Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Breakfast for Lunch: Pulled Brisket Eggs Benny

An impromptu visit to Ricky's for lunch led me to order off of their special diner menu.

The pulled beef brisket eggs benny was a feast. Two large slices of a bun (not an English muffin) were piled high with sauteed onions and peppers, fried onion straws, a mountain of pulled brisket in a sweet barbecue sauce, and finally topped with a poached egg. I opted for my chipotle hollandaise sauce to the side and could not finish the minted fruit that came alongside.

The flavours of all of the different elements of the benny came together perfectly. The fruit added some lightness to the dish - hashbrowns would have been impossible to deal with. This meal is a real winner and I hope Ricky's keeps it on the menu.

The Pho Files: Medium Steak and Brisket Pho at Ho Restaurant

Another Saturday working near Chinatown combined with a craving for pho, meant another trip to Ho Restaurant for lunch (107A Avenue and 97 Street).

I decided on a regular bowl of medium steak and brisket. The steak was tender as always and the broth flavourful. However, like I have experienced in many places, the well-done brisket was a disappointment. It was far too fatty for my taste.

When I want a bowl of beef pho, I think I will stick with the basic steak.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hamburger at Hotel Selkirk

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

I went for the burger on the lunch menu at the Johnson Cafe. First of all, you will notice my plate looks rather empty. That is because, even though we ordered our soups to start, the server interpreted that we wanted our soup as our sides. Otherwise, the burger would have come with fries. This was not a big deal, as I am trying to watch both my waistline and my budget.

The burger meat was AAA Alberta beef and it was dense, cooked to perfection, and very flavourful. I could have lived without the cheese bun - I ordered no cheese on my soup or burger, so the fact that I was not told about this in advance came as much as a surprise as the cheese bun itself. Who serves a burger on a cheese bun?

I would suggest that the Johnson Cafe be more specific in their menu descriptions. In this day of allergies being prolific, it would be helpful to both customers and the servers trying to help them.

Chicken Corn Chowder

Chicken Corn Chowder by raise my voice
Chicken Corn Chowder, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Today was the season opening day for Fort Edmonton Park. Fort Edmonton Park is my favourite Edmonton outdoor attraction (there are some indoor components, but regardless, a visit requires spending a lot of time outside).

We had lunch at the Johnson Cafe inside the Hotel Selkirk. We both ordered the Chicken Corn Chowder to start. For $4, I was not that impressed with the portion size. The three large tortilla chips added some nice crunch but got soggy quickly. Plus, I found maybe one piece of chicken in the cup. This was mostly a creamy corn chowder. Not bad, but not great either.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cod and Chips at Tony Roma's

Cod and Chips by raise my voice
Cod and Chips, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Oh, Tony Roma's, you saved my budget with your lunch specials yet again!

The Cod and Chips was an ample portion featuring two pieces of fish, lots of fries, and coleslaw. The fish was flaky and soft on the inside, while the batter was crispy and tasted to me like a beer batter.

I was surprised the tartar sauce was Kraft served up in a small dish. I generally expect house made tartar sauce in a restaurant. Fortunately, I like Kraft tartar sauce.

Vegetable Tempura at Tokyo Express

Vegetable Tempura by raise my voice
Vegetable Tempura, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

This was a case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach. Yes, i was very hungry, but was not prepared for how huge these pieces of battered, deep-fried vegetables were.

Tempura at Tokyo Express usually comes with prawns, but I asked for all vegetables, and they obliged. The batter was light and crispy (as it should be) and the vegetables were fresh.

Salmon on Noodles at Tokyo Express

Salmon on Noodles by raise my voice
Salmon on Noodles, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Someone once commented to me that Japanese food can never be fast. So perhaps this piece of salmon on stir-fried noodles from Tokyo Express is not authentic, but it is economical and tastes great. And did you know that Tokyo Express is an Edmonton-based restaurant chain? That makes me feel much better about eating there too.

Moment of Truth: Ten Inch, Two Topping Pizza at Santo's

I have been visiting Santo's on a regular basis ever since it re-opened under new ownership and management this year. During these visits, I have tried numerous items representative of the new menu, from pasta to steak to breakfast.

It was finally time to stop and taste the pizza.

Santo's has always been famous for inexpensive, delicious pizza. Indeed, this is one tradition the new owners are keeping. Most of the 13 inch pizzas are within $10-$12 in price, and there are a few new additions amongst the choices.

As I was dining alone, I did not want to consume a 13 inch pizza, nor was I in a position to take any home. Fortunately, a 10 inch pizza is now available. And for only $7.95 (for two toppings) it is a value indeed.

My mushroom and black olive pizza was hot, loaded with toppings, and had a tangy sauce. Neither a traditional flat crust nor a puffy North American style, it was crispy. and stayed crispy throughout the meal. Crispy, and a little dry and hard, especially around the edges.

Still, for the price, I can't complain too much. The pizza is not quite the same as it was before, but I don't think customers will be disappointed either.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On the Street: Turkey Sausage

Turkey Sausage by raise my voice
Turkey Sausage, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Welcome to "On the Street," my series of food blogs on Edmonton's growing street food scene.

When I think of street food in Edmonton, I think of Fat Franks. For me, spring arrives when I start seeing the company's carts on the street. Munching on a hot dog outside is one of my favourite spring and summer pleasures.

I went for a bike ride this afternoon to the cart on 124 Street and 102 Avenue outside Mountain Equipment Co-op. I was tempted by a new special: turkey sausage. I know I had this once before, last summer, I think at the Folk Fest, but could never find it on anyone's carts since.

The sausage was $5, and slightly larger than the Jumbo Dog, which is what I typically get. Within the crispy casing was ground turkey meat that was light in both texture and taste, with a hint of seasonings. I tried the cranberry mustard as per the cart attendant's suggestion, but was glad I did not put much on - it tasted like cranberry sauce in a squeezable bottle moreso than mustard - a bit too sweet.

Overall, I would say I find the Jumbo Dog more satisfying and also with a stronger taste.

Chicken on a Kaiser Bun

Swiss Chalet was close enough to where I needed to be Friday evening, that I decided to step in for a quick meal. I opted for the pulled chicken sandwich on a kaiser bun.

The sandwich itself was pretty basic: a quarter of Swiss Chalet's famous rotisserie chicken pulled off the bone and served on a fresh, white, soft kaiser bun. Although the skin was also pulled from the chicken, it retained much of its moisture and flavour. I had fries as my side - the fries here are really special as far as fast food goes. They are hand made.

But of course what really makes the meal is the sauce. I don't know what it is, but I love it. I used it on my fries and chicken, ignoring the packet of mayonnaise that I was also brought.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coffee Break: Espresso Milkshake at Zocalo

Espresso Milkshake by raise my voice
Espresso Milkshake, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

What do you get when you combine milk, real vanilla ice cream, and freshly brewed espresso using an old-fashioned milkshake machine?

Something incredibly rich, decadent, and with enough kick to keep you going for the rest of the day.

I am talking about the espresso milkshake, a seasonal treat at Zocalo at 10826 95 Street. Made fresh to order in a tall glass, this is one of the number one signs in Little Italy that summer has arrived.

Get one while you can.

The Pho Files: Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) at Ho Restaurant

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

I stopped in to the new Ho Restaurant (also known as Pho Ho ) on 97 Street and 107a Avenue. Even though it was quite balmy outside, I was craving a steaming bowl of Pho Ga, which is pho with chicken.

The broth was hot and aromatic, with its flavour coming from typical pho seasonings without any of those awful dried onion flakes some places use. I think the base was chicken instead of beef, as it was light in colour and texture. Noodles were bountiful, as was the amount of chicken which absorbed much of its flavour from the broth but also at times had its own unique flavour, bordering on nutty.

This was one of the best bowls of Pho Ga I have had in quite some time.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Steak Sandwich at Tony Roma's

Steak Sandwich by raise my voice
Steak Sandwich, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I really enjoy the value lunch menu at Tony Roma's for two reasons:

1) The prices are right.
2) It changes regularly.

At the Westmount location earlier this week, I went for a steak sandwich. At 6 ounces, it was the perfect size for lunch, also done to perfection. It had a better flavour than a steak I recently had at a steakhouse. The crispy fries, creamy coleslaw, and garlic focaccia rounded the meal out nicely.

It may be a chain, but Tony Roma's is great food and great value.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Prime Rib - Baccarat Casino

Prime Rib by raise my voice
Prime Rib, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

It was Prime Rib Monday at the Baccarat Casino. I went for it as my final meal of my shift.

What a slab I got! I think it was larger than the advertised eight ounces. It was thick, tender, and mostly well-done as I specified. Some of the thicker parts were pink, but not running blood, so I was OK with that. I was using the accompanying horseradish and au jus to give the meat and extra kick.

For my sides, I went with the roasted potatoes and vegetables. The vegetables were warmer than those with my lunch and nicely sauteed, but I did not have any real motivation to finish them. The potatoes, on the other hand, were outstanding. It was one potato cut in half, skinned, and roasted to crispiness, while the insides were fluffy.

At $9.50, the Prime Rib dinner was well worth the price and definitely worth a trip to the casino to enjoy.

Green Onion Cakes - Baccarat Casino

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

Left unsatisfied by my lunch, I had a mid-afternoon snack of Vietnamese coffee ($4.50) and a green onion cake ($5).

I viewed this as partial redemption for the casino. The coffee was sweet and strong, while the onion cakes - there were two - were crispy and salty and flavourful. A few pieces were a tad too greasy, but I loved how crunchy most of them were.

I would definitely recommend the onion cakes to be ordered alongside any of the Chinese menu dishes.

Lemon Chicken Combo - Baccarat Casino

Lemon Chicken Combo by raise my voice
Lemon Chicken Combo, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I was excited to be helping out at a casino today for Boyle McCauley News. Baccarat Casino on 101 Street and 104 Avenue was the location. The dining facilities there, the cheeky-named Cafe Paradice, used to be known for having some of the best service and food amongst casinos in Edmonton.

Did you notice that I wrote that in the past tense? The menu has completely changed, and is now mostly westernized Chinese food at prices that are not remarkable. I know that the staff and customers here are mostly Asian, but when you're located a stone's throw away from some of the best Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese restaurants in the city, perhaps something different is called for.

Luckily, I had been craving Chinese food, so ordered one of the combos ($11). The lemon chicken was unremarkable - small bits of meat that was undistinguishable as to whether it was white or dark, in a light batter and lemon sauce. I have had similar or better at fast food kiosks in shopping malls. The fried rice was average, if not a bit greasy, and the vegetables were tasty but cold. I did not finish them.

I also noticed one of my co-workers did not finish his veggies with his supper meal later on. In fact, others with whom I was working also expressed disappointment in the food. "Why change perfection?" one said about the menu. Another person remarked that the food and service has gone downhill fast.

I know that the casino is capable of better than this.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Coffee Break: Iced Americano Misto and Nanaimo Bar

After performing at the Thrival Edmonton Festival this afternoon, I needed some "me time" with coffee and a book. I headed to the Wild Earth Cafe on 85 Avenue and 142 Street, lugging my guitar in tow.

I had no coffee in the day up to this point, and was thirsty, so I opted for an iced American Misto. The amin difference was that instead of steam milk, cold milk was used. The result was a milder version of an iced latte, with more espresso flavour coming through.

I was also a bit hungry, so had a Nanaimo bar. It was very fresh, with the taste of the nuts and coconut in the lower layer very prominent.

Breakfast for Lunch: Huevos Rancheros at Humpty's

Huevos Rancheros by raise my voice
Huevos Rancheros, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I ended up at the Kingsway location of Humpty's for lunch. As it was too early (as far as my stomach was concerned) for anything other than breakfast food, I scanned the menu for something other than my usual two eggs and toast sort of thing. I have had eggs for the past few days, and needed something different.

I decided to try the restaurant's version of Huevos Rancheros. My eggs were done perfectly over-easy as I requested, over a crispy tortilla shell smothered in diced tomatoes and bell peppers. The "Mexi-sauce" holding everything together was more like a thin salsa with a few beans in it - I have had a thicker bean paste in other versions. Still, it had enough kick and the sour cream and salsa rounded the flavours out well.

The potato fritters (Tater Tots by any other name . . . ) were crispy as always. Overall, this was a nice change from my usual breakfast-for-lunch routine.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Four Colour Vermicelli at Veggie Garden

Four Colour Vermicelli by raise my voice
Four Colour Vermicelli, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I had the four colour vermicelli noodle bowl at Veggie Garden for lunch today. IT had veggie lemongrass chicken, beef, shrimp, and spring rolls.

The lemongrass chicken packed the most flavour punch, and my co-worker who tried it agreed. The beef was plentiful, and I wish there was more shrimp. The spring rolls were crisp and off-set the rest of the dish nicely.

The carrots were not pickled, as they often are in vermicelli bowls, but were sauteed with green bell peppers with chili flakes. The heat was not overbearing, and overall this was a filling, flavourful vegetarian dish.

Fried Rice at Veggie Garden

Fried Rice by raise my voice
Fried Rice, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I introduced a co-worker to Veggie Garden in Chinatown today. She ordered one of the fried rice dishes on the menu, which I eagerly tried.

In addition to vegetables, the rice had veggie chicken and shrimp. I wish the pieces of shrimp were a little bigger as depicted on the menu, but overall the flavour was great.