Mexican · Seafood

Fonda Flora – Girls’ Night

On Saturday, Kournikova, Québécois, and I got together for dinner. We started the night off with bubbles at Kournikova’s house. Québécois brought over champagne to toast to my new job. After finishing the bottle, Kournikova’s doting husband Zuber dropped us off at Fonda Flora.

Both Québécois and I appreciate the non-pedestrian wine list at Fonda Flora. This was Kournikova’s first visit and she was keen to try the food, as she loves Mexican food. For this post, let’s listen to “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates.

We left Québécois in charge of selecting our wine. After watching her study the wine menu, I realized knowledge could be a curse. Kournikova and I happily chatted away as Québécois studiously compare the regions, vintages and casks. I jokingly told Québécois to hurry up because I was losing my buzz. She laughed good-naturedly at my winegryness and selected N.V. Radice Paltrinieri, a bubbly from Italy. The wine was dry yet refreshing, with subtle berry notes. Her hard work paid off – we all enjoyed this bottle.

The best dish of the night was the Scallop Aguachile ($22). The scallop was served sashimi-like – cool, silky and pure tasting. Kournikova raved about the macha verde. I enjoyed the spicy heat, the vibrant flavours and the peppery slices of watermelon radish. The scallops were Kournikova’s favourite dish of the night. I would order this again. Kournikova mentioned that all the appetizers were larger than she expected.

Québécois told us her husband recommended the octopus. Oh baby – the Tacos de Pulpo Endiablado ($17) was fantastic! The grilled octopus was plump and tender – the texture was just incredible. Unfortunately, I found the tortilla itself a tad dry. Not a big deal, as I followed Kournikova suit and skipped the carbs. There’s a reason why she’s in tip-top shape.

Québécois favourite dish was the Ceviche de Camaron con Leche de Tigre ($19). She thought she could taste something peanuty in the dish. The shrimp was raw and cold, bathed in coconut milk, yuzu and salsa matcha. I thought this dish was heavy-handed with salt. Québécois disagreed and said it was perfectly seasoned.

The Costilla de Res en Mole Poblano ($34) came with three chunks of braised beef short rib, turnips, cauliflower and baby carrots. The vegetables were beautifully cooked – so that each retained its unique texture and flavour. The beef wasn’t as tender as I would have preferred.

Kournikova enjoyed the Carnitas de Cerdo ($29) more than the short rib. The confit pork shoulder was warm, tender and marbled with fat. The accompanying salsa and mole help to liven up the flavour of the pork.

We left stuffed, tipsy and pleased with the excellent company. For our next girls’ night, Kournikova suggested Sensei Bar. I need to check out Sensei’s wine list before I commit. If the wine isn’t decent, I will counter with Orchard Restaurant. Thanks for a lovely night, girls – I’m excited about our next outing.

Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Wings

Bottlescrew Bill’s – Bingo

On Wednesday, I met up with some people for half-price wings and bingo at Bottlescrew Bill’s. Whoever created the playlist that night has excellent taste – I enjoyed listening to the nostalgic tunes. So for this post, let’s listen to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

I started with a pint of Banded Peak Mount Crushmore Pilsner ($7.62). A, B, and C ordered the daily special – Boiling Oar Kolsh ($5). D is really into her beers, so she took longer than everyone else to select a beverage. Finally, she settled on Strawberry Ice Cream Pale Ale from Spectrum Beer Company. She left me some in the can to try. I thought it was yummy, the fun flavour reminded me of the beer at Fuggles and Warlock

D was hemming and hawing over whether to order wings. At first, I thought she was a vegetarian, so I told her Bottlescrew Bill’s makes Cauliflower Wings ($8.47) too. However, it turns out she’s just ethical. C encouraged her to ask the server her pressing question. Are the wings free-range? It was her lucky night! Indeed, not only were the wings free-range, but it was also half price!

I’m trying to eat healthier, but I indulged in Salt and Pepper Wings ($8.47) when I heard the chickens grew up well-loved. The crunchy coating on the wings reminded me of Shake and Bake. The meat was plump, white and unbruised. I told D I’d eaten a lot of unethical wings in my day, and I could taste the happy lives these chickens lived.

I tried one of D’s hot wings. I loved the tangy smell of the vinegar. The spice level was mild and not too hot. I preferred the flavour of the hot sauce over the salt and pepper seasoning.

The hostess has excellent hearing and would mock the audience for being a poor sport. B and D are competitive, so they took on three cards each play. I went with one card and neglected the game halfway through to enjoy my wings.

I would come again – bingo, half-price free-range wings, cheap beer and Thunderstruck – could the night be any more perfect? Based on the group’s feedback, I’m going to propose our next event be held at Ducky’s, Rodney’s Oyster House, or the Tea House Comedy

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – L’s birthday dinner

On Friday, we celebrated L’s birthday at Sukiyaki House. On that particular night, because the restaurant was short-staffed, I couldn’t request omakase (a special menu curated by the chef). L said that was fine with him, as everything off the regular menu is exceptional. For this post, let’s listen to “Waltz for Roxy” by The French Note.

To start the festivities, we ordered a bottle of Mizubasho Junmai Daiginjo ($55). Judith has superb taste – her sakes never disappoint. L marvelled at the smoothness and pureness of the rice wine. He said, unlike other sakes, this one was so easy to drink, almost like soda pop. This sake tasted so pretty; I could imagine fairies sipping it.  

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning gift for L’s birthday – seabass and snow crab sushi. L and I just sat there a moment in silence – admiring the food art. I didn’t notice there was an absence of rice until L mentioned it to me. The silky texture of the fish on fish was sublime. The creamy sauce tasted like roasted sesame seeds with a touch of sweetness. I loved the sea burst pop of the salmon roe and the crunchier snap crackle of the tobiko. I was smiling the entire time I ate. I never experienced this flavour and texture combination before. This dish was incredible – the best thing I’ve eaten in 2021. I thought the seabass sushi illustrated Koji’s wide range of creative talent. After sampling Chef Koji’s specialty dishes in the past few years, I can say he has multiple platinum hits and not a one-hit-wonder.

Our next dish was another beauty – Kanpachi Tataki ($24). I think this was the first time I tried Amberjack. I found the texture of the fish unique – the flesh was substantial and buttery with a clean flavour profile. L appreciated the subtle smoky sear, which he thought added to the experience.

The Tekka Roll (tuna maki roll, $5) was outstanding. The tuna was rich and creamy, which contrasted with the crispness of the toasted nori. I don’t understand how with only three ingredients, a dish can taste so good.  No picture was taken, as I had incorrectly assumed it would taste just like a regular old tuna maki roll.

I don’t know anyone else in the city that can do a better Shrimp Tempura ($12) than Sukiyaki House. The batter was light and flaky, and the shrimp was sweet and crunchy. My favourite part is the tempura sauce because I think the daikon and the grated ginger adds warmth and depth to the flavour profile.

If you like wings, you need to try the Chicken Karaage ($12). This is fried chicken perfection. The meat is so silky and tender, that chunks of meat easily split apart with a mere poke of a pair of chopsticks. The squeeze of lemon was perfect for helping cut into the fattiness of the crispy chicken skin. When I mentioned to L that the karaage was cheaper than wings at a pub, he noted that Sukiyaki House’s version also had no gristle or that purple bone marrow bruising you find in hot wings.

We ordered a round of nigiri: Amaebi (sweet spot prawn, fried shrimp head, $4); Ebi (steamed prawn, $3); Hotataegai (Hokkaido scallop, $4.20); Tako (steamed octopus, $3); Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) and Toro (albacore tuna belly, $4.50). L mentioned all the crevices made eating the scallop an elevated experience.

I enjoy having sake at Sukiyaki House, but for some reason, whenever I eat sushi, I crave a dry white wine. I was happy with the sauvignon blanc ($11) Judith picked out for me as I found it a well-balanced, easy-drinking wine.

For dessert, the birthday boy ordered Matcha Shiratama ensai ($9). I noticed all the fruit was at the perfect stage of ripeness. L loves Sukiyaki House’s homemade red bean. When he was eating his dessert, he looked like a kid enjoying his special treat. I think L was Japanese in his past life. Myself, I think I was Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. L can tell when I’m impressed with a meal because I always announce that if I died that night, I would die happy. I’m glad I woke up the next day because now I get to do it all over again. We are looking forward to Sukiyaki House’s future omakase nights. Thanks, Koji for making dinner a special event for L.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants

Ami Tea and Sub – Date night 10 of 19

After my appointment at Good Salon, I was famished. I debated getting a Vietnamese sub next door from Ami Tea and Sub or fried chicken across the street from the Blue Store. It was a tough decision, but in the end, banh mi won. For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet Dreams” by Beyoncé.

I ordered a Warm Kitchen Pate Sausage ($8). I noticed the owner put a lot of care into making my sandwich. The sub was jam-packed with generous amounts of pate and simmered pork meat slices. The carrots were minced so it lacked that crunch I crave. The texture of the cucumber was soft.

The bread is light and crusty. I didn’t find the baguette dry, but there were a million little crumbs on the table after I finished eating. The flavour of the pate and sausage was delicate and fresh. I thought my sub was heavy on the sauce – the soy and mayonnaise intermingled and dripped down all over my napkin. I noticed the mayonnaise was painfully sweet – so much that I wished I omitted it.

How does Ami Sub compare to the banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary? Taste-wise, this sub was similar to My My Sub‘s homestyle cold cut. Ami’s sub is even more filling than My Tho BBQ’s cold cut and nearly matches To Me in quantity. I have a hearty appetite, and after demolishing this sub, I was uncomfortably full for hours. The flavour combination of the pate, vegetables and sausage was subtle – there isn’t that rustic pungency that you get at Saigon Deli or flavour bomb that you get at Thi Thi. I also prefer my pate with a richness to it, like Xich Lo, Obanhmi or Banh Mi Nhu Y.

I’ve reached a milestone today! As Ami Sub was date #10/19, I’ve only got nine more to go to complete my goal! For banh mi date #11, I want to check out Paper Lantern or Rau Bistro.

Cheap Eats · Pubs · Restaurants

Ship and Anchor

On Saturday, Zeta-Jones celebrated her 40th birthday party at the Ship and Anchor. I know Zeta-Jones through her partner Fougui, whom I’ve been friends with for eight years. For this post, let’s listen to “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant.

Fougui ordered two massive platters of nachos ($22, + $3 guacamole) for the table to share. Damn – this was a good plate of nachos! Each chip was fresh, light and thin. One of my pet peeves is stale nachos. I liked how there was an even distribution of cheese, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and green onions throughout the platter.

With the exception of Zeta-Jones and Fougui, I didn’t know anyone else at the table. But, lucky for me, Claudia befriended me, and throughout the night, she took the time to translate the group’s conversation. I noticed Claudia was drinking red wine (La Bite Merlot, $9), so I asked if she liked the wine. She said there was only one wine by the glass, but it was good, especially for the price. Claudia and I got along so well that night that I invited her to be a No Man’s Dinner member, and she asked me to attend her birthday party next week. We also have plans to try the charred liver at Yemini Village.

Claudia ordered the Two-Piece Fish ($15) with Yam Fries (+$3). She said wasn’t expecting much, so she was pleasantly surprised by the fish and chips. She noted the velvety texture of the fillet reminded her of the fresh fish in Mexico City. She liked that fries and fish were crispy because she thinks there’s nothing worse than soggy fish. She mentioned she ordered two pieces of fish because she expected the portion to be small. Instead, she said the fish was plump and large and could only eat one piece. I thought it was interesting the batter was so pale, but perhaps that’s just because of the lighting.

Her friend Daphne said she enjoyed her fish but found the regular fries too dry. Claudia didn’t like the tartar sauce, but Daphne enjoyed it so much, she ate her friend’s portion. Daphne noted that she could taste the vinegar in the tartar sauce, which she said paired well with the fish.


I wasn’t hungry yet, but that didn’t stop me from rudely staring across the table at the plate of Chicken Wings ($15) and Humboldt Calamari ($9). When I come back, I would order both the wings and calamari.


Though I didn’t eat, with Claudia’s riveting descriptions, I felt like I did. This experience renewed my interest in the Ship and Anchor. I’ll have to bring L for a date night so I can try some of the deep-fried delights. I also hear the lamb shank is particularly good. To be continued.

Bakery · Bars/Lounges · Cheap Eats · Curry · Fast Food · Happy Hour · Italian · Mexican · Patio · Pizza

First Street Market – Pure Street Food, Saffron Street, Moose and Poncho

On Sunday, L and I checked First Street Market. I’ve heard favourable things about all the vendors – particularly the places I’ve never tried such as Actually Pretty Good, La Mano, and Friends with Benedicts. However, on this visit, I came specifically for Pure Street Food and Moose and Poncho, two restaurants I’ve frequented in the past. For this review, let’s listen to “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers.

We grabbed a spot at the First Street Bar, just in time for the tail end of happy hour (4:00-6:00 p.m.). I ordered a glass of the Vinho Verde (HH $5, Regular $7, HH Bottle $25, Regular $35) and L chose the Snake Lake Pilsner (HH $5, Regular $7).

The Portuguese white wine was served ice cold. I found this wine bright with strong tropical notes. Other than First Street Market Bar, I don’t know anywhere else in the city where you can get a drinkable bottle of wine for only $35. Where was this place when I was in school?

At Pure Street Food I ordered the Bun Bo Sate ($12) and a Fire Chicken w/ Melted Cheese Sesame Donut ($6) for L. The broth was thick, rich and beefy. The slices of beef shank, brisket and beef rib were flavourful and tender. The noodles had a nice bounce to them.

I took a bite of the sesame donut. The flavour of the crispy sesame shell was prominent. L thought the fire chicken was delicious and not painfully spicy like he experienced in Korea.

L ordered four tacos ($6 each): Carnitas (confit pork) and Suadero (lime-marinated confit beef). Both the pork and beef tacos were tasty. I found the seasoning and quality of the meats delectable. I also liked how the flavour of the cilantro wasn’t overpowering. I mentioned to L that I wish he ordered some salsas ($3.50 each) to go with the tacos, as Moose and Poncho make some wicked dips. He said he didn’t see that option when he ordered and the staff never mentioned there were additional sauces he could have purchased. L thought the tacos didn’t need any more sauce than the one he was provided.

I was still hungry, so I ordered a Masala Dosa ($13) from Saffron Street. I remembered seeing Miss Foodie rave about this vendor. As always, she is correct. The crepe was light and delicate, fragrant with the smell of coconut. The potato filling was soft and creamy. I enjoyed alternating each crispy bite into the lentil stew, tomato and coconut chutney. I would order this again.


First Street Market reminds me of the food halls in Toronto, but more intimate and modern. I appreciate the concept – chef-driven, high-quality fast food paired with a bar offering inexpensive drinks. I look forward to my next visit! Hitting the Sauce gives First Street Market two phat thumbs up.

Italian · Pizza

Inglewood Pizza

It was G-Mah’s 75th birthday! To celebrate the occasion, L and I hosted a pizza party at our house. So, for this post, let’s listen to “16 Candles” by The Crests.

Lately, we’ve been ordering from Inglewood Pizza (Killarney location). We’ve enjoyed each pizza, except for the donair pizza, which we both found too sweet. For this occasion, we ordered four large pizzas.

Based on our sample survey (n=7), two pizzas stood out. The All-Meat ($27.15) and Greek Souvlaki ($27.15). The All-Meat pizza was layered with five types of meat: pepperoni, ham, beef, salami, and Italian sausage. Though the pizza was loaded with meats, the proportion of meat and cheese to dough was balanced.

The toppings in the Greek Souvlaki pizza are bountiful, topped with fresh tomatoes, red onion, grilled chicken breast with lemon, oregano, garlic and feta. I liked how each ingredient tasted light and fresh.

The other two pizzas we ordered are similar to each other. The only difference between the Villagers Choice ($26.65) and Town Special ($25.90) is the former contains ham on top of pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers.

L and my in-laws are die-hard fans of Hanni’s, but they mentioned Inglewood Pizza was just as good or even better. Personally, I prefer Inglewood Pizza’s crust over Hanni’s. Inglewood’s crust is lighter, and it has a more pleasing flavour.

Both Inglewood Pizza and Hanni’s are heavy-handed with the mozzarella. I prefer Inglewood’s creamier, saltier mozzarella. Inglewood Pizza’s tomato sauce is tangy, whereas Hanni’s has a unique sauce, which I find zesty and aromatic. Hanni’s specialty pizzas have even more cheese and toppings than Inglewood, so if you want a gut-busting pizza, go to Hanni’s.

Pro tip – Buy a large or extra large pizza and get the second one for 50% off. With our discount, the Town Special was $12.95 (regular $25.90), and the Villager was $13.33 (regular $26.65). Four large pizzas are enough for 8-10 guests. We had so much pizza leftover, that even after sending five slices home with G-Mah, I froze eight slices for future dinners.

17th Ave · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Hawthorn Dining Room

My sister-in-law turned 40! We spent the afternoon at RnR Wellness Spa and the evening at the Hawthorn Dining Room. For this post, let’s listen to “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore.

To start the night, Turned ordered a round of bubbly (Maschio Prossecco, $54). As we looked through the menu, I mentioned that I heard the Scallops ($39) were particularly good. I consider myself an anti-influencer, so I was surprised when most of my dining companions ordered scallops, just based on my comment.

For wine, I let the birthday girl pick. Turned chose the Sea Sun ($80) because she loves pinot noir. Personally, I was not too fond of this wine because of the oaky notes. But, that’s okay because it wasn’t my birthday.

The moment I saw my entree, I knew it was a winner. Each plump scallop was caramelized, the flesh was sweet, soft and springy. I enjoyed the other flavourful components of the dish – the tart artichokes, roasted tomatoes, fresh spring peas, chorizo and salty capers. The person sitting across from me is originally from Newfoundland, and she approved of the scallops. I thought the scallops at Hawthorn were even better than the version I tried at Cassis Bistro, the difference being the former uses meatier scallops. I would order this again.

After dinner, we took a limo around 17th Ave. I watched, fascinated as Turned’s friends sang in unison to song after song. Though I missed out on prom in high school, I lived the experience decades later. Except instead of taking Polaroid pictures, everyone was taking a selfie.

When we arrived at our destination – Sub Rosa – one of the guests was denied access because the bouncer said she was intoxicated. When someone questioned his judgment, he explained that the guest in question was slurring her words, and she could not even pull her ID out of her purse. He said that clearly, she was already over-served. The bouncer said I was acceptable and welcome to come inside. My mother would be so proud.

I suggested heading over to Cactus Club because it was only two blocks away. Marta wanted to go to the Ship and Anchor, but no one wanted to walk that far, and since it was Halloween, we likely would not get in. Turned suggested Murrietta’s, as it was across the street and there was a dance floor.

No one was denied entry at Murrietta’s Bar & Grill, but there was still drama. Our party was supposed to be seated in the dining room. However, on the way to the dining room, most of our group disappeared to the lounge side. I was informed by the staff that our group could not enter the lounge as there was a private party.

When I finally found the birthday girl and her crew, a member of our circle was already dancing with a happy-looking man. I told our group that we either had to leave Murrietta’s or sit in the dining room. They decided to leave the premises. Once outside, there was another debate about going to the Ship and Anchor or another venue. When I realized I was the most responsible person in the gang, I decided to leave and get a Vietnamese sub. I didn’t want to be accountable for their shenanigans. You can imagine how heartbroken I was to find out my sandwich shop was closed for the night. At least I didn’t get denied entry. That would have been tragic.

Italian · Special Occasion

D.O.P. – Celebration dinner

Tuesday was a day of celebrations! First, I accepted a new position. Then, my friend Honesty quit her second job. Finally, Jyoti Gondek became Calgary’s new mayor. L took me, Honesty, and Glen Jr to D.O.P to celebrate this series of beautiful events. For this post, let’s listen to “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles.

I’ve been trying to get into D.O.P. for weeks. Even on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed, vibrating with energy from the open kitchen and the loud chatter from the customers dining at the bar. Pro tip – if you visit right when D.O.P opens, you’ll likely snag a spot at the bar.

We began with a round of drinks. Glen Jr chose a beer from Inner City ($8), L picked an Annex Italian Pilsner ($8). Honesty ordered a non-alcoholic Negroni ($6), and I sipped on a flute of Lambrusco ($14). I found the pinkish sparkling wine light, clean and minerally. L enjoyed his beer, which he said tasted like Peroni but better.

I heard D.O.P.’s antipasto are excellent, so we ordered two orders of Grilled Bread ($10); White Anchovy ($10); Whipped Ricotta ($9); Meatballs ($21.50); Eggplant ($7); and Green Pickled Tomatoes ($7).  Holy moly – this bread is wondrous stuff. The innards of the bread were light and fluffy. I love how the bread puffs up and the big air pockets within. The outer layers of the bread were crispy, hot and salty. The olive oil was excellent – grassy and smooth. I know the French are known for their bread, but the heavyweight title should go to the Italians in Calgary. D.O.P, Rocket Pie, Savino, Azzurri, and Cotto – these chefs create magic with just flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt.

Our server instructed us to eat the anchovies with ricotta and bread. What a knock-out pairing! The ricotta was cool and creamy, rich like whipped cream. The anchovies were bursting with umami – salty and pungent.  I appreciated the crunch of the white onions against the oily mixture of fish and bread. This was my favourite bite of the night.

L doesn’t generally like eggplant, but he declared D.O.P’s version excellent. The eggplant was soft, tart and smokey. L thought he could taste balsamic in the eggplant.


L also doesn’t like tomatoes, but he was a fan of the pickled green tomatoes. He liked how the tomatoes were crunchy and tart. There was something in the tomato dressing that sparkled on my tongue.

Honesty loved the flavour of the meatballs. I was impressed with the soft, fluffy texture. The red sauce was delicious. Having made meatballs before, I could tell labour and a lot of love goes into this version. I would order this again and I’m not a fan of meatballs.

The Tajarin ($26) was a saucy, cheesy pasta dish. The thin egg noodles were soft and soaked up the flavour of the garlic and tomato sauce. I could see my father enjoying this dish. This pasta dish reminds me of an elevated version of the pasta at Nick’s Spaghetti House, an Italian restaurant my father would eat at weekly back in the 1960s.

I loved how the Veal Chop Parm ($49) arrived in this impressive, super-sized portion. The exterior was crunchy and sizzling hot. The veal itself was tender, blanketed in a heavy layer of melted provolone cheese. As I gnawed on the bone, I could feel the shards of the batter shatter and land in my hair. I’m not a dainty eater.

I ordered a bottle of Noelia Ricci Sangiovese ($65) to enjoy with our meal. I found this wine easy to drink, smooth and bright on my tongue. I also tried a glass of the house white wine ($9). I was so happy to find such an enjoyable glass of wine for only nine bucks; a tear escaped from the corner of my eye. Thank you D.O.P., you are my unicorn.

For dessert, we shared Gelato ($11), Plums ($11), and Limoncello ($16). The plums tasted like cherries to me. I thought I could detect a bit of licorice in the dessert. The gelato was cold and creamy, with a salty, crunchy garnish.

I’m a big fan of D.O.P. The antipasti, veal chop and wines are impressive. Hitting the Sauce gives D.O.P two phat thumbs up.

French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Cassis Bistro

L and I met up with Glen Jr and Honesty for a double date. Glen Jr was craving French food so he suggested Cassis Bistro. For this post, let’s listen to “Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles” by Francoise Hardy.

I would normally order the house wine at Cassis because it’s good enough for me. However, since we dining with Glen Jr, we had to step it up.  Glen Jr has a more developed palate for food and wine than I do.  For our first bottle of wine, our server JJ recommended Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux ($70). I found this wine full-bodied and smooth. Of the two bottles we sipped on through the night, the Bordeaux was our favourite.

For our appetizers, we shared Le Plateau de Charcuterie ($38). Ham, bread and butter are such simple things, but when it such high quality, it is a treat. The ham tasted so light and clean. Glen Jr noticed that even the butter tasted extra good. Both the duck and pork pate were excellent. The pork pate was more flavourful but the duck pate was silky smooth.

Glen Jr wanted to try the Duck Foie Gras Torchon ($24). The foie gras came with warm gingerbread crisps and a slice of poached pear. Oh my duck. The foie gras melted in my mouth texture. The flavour was explosively rich and buttery. L loved the combination of the gingerbread and foie gras. I would order this again.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the Chateau Radeaux Monte Calme Bandol ($65). This wine was delicious as well, though very different from the first bottle and sweeter. For our mains, L ordered Steak Frites ($39), Honesty ordered Lamb ($39), Glen Jr and I ordered Sea Scallops ($36). This review will not be as descriptive as my regular posts. I was so overwhelmed with the quality of every single dish that I stopped trying to decipher and describe what I was tasting and just enjoyed my meal. I took my cue from Glen Jr. I noticed he would close his eyes and smile whenever he ate. He knows his food and even better, he knows how to relish each bite and sip.

L’s steak was a visual showstopper. The steak was beautifully arranged, served with a pile of frites, a boat of gravy and a green salad. He said his steak was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed using the crispy pomme frites to mop up every last drop of gravy. I haven’t found anyone in the city that does a better steak frites than Cassis.

Honesty’s lamb was so tender and tasty, it was incredible. Honesty said she thought the lamb must have been slow cooked for hours to achieve that soft texture. I took a bite and noticed there wasn’t a strong gamey flavour that I normally find in lamb. L  and I both thought Honesty ordered the best dish of the night. As always, he is correct.

The exterior of the sea scallops were seared to a golden brown. The interior of each plump scallop was still silky smooth, similar to sashimi. The vegetables looked like it was simply prepared but each bite was delicious. You know you are in good hands when the vegetables can hold up to the main component of the dish.

Glen Jr wanted dessert. We tried one of each – the Chocolate Mousse ($14) and the Creme Brûlée ($14). It takes a lot for me to enjoy dessert, as I’m sensitive to the sweetness of sugar. I find sugar jarringly sweet. I was so delighted with both desserts that I battled with Honesty for the last bite.

I have to give props to our server JJ. Throughout the night, he was working the room and ensuring the guests were happy. His hosting and serving skills remind me of Vij Vikram in Vancouver, a man who I think is top in his game as a host. Vij has this natural charm and warmth, with an ability to put guests in a celebratory mood.

I cannot praise our meal at Cassis enough. This was the best meal I’ve had in 2021. Thank you Glen Jr and Honesty for treating us out to dinner. We plan to take them out to Cassis in late November to try the winter menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Cassis Bistro two phat thumbs up and this French bistro makes it on my list of favourite restaurants.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Bake Chef – Date night 9 out of 19

On Monday, I met L at the University of Calgary to vote for Calgary’s new mayor – Jyoti Gondek. After we voted, we went on date 9 out of 19 at Bake Chef. For this post, let’s listen to “The Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan.

I wanted to order a cold cut sub because one of my favourite things about a banh mi is the contrast of the warm toasted baguette and the refreshing chill of the vegetables and meat. However, the last time I tried a cold cut at Bake Chef I was not impressed, so I ordered what L recommended. 

L and I both ordered the Beef Sate Sub ($8.10). We went to his office to eat our lunch. I was relieved because I know I would have embarrassed L with my banh mi photo shoot. However, even in the privacy of his office, I could sense L was nervous. His eyes darted around as the crumbs and carrots started to fall on the table. L is sensitive to food smells, so I think he was worried I’d drop the subs on the floor, which would definitely leave an odour behind. Personally, I would love to work in an environment that smelled like my most favourite food in the world. Lucky for him, no sub was injured in the making of this blog post and I left his office stink free. 

The baguette was soft and squishy, significantly lighter than Saigon Deli and Trung Nguyen. The generous amount of beef was hot, saucy and sweet. I enjoyed the gooeyness of the melted white cheese and the texture of the ribbon-like cucumbers. The carrots, red onions and jalapeño provided a crunch that help to balance out the soft texture of the beef. 

How does this sub compare to all the other banh mi heavy hitters? The vegetables were fresh, but the carrots weren’t pickled. Size-wise, this sub is packed with more meat than even My Tho, To Me Sub and MyMy Sub. L prefers the texture and taste of the beef at Bake Chef over Saigon Deli, which he finds too dry. Bake Chef’s sub is also the most filling – I was stuffed for the next five hours. The bread is light and dry, so the sub gets soggy rather quickly. The addition of the lettuce and cheese makes Bake Chef’s sate beef sub the least authentic, but that doesn’t matter to me, as the overall flavour is great. 

If you can, get out for the advanced vote. The ballot process this year is more complicated than previous elections. There are two ballots – a municipal and a provincial ballot. As well, voters will be asked to  vote on adding fluoride to our water, select nominees for the Senate of Canada and vote on referendums about equalization payments and Daylight-Saving Time.

17th Ave · Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Thai Tai – Date night 8 of 19

I met Pedals at National on 17th Ave for half price wine. I picked National because I wanted to get a banh mi at Thai Tai after our night out. I’m always thinking ahead. For this post, let’s listen to “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna.

I haven’t eaten at Thai Tai before because I heard the food is westernized. However, I stumbled on a post on Instagram and the cold cut sub looked good enough for me.

I ordered a Cold Cut ($7.99) on toasted white bread with carrots, cucumber, onions, and chili peppers. When my sandwich was ready, I sat outside to eat. When I took the first bite, I grunted in appreciation. The guy sitting across from me that shot me a weird look, like I was ruining his late night meal.

The combination of the warm crusty sub and the coolness of the meat and pickled vegetables was so overwhelmingly delicious, my eyes rolled to the back of my head.  It’s incredible how much joy a banh mi can give me. The ratio of meat to vegetable and bread was spot on. The thick layers of meat are double that of Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi. The pate is so subtle that I didn’t really notice it. However, I found the special sauce of garlic, chili soy sauce and sriracha bright and savoury.

I called an Uber after I ate, but I still craving something. I spoke to an employee and told him my predicament. He said he had some spring rolls I could take from another order. He just made a friend for life. The vegetable spring rolls were awesome. When I arrived home, the shell was crunchy and the filling was still super-hot. I liked that I was given fish sauce, hot sauce and plum sauce.

Colour is really weird because I took this picture in my Uber.

L said when I came upstairs, I ranted for a good twenty minutes about how much I enjoyed my sub and spring rolls before falling into a deep sleep. The two glasses of wine I consumed earlier may have intensified my enthusiasm for Thai Tai. In any case, I plan to return and try the cold cut again, so my next review won’t be influenced by outside factors.

My next stop is Bake Chef at the University of Calgary. L and I are going to the advance vote so we can support mayoral candidate Jyoti Gondek. While I’m there, I’m going to pick up a banh mi for date night nine out of 19.

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Major Tom – Girls’ Night

For our girls’ night out, Québécois, Kournikova and I went to Major Tom. It took me months to get this reservation. Currently, the restaurant is booked solid up to 2022, though I read on Wanda Baker‘s Instagram account that Major Tom keep 25% of tables open for walk-in. For this post, let’s listen to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

Arriving at the restaurant is in itself an experience. First, you enter the Scotia Centre building and walk over to the elevators in the back corner of the building. You show your vaccine passport and ID at the security station, then you are directed to a specific elevator. Once you arrive on the 40th floor, you check in with a team of hosts at the reception area and finally, someone escorts you to your table in a room with a panoramic view of downtown Calgary.

The vibe of the restaurant is lively and the energy is unlike anything you can find in Calgary. Throughout dinner, I felt like I was on vacation in a bigger city. If you walk around the restaurant, you can admire the spectacular views from different vantage points of the downtown core.

We each started with a cocktail. Major Tom knows how to deliver their alcoholic beverages. I was over the moon with my Vodka Martini ($17). The martini glass arrived on a gold coaster, accompanied by a bottle of Kettle One/Dolin Dry Vermouth and a plated garnish of olives. Each sip of my martini was so cold and pure tasting, I could barely detect the alcohol. The blue cheese in the olive was light and melted in my mouth. I noticed that when Québécois ordered a bottle of Muga Reserva ($65), our server decanted the wine. Most restaurants I go to won’t decant the wine unless the bottle is over $85.

We shared two orders of the Crispy Hen Egg ($6). This little sucker was delicious. The fried shell added a nice crunch, which contrasted to the creamy, warm yolk. Texture, style and with exploding flavour, this appetizer has it all. I would order this again.

I always get what Miss Foodie raves about on her Instagram account, so I chose the Tomato and Brioche Salad ($14) and Steak Frites ($34). Warning – my photos are worse than usual. I was so giddy to be out with my friends, I didn’t put in the effort to take a decent photo.

The tomatoes in the salad were ripe and juicy. The dressing of shallot, basil and lime was refreshing and subtle. The brioche was crunchy and for some reason, reminded me of the boxed croutons my mother used to buy when we were kids.

The steak arrived a beautiful ruby red. The meat was warm and soft. The fries were extra crunchy. Of the three entrees I tried, I preferred Kournikova’s Slow-Roasted Duck ($41). The duck breast was tender and flavourful.

Québécois ordered the Shells ($25) because she enjoys anything with burrata in it. The seasoning in the lemon roasted broccoli pesto was delicate and light. She couldn’t finish her pasta so I ended up eating about a third of her dish.

When we arrived on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was buzzing. Despite being obviously slammed with customers, the service was enthusiastic and attentive. I plan to return and often, more so for the cocktails and appetizers. I highly recommend you check out this gem. Hitting the Sauce gives Major Tom two phat thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Thai Thien – Date 7 of 19

I met up with Reeves at Cactus Club. Before I left my house to meet her, I looked up restaurants that would be open after our girls’ night. I spotted Thai Thien (formerly Thai Tai Sub) on 811 1 ST SW. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to have banh mi date night #7 out of 19. For this post, let’s listen to “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel.

Cactus Club has half price wine on Tuesday and Wednesday. We drank some wine and Reeves ordered calamari. I nibbled on some of the hot peppers, but I was saving my appetite for the main course – a banh mi. I read the Google and Yelp reviews of Thai Thien beforehand so I didn’t have the highest expectation. I incorrectly assumed that a place like Thai Thien, one that caters to the downtown work crowd and tourists, wouldn’t have pate in their assorted sub ($4.99). I was happy to find out I was wrong.

I requested a white baguette as I read in the reviews that the brown version is too doughy. I found the interior of the bread soft and light. The cucumber was quartered and each piece was noticeably crisp and fresh. The carrots are pickled and crunchy. The sliced onions gave off a pleasing pungency. I counted two layers of cold cuts. Next time I would request extra meat to balance out the heavy ratio of cucumber. I appreciate the generous layers of pate, mayonnaise and butter, which I think is Thai Thien’s strong suit.

How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Size-wise, the sub is similar to Trung Nguyen and Kim Anh. The flavour of Thai Thien’s pate tasted like Freybe’s pork pate, which gave the sub a westernized twist. I much prefer Xích Lô, Banh Mi Nhu Y, and My Tho BBQ’s pate. Thai Thien gives the least amount of meat but considering the rock bottom prices and the high rent location, I’m fine with paying a little extra to get some more meat. In terms of taste, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Xích Lô, Trung Nguyen, and Thi Thi offer a more traditional sub, which I prefer. Price-wise, this sub is an awesome deal, especially considering Thai Thien convenient hours and prime location in the downtown core.

The next week, I tried the Charbroiled Pork Sub ($6.25). Damn, this one is even better than the cold cut. The meat was seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. The ratio of meat to vegetable was perfect. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. Every single bite contained that delicious balance of savoury, sweet and spicy.

For an inner city sub, you can’t get a better deal. I was stuffed and blissfully happy for only six bucks. Hitting the Sauce gives That Thien two phat thumbs up. Thai Thien is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Xích Lô Street Food – Date 6 of 19

For banh mi date #6, I checked out Xích Lô Street Food (pronounced sic-low). I’ve been wanting to check out this Vietnamese food stand in Eau Claire ever since John M posted it on Instagram. For this post, let’s listen to “Sick Love” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I ordered a Beef Sate Sub ($9) and a Cold Cut Sub ($9). While I waited, I chatted with Rick, the co-owner of Xích Lô. I learned the pate Rick makes is made from chicken liver and cognac. Everything in the subs is homemade except for the baguette, which Rick buys daily from a banh mi distributor. I noticed Xích Lô sells an assortment of steamed buns, which he informed me is one of his most popular dishes. 

These subs are bigger than the norm. I can tell because I could barely hold all the subs in my hand. During my photo shoot, I lost some of the daikon and carrot garnish. What I won’t do for my blog.

Xích Lô’s cold cut sub is a cut above the norm. How good is the cold cut sub? This banh mi is so phenomenal that when I was eating my sub, I felt like I was making love to it. There’s something special about the cold cut sub and I think it’s the combination of the meats, pate and sauces. The pate is silky smooth, with a rich mellow flavour. The homemade mayonnaise is thick and decadent, and only adds to the richness of the pate.

I was impressed with the freshness and quality of the three meats. I counted four layers of cold cuts. The amount of meat to bread and vegetables was proportional. I noticed the drizzle of Rick’s soy based sauce permeated throughout each bite.

The daikon and carrot are finely minced, so you got all the pickled flavour but none of that trademark crunch. I still got that satisfying chomp from purple onions, jalapeños and dry peanuts. The sriracha gave a warm heat that countered the tartness of the pickled vegetables.

I tried a bite of L’s sub and I noticed the fragrance and flavour of lemongrass. The beef was sliced thin, and each piece was soft and tender. L usually only eats sate beef subs but he after tasting my sub, he prefers the cold cut.

How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Xích Lô subs are more filling than Trung Nyguen and Hue Thuong but not as densely laden with meats as My Tho BBQ, To Me Sub, or MyMy Sub.

For the smooth texture of cucumbers and crunch factor of the vegetables, I like Thi Thi and Obanhmi.  Xích Lô baguette is light and crusty, but the soft chew of Saigon Deli‘s bread and the buttery crustiness of Trung Nguyen win by a margin. In terms of taste, Xích Lô cold cut meats tie with Saigon Deli and My Tho. Without a doubt, Xích Lô offers the best pate I’ve tried in Calgary.

Hitting the Sauce gives Xích Lô two phat thumbs up and this food stall is making it on my list of best restaurants in Calgary. Pro tip – note that due to all the sauces and the minced carrots and daikon, these subs are best eaten immediately. Xích Lô is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Silver Dragon – Dim Sum

My friends have their favourite restaurant for dim sum, such as Central Grand, U & Me, Chinese Cultural Centre, Forbidden City, T Pot, and Silver Dragon. I like to frequent all the above but for different reasons. In the past month, I’ve dined at Silver Dragon twice for dim sum. For this post, let’s listen to “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses.

There are two things that make Silver Dragon stand out from their competitors. First, the service is professional, organized and attentive.  On each of my visits, the restaurant was well-staffed. You never have to wait long for help. I also like how you don’t even have to ask for things like water, hot sauce, tea refills, or a fork.

This level of service is important to me if I’m hosting a lunch because it makes the whole experience much more pleasant. There’s even a semi private room you can access if you need a quieter space.

Silver Dragon is also the only restaurant I know of that still uses trolley carts. In my past visits, all the food was served steaming hot, despite the fact the food is circulated around the room. The selection of dim sum was also impressive considering I went on a Monday and a Tuesday afternoon.

Pro tip – the servers come around often with food, so don’t order everything at once. If you plan to sit and linger, order strategically. Dim sum doesn’t taste good when it’s cold.

I was able to get all my usual dishes and a couple new ones: Shrimp Dumpling ($7.50); Chicken Feet ($6.95); Bean Curd Meat Roll in Oyster Sauce ($6.95); Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Dumplings ($6.95); Pan Fried Shrimp and Corn Balls ($7.50); Crispy Spring Rolls ($6.95); Beef in Rice Crepe ($6.95); Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce ($6.95); Pan Fried Parsnip Cake ($6.50); Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf ($7.95); and Baked Egg Tarts ($6.95).

The shrimp dumpling is average in size and tasty. The shrimp mixture offered a good clean crunch and the sticky white wrapper isn’t too dry or moist.

I tried chicken feet for the second time in my life. I nibbled on the skin but couldn’t get myself to suck on the bone. I think I would like chicken feet more if it was fried and crispy like a hot wing.

The bean curd meat roll is packed with meat and shrimp. I liked how the sauce saturates the delicate layers of bean curd. I would get this again.

I enjoyed the pork and vegetable dumplings. The filling inside the dumplings is fat and juicy. The pork mixture is so flavourful, you don’t need to use the accompanying sauce.

I am a fan of the shrimp and corn balls. The balls are sweet from the corn niblets and filled with crispy, shrimpy goodness. I didn’t take a picture because at this point, I was in full on eat mode.

I was surprised I liked the spring rolls so much. I find most dim sum restaurants make an average spring roll. These rolls are extra crunchy, filled with a saucy meat and vegetable mixture. I would order this again.

The beef rice crepe is another winner. Most dim sum restaurants put in cilantro in beef rice crepes, so I was happy to see Silver Dragon omits that herb. The rice crepe is soft and slippery. The hot beef filling is generous and creamy.

I noticed the black bean spareribs came in nice meaty chunks, which made it easier to eat. My pet peeve are spareribs that are more fat than meat.

The parsnip cake is one of the better ones in the city. The texture is soft, fluffy and smooth. I hate it when other restaurants under cook parsnip so the texture is hard and it falls apart.

The sticky rice is different from the norm. Normally when I get sticky rice, I get two portions, filled with Chinese sausage, mushrooms, ground pork, and chicken. Silver Dragon’s version comes in one large lotus leaf, and the meat and rice is more integrated. Also, the chicken is drier and shredded.

The prices at Silver Dragon are a little more than its competitors, but when you factor in how laborious it is to do the cart system and the extra staff on hand, price is moot. I also prefer the spacious, calm environment over how hectic it can get at Forbidden City. Hitting the Sauce gives the dim sum and service two phat thumbs up.

Carribean · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants

Simply Irie – No Man’s Dinner

No Man’s Dinner is back in action! Loaf2go, T, Hangryinyyc, Sofresh and I met at Simply Irie for our bi-monthly supper club. Loaftogo and I picked Simply Irie because we wanted to support the owner after her restaurant was hit by five break-in in just two months. Also, the food is soul satisfying. For this post, let’s listen to “Spirits” by The Strumbellas.

I wanted to try the Jerk Wings ($15.95) but I learned from our server that I needed to preorder, as the wings takes 45 minutes to prepare. Instead, I ordered a large Chicken Soup ($12.95) and a large Jerk Shrimp ($29.95). Loaf2go chose the Jerk Tofu Medley ($22.95), and her spouse T picked the Ackee & Saltfish  ($24.95). He was intrigued after I told him this is the only dish Ashdoesfood eats when she dines at Simply Irie. Hangryinyyc and Sofresh shared Doubles ($7.95), a Spicy Beef Patty ($4.95), and a large Oxtail Stew ($29.95).

The chicken soup is a winner. My go-to for chicken pho soup is Pure Kitchen and Bar, but Simply Irie gives Chef Lam some friendly competition. The broth is thick and hearty. I enjoyed the generous chunks of tender chicken and the soft pieces of pumpkin, yam, and potatoes. The dumpling is simple and toothsome – a boiled dough that takes on the full flavour of the broth. The corn on the cob is sweet and crunchy. Loaf2go thought she could taste cloves in the broth. I found this soup nurturing and wholesome.

Dianathefoodie told me to try the jerk shrimp. She has excellent taste. The shrimp is sweet and meaty, unlike the flavourless frozen shrimp I buy at Safeway and Costco. The texture is soft and succulent, similar to BC spotted prawns. The red, orange, green and yellow bell peppers were firm and juicy, sautéed in a spicy jerk sauce.

Hangryinyyc helped me set up the picture by adding her ginger beer to the background.

I tried a piece of Loaf2go’s jerk tofu. She said she was impressed that the tofu was properly fried and seasoned. Simply Irie doesn’t skimp on the sides. I’m not normally a coleslaw fan, but this version is fresh, crunchy, and creamy. The rice and beans taste mellow and earthy. I noticed the water served to us was infused with lemon. I appreciate these little details because I think it shows the chef is thinking about the whole experience of eating a meal.

Since L wasn’t at the dinner, I asked Loaf2go to take the pictures for me. She refused and told me she’d rather teach me. She said it was all about angles and showed me that I wasn’t tilting the camera to capture the best shot. I’d rather she just take the damn photo, but I think she comes from the school of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

I took a bite of Hangryinyyc’s oxtail and it was even better than I remembered from my last visit. The meat fell off the bone, and each bite offered that perfect gelatinous texture. I found the sauce sweet and buttery. I tried T’s saltfish and it was tasty and unlike anything I’ve tried before. The saltiness of the fish was balanced by the mild flavour of the ackee.

T offered me two of his rum balls as no one else at the table likes the taste of alcohol. Holy moly – this is good stuff! The chocolate rum ball was warm and gooey, similar to chocolate lava cake. The vanilla rum ball was served cold, which I thought made the flavour of the rum and vanilla stand out. Out of the two, the vanilla dessert was my favourite.

On Monday evening, the restaurant was packed with a large party and it was kept bustling with a constant stream of takeout orders. Kudos to the chef who managed to pump out so many dishes, without sacrificing the quality. The temperature and freshness of all the dishes I tried was spot on. For the next No Man’s Dinner, we might check out a Chinese restaurant that offers offal and westernized Chinese food. Hangryyyc said it is just the two ends of the spectrum and none of the dishes in between! I’m game, we just need to find the right spot. If you have any suggestions, shoot me an email.

Chinese · Restaurants · Seafood

Emerald Garden Restaurant

I had to cancel our trip to Vancouver due to L’s work schedule. I was disappointed as my family had planned a feast at Ludwig’s favourite restaurant – Fisherman’s Terrace. My brother Narc sent photos of my father’s 79th birthday dinner – Peking duck carved at the table, fresh lobster in green onion and ginger sauce, duck lettuce wraps, fried stuffed taro, almond chicken, pea tips, fresh whole fish, deep-fried pumpkin, e-fu noodles, beef chow fun, green beans, and a bunch of other dishes I didn’t recognize. As I gazed at the photos, a small moan escaped from my mouth. For a moment, I missed my former life as a glutton. My younger brother Jacuzzi would always say to me whenever we got out of hand that it tastes good to be a pig. I concur.

Since I was missing the action back home, I told L we had to try out Emerald Garden for the more traditional Chinese dishes. I didn’t want ginger beef, salt and pepper squid, or chicken balls. He was game, even though he prefers westernized Chinese food. For this post, let’s listen to “If” by Janet Jackson.

When we arrived at Emerald Garden, we were surprised to see the constant stream of customers dining in, as well as the takeout orders flying out of the kitchen. Based on my friend Fung Ling’s recommendation, I ordered: Fried Stuffed Treasures ($19.95, 煎釀三寶 Eggplant, Green Peppers and Crispy Tofu Stuffed with Shrimp); Beef Tendon Casserole ($17.95, 牛筋腩煲 Beef Shank, Tendon and Tofu); Cod Fillets ($24.99, Fried Cod with Tofu and Chinese Mushrooms); Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice ($14.95 瑤柱蛋白炒飯 Tobiko, Green Onions, Egg Whites and Dried Scallops); and Fried Dumplings ($13.95).

The scallops and fluffy egg whites in the fried rice tasted subtle and fresh, which accentuated the pops of flavour from the tobiko, green onions and crunchy onion garnish. The portion of fried rice is generous. I found Emerald Garden’s seafood fried rice better than Sun’s BBQ version.

I was looking forward to the beef tendon and I wasn’t disappointed. Each piece of tendon was soft and chewy. The beef shank was tender and tasty, marbled with a thin layer of fat. The daikon was juicy and delicate in flavour. I could tell the gravy in the casserole was fattening because the flavour was so rich and smooth.

The highlight of the night was the fish casserole. The pot arrived bubbling and sizzling, filled with battered fish fillets, fried tofu puffs, Chinese mushrooms and tofu skin. The cod tasted fresh and the texture of the fillet was thick and fluffy. I would order this again, though next time, I want to try the fish steamed or pan fried.

The shrimp stuffed eggplant, peppers and tofu came with a special sauce. We found the shrimp filling a little dry. However, I enjoyed the silky texture of the eggplant and the soft innards of the fried tofu.

The dumplings are deep fried and chewy. The wrapper on the dumplings was thick, puffy and gummy. Proportionally, the wrapping was about double the filling. For the dipping sauce, I added soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.

The portions are generous and the prices are affordable. Our feast cost $100 and there was more than enough food for four people. I noticed later on in the evening and the next day, I didn’t feel dehydrated, which I think indicates Emerald Palace isn’t heavy handed when it comes to the salt and seasoning of the dishes.

I noticed the clientele at Emerald Palace are split into three camps. I saw customers who spoke fluent Cantonese order the more traditional dishes for a banquet style dinner. There is also an obviously loyal clientele of English-speaking customers who ordered the more westernized dishes, like salt and pepper squid and hot and sour soup. Then there’s me – someone who has the Chinese vocabulary of a two-year old.

Part of the charm of Emerald Garden is watching how all the customers interact with the staff. There was a young teenage employee who spoke fluent Cantonese and English. He was clearly working hard answering the phone, taking orders, bringing dishes out, serving drinks, and packing up food. An older man got up to leave and as he passed the reception area, he bellowed to the kid, “Bye Brian!” Another table of two women questioned what vegetable was in a certain dish. There was some confusion and back and forth with the customers and the server. The customer said, “Hey, I don’t mean to be a bitch. I’m just curious, so don’t worry about it.” The server confirmed with the chef and it turned out the vegetable was indeed zucchini. A Chinese speaking customer looked like another regular. He seemed right at home, cutting directly through the staff only section to his table. No one even blinked an eye.

The atmosphere reminds me of the past Chinese banquets I’ve attended. The background noise consists of a blended murmur of a screaming baby, laughter, and the happy clink of dishes. L wants to return to Emerald Garden try the westernized dishes, like the sizzling beef and sweet and sour pork. I’m fine with that as long as I can order the chef’s specials and signature dishes. I have my eye on the deep-fried egg yolk bitter melon and shredded chicken with jellyfish. Hitting the Sauce gives Emerald Garden two fat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Korean

Sso Yummy

 
After my appointment in Inglewood, I planned to order lunch from Xich Lo in Eau Claire. However, I remembered L was craving kimbap (Korean sushi) all week. I heard good things about the food at Sso Yummy in Chinatown, so I selflessly forwent my banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) for his kimbap. For this post, let’s listen to “Butter” by BTS.

I ordered the Yummy Combo ($11) and Spam Kimbap ($7.50). The combo comes with a soup, tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes) and two mini boong uh bbang (Korean fish shaped pastry). There was so much food in the combo that next time I pick up lunch, I’ll just order two kimbaps for us to share.

Sso Yummy does an excellent job packing up takeout orders – each dish was neatly wrapped. The soup was basic – clear, hot and salty. I like the flavouring from the fish cakes and the simplicity of the broth because the soup help to cleanse my palate in between bites of kimbap and tteokbokki.

This was my first time trying tteokbokki. The texture of the rice cake was chewy, squishy and a little gummy. The red gochujang sauce was spicy. I enjoyed the addition of the greens and bits of fish cake in the sauce.

The kimbap is delicious. The spam and crab added a savoury saltiness to each bite. The rice, fluffy egg omelette and tofu were soft and so tasty. The rice was still warm and perfectly cooked. The daikon and pickled carrots added a pleasant sweet and tart crunch. Even the seaweed tasted extra fresh. Of the two kimbaps, I prefer the stronger flavour in the spam roll over the ham version. On our next visit, L wants to try the spicy pork kimbap.

The boong uh bbang was a nice finish to our meal. I enjoyed the subtle flavour in the creamy custard filling. The pastry reminded me of a waffle – spongy and sweet.

We found the food fresh, inexpensive and a healthier alternative than some of our usual takeout choices. Our meal was cheaper than any fast food restaurant and infinitely better quality. Hitting the Sauce gives Sso Yummy two phat thumbs up.

Beer · Pubs · Wings

Inner City – Oyster Night

I met up with my peeps at Inner City Brewing. The three of us are all in the same boat at our workplace, so we wanted to get together to share our optimism on the changing environment. For this post, let’s listen to “E.I.” by Nelly.

All the servers were new and eager to help us navigate through the beer menu to find something that would complement the oysters. I picked the Hub and Spoke – a Vienna Lager ($7.50), Pedals ordered a Brick work English Dark Mild Ale ($7.50), and Lethbridge ordered a Sassy Kate ($11). Library is the healthiest one of us and he stuck to water.

Photo credit: Cyung5

Pedals loves oysters even more than I do, so he was excited to try the Two Buck a Shuck Thursday special. Inner City gets Malpeque oysters harvested the day before from PEI. The oysters were delicious – bright and briny. I could taste the freshness of the oysters. We were all impressed with all three mignonettes – a classic shallot, an Asian soy and shallot and a creamy horseradish.

Photo credit: Cyung5

Years ago, Library won a hot wing eating contest at Hudson’s Pub, claiming the ultimate prize of free wings for a year. So of course, he wanted to order the wings ($14.25) at Inner City. I was pleasantly surprised. Lately, my wing experience at other pubs have been subpar. Inner City does a great batch – the wings arrived sizzling hot and nicely crisp. There was at least three plump mouthfuls of meat on each drumstick. The flavour was on point too. The ginger beef was saucy with a nice spice to it. The salt and pepper was my favourite. I love that combination of salty, hot crackling skin and cold ranch dip. I would order this again.

Photo credit: Cyung5

For dessert, we shared an order of churros. The warm chocolate dipping sauce was a nice touch. The churros were hot and a little chewy in the middle.

Photo credit: Cyung5

I would happily come back for more beers, oysters and especially those wings. If you visit on Wednesday, a pound will set you back six bucks if you also purchase a 16 oz beer. Appetizers, including the wings, are half off between Monday and Friday from 2-5:00 p.m.

Photo credit: Cyung5

We enjoyed our camaraderie so much; we already planned our next event. I’m hosting a dinner at my house. Lethbridge and Library love Chinese food. I plan to order from Emerald Garden. I was told by a friend that there is a new chef at Emerald Garden who previously worked at Signature Palace and Silver City. Some of the dishes that were recommended for me are the greens with duck and black egg, shrimp paste stuffed treasures (green pepper, eggplant, tofu), bitter melon fried egg (similar to fried oysters), beef brisket and tendon casserole, shredded cold chicken with jellyfish, fresh grouper, and dried scallop and egg white fried rice. To accommodate L, Library and especially Lethbridge, I’ll add some ginger beef to the mix. To be continued.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Hue Thuong – Date 5 of 19

L and I were running errands on Sunday. Since we were already in Inglewood, he suggested we go on banh mi date #5 of 19. Hubba hubba, he sure knows the way to my heart. For this post, let’s listen to “Can’t Remember to Forget You” by Shakira and Rihanna.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Hue Thuong in Forest Lawn. When I checked the online menu, I noticed Hue Thuong offers banh mi. I’m glad I called ahead of time because the restaurant was packed with customers enjoying steaming bowls of bun bo hue. The person who answered the phone was polite and customer service-oriented. When he realized I was in a rush and I was hesitant to wait 30 minutes, he said he would ask the chef to bump my order up. I ordered the Grilled Beef Sub ($6.55) and the Grilled Chicken Sub ($6.55). Currently, Hue Thuong is offering a promotion – each sub comes with a complimentary can of pop.

Despite the twenty-minute ride, both subs were warm when we arrived home. The baguette took on some condensation from the bag, but the bread was still good – light and chewy.

The chicken was tender, cut into nice meaty chunks. The pickled carrots and daikon were sweet. I could taste butter on the bread. I noticed both subs were lacking cucumber. No biggie, as I didn’t miss it with the addition of the sauteed white and green onions.

The beef was soft with a bit of a chew to it. I read Hue Thuong uses a homemade soy and hot sauce. We really enjoyed the spicy sauce in the meat as it reminded me of sate beef in pho. L preferred the beef, but I like both subs equally.

What Hue Thuong has over other banh mi shops is the meat taste like it is freshly prepared for every order. Pricewise, the sub with a pop is one of the best banh meal deals in Calgary. Sizewise, I found Hue Thuong more filling than Trung Nguyen but not as big as Thi Thi, To Me Subs or My Tho BBQ. Tastewise, Hue Thuong’s banh mi has more a restaurant flavour to it, similar to Pure Modern Asian Kitchen. I’m think this has to do how the meat is made in a restaurant kitchen compared to the heavy prep work involved in a banh mi shop.

I want to go back and try the bun bo hue, as well as the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended – the dumplings, rice cakes and baby clams. I have a feeling the food is similar to Song Huong, another of my favourite restaurants in Calgary. To be continued.

Pizza

Savino Pizzeria – Visit #2

On Friday night, I was craving Neopolitan pizza. There are three places I frequent – Rocket Pie, Azzurri Pizzeria and Savino Pizzeria. I like to rotate between these pizzerias because they each make their own distinct Naples-style pizza. I picked Savino, as it was long overdue for a repeat visit. For this post, let’s listen to “Just Like A Woman” by Bob Dylan.

I ordered three personal size pizzas to share with L: Pizza Margherita ($12), The New Yorker ($12) and Classic Pepperoni ($14). I purposely ordered the simplest pizzas because I wanted to experience the food as my father did when he first visited Naples. Ludwig often reminisces how shocked he was to find that pizza in Italy was so dissimilar from what he grew up with in his predominantly Italian neighbourhood in Vancouver, BC.

Ludwig is one the better orators I know. I’d rank him after Mayor Naheed Nenshi and mayoral candidate Jyoti Gondek. When Ludwig tells this story, fifty years after his trip to Naples, he face still lights up with absolute bewilderment. His tone is dramatic and one of astonishment. “The pizzas were thin, with barely anything on it. A little tomato sauce, a little cheese, and that was it! It was delicious, yes, but I thought to myself, what is this? Where are the green peppers? The pepperoni and mushrooms? The thick layer of cheese and sauce?”

I can grasp the concept that pizzas differ by region and culture, so I dig what Savino is creating. The fresh, light flavour of the tomato sauce in the Margherita pizza popped out. I love how the thin crust contrasted against the softness of the fior’di latte mozzarella and tomato sauce. The fresh basil was fantastic. The taste of the herb was better than the four varieties I grow in my own garden. The crust was light and chewy, evenly charred throughout.

The New Yorker was tasty as hell. Though there are so few ingredients on the pizza, the tang of tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and cheese was intense. The cheese topping was crunchy. I was surprised that even though the crust and toppings were so minimal, there was still so much flavour. I thought the New Yorker was the most unique pizza I’ve tried. I would get this again.

The classic pepperoni was L’s favourite of the three pizzas. There was ample pepperoni, and each piece was crispy and fatty. L thought the crust highlighted the deliciousness of the pepperoni. This one is a winner – a real flavour bomb.

I’m making my way through the entire menu. We live near Savino, so our pizzas are still hot when we arrive home. If you live further away, I’d suggest you enjoy dinner in your car or a nearby park, so you eat the pizza at the optimal freshness. One thing to note – if you expect to get stuffed and have leftovers with one pizza (like I do at Hanni’s Pizza), Savino might not be for you. This style of pizza is quality over quantity. Hitting the Sauce gives this neighbourhood gem two phat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Chinatown

Lucky Place

Ms Biz and I met up for lunch at Lucky Place in Chinatown. I love going out with Ms Biz. Her extensive knowledge of Chinese cuisine and history is amazing. Every foodie needs a friend like her. For this post, let’s listen to “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake.

Ms Biz brought her own jasmine tea to the restaurant. She buys all her tea from a tea distributor in Richmond, BC. She gifted me a premium jar of tea to enjoy at home.

Ms Biz asked me if I wanted my usual – beef shank and tendon on double fried chow mein, shrimp dumpling with wood ear mushrooms, pork and preserved egg congee, and Thai style fried rice noodles. I asked her if we could try something different, so I could write about something new. She ordered Green Beans with Fried Rice Cakes in XO Sauce ($12.95) and a special order of Squid, Fermented Shrimp Paste & Chinese Greens ($16.95).

There are three things you need to know about Lucky Place. First, if you can’t speak Cantonese, it’s better to come to the restaurant and point at the English menu. Second, you have to be patient. Usually it is just the owners doing everything, from taking orders, serving, clearing dishes and cooking. Third, the food is about substance, not style. You don’t get off on the appearance but the taste of the food. The wok hei (breath of fire) is on point, and this is the sole reason you should visit Lucky Place.

The squid is scored, resulting in a bouncy but not chewy texture. The shrimp paste gives off umami, similar to the effect anchovy provides in proper Caesar salad. We noticed lots of fresh ginger in the sauce, which Ms Biz says help to tame the salty pungency in the shrimp paste. The stems of the choy sum was juicy and sweet.

When the rice cake dish arrived, the steam was still rising from the plate. The rice cakes were warm and chewy, soft and glutinous. We enjoyed the flavour off the deep caramelization on the rice cakes and the charred flavour on the beans. The beans were sweet and crunchy, sprinkled with ground pork. Ms Biz says when she comes to Lucky Place, she will always order the stir fry so she can enjoy the flavour of the wok. I agree. No one can cook vegetables better than a wok hei master.

For our next lunch, Ms Biz wants to check out South Block Barbecue and Brewing. I said yes, but I had to hide my disappointment. Whenever I see her, I always want to go to a Chinese restaurant because she seems to knows every owner and server in the community, and therefore can special order dishes I can’t get otherwise. However, for her, I’m willing to branch out and try something new.

17th Ave · Burgers

Clive Burger

I haven’t seen Loaf2go and T since No Man’s Lover’s Feast at Moon Korean BBQ in February 2020. That was the last event we held before the pandemic. Last Friday, we met up at Clive Burger on 17th Ave to catch up and to discuss the next No Man’s Dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “I Do It For The Money” by Charlie Major.

Loaf2go and T both ordered the Double Burger ($11.99, +$1.00 cheddar cheese) and I ordered the Single Burger ($8.99, +$1.00 cheddar cheese) and a Poutine ($11.50). Loaf2go and T wanted milkshakes, but unfortunately, the machines weren’t working that day.

For my burger, I added Clive sauce, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. I didn’t find my burger saucy at all, but I appreciated tasting the rich flavour of the beef patty and the freshness of the chilled vegetables. The lettuce was so crisp and green, it looked like it came out of my garden. The brioche bun was golden brown, puffy, soft and large enough it melded against the generous volume of vegetables.

Photo credit: Loaf2go

When I saw the juices dripping out of Loaf2go and L’s burger, I immediately had buyer’s remorse. I should have ordered a double patty because there is so much bun and vegetables, it could have used more meat to balance out the proportions.

Photo credit: Loaf2go

The poutine is big enough for three people to share. I love the soft, warm globs of cheese in the poutine. However, the gravy was so salty, my whole face would pucker up each time I took a bite. I don’t think the gravy is normally so salty. Jennntle informed me when she ordered the poutine last year, the gravy was delicious. Loaf2go recommends the regular fries with the Clive sauce.

Photo credit: Loaf2go

I’m looking forward to the next No Man’s Dinner. Loaf2go suggested that I can pick the venue and she’ll do the usual enforcing club rules and social media posting. With so much responsibility on my shoulders, I can’t loaf around. Got any suggestions?

Seafood · Vegetarian

Yemeni Village Restaurant

I haven’t seen Jennntle since Yelp Elite stopped hosting parties. Say what you want about Yelp, but back in the day, that company could throw down a party like no other. Cactus Club, Charbar, Telus Spark, and Modern Jelly were some of the most fun, entertaining and well-organized events I’ve been to in Calgary. Last week, Jennntle and I met to reminisce at Yemeni Village, a newish Middle Eastern restaurant in the downtown core. For this post, let’s listen to “What About Your Friends” by TLC.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Yemeni Village, so I asked for her recommendations. She suggested the Yemeni Bread ($3.80), Lime Drink ($4.75), Moofa Fish ($28.50) and the Charred AAA Beef ($15). Our server informed us that the restaurant was out of the charred AAA Beef. Jennntle wanted to get Beef Kabsah ($24.99) but I informed her that Miss Foodie never recommended the other beef dish and maybe it was for a reason. After not heeding Miss Foodie’s advice in the past, I’m reluctant to deviate from her teachings. Instead, I requested the Chicken Mandi ($19.90) and Salta ($15) because Dianathefoodie recommended those dishes.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The Moofa fish is butterflied, grilled in a clay oven, and topped with red onions and a lemon wedge. The menu describes the fish as “sea golden”, whatever that means. The fish itself is flat, and the flesh is moist, flaky and delicate. The spices were so subtle that Jennntle said the strongest flavour came from the fresh lemon juice. I found this dish fresh and light. I would order this again.

The salta arrived in a hot lava stone pot. The mix of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onion and tomato were firm to start and then boiled away until it became more of a soupy stew. The sauce is salty and pungent, and the spices remind me of an Indian vegetable curry.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

Both the fish and salta come with freshly made Yemeni bread. Oh my goodness. This bread is something special. The size of each piece is as big as a frying pan. The bread is baked in a tandoor (clay oven). The high temperature produces an ultra-light bread. I love the slightly stretchy, thin and chewy texture and the beautifully charred blisters. Besides the taste, the best thing is the crackling sound the bread makes as we tore off pieces to eat with the fish and salta.

Jennntle said the bread reminded her of the crispy layers in a Chinese green onion pancake. While the flavouring is different, the stretchy texture of Yemeni bread made me think of Azzurri, Savino and Rocket Pizza. I think it’s because of the technique involved to produce a magical bread like this. This bread is so good that no one, unless they have health restrictions (e.g. Celiac), should live without trying this.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The chicken Mandi is pressured cooked, which creates a tender, succulent meat. Jennntle took a spoon and when she pressed it against the chicken, the meat literally fell off the bones. The long grains of the basmati rice was soft and fluffy, fragrant with spices that reminded me of oranges and cloves.

The restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night. The phone was ringing off the hook, customers were lining up at the door, and dishes were flying out of the kitchen. I appreciate that despite the chaos, the staff was still genuinely interested in how we found the food. Hitting the Sauce gives Yemeni Village two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Chinese

Han’s Restaurant – Some like it hot

I still remember the fiasco at South Silk Road like it was yesterday. Grohl ordered all the wrong dishes and then went on to complain about that meal for years. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I took Miss Foodie’s advice and ordered food from Han’s Restaurant. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” by Loretta Lynn.

I ordered the Kung Pao Chicken ($14.50), Spicy Wontons ($11.50), Deep Fried Chicken with Dry Red Peppers ($14.50), Spicy Fish Hot Pot ($16.50), Fried Green Beans with Minced Pork ($13.95) and three bowls of Steamed Rice ($2). I make my own Szechuan food at home and after eating at Han’s Restaurant, I realize my food is a poor imitation of what it is supposed to be. The food at Han’s is expertly infused with intensely spicy, bold flavours.

The long green beans are blistered and wrinkly. The sauce on the beans is lip-smackingly good. The beans inside the pod had a bite and chew to it. The minced pork, onions, green peppers and chilies are tasty as hell. Flavour-wise, this is my favourite dish of the night.

The wontons are long and rectangular. The interior is soft, the wrapper silky, soaked in what tasted like a sweet, garlicky soy sauce. Grohl is a big fan of the wontons. I didn’t find the wontons spicy.

The deep fried chicken was perfect – crispy, spicy and salty. In terms of heat, the deep-fried chicken is the hottest dish we tried. The chili peppers were so spicy it burned my mouth. Even Grohl stopped eating the chili peppers and instead, focused his attention on just eating the chicken. I found out later from Miss Foodie that you are not supposed to eat the chilies, as it is only put in the dish to give it flavour.

The Kung Pao chicken is sticky and sweet. It is refreshing to have a dish at Han’s that wasn’t full on heat. I noticed the onions were still crunchy. Of the lot, this is the most western-friendly dish.

I enjoyed the fish hot pot. The fish was soft and meaty, contrasting with the thin, crunchy bean sprouts. The sauce smelled fragrant and made my mouth tingle with pleasure. Miss Foodie said this style of fish hotpot is more Taiwanese Szechuan, and that this recipe was passed down from the previous owners. She informed me that the owners have a classic Szechuan version that uses an oil-based chili broth.

The best part of the meal? There was consensus at our table that Han’s kicks some serious ass. Grohl thought all the dishes were delicious. Even L enjoyed the food and he’s not a spicy person. Miss Foodie, you did it again. Thank you for your pro tip on where to eat Szechuan food in Calgary.

Italian · Pizza

Rocket Pie – Crust me, this is a good one

Grohl is in town. He has a much higher standard than I do when it comes to food. I told L we had to take him to places that we know are awesome, otherwise we will have to listen to him dramatically complain how his current city is so much better than Calgary’s restaurant scene. L suggested we take him to Rocket Pie in Canmore. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.

We were hungry after our hike, so we selected three pizzas – the Margherita ($18), Formaggi ($25 + $5 prosciutto) and the Mortadella ($24). For beverages, we ordered pints of Misty Mountain Hops ($8.50) and Dat Juice ($8.50).

Grohl said that if you want to know if a pizza place is any good, you should try the margherita pizza. Well, if a margherita is the litmus test of a stellar pizza, Rocket Pizza passes with flying colours. What I liked about this pizza is how the three ingredients stood out. The fior de latte is soft and stretchy with just the right amount of saltiness. The smell of the torn basil leaves is strong and fragrant. The crushed tomato sauce is bright and tangy. Simplicity at its best.

The formaggi pizza with prosciutto is a killer combination of sweet and salty. The saltiness of the prosciutto accentuated the sweetness of the honey and sharpness of the gorgonzola cheese. L said the addition of the prosciutto is worth more than five dollars.

The mortadella pizza is the most unique pizza I’ve tried in a while. L and Grohl noticed the scent of lemon zest. I thought the candied pistachios paired well with the mortadella because the sweet nuttiness popped against the cool fatty slices of meat. The layers of mortadella also helped to balanced out the fluffier, heavier sections of the crust.

The crust at Rocket Pie is something special. There’s this pleasing tastiness to it that makes you want to munch slowly to savour the flavour. I thought it was interesting that texture of the pizza crust varied by each pie, perhaps due to the toppings.

The formaggi pizza provided the crispiest crunch. The dough is thinner and the honey was almost caramelized right into the cheeses. I noticed the crust on the margherita is more blistered than the other pies. I love the papery texture on the spots of blackened dough. Compared to the other two pies, the crust in the mortadella pizza is the thickest and fluffiest.

Miss Foodie recommended Rocket Pizza to me and I’m going to use her other recommendations for our meals with Grohl. She’s been a long-time fan of Han’s in Chinatown. Grohl loves spicy Chinese food, and if Miss Foodie approves, I know Grohl will be enjoy the food too. I should start tipping Miss Foodie for her restaurant recommendations because her picks are pure gold.

Mexican · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood

Fonda Fora

On Thursday, Bottlenick, L and I checked out Fonda Fora, a new contemporary Mexican restaurant inside The Westley Hotel. L and I were uncharacteristically late because I confused the Westley Hotel with the Westin Hotel. To celebrate the beginning of Stampede, let’s listen to Johnny Cash “Heart of Gold.”

For our first bottle, Bottlenick selected a rosé – Chateau Gassier Sables (Provence France, $45). I thought this was a nice rosé – light and dry.

We ordered the Salsa Tasting ($9), Guacamole & Tostadas ($15), Empanadas ($8), Tiradito de Huachinango ($17), Pescado Zarandeado ($37) and extra tortillas ($4).

Get the salsa tasting! Not only was it fun to try all the different salsas, but you can use the condiments with your other food. My favourite was the orange variation – it was rich and velvety like cream. I also liked the salsa with chili peppers and oil.

The guacamole was cold, creamy and delicious. The tostadas were enjoyable to eat because each chip was so thick and crunchy, and it tasted like it was freshly made.

The empanada was yummy. The crispy shell was filled with corn, chili peppers, tomatoes and onion, topped with some cool, smooth white cheese. The sauce was so delectable, we would use the tortillas to mop up the leftovers.

L and Bottlenick both noticed the red snapper had a strong fishy flavour to it, but in a good way. The onions tasted like fennel to me. This dish reminded me of a mix between sashimi and ceviche. I enjoyed the heat and spice in the orange sauce.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the De Monde Cabernet Franc Fruiuli Grave Italy ($54). Oh baby, this wine reminds me of the cabernet franc I pick up at Tinhorn Creek and Burrowing Owl in BC. One major plus Fonda Fora offers is the wine list. I enjoyed the two bottles we tried and each was around the fifty-dollar range. The wines went well with the food and each bottle was something different than I could find at my local liquor store. My father recently sent me an article on restaurants and the markup on wines. I’ve got no issue paying for wine, as a restaurant has to make money, otherwise they would go out of business. By all means, markup the wines! But offer me something I can’t find at the Real Canadian Liquorstore. Fonda Fora does this in spades.

I was impressed with the mussels tostada. My gosh – the texture of each mussel was sublime – soft and fat – with a cool silkiness on the tongue. The white sauce was decadent. Bottlenick commented on the smoky flavour from the vinaigrette. L thought the pumpkin salsa was incredible. I would return just to each this dish again, because it was that good.

Our last dish was a whole grilled fish. The fish was moist and flaked apart easily. I liked that I could taste the natural, light juices of the fish. It’s easy to hide freshness when fish is battered or covered in heavy sauce. We also received a pretty bowl of herbs to eat with the fish. The fresh tortillas were thick and smelled like corn. I read Fonda Fora uses heirloom corn imported from small farmers in Mexico.

I shouldn’t have, but since I was feeling celebratory, I got carried away and ordered a pint of Cabin Morning Sun Saison (6%, $8.50). This beer was delicious – spicy and bubbly, but it wasn’t worth the hangover I received the next day. I can’t rock and roll like I used to. Those days are numbered. Post COVID, I’m going to be a moderate eater and drinker of delicious things.

I’ll return to Fonda Fora. The food is creative, fresh and different from the norm. Hitting the Sauce gives Fonda Fora two fat thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen Bar – Date three & four of 19

For date three of the 19 L owes me, I wanted a banh mi from Pure Kitchen Bar. Pure’s banh mi is pricier than other places, but each sub comes with fries, salad or soup.  When L learned of the price difference, he argued this date should count as two because each sub was double the cost. I sensed immediately that he was full of piss and vinegar and ready to parley.  I only fight when I know I’ll win, so I agreed with him and enjoyed the look of disappointment on his face. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “Jolene” by Dolly Parton.

I ordered the Grilled Lemongrass Sub ($16) with fries and the Grilled Beef Sate Sub ($16) with a salad. When we returned home, I noticed the beef sub was squished. I tried to fluff it up for the picture but it was beyond repair.

Pure is heavy-handed with the sriracha aioli and sauces, which makes for a very drippy sub. Even before I unwrapped the beef sub, I could see the sate oil leaking out onto the wrapper. Despite the abundance of sauces, the bread was still crispy. The vegetables are different from the norm. The cilantro and cucumber is minced up, similar to a salsa. L doesn’t normally like cucumber but he didn’t mind Pure’s version because the skin was removed. I was pleased to see the carrots and daikon were pickled.

Both subs were so awesome, we didn’t like one more than the other. I did find the beef sate spicier and sweeter than the chicken. The creamy cheese in the chicken sub was more noticeable than in the beef sub. I could tell the meats were grilled. L raved about the charred flavour from the slices of chicken and beef.

L is a fan of the parmesan garlic fries. The seasoning is lemony with a hint of sugar. He said the sweetness in the seasoning reminds him of Wow Chicken’s bulgogi fries, but better because Pure’s version is more subtle. L noted that even the ketchup was different and tastes like a homemade sweet chili sauce.

I enjoyed the salad – an Asian-style slaw with shredded lettuce, daikon and carrots. I found the salad light and refreshing, a nice contrast to the richness of the sauces in the subs.

To date, this is L’s favourite Vietnamese sub because of the smoky flavour of the meats and the creative flavour profile of the toppings and sauce. I can’t compare Pure Kitchen Bar to the other banh mi shops because Pure’s subs are a different beast. Pure puts in a lot of thought and care into every ingredient. I will say that once you factor in the salad or fries, Pure’s subs are close to the price of Kim Anh, Thi Thi, and Trung Nguyen. Quantity wise, Pure’s sub and side combo are more filling than any other banh mi spot, except To Me.

Pro tip – if you call to place your order, you get 10% off your bill. Four banh mi dates down and 15 more to go! Next up? I’m leaning to Paper Lantern.

Fast Food · Korean

Yum Yum BBQ – Southwood Corner

I invited Lovegastrogirl over for dinner. She agreed on the condition that she would pick up food. We did the whole Chinese etiquette hospitality battle until she ferociously threatened not to come. I meekly backed down and thanked her. I want Lovegastrogirl to meet my mom one day. She’d meet her match.  For this post, and in honour of Stampede, let’s listen to “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash.

Fried chicken is my kryptonite. Lovegastrogirl brought over Yum Yum BBQ from Southwood Corner, her favourite location. I asked her not to bring so much food because the last time she did a fried chicken drop off, I spent the next day hovering over my sink, munching on cold chicken. She laughed and said that was smart move, as the crumbs would go directly into the sink and not my floor.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl has a listening problem. She brought over enough food for four hungry people. She ordered L’s favourite chicken – the Shallot Bone-In (12 pieces, $27.99), Beef Japchae ($14.99), BBQ Beef Poutine ($14.49), and Pickled Radish ($1). I reheated the chicken and poutine in the oven and microwaved the noodles. I asked Lovegastrogirl to take a picture for my blog. She floofed up the shallots and stood on a chair to angle her shots while I looked on with amazement at the effort she puts in.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The chicken was succulent and gleaming white. After rebaking the chicken, the teriyaki glaze created a brittle, sweet tasting shell. Some of the shallots were wilted from the reheating, which I prefer because the greens reminded me more of watercress. I like that the batter on Yum Yum chicken isn’t as oily as Popeyes or Wow Chicken.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Despite being saturated with melted cheese and dark, salty gravy, the fries held up. The barbecued beef was sliced thin and tasty. The ridges in the crinkle fries helps to load up on the toppings.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The sweet potato noodles were sticky and spicy. The noodles stuck together with the vegetables and beef bulgogi, so with each bite, you get a little bit of everything in one mouthful. In both the poutine and japchae, the flavour of the beef stood out.

I insisted Lovegastrogirl take the leftover chicken to Pomp. I did take out one drumstick to eat for later. Some habits are hard to break. Thank you Lovegastrogirl for a delicious dinner. Next time I’ll have you over for dinner and I’ll order fried chicken from Jin Bar or Gorilla Whale.

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Patio

King Eddy – Wubbalubbadubdub!

On Friday, L and I stopped by the King Eddy for Stampede happy hour with Matt Masters. It felt so good to listen to live music again! If it wasn’t for the masks and the social distancing practices exhibited by the staff and clientele, I could have sworn I was back in Nashville.

From now until the end of Stampede, I’m spinning country music on my blog. For this post, let’s listen to “Change the Locks” by Lucinda Williams.

We ordered some drinks to enjoy while we watched the performance. I ordered a glass of Domaine Houchart rosé (5 oz, $11) and L chose a pint of Village Roadie ($7.25 HH). For food, we shared the Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Fries (half a bird, $32).

The batter on the skin was extra crunchy and slipped easily off the meat. The spices in the chicken are unique – I found the seasoning a little sweet, spicy and salty. I got a whiff of paprika or chili, which hit me in the back of the throat. The chicken itself was so tender and smooth, I could easily peel away the layers of white meat right off the bone.

We both agreed that the chef nailed every single item on this dish. These are some of the better fries in the city. The shell was golden brown and oily, so that the exterior shattered when I bit into it. The interior of the fry was still soft and mealy. The cabbage and carrot slaw was fresh tasting and vibrant. I was relieved as my pet peeve is eating slaw that tastes like it’s about to expire. This happens to me more often than not.

The gravy even tasted homemade. There was none of the artificial flavour you get from the powder mixes. Like the spices in the chicken, the gravy was well-seasoned, creamy and most importantly, served boiling hot. Since gravy is pretty much fat and flour, I think it has to be warm enough to only leave a thin coat over the fries when you dip the fries into the gravy.

King Eddy fried chicken is better than Hattie B’s in Nashville, and it has pretty much ruined Popeyes or any other fast-food joint for me. If you want to do some safe Stampeding this summer, drop by the King Eddy from July 9-17th. Check the website for hours of operation and the live music schedule.

Beer · French · Restaurants

The Dandy Brewing Company – Hot diggity dog

I wish more pubs were like Dandy Brewing Company. This brewery is light years ahead of other establishments in terms of food, beer and wine. Good thing I don’t live nearby because this place would be a frequent spot for me. For this post, let’s listen to “Blow at High Dough” by The Tragically Hip.

We sat inside because it was so hot. While the breeze was constant, we were still feeling the heat. To cool down, L tried the Bright and Happy Days Lager (5.7%, 14 oz, $6.50). This lager reminded him of Banded Peak’s Plainsbreaker, but with more complexity. I thought the lager tasted fresh, and I noticed a sweet aftertaste.

I was jonesing for wine, so I ordered a glass of Chateau Teyssier Pezat Bordeaux Blanc 2018 (5 oz, $10). I found this wine a little tart, refreshing, and well-priced.

L second beer was the Bunbury Pineapple Wheat Ale (4.5 %, 14 oz, $7). He found this ale ideal for such a scorching day because it light and crushable.

Despite the heat, I ordered a glass of the Stephane Aviron Cote de Brouilly 2015 (5 oz, $10). Our server wanted to chill the wine first because the heat made all the bottles of red wine too warm to serve. While I waited, he recommended I try the Wild Sour Ale 7% ($2.50, 5 oz) because the flavour profile was similar to a sauvignon. The sour certainly smelled similar to a white wine. I enjoyed this beer so much that I brought home a four-pack.

Since we were getting snackish, we decided to try the hot dogs ($8.50). L picked the beef hot dog with daikon slaw and crispy shallots while I opted for the chili cheese dog. I was shocked to see the amount of care that goes into each hot dog. Hats off to the female chef in the kitchen – she nailed this dish in terms of temperature and execution.

This hot dog is a fatty, juicy flavour bomb. The daikon garnish was piled high. L loved the crunch of the shallots and freshness of the daikon salad. My god – these hot dogs are a work of art. A masterpiece of deliciousness.

I demolished my chili dog – a steaming, saucy mess of melted cheddar cheese and spicy chili. If you like Von Der Fel’s famous house-made buns, you’ll love Dandy’s version. The potato bun is prepared daily. Soft and fluffy, the bread is the perfect vessel to sop up the chili sauce and sausage drippings. This hot dog is so good that if I came down with gout the next day, it would be worth it.

For dessert, I tried the red wine. I found it yummy and jammy. I would order this again. After tasting these two wines, I wonder why other pubs can’t follow Dandy’s lead and provide customers with interesting wines at this price point.

If you haven’t been to Dandy Brewing Company before, you are missing out. In every single of my past visits, the food, beverages and service has proven to be consistently excellent. Dandy makes it one my list of best breweries in Calgary.

Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – The Last Supper

After July 31, Von Der Fels will be no more. Lovegastrogirl and I had to dine one last time before chef Douglas King‪ and owner Will Trow move on to greener pastures to The Ranchmen’s Club. For this post, let’s listen to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer.

I’m going to miss Von Der Fels for the wines. This is the only place in the city where I’m impressed with the wines by the glass. I’m normally a red wine drinker but due to the heat, I wanted to try a glass of white. Our server recommend Miser Riesling 2020 ($16). This one was lovely – I enjoyed how the wine sparkled on my tongue. However, my favourite wine of the night was De Collette 2019 ($18). There was just something soft and mellow about it that made me want to keep on sipping.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The only reservation I was able to score was at 8:45 p.m. I couldn’t wait that long to eat and as a result, I was full when I arrived. However, we had to order food because you can’t come here and not eat. The food is just too good to pass up.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Our first dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Lettuce Wraps ($43). The fragrance of the smoky sweetness of the pork was intoxicating. The crunchy fat on the pork belly reminds of me of Peking duck, but with a more complex flavour profile. I liked how the pickled cucumbers and fresh mint help to cut into the richness of the pork belly and sauces.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The second dish we tried was the Miso Sablefish with Tempura Shrimp ($49). Holy mackerel, this dish is a visual stunner. I felt like my eyes were eating as well. There was so much fried goodness in this plate that I felt giddy just looking at it. I could literally feel my inner fat kid transfer out of my body to hug this dish.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Each layer of the artichoke was silky soft, drenched in a light citrusy matsutake beurre blanc sauce. The shrimp was delightful – the batter was as light as tempura. My favourite part of the dish was the miso sablefish. The fish was so tender and flaky, with an incredible buttery texture. I would order this again but I can’t unless I become a member of The Ranchmen’s Club.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As a parting gift, Lovegastrogirl brought a bottle of champagne for the staff to enjoy. When her hubby Gpomp dropped us off at the restaurant, he asked me now that Von Der Fels is no longer assessable by the general public, what other restaurant could offer a similar experience? There’s only a handful of restaurants I have frequented in Calgary, so based on my limited exposure, and in terms of food, consistency, wine, service and value, I would say Sukiyaki House and Klein & Harris.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I have to talk to L about getting a membership at The Ranchmen’s Club. There’s a stellar negotiation course at the Haskayne School of Business that I’m considering taking to help me with my persuasion skills. Perhaps the mere threat of going back to school will encourage L to explore the new happenings occurring at The Ranchmen’s Club now that Douglas and Will have taken over the culinary reins.

Photo credit: Von Der Fels

I’ll always remember Von Der Fels as the spot to bring friends and family. This was a restaurant that you could depend on to consistently deliver, visit after visit. I wish the owner and chef the very best in their new roles and future at The Ranchmen’s Club.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Obanhmi- Date two of 19

L wanted to knock off number two of the 19 banh mi dates he promised me. Since I was already in Inglewood getting a dermal infusion, I suggested he order our dinner from Obanhmi in Dover.  I specifically asked L for the classic assorted sub ($5.50) and not the deluxe assorted ($7.50) sub. The deluxe version has pork belly and that would put my Noom app in a tizzy. For this post, let’s listen to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

When L picked me up, he asked me if I knew banh mi means bread in English. I said no, I just assumed banh mi was a Vietnamese sandwich. I asked him how he knew and he said there are informative signs posted all over the shop. He smugly added that while I asked for an assorted sub, it was actually called a cold cut. I bit back the urge to tell him no one likes a know-it-all but then I realized it actually turned me on that he knew more about Vietnamese subs than me.

L relished his Beef Sate ($7.50) sub. He thought the beef was flavourful, and not in the generic peanutty way. He noted the beef wasn’t evenly distributed, so one side of the sub had lots of beef and the other side had barely any. We both liked how the carrots, daikon, and onions were pickled. Each vegetable was crunchy and wet, tart and sweet at the same time.

My cold cut contained four layers of assorted meats. The baguette was delightful – the interior was light and fluffy and the outside crackled when I bite into it. The pate was subtle and buttery. I liked how the cucumber was sliced into thin, crisp ribbons. This is a saucy sub – the juices from the pickled vegetables mingled with the mayonnaise and pate.

How does Obanhmi compare to all the other banh mi joints? Obanhmi gives more meat than Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi, but not as much as Saigon Deli. However, Obanhmi is more generous than Saigon Deli with the butter, pate and vegetables. Size wise, Obahmi subs are bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nguyen but not as stuffed as To Me Sub or My Thou BBQ. Personally, I thought the pickled vegetables and crusty baguette give Obanhmi a slight edge over some of their competitors.

Note: L said I was going to drop the subs taking this picture. I didn’t, but I took this picture over the counter in case the subs fell out of my hand.

I’d rank this banh mi up there with all the other heavy hitters – Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Trung Nguyen, My Thou, and Thi Thi. Pro tip – sign up for the point system. Accumulate ten points and you get a free sub. Hitting the Sauce gives Obanhmi two phat thumbs up.

17th Ave · Bars/Lounges · Vegetarian

Lulu Bar

Aga came to visit me. Since she lives in Lethbridge now, I told her to pick the restaurant. She wanted to check out Lulu Bar, a popular chef-driven restaurant on 17th Ave. I noticed the restaurant was full of tables with young, pretty ladies. Pro tip – if you are single and on the Happn app, you might want to start dining at Lulu Bar. You’re welcome. For this post, let’s listen to “Where Them Girls At” by David Guetta.

The staff at Lulu Bar are friendly and inviting. Our server Jason helped me pick the right wine to cool down in the sweltering heat – Castelo de Medina (Verdejo, Rueda, Spain $55). This was just what I wanted – the wine was light, soft and aromatic. I was impressed Jason and another staff member knew so much about the menu. With the lifting of restrictions, I heard restaurants had to scramble to find staff to work again. There was no outward sign of any stumbling blocks for Lulu Bar.

We didn’t have much of an appetite because it was so hot, so we shared two salads. My nemesis Noom suggests that when I go to a restaurant, I should request the salad dressing on the side. I felt that to do so would be an insult to the chef and Aga because it would prevent us from eating the food as it was intended. I’m glad I didn’t alter the dishes because the salads blew me away.

The Sichuan Noodle Salad ($14) was shockingly delicious. I say that because there was cilantro in the salad but it was still incredible. The noodles were toothsome and lightly sauced in a chili sesame dressing. The bean sprouts were so fresh tasting, I thought they must have been plucked that day. Aga loved the crunch and tartness from the pickled beans, cucumber, onions and cauliflower. The chili in the sauce was pleasantly mouth numbing. This is one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten. That is the ultimate compliment because I am not a salad person.

All the foodies on Instagram have been posting pictures of their fresh spotted prawns, so when I saw the BC Spot Prawn Salad ($24) on the menu, I had to try it. Another winner. The prawns were sweet and meaty. The sesame yogurt ginger dressing was buttery and rich. Aga enjoyed the mint because she thought it added some freshness and helped to balance the salt in the dressing.

If Lulu Bar can make salads taste so good, I wonder what they can do to meat. I’m going to bring L so we can try more of the dishes, like the wood grilled branzino and coal roasted halibut, and of course, more salads. Hitting the Sauce gives Lulu Bar to phat thumbs up.

Beer

Canmore Brewing Company

Before dinner, L and I wanted to stop by a place for a drink. I wanted to get a cocktail at the Fairmont Banff Springs but then I remembered this trip was for L and not for indulging my whims. Instead, I suggested Canmore Brewing Company for a flight of beer ($10). For this post, let’s listen to “Ramble On” by Led Zepplin.

I’m not normally a cider fan, but the Outsider Cider (7%) was just right – not too sweet or tart. My neighbour would like this one as it is gluten-free and vegan.

The Ramble On Saison (6.2%) was tasty, with a refreshing herbal note that reminded me a little of rosehips. I kept trying to guess what was in the saison until L looked it up and told me it was hibiscus.

I really enjoyed the Jam Session – a blackberry and cherry sour (4.8%). Like the cider, this sour wasn’t too tart but nicely balanced. I thought the flavour was similar to a rosé wine. 

The Sulphur Mountain Session Ale (4%) was clean and bright. For some reason, sipping this ale reminded me of the smell of fresh basil and tomato plants.

L’s favourite beer was the NE IPA (6%). I found the IPA easy to drink and juicy. L liked how the taste would disappear on his tongue, which he says is perfect for a summer beer. L could taste a little of the rye, which the IPA is made of.

What I liked about all the beers was each one tasted fresh, and the bubbles were small. We were impressed with our flights – each one was unique and tasty. I enjoyed our beers so much, I picked up three packs for us to enjoy at home. If we lived in Canmore, this would be a regular spot for us. If you are in the hood, I recommend checking out Canmore Brewing Company.

Italian · Patio · Pizza

Rocket Pie – Neapolitan Pizza in Canmore

Since the pandemic started, L has been working around the clock. Lately, he’s been looking more weary than usual. I wasn’t sure if his tiredness was work-related or because I’ve been extra cranky since I started Noom. Either way, I told him to pack an overnight bag because we were going to Canmore for the night. There’s nothing like a little mountain air to brighten one’s mood. For this post, let’s listen to “Slow Ride” by Foghat.

I’m not familiar with the food scene in Canmore. I’ve only eaten at Crazyweed, The Trough, Iron Goat and 514 Poutine. Since this was L’s getaway, I wanted to take him out for one of his favourite foods – pizza. I asked Miss Foodie and Lovegastrogirl where they would go. Both recommended Rocket Pie, a restaurant known for their Neapolitan style pizza, baked in a state-of-the-art stone fired oven.

Rocket Pie is located in a plaza-style shopping area. The restaurant itself is spacious and modern. L admired the textured wood wall while I appreciated the genuinely warm welcome from the staff. To start, L ordered a can of Misty Mountain Hops (Canmore Brewery, $8.50). I asked our server Tara about the wine list. She recommended the house wine (Remole Toscana, $10, 8oz) because it goes with everything. I’ve been on the hunt for an inexpensive red, and I think I found my unicorn. This is a solid wine – something I’d happily sip around my house. Look at this big pour! I knew immediately that Rocket Pie and I were going to be lifelong friends.

L complains that I never order enough food when we dine out, which is true. I purposely under order because I find I overeat if there’s extra food in front of me. This time I made sure L would have enough to eat. I ordered two pizzas and one calzone: Formaggi ($25), Diavola ($23), and the Fennel Sausage ($24). All pizzas come with complimentary chili oil.  After tasting the oil, I immediately thought of Foodkarma as she’s the undisputed queen of chili oil. I think even she would be impressed with Rocket Pie’s version. The oil is moderately spicy and nutty. I could really taste the richness that comes from a proper toasting of the chili flakes. The chef needs to bottle this liquid gold and start selling it. He would make fat coin.

The Diavola pizza is the most recommended pizza on Google reviews. I thought the ingredients sounded simple, but the flavour profile was anything but basic.  L said the Diavola was an excellent combination of quality cheeses, spicy sopressata and fresh tomato sauce. The salami was on point – each piece was so flavoursome. I loved how the pickled onions and chili flakes added a pleasant crunch and pop of heat.

L’s favourite pizza is the Formaggi. L loved the sweet, salty, and savoury notes from the blend of mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola, pecorino ramno, parmigiana Reggiano and local honey. The crust is so lovely – crispy, thin and airy. The dough is light enough to let the blend of cheeses and honey shine, but substantive enough to carry the strong flavours. Chef and co-owner David Carruthers recommends adding prosciutto ($5) to the Formaggi. I’ll do that next time.

The Fennel Sausage Calzone is my favourite. This is the first time I tried a calzone that I enjoyed. Too often, calzones remind me of pizza pockets. The crust was different from the two pizzas we tried. The dough puffs up like a pastry and the crust was almost buttery in texture. The calzone was filled with mozzarella, ricotta cheese, fresh spinach, and house made fennel and sausage. The sausage tasted clean and bright – the meat wasn’t oily or heavy. I love the charring on the dough – the crust was blistered enough to give off a smoky flavour. The calzone is big enough for two people. Freaking fantastic and worth the calories.

What sets Rocket Pie from all the other pizzerias is the crust. David has created a master dough. This dough is perfection. This is the most delicious crust I have ever eaten. You need to try this pizza to taste what I’m saying. Some flavours can’t be described in words.

At the end of the night, we were stuffed as the inside of the calzone and blissfully happy. We took home half a calzone and a whole pizza, with two complimentary plastic containers of the chili oil. I also bought a bottle of the Remole Toscana ($20) to eat with our leftovers. We baked our pizzas the next day, and the food and wine were still awesome. This was further confirmation that the mountain air and time away didn’t unduly influence our taste buds.

Both L and I are planning our next stay in Canmore, and you can bet we will return and try some of the other pizzas. The food is worth the scenic hour-long drive from Calgary. There are options for vegetarians, and I read online that there is even a gluten-free pizza. I spied a highchair by the washroom, so this is a kid-friendly restaurant. Hitting the Sauce gives Rocket Pie two fat thumbs up.

Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Welcome back dinner

On June 10th, Alberta entered its Stage 2 reopening. No surprise here, to celebrate the lifting of government restrictions L and I dined at Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Dancing In The Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas.

This is my first dining out experience since I’ve started using Noom – a health and fitness app. I’ve never lasted more than six hours on any diet, but I figured it was time for me to become healthier. After surviving two days, I assessed Noom to be a Debbie downer. There are no fun foods that I can eat without breaking my daily calorie count. As Foodiegyal7 informed me, Noom is not a site for foodies. L timidly observed that I’m noticeably more irritable since I’ve been on Noom. Poor L.


Our server Judith has the best taste in sake. When we asked for a suggestion, she recommended Fukucho Hattanso 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($46, 10 ounce). The sake smelled fragrant. The flavour was light and clean, with a honeyed sweetness. If fairies existed, this would be their drink.

For our first dish, we ordered BC Spotted Prawns (market price). Head chef Koji Kobayashi hit a home run on this creation. The spotted prawns sat in a gorgeous tomato yuzu shisho sauce. The raw shrimp was soft and creamy. The sea lime green sauce was refined and balanced, with bright, summery notes. L said the hint of lime in the sauce reminded him of Mexico. I could eat this dish all day long. The fried shrimp heads were scrumptious. I could tell the difference between the BC prawns and the regular ones. The BC prawns are sweeter and the meat has a lighter flavour.

We ordered Sawagani Crabs ($2.50 each). I’ve seen these crabs before in the food markets in Tokyo and Kyoto. The shell was thin and crunchy, similar to the outside layer of a candied apple. When I bit into the crab, the flesh was warm and juicy, with no fishy aftertaste.


Every time we visit Sukiyaki House, we order the Tako Carpaccio ($16). The octopus was thinly sliced and crunchy. I loved the balanced flavours in the yuzu sauce and the added layers of texture and flavour from the topping of arugula, kewpie mayo and potato strings.

L ordered Kani (Snow Crab $3.7), Tako ($3), and Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($3). He said the salmon melted in his mouth. The snow crab was sweet. L mentioned the sushi rice was a cut above other Japanese restaurants in Calgary. He liked how the amount of wasabi in each piece of nigiri was subtle and not overwhelming like other restaurants.

I ordered the Irodori Hiyashi Udon ($24). This is a great summer dish. The udon noodles were thin and chewy. The tamago (egg omelette) was sweet, with a soft firm texture. I thought the yuzu dashi broth perfectly highlighted the flavours of the hotategai (hokkaido scallop), hamachi (snapper), ebi (steamed shrimp) and Ikura (salmon roe).


We enjoyed being back so much that we didn’t want to leave after we finished dinner. Instead of dessert, I asked for the driest white wine and L ordered an Asahi, so we could sit and soak up the exuberant vibes. You could feel the excitement to be back from the customers. Better times are coming. I’m hoping Calgarians get their vaccine so we can get on with Stage 3.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

To Me Sub – Date one of 19

L and I made a deal. He thinks the chandelier in our powder room is gaudy. I see no reason to replace it but his constant complaining finally got to me. I negotiated 19 banh mi dates in exchange for a replacement. Initially I wanted 20 dates, but L kept trying to get the number down. I told him that he wanted the chandelier switched out more than I wanted the subs, and if he was a smart man, which I know he is, he would pay my price. For this post, let’s listen to “Price Tag” by Jessie J and B.o.B.

I should have placed conditions in our contract because it turned out our banh mi dates include “fusion” subs. I didn’t realize L wanted a say in where we ate. I just assumed I would be picking each venue. For banh mi date #1, L wanted to try To Me Sub – a popular drive-in spot on Macleod Trail.

I’ve read that To Me gets so busy with customers, drivers block the traffic on Macleod Trail. Pro tip – if you don’t want to get honked, pull around and wait in line via the parking lot so you aren’t disrupting the traffic flow.

We were lucky. There was only one car ahead of us, so we waited less than five minutes. I ordered Shrimp Salad Rolls ($5), Mango Bubble Tea ($5), Satay Beef Sub ($6), and a Coconut Chicken Sub ($6).

The mango bubble tea was about the size of a large slurpee. The frozen mango puree was sweet and syrupy. To Me sells one of the cheapest bubble teas in town.

The salad rolls are worth ordering again. Each salad roll contained three pieces of shrimp, crunchy julienned lettuce and vermicelli. The wrapper itself was soft and it tasted better than the salad rolls I make at home. I liked the dipping sauce – smooth, tangy and a touch sweet.

Size wise, these subs were as big as My Tho BBQ. When we got home, the bread was warm and soft from the heat of the filling. L appreciated the generous amount of cilantro in his sub. The beef was tender, sliced thin and piled high. The flavours in the beef sate were more subtle than Thi Thi or Trung Nguyen. L wished the vegetables were pickled, but for the price and portion, he’s not complaining. The portion was so large, L and I could only eat half our subs.

The chicken in my sub reminded me of a Thai yellow curry. The heat was mild and the flavours were subdued. I thought I could taste some cheese in the sauce. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The ingredients in the subs are so approachable that even people who typically shy away from traditional Vietnamese food would enjoy the food at To Me.

One down and 18 more to go! For our next banh mi adventure, L wants me to retry his favourite spots – Bake Chef and Thi Thi. I want to check out; Ami Tea; Bambu; Bánh Mì Phương Mai; Banh Mi SUB Asian Fusion; Five Spice; La Cay (temporarily closed); Lily Submarines; Lotus Deli; Nan’s Noodle House; Paper Lantern; Pho Chu; Pho Dau Bao; Pure Modern Asian Kitchen; Secret Cafe Vietnamese Sub; and Thai Thien Sub. If you know of any spots that I haven’t tried or listed, send me a note.

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Savino Pizzeria

Lovegastrogirl takes her pizza so seriously, she coordinates her pie with a matching outfit. Lately, she’s been posting nonstop about Savino Pizzeria. When I finished my work for the day, I decided I wanted to try this pizzeria.

I ran upstairs to tell L that we had to pick up a pizza for dinner. He asked me where the restaurant was located. I said it was in an alley somewhere in Glenbrook. He looked startled and I could tell he had more questions but as he was in the middle of work, he didn’t have time. I blurted out the place was legit and Lovegastrogirl eats there every week. He nodded and pointed to his credit card. For this post, let’s listen to “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals.

Savino Pizzeria is located in Glenbrook, in a food truck parked in a backyard. Their food is inspired by the pizzas in Naples, Italy. Three things you need to know. Each pizza is a personal size, so order at least one per person. The pizza is the opposite of what many North Americans have come to love in Greek-style pizza. Savino is all about using top quality ingredients and producing the freshest pizza you can find in Calgary.

The first time I tried Neapolitan pizza was in Cannes, France. I was twenty years old, with my girlfriend and a young New Zealand couple. When we only ordered a large pizza and a bottle of wine to share, the waiter made a face, and then took away our tablecloth and linens (mine was on my lap) and tossed us some paper napkins. Our friends were so pissed that to show their displeasure, they upturned the empty wine bottle and wedged it in the middle of the table. Luckily, there was no such snobbery or unnecessary confrontation at Savino, just delicious, fire-baked pizza.

I ordered Lovegastrogirl’s favourite pizzas – the Prosciutto and Arugula ($17) and the Quatro Formaggi with Prosciutto ($21). Pro tip – these pies arrive uncut – so you need a pair of scissors to do the deed yourself.

The first thing I noticed about the prosciutto and arugula pizza was the bright flavour of the tomato sauce. The grape tomatoes tasted so sweet, I thought this had to come from a garden. The arugula was plentiful and so fresh, I wondered where Savino buys their produce.

The quatro formaggi with prosciutto is a cheese lover’s dream. The blend of bocconcini, Parmigiano Reggiano, manchego, and gorgonzola was of pure decadence. The sweetness of the honey accentuated the richness of the cheeses. The homemade chili oil is worth its weight in gold. The oil is spicy enough to make you sputter, but it also had a flavourful kick to it. I use a lot of different chili oils and I’m telling you that Savino’s is the best I’ve tried.

Savino’s crust is thin, and the toppings are light, but I can tell the ingredients are of the best quality. L is a fan of the crust – it was chewy and airy. He was sure the dough was made with 00 flour. I liked the taste of the char on the blistered crust.

Of the two pizzas, our favourite was the four cheese pizza with prosciutto. I have what you call a hearty appetite. Hours later I was hungry again, so we did a dirty and ordered a snack from Popeyes. I need to start keeping salads in my fridge and not make bad late night eating choices.

If you go in knowing what Neapolitan pizza all is about, you’ll love this place. I certainly enjoyed it and look forward to ordering the pizzas again, as well as a bottle of that fabulous chili oil. Hitting the Sauce gives Savino Pizzeria two phat thumbs up.

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Takumi Sushi

I can’t believe it rained all weekend. I felt like I was back in Vancouver. L sensed I was getting squirrelly. He told me to pick a place for lunch and mentioned that a long drive wasn’t an issue for him. I was about to suggest something on my to-eat list when he wondered if I felt like sushi. I said yeah, I could do sushi but Sukiyaki House wasn’t open. L wanted to try Takumi Sushi to compare it to Nami Sushi. We used to eat at Nami Sushi but noticed that in the last two visits, there was inconsistency with the quality. We found out recently that the owner of Takumi sold Nami two years ago. For this post, let’s listen to “The Rain” by Missy Elliott.

I ordered the Lunch Special ($13.50), which allows you to pick three rolls from a select list. I chose the Salmon Maki, Dynamite Roll, and Salmon, Tuna, and Ebi sushi. I also ordered Hokkigai (Surf Clam, $2.05); Tako Nigiri (Octopus, $2.55); Hotate (Raw Scallop $2.85); Salmon Nigiri ($2.05); Spicy Salmon Roll ($6.95) and a Chopped Scallop Roll ($7.25). Takumi gives 10% off all pick up orders.

I’m a fan of Takumi’s nigiri sushi. The ratio of rice to fish was spot on. The surf clam was tender and chewy. The shape of the clam over the rice reminded me of a top hat, covering both sides of the rice ball. I would order this again.

The scallops were big in size and smooth in texture. The scallop tasted fresh, with no fishy aftertaste. I enjoyed the pop of tobiko, which was sprinkled on the top of the scallop. The rice itself was firm and sticky, fragrant with the scent of vinegar.

The salmon sushi tasted creamy and cool. There was nothing wrong with the salmon sushi and I felt like we got what we paid for.

There are two types of nigiri that I wouldn’t recommend – the tuna and ebi sushi. The ebi sushi from the lunch special was razor thin and fishy tasting. I noticed the ebi sushi was crammed in the box, so that the shrimp was wedged in-between the rolls and tuna sushi. As a result, the rice underneath the shrimp fell apart when I tried to lift it up. The tuna sushi didn’t have any flavour. L said next time, he would go for a fattier cut. I agree – spend a little more and get something tastier.

The maki rolls are better than your average sushi restaurant in Calgary. I noticed that the filling to rice was about 4:1. A pet peeve of mine are Japanese restaurants that give you a disproportionate amount of sushi rice. In the salmon maki roll, you can see how much bigger the proportion of salmon is to the rice.

In the spicy salmon roll, the bits of tempura were still crunchy. If you are a spice wimp, don’t worry. The heat in this roll was incredibly mild, and I detected a little sweetness in the sauce. I would order this roll again.

The chopped scallop roll was banger. Again, there was a generous amount of silky smooth chopped scallops to rice. The richness of the Kewpie mayo added to the luxurious pop of the bright orange tobiko. I liked that there was very little cucumber to scallop, so that the flavour and texture focused on the creamy scallops.

All the rolls were tried were great except for the dynamite roll, which was still fine. The shrimp tempura was crispy and tasted fresh, but proportion of avocado to the tempura shrimp was off. In a dynamite roll, the shrimp should be the dominant flavour, not the avocado. This is the only roll I wouldn’t order again. I would pass on the lunch special, though it’s cheap. I personally would rather spend a couple more bucks and get the sushi that I would enjoy.

Takumi is a solid spot for fresh, inexpensive sushi. Lunch for two of was just over $40. I can’t think of any place that competes with Takumi in this price range. Hitting the Sauce gives Takumi two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Zion Soul Food – Suya Beef

Note: Since I wrote this post, the prices for Zion’s catering dishes have gone up due to rising cost of meat.

This May long weekend I was planning on checking out Jin Bar or Park by Sidewalk Citizen. However, I stumbled upon Zion Soul Food’s Instagram story showcasing surya beef. L and I are crazy for Zion’s Caribbean and African food, so I placed an order for Saturday. For this post, let’s listen to “Hey Sister, Soul Sister” by Patti Labelle.

I ordered a Beef Surya ($45). The platter generously feeds a party of four. Delivery for my area is $10. Payment is through e-deposit the day of the delivery, via Zionsoulfood@gmail.com.

The platter was heavy, packed with seasoned slices of beef brisket, a mountain of plantain, four pieces of corn on the cob, and four slices of avocado. I could tell by looking at the platter that a lot of care was put into each item. The beef was covered in spices and even the avocado was sprinkled with seasoning.

There was a nice bark on the beef. The best pieces were the ones with the fat still on it. The spices were incredible. L detected some heat though I did not. I found out that the chef makes his own spices from scratch. The beef wasn’t tough or soft – it was tender with a chew to it. foodiegyal7 informed me that in African cuisine, beef is cooked so that it still has some pull to it.

Plantain is my new favourite food. This time around, the texture of the plantain felt firmer, with sweet and savoury notes. I don’t know how the chef prepares plantain to make it taste so good, but I’m guessing the fruit is either pan-fried or deep-fried to give it that caramelized taste.

Photo credit: 4jki

The corn is deliciously salty and buttery. Each kernel is juicy and sweet. L noticed how well the uncooked vegetables went with the beef and plantain. I agree – the rawness of the red onions, green peppers and avocado was a good complement to the complexity of the spices in the beef.

This is wholesome, comforting food that is cooked for the belly and the soul. I like that there isn’t a reliance on sugar, cream and oil. Part of the fun for L is the newness of the flavours and the excitement of not knowing what you are tasting. Next time we order, we want to try the chicken stew, baked tilapia, and oxtail stew.

Photo credit: 4jki

This weekend, 4jki also ordered from Zion. She picked the large Chicken Stew ($35) and the large Beef Suya ($45). 4jki was amazed with the flavour profile in the beef suya. She said it was unlike anything she’s ever had, as she couldn’t put her finger on the spices. 4jki’s mother found the spices interesting.

Photo credit: 4jki

The next time I order, I want to try the chicken stew. 4jki mentioned that the chicken stew doesn’t have the spices you get in the suya, but the chicken is absolutely amazing and saucy. When I asked foodiegyal7 if she tried the chicken stew, she mentioned that African stew isn’t like the creamy type you expect when you hear the word “stew”.

I would order from Zion weekly but I want to write about some of the other restaurants in town. On my to-eat list, Pathway Burgers & Momos (recommended by anjuleem), Park by Sidewalk Citizen (recommended by Bottlenick), Jin Bar (recommended by the King of KFC), Kinjo Westhills (recommended by loaf2go, zoomhahaa, and margaretjulia), and Emerald Garden (new owners, recommended by Fung1ling).

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Jerusalem Shawarma – Macleod Trail SE location

L enjoys a donair as much as I love a banh mi. Since we were already out running errands, we decided to pick up dinner at his favourite spot in the city – Jerusalem Shawarma. For this post, let’s listen to “Tudo Bom” by Static and Ben El with J Balvin.

Jerusalem Shawarma has several locations throughout the city, but not all are equal. For example, there’s a Jerusalem Shawarma closer to our house, but the freshness and quality are not on par with our favourite location on Mcleod Trail SE.

The price and option for sizes has changed since our last visit. Before, you could choose from a regular or large shawarma. Now there is only one size. L and I both ordered a beef donair ($11.99). Look how big this donair is! Eat one of these and you’ll be full for the day.

I prefer Jerusalem’s flatbread over Ali Baba‘s wrap. The flatbread Jerusalem uses is thin and soft like a tissue. The wrap is grilled, which makes the bread crispy and chewy. The beef was tender and generously stacked. I’m glad we asked the staff to go easy on the sauces as the garlic sauce is potent stuff.

I enjoyed the sourness of the pickles and the tartness of the turnips. However, I would skip the tomatoes. The tomatoes were cut into large slices and the juices dripped down and made the end of the wrap soggy. I also noticed some of the lettuce was limp, perhaps because of our 15 minute drive back home.

Since I’m always fantasizing about all the parties I’m going to host when this pandemic is finally behind us, I noticed that Jerusalem offers catering. I’m wary of using any restaurant for catering after what happened to me years ago at an unnamed restaurant.

L’s 15 relatives came over for Christmas and at his insistence, I ordered takeout so I wouldn’t have to cook. When L went to go pick up food, they said they weren’t aware of any such order. Minutes later, I received a phone call from the owner at his second location outside the city, asking me where I was. When he realized he had the two locations mixed up as I called and placed my order at the Calgary location, he hung up on me. I called a Chinese restaurant in our neighbourhood. I’m guessing the restaurant was overwhelmed with orders as it was Christmas Day because the food was awful. I was horrified to serve our guests such a lackluster meal. Ever since that day, I’ve prepared my own food for parties.

One place I do feel confident enough to order from is Zion Soul Food. The owner and chef – Randy Agyei – is a one-man show and he does everything himself, which ensures the food is cooked properly. I placed a small catering order for L and I this weekend. I’m looking forward to trying Randy’s famous beef surya, which is prepared in a brisket style.

Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Regency Palace – Peking duck three-course special

Lately, all my takeout adventures have been inspired by people I follow on Instagram. Last week, Lovegastrogirl posted about Regency Palace’s three-course Peking duck special. After her glowing review of all three courses, a series of people I know followed suit and ordered takeout from Regency Palace. For this post, let’s listen to “Informer” by Snow.

So what’s the deal? For a limited time, Regency Palace is offering duck with crepes, duck and tofu soup or hot and sour or duck congee, and duck fried rice or duck chow mein for $32.99. This is so cheap! Normally, the duck crepes alone cost $32.99 or more, depending on where you go.

Lovegastrogirl heard about the duck special from @eattinwithmui.  A short time after Lovegastrogirl posted her meal, Justayycfoodie ordered the duck special. I wasn’t surprised – Justayycfoodie is a Peking duck aficionado.

I was debating on whether or not I should jump on the bandwagon when my friend 4jki sent me a message that she ordered the special too. She said it was one of the better Peking ducks she’s tried, and the portion was so huge she had leftovers for days. Her mother, who is super picky about food quality, enjoyed the duck as well. 4jki mentioned the staff at Regency were surprised she knew about the special as it was only promoted in a Chinese newspaper. I told L to start the car.

I picked up my food at 2 p.m., but we didn’t eat our food until 6:00 p.m. Regency does a thorough job packing the food. The crepes were wrapped in plastic so they wouldn’t dry out. The pieces of glossy brown roast duck sat on deep fried shrimp chips, which provided a better base to retain the crispness of the duck skin. I didn’t do the best job broiling my duck in the oven. I couldn’t achieve that crackly skin you get at the restaurant, but the duck was still tender and juicy. Each slice contained a balanced proportion of meat to skin. Wowzers! Peking duck makes life worth living.

The duck fried rice was packed to the brim of the container. My pet peeve is overcooked rice – so I was happy to see each grain was fluffy yet firm. I liked the tiny bits of egg and green beans in the rice.

For my soup option, I choose the duck broth soup with tofu. Each container contained meaty chunks of duck, cabbage and soft tofu. I found the simple, nourishing flavours in the broth comforting. The soup reminded me of the Chinese broth Calgary Court serves with their set meals.

I’m not sure how much longer Regency will be offering the Peking duck special. If you want to try it, give them a call. I found the staff helpful on the phone and in person, and I don’t speak Cantonese.

I heard there’s a Peking duck war in Calgary. Another place to check out is Central Grand Restaurant. Fung1ling informed me that Central Grand is offering a whole Peking duck with crepes, noodles or rice, dessert and soup for $39.99 (cash only). If you ask nicely, they may even give you the duck carcass so you can make duck congee at home. The promotional price is available only from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

MyMy Sub – Banh Mi

I’ve been decluttering my house and selling random items on Varage. As of Tuesday, I made a whopping $15. To celebrate my windfall, I informed L that I was buying lunch.

Eatswithminnie has been posting about MyMy Sub, a newish Vietnamese takeout place by SAIT. When she told me that My My’s cold cut is better than Saigon Deli, I had to see it for myself. For this post, let’s listen to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.

I took Minnieeats’ advice and called to place my order. Pro tip – there’s plenty of reserved parking at the back of MyMy Sub. I ordered a Cold Cut Sub ($8) for myself and L a Charbroiled Pork Vermicelli ($12). I could tell from the weight of the bag that the portions were big.

I was so excited to try my sub that I cursed every single car ahead of us that made a left turn. Finally, when we got home, I frantically tore the wrapping paper off my cold cut sub. Lo and behold – this was a real beauty.

The bread is excellent – glossy and crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The assorted meats were mild in flavour and cut into thick slabs. The texture of the meat was spongy and reminded me of the shrimp balls I eat in Chinese hotpot.

The only vegetables that are pickled are the carrots. The onions and cucumbers were sliced into coarse chunks. I noticed MyMy puts green peppers in their subs, which is unusual. The pate was nice – not overly metallic yet pungent enough to taste it in every second bite. I enjoyed the sauciness of the mayonnaise.


L enjoyed his dish. The charbroiled pork in L’s meal was salty, with a texture similar to the grilled pork meatball at Cuty Restaurant. The noodles were rounder and thicker than the standard vermicelli noodles. The portion was so generous L could only eat half his serving. I noticed there was an absence of bean sprouts. The spring rolls didn’t travel well. By time we ate, the spring rolls were soft. The nuac cham (dipping sauce) tasted strongly of fish sauce and vinegar.

In the bread department, MyMy’s baguette is one of the best in the city and comparable to Trung Nyguen. Size wise, the baguette is bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nyguen. Compared to Saigon Deli, MyMy is more expensive, though price is moot because the latter adds more vegetables, meat and pate into their subs. MyMy’s sub has more meat than Trung Nyguen, Thi Thi and Kim Anh’s cold cut sub. Flavour and texture wise, I do prefer Saigon Deli’s assorted meats over MyMy. For pate, MyMy ranks higher than Kim Anh and Saigon Deli but lower than My Tho BBQ, Trung Nyguen, and Thi Thi. For vegetables, I prefer the sweet pickled carrots at Trung Nyguen, Thi Thi, and Kim Anh over MyMy. I also favour the daintiness of the cucumber slices from Thi Thi and Trung Nyguen over MyMy’s quartered pieces.

MyMy food taste more homemade than the other banh mi stores, as the flavours are simple and wholesome. It’s always nice to try something new and if you like assorted subs, I would give this place a go. Another reason to check them out is their more unique dishes.

One interesting item on the menu that I haven’t seen before is the Mixed Rice Paper ($8.50), a popular dish in Vietnam. For vegetarians looking for a good sub – try the veggie version. Wtigley said the bean curd makes for a particularly good vegetarian sub or salad roll. Either way, if you are looking for something different, you won’t be disappointed.

Photo credit: Will Tigley

French

Eden Bistro – Friday Takeout

Eden Bistro is offering themed takeout options on Friday. I was taken with the latest offering – Parisian street food. For this post, let’s listen to “Sous le Ciel de Paris” by Pomplamoose, featuring Ross Garren.

I ordered L the Jambon Beurre ($18) and for myself, the Country Terrine ($18). For wine pairings, there was an option for a red, rosé or a white from Loire Valley. I picked the Cabernet Franc ($25).

I didn’t end up drinking the wine I purchased from Eden because I still had half a bottle of red from the previous night. Unlike my father, if my wine is older than two days, I’ll put it in the fridge to use for cooking. When my father drank alcohol, he would nurse the same bottle of wine over the course of a month. He wouldn’t refrigerate it either. I was curious so one day I tried a glass of my father’s wine. Let’s say just I know why it took a month to drink the whole bottle. Not even a spoonful of sugar would make that medicine go down.

Our baguette came with a generous side of fresh pickles and homemade potato chips. These pickles were something special! Cut into long, floppy segments, the flesh was juicy while the skin retained its crispness. The pickles were sour and tart, with a summery melon-like flavour.

I took a bite out of L’s baguette. It wasn’t until halfway through his meal that L realized it was butter, and not cheese like he initially thought. I was impressed with the thick slice of silky butter. The ham was thinly shaved but heaped high. I enjoyed the saltiness of the ham because it accentuated the quality of the butter and bread.

The slab of country terrine was generously sized and rich in flavour. Each bite of the terrine offered a different flavour and texture than the next. I like how the creaminess of the mayonnaise, terrine and whole grain mustard melded against the crusty, chewy baguette. The purple micro greens were gorgeous and added a little peppery zip to each mouthful.

Eden Bistro created a fantastic evening retreat with its whimsical Parisian theme. The food took me back to my first trip to Paris, twenty years ago. With the new government restrictions in place, L and I will be looking for new takeout adventures. If you know of any fun takeout themes, give me a holler.

Carribean

Zion Soul Food – Caribbean and African Soul Food

Zion Soul Food is a catering business that specializes in authentic Caribbean and African soul food. For 15 years, the owner, chef and founder of Zion Soul Food – Randy Agyei – cooked in Toronto. Last year, he decided to leave the “Centre of the Universe” because he wanted to bring good food to Calgary. For this post, let’s play “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave.

I first heard about Zion from foodiegyal7. She’s posted about this place on her Instagram account a number of times. Foodiegyal is really picky about her Caribbean food, so if she raves about the food, it must be good.

If that wasn’t enough to make me try the food, Dianathefoodie recommended Zion Soul Food. Diana joked she was going to lose her Nigerian citizenship if anyone found that she said Zion’s Ghanaian jollof tastes better than most of the Nigerian jollof she’s tried in her life. After both Foodiegyal17 and Diana’s ringing endorsement, I had to taste it for myself.

I sent a direct message on Zion’s Instagram and asked Randy what was on the menu for Friday. The feature was Ginger Jollof Rice and Suya Chicken ($20). Delivery for my neighbourhood was $10. If you live in the NE or the downtown core, delivery is only $5. Delivery for lunch is offered Thursday to Sunday. If you order from the catering menu, delivery is free with a minimum purchase of $100. Pro tip – both foodiegyal7 and 4jki recommend ordering from the catering menu versus the lunch special because you get more protein versus carbs. For payment, just e-transfer the amount to Zionsoulfood@gmail.com the day of.

Holy Batman. This food is unreal – it’s a game changer for our taste buds. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on all this flavour. Both L and I had a hard time describing what we tasted, just because everything was so unique to us.

I found the chicken incredibly moist and tender. The spices in the dry rub were so mouthwatering, it made my eyes pop with surprise. Foodiegyal17 is right. Zions food is high quality and deeply flavourful. Everyone needs to try Suya chicken.

The plantain looked like it was caramelized, the texture was gelatinous. To L, the plantain tasted a little like fried cornbread. I thought the plantain was an awesome balance of slightly sweet and savoury notes. I would order this again.

The jollof rice was chewy and fragrant, with a smoky flavour. The kwahu shito sauce was so unique – spicy, salty, with distinctive notes of fish and shrimp flavouring. I’d put that kwahu shito on everything.

I wasn’t sure if there was a proper process to eating the side of avocado. So in between bites of rice and chicken, I’d take a scoop of avocado, or a bite of raw onion and bell pepper. The corn was a winner – sweet and covered in a juicy, buttery sauce.

I’m eager to try some other Caribbean restaurants – such as Bellyfull (formerly Caribbean Choice), Krazy Jerk, and Food n Vibes. For a comprehensive list for all black-owned restaurants in Alberta, check out ashdoesfood’s Instagram account. Hitting the Sauce gives Zion Soul Food two fat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Ali Baba Kabob House

I wanted to give L a break from my banh mi obsession, so we stopped by Ali Baba Kabob House to pick up dinner. Ali Baba is one block away from L’s second favourite shawarma restaurant – Shawarma Knight. For this post, let’s listen to “My Type” by Saweetie.

If you look at the Google or Yelp reviews, you’ll notice that some customers who love Ali Baba like to diss Shawarma Knight. I was curious to see what the difference was between the two neighbouring businesses and the meaning behind the animosity.

I ordered a Beef Donair (Regular, $8.99) and L a Chicken Shawarma (Large, $10.99). It’s a two-person team at Ali Baba. One person shaves the meat and then sears it on a grill and the other assembles the food. I noticed the meat is sliced thinner than Shawarma Knight and cooked on the grill for a longer time. The meat is put on top of a pita, which is placed on top of a bigger piece of flatbread.

Normally I prefer beef over chicken, but when I took a bite of L’s shawarma, I was pro chicken. The chicken was so flavourful and moist, and I could really taste the seasoning and spices. L noticed the sesame flavouring in the tahini was prominent.

My beef donair was tasty, the meat was smoky and nicely spiced. The pickles were so good – they were extra sour and tart. I liked the heat from the banana peppers and turnips, and the crunch from the cabbage and cucumbers. The vegetables were all finely minced and evenly distributed throughout the wrap.

Ali Baba sprinkles on the vegetables and lightly sauces their shawarma whereas Shawarma Knight is more generous with everything – the meats, vegetables and sauces. I think Ali Baba’s seasoning is excellent, as is the execution of the slicing and searing of the meat.

Which shawarma place is better? I think each have their own style, and what you end up liking is due to your personal preference. L favours Shawarma Knight and I appreciate the non-pedestrian seasoning in Ali Baba’s chicken shawarma. Pro tip – if you are a current Shawarma Knight fan and want to try Ali Baba, note that the portions are substantially smaller at Ali Baba. So if you have a big appetite, size up.

Burgers · Patio · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Sammie Cafe

I remembering hearing about Sammie Cafe when it first opened, shortly after the pandemic began. However, it wasn’t until I saw Dianathefoodie’s Instagram reel that I really took notice. The moment that sealed the deal for me was watching Diana’s mother balking at the price of her burger, yet begrudgingly crowning Sammie’s chicken sandwich the best she’s had in her life. For this post, let’s listen to “The Best” by Tina Turner.

L and I ordered what Diana’s mother recommended – Sammie’s Fried Chicken ($13) and a side order of the Sweet Potato Fritters ($7). When we returned home to eat, the food was still hot and fresh. 

The chicken burger was excellent. The toasted brioche bun was soft and squishy. The chicken cutlet was juicy and it tasted like it was marinated. The exterior was lightly battered and crispy. L liked that there wasn’t an over abundance of breading. He doesn’t like Wow Chicken because he finds the chicken too greasy and all batter. I love a big crunchy batter, but I can appreciate the subtle and balanced flavours in Sammie’s burger.

Photo credit: L

I found the Seoul sauce and lemon dijon mayo light and tangy. L normally picks out pickles from his burgers, but even he was a fan of the achara pickled cucumbers. This made me sad because normally I get to eat his discarded pickles. Pro tip – grab a napkin because this is a messy burger. As we ate, the sauces and coleslaw would drip and drop onto our plates.

We both enjoyed the sweet potato fritters. Shaped like a Tim Horton’s Timbit, each ball was crispy on the outside, slightly sweet and soft in the center. I didn’t find the fritter greasy or heavy. The scallion aioli was addicting- I loved the pungency and notes of what I thought was garlic.

Photo credit: L

For a great chicken sandwich, Sammie and Alumni rank as our favourite spots. Judging from our quick peek inside, Sammie would be a great place to dine-in once it’s safe to do so. For now, we will stick to takeout and perhaps lunch on their spacious patio.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Vietnamese

Trung Nguyen – Banh Mi

I found out Banh Mi Girl’s aunt owns Trung Nguyen in Chinatown. I used to eat here all the time, but for some reason (Thi Thi), I had forgotten about it. On Sunday, L and I were picking up frozen dim sum from Chuen May, so I stopped by next door to pick up some banh mi. Since I’m feeling celebratory, let’s listen to “Party Up” by DMX.

Trung Nguyen is cash only. Trung Nguyen is on DoorDash and Skip the Dishes, but if you can, come by to pick it up. Better yet, call ahead of time so you don’t have to wait around.

Trung Nguyen offers non-traditional subs, such as the Buffalo Chicken ($8), Curry Chicken ($8), Pork Riblet ($9) and Ginger Beef ($9). L ordered the Beef Sate ($9) and I stuck with my usual – the Cold Cut Combo ($6.50).

When I unwrapped my sub, I immediately noticed the bread was different from other banh mi shops. Trung Nguyen’s bread actually tastes like a French baguette. The exterior of the baguette has a dark gloss to it and crackles when you bite into it. Out of all the banh mi shops, Trung Nguyen is my favourite for the bread.

The sate beef is a light brown colour. L noted the peanut flavour was prominent. He thought his sub was really good. When I took a bite of his sub, the flavour of cilantro overwhelmed my tastebuds.

I like the proportions in my cold cut. All the ingredients blended in to create the perfect explosion of flavour. There was no dominant ingredient that stood out. For me, pate in a banh mi a must. I’m a fan of Trung Nguyen’s pate – it was saucy with enough earthiness to satiate my tastebuds.

The vegetables are perfect. The cucumbers were so fresh. I loved the tang of the pickled carrots. The rawness of the onions and jalapeño peppers gave the sub texture and a pungent bite.

Size wise, Trung Nguyen subs are smaller than Thi Thi, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Y and especially My Tho BBQ. However, the perfectly balanced flavours and proportions makes up for what it lacks in size. The portion is ideal for a light lunch or a heavy snack.

The female owner is a real sweetheart. When I asked if they still sold their duck banh mi, she gave me her business card and told me to call her beforehand. She makes the duck herself, but it takes considerable prep time for her to prepare. I’ve tried the duck banh mi before – it is delicious and worth requesting.

If you are a die-hard Thi Thi fan like me, you can get around being disloyal. It’s not cheating if you visit Trung Nguyen on a Sunday because Thi Thi is only open Monday to Saturday. If you haven’t been, check them out.