February 2010

Food: Las Vegas and Travels28 Feb 2010 06:09 pm


Credit: Rob LaRosa

I’m gone to Las Vegas until Friday. With so much going on at work (Olympics! Bacon stories! Photo contests!) and in my personal life (gown fittings! menu planning! not to mention Heavy Rain coming out on the PS3!) this trip kind of snuck up on me.

I’ve left the laptop behind, but I’ll try Tweeting from my cell when possible. I would leave a list of planned restaurant visits, but to be honest: I have no idea what lies ahead. Normally I have a list of restaurants longer than my arm to bring with me, but this time it’s all in my head. We’ll see what I get to. (Hoping for Sage at Aria, high tea at the Mandarin Oriental and late night snacks at Raku, though.)

Food and Food: Home Cookin'28 Feb 2010 03:03 am

I have the pleasure of scanning the cover of most books that are reviewed or given away in the Journal. The historical biographies, fitness manuals, novels, self-help books all cross my desk at some point or another. My favourites are obviously the cookbooks.

I pulled a recipe for brie + caramelized onion stuffed scones from one called “Savoury Baking” a few months ago. Ever since, I have been experimenting with fillings. Recently when I found myself at Sunterra, I felt inspired by the luxury ingredients and loaded up on balsamic fig spread, Westphalian ham and brie.

I’m off for a few days of travel, but I’ll see if I can’t post the recipe when I get back. The filling possibilities are endless.

Food: Edmonton15 Feb 2010 12:28 pm

Evan, a friend, has been really hot for Korean food lately. He came back a while ago from a year abroad of working in the Philippines, and ate Korean food there a lot. He’d heard good things about B-Bim-Baab, so we trucked over to check it out.

The eatery has lived in Edmonton for more than 30 years but was rechristened as B-Bim-Baab a few years ago. The decor has not changed, though. Let me tell you, this place is OLD. SCHOOL.

The scent of WD-40 or very strong cleaning products hung in the air when we entered, and it was kind of off-putting. Dark wood encased enclaves servings as booths reminded me of an old school steakhouse. It’s kind of purpose serving though; I’m sure the nearby industrial businesses that supply the lunch crowd don’t care about decor on their quick visits.

We started with some seasonal appetizers; peanuts in soy and pickled radishes alongside traditional sesame dressed bean sprout salad and kimchi. The two spicy pickled dishes had a real kick to them, so I metered small bites of them with the light bean sprout salad and the curiously chewy peanuts I could not get enough of.

We all got a dish and shared. The servings were generous, but we all left just full enough with no leftovers. Mike got spicy beef bul-gol-gi and Evan a spicy tofu and beef soup that I think was called yuk gae jang. I found both of these dishes a bit spicy for my liking, but I cooled my mouth with my dish.

I got the dolsot b-bim-baab, a mixed rice dish also known as bibimbap. The dolsot means “hot pot” which refers to the stone cauldron the dish comes in.

The waitress brought it over and asked if I wanted it mixed for me. I nodded yes, and after a generous squirt of hot sauce, she started mixing. The raw egg sitting on top cooked as it hit the side of the bowl, mixing with rice, bean sprouts, green onion, carrot and beef. As the dish sits, it keeps the contents hot and crisps up the rice so it gets crunchy.

Mike said he was happy to have an alternative spicy food to Indian or Thai when he was craving the hot stuff, and I have to agree.

There aren’t very many options for Korean cuisine in Edmonton, but I’m glad to say that B-Bim-Baab seems to be a good choice…even if I did get a case of MSG dry mouth after. Sigh.

9543 42 Ave
Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm
Sat noon-10pm
Buffet at lunch 11:30-2pm, Mondays through Friday.

Food: Edmonton08 Feb 2010 08:22 pm

My brother, ever a whirlwind, blew into town from Kelowna this weekend. I immediately insisted we go dress shopping in Sherwood Park. My TRUE motive was to get him to go to Cafe Haven with me, though.

I first read about Cafe Haven on foodiesuz’s website and have stored it away in my brain for my  next visit to the bedroom community of Sherwood Park. I often go to Costco there, and you know what they say about shopping on an empty stomach!

I must confess cafes in Edmonton (other than Sugarbowl, da capo or Tesoro) turn me off. I think of schizophrenic menus, glass cases half full of stale baked goods and sad cups of coffee when I think cafe here. Hence, I went into Cafe Haven with a cautious approach.

cafe haven

Cafe Haven’s glass cases were full of deliciousness!

cafe haven

My concerns were unwarranted.

This little cafe has it goin’ on. In the community where I imagine Starbucks and Second Cup are the norm for caffeine junkies, Cafe Haven was bumping. Located in a strip mall in the space of a former bank (there is even an old vault), it is full of eclectic decorations and furniture, and features a limited but focused menu (lunch fare, mostly) and helpful staff. I totally agree with foodiesuz/Susan’s sentiments about most coffee shop menus being disjointed and all over the place. That said: Haven nails all the good stuff.

cafe haven

We both got sandwiches and I got a London Fog to drink. There were many other things that piqued my interest: nachos (!), pumpkin pie, hummus, soup. Their menu changes for the autumn/winter seasons and then again for spring and summer. There is also brunch (the menu changes weekly), catering… it’s a wonder cafe!


The brunch menu is taped up, but also updated online. They will be having a Valentines Day brunch as well.

My London Fog came out quickly and was, hands down, one of the best I have ever had. Along with a nutmeg-y sugar blend, there were curls of orange peel on top of the rich foam, adding a citrus brightness to the creamy tea blend. I do regret not getting a latte though; their latte art is beautiful and their beans are from Transcend.

cafe haven london fog



Grilled pumpkin feta pesto spinach panini. The pumpkin was odd, but amazing. It just worked. My brother got chicken brie. He found the brie a bit sloppy and gooey, but otherwise the sandwich was delicious.

While we visited midday, they are open for dinner as well and are licensed. They had a posting for a short story slam, and while normally I might scoff at such things, I thought it was a good idea for a great space.

I will definitely be back, maybe as soon as for Valentines Day brunch.

Lunch for two with two drinks was about $22, and on my brother. Thanks Tory!

Cafe Haven
9 Sioux Road
Sherwood Park

Mon – Fri 8am – 9pm
Sat 9am – 6pm
Sun 10am – 4pm

oh. And just for fun…


bubble hems are not for me. 🙂

Food and Food: Edmonton03 Feb 2010 07:27 pm

zinc, edmonton

Side entrance to Zinc. You may also enter through the main foyer of the AGA.

On Sunday January 31, the Art Gallery of Alberta reopened after being closed for nearly five years of renovations. The new building made a lot of promises: more gallery space, better exhibits, a stunning exterior and new spaces for restaurants and cafes. Tuesday February 2 marked the first day of operations of the flagship restaurant, Zinc. (Or is that ZIИC?)

Naturally, I have been excited about Zinc for sometime. Working where I do l afforded me the ability to see a lot of behind the scenes photos as things were put together going up to the big day, and doing a site tour of the Art Gallery of Alberta as a possible wedding venue amped up the excitement even more.

Visiting on the first day of a restaurant’s opening is a different experience, and not one necessarily recommended. Service may lack smoothness, menus could be in the process of being tweaked and may not be complete yet, and everything is in a state of change and upheaval.

I attempted to make reservations earlier in the week on their online reservation system, but it wasn’t operational yet. It wasn’t clear what number I should call to reach the restaurant, but the woman manning the phones at the AGA’s main number put me through.

We arrived a bit late for the 7pm reservation, but were seated in a mostly empty restaurant. Perhaps we missed the dinner rush, or perhaps there was just less hype about the restaurant than I expected.

The room, and building, are stunning. Some have criticized the design to be a non-Gehry designed Frank Gehry style building, and there are definite similarities, but the building is stunning nonetheless…especially when compared to the building before. Many people walking by stopped to peer in and more than once a car slowed to a crawl outside as the occupants stared as the impressive curvy zinc facade.

The restaurant itself has soaring zinc ceilings, with large ENORMOUS windows. Sitting near them, it was not chilly at all, however. Cool blue light accents the metallic accessories which is equalized by a warm yellow glow from candles and the bell tower at nearby City Hall. It’s a very industrial room, but also cozy due to carefully placed dividers and a gorgeous Douglas Fir wall. The view is quite captivating as it overlooks the square and City Hall, and I imagine in the summer it will be a great place to grab a drink before attending a festival or event in Churchill Square.

After we were seated our (very) green waitress asked us if it was our first visit to the restaurant which amused me a great deal. She was definitely still learning the ropes, but was careful to do things the right way in a restaurant of this calibre, like serve from the right and switch out cutlery after each course.

The menu was an abbreviated version of what is to come, and is expected to change seasonally, according to sommelier and maitre d’ Claude Fournier. He came around twice to see how we liked our meals, and took our thoughts and concerns very seriously. It’s nice to get someone who cares about the answer when they ask the question. Claude also said that Chef David Omar and him hope to have dishes which reflect the different exhibits in the gallery at that time. I’m excited a restaurant in Edmonton (other than the Blue Pear) will focus on a varied rotating menu. Although he is not a beer fan (“I cannot stand the yeast,” Claude said) he hopes to do beer pairing as well at some point.

zinc, edmonton

zinc, edmonton

At first glance, it seemed that there was a lot going on in the menu. I saw a lot of food trend buzzwords like foam, gelee and the like. I was also alarmed by the amount of flavours appearing on a single dish. For instance, the fois gras ballotine. However, they were all variations on anise, and it really worked in the end. There were only three appetizers plus a soup and five mains available to order. Later, two desserts (which we had to pass on.)

There is also a large cocktail list with some interesting libations available, and a selection of Alberta beers, but all in the bottle.

zinc, edmonton

zinc, edmonton

Our amuse bouche was served in a tiny coffee cup and was an extremely cold, extremely bland cream cheese avocado “pudding” with ginger. Thank god for the overly zingy ginger, because there was NOTHING going on in this otherwise. It did not amuse my mouth at all.

zinc, edmonton

The housemade butter was angelic. Fennel with spring onion and fleur de sel. It was served with brioche baked in house.

zinc, edmonton

Foie gras appetizer. A slice of foie gras with salted licorice caramel ice cream, black sambuca gelee, coriander apple with salad and brioche toast. As I mentioned previously, this dish sounded all over the map, like there was too much going on. Turns out: it was pretty good! The saltiness balanced well with the sweetness and the anise flavours just worked with the foie gras. The brioche provided just enough crunch for the creamy foie gras.

zinc, edmonton
My dish was less successful. I had the beet salad. The Good: the presentation (like a salad painting!), the parsnip goat cheese puree, fresh carrot juice as a palate cleanser and rose honey reduction. The Bad: Rose honey reduction was hidden on the bottom of my salad, creating an unbalanced sticky glop of flavour as my greens disappeared and the beet “carpaccio” was kind of ridiculous. They’re just raw beets. And they were hard to cut. In addition the beets that were supposed to be roasted were not and were mostly crisp and hard as well.

zinc, edmonton

“Taste of Alberta” main. At $44 this was the most expensive item on the menu. It featured (left to right) bison short ribs, caribou and a saskatoon berry sausage on a bed of braised red cabbage, artichokes and gnocchi. On top, a drizzle of spice chocolate sauce. To put it lightly, disappointing. While the short ribs were toothsome and savoury and moist, the sausage was dry, as was the caribou. How dry? This dry:
zinc, edmonton

This caribou does NOT look succulent.

zinc, edmonton

zinc, edmonton

Wild Alberta pickerel with pickled mushrooms, edamame, beets and warm potato espuma.

I waffled on a main, but finally went with fish. I just HAD to know what “potato espuma” was. I was pleasantly surprised by this dish; it really knocked it out of the park. The pickled mushrooms perked up what is a relatively plain, light fish, and the glorified mashed potatoes just worked. Espuma is supposed to be more of a foam, but this is more of a light creamy mash. Menu error? I was left wanting more; the serving size was adequate but I just wanted to taste more.

zinc, edmonton
zinc, edmonton
zinc, edmonton

I will have to return before I make any firm decisions, but this first visit left me wanted more of the good and less of the bad. I sense great things in the making, though, so I will remain hopeful and try to not judge before they are fully operational.

Dinner for two (two courses each), with one beer ran about $130.

Liane Faulder wrote a preview about Zinc in the Journal a few weeks ago: Zinc offers beautiful food, by design

Zinc at the Art Gallery of Alberta
Open for lunch and dinner service everyday but Monday
Sunday Brunch is also served
online reservations also available