Food: Edmonton


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!

haven7

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

haven4

haven5

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…

dress

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
780.392.2501
online reservations also available

Food: Edmonton11 Jan 2010 04:04 pm

tony's pretzel

People have long argued over what kind of pizza is better: thin crust or deep dish. I’m of the opinion that the best is thin crust, which is why I love Edmonton-based Tony’s Pizza Palace. I try not to eat it too often, but probably average once a month. While they do fantastic pizzas, the pasta that comes out of the kitchen is rustic and satisfying. But best of all: the Italian pretzel.

For $7.95, this is no wimpy snack. I wouldn’t even characterize it as an appetizer, since if you ate even a quarter of it with a salad or soup, it would be a full blown meal. When I want something crispy, chewy, salty and spicy, this is what I crave.

Tony’s crust is what keeps me going back, and this takes that dough, twists and swirls it, tops it with garlic, spices, anchovies and olive oil and bakes it. God, it is good. I’m fantasizing now as I write about it.

IMG_6973

Food: Edmonton10 Jan 2010 06:19 pm

bulk barn edmonton

bulk barn edmonton

I know, I know. I’m late to the party on this one. But I have spent most of December either locked down because of the cold or because the video game Fallout 3 is ruling my life, and I have been sitting on this post. But I’ll tell you right now, if you enjoy baking or just like having access to a huge selection of products, get your ass over to Bulk Barn now.

Many of you who are well-versed in Edmonton’s food are well aware of Bulk Barn and its opening in town. It is a Ontario-based chain that opened their first franchise in Edmonton in late November. My mom had just been singing the praises of the store on her trip through Lethbridge enroute to Montana in September and how good it was when she was in Thunder Bay. Well it is finally here.

So what makes it different than the already good bulk sections of Save On Foods and Superstore? For one, the selection. There are thousands of products here. They may not all be in rotation at the same point, as some products are seasonal, but there is a huge cross section of items. Second: everything is fresh, well stocked, and clean. Also, the items can be measured so that there is little waste when you use them, stopping products you use only a few times a year from going stale.  Lastly, the prices are amazing.

Don’t think the items are limited to just flour and spices, either. There are wet products, pet products, natural foods and supplements as well as specialty cake pans for rent, and baking tools.

As a baker, I went nuts buying specialty flour and ingredients. I also picked up a friend’s favourite hard to find snack: chocolate dipped jujubes, and mailed them to her in Calgary.  Ibought items for snacking on, for sharing at the office… and for eating in the car ride home.

bulk barn edmonton

Pet products, ranging from bird seed to dog food and hamster munchies. No crickets for MY pets though.

bulk barn edmonton

The wet bar features nut butters.

bulk barn edmonton

Nifty machine for corn syrup. This is where most of my ingredients for marshmallows came from. I was surprisingly accurate in measuring out the products, so there was little waste: something I was really happy about.

bulk barn edmonton

Pipette bag tips for icing and decorating.

bulk barn edmonton

Cake pans were a mere $1.99 a day (with deposit) and if you could think of it, they had it. (Well, mostly…)

bulk barn edmonton

Clean clean clean! It should also be mentioned there were a lot of bags, pencils and twist ties. No struggling with broken or missing pens. As a bonus, for those of you who do not like writing down numbers on tiny tags with tiny pencils, the staff will look up SKU codes at the checkout. You’ll save time if you do it yourself, though.

bulk barn edmonton

Of course, a huge selection of candy, including over 40 Christmas products for the season. These jawbreakers were the size of ping-pong balls.

bulk barn edmonton

bulk barn edmonton

Many MANY spices here.

bulk barn edmonton

Rainbow of sprinkles, and other baking decorations.

bulk barn edmonton

The best was that they had take-home directions for many products, such as buttermilk power and soya milk powder.

bulk barn edmonton

Nuts on sale. Ranging from regular dry roasted to specially flavoured and smoked.

bulk barn edmonton

More cooler wet bar products. Kind of industrial looking, but clean.

bulk barn edmonton

The offerings of just one aisle. I love that “health food” is down the same aisle as candy and chocolate.

bulk barn edmonton

Many gluten-free and restricted diet products here. A god send for those of you who find it hard to get these products, or if you find them pricey.

So, Bulk Barn is basically amazing. I can only describe it as turning up the volume on bulk foods. Take your average product, such as yogurt covered raisins and multiply it: suddenly there are yogurt covered cherries, blueberries and cranberries. You buy how much you need, they offer discounts to students and seniors, and you get coupons when you check out for use on future visits. I highly recommend the honey mustard pretzels by the way.

Other Edmonton food bloggers have long ago written about this place, including Chris over at Eating is the Hard Part.

Bulk Barn
2077 98 Street
(In South Edmonton Common, near Superstore and Bed Bath & Beyond)
(780) 461-4454

Food: Edmonton09 Jan 2010 07:16 pm

The Bothy is the new darling on the Edmonton food scene. I’ve been waiting a while for this place to open. The promise of charcuterie got me drooling! Seems it has filled a gap in the Edmonton market as the place has been packed on both visits I have paid.

We left for the restaurant late, knowing the kitchen was open until 10:30. It’s nice to have a late night dining option that isn’t fried Sysco food.

the bothy, edmonton

The location is odd, but not crazy. It is Edmonton, after all. It’s near a few clothing stores, a car dealership and wine store in a strip mall off Calgary Trail south. It seems to fit for the restaurant, as it is narrow and long, featuring a prominent glossy bar. It was shockingly humid in the restaurant that first visit; it must have something to do with the wine. It was nice to be very warm on a cold evening, though.

They feature a long living wine list and many kinds (90+) of whisky. While they did not have champagne by the glass when I first visited, they do now, including a decadent offering from Krug. They also pour two and five ounce glasses of wine from the Enomatic machine. Maybe this will be the place to finally learn about wine.

the bothy, edmonton
We started with a three item charcuterie platter. Many of the items are sourced in Alberta, but I was disappointed to see there were no Valbella products. Most products come via shops I already frequent, like the Italian Centre or Paddys Cheese, so this wasn’t as mind blowing as I had hoped. I’d love to see some housemade sausages or pâté find their way onto the menu.

Here: roquefort, smoked cheddar and pork rillettes. It came with some tiny dabs of condiments, some pesto on token greens and some very crusty, half cut bread. I found it hard to tear off pieces from the loaf, which sent crumbs skittering across the table.

the bothy, edmonton
Bread crumbs all over the table! They remained the entire meal, too. Oh well, it’s a casual joint.

the bothy, edmonton
In contrast to the long wine menu, the food menu is short. But, they know their strengths. They were sold out of haggis, so that left salad or housemade savoury pies. We followed up the charcuterie board with the pies. I got the outstanding tomato infused Provencal pie with creamy mashed potatoes.

the bothy, edmonton
The pastry was flaky and delicious, and definitely homemade.

the bothy, edmonton
Mike got steak and mushroom, with the soup of the day: tomato-bacon. It was the real standout at the meal. It was thick as tomato sauce, but rich and smoky in flavour. Very filling and satisfying.

I tried the salad on the next visit, which I can only describe as puzzling. It was spicy arugula with shavings of parm cheese and a very mild, lightly applied lemon vinaigrette. That’s it. Greens and cheese. For $11. So I can’t say I recommend their salads. There was definitely something lacking.

the bothy, edmonton
There was a lot of “mall art” in the space. Weird paintings featuring wine…and Marilyn Monroe. This one hadn’t made it up yet though. It was hiding in the wine room.
the bothy, edmonton

As we were preparing to leave, a familiar face from work stumbled in, my friend and fellow blogger Ben Gelinas. He and his friends got there after the kitchen closed, but ordered some whisky, including cracking this Glenfarclas 1979 which Andrew is holding. It runs $69 a serving. The bottle is a cool $1700.

Service was all over the map. Know that it can be incredibly busy, and it may take a while to get your order in. Chef Kevin Ostapek came out to greet us, and two of the three servers were on the ball..the third seemed to spend every spare minute fighting with the restaurant POS system.

Oh, and a word on the name. It is a reference to small shelter found in the wild areas of Scotland, meant to protect people against the elements or provide a restful refuge, if needed. I hope to find myself in need of refuge soon…

The Bothy
5482 Calgary Trail
780.761.1761
closed Mondays

Food: Edmonton and work (kinda)24 Dec 2009 11:01 am

After working at the Journal for a few Christmas seasons, I can tell you it has always been a challenge finding a restaurant for our department to have Christmas lunch at.

First, there are a number of palates to please. The Journal has 11 staff photographers, plus many freelancers and desk staff. It can be hard to find a place to suit everyone, in terms of taste and budget. Second, the photographers are educated eaters. They get to photograph and visit many restaurants on the job, know the hot spots, and can be trusted for their restaurant expertise if you need a place to go. Lastly, it’s hard to find good places near the office, which is our preference due to a crazy busy schedule. Last year we ate at The Hat. I suggested Hardware for lunch, but no one bit. 🙁

This year for the Christmas lunch we went with the old reliable: an Indian buffet. Karma Bistro has been in the space formerly occupied by La Tapa for some time now. Based on previous visits I can say their a la carte menu is strong, and it is a reasonably priced choice for Indian food in the downtown core.

karma indian, edmonton

Ryan and Candace fill up their plates.

karma indian, edmonton

The buffet was fresh when we arrived at 11:30, with a large variety of dishes. I saw fish amritsari, pakoras, butter chicken, daal bukhara, eggplant, two kinds of rice and a few other dishes, roughly 10 in total. Naan is delivered to the table (unbuttered, though) and there are various chutneys and desserts available.

I found the buffet items to be above average quality, even if some curries (the daal) were a bit thin. Nothing was too spicy, so don’t expect a sweat inducing, authentically Indian meal. The lamb was a bit fatty and cut haphazardly, but flavourful and tender. Vegetables were crisp and well spiced. Service has always been good there, I find. For $14.99, I think all 17 of us came away happy and with a full stomach.

It is a busy place at lunch, so I suggest reservations.

karma indian, edmonton

Afterwards, we looked at photos from the past year, naturally.

Karma Indian Bistro
10523 99 Avenue
(780) 498-2992

Food: Edmonton21 Dec 2009 02:35 pm

I debated visiting many restaurants for my birthday, even thinking as far afield as a return to Las Vegas. However, in the end practicality won out, and I stayed in Edmonton. While I considered old favourites Zaika, Habesha and Culina Highlands for dinner, I wanted to use the occasion to try someplace new. In the end, I settled on Hardware Grill.

When there is a discussion of good food in Edmonton, it is inevitable Hardware Grill pops up in the conversation. This long standing member of the Edmonton food scene has always been a front runner in cuisine in our city. However, until this month, I had never eaten there.

The restaurant opened in 1996 in one of Edmonton’s historic buildings, so named as it is in the location formerly occupied by the W.W. Arcade hardware store and Imperial Lumber store. The building, the Goodridge Block, opened in 1912. I had a very vivid memory of buying a copy of the game Jenga as a child at the location, which I thought was an Army & Navy. However, that seems to not be the case. Perhaps I just remember buying it up the street.

History aside, we arrived just on time to a busy restaurant for our Monday reservation in very cold weather and received a warm, casual greeting. Our table was in a private corner, just near enough to a large party of eight to feel included.

Initially I found the decor cozy, with a definite early 90s feel. Something about the colours and “loft” look, I think. After we had been sitting a while, I thought the decor was showing its age, however. Thinning carpets and squeaky chairs were evident. I enjoyed being able to see Jasper Avenue through the mesh blinds. Even at such frigid temperatures that day, there were still people scurrying about.

hardware grill tasting menu
Hardware Tasting Menu for the week of December 14, 2009

Mike and I decided on the tasting menu, which changes weekly and riffs off their a la carte menu. Our server left a copy of the tasting menu so we could know what was up next. I am accustomed to dishes being announced as they arrive, so this pleased me. Sometimes I forget the intricacies of dishes for when it comes to blogging.

As it was a special occasion, I also indulged in the wine pairing. I will admit to being a complete blank slate when it comes to wine. Champagne, I know. Wine, I do not. However I enjoy the wine pairing ritual and the decadence of a new glass with every course.

Mike got a pint of the $8 exclusive-to-Hardware Howe Sound Nut Brown Rail Ale. It is a beer from Squamish, B.C. It was nice, but a little thin tasting for such a cold winter evening.

Our server returned with a simple basket of some warm sourdough bread. I am not sure what to say about the service, since I think my issues with it can be chalked up to a personality clash. Generally, I  found it good, and well paced. I guess it was just not at the level for what I expected for one of the finest restaurants in Edmonton, but that is very subjective. Some people wish to be entertained at dinner, I do not.

I should clarify there were no huge issues or problems, it was simply something that rubbed me the wrong way. However when I think back, I remember the food, which is what matters the most I think.

The amuse (no photo) was a delectably fatty, salty, smokey duck prosciutto. With just four slices I was left wanting more…just as a good amuse bouche should do.

hardware grill edmonton
First course was butternut squash-mascarpone cheese tortelloni with chanterelle mushrooms. There were also cipollini onions, which appeared often in later dishes. Composing bites of tender pasta with a sliver of mushroom and parmesan cheese was wonderful, and rewarding. The warm creamy filling made this dish perfect for winter.

hardware grill edmonton
The salad was goat cheese fritters on top of greens with dates hazelnuts and striped beets. The fritters were creamy and warm, balanced by a perfectly pomegranate vinaigrette dressed salad.

Sweetbreads followed (no photo), which was the only disappointing course, in my opinion. They were wrapped in prosciutto, resting on a roasted portobello mushroom with onion jam, potato crispies and wine reduction. The potato slivers were very crispy indeed and awkward to eat. They reminded me of the bottom of a bag of chips, actually. They kept going all over the plate. I finally just rolled the slightly touch, slightly overdone sweetbreads in them.

hardware grill edmonton
Confession: I often order lamb because it looks beautiful when presented and is fun to eat. Hardware’s rendition did not disappoint. It came on a huge pillow of pea ravioli, which complemented the lamb perfectly.

hardware grill edmonton
Before dessert, I visited the ladies room which is in the basement. There you might peer into the private dining room, which is a richly coloured room full of wine. Hardware probably has the largest wine list in the city (the book was close to 20 pages) and so it makes sense to make it part of the decor.

hardware grill edmonton

We ended on a sweet note, a Glenlivet butterscotch pudding, with a cornflake crusted bread pudding, made to dip into the pudding. It was hard to tell, but I think our server tried to tell us that he had sent our desserts flying off the plate on his first attempt to deliver them. It was not surprising, the presentation was quite wacky. I will admit that I am not a fan of butterscotch, but this was a good dessert. I could not simply finish my bread pudding though. It was too rich, and I was too full.

The food was incredible, save for the slightly off sweetbreads course. A well paced two and a half hour dinner left me feeling satisfied. The service, however, made me feel awkward and might be enough to keep me away for a while. Perhaps I’ll give the lunch menu a try sometime soon.

Hardware Grill
9698 Jasper Avenue
780-423-0969

Food and Food: Edmonton and Food: Home Cookin'16 Dec 2009 12:12 am

I’ve been crazy for gingerbread this year, and have been experimenting with different gingerbread recipes for a month.

Gingerbread

gingerbread

The best has been one that is molasses-y but not too much so, kind of crumby yet moist and very spicy, with both ginger powder and freshly grated ginger root. I’m about to make another batch tomorrow, this time with ginger chunks from Bulk Barn.

This opened the flood gates and I started obsessing over ginger flavours. Before I knew it, I was trying anything remotely ginger related. Gingerbread lattes at Starbucks (ho hum, kind of thin). Gingerbread snap cookies (meh.) Then, finally a break through:

Real ginger beer by Crabbie’s

crabbies ginger beer

Summer? We drank this the day it was -46C in Edmonton. No ice though.

crabbies ginger beer

This is an awesome alcoholic beverage by the way. I got it at Sherbrooke Liquor, when they were out of the newest obsession in the house, a beer called Route Des Épices (Ale Rousse Au Poivre) by Quebec’s Dieu Du Ciel (it’s spicy. VERY spicy.) $6 for a reasonable serving, and this was tart, spicy and light. It’s 4%.

Then, because it was so cold I wanted to find a way to keep warm. I made hot chocolate from scratch. That is to say…

Gingerbread Hot Chocolate

I attended a Christmas party a number of years ago where I remember exactly three things: we watched a Lord of the Ring marathon, we had souffles but the host was perturbed they fell, and there was some wicked home made hot chocolate with Screech in it.

What’s Screech? Why it’s a rum endemic to Newfoundland. Mike’s mom brought some back when she visited the east coast a few months ago. I’ve been dying to use it.

gingerbread screech hot chocolate
Real cinnamon reserved for special occasions

gingerbread screech hot chocolate
Chocolate “paste”

gingerbread screech hot chocolate
(This pot is my Gran’s. It is great for heating milk in, as it never burns, and stays hot a long time. She made it for making cream of wheat in.)

gingerbread screech hot chocolate

I edited my dad’s recipe for hot chocolate and came up with an awesome Gingerbread modification.

Gingerbread Hot Chocolate

  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 portions of 1/4 cup heavy cream (i.e., whipping cream. My dad uses evaporated milk)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of good-quality, unsweetened cocoa powder (I have started using Ghirardelli, but Valrhona or even Fry’s are good)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 0.5-1 ounce Screech (or any rum. Can also be omitted entirely.)
  • stalk of ginger root, peeled and cut into slices
  • half stick of cinnamon
  • dash of ginger powder and cinnamon
  • whole cloves or nutmeg, if you have them

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, pour in milk and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Add ginger root, cinnamon and any other spices you desire, such as cloves and nutmeg. Let just come to a simmer, and drop heat until milk gets very hot and steeps in spices, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cocoa, sugar, dash of ginger powder and cinnamon, vanilla, rum and 1/4 cup of whipping cream with a whisk. It will get very pasty, so add milk or water to thin slightly and incorporate.

When milk has steeped, whisk in chocolate mixture until it has dissolved. Strain into a cup, over marshmallows or with fresh whipped cream on top.

This recipe is not too sweet, very spicy and highly drinkable. I don’t know how well it scales up, as I have only made two servings at a time of it. It’s quite rich.

Finally, at Duchess last week I saw one of their seasonal items:

Gingerbread macarons.

duchess gingerbread macaron

I have nothing to say other than: they’re great. Just like everything else they make.

Finally, at work a few weeks ago, we had to photograph some products from local business Beardog Cafe. One of their products smelled so good it was all I could do to not scarf it down as I shot it: Raven’s Gingerbread.

However, it’s for your four-legged friend. All-natural, and some pretty cute packaging, too.

gingerbread dog treats beardog cafe
Do you have any favourite ginger treats?

Food and Food: Edmonton29 Nov 2009 05:38 pm

While I have found the stereotype of journalists requiring a lot of coffee is often true, one cannot live on coffee alone. Unfortunately, weekends tend to be a wasteland in terms of food downtown, which is where the newsroom is.

Things got brighter when Healthfare opened a new outpost few weeks ago, however. The restaurant is not only open weekends, it serves breakfast and healthy food to boot. A location opened on the southside of Edmonton a little while back, and the restaurant has now expanded downtown.

healthfare downtown edmonton

healthfare edmonton downtown

The interior is bright and minimal, with funky lights and definite “green” slant. And I don’t just mean the murals.

The restaurants feature low flush toilets, reclaimed wood tables, recycled plastic chairs and energy efficient lighting, paired with eco-friendly packaging. They even deliver using a hybrid vehicle. There is also prominent caloric information, displayed serving sizes and a computer station where you can get guidance on what to order, based on your body type and energy requirements.
healthfare downtown edmonton

Nutritional Information Station. A bit hokey, a bit helpful. Healthfare is also currently working on a system that will allow people to text in their orders. I like their technological stance. The restaurant was opened by an electrician, so this stuff doesn’t really surprise me.

The menu items were planned out with help from a registered dietitian, and feature breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are soups, sandwiches, salads and ricebowls, as well as egg sandwiches and granola. I have now visited Healthfare twice, to mixed results. First, I’ll admit it is a bit pricey. A sandwich runs $9 or so. A bowl of soup $5.

healthfare downtown edmonton

My first visit, I got a chicken peanut lime rice bowl, $8.99

Or so I thought.

What I actually got was the beef orange rice bowl. Sigh. Not off to a good start, guys. I didn’t have time to run back and get my actual order.

hf05

The veggies were a bit limp and overcooked, and the beef was a bit chewy, although flavourful. I had to really dig for the rice, too. It was buried at the bottom. I enjoy brown rice, however, and liked it in this dish. It’s nuttiness and nutrition wins me over. The meat can be replaced with tofu.

healthfare veggie goat cheese sandwich

My next visit, was slightly better. I got a few items for myself and a coworker. We both got the sandwich and soup combo for about $12. I regretted not getting the avocado laden Healthfare Club after seeing my coworker’s, but was satisfied with the goat cheese veggie. Savoury goat cheese with some eggplant, peppers, onion and zucchini and a bed of green leaf lettuce. The bun was, well, it was a low calorie bun as far as I could tell. They have a different texture and I think are a bit dry and bland. I think this sandwich would be great grilled.

There seem to be four soups constantly available. Butternut squash, carrot ginger and spicy tomato were highlighted both visits, with the fourth being a wildcard. On this day: curried lentil.

healthfare soup

The soup was flavourful and well seasoned, but I found the broth a bit thin. I just might be used to Mike’s thick lentil dishes, though. What most impressed me were the lids for the packaging. Walking back to the office usually turns things upside down in bags, and gives them opportunity to leak. Both the soups made it back totally dry and intact.

healthfare soup

About a cup of soup in the smaller size for $2.99.

The food was good, but not knock-my-socks-off good. A solid choice for lunch. It is mostly nice to know there is another option available downtown, especially on Sunday.  I look forward to trying the sweet potato fries and steel-cut oatmeal one day.

Healthfare
10279 Jasper Avenue
(also located on the southside of Edmonton, 10865 23 Avenue)
downtown hours:
Monday – Friday 6:30am – 9pm
Saturday 9am – 7pm
Sunday 10am-5pm

Food and Food: Asia and Food: Edmonton22 Nov 2009 10:58 pm

Viphalay Laotian + Thai Restaurant
10724 – 95 Street, Edmonton
Open everyday, 11am – 9pm

I’m not sure if it is the colder weather or my parents talking about their annual winter move to southeast Asia, but I have been nuts for Thai and Laotian food lately. The flavours, spices and variety have been on my mind quite often. As as result, Mike and I have eaten at both Syphay and Viphalay in the past couple weeks. These are both restaurants that feature mixed menus of Thai and Laotian food.

viphalay

Busy Friday night at Viphalay

The restaurant was busy on a Friday night at prime time, but we were still seated quickly as the waitress snatched a “reserved” sign off of a table for an obviously unfulfilled reservation. It was a bit chilly sitting next to the door though, as people were constantly filing in and out, picking up eat-out orders and coming in to dine.

We ordered some old favourites, like beef lahp salad and a hot red curry. Viphalay insists on serving sticky rice that is fresh, and so you must order it earlier in the day. That was a bit inconvenient, but I admire their dedication to fine foods. It’s the classic accompaniment to lahp, and makes it easy to make morsels of sticky rice and spicy-sour beef to pop into your mouth.

singha beer mug

Mike ordered a Singha beer, which came in an extremely authentic style: an icy mug. Sometimes in Thai beach bars you will get your frosty beer in a beer koozie, and in mall beer gardens, a tabletop keg with an ice core, but usually it’s the icy mug. This simple step made me incredibly happy.

viphalay

Side condiments of crushed dried red peppers and fermented chili garlic.

I had an ulcer for many years and was unable to fully enjoy spicy foods (not to mention the fire in my tender mouth) when I lived overseas but am now starting to ramp up my ability to eat them. We got a hot red curry, with a side of pungent fermented chili and garlic…which I avoided. Mike enjoyed it, though.

viphalay


The forgettable BBQ beef. “Don’t eat the flower,” requested/told the server.

The food came out quickly and was great. The only thing I would avoid was the BBQ beef. They were quite bland and I found the curious curls of meat a bit tough. I still couldn’t stop popping them in my mouth, though.

viphalay

Condensed milk roti roll

To finish, I could not avoid the siren song of the street cart favourite, roti, for dessert. These carts are all over Thailand, selling a thin crispy crepe of sorts, both chewy and crispy, sweet and a touch salty. Although there are an incredible variety to get now, including Nutella, raisins, peanut butter and so on, the gold standard is a combo of honey and banana or just condensed milk and sugar. I had no idea there was a place in Edmonton selling this hard to find treat, but I will return when I get my next craving, for sure. They are normally served up flat on a paper plate, sliced into squares, but little was lost in Viphalay’s artsy presentation.

Viphalay is a wonderful restaurant, serving up genuine Southeast Asian cuisine and hospitality. It was all I could do at the end of the meal to not ask for the cheque in the standard Thai manner: “Check bin, ka.” I will most certainly return.

viphalay
Fiery lahp gnua and red curry with chicken

viphalay

viphalay

Thai iced tea candies with the bill, in what looked like a mango wood bowl.

Food: Edmonton30 Oct 2009 06:02 pm

mocha marshmallows from duchess

A day or so after posting my marshmallow run down, I saw the little balls of fluff for sale at Duchess. I could hardly believe it, but I snatched up a batch and enjoyed fresh blood orange marshmallows. And let me tell you, they are real. This flavour in particular seem tailored to me (I had made blood orange macarons earlier in the year and it is a favourite citrus fruit), but they also sell strawberry and vanilla.

Today I picked up some “plain” vanilla ‘mallows, and enjoyed them with a somewhat too sweet mocha from Starbucks today at work. The marshmallows melted beautifully and were 10x better than any whip cream could ever be. I look forward to experimenting with the perfect cocoa combinations for homemade hot chocolate this fall, paired with the delectable fresh marshmallows from Duchess. Please Lord, do not let this honeymoon end. I’m in love.

mocha + marshmallows, duchess in edmonton

Food: Edmonton16 Oct 2009 11:45 pm

Tonight, Mike and I brought our friend Connor to Zaika for the buffet. Earlier this week I brought my girlfriend Jolene to Zaika as well. Safe to say we like this place. (Read about the first visit, where we ordered off the menu.)

Seems many people do, though. The place was packed. It was a Friday night, and there was a birthday party, people watching the Oilers game on televisions in the bar and many buffet visitors.

The buffet is excellent, and worth the trip. Juicy tandoori chicken, wonderful lentil curries, fish, vegetables, desserts and naan cooked to order, brought to your table. The buffet items rotate daily. This and more for $17. Get Richard Helm’s take in Saturday’s Journal.

summerside asian market diwali tent

When we arrived at Zaika, there was a large tent in the parking lot, next to the Summerside Asian Market. One half of the husband/wife team that owns Zaika, Joti, told us that the kitchen gets their produce from Summerside Asian Market. S.A.M is run by a woman named Ashu and her husband…and Ashu is Joti’s sister.

I visited the market a while back, and enjoyed their selection of South Asian spices and dry goods, fresh dates and other produce and array of Indian sweets.

diwali sweets edmonton summerside

We wandered into the tent and were bowled over by the tray after tray of brightly coloured treats. Turns out, this was specially set up for Diwali, the festival of lights. There were boxes which were priced by weight, $6.95 for a mixed selection. There were several varieties of barfi, gulab jamun, jalebi, and various other mithai, or Indian desserts. And by several I mean dozens. On top of that, free pakora and samosas.

summerside asian market diwali sweets

summerside asian market diwali sweets

summerside asian market diwali sweets

summerside asian market diwali sweets

There were Diwali themed boxes available in many sizes for easy transport.

Indian sweets are incredibly rich and sweet, but also very addictive. Common flavours include coconut, pistachio, rose, almond and spices like cardamom and cloves. We came out with three boxes full of treats. I’m bringing some into work tomorrow, but the rest will be enjoyed for the next week.

While the tent is coming down tonight, Summerside Asian Market will still be selling their huge selection of sweets Saturday, October 17, inside the store.

You can see some gorgeous photos of Zaika and Summerside Asian Market on the Shandro Photo blog. Seriously, I mean gorgeous.

Zaika Indian Bistro & Bar
2303 Ellwood Drive SW, Ellerslie Crossroads
780 462 8722

Summerside Asian Market (next door to Zaika)
2307 Ellwood Drive SW, Ellerslie Crossroads
780 485 6116

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