkkiko. I ordered a glass of red wine (€7) that was so lovely, I let out a pent-up sigh of relief. The temperature was cool on such a hot night, smooth and dry, with a raspberry-like aftertaste. Most of the places we’ve been eating at are the cheap and cheerful type, so the only wine offered is a house wine. For the price, I have no complaints about the wine I tried in Greece. I just know I was missing out on sampling spectacular wines.

We shared oven-baked stuffed peppers (€6), tzatziki (€6) and fresh, homemade bread. The peppers were sweet, soft and wet with the warm juices of tomatoes. There was so much flavour from the feta and dill that I used the bread to mop up the juices.

The whole fish (€15) L ordered was the best I ever had. The white flesh was soft and hot. The fish had a delicate, buttery flavour. I told L that had I known the food at this restaurant would be this good, we would have eaten here every night. L agreed, and I could tell he wasn’t humouring me. When he means it, he elaborates and shows enthusiasm. When he’s pacifying me, he is polite and quiet.

I wasn’t starving, so I ordered the vegetarian moussaka (€8). My pot of deliciousness contained layers of creamy stewed vegetables. The top layer was baked in a thick layer of cheese, but I could still taste the individual ingredients, like the corn, peas, carrots, peppers, and eggplant. I liked how the moussaka wasn’t too salty so that I could enjoy the light lemony, infused vegetables.


For dessert, we were given a plateful of watermelon. However, we were too stuffed even to have a slice. My gosh – it’s incredible food like this that makes travelling worth it. This meal was the highlight of our trip. If you are ever in Naxos, I highly recommend To Ellinkkiko. Hitting the Sauce gives this restaurant two phat thumbs up.

Greece · Restaurants

Naxos – Day three

L informed me that he didn’t enjoy where we ate the previous morning. I wanted to say that’s what you get when you want to be spontaneous. However, I held back and suggested Λαγογιάννης Bakery. Since the weather has been extra hot, particularly in Greece, let’s listen to Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime.”

We ordered lattes (€3), a spinach pie (€3) and a sweet vanilla pastry (€3). The espresso was rich and robust, and the foam so dreamy that I would close my eyes with each sip.

The spinach filling was thick, infused with dill and lemon. L’s cake was light, flaky and sweet from the vanilla custard. When L told me how much he enjoyed his breakfast, I said he could thank Google reviews for finding this gem.

We spent the morning sightseeing. I was intrigued with the Melanes Kouros Statue because I was surprised that such a large marble project was abandoned all these years. Who pulled the plug? Why didn’t anyone else want to resurrect the statue? One would think if the City of Calgary could manage to fix the Wishing Well, Naxos benefactor would try to salvage the statute.

For lunch, L picked another beach destination. Most restaurants were hustling for customers. We picked the busiest restaurant along the beach. Our shaded patio table was inches from the water, and occasionally, the breeze would come and cool us off.

We ordered calamari (€14), saganaki (€6) and fresh fish (€15). Typically when we order fried calamari, we get the rings (mantle) or rings and tentacles. This was the first time we got baby squid. The texture of the squid was thinner than the rings, with a bouncier, lighter mouthfeel.

Our server recommended fried barbounia (striped red mullet). The flesh is rich and firm, and the fishy flavour reminded me of mackerel.

While we ate, several cats surrounded us. I noticed one cat was injured, as parts of its skull were either missing or burned off. I fed the cats bits and pieces of my fish, and once my plate was empty, they vamoosed.

On the way home, we stopped by the Olive Museum. I was expecting an experience like a tasting at a winery, but for olives. Instead, we saw a few pieces of equipment and a gift room with overpriced olives and lotions. However, the olives were so good that I bought home two packs.

For dinner, I wanted to check out a restaurant near our hotel, Maros. I read the online reviews, and it appeared to be a legit restaurant for simple Greek food. We sat outside next to two young women from Montreal. I know this information because all the male servers kept coming to their table to make small talk. They wore halter tops so I could see their washboard stomachs. I watched with awe and jealousy as they easily polished off two entrees and three large appetizers.

L and I shared zucchini balls (€5), lamb (€10), a Greek Salad (€6), chicken souvlaki (€10), and yogurt (€4). L ordered a beer (€3) while I stuck with a copper pint of house white wine (€5).

When I first saw the zucchini fritters, I wasn’t impressed. In this case, looks are deceiving. The interior was soft and fluffy, creamy with feta, dill and mint. The outside was crispy, and the filling just melted in your mouth. Each bite was bursting full of flavour. I would get this again.

The lamb was tasty. The texture of the meat wasn’t fatty or gamey. However, I didn’t like the copious amount of bones and the fact it was served at room temperature. I was tempted to ask our server to pop my dish back in the microwave. The lemon potatoes were also underdone.

I was too full to try L’s chicken souvlaki, which he enjoyed. Other people who looked like locals ordered generously stacked plates of creamy pasta and fries. I wondered if we ordered the wrong dishes, but L said we didn’t come to Greece to eat carbonara.

For dessert, L and I shared yogurt with honey. Yogurt in Greece is unreal – the texture is like a cross between custard and whipping cream, but with a zip to it.

After dinner, we wandered around the castle to work off our heavy dinner. The restaurants at the castle looked so enchanting, with the sparkling lights set against the white walls and music twinkling out onto the corridor. But I had already booked our last supper in Naxos, and I knew the next restaurant was a real winner. To be continued.

Greece · Seafood

Naxos – Day two

For breakfast, L suggested we find a cafe randomly, just like people did before the Internet. I felt uneasy about this decision, but I was a good sport and agreed to go old-school. For this post, let’s listen to “Denial.”

We ordered a latte (2.70), a cheese, and a meat pie (3.90). Unfortunately, the latte was too hot, and as a result, the milk tasted off. I worked at Starbucks in my younger days, so I knew the milk was oversteamed. There was too much foam, so it was more of a cappuccino than a latte. 

L’s cheese pastry was tasteless and, for the portion, overpriced. On the other hand, my meat pie was tasty. The filling reminded me of the fried glutinous rice dumplings (ham sui gok) I ordered at dim sum. I would order this again.

L booked a car for two days. First, we checked out historical points of interest, such as the Temple Demeter and a few defunct churches.

For lunch, we planned to drive to a beach in an area known for its seafood. L navigated through the tight, steep one-lane roads that wind along the mountain. I felt a little like I was in a James Bond movie. He was excited to drive, and while the views were breathtaking, seeing all the roadside memorial sites spooked me.

We chose a busy beachside spot and ordered an octopus salad (15), grilled calamari (11), and tzatziki (5).

Our server proudly proclaimed that the squid was the best in Naxos. I loved it! The calamari was silky and smooth, with a nice bouncy texture. I would order this again.

L enjoys octopus more than I do, and he was crazy about the sweet, tender chunks in the salad. Everything was simple but so good. I thought this was one of the best meals we had eaten. 

After lunch, we drove to several villages and other landmarks. We returned to our hotel and stepped out for a Kitron cocktail in Old Town. Afterwards, we did one of my favourite things to do in Naxos: wander around Kastro Castle. Not only did the thick marble walls offer shade from the hot sun, but it was so delightful to get lost in the nooks and alleys of the fortress. At night it offered a different experience, as the castle’s passages became lit with restaurants buzzing with activity. 

For dinner, I wanted something light. We checked out To Soulvlaki, for pork gyros (€3.50) and a mega pint of white wine (€3.30). After eating so many gyros, they all start to taste the same. I did notice the meat was seared, and the portion was more generous than their competition next door, Ya Souvlaki. We left full and eager to start the day again on this glorious island.

Greece · Restaurants · Seafood

Naxos – Day one

Early in the morning, L and I booked a taxi to take us to the ferry to Naxos. When we arrived, a restaurant owner hustled us over to his patio and invited us to stay while we waited for the ferry. Right away, I knew we should continue walking and check out the other cafes. However, he struck up a conversation with L about when our ferry would arrive. His winning sales pitch that we could see our ferry come and only be obligated to purchase a coffee. For this post, let’s listen to Maria Farantouri ‘s “To the Little Wind.”

Our americanos (€5) tasted like instant Nabob coffee. When we gagged down our drinks, L purchased two large cans of Mythos beer (€6) for our ferry ride. I thanked L and noted that we probably could have bought the beers for cheaper at another store. He agreed so good-naturedly that I felt guilty. I really need to stop hen-pecking him over nickels.

We arrived in Naxos and stopped by Ya Souvlaki for gyros on the way to our hotel. We sat by the pier and devoured our pork gyros (€3.50) in minutes. We always eat the fries first because if you eat don’t, the flavour of the meat gets muted by the potatoes.

Usually, I’m full after a gyro, but since we skipped breakfast, I was still hungry. I ordered a lamb skewer (€3.50), and L ordered a chicken skewer (€2.50). Our server told us it would take a while, as the skewers are made fresh. Our skewers came with fries and pita bread. What a wicked price!

The lamb was killer – so juicy and almost grassy in flavour. L said he could taste the flavour of the charcoal in his chicken skewer. When we finished, L left to pay. I knew they were happy with their tip because our server came over with complimentary booze. L didn’t want to drink a shot at noon, so I happily took one for the team.

After we checked into our hotel, we toured around Old Town. We walked over to the Portara, the marble gate of an unfinished temple of Apollo. I had seen pictures of the gate before visiting. I wished I didn’t, as while the marble ruin was unique, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as the online pictures. Instagram filters ruin real life. I guess this is what people feel like on dating apps. 

For our first night, I booked a table at Scirocco, located in the town centre. I relished the over-the-top polite service. I noticed the older British guests were known customers and were given the royal VIP treatment by all the staff. 

I ordered a glass of bubbles that was pretty average (€7). I sipped a white wine with our dinner, which reminded me of citrus (€ 6). When I noticed guests drinking rosé wine (€7), I ordered one for dessert, though it seemed to cause our server some concern. I’m pretty sure the issue is the rosé is typically ordered by the bottle, not by the glass, but an exception was made for me. This was a real Goldilocks moment. The rosé wasn’t too sweet or generic, and it tasted a little like strawberries. I would order this again.

L and I shared an order of Sagankaki (€ 10) and the mixed seafood platter (€30). The fried cheese was crispy and topped with honey and black sesame seeds. The flavour of the toasted sesame and the mild, nutty flavour of the cheese reminded me of a dim sum dish – rice-wrapped Chinese doughnut. I would order this again.

Of the seafood medley, I enjoyed the salmon the most. The creamy lemon sauce paired beautifully with the fatty layers of the salmon. The shrimp was sweet and juicy. I also enjoyed the calamari, as the texture was smooth and firm. The marinated octopus was thick, meaty and succulent. I could tell all the seafood was fresh and not previously frozen because the consistency was unlike what I’m accustomed to in Calgary. 

The service at Sciroco was an easy 10/10, the food was 8/10, and the wine was a 6/10, though the rosé was a 9/10. The dessert was so bad it is not even worthy of a tactfully worded description because it was so piss poor. In any case, Naxos is a hit. 

Greece

Santorini – Day four

We had our second breakfast in a row at Svoronos Bakery. This time, I found the staff unpleasant, except for the barista. I could tell from the staff’s tone and vibe that we were not valued customers. I ordered iced lattes, but we got hot lattes instead. Not a big deal, but there was so much sugar in my drink I couldn’t finish it. My spanakopita was a corner piece, and the end piece of the pastry was hard and gummy. L noticed they charged him two more euros than in our previous visit. For this post, let’s listen to Zorba’s Dance.

After breakfast, we walked down the Karavolades Stairs. There were donkeys you could rent for the ride up or down. I noticed the donkeys roam wherever they wanted to, and L was worried I would be trodden on or kicked by the animals. He would periodically shout out, “Watch it! He’s going kick you.” Every time he warned me, I would freeze up. I know L was only looking out for me, but as the stairs are narrow, there isn’t much I could do but stand there in a panic. I could either back up or tentatively walk past the donkey. We took the cable car up and walked around the top of the Thira, past all the restaurants overlooking the cliffs of Fira. L said he wanted us to have dinner at one of the restaurants for our last night. I took pictures of the names and said I would look each one up before we decided on the restaurant. 

My colleague Congenial left Santorini the day before I arrived, and she told me to check out Obelix. I wished I had listened to her. Instead, we went to Yogi’s second location. Our food took a long time to come. A server dropped off some limp pita and dip, then added the charge to our final bill. I should have realized it wasn’t free. Our gyro wasn’t as fresh as Yogi’s location in the Square. Also, I found the owner surly.

L and I took the public bus to the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. Afterwards, we checked Red Beach and stopped at Anhydrous Winery for a tasting.

For our dinner, I vetoed all the Caldera view restaurants because when I cross-checked the Tripadvisor reviews with Google’s user comments, I saw too much discrepancy. Particularly, I wasn’t keen on the frequency of comments about the general rudeness of the staff at these restaurants. Instead, I booked a table at Parea Tavern, which was recommended by our hotel.

Our table had a view, but more importantly, the service was warm and friendly. We shared the Santorini Salad (€10), Fried Cheese (€9), Calamari (16), a glass of wine (7) and a Mythos (4). 

I was interested in the shrimp spaghetti dish, but I didn’t order it because I wanted something lighter. I saw a woman on a date order it, and I couldn’t stop ogling the jumbo-sized grilled shrimp on her dish. She was doing most of the talking, and her date kept nodding or saying one-word responses. I told L that I noticed she never once talked about her meal. Yes, I was eavesdropping. I stopped staring at her shrimp because she started to glance over at me. 

I adored the Santorini salad. The bread was light and crunchy, seasoned with garlic and salt. The feta cheese was soft and cool. Our bowl was piled high with marinated cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, capers, and lettuce.

The fried cheese was excellent. I loved the delicate batter, with its papery crunch. The cheese itself was smooth, stringy and hot. The marinara sauce was zesty and didn’t overwhelm the cheese’s nutty flavour. I would order this again.

The calamari was tasty, but it tasted like it was cooked in older oil. The cool breeze also prematurely cooled the calamari halfway through our meal. Flavour-wise, I think Meraki uses a higher quality squid. Having said that, Parea’s calamari is better than anything I can get back home. Overall, we were happy with our experience, and looking forward to continuing our vacation in Naxos.

Restaurants

Santorini – Day three

I suggested to L that we check out Svoronos Bakery for breakfast. I read Google reviews about the poor service, so I was interested to experience the outcome. I’m always curious about rudeness. Let’s listen to “Full Catastrophe” by Mikis Theodorakis for this post. 

When we entered the bakery, an employee instantly greeted us in English. She was friendly enough and offered to explain any items to us. However, I saw another older employee give us a dirty look. I heard about the evil eye, but this was the first time I experienced it in Greece. I felt like telling her don’t hate the player, hate the game, but I figured the meaning would be lost in translation.

We asked for two iced lattes (€2), spanakopita (€2) and a random pastry for L (€2). The iced latte was so good. The espresso was rich and thick that no sugar or additional flavouring was needed. L told me that he was informed places like Starbucks and McDonald’s aren’t popular in Greece. I can taste why this is true.

The spanakopita was crunchy on the outside and loaded with warm, creamy spinach filling. I could taste a little dill and feta. Our breakfast was only €8, so I figured it was worth the stink-eye from the matron of the bakery.

 For lunch, we checked out Yogi’s. The pork gyro (€3.60) overflowed with fries, tzatziki, tomatoes and onions. Compared to Nick’s, Yogi’s was more filling and cheaper. However, the flavour of the meat at Nick’s was superior, while Yogi’s had the fluffier, fresher pita. 

I wanted to give L a break from all the organizing and planning, so I booked a Santorini Highlights Tour. Usually, these excursions aren’t his style, but I knew he would enjoy turning his mind off and enjoying the ride. 

Our tour guide Will was spectacular. He livened up our experience by making us comfortable and entertained. He even took cheesy photos of each of us at all the landmarks. I felt like a happy teenager. It always impresses me when I meet someone who excels at their profession. I noticed that everyone left him a well-deserved tip.

Will mentioned to us that one restaurant he recommends is Meraki. So I told him we went there the previous night. He asked how I discovered it, as it is a hidden gem. I didn’t want to bother explaining how I live to eat and hate overpaying, so I changed the subject.

After our excursion, L wanted to go back to Meraki. We ordered a Greek salad (€7), calamari (€10.50), fava (€7), eggplant saganaki (€8.00), Alfa beer (€4.00) and white wine (€4.00, half a litre).

The vegetables in the Greek salad were crunchy and fresh. The feta arrived in a thick slab. The cheese was soft enough to break apart with a gentle poke of my fork and generous enough to be eaten with every ripe piece of tomato. 

The calamari arrived hot and crispy. We both thought the squid was over-salted, but we enjoyed it almost as much as the previous night. 

The eggplant was unique because I wasn’t expecting the overpowering flavour of nutmeg. The eggplant was soft and blended with feta cheese and tomato sauce. I think this dish was overcooked in the oven. The sauce was far too dry.

Our tour guide recommended the fava, which is a famous local product. The texture was soft and wet. I can’t describe what I tasted, as the flavour profile was so unique. 

We were stuffed, and I barely even touched my wine. Still, we left giddy and exhausted from the festivities of the day. If you go to Santorini, I highly recommend booking with Will.

Greece

Santorini – Day two

We landed after midnight in Santorini. After we dropped our luggage at our hotel, we decided to head to the Square for a bite to eat. For this post, let’s listen to Giannis Parios Ikariotiko.

L’s favourite Greek snack is a gyro (YEE-row). I, of course, had already cross-checked each note-worthy eatery in Santorini. So when we walked by all the gyro joints, I was familiar with their Google and Tripadvisor reviews. We picked Nick the Grill because there were some tables open for us. Yogi and Lucky’s were within 300 metres of our table, which are rated higher than Nick’s. 

We each ordered a pork gyro (€3.90) and a Mythos beer (€3.00). I figured the nearby nightclub and bars had just closed because we observed a parade of red-faced, dazed people stumble past. One British gentleman bumbled up to the counter and said some incoherent words. The employee rolled her eyes, handed him a menu, and then helped him select a combo meal. 

After five minutes, our food was ready. The pita was fluffy and crispy on the outside. The pork was sliced thin, juicy and tasted of the grill. I would have preferred a bit more tzatziki, but in hindsight, too much sauce would mask the pronounced flavour of the white onions and meat.

 I can see why L loves gyros so much. You get something far more delicious and fresh for less than the price of a Big Mac. I’m also a fan of Mythos. It’s a clean, light and well-balanced beer. 

The next day, we wandered around Fira and admired the breathtaking views of the blue water and sky. The beauty was almost worth suffering through the crowds of selfie-taking tourists and the annoyance of avoiding the rampant quads speeding through the tightly packed streets. Santorini is stunning, but it is so overcrowded with poorly behaved tourists that I wouldn’t recommend coming here over Athens or Naxos.

For dinner, we dined at Meraki, a restaurant known for authentic and inexpensive seafood. We ordered fried zucchini (€6.50), saganaki (€7), fried squid (€11), and beets (€5). For beverages, L drank Alfa beer (€4.00, 500 ml), and I ordered half a litre of house white wine (€5.00). 

The fried cheese’s exterior was crunchy, and the interior was soft, with a slight chew. The honey was light and sweet, while the nuts added a toastiness to each bite. L enjoyed the saganaki so much that we order this at almost every subsequent dinner. 

The batter on the zucchini was so light it reminded me of tempura. The zucchini tasted like it was just plucked from a garden. The flesh was so sweet and juicy and melted on your tongue. This dish is worth ordering again. 

The calamari was so delicious that L declared it the best he’s ever had. The squid wasn’t heavily battered, which allowed you to enjoy the toothsome texture.

For dessert, we ordered a chocolate biscuit with whipped cream. The dessert was simple and not overly sweet. Our server told us it was homemade and similar to a cookie.

The service was genuinely warm and hospitable. We were treated to raki, their homemade liquor, when we were finished. I thought it was tasty, as the spice reminded me of a cinnamon bun. We enjoyed our food so much that we vowed to come again. Part two of Meraki coming soon…

Greece · Restaurants

Athens – Day one

I met up with L in Athens, Greece. After sampling the food for only 10 days, I can confidently state that the food in Greece surpasses what I’ve consumed as a tourist in Japan, France, and Italy. For this post, let’s listen to “The Children of Piraeus, Never On a Sunday” by Nana Mouskouri

L had already spent time in Athens, so he brought me to his favourite tavern, Old Tavern of Psarras, for a snack and drink before our flight to Santorini. Greece has changed L. He now enjoys tzatziki, olives, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and feta. I know why because, in Greece, everything tastes better than what we can get in Canada. 

We picked a spot in the shade and ordered two appetizers and a Mythos beer. I never liked yogurt until I tried it in Greece. The tzatziki (€4.50) has a thick, dense velvety texture and a fresh, light flavour. Our dip was zesty and herby from the dill and cucumber, the perfect foil to the warm, salty pita bread. 

The leaves on the dolmades (€4.50) were so soft and warm that even biting into the grape leaves was a sensual experience. The rice mixture was creamy and bright with infused flavour. L mentioned the food goes well with the hot climate. For dessert, L wanted to visit his go-to bakery, Tzatzos S.A

We walked over to Tzatzos and sat on the patio. L ordered two baklavas (€2) and two more beers (€3).

Holy smokes – the baklava at Tzatzos makes everything else I’ve tried before taste like sawdust. The honey was so light and sweet, more like nectar than the heavy stuff I’m used to in Calgary, Savino Pizzeria being the exception. The pistachios and almonds were toasty with a wood-like spice and the layers of phyllo pastry were light and brittle. 

Oh my Zeus, if I can eat this well as a tourist, imagine what you access as a local! L said in the last five days he was in Athens, he never experienced a bad meal. I know when L travels, he doesn’t research where to eat, so I could only expect even greater things to come.

Restaurants

Laurent Cazottes – Vine Arts

My buddy Chen is in town! I invited him to my newest addiction, a spirit tasting ($30) by Juice Imports at Vine Styles. I told Chen this was a rare event, as there are less than 30 bottles of each cuvée in Alberta. For this post, let’s listen to “We’re Are Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes.

Erik was showcasing seven different spirits and liqueurs from Laurent Cazottes. Located in Tarn, France, Laurent Cozottes is a small farm with only 10-20 hectares of land. Erik told us that “eau de vie” means fruit distillment. He describes eau de vie as wine-like but with the spirit of fruit. Erik has a way with words.

We were treated to Fleurs de Sureau mixed with bubbles (Elderflower Liqueur, $54) for our welcome drink. I found the fragrance unique. Chen enjoyed this refreshing cocktail.

We learned the process the owners of Laurent Cazottes employ is time-consuming and labourious. For example, for the apple eau-de-vie, each fruit is hand quartered, the seeds scooped, destemmed, and made into a delicate cider through a maceration process. Then, a small quantity of the cider is distilled and aged in a glass bulb for years to create a smooth, soft finish with a ton of complexity.

The Pomme Pomme Gueulle (Apple Eau-de-Vie, $108) has a strong scent. Erik said he could smell the essence of the apples. The apple eau-de-vieu is made from 15 varieties of apples from the estate. As I sipped, I felt a warmth in my throat. Erik suggested adding drops of water to change the flavour profile and observe how the oil separates from the water. Erik drinks eau-de-vieu straight up but also recommended serving it with crushed ice and bubbles.

The Reine Claude Dorée (Plum Eau-de-Vie, $89.50) is made from golden green plums. Erik thought this was the most expressive de vie – a powerful floral violet. I enjoyed the full body and rich texture. However, I didn’t finish the entire glass because I felt buzzed. Erik said we could spit out the alcohol, but I whispered to Chen that I don’t drink to just taste but also to feel. Chen snickered and told me to slow down, pointing out that I drank more than him and perhaps I was getting too intoxicated. I responded that he was reminding me of my mother.

The Aetois (Eau-de-Vie Marc de Champagne Jacques Lassaigne, $90) is made from fresh champagne pressed grapes, mixed with water to extract the full flavour from the skin, then fermented for a lengthy period. Erik mentioned the eau-de-vine has a strong chardonnay finish with some fire. Someone else said it was spicy. Mark, Erik’s business partner, said he could taste blueberry. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste what everyone else was describing and began wondering what was wrong with my tastebuds.

The Cedrat (Citrus Liqueur, $63) tasted a little bitter from the pith of the lemons. However, the smell was bright and sunny. Erik told us that the citrus liqueur is aged in barrels and blended with fresh grapefruit. Chen said he could taste the lemon peel. I found the citrus liqueur intense and refreshing.

The Tomates (Tomato Liqueur, $66) is made from 72 varietals of tomatoes from the farm. Chen smelled sundried tomatoes and tased prunes. Erik described this liqueur as having lots of umami with a sweetness to it. He said that everyone’s experience influences what they taste, and what matters most is how the spirit feels and impacts you.

The next tasting was Noix de Pays d’Oc (Walnut Liqueur, $52.50), made with green walnuts, wine and brandy from the farm’s production. I could taste brown sugar. Erik described this liqueur as savoury, rich and supple. Laurent Cazottes uses a solera process for aging and blending this liquor, which produces a higher range of flavours and complexity as all the vintages play together.

We were given a special treat for our last tasting – De Poire Williams, a pear liqueur. I could smell and taste pear. Erik declared that these particular spirits taste alive because of the farming techniques employed. In organic farms, the fruit is far superior, making it a better product. Chen told me he was glad he came; as it was an eye-opening experience.

According to Erik, if stored in a dark place, the eau-de-vie lasts forever. For the lemon and tomato liqueur, you will want to drink it within three weeks, as you will lose some of the freshness. The walnut liqueur can last three months in the fridge.

I learned that Calgarians don’t know how lucky they got it. Typically these liqueurs are only found in the most lavish wine bars in New York. Even if you could get your hands on a bottle at a specialty liquor store, it is twice the amount that sells at Vine Arts.

With the rising cost of groceries, I’m eating out less and entertaining more at home. That’s why I love coming to Erik’s Sunday wine tastings. I can taste incredible wines for an insanely low price and pick out new fun drinks to hopefully impress my guests. After consulting with Erik, I bought the walnut liqueur for an upcoming dinner party and a bottle of Cocchi Rosa to liven up some Italian bubbles I purchased for my forthcoming Stampede party. I also concocted a fruiter, sweeter alternative for the lightweights.

I hear Erik is hosting a traditional wine tasting in two weeks. I’m heartbroken, as I can’t make it on that Sunday. If you are lucky enough to snap a seat, send me a note and tell me what I missed out on.

Beer · Fast Food · Restaurants

Marda Loop Brewery and Flirty Bird

On Friday evening, I tried to get a table at Paper Lantern so L and I could go on banh mi date #12. Unfortunately, I waited too long to make a reservation, and the speakeasy was booked. L suggested we grab a drink and then a chicken sandwich in Marda Loop. In light of rising gas prices, let’s listen to “Gasoline” by Britney Spears.

Our first stop was at Marda Loop Brewery. The patio is more spacious than the brewery itself. I appreciated how the deck was covered overhead and heated.  We picked a Jenkins Grapefruit Ale (HH $5, Regular $7.25) and Casablanca Blond (HH $5, Regular $7) for drinks. L enjoyed his ale and said it was similar to a radler but not as sweet. I thought the ale was crisp with a strong grapefruit-forward flavour.

We shared an order of Street Car Fries (HH $5, Regular $8.50). The only place I know who makes fries this good is Bitter Sisters. The potatoes are hand-cut and fried to a crunchy golden state of perfection. Each order comes with two homemade sauces. We picked garlic aioli and spicy cajun aioli. Both sauces were yummy. The cajun dip reminded me of a creamy McDonald’s bbq sauce. 

We were enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed for another pint. I pondered out loud if I should order a glass of wine. L said not to do it. He asked me why do I always order wine at a pub because I just end up complaining about how bad it is. I disagreed with him and pointed out I enjoy the wine at Dandy Brewery.

I did want a glass of wine, but I didn’t want L to say I told you so if it was only drinkable. I chose a Peach Wheat ($7.25), and L tried the SoCal Raspberry Citrus Wheat Ale ($7.50), which reminded me a little of KoolAid. 

By the time we made it to Flirty Bird, I wasn’t starving, so we just ordered a chicken sandwich. We both ordered the Mild Flirt Sando ($14). If Flirty Bird considers this only mildly spicy, I won’t be trying any of the higher spice levels. L mentioned there were three more levels above what we tried. 

I read somewhere the buns are from Glamorgan Bakery. The bun was soft and buttery, making it easier to squish against the massive slab of boneless chicken breast. Some chicken sandwiches are all about the batter or the sauce. Flirty Bird is all about the meat. The chicken itself was freshly fried and steaming hot. I prefer dark meat, but I noticed the breast wasn’t dry. The batter was thin and light. 

The sando is messy to eat. I used all five napkins as the creamy sauce, hot sauce, and coleslaw dribbled all over my hands. When I tried to compare Flirty Bird to Alumni Sandwiches, L said it irks him that there is always a need to say one restaurant is better than another in the foodie community. He said there is no need to compare, and why not just agree Alumni and Flirty Bird both make good chicken sandwiches? I wish L was this passionate about Vietnamese subs. I’m tempted to start a mission to try all the hot chicken sandwiches in the city, but I have to finish what I started with our 19 banh mi date goal before taking on any more challenges.

Happy Hour · Vegetarian

Vegan Street in Inglewood

After our wine tasting at Brick’s Wine Company, Sunflower and I wanted to grab a drink and bite to eat. As Sunflower is a vegetarian, I suggested Vegan Street. It turns out she’s already visited, and she’s a fan of the margaritas and food. Let’s listen to “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne for this post.

As I was lugging six bottles of wine, I walked slower than usual. Sunflower offered to take my bag partway, but I told her I could use the exercise as I neglect weights in my daily workout routine. She’s seven years younger than me, so she doesn’t know about the trials we older broads face.

We made it just in time for happy hour. Every day from 3:00-5:00 p.m., Vegan Street offers five-dollar draft beer and tacos and six-dollar margaritas, house wine, and tall beer cans.

Sunflower recommended the Charred Pineapple ($6). Oh man, these vegans don’t mess around with their cocktails. This margarita was even better than Anjeo. My drink was sweet but not sugary. I could taste the roasted pineapple and fresh citrus. I would order this again. This is easily the best margarita in the city.

I ordered two tacos. The No-Fish taco ($5) consisted of beer-battered palm hearts. The smooth, buttery texture and taste mimicked white fish so well that I couldn’t tell it wasn’t fish. I also enjoyed the burst of flavour from the ripe mango and sweet corn garnish. This taco is a winner.

The Korean Fried Chickin was huge, piled high with sweet deep-fried soy curls. This taco was messy to eat – the spicy aioli and kimchi would drip down and plop onto my plate. Of the two, I preferred the palm heart taco because I could still taste the soy in the chickin. The litmus test for vegetarian food is if it even better than what it seeks to imitate.

Sunflower tried three tacos – the No Fish, Asada Portobello, and the Pulled Porque. Of the three, her favourite was the Asada Portobello taco. I’ll have to come back and try this one. I noticed the tacos were all generously stuffed. What makes these tacos stand out are the creative ingredients, such as the grilled pineapple salsa, watermelon radish, and lime crema. When vegetables taste this good, you don’t miss the meat.

Thanks, Sunflower, for treating me to this delicious vegetarian experience. I’m keen to come back again and check out their other dishes. Hitting the Sauce gives Vegan Street to phat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Meinklang Wine Tasting – Bricks Wine Company

Sunflower brought over a beautiful wine from Meinklang for me to try. The next day, I saw Juice Imports was hosting a Meinklang tasting ($20) at Bricks Wine Company. I took this as a sign and snapped up two tickets. For this post, let’s listen to “Hang Me Up To Dry” by Cold War Kids.

A thoughtful employee from Bricks Wine Company called me before the tasting to remind me of a marathon in Inglewood, which shut down several main streets. She suggested a roundabout way to access the wine store. I promptly informed Books, Sunflower’s fiancé, who was dropping us off. I offered to book an Uber back, but Sunflower mentioned that with Covid, Books prefers her not to take public transportation or Uber. He kindly came and got us after the event.

Once we arrived, we sipped on a flute of Prosa, a sparkling rosé. I adore this wine – it’s juicy, bright, yet subtle. I ended up buying two bottles. We sat in a beautiful tasting room, similar in vibe to Vine Arts, where I attended Juice Import’s past wine tastings. I think both venues would be ideal for hosting a team-building event.

We learned that Meinklang is located in Burgenland, Austria, bordering Hungry. Ponds and a lake surround the certified biodynamic family farm. Erik informed us the nearby water takes in the heat and slowly releases it, which helps prevent fluctuation in temperature. He added that it is hard not to like these gentle, charming wines. I agreed, already swooning from the Prosa.

Surprisingly, I was a big fan of the entry-level wines – the Burgenland Weib and Gruner Veltliner. The Burgenland has a unique fragrance. Sunflower thought the wine was scented like lilacs, and she wanted her whole house to smell like it. When asked what he would pair with this wine, Erik, the co-owner of Juice Imports, suggested dill potato salad, smoked trout or mushroom morels. I liked this wine so much that I purchased three bottles.

The Gruner Veltliner was bright and clean. Erik noted there was so much flavour in this light wine, despite being only 11% in alcohol content. He described notes of green apple skins, with texture and freshness to it. Erik mentioned that 60% of the flavour in wine stems from yeast and bacteria rather than the grapes themselves.

Next up was Tag, one of the winery’s “big” wines. Tag is a one-off, meaning Meinklang doesn’t make this wine every year. Erik described this wine as intense but with a softness. This wine woke up my tastebuds with its lip-smacking flavour. Sunflower was a fan – she could taste passionfruit and pineapple, and thought the wine had a bite to it, like a cider.

One of my favourite bottles was Morgen. The fragrance reminded me of roses. The bubbles were tiny, and the flavour was fun to drink. Erik called this a breakfast wine, and said it reminded him of sour cherry. He mentioned this wine is similar to pinot noir in that it is challenging to grow these thin-skinned grapes. I bought a bottle for Sunflower and me to enjoy at a future time.

The next bottle we tasted was Nacht, a rare wine that even Erik hadn’t had the chance to try. The wine smelled like olive oil to me. When Sunflower took a sip, she exclaimed how good it was, similar to mushrooms but in a funky way. Erik described this wine as smelling like cherry blossoms or dank flowers.

I noticed Sunflower appreciated the more unique, expensive bottles. While I enjoyed the experience of the fancier bottles, I preferred the easy pleasantry of the entry-level wines because I could shut my mind off. When I drink, I like to feel the wine rather than think about what I’m tasting. I guess that’s the beauty of a wine tasting, you don’t have to commit to sharing a whole bottle.

The second last wine we tried was the Burgenland Rot. Sunflower said it smelled like her grandmother’s house. Damn girl, we sure had different experiences growing up. Erik informed us this was his number one selling red wine. He described the Burgenland Rot as a soft, gentle, picnic wine. I enjoyed this red wine, but preferred the white wines. For me, it’s a harder challenge to find good white wine at a reasonable price than red wine.

For our last tasting, Erik surprised us with an orange wine from 2018, made with 100% pinot gris grapes. I admired the soft, peachy colour. Sunflower is into orange wines and noted that this older vintage tasted quite different from a newer vintage she recently tried from Meinklang.

There was one interesting fact Erik told us that really got my attention. Fifty percent of Meinklang wines go to Whole Foods for their house wine. The next time I’m in Seattle, I’m picking up some Whole Foods house white wine.

Meinklang wines are now my go-to, not only because the wines are freaking fantastic but also because this winery offers such incredible value. The wines we tried ranged from $26 to $55, with my favourite ones being the entry-level wines. I think it’s a win-win to support producers doing beautiful things for the environment and sustainability that also charge the same price as wineries that produce less delicious unethical wines.

Thank you, Erik, for hosting such a fun tasting, and Sunflower, for being my new wine partner in crime. I look forward to future Juice Import tastings.

Restaurants

Briggs Kitchen + Bar

I attended my first work event! Our office treated us to a three-course lunch at Briggs Kitchen + Bar. I was excited as the Executive sent me the menu beforehand so that I could do my research. Let’s listen to “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive for this post. 

The hostess had to separate us into two tables due to the large size of our group. I was lucky to snag a seat in front of 47, who regaled me with interesting stories of what it was like at her past firm. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any exciting first-hand experiences, so I just told her the stories the media reported about my old workplace. From what I read, consuming alcohol at work and expensing things with people with whom you’ve never met are big no-nos.

I chose the lobster poutine for my appetizer, Kuterra Salmon for my main, and the dark chocolate semifreddo for dessert. My lobster poutine was so decadent that even I couldn’t finish the whole portion. The thin-cut Kennebec fries were saturated in lobster cream and soft white cheese curds. I loved the generous pieces of sweet, juicy lobster. Forty-seven noted the rich flavour of the browned butter. I tried a couple of bites of her green salad, dressed in a crisp, tart vinaigrette. Her salad was good, but nothing beats lobster poutine.

I was even more impressed with my salmon. The restaurant itself was busy, and our group consisted of 19 guests. Despite the backlog of orders, my salmon came out perfectly cooked. The fish was tender and soft, with a delicious fatty favour. The milky green Thai curry gently infused the fish and firm pieces of bok choy with the flavour of coconut milk, lime and fish sauce. I enjoyed the salmon even more than the poutine. Unfortunately, I had to get back to work, so I asked for my dessert to go. I didn’t try it and ended up giving it away, as I was already almost dizzy from the high-calorie meal.

This lunch was my first visit to Briggs since 2017. I’m happy to report I enjoyed the set menu, attentive service, and fun company. Big thanks to the Executive for organizing the event and the ELT for taking us all out to welcome new and longtime employees.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Gut Oggau Wine Tasting – Vine Arts

Lately, one of my favourite things to do is to learn about wines from Erik, one of the owners of Juice Imports. On Sunday, he hosted a wine tasting ($30) to try all the Gut Oggau wines in stock and some unique gems from their cellar. Let’s listen to “Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter for this post.

Our class started with a glass of sparkling organic cider from the Okanagan. The cider was fresh and bright. I bought a bottle for my neighbour, who recently became my dog’s godmother.

Located south of Vienna, Erik informed us Gut Oggau was one of the first wineries he ever signed. He fell in love with the uniqueness and personality of the wines. He considers the husband and wife team – Stephanie and Eduard – some of the most thoughtful winemakers dedicated to the land and their employees. For example, the owners pay their six full-time workers year-round rather than seasonally, so the employees can experience how the wines sleep in the winter and wake in the spring. As a result, the prices of their wines reflect this philosophy.

Erik mentioned that Theodora (2020, $50) was the winery’s entry-level wine. Yikes, I would never want to host a dinner party for Stephanie and Eduard. The cloudy yellow hue reminded me of chicken stock. My friend Bubbles said she could taste citrus.

We learned two interesting facts. First, Gut Oggau produces its wines without any sulphur, and second, sulphur doesn’t cause headaches. People get headaches from wine due to the alcohol or a reaction to the tannins. I wanted to pipe up and add that people also get headaches from excess drinking, but I read the room and decided to keep my thoughts private.

Photo Credit: @miss_minds

Next up was the Timotheus (2018, $79). Erik said in all of Alberta, and there are only 24 bottles of Timotheus. The vines are planted in complex soil, such as slate, sand, gravel and limestone. The texture and flavour sent shivers down my spine as the liquid tingled on my tongue. Erik described this wine as having intense character, with umami notes of white truffle.

The Mechthild ($158) we tried was sold out, which was fine with me as this wine was beyond my budget. Erik noted that the vines produced a low yield but produced the cleanest and highest quality grapes using a crazy, archaic process called a tree press. The person sitting in front of me described the colour as sunshine gold, with a gorgeous glow. I was jealous that I didn’t come up with that description myself.

My favourite wine was Winifred ($48). At first, I didn’t realize this wine was a rose. The texture was silky, with an aftertaste of fresh strawberries. My friend Bubbles said the gentle tartness reminded her of crab apples. I enjoyed this wine so much that I bought it for my next girls’ night with Kournikova, Quebecoise, and Betty.

The last wine we tried was the Athanasius (2020, $51). We learned this was the most planted grape in the winery. The vines are 38 to 40 years old. Erik described this wine as fresh and intense, aged in old Austrian oak. We marvelled at the dark, ruby red colour and the high viscosity. Erik mentioned the flesh of the grapes is red, which is rare as most red wines are made with white-coloured fruit.
I could tell these wines spoke to Erik, who said each wine tasted alive, soft and supple. This wine tasting was dirt-cheap, particularly for these wines. Erik himself rarely gets to try these bottles, so it was a luxurious treat for everyone. I enjoyed every wine I tried, though I got the impression from Erik’s physical and verbal reaction from drinking each wine that I didn’t fully grasp the greatness of these wines. Though I was out of my element, I was fine with it. I’m more comfortable with pearls being cast upon me than being a pig at a trough. I’ve recently signed up at Grand Cru Wine Society in the hopes of learning more about wine and food pairings.

Banh Mi · Sandwiches

Xich Lo – Vegetarian Banh Mi

Sunflower and I share an affinity for Swedish stockings and Vietnamese subs. When I dropped off a pair of sparkly tights I found at Simon’s, she insisted on taking me out for lunch. For this post, let’s listen to “DARE” by Gorillaz.

Since it was such a beautiful day, I recommended walking over to Eau Claire for a banh mi at Xich Lo. Sunflower is a vegetarian, so she was delighted to have options other than just vegetables. She picked the Vegan Ham with Mushroom Pate ($10.50). Unfortunately, Xich Lo ran out of cold-cut meats, so I chose the Tofu Sub ($10.50). I immediately got buyer’s remorse, so I asked if I could still get chicken cognac pate in my sub.

Sunflower poured a little of her mangosteen ($3.00) for me to drink. The smell was floral and, according to her, much sweeter than the actual fruit. I enjoyed the flavour but thought it would be better with some ice and vodka. She thought it would make a good sangria base. Great minds think alike.

I noticed Sunflower was supportive when I took pictures for my blog. She even suggested we cut the subs and plate them at work. I went a step further and showed her my secret – the ultimate banh mi pose. I told her that once, I managed to stack six subs for a close-up picture. I’ve got weird flexes that I’m oddly proud of.

Sunflower said her sub was delicious. She liked the crunchiness of the vegetables and the mushroomy umami from the pate. She felt the spiciness from jalapenos was the perfect spice level, and she usually douses her banh mi with sriracha. She loved the veggie ham and gave her lunch a 10/10.

The tofu in my sub was squishy and juicy, with a sponge-like texture. I wouldn’t pair the chicken pate with the tofu again, as the richness of the pate didn’t complement the soy-based tofu. However, that was my fault and not Xich Lo, who was merely accomodating my decadent tastes. I enjoyed the fluffy innards of the bread and the satisfying crunch from the cucumbers and jalapenos. I found my sub filling and satisfying.

It was nice to see Xich Lo so busy. I also think it’s fantastic they are offering unique options for vegetarians. Not many places in the city would go through the trouble of providing mock ham and mushroom pate. Hitting the Sauce gives Xich Lo two phat thumbs up.

French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Pat & Betty

For our monthly girls’ night, I picked Pat & Betty. We started the party at my house with a bottle of sparkling cider I picked up at Vine Arts. Kournikova enjoyed the dry, unfiltered bubbles so much that she snapped a picture. For this post, let’s listen to “Bread and Butter” by The Newbeats.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to receive the best table in the house. Usually, I get the worst table when I visit a new restaurant. Our spacious booth looked out onto the restaurant on the second floor. Québécoise liked how the top of the booth was arm’s length so that she could hang her arm around it.

Kournikova and I asked Québécoise to pick the wine, as she knows what we like best. Québécoise recognized several wines from her favourite French regions at prices far less than she would expect to pay. I felt so giddy that I wanted to call my father up and tell him there is heaven on earth. It’s called Pat and Betty.

The first bottle we tried was the Clos Bellane Cotes Du Rhone Valreas (Rhone Valley, $67). We sipped away while snacking on the Roasted Eggplant Dip ($9.50). These are some of the best potato chips I’ve eaten – thick, crunchy, and with enough salt to bring out the full flavour in the potato. The eggplant was cool and light, with a consistency like whipped cream. The fried capers added a tart saltiness to the dip. Kournikova mentioned the chips went well with the wine.

My favourite wine of the night was the Domaine Tremblay Petit Chablis (Burgundy, $59). I noticed that this wine was lighter and had less acidity than the first white wine. Québécoise, you did your magic again.

Betty mentioned the Country Beef Tartare ($25) was even better than the other versions we’ve tried in Calgary. The beef tartare was saucy and silky. This tartare was unique in that the addition of the devilled egg aioli and sunflower sprouts added some Southern comfort. I loved warm, soft buttered toast. To me, it smelled like old-fashioned goodness.

Betty and Québécoise enjoy a good pasta, so I recommended the Crab and Shrimp Tagliatelle ($26). Oh, baby, this dish was rich and spicy. Betty noted you could tell the pasta was homemade. I thought the prawns were perfectly cooked, soft with no snap. Québécoise liked the addition of the fennel and dill.

Kournikova picked the Chilled Baked Beets ($15.50). The beets and ricotta were cool, light and refreshing. I could taste orange in the salad dressing. I loved the addition of dill, mint and pistachio but wished our dish came with more mint, as it went so well with the salad. Betty thought this dish was a good palate cleanser after the crab and shrimp tagliatelle.

I requested the Broccoli Puttanesca ($17). Man, oh man, this is a winner! The spicy tomato ragu and lemon aioli offered a nice acidity that contrasted with the broccoli’s smokiness and the umami from the anchovy and parmesan. In addition, the garlic bread crumbs added a delicious crunch to it.

I thought of L when I tried the Angus Beef Striploin ($44). The meat was so tender and buttery smooth. The chimichurri sauce was salty and accentuated the juices from the steak. He would love this dish. I was impressed that the sides weren’t just a side thought, so fabulous I had to pause and think, which bite do I want next? The steak or crispy duck fat potatoes or the butter roasted radishes? The correct answer is all three. I would order the steak again.

The dish I was most excited to eat was the Pork Belly and Scallops ($42) with caviar ($19). Kournikova mentioned the scallops were perfectly cooked. I could taste a slight sweetness from the Quebec maple. The moment I bit into the pork belly, I immediately worried I would come down with gout the next day. The pork fat was so hot, rich, and melted in my mouth. The exterior was seared to a dark caramel brown and crispy. The caviar was soft and so subtly flavoured, that I couldn’t detect the flavour. Kournikova mentioned this dish would be too rich for one person. With that bad attitude, no wonder she’s so thin. Québécoise tapped out, so I ate her portion.

We shared the Carrot Cake ($10.50). This is no ordinary carrot cake. The cake itself was fresh and moist, intensely flavoured with spices, sweet from caramel and crunchy from the candied pecans. The cream cheese was a little sour and sweet from what tasted like confectionary sugar.

I enjoyed our feast at Pat and Betty so much that I wanted to return for our next month’s dinner. Québécoise said we could come back, but after we try a new restaurant. I wanted to protest but then I remembered about my potential case of gout, so I agreed to book our next outing at Ten Foot Henry, as requested by Kournivoka.

17th Ave · Japanese · Restaurants

Lonely Mouth

On Saturday night, Québécoise and I checked out Lonely Mouth on 17th Ave. Since her in-laws were babysitting her girls, she was ready to rock and roll. The earliest reservation I could get was at 7:30 p.m., so we shared a bottle of wine at my place beforehand. I figured this girls’ night was the perfect excuse to try one of the bottles I’ve been saving from Vine Arts.

It felt nice to dress up again. I was so excited that for this occasion, I even donned my half-inch heels. However, this was probably one of the worst ideas I’ve had in a long time. With this in mind, let’s listen to “Fancy Shoes” by The Walters for this post. 

Lonely Mouth is located in the old Ox and Angela spot, near UNA. The room is narrow and dimly lit, filled with a young demographic, primarily women in their twenties and early thirties. I was one of the more matronly patrons in the restaurant. 

We started with a pretty pink cocktail – the Majira’s Ruin ($15). This dainty drink was an herby, sweet blend of gin, nigori sake, sparkling sake and a maraschino cherry. While I enjoyed the cocktail, I preferred the wine Québécoise picked out – Domaine Ventoura Chablis ($37, half a litre). My Cod, I love her taste in wine. She described the wine as clean and icy, and mentioned her husband always orders Chablis with sushi. He is a man of excellent taste!

The first dish of the night was my favourite – the Sashimi Platter ($26). I only ordered this because I saw Miss Foodie raving about the sashimi, and I know she gets this every time she visitsQuébécoise liked how the sashimi was presented on a bed of ice and that there were two types of soy sauce. The white soy sauce was for the two kinds of tuna and scallops, and the dark soy sauce was for the salmon. Québécoise exclaimed the white soy sauce was so light and paired beautifully with the scallop. The scallop was ample and silky, mild and sweet. She liked how the soy sauce wasn’t too strong and didn’t overpower the fresh, creamy flavour of the tuna.

Québécoise noted that there was no toughness between the grains of flesh in king salmon. She also thought the size of the slices was perfect – neither too thick nor thin, which allowed one to get the full flavour experience out of each cut. The red tuna was leaner than the pink tuna, the latter being my favourite as I prefer the fattier, meltier types of fish. Without a doubt, I would get the sashimi again.

My second favourite dish was the Bluefin Tuna Tartare ($19). Holy mackerel, this dish has a lot going on.

The udon crackers were light, filled with bubbly air pockets. The crackly texture and taste reminded me of Chinese shrimp chips, which contrasted with the smoothness of the tartare. The creamy mixture of tuna, avocado and miso emulsion reminded Québécoise of mayonnaise. I would get the tuna tartare again.

Québécoise’s favourite dish was the Okonomiyaki Brussels Sprouts ($13). She thought this dish was original. She raved about the crisp fried seaweed, the parmesan cheese, and the crispy leaves of the Brussels sprouts. 

We liked the Pickled Cucumbers ($6.50). The cucumbers gave off a floral scent. Québécoise noticed how cucumbers were scored with knife marks, which she thought helped saturate each crevice with its distinct, sour and salty tang.

We also tried a Negi Toro Roll ($7). I couldn’t taste the toro filling over the dominant flavour of the seaweed. Québécoise mentioned the rice was cool in temperature. 

Québécoise loved the Sweet Potato Donuts ($7), with miso caramel and sesame gelato. I tried a bite and thought the donuts were a bit overcooked. She liked how the dessert wasn’t greasy or stupidly sweet. She detected a spice that we learned from our server was shichimi togarashi.

We enjoyed our meal and planned to take our husbands here for a double date. On the way to our Uber, I tripped over a step. Boom! Let me tell you, the saying that the bigger you are, the harder you fall is true! I told Québécoise it was a good thing I’m not a leg model. Otherwise, I would be out of commission. She retorted that I could still model for Band-Aid. Hitting the Sauce gives her inability to walk in heels two phat thumbs down. 

Special Occasion · Steakhouse · Vegas

Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill – Vegas

Jacuzzi disagreed with my suggestions for our last meal in Vegas. I planned to go to another Strictly Dumpling recommended restaurant or the Oyster Bar at Palace Station. Instead, he wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant – Hell’s Kitchen. I reminded him there is a dress code at Hell’s Kitchen, and he refused to bring a shirt, tie, or jacket on this trip. He countered with Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill and stated his other sister Me Shell had gifted him some money to celebrate in any way he wanted. Fine with me. As I learned through his past commentary, Jacuzzi is not an Offspring fan. So for this post, let’s listen to something that’s more his style – “More Than A Feeling” by Boston.

We both wanted to try the beef Wellington. Jacuzzi ordered the lunch set ($65.99), which included a salad or soup, a petite version of the beef Wellington, and a sticky toffee pudding. I requested the regular size of beef Wellington ($69.99) and a glass of Gordon Ramsey’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz, $22). Our server recommended this wine as it was specially designed to pair with the steak.

Jacuzzi informed me that beef Wellington is challenging to make, as the temperature is critical and there’s no room for error. Worst yet, you can’t tell if the meat is served at its desired medium-rare until you cut it into the pastry when it is too late. I had no idea Jacuzzi was so into beef. He really should visit me in Calgary.

Our server was attentive and brought me a plate if I wanted to try Jacuzzi’s Caesar salad. I did take a bite and enjoyed the liberal amount of powdered and shaved parmesan cheese. Jacuzzi mentioned that Caesar salads are his favourite, and this was a nice portion of food for a starter.

I could tell it was the chef and not a server that brought out our beef Wellington because of his confidence and the swagger in his walk. When he presented our plates, he made direct eye contact, and I could see he was proud of his dish. I would be too, if I could whip up a Wellington like this for the mass crowds in Vegas. That’s some serious talent.

My knife crackled into the thin, golden brown pastry, cutting into soft, ruby-red meat. Jacuzzi declared the steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. He commented on the smooth, buttery texture of the beef. Despite the red colouring, the steak itself was nice and warm. I enjoyed the taste of the big flakes of sea salt, as I thought it brought out the flavour of the beef. The mushrooms on the bottom of the pastry gave this dish a unique, earthiness flavour profile. Jacuzzi reminded me to use the red wine demi-glaze with each bite.


The sides were delicious in an understated way. The mashed Yukon gold potatoes were whipped into silky submission. We both loved how the carrots, asparagus and potatoes weren’t drenched in butter or salt so that we could appreciate the natural sweetness and freshness of the vegetables. We both ate as slowly as possible to delay the inevitable, the end of our meal. Jacuzzi and I kept smiling at each other as we ate.

What shocked me about Gordon Ramsey’s Pub was the dessert. Fuck me! The sticky toffee pudding is so mind-blowingly good that it is swear-word worthy. The English toffee pudding tasted like Christmas. The caramel sauce was overwhelmingly delicious – drenching every warm, moist crumb. The vanilla ice cream was cold and satiny, melting into the hot caramel bomb of a cake. This dessert was so good I wanted to cry out in pleasure. The portion was so large that it would have been enough for a meal. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Eating here was the way to end a trip on a high note. Thanks, Me Shell, for taking us out for lunch in Vegas. Hitting the Sauce gives Gordon Ramsey’s chef two phat thumbs up.

Fusion · Japanese · Vegas

Cafe Sanuki – Las Vegas

After our big meal at Lefty’s, Jacuzzi and I decided to walk around to burn up all those extra calories. He stopped by for a coffee at Starbucks and asked me if I wanted anything. I said no. Let’s listen to “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by The Offspring for this post.

He returned with a Perrier for me and said this was a long time coming, but it was his apology. Fourteen years ago, I spent a month with my brother in Toronto. On a scorching hot day, I asked him to bring me a Perrier when he returned from his class. He refused because he said he didn’t feel like it. It’s been an ongoing joke between us ever since, and whenever he asks for a favour, I always tell him he should have brought me my damn bubble water. Half an hour later, Jacuzzi ruined this special moment by drinking my sparkling water because he was thirsty and too lazy to line up again for a drink. He even had the nerve to balk at me when I refused to carry his half-drank bottle in my purse. I reminded him that he mocked my bag earlier, stating it was too bulky for travelling.

We left for an early dinner at Cafe Sanuki. Unfortunately, the restaurant was short-staffed and was closed for the next hour and a half. Our Uber driver warned us when he dropped us off that it would be near impossible to get a taxi or Uber in the next two hours due to the BTS concert. Jacuzzi and I decided to grab a beer to kill time. He vetoed the nearby pub, stating it looked too sketchy. Instead, we popped into a family-friendly Vietnamese restaurant. At the stroke of 5:30 p.m., we entered Cafe Sanuki.

I have wanted to hit this restaurant ever since I saw Mikey Chen’s Strictly Dumpling Youtube video. He liked the udon so much that Mikey filmed here twice. Cafe Sanuki makes their fresh-made udon using their Yamato udon noodle making machine. The owner even brings in two udon masters from Japan to ensure the quality is up to par with what you expect.

I ordered the dish Mikey recommended – Seafood in Mentai Cream Udon ($12.90). The mentai cream sauce was surprisingly light, and the fresh sea flavour from the egg roe was subtle. My bowl contained ample amounts of white fish, shrimp and calamari. I enjoyed the taste of lemon, garlic and green onions mingled in the sauce. The noodles were fantastic – so soft, slippery and fat. I’ve eaten udon numerous times in Tokyo, and I prefer Cafe Sanuki’s version.

Jacuzzi ordered the Cheesy Carbonara ($9.50). We had both never eaten anything like this before. The super cheesy sauce created almost a pool-like surrounding around the udon noodles. The sauce was so thick and heavy that you could see the long strands of cheese stretch apart when you pulled the noodles up.

What made this dish unique was the torching of the cheese on the top, combined with the smoky bacon pieces. Jacuzzi said this was so much cheese that one person couldn’t possibly finish a bowl. He exclaimed that you’d only love this dish if you dig a lot of cheese and bacon.

We agreed that the udon at Cafe Sanuki was incredible and worth returning to if we came back to Vegas. Simply Dumpling, you did it again! Hitting the Sauce gives Cafe Sanuki two fat thumbs up.

Hawaiian · Restaurants · Vegas

Lefty J’s Island Favourites – Las Vegas

For our first breakfast in Vegas, I picked a place recommended by Strictly Dumpling. Like most of Mikey Chen’s recommendations that appealed to me, Lefty J’s Restaurant is located off the main strip. Let’s listen to “Gone Away” by Offspring for this post. Jacuzzi complained that Offspring is so 90’s, but hey, that’s the era we grew up in.

Our Uber driver told us to avoid the “bums” around the strip mall. We didn’t see any, but we appreciated his concern for our safety. I told Jacuzzi to make sure he tipped our driver. We arrived when Lefty J’s Island Favourites opened at 10 a.m., but there was still a group from Singapore ahead of us who ordered a huge feast. We ordered what Strictly Dumpling recommended – the Five Meat Platter ($25.99). The owner told us our food would take twenty minutes.

Strictly Dumpling – aka Mikey Chan

While we anxiously waited for our food, Jacuzzi mentioned he appreciated the air con and the fun, vibrant decor. He noticed the artistic touches, like the flags and paintings. These niceties were all fine and dandy, but I was here strictly for the food. So when I saw a picture of Strictly Dumpling on the counter, I knew we were in good hands.

Twenty minutes later, our platter was ready. What a bounty of gluttony! All the meats were so hot that I burned my greedy little fingers eating too quickly. Our BBQ platter included two big scoops of rice sprinkled with furikake and a small container of macaroni salad.

Oh, my Ford. The fried chicken was marvellous. The batter was crunchy and sweet, encasing some toothsome meat. The kalbi ribs were thick-cut, chewy and fatty, with a nice char. We sat in happy silence, shovelling the food into our mouths. We only talked when I asked Jacuzzi which meat was his favourite. He preferred the fried chicken.

We were also a fan of the chicken teriyaki. You could tell the chicken was marinaded beforehand, then glazed with a sweet, buttery sauce. Jacuzzi liked it so much that he even ate the chicken skin that I removed from my portion.

The katsu cutlet was a large portion, sliced into long, strip-like pieces. The katsu sauce tasted like it was homemade, addicting with its complex, tangy kick. The beef teriyaki looked like it was pounded into a thin layer before being caramelized on the grill. I ate most of the beef as Jacuzzi was getting too full—what a lightweight.

I loved mixing the bites of meat with rice and julienned cabbage, as the crunchy greens helped to cut into the fatty, rich flavours. The side of macaroni was refreshing, slippery, creamy and cold. By the time we polished off the platter, we were both in a food coma.

We chatted with the owner while we waited for our Uber. She’s a sweet woman and reminds me of my Auntie Joyce. She said we should check out Strictly Dumpling’s other recommendation – all-you-can-eat sushi at Umami. But, unfortunately, that will have to be for another trip, as I wanted to check out Strictly Dumpling’s favourite udon restaurant – Cafe Sanuka. In any case, if you are in Vegas, I highly recommend checking out Lefty J’s. Hitting the Sauce gives Lefty J’s two phat thumbs up.

Burgers · Fast Food · Restaurants · Vegas

Bobby’s Burgers – Las Vegas

For our sibling getaway, Jacuzzi picked Las Vegas. I thought this was an odd choice because he refuses to dress up and doesn’t drink alcohol. I won’t gamble, and I hate buffets. The one thing we have in common is our love for food. For this review and the following Vegas posts, I’ll be playing The Offspring, as it was likely the only band Jacuzzi and I would have both listened to when we were teenagers.

I had planned to take Jacuzzi to a seafood joint off the strip the first night. However, we hit a slight snag in our travels and missed our reservation. Since we were famished and wanted to make it to the LA Comedy Club in time, we ordered burgers from Bobby’s Burgers at Caesar’s Palace.

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Bacon Crunch Burger ($14.99) was delicious. Jacuzzi was excited because the center of the patty was cooked to a beautiful pink. The beef was thick and hot, generously wrapped with crunchy bacon slices and potato chips. The cheese and sauce mingled in with the juices of the patty. Jacuzzi said this was a far better burger than Gordon Ramsey Burger.

I preferred his Bacon Crunch over my Palace Classic burger ($13.99) because the latter had too much iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, which chilled and watered down the flavour of the beef. Proportionally, the meat and cheese to produce were off. I would come again but stick to the Bacon Crunch burger.

Jacuzzi enjoyed his dark chocolate milkshake, which he thought tasted like vanilla. I took a sip and it tasted like a Wendy’s chocolate malt, but quadruple the price. He closed his eyes and exclaimed the shake was thick with the right amount of creaminess. I thought it was fine, but nothing special. The whipped cream tasted like it was canned.

The cashier recommended the onion rings over the fries. She said their onion rings were unique, in that the onions were sliced into nice, big pieces. However, the temperature of the rings was lukewarm, and the batter was borderline limp. In addition, I thought the onion rings were under-seasoned. Even the side of the ranch couldn’t save this side.

The important thing was we made it to the comedy club in time. Jacuzzi and I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of all the stand-up comedians. I told him the next day would be better foodwise, as we were checking out Strictly Dumpling’s picks.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Vine Arts – Domaine des Marnes Blanches Wine Tasting

I’m getting tired of my usual rotation of wines. I also want to find some mind-blowing wines for my upcoming dinner parties. I’ve been looking to increase my wine exposure and stumbled across a post through Vine Arts and Juice Imports about an upcoming Domaine des Marnes Blanches wine tasting event ($30). I snagged the last two tickets and brought my friend Bubbles. Let’s listen to “Ma Rue Fera Echo” by Doux si Doux for this post.

Erik Mercier featured 2020 wines of Domaine des Marnes Blanches from the alpine region of Jura, France. For this tasting, the cost of our tickets went to pay for the bottles we drank. Mercier said this was an inexpensive way for everyone to try wines that would usually be outside of their everyday wine budget. Also, since he exported these wines, it allowed him to share what he loves about the region and winery.

We learned that Jura is the rainiest region in France. The winery produces organic wines using a natural wild fermented process that creates lively, vibrant wines.

The first wine we tried was the Trousseau, a bright, fresh and juicy red wine. The colour was a light, bright red. Mercier described the flavour as a glossy berry with superb viscosity and a creaminess from the bacteria. He recommended drinking this wine while it was young. This bottle wouldn’t last a week in my household.

Next was the Pinot Noir. As Mercier took a sip, he shook his head in amazement and exclaimed, “Dang! This is a good wine!” He informed us this wine is similar to a Burgundy. He went into detail about the grape and the vines, but I lost focus because I started feeling a little tipsy and I stopped taking notes.

One of my favourite wines is the Chardonnay Les Molates. According to Mercier, this is the most planted vine at the winery. He stated Marnes Blanches uses the whole stems and clusters of grapes in the fermentation process, which acts as a channel to filter the juice. As a result, the lattice creates a clean, fresh juice that retains its acidity.

I loved how the chardonnay danced on my tongue. Mercier mentioned this wine drinks like a classic burgundy, but at half price. He said this wine was stupidly good, with surreal value. I bought a bottle to share with Wonderland and Double 07.

My second favourite wine was the Savagnin En Jensillard. I almost passed out from the heady smell of this wine. What a pretty, intense aroma! If I could bottle up infatuation, it would taste like the Savagnin En Jensillard. Mercier said this wine would pair with a Szechuan dish or spicy Thai food. I also bought this bottle for my upcoming dinner party.

Next up was the Chardonnay Les Molates. Mercier noted this variety was indigenous to Jura. A founder grape, the vine flowers early and ripens late while retaining its acidity. The result is a freshness similar to jasmine and stone fruit.

Our second last wine was the Chardonnay Sous Voille. This wine smelled like a sherry or port. Mercier mentioned this it was hard to describe, and often people are put off if they can’t put into words the flavour of the wine.

The last wine we tried was the Vin de Paille, a sweet, dry wine. He mentioned that some of his guests claim they don’t like sweet wines, but will drink soda and junk food.

Many of the wines we tried were available in quantities of three or five. I asked Mercier if they only had three bottles to sell and five customers who want them, who gets them? He responded it was first come, first serve. I would not describe myself as an aggressive person, but at that moment, I decided to jump up and sprint across the room, much like a quarterback or wide receiver. The heart wants what it wants, and I desired those wines.

I am going to make these Vine Arts events a regular part of my schedule. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than learning about delicious wines taught by a passionate and non-pretentious wine guide. Hitting the Sauce gives Mercier two phat thumbs up.

Pizza

Una Pizzeria

Since L’s been away, Bex.oxo has helped me with pet sitting, as my dog gets extra anxious when his dad is gone. On Tuesday, I received a text from her that my little boy had an unfortunate incident involving my new white couch. I told Bex.oxo not to worry about the crime scene, as I would deal with it when I returned. She didn’t listen to me and took care of the problem. I immediately called my mother-in-law, who was only too happy to take Brut to her house until L was back home. Let’s hear ” Wipe Out” by the Surfaris for this post. 

On Thursday, I told Bex.oxo that I was taking her out for dinner. We decided on Una Pizzeria in West Springs, as we both like the food, and I could make online reservations. If I’m going out for dinner, I’ll generally avoid any restaurant unless I can get a reservation. 

I asked Bex.oxo if she had any food restrictions. She told me to order whatever, and she would pick out any ingredient doesn’t like. I love how low maintenance she is. We ordered a glass of wine (Francis Coppola, $15, house sauvignon blanc, $9), Kale Caesar ($20), Gnocchi Bianca ($23), Veggie Pizza ($18), and Roasted Cauliflower ($16). 

Our server did an excellent job spacing out all the dishes. I enjoyed the leisurely pace as it allowed us to take our time to enjoy all the different dishes at their optimal temperature.

The first dish we tried was the roasted cauliflower. I never eat cauliflower at home because it tastes like rubber to me. To make cauliflower taste this good, you have to have a strong sauce game. Una nailed it. We enjoyed the combination of rich, hot buttery brown sauce, the cool tahini crème fraîche, sweet dates, and fresh herbs. Bex.oxo noted that the addition of fresh dill and the sweetness of dates gave this dish the perfect balance of lightness and decadence.  

I’m a fan of Una’s organic local kale salad. The kale tasted like it was massaged with olive oil and lemon. My favourite part of this salad is the fine dusting of crunchy panko, sharp shards of pecorino romano and the still warm, salty, crumbly bacon. 

Oh my Cod, the gnocchi bianca was worth the calories. Each gnocchi was hot and super soft, dosed in a thick garlic cream and grana padano. I loved the complex flavour from the house-made bacon, as it added another layer of umami. I would get this again.

Currently, the pizza I liked best at Una is the veggie. Bex.oxo thought the feta went well with the roasted red peppers, sundried tomato puree, and honey. What she appreciates about the pizza at Una is the care put into all the ingredients. Like the finely slivered crunchy onions, the quality of the cheeses, and the sweetness of the peppers. I enjoyed the hot, stringy cheese and the puffy crust with the crisp edges and the crunchy bottom. The only thing that would enhance this pizza would be a side of garlicky aioli, which I didn’t see on the menu. Bex.oxo told me her favourite pizza is the Tiki, which I’ll have to try when we return.

As we were eating, I noticed an accumulation of mushrooms piling on her plate. Bex.oxo says she doesn’t like shrooms, and it’s a texture thing. I’m glad I didn’t order the mushroom pizza. I like the cremini mushrooms at Una, as they have a firm, meaty texture with a robust, earthy flavour.

I made Bex.oxo order dessert. She was so full that she could only have a taste. Our server came back with a lid. How adorable is that? I’m a big fan of Una, there’s more than just pizza, and I found all our dishes enjoyable. Hitting the Sauce gives Una two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Vietnamese

Pho City

Sunday was freaking chilly! After I finished running my errands, I felt like eating something hot and satiating. I remembered Foodkarmablog’s post on the pho dac biet at Pho City. Even though it was well past lunch, this spot was still busy. For this post, let’s listen to “Waiting” by Nora Jones.

The restaurant is modern and ideally set up for the downtown office lunch rush. Near the front of the room is a long communal table for solo diners. Service is fast and friendly. Within ten seconds, I was promptly greeted and given a menu and a glass of water.

Based on Foodkarma’s recommendation, I ordered a regular-sized Pho City Special Noodle ($14.50). Ah – now this is a good bowl of pho. Pho City nailed the temperature and the flavour of the broth. The soup was so hot that even after dumping all the chilled bean sprouts and basil into the bowl, the broth was still warm enough to cook the vegetables. The soup itself tasted slightly sweet and nurturing.

The noodles were bouncy and al dente. I loved how the chewy pieces of tripe would get tangled into the noodles. I took longer than usual to eat, and the noodles got a little too soft for me at the very end of the meal. So next time, I’ll eat more of the noodles first and then save the meats and vegetables till the end.

The generous amount of noodles was proportional to the amount of sliced beef, tendon, brisket, tripe and beef balls. What I loved about this bowl was that every single ingredient tasted fresh. I enjoyed each meat’s individual texture and flavour, though I found the meatball a little salty.

I felt cozy and warm after finishing my meal. Pho must have some medicinal powers on my eyesight. The trees and sky looked more animated in colour when I left the restaurant. Hitting the Sauce gives Pho City two phat thumbs up.

Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Golden Sands – Dim Sum Heaven

On Sunday morning, Beep Beep and I went shopping at Calgary Farmers’ Market. We picked up a cappuccino and chai latte from Analog and walked around the market. After I finished showing her around my favourite vendors, she told me there was a shop she wanted to check out. I was curious where she wanted to go, as she didn’t say a peep when I gave her my tour. Let’s listen to “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye for this post.

“Where is this place?” I asked. She spun around and said, “Right here.” I looked around and noticed several displays of crystals. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that this is where she was most interested in shopping. I must have stood around for half an hour while she cradled different rocks in her palm, feeling their energy. I overheard her talking to the staff about a green crystal that grew within another crystal. I felt like L, but without his patience. While waiting for her to pick a suitable rock, I called Golden Sands and made a reservation for 11:30 a.m. 

Getting a table here during peak hours is stressful. There was a long line-up when we arrived at the restaurant. The host was surrounded by customers, who were constantly badgering him for a table. I bugged him several times because I was worried we would be overlooked due to my inability to speak Cantonese or Mandarin. The host was polite and professional, and I have to say, adept at calming the angry. This was a tough crowd. Beep Beep could sense my anxiety rising with each passing minute. I started to wish she brought in her healing crystal. She passed me a menu to distract me. When I apologized to her for waiting at a crowded entrance, she said not to worry, and she knew the food would be good because it was so busy. I’m telling you, getting into a club in Vegas is easier than eating at Golden Sands. I even considered slipping the host a twenty-dollar bill, but I figured the other customers would eat me alive. Half an hour later, when the host gave us a table, I was so happy I wanted to hug him. I imagine that social display of affection during COVID would have gotten me kicked out of the restaurant. 

We ordered the Steamed Scallop w/ Black Truffle ($8.88), Deep-Fried Minced Pork Dumplings ($6.50), Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($6.50), Special Seafood Rice Crepe ($7.50), and Lemongrass Pork Chop ($9.88). I tried to order the Crystal Noodles with Beef Brisket & Tendon and Salty Fish with Scallop, Tofu and Eggplant Hot Pot. However, the kitchen was out of beef brisket, and the hot pot was only available at dinner. 

The wait was worth it. The steamed scallop dumpling arrived piping hot. The shrimp was large and crunchy. The scallop was silky smooth and sweet. The truffle wasn’t overpowering. Beep Beep mentioned that she’s never seen this dish in Vancouver. I told her the chef is from Vancouver, which is why Golden Sands is better than what we expect in Calgary. I hate to say this but Vancouver/Richmond has a much higher standard when it comes to Chinese cuisine.

The best dish was the seafood rice crepe. The rice crepe was similar to a wrapperless shrimp spring roll. The shrimp center was filled with a large cylinder of toothsome, bouncy shrimp. The noodle itself was glossy and silky, hot and gooey. Beep Beep mentioned she thought the seafood rice roll was unique and tasted fresh.  I would order this again.

The lemongrass pork chop was covered in a salty, pungent orange sauce. The batter was soft, puffy and sticky. I found the meat fatty and chewy. I liked the addition of the onions and seaweed-like garnish.

The turnip cake was lightly fried. The cake itself was soft and fluffy, and the texture was smooth. I would have preferred if the radish cake was served at a warmer temperature. No biggie, as I still enjoyed it.

Beep Beep enjoyed the minced pork dumplings. The pork filling was saucy and hot. She liked that the dumplings were shaped and coloured like a carrot. I found the dough sweet, and still sizzling from the fryer.

Service at Golden Sands is excellent and far better than what I experience in Vancouver or Richmond. I found everyone friendly and helpful, despite how busy it was. I plan to go back for dinner to try the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended. Hitting the Sauce gives Golden Sands two fat thumbs up.

Indian · Restaurants

The Curryer

For dinner on Saturday, I wanted to take Beep Beep somewhere I’d never been before. I remembered Miss Foodie recommended The Curryer, a Pakistani restaurant in the Beltline. As she is my number one go-to for restaurant picks, I knew we wouldn’t be steered wrong. For this post, let’s listen to “You Drive Me Wild” by The Runaways.

You have to order and pay for your food at the front counter before sitting down. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember which drink Miss Foodie recommended, so I just ordered what the owner suggested – the Anar Twist ($5.95). For food, I choose the Aloo Mutter Samosa ($2.50), Chicken Samosa ($3), Beef Korma ($15.95), Chicken Biryani ($15.95), and Kachumber Salad ($3.95).

Our drinks were fizzy and sweet, filled with pomegranate seeds and a jelly-like lychee slush. Since I’m sensitive to sugar, I would ask for half the amount of syrup the next time I visit.

Of the two samosas we tried, I preferred the aloo mutter, as I found the filling delightfully soft and savoury. I noticed the wrapper on the aloo mutter was crunchier and poofier than the chicken samosa.

The beef korma was excellent. The texture of the beef was tender and velvety, similar to Chinese-style brisket. The creamy sauce had a deep, smooth depth to it. I warned Beep Beep to avoid the drizzle of hot oil in the curry, as she’s sensitive to spicy foods. I would get the korma again.

The naan was fantastic! I loved the big blistered air pockets. The only other place in the city with flatbread this good is Yemeni Village. The Curryer’s bread is flaky and almost papery compared to Yemini’s softer, chewier bread.

The naan is so good that I would skip the rice and double up on the bread. There’s nothing better than fresh, crisp naan and a stellar curry.

The chicken biryani tasted like the chef just made it. The plump chicken pieces were slow-roasted, which made the meat pop easily off the bone. The long grains of the basmati was fluffy, aromatic, and liberally spiced. The owner recommended mixing the cucumber salad into the biryani, as it added a crunchy, refreshing element to the dish. I enjoyed the combination of the creaminess from the mint chutney and yogurt raita with the chicken and rice.

The Curryer is located only two blocks from my office. I enjoyed the food so much that on Monday, I told everyone I saw to check out The Curryer. When I told The Voice about the generous portions, he mentioned the prices sound more reasonable than what he paid at Saffron at First Street Market with his counterpart, Sophia. After I showed GC my pictures and described the naan and beef korma, he said he would check it out, even though he’s avoiding carbs. In my meeting with Miss V, I told her she needs to try The Curryer. She asked me if that was the place GC’s been talking about. I said yes, but he hasn’t been there yet. I know L will be excited, as we haven’t been happy with the consistency of the food at our usual haunts. Hitting the Sauce gives The Curryer two enthusiastic phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Park by Sidewalk Citizen

Beep Beep came to visit me on the weekend. Not much has changed since we were teenagers, except now Beep Beep obsesses over which private school she wants her kid in and all I talk about are fonts. Let’s listen to “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen for this post.

We went to Major Tom for a cocktail on Friday evening, then Ubered over to Park by Sidewalk Citizen. I’ve wanted to check this restaurant out ever since Bottlenick recommended the food and wine. Avenue Calgary voted Park as one of the ten best restaurants in Calgary 2022.

The restaurant itself is gorgeous, reminding me of an art gallery. Our table was by the door, which got a little drafty at times. We tried two red wines that night. My favourite was a German pinot noir (Dr. Die $14). I thought this wine was quite bold, which surprised me as I find most pinots weak in flavour and body. I know that Park gets some of its wines from JUICEimports, a wine importer that I think was associated with the old Von Der Fels.

The Charbroiled Lamb Skewer ($5) was nicely seasoned and juicy. However, I would have liked the skewer more if it was hotter.

Next, we both enjoyed the Hummous ($10). The hummus was thick and creamy, with a unique flavour. The marinated mushrooms were cold and chewy, with a texture that reminded me of eggplant. I would order this again. 

The Baked Feta ($15) arrived with the cheese blistered and smokey. I liked the pita that came with the feta over the pita that accompanied the hummus, as the latter arrived warm and crisp.

We weren’t hungry, but we wanted to try the Beef Bavette ($31). The beef was sliced into warm, juicy pieces. I thought this beef was perfectly seasoned. 

The breakfast at Park looks particularly good to me – I noticed shakshuka and a cured salmon plate on the menu. L’s not a brunch person, but perhaps I can convince my friend @bex.oxo to come with me. 

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Ranchmen’s Club

Wonderland and Double 07 invited us to The Ranchmen’s Club for dinner. Since I first met Wonderland, she has consistently praised the executive chef, sommelier and staff at Ranchmen’s, so I was curious and excited to go. For this post, let’s listen to the James Bond theme song.

We met in the lobby and then moved into the Samson Lounge for a cocktail. When I sat down by the fireplace, the first thing I noticed was the deer mount. The room itself has a heritage vibe, like the Lougheed House, located across the street. Wonderland told me she often drops by the lounge to play bridge or to read a book.

Double 07 ordered a round of French Cowboys. I found this cocktail delightfully tart and refreshing. I loved how the bubbles fizzled on my tongue. Before I knew it, Double 07 told us it was time to go for dinner in the Mary Dover room, and we could bring our cocktails inside. Before finishing his sentence, I had already gulped my drink down. L has been trying to break that bad habit of mine since we met. Good luck with that, L.

I wasn’t expecting to dine in a private room, making the dining experience more intimate. We started with small cubes of cheddar cheese and French bread. The bread innards were silky, and the crust was chewy and flaky. Wonderland received gluten-free bread, as the staff are familiar with her dietary restrictions. Wonderland mentioned the cheddar was either two or three years old. L liked the intense, nutty flavour. I enjoyed the cheese, but I would have been content with the bread and butter because the bread was that good.

Double 07 picked out fantastic champagne. Wowee! The bubbles were tiny, with a soft, mellow flavour. I thought this champagne was really something special.

I ordered what the maître d’ recommended – the Caesar Salad, AAA Tenderloin Steak, and the Crab Hasselback Potatoes.

L and Double 07 picked Foie Gras and the Roast Duck Breast, and Wonderland ordered Oysters and the Rack of Lamb.

The lettuce in my salad was crisp and cold, with none of the bitterness I usually find in romaine leaves. I enjoyed the saltiness and softness of the whole sardines and the balanced flavour of the dressing. I thought Ranchmen’s makes a better Caesar than Caesar’s Steakhouse, which was previously my gold standard.

The red wine Double 07 picked out was phenomenal. The smell was so beautiful. I could sniff this wine all night long. The wine was smoky, smooth, with no sweetness to it. I was glad I was sitting down, or I would have been swooning from sheer ecstasy.

The knife crackling through the salty, charbroiled steak sent shivers down my spine. The texture of the meat was so luxuriously tender that I almost wept from the sheer bliss. I’m not exaggerating. I was quiet the entire time I ate, just marvelling at the pairing of the wine with the beef and the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crunch of the pickled onions. I grow my tomatoes, and even when I pick them at the optimal ripeness, they don’t taste this good.


I requested the bearnaise sauce as Wonderland recommended, but I didn’t have to choose, as I received the peppercorn Armagnac and the bearnaise sauce for my steak. The peppercorn and bearnaise added this rich, hot layer of flavour that coated the beef. The Hasselback potatoes were buttery and soft, topped with generous amounts of sweet, flaky crab.

Double 07 picked a 13-year-old dessert wine. The fragrance of the wine was earthy, like a garden in the morning. I’ve never smelled anything like this.

L picked the Spiced Meringue for dessert. The chef split L’s portion in half so I could sample it. I tasted a little clove in the spices. I thought the sour cherry granite nicely balanced the sweetness of the walnut nougatine. I loved the crumbly bits that melted in my mouth. My favourite component of the dessert was the rich smoothness of the birch creameaux.

This meal was something I could never prepare at home. I wouldn’t even know where to get these ingredients, let alone find the wines. What was different about this meal was that I didn’t get tunnel vision like I usually do. There wasn’t one dish that overshadowed another item. Every component worked well together, so I enjoyed the entire progression of the meal.

When I thanked our generous hosts for such an extravagant meal, I mentioned I didn’t know what to do when they came to our place for the next get-together. Wonderland genuinely stated that this was not a competition. I said that was good because there was no way I could ever top the chef’s talent or the sommelier’s skill. I’ll have to think of something special for when Wonderland and Double 07 come over for dinner. Perhaps I’ll have to enlist some professional help.

I ate my breakfast and mid-morning snack the next day. I usually enjoy my chicken and green onion congee and local boiled eggs with cracked pepper and salt. However, the morning after such as epic feast, I have to say my food did not taste as good as it usually does. Hopefully, my tastebuds will revert to their old self, or I will have to do some real soul searching. Thank you, Double 07 and Wonderland, for the excellent company and hospitality.

French

Cassis Bistro – Girls’ Night

Kournikova, Betty, and I met at Québecois’ house before our dinner at Cassis Bistro. Québecois popped some bubbles, and we also tried a new white wine Kournikova brought over. We picked this French bistro for our monthly dinner because Betty has a penchant for beef tartare, and Cassis makes the best in town. We also live within walking distance of the restaurant, so we didn’t have to turn any of our husbands into chauffeurs. For this post, let’s listen to “Poisson Rouge” by Saint Privat. 

I asked Québecois to pick the wine. She selected the Graves Peyrat Bordeaux ($70). She mentioned she loved the smell of the wine. I enjoyed the soft, mellow notes. I’m a fan, and I would order this wine again.

When our appetizers arrived, I asked Betty to help me take the photos. Kournikova thought the tartare was better than Orchard. Betty felt the potato chips paired best with the tartare – she loved the delicious saltiness of the chips.

Our server gave us a glass of dessert wine to pair with the foie gras. I would never have guessed a sweet wine would be such a perfect match. I thought the wine amplified the flavour of the foie gras. Kournikova said that’s what she likes with a proper wine pairing – you get so much more out of the experience. Québecois appreciated the combination of the pear with the foie gras because she said it cuts into the fat. I loved the way the foie gras melts in your mouth. 

I ordered Steak Frites, but I was over the moon with Québecois mussels. Holy smokes – what a beautiful bounty! The moment I tried a mussel, all the other food on the table ceased to exist. 

Each mussel was so fat and bursting with the flavour of the sea. The texture reminded me of a poached egg – hot, silky and soft. At the end of our meal, I noticed that each mussel was still at the optimal consistency, despite having sat in the steaming broth.  

If I knew the mussels were like this, I would have ordered my own bowl. But, in the end, I didn’t need to as Québecois couldn’t finish her dinner. I must have eaten about half her meal. She is a most generous and wonderful friend. 

During dinner, all I could talk about was the mussels. Kournikova said she could tell I enjoyed the mussels because I talked about them for so long. I realized I was repeating myself for about half an hour. I looked up and saw the glazed expression of Betty, who was politely listening to me rant. I realized two things. First, I’m a boring person. Second, I need to give more credit to L, as he is a very patient man. 

We were full, but we still ordered dessert. The Marquise ($14) consisted of three or four different layers and textures of chocolate. I liked how in each bite, I could taste a variety of chocolate that was fluffy, creamy, crunchy or fudgy. The port was spicy, with warm notes. 

The service was lovely, and the food was excellent. And those mussels – sweet Bejesus- are so impressive that I would order it as my last meal if I were on death row. Thank you, Cassis and Québecois, for a sublime meal. 

Fusion · Vietnamese

Pure Street Food – Part Two

On Sunday, Bex.oxo invited me to National Geographic Live. Before the presentation, we planned to dine at Maven, but the 1.5-hour wait deterred us. So instead, I suggested First Street Hall & Bar, as I knew Bex.oxo would find something she liked. Let’s listen to “Delicate” by Taylor Swift for this post.

We stopped by for a coffee at Alforno. As we sipped our cappuccinos, I showed Bex.oxo around the market. She noticed all the vendors are notable restauranteurs in Calgary’s food scene. I had the best intention of checking out Actually Pretty Good and La Mano, but I remembered seeing Foodkarma’s post on the dry noodles at Pure Street Food. I’m a sucker for a good recommendation, so I ordered the Hu Tieu Mi Kho Noodles ($15) and Spicy Bo Kho Brisket Sesame Donut ($6).

What blew me away was the sesame donut. The shell was thin, light and crackled when I bit into it. The brisket was so tender; I barely had to chew. The crowning glory in this donut was the layers of fresh basil, chilled cucumber and crunchy carrots. I noticed as the donut chilled, the flavours became even more pronounced. For me, this was like a banh mi but intensified. We both didn’t use the dip. We felt the donut was flavourful enough and didn’t need anything else. 

The Hu Ties Mi consisted of wok-tossed egg noodles, char sui, ground pork, spring greens, slices of fish cake, and a side of rib bone soup. The portions are so generous. I made Bex.oxo eat some of my lunch. I was instructed to sip the soup independently rather than mixing it into the bowl. I loved the broth’s flavour, which was so vibrant and lively. The big piece of rib meat was soft and meaty. I would order the soup again.

The sauce on the noodles had a robust spicy kick to it. The noodles were chewy, soft and sticky. There was so much char sui, ground pork, and noodles, the portion was big enough for two meals. 

The spring roll was killer – thick and densely packed with a savoury filling. I thought this was one of the better Vietnamese spring rolls in town. You can tell there was no scrimping of ingredients or love. 

I’ll have to come back and try another vendor other than Pure Street Food. Old habits die hard. But if I died that afternoon, I would have passed away happily. The sesame beef donut was one of the best things I’ve eaten in 2022.