L was too busy this weekend to indulge my banh mi fantasies. Instead, we picked up a pizza from Red Swan in Bowness. For this post, let’s listen to “Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.
Veggie Girl and Uncle B raved about the pizza at Red Swan, specifically the Three Cheese Pizza (Large $19.95, thin crust option). L wanted a meat pizza but I insisted we try the pizza Veggie Girl recommended. He eventually agreed, which surprised me. Whenever I try to get him to eat something meatless, he looks at me like I’m trying to poison him.
Pro tip – if you don’t eat the pizza immediately, reheat it in the oven. Some pizzas tasted as good or even better when cold. This is not one of them.
One of the best things about this pizza is the crust. I love the light and crunchy texture of the bread. The toasted sesame seeds on the crust added a buttery nuttiness.
The tomato sauce was tangy, and it tasted like there was coriander or some other fragrant spice or herb. The toppings aren’t heavy-handed like a Spiros or Hanni’s pizza. The amount of tomato sauce, feta, cheddar and mozzarella to crust was about 1:1. Personally, I enjoyed the simplicity of the three cheese pizza. This was a nice change from the Greek style pizza I normally eat.
We each ate three slices and we were full. The next day, L microwaved the last two slices of pizza and mentioned it reheated well. If I lived in the neighbourhood, I would definitely order again.
Pro tip – Red Swan offers free local delivery (some conditions apply), pick up specials and combo deals. They even make vegan, cauliflower and gluten friendly pizzas. Give them a try – for the price, you can’t go wrong.
There’s so much bad news out there that I’ve been seeking things of a lighter nature to counter the negativity. My newest source is Calgary Food – FoodYYC, a Facebook group that discusses customers’ experiences at restaurants. For this post, let’s listen to “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon.
Even in this group, you can’t get away from heated debate. As you can see below, there’s some dispute about what constitutes a real pizza. Jason Lepla is the type of person I would gladly invite over for a dinner party.
There is no shortage of pizza joints in Killarney: Bow Tie Pizza, Spiros, Sauce Italian Market, Grecos, Jeanne’s Pizza Pantry, Hannis Restaurant, Village Flatbread and Newcastle Pub. Most of my friends and family each have a personal preference, depending on how they like their pizza.
L’s favourite is Hanni’s, perhaps in part due to nostalgia. The night we moved into our first house, we ordered takeout from Hanni’s. Nine years later, we can vouch that the pizza has remained consistently delicious. The pizza is always good and every now and then, spectacular.
We only order the S.M.O.G (12 inch, $24.99), a pizza densely laden with Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. The tomato sauce is tangy, with aromatic notes of rosemary. The cheese comes in hot and heavy. The crust is thick and crunchy enough to stand up to the toppings. The sausage is abundant and generously sliced, so each piece is fat and juicy. This is a stick to your ribs style of pizza that is so comforting and satisfying on a cold winter’s night.
The price is right too. A large specialty pizza will feed three to four people. L and I usually eat two slices each, and then we eat the remaining four slices for breakfast and lunch. Note that if you order delivery and live within 6 km, the delivery fee is only $3.
L and I dropped by Uncle Ben’s house for dinner. Since Veggie Girl is having pregnancy cravings for bún (vermicelli bowl), we ordered Vietnamese takeout. I picked Pure Kitchen and Bar because their vegetarian dishes offer a more varied selection than its competitors. For this post, let’s listen to “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.
My photos are particularly bad as I didn’t feel like even putting in my usual half-ass effort. Pandemics make me unmotivated for self-improvement. Hopefully Pure Kitchen and Bar doesn’t mind me using some of their Instagram photos.
I’m a big fan of the Papaya, Mango & Shrimp Salad ($13). I thought there was a lot of shrimp in this dish, particularly for the price. The fresh basil was aromatic and plentiful. The shredded papaya and mango was pleasingly chewy. The chilli lime sauce was really spicy. I liked all the crunchy elements in the salad – peanuts, fried taro and crispy onions. I couldn’t finish this salad in one sitting and the next day, it tasted just as good.
L and I shared the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($15). This dish illustrates how Chef Lam has mastered the art of takeout. I want to know how the shrimp remained so crunchy almost forty minutes after picking up our order. The dipping sauce of nori and tobiko mayo stood up beautifully against the crusty battered shrimp. He needs to charge more for this dish.
I ordered Veggie Girl the Vegetarian Vermicelli ($15). She raved about the texture of the fried tofu and noted that other Vietnamese restaurants often skimp out when it comes to the vegetarian dishes. Veggie Girl mentioned the vegetarian spring roll tasted similar to a Chinese style egg roll.
I ordered Uncle Ben the Lemongrass Ultimeat Feast Vermicelli ($17) because he doesn’t often get the chance to eat meat. The ultimeat feast includes chicken, beef, shrimp and a pork spring roll. Uncle Ben mentioned the shrimp was large and not like the peanut sized ones that other Vietnamese restaurants use. He said that all the meats were generous in size and not overcooked. When Veggie Girl mentioned she was digging her spring roll, Uncle Ben chimed in that he enjoyed his spring roll as well. When I pressed him to describe the flavour he said, “It tastes like a good spring roll”. Uncle Ben, for the love of my blog, you got to work with me.
I ordered L the Caramelized Chilli Lemongrass Chicken ($17) but I substituted vermicelli noodles for the rice. When I handed L his food, he asked me what I got him. I reminded him that in March, he wanted to try the lemongrass chicken but with noodles instead of rice. I tried a bite and I can confirm that I prefer the original rice version. The rice soaks up the rich flavour of the lemongrass better than the noodles.
I ordered the Crispy Chicken Noodle Soup ($17) to eat the next day. The broth contained strong notes of garlic and something sweet. I opted for the spicy broth version and by the end of my breakfast, my whole face was perspiring. Yes, this is definitely a pho to eat at home alone, and in the dark. The portion was so generous I was able to make the soup last for two meals.
With the rising number of COVID cases in Calgary, L and I are being extra careful where we dine. Currently, Pure is only accepting takeout or delivery orders. If you are ordering pickup, you have to call the restaurant once you get there and an employee will bring out your order to the door. I’ve ordered twice now from Pure Kitchen and I’m satisfied with their safety precautions.
On Tuesday, I wanted a break from cooking. I was yearning for something different, like Ethiopian from Yegna Restaurant on International Avenue. However, a little voice inside my head asked me, “Is it wise to travel so far? What would Dr. Hinshaw say?” I pictured Dr. Hinshaw’s kind face and I could hear her soft-spoken voice telling me to order delivery or pick up food from a restaurant closer to home. I guess I’m feeling pretty lonely if I’m having imaginary conversations with my medical hero. For this post, let’s listen to “Still D.R.E.” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
I was still craving something out of the ordinary, so I called Pacific Poke for pick up. L and I both ordered a large build your own poke bowl ($16), which included three proteins and four toppings. When I carried the food back into the house, I was surprised by the weight of the bowls. Pacific Poke doesn’t skimp on the portions.
We both chose traditional sushi rice, ahi tuna, wild salmon and crab. L topped his bowl with a double order of seaweed salad, sesame miso hummus, ginger jicama, avocado nori (+$1.50) and masago (+$1.50). I picked a double order of seaweed salad, cucumber kimchi, ginger jicama, and masago (+$1.50).
Pacific Poke serves sustainable seafood. The cubed salmon was a bright orange colour, richly flavoured and smooth in texture. The crab was creamy and when I poked at the mixture, it came apart in fluffy strands. The ahi tuna was firm and fresh. L and I were both impressed with the fish. The masago was worth the extra charge – the fish roe provided a salty pop of the sea.
L and I thought we could detect a spicy heat in the house ponzu sauce. The amount of sauce was just enough to bind all the toppings to the seafood and rice. The white rice was firm, slightly warm, with a pronounced hint of vinegar. We were both surprised the rice was so good, considering Pacific Poke isn’t a traditional Japanese restaurant. I’m curious to see if the brown rice is as well-made as the sushi rice.
I liked all the toppings I picked. The seaweed was crunchy and tangy. The jicama tasted like a Korean pear and added a sweet, refreshing crunch. I took a bite of L’s avocado nori and hummus. The avocado was smooth and tart, the seasoning reminded me of guacamole. I think the hummus he chose would have paired well with the more non-traditional ingredients, like quinoa, corn salsa, chicken or vegetarian proteins. One issue with making your own bowl is that unless you know what you are doing, some of your choices may not pair as well as Pacific Poke’s chef inspired bowls.
I haven’t tried all the poke restaurants in Calgary, but so far Pacific Poke is my favourite. The quality is superb and the ratio of protein to rice to topping is proportional. When we return, I’d like to try a dish off the chef inspired menu, such as The Main or The Cali. Hitting the Sauce gives Pacific Poke two fat thumbs up.
On day 11 of Calgary’s self-quarantine, it hit me so hard how my friends and colleagues were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that I stopped in the middle of work to take a break. I felt overcome with nervousness. L took one look at me and announced that after my walk, we were ordering take-out from Pure Kitchen & Bar.
This habit of dining out to cure my blues started when I was young. To cheer me up, my father and sister would take me to the newest restaurant. In their honour, let’s listen to their favourite opera, “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
L and I normally do not order a lot of food. I try to eat just enough that I’m comfortably full. However, in this pandemic, I’ve been livin la vida loca. We ordered so much that we had enough for another lunch and dinner.
I had initial concerns that the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($14) wouldn’t travel well. When we returned home, the batter was still crunchy, but I didn’t mix the ingredients as I should have. Instead of tossing the shrimp in the tobiko mayo, I dipped each morsel into the sauce and then rolled the nori and scallion seasoning over it. The batter is crusty enough that it benefits from a creamy, even coating of mayo.
L doesn’t normally like kimchi but even he was a fan of the Sate Grilled Beef Kimchi Fried Rice ($16). There was a heat to the dish but the spice wasn’t overwhelming. I could taste and smell the smoky wok fragrance in both the rice and beef. I would order this again.
L raved about the Caramelized Chili Lemongrass Chicken ($17). I was impressed with the large tender chunks of chicken thigh and the deep flavours of lemongrass, charcoal and ginger.
L said the next time we order takeout from Pure, he wants to try the lemongrass chicken on vermicelli. I think I would prefer the rice, because the grains soaked up an aromatic sauce that reminds me of citrusy wood.
The Braised Pork Cheek ($18) showed off the difference between Chef Lam’s cuisine and westernized Vietnamese restaurants. The flavour profile of the pork was satisfying, subtly sweet and sour from the pineapple glaze yet tart from the nuoc cham sauce. The meat itself was so tender it melted on my tongue.
The Grilled Ultimate Feast Vermicelli ($19) was so large, it would suffice for two modest appetites. I liked that each protein – the chicken, beef, shrimp and pork – tasted like each individual item was cooked to their specification. Usually when we order mixed meats on vermicelli at other restaurants, all the proteins blend into one and taste the same.
Pure isn’t the only restaurant changing with these COVID times. To adhere to the government’s regulations, several notable restaurants are turning into a one person show. For example, the owner and chef of Cotto Italian, Brasserie Kensington, and Foreign Concept are offering a limited menu items for take-out. Working in isolation, each chef is able to minimize contact with the public.
Dr. Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Alberta stated that customers won’t get sick from food delivery, and if they really want to ensure the food is safe, to take precautions. For example, when you received your order, put the food in your own dishes and wash your hands thoroughly before eating. Click here for further discussion on COVID and food safety.
If you want to help out restaurants during this time, reach out to your city councillor, MLA and MP . As owners, employers, or customers, write to each level of government to tell them how important the service industry is to our community. It is vital that we ask the government to help small businesses during and after the pandemic, before it’s too late.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
L came home from work raving about a pizza joint near the Saddledome called A Perfect Pizza. One of his top students – R – brought four large pizzas to class. L told me that R’s parents pride themselves on serving up fresh and inexpensive pizzas. This place gets very busy after a Flames game. People leaving the Saddledome drop by for a pizza by the slice or order take-out. There’s also parking if you’re picking up a pizza.
On our way to pick up the pizza, L asked me to order him a pizza. I asked him what type of pizza he wanted. He said he wanted a special pizza. I asked him for details such as “Mushrooms? Pepperoni? Green peppers?” He made a face and repeated he wanted a special pizza. I called and I could tell the person who picked up the phone was busy with another customer. I asked for a special pizza. The man replied that they had a lot of specials, as in two pizzas for a set amount or a large pizza with wings and a bottle of pop. This went on for a bit until I could feel my face turning red with frustration and I felt like my head was going to explode. I requested a large deluxe pizza or anything that came close to that description.
The pizza took about ten minutes. The owner kindly gave me a flyer so that I was aware of the specials. I declined his offer and told him I already had a flyer. He asked me then why didn’t I know about the different specials. I explained that the flyer was at home and my husband asked me to call while we were in the car and all he said was he wanted a special pizza but offered no other details.
The following week, we ordered again. This time we tried hot wings ($8.99) and a large butter chicken pizza ($18.99). The wings were good, not the typical generic Frank’s hot sauce type you get on cheap wing night. The sauce was spicy with more complex notes. The wings themselves weren’t fried, but tender and meaty.
The butter chicken pizza was delicious. I really enjoyed the slightly sweet, creamy tomato sauce and chunks of chicken. I want to try the tandoori chicken with paneer pizza next.
I can see why L likes this pizza. It’s a good, honest pizza. There’s no glamorization of the toppings or a history behind the flour. You can’t order truffles or any gourmet ingredients. The crust isn’t cracker thin or deep dish. The amount of toppings was proportional to the medium size crust. The price is great and ideal if you are feeding a large family or crowd.
My office held a meeting last week. Normally my office brings doughnuts and coffee. This time around, I suggested that we order something more substantial for the attendees. The problem is that our office has such a small budget. For 11-14 people, I couldn’t go over $80.00.
Enter Pita Basket. I ordered the Pita Wrap Tray ($63.00), which came with seven large wraps cut in half. I chose three chicken, three beef and one falafel. The next time I order, I’ll likely increase the chicken and falafel over the beef, as the former were more popular with our guests.
The portion of filling was generous and filling. The tangy sauces and addition of tomatoes made the wrap a bit wet and juicy. The vegetables taste fresh and were crunchy. The thin pita was still crisp and warm, despite waiting 15 minutes to eat after it was delivered to our room.
I couldn’t take pictures of the platter. Sure, I can get away with that behaviour at a restaurant with my friends, but I didn’t want to look unprofessional around my boss and the attendees. Plus, we were discussing ‘serious’ topics. I did manage to discreetly sneak one shot.
Truth be told, when I visited two years before, I wasn’t impressed with my shawarma at Pita Basket (NE location). However, I’m glad I gave the chain another try. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Pita Basket in the future.