Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fudge Cake

Fudge Cake by raise my voice
Fudge Cake, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I saved my chocolates from my Festive Special at Swiss Chalet, because I wanted to leave room for dessert - just barely! Swiss Chalet has many dessert selections for less than five dollars. I had a slice of fudge cake. The best part for me was the layers of fudge in between the layers of chocolate cake. I really need to hit the gym some time soon!

Chicken Spring Rolls at Swiss Chalet

Chicken Spring Rolls by raise my voice
Chicken Spring Rolls, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I tried the chicken spring rolls at Swiss Chalet for the first time when I dined there earlier this week. I was mostly curious, but was surprised at how different these were from other spring rolls. They are literally packed with chicken. It's a great starter or light lunch.

Guilty Pleasures: Festive Special at Swiss Chalet

Festive Special by raise my voice
Festive Special, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Forgive me, but I love Swiss Chalet. I know it's technically fast food, but it's Canadian. And, it's a darn good chicken dinner at a reasonable price. It's that time of year again for the festive special, so I went for it. The stuffing and cranberry sauce really does make the meal seem festive. I saved my chocolates for later.

Ricky's Christmas Menu: Turkey Pot Pie

Turkey Pot Pie by raise my voice
Turkey Pot Pie, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Ricky's All Day Grill introduced their Christmas menu this week. My friend and I were the first to try it at the St. Albert location.His turkey reuben sandwich was thick with turkey, corned beef, and sauerkraut, accompanied by a mountain of fries. He was happy.

I had the turkey pot pie. It was served in a ramekin, topped with filo pastry. I was surprised there was stuffing under the pastry. Although the combination of pieces of turkey, vegetables, and potato in a creamy broth was nothing to complain about, the portion was a bit on the small side. The side of salad or soup was also diminutive. I opted for the soup, which that day was bream of potato - it went well with the pie's stuffing.

At. $8.99 it's not a bad value - just don't be overly hungry.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chicken Crispers

Chicken Crispers by raise my voice
Chicken Crispers, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I ordered Chicken Crispers as my main at Chili's last night, I thought they would be the restaurant's version of chicken fingers (which happens to be my favourite comfort food). What was presented before me was five large chunks of white, juicy breast meat in a beer batter. It was like eating fish and chips, except this was chicken instead of fish. The huge portion of fries and coleslaw only increased my need to share the meal with my date. I found the fries average, but the coleslaw was superb - I like it fresh! Chicken Crispers takes chicken fingers to the next level.

Chicken Chile Soup - At Chili's

Chicken Chile Soup by raise my voice
Chicken Chile Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I visited the north end Chili's last night (93 Street and 137 Avenue) and tried the newest soup creation on the menu. The server said it was her favourite soup ever, but that it was a bit spicy - a bit indeed! Maybe I am a wimp but my eyes were watering from the green chilis! I am glad the lime and avocado were there to cool things down. I have to say that the abundance of rice in the soup made it more like a stew. The tomatoes added colour and flavour. This is a bold soup for bold people - it was hot in more ways than one!

Vegetarian Ramen at Meguro Ramen

Vegetarian Ramen by raise my voice
Vegetarian Ramen, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Meguro Ramen (106 Avenue and 87 Street) is where vegan restaurant Padmanadi used to be. Ironically, there seems to be only one vegetarian item on the menu, which is what I had. I loved the consistency of the noodles, which stayed firm yet chewy throughout, and the veggie ham added realistic flavour. Real ramen is so much different than the freeze-dried stuff that costs a couple of dollars per bowl or package, and Meguro Ramen does it well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beef and Carrot Stew, Vietnamese Style

Beef and Carrot Stew by raise my voice
Beef and Carrot Stew, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

A menu item I find quite frequently on the menus of Vietnamese pho restaurants is a beef and carrot stew. Since stew is usually considered a western meal, I am guessing this has something to do with the influence of the French.

Today, I returned to Pho Binh with a co-worker and I opted for the stew instead of my usual bowl of pho. The stew is almost like another form of soup. The noodles, hunks of well-done beef, and carrots are in a deeply flavourful broth that is almost like pho, with a rich, meaty flavour. One can opt for bread instead of noodles - again, this seems French to me.

I found the stew to be a hearty, delicious alternative to pho and vermicelli. The pieces of meat are quite large and I had to use a fork to navigate my way through them. There weren't many carrots, but the ones that were there were still firm.

Just be careful not to splash any of that broth on yourself or you will have orange stains on your clothes for the rest of the day. Trust me.

Onion Cake at Pho Binh

Onion Cake by raise my voice
Onion Cake, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Like the soup, the appetizers at Pho Binh are very reasonably priced. I ordered an onion cake to enjoy with my pho. The cake was nicely done - crispy enough on the outside and enough salt and green onion inside - but it would have been a bit easier to eat it if was cut into segments. Instead, it was cut in half, and not even all the way through. The sweet and sour sauce was a nice accompaniment.

The Pho Files: Pho Tai at Pho Binh

Pho Tai by raise my voice
Pho Tai, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Pho Binh is a Vietnamese restaurant in west Edmonton (at the Jasper Gates shopping area along Stony Plain Road and 150 Street) and one of my favourite pho haunts when I am not in Chinatown. The broth is quite lovely, although the portion of meat tends to be a bit skimpy and chewy. Still, there is a lot of great value here - a large bowl is only 30 cents larger than a regular.

Coffee Art: Latte at Credo Coffee

Latte at Credo Coffee by raise my voice
Latte at Credo Coffee, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Credo Coffee is one of my favourite independent coffee shops in downtown Edmonton. I especially love their rich and smooth lattes. Here is the one I had yesterday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bourbon St. Grill

Combo Platter by raise my voice
Combo Platter, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Today I discovered the Bourbon St. Grill in West Edmonton Mall. No, it isn't on Bourbon Street - it is in the Phase One food court. This fast food kiosk is Cajun meets Chinese, and makes for an interesting and unique food experience.

Basically, the food is in hot trays and you pick your own combo. Combos consist of rice (chicken fries or gumbo), pasta, or mashed potatoes; one or two veggies; and one or two meats - meats meaning choosing from the many different kinds of chicken or the grilled fish.

I went with the chicken fried rice (excellent), glazed carrots (fresh and sweet), bourbon chicken (grilled chicken cut into small pieces and served in a sweet bourbon sauce), and mango chicken (similar to lemon chicken, but with a slightly different flavour).

The bourbon chicken was the best I have had - there are other Chinese fast food mall places that sell something similar, and this had the freshest taste. The portion overall was huge and at $9 it wasn't cheap, but wasn't unreasonable either.

I highly recommend Bourbon St. Grill to anyone who wants a different kind of food court experience.

The Pho Files - Pho Ga at Pho Huong

Pho Ga (Chicken) by raise my voice
Pho Ga (Chicken), a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I say I will be back, I mean it. I returned to Pho Huong yesterday for a late lunch of Pho Ga (chicken pho). Once again, I was amazed. The broth was pure chicken (it is served in beef broth in many other places), light and flavourful. The chicken was freshly pulled from the bone and plentiful. I can typically do without the fried bits of onion, which tend to dominate the aromatics in the broth. But in general, this was a hearty and satisfying bowl of pho.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Breakfast for Lunch: Big Breakfast at Blue Plate Diner

Big Breakfast by raise my voice
Big Breakfast, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Blue Plate Diner is one of my favourite places for brunch. It has an artsy atmosphere and great food - both things that I enjoy!

I haven't been to the Blue Plate in ages so I went there for lunch today and had the Big Breakfast: two eggs, a thick piece of multigrain toast, pan fried potatoes, and house-made vegetarian sausage.

The eggs are from Hutterite free-range chickens, and are huge! They also taste better than the factory farmed stuff - having been eating a lot of egg dishes out lately, I really noticed that. I've always enjoyed the pan-fried potatoes, even if some of them are a little on the dry side.

The veggie sausage could have been a little bigger but the cranberry and other ingredients create a unique flavour.

If you want a unique brunch with local ingredients, head for Blue Plate Diner.

Penne and Meatballs

Penne and Meatballs by raise my voice
Penne and Meatballs, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Calling Boston Pizza Italian Food is one step worse than Olive Garden. Not that the food at either establishment is bad - it's just aimed at the tastes of the masses.

Boston Pizza (the Westmount location on 113 Street and Groat Road) is where I ended up for supper tonight. I went for a build my own pasta with penne, pomadoro sauce, and meatballs. No complaints - the portion was hearty. I especially like the meatballs.

Call this a guilty pleasure.

Coffee Art: Three Bananas

Coffee Butterfly by raise my voice
Coffee Butterfly, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

This butterfly was drawn into my latte at Three Bananas (Churchill Square). I've had a lot of hearts and trees in my time, but this was probably my first butterfly.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Pho Files: Pho Huong

One of the best bowls of pho I have had recently, the steak was tender and the brisket was lean. As for the broth, it was seasoned perfectly with just the right amount of noodles. I had a small bowl, and it was packed. With food like this, Pho Huong is going to become a must-visit for pho fans.

Onion Cakes at Pho Huong

Onion Cakes by raise my voice
Onion Cakes, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I got these onion cakes as an appetizer at the newly-renovated Pho Huong (10531-107 Avenue), I knew that the rest of the meal would likely be excellent. The cakes were light, fluffy, and full of flavour without being overly greasy. They also came before the rest of our food hit the table, which doesn't always happen in Vietnamese restaurants.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Building My Own Pizza at Boston Pizza

Build My Own Pizza by raise my voice
Build My Own Pizza, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Boston Pizza is one of my favourite chain pizza restaurants. I find the pizza to be consistent and tasty, especially the crust which tends to be light and crispy.

At a friend's urging we went to the 170 Street location of BPs and I had a small (ten inch) Build Your Own Pizza which I had loaded up with mushrooms, black olives, and chicken.

I was not disappointed in the amount of toppings, but I may forget about the mushrooms next time as their flavour seemed to be overtaken by the other ingredients, including the abundance of cheese and sauce.

Breakfast for Lunch: Two Eggs My Way at Early Bird Cafe

Two Eggs My Way by raise my voice
Two Eggs My Way, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Getting to Early Bird Cafe (102 Avenue and 97 Street) in time to order off their breakfast menu is a challange for me during the week, but not so on a Saturday when the menu is available until 2 p.m. (the lunch menu is available as well).

I wanted eggs, and that is exactly what I got: two eggs "my way" (which means over-easy), hash browns, and toast - for a mere $4.50. I could have gotten another eggo for another dollar. Another dollor or two would have gotten me some bacon.

No complaints - the eggs were perfect. The hash browns were the cubed variety and very nicely seasoned. The toast was, well, toast.

The breakfast menu is huge and has a lot of variety and low prices. Early Bird may very well become my regular Saturday brunch destination.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Pho Files: Extra Large Steak and Brisket

I headed back to Pho Tau Bay today, and decided to join the big leagues. I ordered an extra large size of my favourite combination, steak and brisket. The amount of meat seemed to be the same as the regular size, with more noodles and broth. I especially liked the cubes of brisket today, finding them very meaty and flavourful.

Bourbon Chicken and Rice

I tend to stay away from food court Chinese places. They load everything up with MSG and oyster sauce. However, I make an exception for Famous Wok in City Centre (lower level in the former Eaton Centre side). Their bourbon chicken is incredible. It is so simple, yet so delicious: tender pieces of dark meat in a sweet bourbon sauce. It goes perfectly with fried rice. Pictured here is the two item plate. It is an inexpensive and filling lunch.

Chopped Leaf: Do It Yourself Starter Salad

I finally made it to The Chopped Leaf yesterday. Despite the plethora of chef created salads, I opted to do it myself with spinach, walnuts, pecans, mushrooms, avocado, balsamic vinegar, and a protein of smoked tofu (for an additional $3 charge).

Taste-wise, I had nothing to complain about. It was good. It also was not enough for a lunch. I am assuming if I got a full-sized salad, it would have filled me up. Still, $8.50 for a starter salad is a bit high. If I really, really wanted a salad and nothing else, I would head again to Chopped Leaf without hesitation.