Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pulled Chicken Sandwich

This was lunch at Tony Roma's a week or so ago. I love pulled chicken, so this menu item immediately caught my eye. The chicken itself got all of its flavour from the barbecue sauce on it (which was excellent). It was good - not great - I like my chicken to have flavour in and of itself, with the sauce enhancing rather than dominating it.

Sirloin Steak Dinner at Outback

Sirloin Steak Dinner by raise my voice
Sirloin Steak Dinner, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I don't have a steak dinner out very often, so I jumped at the chance at Outback this evening. The six ounce sirloin is the lowest priced steak dinner on the menu (at $19.95) and comes with vegetables, mushrooms, and a choice of side.

My steak was juicy and perfectly done to order. I would have enjoyed some seasoning on it, or a grilled flavour. Veggies were sauteed and tasty; mashed potatoes were creamy and had enough garlic to be flavourful without being overpowering. I love mushrooms, and these were also great with their deep wine flavour (but not as great as the crispy ones we had for appetizers!).

While it had its flaws, my dinner was enjoyable and good value for the money.

Crispy Fried Mushrooms

Crispy Fried Mushrooms by raise my voice
Crispy Fried Mushrooms, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

A post-work supper at Outback Steakhouse took place this evening during Happy Hour. In addition to drink specials, some of the appetizers were on sale.

We opted for the fried mushrooms which were crispy, as promised in the menu, piping hot, and juicy. The ranch dressing enhanced the flavour. Who knew fungus could taste so good?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coffee Break: Green Cap Milk Tea

Green Cap Milk Tea by raise my voice
Green Cap Milk Tea, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I have been loving bubble tea for years now, so when I learned there was a Taiwanese version of the drink, and only one place in Edmonton that sells it, I knew a trip to the Gama Store was in order (10418 82 Avenue).

Basically, the Green Cap Milk Tea is bubble tea - without the bubbles. There is a topping of liquid cheese foam, with green tea powder on top. The milk tea is smooth and creamy, and the cheese adds another level of refreshment.

The store's owner told me that Gama gets is tea directly from Taiwan and it is considered to be a healthier drink than bubble tea (with its tapioca balls). As well, I got a lesson in how to drink it properly - the cheese and powder is supposed to be mixed in with the tea itself. Personally, I enjoyed moving my straw around and sipping a bit from the top and bottom exclusively before giving in and mixing it together.

I can definitely see myself drinking more of these when the weather gets hotter.

Marinara Pizza at Famoso

Marinara Pizza by raise my voice
Marinara Pizza, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Famoso has been on my foodie to-do list for some time now., I finally made it to the Whyte Avenue location for lunch today.

I have had thin crust pizzas before, but not done the way Famoso does them - 90 seconds in a blazingly hot pizza oven, Neopolitan style. I had a Marina pizza which is cheese-less. It was covered in Famoso's unique tomato sauce and sparingly adorned with roasted garlic, oregano, and basil leaves. The basil gave a flavourful kick, while the roasted garlic was perfectly not overpowering.

As promised, the crust was crispy towards the edge, with bubbles and slight charring, while quite moist in the middle, hence the suggestion to fold the pieces over onto themselves to make eating easier.

The pizza almost reminded me of a very wet bruschetta. It was light, but filling and the perfect pizza for one person.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Pho Files: Veggie Seafood and Tofu Pho

My main attraction for supper at Veggie Garden Restaurant was this bowl of pho. A bowl like no other for me, because I don't eat "real" seafood for cultural reasons.

I don't know how it is done, but the "crab" and "shrimp" looked very real and had a fishy taste to it. The tofu added texture and something more familiar for my tastebuds.

I especially love the fresh vegetables and light broth, which is not greasy in the least bit.

Attractive and tasty - that is how I like my pho!

Hot and Salty Tofu at Veggie Garden

Hot and Salty Tofu by raise my voice
Hot and Salty Tofu, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I dined at Veggie Garden Restaurant a couple of evenings ago. It reaffirmed my belief that the place is likely the best value in vegetarian dining in Edmonton.

I was craving fried tofu, so I ordered that as an appetizer. My server pointed out that the Hot and Salty Tofu was the same price, but tastier. I was concerning about the "hot" aspect of it - I like mild spice, but not heavy spice. She reassured me and I went for it.

Best dinner decision ever!

The pieces of fried tofu were light and crispy, slightly salty and mildly seasoned with pepper. Also on the place was chopped carrots and bell peppers sauteed with salt and mild hot peppers. I actually enjoyed all of this without my mouth burning.

This was indeed a flavour sensation and much more interesting than plain fried tofu.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vegan Burger at The Pourhouse

Vegan Burger by raise my voice
Vegan Burger, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I ventured to The Pourhouse Bier Bistro after the International Women's Day March and Rally. The Pourhouse describes itself as a "gastropub," which means the emphasis is as much on food quality as good libations.

I was very impressed with the beer selection, which included special brews for the establishment, as well as seasonal or temporary specials. After picking my beer (a microbrew called Original 16 from Saskatoon) I opted for the vegan burger. After all, I was still in activist mode.

I was faced with one of the biggest veggie burgers of my life. The enormous patty was made from soy, chickpeas, peas, corn, and grains. Served on a fresh and crispy while wheat kaiser bun, it was topped with roasted peppers and caramelized onions. There could have been pesto, but the pesto was not vegan so I held it (I am not a strict vegan, but don't care for parmesan).

The Pourhouse boasts that it does not have a deep fryer. Sides include coleslaw, salad, soup, and smashed potatoes. I opted for the latter. It looked like at least two large potatoes had met their demise upon my plate. A bit of cream and the scallions on top replicated the flavour of a baked potato with sour cream and onions, with a healthy dose of garlic.

I thought at first the prices at The Pourhouse were a little steep, but for $13, the size of the portion and quality of the food definitely justifies the cost.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Coffee Break: Cappuccino at Santo's

Cappuccino by raise my voice
Cappuccino, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

If you read my previous blog post, you will know that Santo's is now under new ownership and has undergone a radical transformation.

Santo's has always offered coffee beverages - it is, after all, an Italian restaurant - but has not really been a place I would hang out at and have an espresso while reading a book or having a meeting. Until now.

I needed a caffeine fix, and Spinelli's across the street was packed full. Since I planned to have supper at Santo's anyways, I headed there a bit early. I was perfectly comfortable enjoying my fresh, rich, hot cappuccino while I waited to order supper. The chocolate on top added some sweetness. In addition to the classier atmosphere, the espresso drinks are reasonably priced - the cappuccino was only around $3 and a single shot of espresso is a mere $1.

Santo's Reborn - Gnocchi with Bolognese Sauce

Breaking news in the dining scene of northeast Edmonton is that Santo's (10821 95 Street) is under new ownership. The family that had run the place for decades, after whom the restaurant was named, sold the place to new owners who renovated top to bottom. The dining area is far bigger, brighter, and classier than ever.

However, the biggest concern was over the menu. Would Santo's remain a place for delicious, inexpensive pizza and pasta? I am happy to say, the answer is yes. Reprinted in a much nicer form, the menu is almost identical to the previous one. There are a few new pizza toppings (like donair meat) and the smaller sizes of pasta are gone, but otherwise the burgers, sandwiches, steaks, pizzas, and pastas that have made the place famous remain intact.

I checked it out last evening and after I got over the initial shock of how the interior has changed, I ordered gnocchi with bolognese sauce for supper. The portion was deceptively large, served in a deep bowl. The gnocchi was suitably chewy while the sauce was rich and full of meat. I would say it was a winner. And at only around $10, quite affordable.

Santo's is a place some people have avoided because of the atmosphere. Yes, the horse racing and VLTs are still in the back, but much more separate than before. Now, it is a restaurant I would definitely go to more often and bring friends.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Coffee Break: Chai Latte at Wild Earth Cafe

Chai Latte by raise my voice
Chai Latte, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I spent Sunday afternoon running errands and needed something warm and nourishing. A chair latte at Wild Earth Cafe (85 Avenue and 142 Street) was in order. It's creamy and heavy on the cinnamon topping. The spice mixture tastes familiar, as someone who has had a chai latte in just about every coffee and tea shop around - definitely better than the chain shops.

Coffee Break: Iced Kashmiri Chai Latte at Remedy North

Cheers abounded when news of a downtown location of Remedy was announced. Fans of the existing south side location were already familiar with the huge array of hot and cold drinks (in particular, the unique chai), reasonably priced Indian food, and artistic atmosphere.

The new location at 10279 Jasper Avenue has only been open a short time, but is already making waves in the downtown core. It is one of the few places in the area open late. The atmosphere is brighter and more spacious, with menus on electronic screens rather than blackboards. The pervasive smell of curry is much fainter. But the place is hopping with everyone from hippies to hipsters and everyone in between.

I had an iced Kashmiri chai latte. The spicy, milky treat was topped with crushed pistachios and dried rose petals, adding for some red to contrast the dominant green. The drink was refreshing and perfectly seasoned.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coffee Break: Latte from The Carrot

Latte from The Carrot by raise my voice
Latte from The Carrot, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Coffee and community go hand in hand for me quite often. Going for coffee is an opportunity to socialize, to do business, or to enjoy some local culture.

I get all of this and more at The Carrot, a community arts coffeehouse on Alberta Avenue. Run almost entirely by volunteers, The Carrot is a cozy place to hang out with friends, while enjoying the beautiful art adorning the walls. Performances are also often held in the intimate space, and local artisan's crafts are also for sale.

An organization I am working with is holding an event this coming week at The Carrot, and as several of my co-planners had never been there before, we seized the opportunity to introduce them to the space. They were impressed.

What was also impressive was my latte. It wasn't fancy. It didn't have cute art on top. But it was one of the richest, smoothest lattes I have ever enjoyed. I was hopped up for the rest of the afternoon.

Head to The Carrot for coffee and community. It's a great combination!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Greens and Proteins Salad and White Chocolate Mushroom Soup

It was a cold, windy afternoon near the University of Alberta, and I needed some extra nourishment to carry me through an hour-long outdoor rally. I hopped into The Greenhouse as it was conveniently located near where I needed to be.

The appetizer soup and salad combo was my choice. I had a "Greens and Proteins" salad with one of the soups of the day: White Chocolate Mushroom.

First, the salad. It was hearty for an appetizer size, full of steak, edamame beans, trail mix, hard boiled egg, and greens in a balsamic vinegar. The variety of ingredients made for interesting flavours and textures.

Now, for the soup. Chocolate and mushrooms are two of my favourite ingredients, but I wondered how they would taste together. The rich, dark broth had a sweetness to it, which I am guessing was the chocolate at work. Combined with the earthiness of the mushrooms, the soup was quite memorable.

While I still find The Greenhouse a bit on the pricey side, I find the food quite unique.