Sunday, April 28, 2013

Just Desserts: Macarons from Bon Ton

French macarons are so decadent. When I heard that Bon Ton Bakery was now making them, I had to give them a try.

I was not disappointed. The six flavours were distinct, powerful, and rich. The outer meringue layer gave way easily when bitten into (or pressed hard). My favourites were the chocolate, with a rich filling, the pralines, and the caramel.

Steak and Mushroom Pie

A quick lunch at the downtown Sherlock Holmes Pub on Rice Howard Way in between events on a busy afternoon. The Steak and Mushroom pie was more like a stew or soup - a hearty one at that - with a large piece of puffed pastry instead of bread. There was a lot of meat, potatoes, and mushrooms.

My main complaint was that the service was a bit lacking. Despite the fact the majority of the lunch crowd had cleared out, after being ignored for at least five minutes we had to get up to get our own menus, which finally caught the attention of our server. The rest of the meal went relatively well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday at Sabzy

Traditional Persian yogurt soda #yegfood

On Saturday, I had supper at Sabzy. I wanted something to drink without alcohol and was reflective of Persian culture. My answer came in a cup of doogh, which is carbonated, plain yogurt with herbs. The taste was salty and sour, and the carbonation added an interesting texture. It is definitely not something to chug down when thirsty, but to sip and experience. I could see myself acquiring a taste for this.

Lamb shank and barberry rice #yegfood

The lamb shank with barberry rice was ordered on the other side of the table, but I just had to try it. The lamb was cooked for 18 hours and the seasonings had totally permeated it. It literally fell off the bone. It tasted different than any other lamb I had ever tried before.

Marinated chicken with barberry saffron rice #yegfood

I had the barberry rice mix with marinated chicken. The chicken was also very tender, with flavour through and through. The rice was plentiful and had an interesting assortment of flavours. At its base was saffron, topped with almonds, pistachios, and barberry, which were dried. They look like pieces of pomegranate, but have a slightly bitter flavour. This dominated, and I could not really taste the nuts.

Overall, we both enjoyed our meals. I am going to have to come back for the doogh and the lamb shank.

Returning for Dessert at Block 1912

A cup of coffee and delicious dessert can be a perfect nightcap, or evening-cap as it was in this case.

My Chocolate Marquise is one of the most decadent desserts I have ever had. The rich outer later of ganache, the rich, firm mousse on the inside, the thing layers of cake in the middle and bottom - all of this combined to something with incredible flavour and texture.

The other dessert of choice was a three layer chocolate torte with white, milk, and dark layers. It got more rich the further down I went, and the chocolate shavings on top added an element of decadence.

Both desserts paired well with Block 1912's excellent coffee.

Breakfast for Lunch: Corned Beef Hash at Mill Creek Cafe

I had been to Mill Creek Cafe once before, but too late to try the breakfast menu, which stops at 1 p.m. on weekends.

Fortunately, I got there early enough on Saturday and the huge menu was overwhelming! So many things to try, and many of them not the typical brunch items I would expect. One of them was corned beef hash, served English style with the corned beef, onions, potatoes, and eggs fried together, and served with toast.

The portion filled the circumference of my plate and tasted incredible! The corned beef almost tasted like salty ground beef, with a similar texture. The onions were sweet, the eggs were crispy, and the potatoes were soft. This is definitely a breakfast I would want any time of the day!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Marusia's Kitchen at the Ukrainian Petrekivski Folk Art Exhibit

Ukrainian Petrekivski Folk Art Exhibit

On April 13 I attended the Ukrainian Petrekivski Folk Art Exhibit at the Ukrainian National Federation building on 106 Avenue and 98 Street. The event featured folk art from private collections, a craft sale, dance performances from Ukrainian and Polish youth dance groups, and, of course, food. Upstairs, traditional Easter breads (paska and babka) and treats were on sale, while downstairs, Marusia's Kitchen had a variety of fresh Ukrainian foods for lunch.


I was offered a sampling of some of the food. Of course, I had to try the perogies. Let's just say that they were much better than the frozen variety, from the firm dough to the creamy potato and cheese filling. On the side I had some sauerkraut, something that I don't care for, but again this was very different from the mass-produced stuff. For one, it was not watery. It also had meat in it (probably pork). I still found it very strong, but anyone who likes sauerkraut would have been in foodie heaven with it.


I also had a steaming bowl of borscht. Again, my familiarity with this beet soup is the bottled version I have at Passover. Having it hot was a very different experience. The broth was much richer than what I am used to, and it was jam packed with shredded beets and some beans too. It was absolutely delicious.

Ukrainian Petrekivski Folk Art Exhibit

After my meal I enjoyed some of the excellent dancing! Many thanks to the organizers for letting me know about the event. Oh, and by the way, Marusia is a real Ukrainian babushka who I had the pleasure of meeting.

Ukrainian Petrekivski Folk Art Exhibit
From left: Karen Woywitka, Mary Hoshko (Marusia), and Mary Ann Dutka.

The Pho Files: Pho Delight

Nothing ends a day out better than pho, so my adventures on Whyte Avenue yesterday came to a conclusion with my ifrst visit to Pho Delight.

The menu was similar as to ones I have seen in various pho restaurants - glossy paper and colour photos and all - and there is also a house menu on an eraseable board with specials.

I opted for my tried and true steak pho, in a regular portion. The steak was lean and tender, while the soup was topped with generous portions of green and white onions, and cilantro. The noodles were plentiful, the broth rich and meaty enough (with a hint of sweetness). It was certainly just as good as many of the bowls in Chinatown, with similar prices.

Pho Delight is definitely going to become my go-to pho place on Whyte.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Food Issues: Saying No to GMO

In my other life, I am very involved in Edmonton's activist scene (and by "activist," I mean left-wing, granola crunching, tree-hugging, hippy sorts of things). People who know me in real life, or even just online, won't be surprised by this fact. Part of the reason why I started a food blog was that there really was no seamless way to integrate my interest in writing about food with my main blog, where I usually write about social issues and events.

However, earlier this week I attended an event that was very much about both food and activism. Day of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa took place on April 9 outside of the office of Laurie Hawn, MP Edmonton-Centre. Farmers, food security activists, and people from the general community came out to express their disapproval of genetically modified crops.

Day Of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa

Genetically modified crops pose a problem to farmers, particularly organic ones. If a farmers wants to grow a crop organically and his field is surrounded by other farms growing GM versions of the same crops, there is a problem if there is seed drift due to wind or cross pollination. The farmer can actually get fined by companies patenting seeds for growing those crops without a license - even if it happens by accident!

Day Of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa

Another problem is the use of chemicals in GM crops - crops which are used as feed for farmers growing livestock. Alfalfa is used in feed and farmers who wish to avoid GM alfalfa are finding it harder and harder to do so.

Day Of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa

What can we as food consumers do about GMOs? Buy local. Buy organic. Take a stand. A "March Against Monsanto" is scheduled for May 25.

Day Of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa

For my full set of photos from the event, click here. A video playlist of speakers is here.

Szechuan Beef at Garden Bakery

Szechuan beef #yegfood by raise my voice
Szechuan beef #yegfood, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When we had lunch yesterday at Garden Bakery I decided to go with one of my favourite westernized Chinese meals: Szechuan Beef.

A word to describe my meal is: mountain. For $9 I had a huge pile of white steamed rice covered in crispy beef shreds and vegetables. I would have labelled the meal ginger beef, as the sauce had a mild and pleasant ginger taste, while Szechuan beef tends to be spicier. That aside, it was wonderful. The sauce enhanced the rice and there was no way I was going to be able to finish the entire meal. Fortunately, I was eating with someone who has a never-ending appetite, so little went to waste (although I am sure for both of us much of it went to waist).

Lemon Chicken at Garden Bakery

Lemon chicken #yegfood by raise my voice
Lemon chicken #yegfood, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I tried food other than treats at Garden Bakery for the first time yesterday.

The lemon chicken was a large potion, cut up with covered in a lemon sauce that was not too sweet. The chicken was a little on the chewy side and overcooked in some spots, but overall it was crispy and delicious. This was not my main meal, but I was happy to enjoy a couple of pieces.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Pho Files: Vegetable Pho at Pho Rice Pot

After spending over an hour at a rally on a surprisingly chilly April day, a bowl of pho was in order to help me warm up.

We headed to Pho Rice Pot where I had a bowl of vegetable pho. It was a huge portion, like the other bowls of pho here, with many vegetables floating atop the plentiful noodles and vegetable broth.

Unlike other vegetarian phos I have had, there was no protein in this one (such as tofu cubes or fake meat). However, it was still very filling.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

I love brunch - when I have time, it is my favourite thing to do on Saturday mornings. And although I love the arts and music, I have never been to the opera.

So, I was thrilled when I was invited to join the Edmonton Opera for its Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch at the Sutton Place Hotel on April 7.

The brunch is one of the diverse ways the Edmonton Opera presents the art form to audiences. It is part of a quarterly series for Opera patrons to enjoy a meal while listening to performances by cast members of the forthcoming production. In this case, it is Tchaikovsky's romantic Eugene Onegin. This production is notable as it is one of the few Russian operas the Edmonton Opera has presented.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

As a result, the food had a Russian and Eastern European theme to it. Along with traditional breakfast items like eggs benedict and sausage (although in this case the sausage was turkey), there were Russian dumplings, cabbage soup, beet salad, three cheese tortellini, roast chicken in a mushroom and sour creme demi-glace, blinis (thin pancakes), and several other salads.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

It was quite an unusual assortment of foods for an 11 a.m. meal indeed. Quite frankly, if served later in the day many of the items would have made a fine supper. That being said, the food was well prepared and the staff extremely helpful and friendly. I had to make a couple of inquiries into ingredients and was promptly given the answers I needed so I could make the right selections for my plate.

My mimosa #yegfood

First, I had a mimosa, which was absolutely spectacular. I wish I had gotten the name of the champagne being used, because it was very resonant with the orange juice, without being overpowering. The coffee being served was also excellent - I drank mine black, which is rare for me.

Russian inspired food. #yegfood

Of the food I sampled, I enjoyed the roast chicken the most. Moist, tender, and carved, the sauce was deep and delicious. It went well with the has browns, which were sliced, pan fried potatoes that were lightly seasoned. The rice was a little watery for my taste, probably a victim of the steam tray. I especially liked the cold beet salad with walnuts - the beets were soft and flavourful, and the creamy dressing brought all of the components together very well.

Cabbage soup #yegfood

The only two items on my plate that were slightly traditional were the turkey sausage and blinis. I liked the sausage well enough - someone at my table commented that they did not taste much different than the pork variety (I would not know). The blinis were slightly sweet and quite spongy. I like the flavour but found them hard to cut as a result of their texture. Finally, a cup of cabbage soup certainly felt Eastern European to be eating, although it was basically a beef soup with lots of cabbage.

Dessert #yegfood

By the time I hit the dessert table, I was already quite full yet tempted by the choices of cheesecakes, layer cakes, mousses, fruit, and pastries. I settled on a small croissant, which was flaky and melted in my mouth. I also had a small danish, which I think was strawberry under its lattice topping. Of course, I could not resist a serving of the decadent chocolate mousse.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

Slightly earlier than indicated on the program, the performances began. Cast members from Eugene Onegin performed short selections of Eastern European opera, particularly from Dvorak, Bartok, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky. I enjoyed the variety of songs and their brevity allowed for a substantial program in a short span of time. For me, these "bite-sized" portions of opera were an excellent introduction to seeing the art form live.

Eugene Onegin Opera Brunch

I was tempted to head for a piece of Oreo cheesecake after the performances were complete, but I was utterly stuffed. This was the final brunch of the season. Next season, they will take place at the Petroleum Club.

Many thanks to the Edmonton Opera for a delicious and entertaining experience!

For my full photo set from the brunch, click here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Light Fare at Zocalo

Food Cooler at Zocalo

Zocalo has for years been a treasure in the inner city. Not only is it a home and garden shop selling beautiful plants and housewares, but its espresso bar and desserts make it a destination.

Zocalo has taken its food offerings once step further with the addition of fresh, house-made salads, soups, and sandwiches. There is also a greater variety of desserts.

Bagel and Lox

I had coffee here this afternoon with a colleague and she enjoyed her bagel and lox. It was a good sized portion for only $5 and she ended up taking half of it home for later.

Blueberry Pomegranate Crisp

In addition to our coffees, we had the fresh blueberry and pomegranate crisp with vanilla ice cream. We were amongst the first customers to indulge in this treat, which was warm and delicious. The fruity filling was enhanced by the crunchy texture of the pomegranates. Of course, ice cream went so well on the buttery topping. We were both enamoured of this dessert.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Persian Pleasure: Sabzy

Saturday was spent at several event on Whyte Avenue and included lunch at Sabzy Persian Grill.

I had a Queen Kabob platter. It was a long kebob of beef and chicken served with saffron rice and grilled tomatoes. The chicken and beef were done to perfection.

Although the portion was deceptively huge, I opted for a double kebob portion - the second kebob was a choice of chicken, ground beef and lamb, or vegetable. I had the chicken, which was the equivalent of a thick breast in chunks, juicy and seasoned. There was a symphony in my mouth.

I also tried the Lamb Stew, which was tender and aromatic. The bowl was filled with meat, herbs, and kidney beans.