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.
L drove me to my brunch with Haskayne 3.0. He accidentally dropped me off at the wrong location and I had to hoof it for the last seven blocks. When I got to ZCrew Cafe, Screamy asked me why I didn’t just call L to pick me up again. That idea never even occurred to me. She inquired why L didn’t come with to brunch. I said because he wasn’t invited. Screamy said it should be assumed he’s invited, as he’s my husband. I told her that in the future, she needs to be more specific with me. For this post, let’s listen to Shakira & J. Lo’s Superbowl performance.
Though I was uncharacteristically late, Strong Zero, Queen B, and Shady Bones were even tardier. I guess we aren’t on Japan time anymore! After fielding more questions about L’s absence and whether or not I should call him, we ordered food. Geez – I had no idea L was so popular. Why would they want him when they already have me?
I enjoyed my pot of Jasmine Dragon Pearl Tea ($5.50). The blooming flower inside the clear pot was aesthetically pleasing. The tea was mild and fragrant with a subtle sweetness.
Screamy enjoyed her Crispy Tofu Bowl ($15). She said the tofu wasn’t crispy but it still tasted good. Her favourite part of the dish was the kimchi as it brought all the ingredients together.
Shady Bones ordered the Matcha Pancake ($17). She spent a good five minutes debating whether or not to eat the orchid. She shared her dish with Strong Zero.
Strong Zero ordered the Monster Bao-Ger ($19). Man, this dude is precise. He cut his burger and the pancakes into half with surgical precision. Strong Zero said the little potato doughnut tasted like sweet, spicy balls. He offered me a bite of his food and I didn’t think before I spoke and said, “Why, don’t you like it?” He looked taken aback and responded he did like his food, he just wanted to know if I wanted to try it.
Queen B ordered the best looking dish – Korean fried chicken and waffles ($19). You could hear the skin crackle as Queen B cut into the chicken.
My Special Poke Bowl ($17) tasted healthy. The wasabi mayo and teriyaki sauce were minimal, allowing the natural flavours of the vegetables to shine through. The rice was a little hard and I found a fish bone in the salmon. Overall, a tasty bowl.
ZCrew Cafe offers some seriously Instagramable meals. It’s a cool little spot offering brunch with an Asian twist. I can see why it’s such a popular spot with the kids.
Asian Persuasion and Lil Strawberriee saw Kona Poke’s pictures on Instagram. Located in the Plus 15, it helps if you bring along someone familiar with the office maze. Office Dad easily navigated us to Kona Poke but when he saw the line-up, he ditched us for Vic’s HK Café in Chinatown.
We waited at least 30 minutes in the line-up. There was one staffer who cheerfully apologized for the wait and he would take an extra couple minutes to chitchat and talk to the customers about the Kona experience. After waiting so long, it was nice to get that extra special care.
Build your own poke bowl is easy to do with Kona’s 1-2-3 steps. Step one – pick a size. A regular contains two scoops of seafood for $10.50 and a large offers three scoops for $13.50. If you have a big appetite, get the large. The regular size was perfect for a light lunch.
Step two – pick a base. Choose from sushi rice, brown rice, field greens and tortilla chips. Kona was out of sushi rice so I asked for brown rice and field greens. The brown rice was very warm but by the time I got back to my cubicle, it cooled down. Initially, I was disappointed not to get sushi rice, but it turns out the brown rice is my favourite. Nutty and firm, it adds a nice chew and contrast to the softness of the fish.
Step three – pick your sides. Cucumber, jalapeños, sweet onions, red cabbage, and for extra avocado ($1.50), crab ($1.50) and crab n cado ($2.00). I picked cucumber, sweet onions and red cabbage. I was informed that the crab was a bit like a crab salad.
Step four – pick any two scoops of albacore tuna, salmon, octopus or ahi tuna. An extra scoop will set you back $2.00. Kona was out of ahi tuna, but I could still get tuna and salmon. Next time, I’d add an extra scoop of seafood, just because I’d like a piece of fish in every bite.
Step five – add your sauce. Options include: Kona ponzu, maple miso, lava and spicy mayo. I asked what was in the lava but it was pretty loud and all I got was awesome. I added the Kona ponzu, lava and spicy mayo.
Step six – stack it up with crunchy peas, ginger, sesame seeds, furkikae, green onion, wasabi and masago. Unfortunately, Kona was out of crunch peas. I added everything but ginger.
I mixed up all the ingredients and quickly devoured my delicious bowl of goodies. The ingredients and sauces melded well together. For $11, I thought Kona offered good value for fresh, healthy, personalized fast food. In the future, I’d love to see fresh seaweed salad as a topping. As this was Kona’s first week, I completely understand that they ran out of ingredients. I’m a fan and plan on bringing more of my office mates to try the ahi tuna poke. Next on our foodie list – Poke and Vitality Tap.
L’s best friend S and his wife E wanted to go on a couples’ trip, without their children. Okay with us, as we are childless. We picked San Diego because we heard there’s a lot to do and flights were affordable. Throughout the whole trip, L and E made references to Three’s Company, as the show was supposedly based in San Diego.
Come and knock on our door. We’ve been waiting for you. Where the kisses are hers and hers and his, three’s company too.
Come and dance on our floor. Take a step that is new. We’ve a lovable space that needs your face, three’s company too.
You’ll see that life is a ball again and laughter is calling for you. Down at our rendezvous, three is company, too.
The Airbnb condo I picked was right under a plane route, located minutes away from the airport. Planes would roar by every five minutes. After a couple of days, we adjusted to the noise.
The local grocery stores around sold a six-pack of Leffe beer for only $10.00! Holy smokes. Back home, Highlander sells it for $20.00. I told L I couldn’t believe it was cheap. There must be something wrong with it, like maybe it was non alcoholic. I was wrong. It tasted just like the $20.00 beer I drink at home.
Based on Yelp reviews, I checked out Artisian Bento for a late lunch. When I walked up to the counter, I asked for poke but I mispronounced it, as in “I will poke you” rather than “po-kay”. The youngish Asian American female stood there and looked at me like I just spoke to her in foreign language. I really wanted the po-kay and the silence was getting longer and more awkward, so I pointed to the dish on the menu and said slowly, “I want that one”.
The complimentary miso soup was flavourful and packed with seaweed, soft bits of potato and other goodies. One of the best miso soups I’ve tried. The po-kay was cut up in small little pieces, silky in a light sesame sauce. The mixed grain rice was perfectly cooked, parts of the rice was covered with a delectable savoury sauce. The bowl was filled with greens, beyond the generic carrot and romaine genre, and garnished with ripe avocado slices. The chef behind the counter was nice (and a great cook) and said bye when we left. We thanked the disgruntled woman at the counter, but she didn’t look up from her iPhone. She’s really not helping stereotypes.
We walked around Balboa Park and then headed to Little Italy. We stopped by Bolt Brewery as it was busy and seemed like a good spot with the breeze flowing through the open windows. L found the freshly brewed beer flat. I ordered white wine by the tap, which was only $7.00 for a large pour. The pizza we ordered ($15) was freshly made, but bland. The chicken was dry and tasted like it was the pre-packaged sandwich meat. Still hungry, I ordered the baked wings. Some of the wings were meaty, some small, but all soggy. I heard you can’t find a bad restaurant in Little Italy. I wonder if they have tried the food at Bolt.
When L’s friends finally arrived, I picked ALTITUDE Sky Lounge for the view of the city. I didn’t mind the crowd but S and L didn’t like it. There were people dressed like they were going to prom and pretty much everything in between. The age group varied from junior prom to middle-aged.
I ordered a Redbull with Titos vodka and our bartender free poured. Truly a wondrous thing. M ordered a a Moscow Mule, which was off-the-wall good. M couldn’t finish her drink so I gulped it down. I would have stayed longer but L and S did not care for the scene.
E were hungry at this point and want something to eat. We wandered over to Underbelly in Little Italy, based on our Uber driver’s recommendation. We all ordered bowls of ramen and bao sliders. I found the sliders bland. The meat in the baos weren’t particularly tasty either.
The noodles in the ramen was a little soggy, but I found the pork tender and the broth flavourful. The ramen did it’s trick, our bellies were full and soaked up all that alcohol.
The next morning we Ubered over to Pacific Beach and walked along the long stretch of beach. We checked out Mission Beach Coffee Break. I noticed all the customers were ordering acai bowls. I think acai is an “it” food in San Diego. We waited 15 minutes for our bacon, cheese and egg bagel. I found the egg omelette overcooked, but a couple of packets of hot sauce livened up the sandwich.
We stopped by a local bar for beer and then headed back to Little Italy to another brewery, Ballast Point. At this point, I had a raging headache and I was so hungry I walked over to a 7/11 and bought Advil and a $2.00 chicken burger. I should have known better, the chicken burger was vile. The chicken and bun was mushy and tasted like soft foamy plastic. I took two bites, threw it away and headed back to the pub.
I really liked this Ballast Point. You walk up to the front and order from their large selection of beers. The place was packed the entire time.
We ordered duck nachos, fries and pretzel bites. The food is delicious and incredibly fattening. The fries were triple cooked, the exterior battered and crunchy. The duck nachos were drenched in a cream sauce and blue cheese. I would have returned again, but S said he didn’t want to go to the same place twice.
That night we went to Cornado Island. Our Uber driver was more like a tour guide, giving us the history of San Diego. The Americans really value their military. All along the streets, houses were decorated with their national flag. E told us in Dallas, people will get up and give their table away if a solider is waiting for a table. At functions, the MC will often announce the arrival of soldiers.
We waited over an hour to get into a Mexican restaurant our Uber driver recommended, Miguel’s Cocina. You would think that a long line-up would indicate the food at the restaurant is good. The food was what you expect from a buffet at a four star resort in Mexico. Our server was pretty bad. You could tell he did not want to be there. When S started alpha dogging our server, we knew it was time to go.
The next day was the best. We Ubered over to the Hillcrest Farmers Market. It’s an open air market filled with craft stalls, produce, baked good and ready to eat food. I opted for uni ($10) from Poppas Fresh Fish Company. The uni was cracked open and washed right in front of me. The sea urchin was quite delicate, foam-like and tasted a bit like oysters. Other people kept coming up to ask me if I liked it. This also happens when I’m at a Chinese banquet with other non-Asians. Everyone asks me questions like I’m an expert, as the food is exotic to them. I like the attention and even if I don’t know, I’ll make up an answer. The one time people listen to me. I’ll take it, I’m not proud.
One of the best things I ate on this trip was spicy tuna pokay from the San Diego Poke Company. The tuna tasted super fresh and the spicy creamy sauce made my hair tingle. It wasn’t a large portion, but it was filling. The seaweed, the seasoning and the rice was perfect.
We walked around the city, checking out Balboa Park and museums. We dropped into a cafe to drink a pitcher of $10 mimosa. I couldn’t believe it was so cheap, I figured it had to be non-alcoholic prosecco. I’m wrong again, it was real! I could feel my face turning pink.
S picked the restaurant for our last night, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens-Liberty Station. We sat at our table for hours, drinking and eating the night away. Highlights include the duck tacos and that delicious, sweet corn salad.
The next day, we took Uber one last time to the airport. Surprisingly, I enjoyed my last meal at the airport. Hello Calgary, are you paying attention? Get your act together so I can stop bringing my own meals when I fly out of YYC.
I drank champagne from Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar. The gentleman serving us was old-school cool. He paused dramatically and told us to “wait for it” as the cork popped high above our heads. Then we headed over to Phil’s BBQ. The BBQ Broham sandwich was delicious. The pulled pork was tender and had the most deletable sauce. Next time, I want to try the onion rings, which everyone else was ordering.
I like San Diego. The city is clean, safe and walkable. The only thing I’ll complain about is the exchange rate, but that’s not the city’s fault. I’m planning a trip to Seattle with my best friend Beep Beep this summer. Hopefully by then, the Canadian dollar will pick up. I don’t want to eat at McDonald’s the entire time.