Bars/Lounges · Beer · Brunch · Burgers · Dessert · Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

Cactus Club – Yelp Elite Event

I write reviews on Yelp solely to get invited to their ‘elite’ parties. Most recently, I attended a Taste of Cactus Club. Holy smokes – their management team (Elim, Jim, Curtis and Kurt) can throw down. We were so spoiled, I felt like a rock star. For this post, I think Guns N’ Roses ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ would be most appropriate.

 

When I arrived, I was handed a flute of Blue Mountain Brut that was refilled continuously throughout the night. Our two tables were on the patio section. I lucked out and sat with social Yelpers Stephanie M, Jen L, Nadia, Jen 2 and Diane. Bottles of chilled sparkling and mineral water sat in champagne buckets nearby and were used to replenish our water glasses as we feasted the night away.

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Elim gave us an orientation for the night as we opened our goodie bags. We all received a $50 gift Cactus Club certificate, a Cactus bandana, custom-made chocolates flavoured after each of their desserts and a choose your own adventure booklet that we used to for our ‘Taste of Cactus’ event.

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I opened my book to read my first food adventure. “No good story ever started with a salad, and this is going to be a great one. So, tell us, when having a cocktail, do you prefer a sophisticated slush, or is your cocktail refreshing and on the rocks?” Stephanie M influenced my choice by telling me how much she loves gin. I picked option two – a summer sipper on the rocks.

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The “Summer Smash” cocktail consisted of gin, cucumber, Thai basil, lime and soda. This is the sort of drink that goes down way too easy. Light, refreshing and herbal. I was off to a great start! The slush – a Frose- looked really good too – a blend of rose wine, strawberries, elderflower, vodka and lemon. I want to try it next time.

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For our appetizer, I was given the option of a tuna tataki or a tuna stack. I wanted something creamy so I chose the tuna stack, which consisted of ocean wise albacore, citrus vinaigrette, nori, sesame, avocado and wonton chips. I requested no cilantro. This was a tasty and healthy way to start off our meal. I made sure to mix the dressing and all the ingredients up well before stacking it on my crunchy wonton chips.

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For our entrees, we were asked if a) is it beer and bar foods all day every day b) If you say you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person c) Do you prefer delicious food that’s fresh and healthy? I asked myself, “Who am I”? I thought of how tight my clothes were becoming and picked c. Thankfully, it was indeed delicious. If all vegetarian food tasted like Cactus Club’s ‘Modern Bowl’, I’d become one.

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The modern bowl was a colourful array of ingredients – tabbouleh, grilled avocado, pineapple salsa, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, fancy greens, jasmine rice, and the most magically delicious ingredient – miso carrot ginger sauce. You mix up all the ingredients to get a filling and tasty dish. The pineapple salsa elevated this dish by adding a tropical, sophisticated flavour profile. You can also get salmon or chicken instead of avocado. My bowl was paired a glass of Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc.

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I liked the modern bowl even more than the double-crossed pineapple hoisin short rib dish, which Jen L and Nadine gave me to try. The short rib was slow cooked for five hours, the pineapple ginger glaze and shiitake mushrooms gave it that extra edge over all other short ribs I’ve consumed.

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Cactus Club’s marketing maven – Elim – couldn’t finish her chicken tacos and fries. Even though I was so full, both Jen L and I couldn’t resist finishing of Elim’s sea salted fries. These fries put McDonald’s to shame. This was a perfect balance of crispy exterior and a soft mealy potato texture in the inside.

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My new friends and I turned to the last chapter of our food adventure. “Now for the million dollar decision… dessert. Which movie title best describes you? “Confessions of a Chocoholic” or “Life of Pi(e)?”.

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Turns out it’s a crime to have to choose between desserts, so they treated us to a little taste of both. My favourite of the two was the caramel chocolate mousse. I enjoyed the sweet, warm foam and the crunchy toffee. The key lime pie was good too, tart from their use of 25 key limes in every pie.

I arrived at 4:30 p.m. and I left around 8:00 p.m. I was having such a good time I didn’t even realize how long I was there. I dig the energy and vibe at Cactus. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. I’m looking forward to using my gift certificate to try their other lifestyle dishes, like the rain coast greens, the ceviche and the modern bowl again because it was that good. Hitting the Sauce gives Cactus Club Cafe two fat thumbs up.

Cactus Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Restaurants

Ricardo’s Hideaway – Date night

It was Friday night and I wanted to go out. Despite that night being the start of The Big Taste festival, a nine-day event of restaurant specials, I opted out. Though the reputable restaurants that participate in The Big Taste offer wicked value – a three-course meal for $20.00 and up, I don’t like the crowd and how crazy it gets. Having said that, I do have my eye on Model Milk and Workshop Kitchen and Culture. I’ll be heading to Workshop for lunch this week but I also want to try their dinner menu. Perhaps I can convince my friend Legal to skip lunch and go for dinner after work instead?

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I picked Ricardo’s Hideaway, as I visited previously with my friend Blondie and the food looked fantastic. L bumped into someone he knew from work – Roman. Kudos to Roman for the warm welcome and suggesting a delicious rum – Ron Abuelo (seven-year|Panama|$5.5). I love rum even more than tequila.

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The seven-year rum was smooth and sweet and reminded me of whisky. A nice way to toast to the night. We both opted for beers, as I spotted Banded Peak Chinook Saison and L wanted the Driftwood Fat Tug IPA. The Driftwood was really tasty – bright with notes of grapefruit and not too hoppy. I like that glasses are smaller, so the beer stays colder and fresher for longer.

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For food, we ordered cashews ($5), crab legs ($14) with melted butter, jerk chicken ($16), roti ($5) and rice and beans ($5). I noticed enough vegetarian items on the menu for my buddy Jaime.

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The cashews were warm and reminded me of Christmas. The seasoning had either cinnamon or nutmeg in it.

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The jerk marinaded crab legs were a delight to eat. We were provided with all the proper utensils to crack and pick the meat out. The crab was grilled and blackened, spicy and full of chunks of goodness.

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The highlight of our meal was the jerk chicken, which incidentally is my worst photo of the night. Next time my husband and I are going to order a full portion. The half order contained four succulent pieces of chicken.

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The chicken was garnished with cilantro, which I detest, but even that noxious herb couldn’t hide the fact this was an amazing bird. The skin was crunchy, the sticky sauce was spicy and sweet. The meat was top quality, juicy and white. If you go out for cheap wings, you’ll appreciate this bird. There’s no blueish veins or bruised meat. I’m willing to bet that before this chicken crossed the road to Ricardo, it led a happy life.

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The rice and beans tasted clean, a refreshing contrast to the flavour explosion from the chicken and crab. The beans didn’t have that nasty metallic taste and mushy texture you get from canned beans.

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The roti was fabulous. Flaky, light and buttery, it was the perfect vessel to wrap around the chicken. The roti came with herbed butter.

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I’ve been cutting down on my alcoholic intake, but the pina colada ($10) might undo all my healthy intentions. This drink brought me back to when I was 20 at my first all-inclusive resort in Mexico. Except Ricardo’s version is far superior – sweet from pineapple juice, creamy from coconut milk and boozy from rum. I remember why I avoid pina coladas. It goes down way too easy. And I’m better this little cocktail was packed with at least 450 calories.

L and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. The music was fun and tropical. The crowd wasn’t douchy. The environment was unlike the other bars and pubs along 17th Ave, it felt like I was transported to an island. Ricardo’s Hideaway gets two fat thumbs up from me and makes it as my top pick as Flavour of the Month. Yeah Boyyy!

Ricardo's Hideaway Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Restaurants

Ricardo’s Hideaway

Ricardo's Hideaway Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Steakhouse

Hy’s Steakhouse – Happy Hour

My colleagues wanted to get together after work for the holiday season. I suggested Hy’s as I’ve been wanting to try their happy hour menu for months. What’s the big dealio? Bubbles are 40% off, select wines for $8.00 and featured cocktails are 50% off. There’s also a tasty list of specially priced food, including one of the best steak sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Also note that now until Christmas, you can drop off a Christmas toy for The Magic of Christmas, a charity that gives toys to children in need.

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I started with a Manhattan (2.5 oz, hh $7.50, regular $15.00). I savoured each chilled sip. This was a perfectly balanced martini, a blend of Jim Beam Black bourbon, Cinzano rosso, and Angostura bitters.

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I also indulged in two flutes of Domaine Chandon, Blanc de Noir,
Champagne Blend California NV (hh $8.00, regular $16.00). Oh my goodness. I loved these bubbles, which went straight to my head. My co-worker Patricia agreed, preferring the Domaine Chandon over the prosecco offered by the glass.

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Marvelous Mary ordered the fish tacos (hh, $13). She thought the tacos were juicy, spicy and conveniently bite-sized.

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Our legal representative that night opted for the Beef Sliders (hh, $5.oo each) plus a side of fries. Legal thought the sliders had lots of flavor and she loved the dressing on the bun.

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My friend Cindy loves a good burger, so she opted for the Prime Beef Burger (hh, $13.99). She added bacon, mushrooms, and chose a Caesar salad for her side. Everyone at our office except for me is sick, otherwise I would have tried to snag a bite of her burger. She said she was in burger heaven.

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I wished I order the fries myself. These were soft and pillowy on the inside, and crunchy munchy golden brown on the outside. Lightly salted, steaming hot, I could eat a huge pile of fries. I sneaked a few whenever Legal wasn’t looking. She’s skinny, so I figured I was doing her a favour, doing my part to keep her slim.

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Here’s what I ordered – a New York Steak Sandwich (hh $20, regular $29). I ordered my steak medium rare and it came as requested. The steak was so tender, I barely needed to use a knife. The flavor was phenomenal, my steak was squirting with the richness of its own juices. I ordered the baked potato, which was massive and generously topped with scoops of sour cream, bacon and chives. This was the best steak I’ve eaten. I want to come back to try the featured steaks for dinner (e.g. Neptune, Filet Mignon, Oscar).

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My colleagues each brought a kid’s gift for each other to open and then donate to The Magic of Christmas at Hy’s. Some gifts were ethnically charged. Jen, always one to get politically incorrect, bought Asian Persuasion Hello Kitty themed gifts. I bought Marvelous Mary a Monopoly game because I could picture her and her family playing the game (I stalk her family on Facebook). I didn’t get a gift to open because co-worker Meagan who picked my name didn’t show up. This happens to me every year I participate in Secret Santa. It’s okay, I’m use to the disappointment.

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When the bill came, I realized I left my wallet at work. Yikes, I ain’t no scrub! Enter appropriate music here. I booted it back to my office via CTrain and returned in time to pay and get a group photo in front of Hy’s Christmas tree. In my happy stupor, I lost my winter boot somewhere, somehow between the restaurant, Foreign Concept’s grand opening and my time on the Ctrain. I don’t know what I’m going to do with only one boot! Door stopper?

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Hy’s awesome happy hour is no secret. The entire lounge was filled with customers popping bottles and chomping on those delicious sliders, steak sandwiches and oysters. I like this place so much, I’m giving Hy’s two fat thumbs up and putting it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I can see why Hy’s gets such high ratings on Yelp. Service was excellent and the food was superb.  I’m keen to come again, perhaps on my birthday in January. If you want an experience and are willing to splurge, you need to check out Hy’s Steakhouse now. If you’re frugal (like me) but still want to see what the big dealio is about Hy’s, come by for happy hour. You won’t be disappointed.

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Hy's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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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

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