May 2009


Food and Food: Edmonton21 May 2009 04:09 pm

At work Bistro writer Liane Faulder has been doing monthly food tours of little areas of Edmonton. Some are a given, such as Little Italy (this one is to come), but some focus on lesser known areas.

Here’s a microsite with the tours done thus far, including Alberta Avenue (118 Avenue), 124th Street and Little Lebanon. The pieces are mixed focusing on groceries, restaurants and specific recipes, explained through written pieces, video, galleries and soundslide. More are to come! edmontonjournal.com/foodtours.

Food and Food: Edmonton17 May 2009 12:31 pm

Just two quick hits on some delicious desserts this past week.

Mike and I had a quick late night snack at Cactus Club Cafe earlier in the week. It’s reminiscent of a classier Moxies or Earls, with slightly better food. The key lime pie, however, was amazing. The server (who was knowledgeable and personable) said 160 limes go into one pie and that the whipped cream was hand whipped. The texture was not gelatinous, but creamy and smooth, with a nice crunch from the graham cracker crust. I would return just for this pie.

Cactus Club Cafe key lime pieCactus Club Cafe’s Key Lime Pie, $7.75
Yes, we both got a slice. We both love limes, but Mike probably loves them a bit more. This was proven in a lime eating contest he once participated in. My mouth puckers just at the memory of that.

Then, last night, instead of dinner we got gelato at DaCapo Caffe. It was just like I imagined living on my own would be when I was a kid. Ice cream for dinner!

This gelato is legendary in Edmonton. Antonio Bilotta first started making it at Leva, a cafe not far from DaCapo. When he sold Leva and moved into DaCapo, the gelato recipe and techniques followed, and may have gotten better.

I have to admit I’ve never had “real” Italian gelato from an actual Italy-based purveyor, but if it is better than Bilotto’s, I cannot even conceive of how good it must be. They tend to have a good mix of fruit and traditional flavours. Thankfully it was a bit later in the evening and the gelato case was nearly empty, making deciding on flavours easier.

DaCapo gelato

DaCapo gelato

DaCapo’s gelato, 2 scoops $5.50, 3 scoops $6.50
The server really piled on the gelato for Mike. In fact, he gave Mike such a large serving other patrons remarked at its size. He got mint, cinnamon and malaga (a variation of rum raisin). I had blackberry piled on Fior di Latte, a milk-based flavour. The texture was so creamy and delicious.

DaCapo also offers pizzas, sandwiches, salads, housemade granola, all kinds of espresso based drinks, wines and various unusual biscotti flavours as well. I heard the cafe has also recently acquired a new chef from France, who is busily creating pastries and cakes. I saw a few new creations in the cooler, including a decadent multilayer chocolate cake and a few tarts.

DaCapo is CASH ONLY.

Food14 May 2009 10:07 am

foodstyling

Capturing food in photography is difficult. I really enjoy trying to do it, even if it’s not that great most times. It’s hard when you’re cooking and your hands are wet and food is flying and something is burning…but so much easier when things are plated and beautiful.

That is, if the lighting is good…

Anyhow, someone I know that does a good job photographing food is my friend C. He’s stationed in London at the moment and photographs the food on his girlfriend’s blog, Curiosity and the Cupcake. Another person is Max Wanger. Part of his contact sheet is seen above. You can see the rest of his portfolio here.

There are lots of tips and tricks floating around, but my main ones are using natural light when possible, and utilizing the macro setting on my camera. Then eating immediately, before it gets cold.

General12 May 2009 09:57 pm

night rallyPhoto by Ryan Jackson.

As I may have written before, I stumbled upon my current job by pure chance two years ago. I saw it listed in the newspaper one day. Naturally, this came a few days after my decision to quit all my jobs and focus on school. Look what that got me; a ten year degree turned into twelve.

Sigh.

Anyhow, my job is awesome. I still find myself thrilled to ride the elevator up in the mornings, and to interact with all the people there, deal with breaking (and slow) news days.

But the best part is constantly being inspired by my co-workers. Ryan Jackson is one; he’s our new(est) media/photog/tech guy extraordinaire. He has taught me how to make interactive panoramic photos and use Final Cut to edit videos among other things. He’s been at the Journal for slightly less time than I have been, and is our youngest photographer on staff.

But, I’m just sounding like a fan girl to hype this really cool project he did on a night rally race near Calgary. He’s the McGuyver of the office, and is always drilling/gluing/engineering something new. Check out the way he mounted a camera to the top of a car to record the rally. He’s totally into time lapses at the moment, and there is a super cool one in the works right now…

Edmonton Journal: Rally not about speed
Ryan Jackson: Behind the scenes of the Murlark rally

Food and Food: Edmonton11 May 2009 08:09 am

Sage is an Edmonton restaurant I’m very fond of. While some people find the fact it is in a casino it off-putting, I love that it is where it is. No wonder, given how much I enjoy Las Vegas!

The River Cree was actually designed by a Las Vegas-based design group, so the layout is a bit different from the other casinos in town. It’s circular, with the various restaurants and rooms spinning off like spokes on a wheel. There is a natural mountain-y wood & stone decorating theme throughout the casino that spills over into Sage.

People on Chowhound are concerned with the casino being a distraction or irritating, but I do not feel it is. Sure, you could notice the casino action if you really paid attention, but the restaurant is insulated against it and, thankfully, also protected against the smoke that permeates areas of the casino floor.

After dining here three times, I can officially say Sage is one of my favourite restaurants in town and hope it is here to stay. Mike and I visited to celebrate my freedom from school, and with the knowledge that Chef David Cruz recently made some menu changes. He has been introducing some dishes with Asian influence, and bringing in a prix fixe menu. At $45, it’s a great deal for three courses that appear to change regularly.

There are some other bargains to be had, such as Thursday night’s 50% off steak option (sorry, does not include the $60 Kobe-style ribeye) or the $18.88 Lobster Sundays.

Hendricks martini

I had a cucumber infused Hendrick’s gin  martini.

Sage Oyster Platter

Oyster platter for $18. Village Bay and Malpeque varieties. The Malpeques were meaty and succulent, but the Village Bay oysters were the stars. Sweet, lots of liquor and a bit chewy. Later, I saw a woman eating an entire platter herself, and it’s no wonder; these were good.

sagelamb

For a main, I had the rack of lamb with black beluga lentils. The lentils were nutty, and very crisp. I couldn’t get enough, and will try to find some on my next trip to the States or to one of the Indian grocers on 34 Avenue.

The glass plate I found…80s inspired. It was also different from Mike’s plain white dish, below:

Sage kobe rib-eye

This is Mike’s Kobe ribeye. On all three visits, this is the dish he has ordered, even after mulling other dishes over. This buttery, tender steak is decadent and delicious, so I’m not surprised it is his old standby.

I could be wrong, but this is the only restaurant in Edmonton I know of that serves a Kobe (style) steak regularly. Other places, such as the Century Hospitality Group restaurants: Lux, delux burger bar, Century Grill & Hundred, serve dishes made with ground Kobe (burgers, meatballs) as do Ruth’s Chris and Bistecca’s wine bar.

We ordered two side dishes. There are some new “small plate” features as starters, but it was too much with the oysters. Next visit!

sagefries

sagebeans

We ordered two sides, a “raft” of truffled french fries and a new item, Szechuan green beans. Although the fries are steak-cut, they were still crispy, and not soggy or greasy. Just the right amount of bite outside and fluffy inside.

The green beans made my mouth tingle with their Szechuan pepper. Liane Faulder wrote that Chef Cruz recently returned from a trip to China, and I think this is one of his “souveniers” from the trip.

sagedessert

We finished with Peanut Praline & Chocolate Mousse Bar, garnished with hazelnut caramel & bananas brulée. The praline was in the mousse and crackled when you ate it. The bananas helped tone down the richness of the dessert.

The service continues to get better each visit. Previous visits felt a bit pretentious and stiff because of the service, but this last visit felt comfortable and unforced, and moved more like an well-oiled machine. I even saw Chef Cruz pop out into the dining room!

Sage at the River Cree
300 East Lapotac Blvd, Enoch, Alberta.
(take Whitemud Drive West past Anthony Henday, and follow to the casino :: directions)
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Saturday 6 pm – 10 pm
Sundays  5:30 pm – 9 pm

Food and Food: Home Cookin'10 May 2009 06:36 pm

Mike’s sister Kim has been away for nearly a year, WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms; you work on a farm, in return for room and board) in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. Shortly before she left, she made the plunge and took on the vegan lifestyle. To welcome her home, Mike made a huge vegan spread, and I made a vegan cake.

Predictably, there were a lot of lentils. Lots.  The dishes were mostly Indian, except for two lentil dishes which were Ethiopian. Dishes included brown mustard seed cauliflower, okra curry, kik alicha and a variation on misir wot. To accompany, fresh roti.

okra
Okra is SO delicious! We used fresh, but if you find it hard to get, frozen is okay.

vegspread

Mmmm, fresh roti.

vegspread2

I bought some rhubarb stalks last week, maybe thinking I would make rhubarb strawberry muffins. Instead, I used the stalks in a vegan rhubarb coffee cake. It was my first time baking anything vegan, and I can say a few things put me off, as they weren’t my normal mode of baking. Vegan baking obviously doesn’t allow use of animal fats, so butter, milk and eggs are out. Instead, recipes tend to use things like applesauce and oil in place of animal fats. Pouring a whole cup of oil into the cake batter kind of turned my stomach, even though it’s really no different than butter.

The cake took a LONG time to bake. The recipe said an hour, but I think my choice of pan made leaving the cake in for nearly two hours necessary. When I popped it out of the pan, it looked…gelatinous and underdone. The middle started to collapse (again, possibly from pan choice or from all my cake testing during the baking) and it turned out to be more of a rhubarb crumble instead of cake.

I used safflower oil, so the oil choice was a bit healthier than a regular canola  oil. The addition of flax seeds helped add texture and nutrition. The cake was pretty delicious, and far exceeded my expectations.

vegcake1

vegcake1

Very rhubarb-y filling!

vegcake1

Upside down view shows kind of a weird bottom, which was very moist and almost gelatinous. Baking it in a different pan would have helped avoid that, I think.

Vegan Rhubarb Crumble / Coffeecake

Adapted from KimmyKokonut.

Crumb topping

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon safflower (or canola) oil

Cake ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground
  • 3 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons applesauce (I bought a jar of organic baby food applesauce since I needed so little)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup safflower (or canola) oil
  • 4 cups rhubarb stems, medium dice
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and get out your 9×13″ pan or 2 loaf pans.
  2. Grind flax seeds, and whisk with water and set aside.
  3. Make crumb topping: Mix flour, sugar and spices in a small bowl and mix together (whisk, fork, fingers) while drizzling oil in. Once it becomes crumb-y, set it aside. You may need to add more/less oil.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together applesauce, sugar, molasses, oil and flax & water mix.
  5. In a separate, larger, bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and cardamom.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until JUST combined.
  7. Fold in rhubarb and pour into pan(s). Top with crumbs.
  8. Bake for one hour or until a knife inserted comes out clean. (I had to bake mine for nearly 2 hours)
  9. Cool on a wire rack. This would be great with soy ice cream.
Food and Food: Edmonton07 May 2009 01:55 pm

Seeing that I was fully ensconced in coursework throughout April, I haven’t really been out to eat much. We’ve gone to our usual haunts: King Noodle, Habesha Ethiopian and Sunbake Pita Bakery a few times, but I have not been able to spare more than an hour to a really relaxed meal.

However, we did try two places new to us recently, as things were winding down for me. Karma Indian Bistro & Wine Bar (in the old house that La Tapa lived in at 10523 99 Avenue NW) and Wildflower Grill.

Karma was a pleasant surprise. We popped in at close to 10:30pm on a Friday night, after plans to visit Cactus Club Cafe fell through. (Their kitchen is open late, but they were quite busy when we called.)

The decor is very dark and has the feel of being in someone’s private library/wine cellar. They are definitely passionate about wine…but how was the food?

Wonderful, to be honest. We got a a grill platter for two, with some paranthas. A mini grill was delivered to the table (in case we wanted some extra grilled flavour, the server said) and the selection of meats on the platter was varied and delicious.

Huge succulent shrimp, tender fish, savoury lamb and some kebabs. It was some time before our meal came out, but there were two large groups in the restaurant, the server told us. Oddly, our paranthas were a few minutes behind the grill platter, but the mini grill kept things hot. Mike visited the buffet a few days later and said the roti and naan came fresh to the table and the buffet platters were not soggy dregs. This is a solid choice for those working downtown, I think.

Wildflower Grill was another last minute decision. I have been studying a fair bit at the Starbucks at the Matrix Hotel on 104 Street, which is next to the Wildflower. I had been wanting to go for some time, but it was hard to find a spare minute to go. We had plans to visit a new sushi restaurant (Maki Maki) south of Whyte Avenue, but did not go when we realized it combined both Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine, which was a turn off. We turned around and headed back downtown to Wildlflower Grill.

This place…this place surprised me. It was a place I had preconceived notions about, and that was part of the reason I haven’t eaten there in the year it has been open. It is owned by the group that runs L’Azia, a fusion mini-chain of low-rent Joey’s or Earl’s, which put me off since my experiences there have always been less than stellar.

wildflower grill interior

wildflower grill interior

Wildflower Grill is fabulous though. An amuse bouche (adding to the list of two other local restaurants I have had these at, The Blue Pear and Vic’s Steakhouse) was a pleasant surprise.

They also do an amazing brioche, with came with tiny triangles of two kinds of butter. I would have appreciated more butter, but to be honest the eggy brioche did not need it. It melted in my mouth.

wildflower grill brioche

The cooked to order brioche. This dish alone made me want to immediately return to sample brunch. It’s gotta be good.

wildamuse

Wildflower’s amuse bouche: tart berries offset the rich goose. A nice way to start.

Salmon medallions

Pan roasted sockeye salmon medallions stuffed with crab and lobster, served with scallops & shrimp in an ice wine emulsion. The little braising dish has butternut squash gnocchi in it. Not much squash to taste, but the texture was divine. The sauce came like that, so presentation wasn’t top notch, but I always feel bad breaking into a meal that pretty at first anyhow.

wilddessert

Meyer lemon extravaganza for dessert. Again, berries featured alongside meringue, lemon souffle, candied lemon and a vol au vent. I believe there was also a thyme flavoured tuille.

Salmon medallions for a main for me (another home run with seafood), sea bass for Mike, with a tasting of Meyer lemon souffle for dessert and a huge Bodum of fresh tea to end the meal. (with warmed cream!)

The prices are decent (on par with Culina and Vic’s, not as high as Characters or Hardware) but the romantic atmosphere and imaginative dishes make it worthwhile. I’m sad my work schedule prevents me from trying Sunday brunch, but it would be a good place to sample without dropping a lot on dinner.

Service was in general great, except for the “do you want change” question at the end. Why is that always nails on a chalkboard to me?

Wildflower Grill
10009 107 Street (at the Matrix Hotel)
Hours vary

Food and Food: Edmonton06 May 2009 10:22 pm

On a visit to Dream Tea House (the location off Whyte Ave) today, I noticed they have switched to extended summer hours. They also had some tantalizing new specials, including fresh strawberry juice and the “Carnation” which was made just for Mother’s Day. It’s peach juice, yogurt milk with lychee jelly and tapioca pearls. Yum! After a few moments of indecisiveness, I decided to get the strawberry juice.

I have updated the hours on my Dream Tea menu page.

General05 May 2009 04:25 pm

April was pretty hellish, people. But it has come and gone and I’m better for it…I think. Still waiting to hear back to see if some marks made it to the registrars office in time for convocation assessment for this year’s ceremony, but I’m done my coursework. FOREVER.

It would seem that one of my favourite songstresses has also completed a degree. Sarah Slean just completed her music degree at the U of T!  She writes on April 23:

…glorious celestial voices rising together in heavenly chorus… I AM DONE! Last exam completed at 12pm today. Having resisted the urge to moon the Faculty of Music, I am officially, totally done! The proud owner of a university degree that took ten years to earn, bit by teeny bit! Hallelujah!

On that note, if you see happened to someone mooning the Bio Sci building at the U of A on the night of Thursday April 30… it wasn’t me.

Food and Food: Edmonton04 May 2009 09:21 pm

key lime cupcakes naked

A previous batch of my cupcakes. There were the unfrosted naked bases for some key lime cupcakes. I filled them with lime curd and frosted them with a citrus buttercream.

It only took four+ years, but cupcakes have arrived in Edmonton. They existed before in small strip malls around the city, but have popped up on Whyte Avenue this year, signaling their true arrival to the masses. I had the fortune to be able to try some from Flirt! today (for free! shhh!)

I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with my “Wild on Whyte”, which was chocolate with strawberry frosting. Medium sized, which is how I prefer my cupcakes, not the enormous ones at Crave in Calgary or Bouchon in Las Vegas. For the price ($2.95ea) I can see people wanting something a bit bigger.

Chocolate base was moist, but had a distinct box cake texture and flavour, and was quite salty. They may be “baked from scratch” but I am not completely convinced. The frosting was quite nice, fluffy and flavourful, but not in the fake way. Overall, kind of plain. No photo since there was only crumbs. I inhaled it in a stressed moment at work, leaving smears of buttery icing and chocolate crumbs all over my desk, and face.

I actually have the exact opposite opinion of Premee’s assessment! Either way, I’m so pleased I have the free time to start making my own again, though. Kelly’s cupcake of the month club, anyone?