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.

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.

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 · Burgers · Patio · Pubs · Restaurants

Bitter Sisters Brewery – COVID-19 dine-in edition

On Sunday, L and I were too tired to drive up to Hub Town Brewing as we had planned. Our ex-neighbours spoiled us the night before with homemade pizzas cooked on their new ceramic grill. Sirski’s secret recipe produced a crust that was crispy and light, with a unique flavour profile. We spent the night eating a total of five pizzas, each with a different combination of toppings and sauces.

For our Sunday day date, I wanted to try Bitter Sisters Brewery because of all the positive reviews I read. I can tell when online reviews are fake or genuine. You have to look for common themes and variation in writing style, as well as the reviewer’s history. For this post, let’s listen “We are Family” by Sister Sledge.

Finding parking isn’t an issue at Bitter Sisters – their private lot offers ample room. The patio and the interior of the restaurant is nicely decorated. You can tell the owners put money and thought into the build.

At the front door, there is a sign requesting customers sanitize before they enter the room. I also saw staff constantly cleaning and sanitizing tables after each party left.

L ordered a flight of beer ($10) and I requested a 16 oz of the Sassy Jack ($6.75). My saison was cool and bubbly. L liked how the peppery notes dissipated on his tongue in a matter of seconds.

On the menu, Sassy Jack is described as a beer that is designed to go down slowly. I’m glad L warned me the alcohol content in my beer was 7.2%. I took my time and sipped slowly, but the beer still wobbled me when I got up to leave.

L’s favourite beer was the Tropical Big Brother Butch Pale Ale. He liked the crisp and fruity notes. I tasted a slight bitterness that I found appealing.

The Fifi’s Dirty Blonde ale reminded L of a pilsner. When I tried the ale, it reminded me of the beers I drank in Prague.  His last sampler was a pineapple sour from Bitter Sister’s rotating line.

I wasn’t starving so L and I shared the Nashville Fried Chicken ($17). Wowzers. Now this is a damn fine chicken sandwich. What made this burger sing was the compilation of all the ingredients.

The chicken was well marinaded, covered in a spicy crunchy batter. L appreciated how the burger wasn’t overly sauced and the proportions of bun to chicken to broccoli slaw was balanced. I would have preferred a little more of that tangy creamy chipotle aioli, just so I could sop it up with the fries.

Our server was considerate enough to check if we liked cilantro. We asked for a side of the noxious herb, so I wouldn’t have to eat it. L loved the addition of cilantro in his burger. We both thought the bun was excellent – it was chewy and soft.

The fries were golden white, crispy on the outside with a fluffy interior. The portion was generous. These fries reminded me a cross between New York Fries and the Belgium frites from the Fritz European Fry House in Vancouver.

I can’t believe this place hasn’t been on our radar before. Bitter Sisters deserves much more hype. At these prices, the food is a steal. The beers are tasty and go up against any of Alberta’s well-known breweries. Service was excellent and because of the obvious sanitation rules in place, we felt safe eating here.

L and I are looking forward to our next trip. He wants to try the Viet style club ($17) and I want to sample the Steak and Fries ($20). Check them out before patio season ends. Hitting the Sauce gives Bitter Sisters two fat thumbs up.