Burgers · Dessert · Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Donna Mac – COVID-19 edition

Restaurant owners in Calgary and Brooks are dealing with excess food after the Alberta Government delayed Phase 1 of the province’s relaunch strategy. Despite the fact restaurants were already stocked, staffed and ready to go, these businesses can’t open until May 25th. Some owners are requesting reimbursement for the last minute reversal date of the opening date.

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Municipal politicians are encouraging residents to purchase takeout from these restaurants to help use up produce that would otherwise go to waste.  For a list of restaurants that were ready to open, visit Savour Calgary’s list.

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L announced that this long weekend, we were going to eat out at least twice. As I’m always eager to play the role of best supporting wife, I suggested several restaurants I wanted to try. For this post, let’s listen to “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March.

One restaurant that’s been long on my wish list is Donna Mac. I called and requested curbside pickup. Customers can also order delivery available via DoorDash, though keep in mind when a delivery app is used, that company receives a hefty commission from the restaurant.

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The Mac Burger ($11) reminded me of L’s go-to spot in the city – Clive Burger. The patties oozed with the juices of the meat. The patty tasted like it was cooked over charcoal.  I enjoyed the thick, sticky layer of American cheese so much I scraped the leftover remnants stuck on the foil wrapper with my fries.

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I recommend adding the fries to the burger, as it adds a crunchy contrast to the softness of the patties and squishy bun. I preferred the smoked dijon aioli to McDonald’s Big Mac sauce. My favourite part of the burger was the smoky flavour of the beef and heavy handedness of the cheese.

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Despite the ten minute drive home, the batter on the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($11) was still crunchy. I liked the sweet tang and heat of the gochujang mayonnaise sauce. The slightly acidic pickles added a little taste of summer to the sandwich. I could taste and see the quality of the white chicken meat.

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I thought both burgers were a gourmet take on fast food, but with better ingredients and sauces. I don’t think I can eat at McDonald’s anymore, knowing what I know now.

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The fries ($4) were well-seasoned, skinny and crispy. The mouth feel of the potatoes reminded me of McDonald’s fries. Next time I order burgers from Donna Mac, I will request a side of the chicken burger sauce for my fries.

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For dessert, we ordered the daily made Donut ($5). The doughnut was soft and fluffy, rolled in a thin, crunchy layer of cinnamon and sugar. The lemon curd filling was bright and lemony, smooth and creamy. The next time I go to a party, I’m going to order half a dozen of these babies. I’m not a doughnut person, but Donna Mac’s version is so superb, I predict it’s going to win a future award in Avenue Magazine’s “best of” category.

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I’m excited for this weekend. I can knock off a couple more restaurants off my wish list. Have any suggestions? Send me a message.

Donna Mac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Vegetarian

Ten Foot Henry – Birthday Dinner

Beep Beep insisted on treating L and I out for my birthday dinner. I’ve been wanting to check out Ten Foot Henry ever since Zoomhahaa recommended it to me. L has been twice for work-related events. I always threaten to tag along and get my own table close enough to annoy him. For this post, let’s listen to Divinyls “I Touch Myself”.

Before we left for dinner, L surprised us with a bottle of Pol Roger Vintage 2009. Our neighbour Mr. Sirsky had brought a bottle of Pol Roger (non-vintage) to share with us on New Year’s Eve. Mr. Sirsky told us to try the vintage version. I have to try both back to back for a proper comparison. What’s the difference between vintage and non-vintage? Vintage is made with grapes of one year’s harvest. Non-vintage champagne is a blend of different years’ harvest. Another interesting fact – Pol Rogers is one of the few family owned luxury champagne firms.

The crowd at Ten Foot Henry is young, thin and attractive. The room is dimly lit, filled with plants and cool cartoon wall drawings. The noise level is loud, not so much from the music but from the customers.

Our server Stephanie was lovely. This is an odd comment but she has a very positive vibe. She also provided good food and wine recommendations. I noticed that the excellent service we received was a team effort. Whenever I or Beep Beep would get up, our napkin would be refolded and our drinks attentively topped off. It has been a while since I experienced service at this level.

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L ordered a Last Best beer and Beep Beep and I shared half a bottle of Vinho Verde ($37). The first dish to arrive were the Tomatoes ($15). We were instructed to mash-up the tomatoes, fresh feta, and herb together and then spoon it on top of the grilled bread. That herb in the dish turned out to be cilantro, my arch nemesis. The feta melted with the tomatoes and reminded me of cream cheese.

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Zoomhaha told me to get the Marinated Beets ($13). I liked the combination of avocado and the crunchy, buttery pistachios. The beets were firm but still tender. L loved the taste of citrus and heat. The grapefruit added a refreshing twist to this dish. Again, there was cilantro, but it was easy enough to pick out.

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The Jerk Spice Cauliflower ($16) was my favourite of the three vegetable dishes. The cauliflower was roasted and had that charbroiled taste. The root chips were crunchy and sweet. L thought he could taste a bit of miso in the pineapple mayonnaise.

L was surprised he enjoyed the vegetable dishes as much as he did. I was impressed with the range of flavours and textures. I enjoyed the unusual combination of ingredients. I thought the vegetable dishes were well-thought out and interesting.

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I enjoyed the Spaghetti ($18). The noodles were covered in a bright lemony pesto. I could taste little crunchy bits in the sauce. As the pasta is rich,  I’d recommend sharing it.

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The star of the show was the Seared Pickerel ($25). The fish was fluffy, light and tender. The skin was crispy and crackly. The lovely white sauce paired well with the brussel sprout leaves. The addition of pickled grapes added an element of dryness. I’d go as far to say this is one of the best fish dishes I’ve eaten.

I mentioned to Beep Beep that all the vegetable dishes were good, but nothing could hold a candle to the pickerel. She responded that there is only so far you can go with vegetables.

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Ten Foot desserts should not be missed. We shared the Coconut Cake and Butterscotch Pudding.  Beep Beep asked Stephanie to put a candle in the cake for me.

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The coconut cake was light – similar to Angel food cake. I liked the sweet, creamy frosting with toasted coconut flakes. The cake was delicious, but it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as the butterscotch pudding. The taste of butterscotch was like an intensely flavoured creme brulee. The pudding was cool and custardy, topped with sponge toffee. I liked the flakes of salt, which balanced the sweetness of the dessert.

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Thank you Beep Beep for a wonderful birthday dinner. I’m looking forward to my next visit. Even L is on board. I give Ten Foot Henry two fat thumbs up and it makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Cabos San Lucas · Mexican · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Los Cabos 2018 – Part 1

Every year, L and I try to go somewhere hot to get away from the cold. I like Cabos because it is convenient, cheap and clean. If the winds are in your favour, it’s less than a four hour flight. I also like the restaurants in Cabos more than in Playa del Carmen or Puerta Vallarta. In Cabos, there seems to be more of a variety and I think the seafood is superior. The only negative is the water is really rough and not ideal for swimming due to the strong undertow.

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L complained that the Airbnb place I rented in Cabos in 2016 was utilitarian. This time around, I rented a luxury condo. With service and cleaning fees, the apartment averaged around $250 (CAN) a night. I was pleased to see security was tight – we had to be buzzed whenever we left the complex. Drivers weren’t allowed in unless they had permission. Since we had an extra bedroom and bathroom, I invited my friend N.

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The apartment is situated three minutes away from the beach and a 12 minute walk to town. The pool was immaculate. We never took a cab because we preferred to walk everywhere. For this post, let’s set the mood with La Bamba by Ritchie Valens.

Tourism was down, perhaps because of the negative news of the six bodies found hanged in Baja California Sur or reports of tainted alcohol at Mexican resorts and bars. Whatever the reason(s), there were noticeable changes since we visited in 2016.

I could get into any restaurant I wanted that day, and this was the week before Christmas!  Massages by the beach decreased from $30 an hour to $20 for an hour and a half. Two years ago, I used pesos without any issue. This year, some vendors insisted on American cash, such as our transportation company. When I said I wanted to use pesos instead, they would recalculate and tack on an extra $3-7 American dollars. I ended up going to the bank to get US cash. In the future, I’d bring US cash for larger purchases and pesos as backup.

The first thing L and I did was get a massage on the beach. We found a newish looking tent with all white curtains and beds. Every massage tent offered 90 minute massage for $20 US. When L paid in pesos, they increased the cost to an equivalent of $46 US.

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Before N arrived, L and I planned to eat at the places that I thought N wouldn’t like. I convinced L to try Taco Gus again. On our last trip, I liked the tacos but he did not. The tortillas are thin and the meats are grilled to a pleasing crispness. As with any open air eatery, you have issues with flies landing on food. Tacos range from 25-45 pesos. There’s a large carousel of toppings and vegetables that I have a feeling are probably reused for the next customer. No proof – just speculation on my part.

At Tacos Gus, we met two Americans. They both complained about how much more Americans work compared to Canadians and particularly, Europeans. They both have jobs at good companies, but only get two weeks of vacation. They said it’s an expectation to work that much in the States. We also discussed how skimpy the shot pours are in Canada compared to the States, as Americans free pour. I told them I think it is due to taxation and likely, regulations. 5.3.8 a) from Alberta Liquor License says the standard amount of spirits and liqueurs is 28.5 ml (1 oz).

L thought the tacos were tasty but he missed having pineapple with his al pastor. The next day, I suggested we check out El Pasia , an open air restaurant that is popular with the locals.

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I saw several people who just got off their shift stop by for a light meal. I liked how El Paisa’s condiment bar was sealed up in the middle of the room, preventing flies from landing on the food.

The combination of the sweetness of the pineapple and spit-roasted pork can’t be beat. At Taco’s Guss, each taco is about $2 US. At El Paisa, it’s a little more than $3 US but the portion of meat was double that of Taco Gus and you can taste the difference in meat quality. Our lunch came up to about $25 US. L said he was happy to pay that for these tacos.

Highlights so far include massages on the beach, tasty tacos, and our apartment. The location was perfect and it was one of the nicer Airbnb’s I’ve stayed at. Lowlight was getting dinged when I tried to pay with the local currency.

 

 

Burgers · Chain Restaurants · Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Restaurants · Vegetarian

A&W – Beyond Burger

Bottlenick told L that he recently tried the Beyond Burger at A&W. He mentioned that people often wonder why vegetarians want to try mock meat. Bottlenick said it was because flesh cooking on a BBQ has an appetizing smell. My stomach churned at that description. I pictured my detached arm, pale side up, sizzling on the grill. For this post, let’s listen to The Breeders – Cann-ibal.

L and I were grocery shopping when I started to get hangry. He suggested we go to A&W. I said no, because I didn’t have my coupons with me. L hates using coupons. He said coupons never work for him. He gets something he never wanted in the first place and ends up paying even more for it. L and I don’t ever really fight, but when we do disagree, it’s usually about fast food coupons.

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We ordered one Beyond Burger, onion rings and one root beer. When the employee told us that the bill would be $13 dollars, I said in shock, “Wow! That’s expensive!” L hushed me and said the employee could hear me. I didn’t care, she should also know how expensive the food is for us common folk. L was impressed with how easy the transaction was – he said this was the first time he could hear the employee speak clearly over the intercom. It took about a minute to receive our order.

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Usually at McDonald’s, the burger looks small, sad and pathetic. At A&W, the burger actually resembled its picture on its advertisement. The burger was stacked with fresh produce. Two layers of chilled crisp iceberg lettuce, pickles, a whole slice of tomato and red onion. The bun was fluffy and toasted. The size of the whole burger was quite substantial, double the size of a McChicken or Quarter Pounder.

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The cheese was melted all over the patty. The patty didn’t quite taste like meat, the seasoning was mild and lacked that taste of animal fat. The texture was soft and crumbly and the exterior wasn’t crispy.  However, it was a very tasty burger, particularly so because of the abundant amount of produce, cheese and sauce in each bite.

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The onion rings were hot and still sizzling from the fryer. I liked the crunch of the batter and it was tasty enough that you didn’t need anything like condiments like ketchup. By the way, if you want ketchup, you got to ask.

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Would I get this burger again? Yes. Was it worth $8? Yes. A&W taste more like something you get from an American diner. I plan to use my coupon book to return and taste test the Beyond Burger against my old favourite – the Mozza Burger.

.A & W Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Beirut Street Food

L and I did our usual run to Crossroads Market. He was hungry and wanted to get a bite to eat for lunch. I suggested Beirut Street Food, as it was seven minutes away from Crossroads Market. I read on Yelp that the meats are cooked over charcoal and the pita is made fresh to order. For this post, let’s listen to Light my Fire by The Doors.

The restaurant looks brand new. The interior design is modern and sparkling clean. At the front of the store, you can see the pita bubbling up on what looks like an inverted wok. Right after the pita is cooked, it’s brought over to be immediately used in customers’ orders.

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As I walked past the pita-making station I saw two meat spits – chicken and beef. Each spit slowly turned over charcoal. I could hear the hiss and sizzle when the juices splattered over on the burning coals.

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The selection of toppings are vast. There are a variety of sauces –hummus, garlic sauce, hot sauce, tahini and a sweet sauce. I was impressed with the vegetables. The colours were vibrant and you could tell everything was fresh and cut with care. There was lettuce, pickled vegetables, turnips, banana peppers, onions, tomatoes, olives, pickles, and parsley.

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You’ll need a few napkins because the juices of sauces and vegetables soaked down to the bottom of the plastic wrapper. Our regular size chicken shawarma ($11) was large. However, L and I both didn’t feel heavy or lethargic after eating such a big meal.

The chicken was tasty – I could tell it was marinated beforehand. The freshly made pita made all the difference – it was chewy and crunchy from its time on the grill. This was a standout shawarma. I want to return try beef platter so I can try the meat without any of the sauces.

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I’d rate this shawarma the best I’ve had in Canada. I bet the shawarmas in Israel are even better. Ever since I watched Somebody Feed Phil, I’ve wanted to travel to Tel Aviv. I do have mixed feelings about that show. I like Phil, I like the restaurants that are showcased, but I feel like the Somebody Feed Phil is marketed to seniors afraid to travel outside the United States.

Beirut Street Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Vancouver/Richmond · Vegetarian

Nightingale – Vancouver

I was back home for the weekend. I asked Naomi to pick the restaurant for Friday night’s festivities. She recommended Nightingale for the ambience and large selection of vegetarian dishes. When we arrived at the restaurant I informed the bubbly hostess that our party of four shrunk to three. She gleefully informed me that as a result, she could move me to a much better table.

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We sat on the second floor by the balcony, overlooking the bar and lounge. I love balcony seats! The music throughout the night was upbeat techno that reminded me of a modern version of “Rhythm is a Dancer” but without the lyrics.

Naomi, Beep Beep and I each started off with Nightingale martini ($15). Made with botanist gin, house green tea, white tea vermouth, elderflower, our drinks were smooth and pleasantly boozy. Naomi also ordered a glass of Orofino Syrah ($16).

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Our server Nataja was helpful with drink and food recommendations. Based on our appetite and Naomi’s food restrictions, Nataja guided us through the menu. Between the three of us, we shared five plates which ended up being the right amount of food.

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The first dish was the Apple Salad ($15). The apples won me over. Each piece of fruit was crunchy, sweet and juicy.  The walnuts, celery and cheddar added more of a savoury dimension. The Szechuan peppercorn dressing was subtle, I couldn’t really detect any notes of peppercorn.
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The Roasted Cauliflower ($12) was toasty, crunchy from the darkened florets and roasted sunflower seeds. The cilantro in the turmeric dressing was subtle. Quite tasty, I liked it.

The Grilled Broccolini ($12) was my least favourite dish – only because the flavour of cilantro in the seasame dressing was dominant.  The slender strands broccolini was cooked just way I like it – still with a noticeable crunch.

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The Roasted Mushroom Pizza ($17) was a winner. That crust was charred, the dough was light, flaky and buttery. The layer of gooey fontina cheese covered the entire pie. The arugula pesto melded into the decadent goodness and helped to balanced out the flavour of roasted garlic. The next time I visit Nightingale, I would order another pizza.
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The Butternut Squash Tortelloni ($17) was tasty. The pasta was stuffed with a smooth, hot and savoury filling. The sharpness of the goat gouda helped to balance the sweetness of the butternut squash. The addition of the pumpkin seeds and sage brown butter reminded me of Thanksgiving.

I was quite impressed with the level of service we received throughout the night. The whole restaurant hummed like a well-oiled machine. The venue looks like a special occasion place but the reasonable prices would make it a regular spot for me if I still lived here. Hitting the Sauce gives Nightingale two fat thumbs up.

Nightingale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mediteranean · Vegetarian

Jerusalem Shawarma and Bakery

I was in charge of ordering food for the volunteers helping out Jyoti Gondek’s campaign. I had heard good things about Jerusalem Shawarma and Bakery, so I gave them a try. I’m glad I did, as this place rocks out the best shawarmas I’ve ever eaten. Let’s play some appropriate music. I’ll pick Drop it Like It’s Hot because when I was playing this for Jyoti she told me I had the worst taste and I wasn’t allowed to pick the music for election night.

When I went to go pick up the food, I brought my dog with me. He didn’t have his leash on and before I could stop him, he stomped on freshly cemented pavement. Eek. I apologized to the employee and I offered to pay for it. He did it for free but mentioned sarcastically that he loves doing his work twice.

I ordered medium size chicken, beef and falafel wraps. Each were cut in half and wrapped up tightly in foil. I tried one of each. All of them were delicious.

The chicken was crispy and savoury, bursting with notes of lemon and spices. The amount of meat to vegetables were perfectly proportional.

The beef was sliced in thin slices. The beef was tender and rich in flavour as well. I loved the mix of sour, spicy, crunchy and savoury flavours from the pickles, beef, vegetables and sauces.

The falafel was crunchy on the outside. The interior was fluffy and light. The falafel tasted fresh like green like a herb garden. This one tasted the healthiest, as it wasn’t as saucy as the meat wraps.

The prices here are excellent for the quality. A medium wrap is $8.99. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Jerusalem Shawarma again for catering. Hitting the Sauce gives Jerusalem Shawarma two fat thumbs up.

Jerusalem Shawarma and Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizza · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Bow Tie Pizza – Stampede 2017 Series

Bow Tie Pizza invited me to try some of their product for free. After I read Jomar’s posting on Zomato about his positive experience, I was game. For this posting, I selected Miike Snow because Bow Tie’s vegan pizza makes me a little Genghis Khan.

From Killarney to Bow Tie, it was about a 20-minute drive. I guess not many other people wanted to cook while there was a heat wave in Calgary because Bow Tie was busy. It also didn’t help that their driver called in sick. I spoke with Yanie who told me the most popular pies were the Beard of Zeus and Mother of Dragons pizza. For the latter pie, Yanie uses Habanero spices from the South Silk Road.

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I ordered a large Vegan ($23.99), a large Meat Lover’s ($25.99) and one pound of hot wings ($9.99). Yanie asked me if I was a vegan. I said no, but I wanted to try it as I heard it was awesome. I told him my husband cursed me in the car when he found out I ordered a vegan pizza. Yanie said he would have gotten upset too.

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The wings were breaded, baked in the oven and covered in a true hot sauce. Often I’ll go out and eat hot wings that aren’t really hot. Not these ones – it has nice numbing sensation and the flavour of real hot chilies.

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A large pizza will feed about three to four adults. The meat eaters I dined with really enjoyed the meat pizza. Everyone was impressed with the amount and variety of meats – pepperoni, salami, ham, and bacon. The sauce was tangy, the deep-dish crust was crunchy and despite all the meats, the pizza wasn’t greasy. The meat pizza was good but it was the vegan pizza that blew my mind.

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The vegan pizza was superb. In fact, it’s the best pizza I’ve ever tried and I’m so floored because it is dairy free. The pizza was creamy and so flavourful, topped in mushrooms covered in vegan pesto, onions, green peppers, pineapple, kalamata olives, tomatoes and dairy free cheese. I think it’s the vegan pesto that gives it the magic. The olives weren’t the gross nasty canned type that some other places serve. The vegetables were fresh and had so much flavour. The vegan dip was rich. The pizza was so decadent though you didn’t need any other sauce.

The only thing you have to keep in mind if you have a long drive. The vegan pizza was a little soggy in the center, but I had stupidly stacked the two boxes on top of each other. However, when I heated up the pizza the next day in the oven, it was even better than the night before. This pizza was so good I can’t wait to order it again. Seriously – the pizza was that amazing and it was vegan. This fact still boggles my mind. Hitting the Sauce gives the vegan pizza two fat thumbs up and Bow Tie makes it on my favourite list of restaurants in Calgary. 

Bow Tie Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian · Vegetarian

Veg-In YYC

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A fellow staffer in my department recommended Veg-In YYC, a relatively new vegetarian take-out place near our office. The unit is small with a handful of spots for singles or pairs of two to eat. For a new place, the cafe sure has caught on with the locals. Whenever I walk by, there are two to three people waiting for their food.

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I asked for a recommendation, but the male employee working at the till couldn’t offer any suggestions and just shrugged his shoulders. After hemming and hawing, I picked the lunch special, a pakora naaco with rice and vegetables ($10.00).

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It took about ten minutes for the staff to assemble my order. You can tell everything is prepared and cooked with care. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavours of the vegetables, curry and potatoes. I don’t know how healthy the dish was, as quite a bit of it was deep-fried.

I plan to go back to try a burrito or something that isn’t fried. Most dishes are around the ten-dollar mark. For the quality and flavour, I’d say the food is worth it. If you haven’t already, check it out.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Veg-In YYC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Vegetarian

The Coup – Meat Eaters Rejoice

L and I wanted to go out for dinner but he wanted something “different”. I told him to call J-Thug and ask for a recommendation. I know the name “J-Thug” doesn’t connotate images of refinement or sophistication, but this dude knows his restaurants, women and booze (in that particular order). J-Thug told L to check out The Coup.

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In the past, when I’ve recommended The Coup to L, he would never go with me. He always says that his balls would shrivel up if he didn’t eat meat with his meal. I told him we should do an experiment and do some measurements before and after. He looked at me like I was nuts  (pun intended).

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L ordered a beer which he thought tasted too yeasty. I didn’t see any beers that I liked, so I opted to go sober. I wish The Coup would start serving Banded Peak beers…

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J-Thug told us to try the scallops. The “scallops” turned out to be king oyster mushrooms ($14). The mushrooms are tea-smoked and pan-fried. At the table, hot dashi broth is poured all over the mushrooms.

The entire dish is a winner. The mushrooms have a similar texture as scallops. We used up the grilled red fife sourdough crostini to sop up all the delicious broth. The salad of seaweed and radish was lovely, clean with a taste of the sea.

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We both ordered the falafel quesadillas ($16.5). I really dig the blend of vegetables, like the carrots, purple cabbage, pickles, bell peppers and olives. The sauces included a light touch of hummus, tahini and tzatziki. I enjoyed the crunch of the toasted sprouted tortilla and the creaminess of the goat feta. Overall, a nice balance of flavours and textures. The fat rosemary yam fries were baked, soft and sweet. The extra sauce of garlic aioli I ordered added a pungent richness to the yams.

Both L and I will be back, more so for the appetizers than the mains or salads. Thank you for your recommendation J-Thug, it was a ballsy pick.

The Coup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

View my food journey on Zomato!