Friday, January 29, 2010

"The New" Flavours Modern Bistro

We've been to Flavours Bistro a couple times before, and while the desserts were great, the main parts of our meal were not all that memorable. But as we walked past around Christmas, we saw an "Under New Management" sign up, and thought we should give it another go. So a couple days prior to New Year's, we headed over for a quick supper before heading to the Garneau for a movie.

First of all, I love their space - the brick walls, the floor to ceiling windows in front (great for people watching), the beaten up wooden floors, and a cozy fireplace to enjoy your meal in front of... we took full advantage of the latter, since we were one of only two couples occupying the place.

Our server quickly provided us with water and menus, and brought over our requested beverages - Okanagan Spring's pale ale. Charles decided to go with the 'Kobe' beef linguine and meatballs ($16) while I went for the 'Kobe' beef burger with a bowl of butternut squash soup (~$15).

Linguine and 'Kobe' Beef Meatballs

Charles enjoyed his meal - the sauce and meatballs provided a rich and hearty winter warm up, although he was not convinced of the $16 value of the dish. My burger was good too, although with the meat, cheese and bacon crowding the bun, it was almost verging on greasy. The soup was simply average; good, but nothing memorable.

'Kobe' Beef Burger and Butternut Squash soup

While the menu seems to have a few different items, the food quality doesn't seemed to have changed with the new management. What is nice though, is that they are trying to incorporate a few more local options on the menu, starting with beef, which they now get from Silver Creek Ranch.

It always seems to be the convenience of location and the actual space bringing us to Flavours, rather than the food. So although we did enjoy our experience, it wasn't quite enough to make Flavours Bistro a regular, neighborhood destination.

Flavours Modern Bistro
10354 82 Avenue
Winter Hours
Lunch M-F (11am-3pm); Brunch S, Su (11am-4pm)
Dinner M-T, Su (5-9pm); W, Th (5-10pm); F, S (5-11pm)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wild Earth Cafe renos, NY Bagel Cafe and Friends and Neighbors

Charles heads to Wild Earth Cafe pretty often - he's addicted to the cinnamon buns. Anyhow, they've been renovating for awhile now, adding much needed seating in the space that was formerly the bakery (this also includes a fireplace to cozy up next to). To achieve this, they are moving the bakery into a location a few blocks away from the Cafe... I hope the familiar "just baked" smell will remain as they bring product over.

Charles is keeping an eye on the situation, and their most recent projection for having the new space ready is ~6 months from now... this means they are planning to keep the place open throughout renos.

The following picture is of Charles' most recent latte at Wild Earth... he told the staff they were way too chipper in the morning.

We walked past NY Bagel Cafe this past week after Ice On Whyte, and they had a sign up advertising a new dinner menu to be unveiled in March. They have decided to close every day at 4PM to facilitate the change, so it's breakfast and lunch only for a little while.

Friends and Neighbors has closed down until February 19th (they will re-open on the 20th). The sign in their window didn't give any explanation for the closing... I hope they will be taking down the wall between the "Delight" side of things and the "Cafe" side to make the entire space less awkward to enter.

As an aside, my first guest post is up on the Kerstin's Chocolate blog!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fork Fest - Blue Pear

We arrived at The Blue Pear this evening at 7PM to a packed restaurant - Fork Fest is obviously doing its job and getting diners in. The host quickly greeted us, hung our coats, and seated us around the corner of the entrance.

Bread from Tree Stone was already on the table, but it did take a bit for our server to appear with menus and water. Once menus were provided, we were given a quick explanation of its organization, then we were left for slightly too long to make our decisions.

Of course we were there for Fork Fest and we stuck to it - there was no chance of jumping to the $89 - 5 courser. We did however choose to go with the "mini wine pairing" - a glass of sparkling wine, a glass of wine paired with the entree, and another with dessert for $29 per person. For food, Charles went for the Caesar and the Beef Two Ways, while I chose the Cauliflower Soup and the Guinea Hen Breast & Braised Chicken Thigh (they would bring the dessert menu later).

Our sparkling wine was brought out straight away, and I have to say it was a nice thing to have on an average mid-week day... it made it a bit celebratory, which we both appreciated. Our soup and salad followed quickly (I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of either). The soup was lovely and rich, and the bit of blue cheese sprinkled on top made it even creamier, while chopped walnuts provided crunch. They really did make the Caesar their own - while the dressing was fairly classic, the Parmesan-custard was a departure from the norm, and unfortunately it wasn't quite Charles' thing

We had to wait a bit for our mains, which turned out fine as we needed some time to soak up the rest of the sparkling wine. But just as we finished our glasses, our entrees appeared along with a slightly delayed glass of red for each of us.

The flat iron steak on Charles' plate was melt-in-your-mouth exceptional, and certainly the best steak he's had in the City thus far. The chili con carne was based on Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection version (I wasn't sure what to think of that), and Charles' enjoyed its richness, and said the wine went well with the slight spiciness.

Beef Two Ways

My plate was equally good - the chicken and guinea hen was crispy on the outside, but moist in the middle, and the cranberries around the plate cut through the richness of the sauce with slightly sour bursts of flavour. The stuffing reminded me of my Mom's, although the chestnuts studding this one gave it a slight edge. And as promised, the red paired with my meal went with the cranberries and stuffing nicely (although I'm still looking for a restaurant that will be able to pair a beer with my meal).

Guinea Hen Breast & Braised Chicken Thigh

Once we were both finished our meals (I'm a slower eater than Charles' and I appreciate when they don't remove his plate right away), both our plates were cleared and after another slightly lengthy wait, we were provided with a dessert menu. Charles made a bee line for the chocolate cake, but I was intrigued by their version of "Ants on a log", something I ate a lot of as a child. Our pairing with dessert was a Riesling with Charles' Chocolate, and a Tawny Port with my raisin focused dessert.


Dessert came out relatively quickly and we dove in appropriately. Charles' chocolate dessert was just that - chocolately, although there were some hints of berries throughout. My "ants on a log" was pleasantly nostalgic - there was some crunch with the peanut milk chocolate log and peanuts around the plate, a heavy concentration of celery in the sorbet, and some spiced cinnamon sultanas to round it off. It was a playful grown up version of a child hood favourite and I would certainly have another plate of it.

Ants on a log

After our dessert plates were cleared, we decided on an espresso for me and a latte for Charles before we faced the final bill...

We really enjoyed our experience, and while we were left wishing for slightly more polished service, the food made up for any delays in drinks or otherwise. Of course we would love to head back, but at $89 per person for their traditional five course menu, we are going to have to fill up our change jar.

The $45 - 3 course menu made us both happy though - it was essentially the "Baby Blue Pear" menu, which ordinarily goes for $59, and we feel there was some definite value there. Plus, the restaurant had been on our list for awhile, and we are both glad the Fork Fest deal gave us the chance to head over.

The Blue Pear
10643 123 Street
Hours: Sun & Wed through Sat (5-9:30PM); Mon & Tues (Closed)
The Blue Pear on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Food Films

A big part of my Anthro class is on the food film genre. The genre really took off in the mid 80s, but until then we watched the scenes that most movies show - no one preparing food, an unseen server, and generally people sitting down to a beautifully laid out feast, but not eating it.

According to The Prof., there are some critical factors that place a film in the "Food" genre:

1. Food must be central to the plot

2. The director must highlight the food
- this means mouth watering close ups!

3. Preparation and the cooking of food must be featured

4. Both the serving and eating of food should be shown

5. Food must be influential to the life of at least one character

So far I've seen Like Water For Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate, 1992) from Mexico, and Bella Martha (2001) from Germany (the latter was re-made in English under the title No Reservations (2007), with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart in 2007).

We also watched a bit of Eat Drink Man Women (Yin shi nan nu, 1994) yesterday in class. I've been trying to rent this for awhile now, but it always seems out. Out of these few I've seen, this one seemed the most intriguing, dealing with issues surrounding taste, cooking, eating and communication via food.

Others on the list include The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), Babette's Feast (1987), Felicia's Journey (1999), Kitchen Stories (2003), and Soul Food (1997). I don't think we'll get to all of these in class, but they seem like good enough Friday night movies to me.

And although this is a slightly different food film, Food, Inc. will be shown tomorrow night (Thursday) at 6:30PM at the Stanley Milner Theatre, as part of the Downtown Docs series. I've been trying to sit down and see it for awhile, and now that it's relating to my research project for class, I might just have to trek over and catch it there.

On another note, we are off to Blue Pear this evening for Fork Fest. Although we wanted to check out Culina Highland, we had some other plans come up and decided to cancel our reservation. There is an interesting thread on Chowhound, mostly about the price increase for the event (scroll to the bottom for 2010 stuff). I'm not sure what to think yet, but for now, I'm satisfied with what we will be getting for $45 at Blue Pear.

I thought I should have some photos somewhere in this post, so here are the ones I've been meaning to post for awhile, but haven't gotten to:

We used up the last of my reserved, frozen Pizza Napoletana dough (from The Bread Baker's Apprentice) this past week. This is the best dough recipe I've encountered - it's easy to work with (I even managed to do some half-tosses), it freezes well, and it gets crispy and airy pretty quickly on the stone. This is Charles' pizza above, with some leftover Irvine's Bacon, mozzarella and onion.

**There are also about half a dozen copies floating around with EPL. I'm not sure why I automatically linked to, but here is the link to the libraries' copies.

La Cocotte - We found this at Hendrix, after a good bit of price checking around the City. It was a good $100 or so cheaper than we found it anywhere else, plus it was boxing day and this was their last one, which was also the display model. We've been using it quite a bit, about 2 or 3 times a week, and it's great - so far we've roasted a couple chickens, made osso buco, braised sausages, short ribs, pulled pork and other things and are more than happy with its performance.

Lemon Glazed Madeleines from David Lebovitz' blog - my experience was almost as he described it would be for the first timer: the batter to mold ratio needs some work, but otherwise these were light, buttery and lemony.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sofra Turkish Cuisine

We had planned on making the Pearl Barley Risotto recipe out of "We Eat Together" last Wednesday evening, but after a quick decision to head to City Hall to check out the opening of the Winter Light Festival, and an hour or so of mingling, we decided to put it off and go check out Sofra.

The restaurant is sort of tucked away on the NE corner of 106th and 103 Avenue, and it was definitely a cold and windy walk that evening. Luckily we stepped into a brightly decorated, warm space, and were sat down immediately among a surprisingly large number of diners for a Wednesday evening. It turned out that Wednesday was their "re-opening" night after an annual two week vacation, and avid regulars had obviously missed the food.

There was only one server, in charge of both tables and the bar, working that evening, and she was clearly overwhelmed. However she did a good job moving between tables and answering any questions, and the owner, cooking in the open kitchen, was pitching in by entertaining the few tables nearest him.

Drinks were easy - they had Efes Pilsner and dark ($7 each) and neither of us could resist trying, so Charles went for the Pilsner and I for the latter. For food we decided to share the Walnut and Pepper dip ($11), Charles went for spiced meatballs ($19) and I went for the spiced Adana kebab ($20).

Walnut and Pepper Dip with fresh bread

The beer turned out to be better with the food than on its own - the Pilsner was a little too sweet and I would have liked the dark to have a deeper flavour, but it did help with the slight spiciness of the dip. We both liked the richness the walnuts added to the dip, but I think the star was the made to order flat bread arranged around the plate, which was warm, buttery and crisp... the perfect comfort food (for me at least!) on a cool evening.

Our mains came out quickly after our empty dip bowl was taken away. Both plates looked exactly the same (as below) except for the meat substitutions. I really enjoyed my kebab - it wasn't too spicy, and was full of flavour. The meatballs were similarly enjoyable, and after trying a bit of the kebab, Charles said he would go for them again. Both of us liked the bulgur pilaf that came along with our meals. It was a little bit spicy, but was a welcome change from rice.


Adana Kebab

Like the beer, dessert was also an easy choice after hearing a few favourable comments from tables around us about the Baklava ($8). I also decided to try a Turkish coffee ($4), my first, and on the advice of our server it was made with little sugar to take a bit of the bitter edge off.

Turkish Coffee


The other diners were right, the Baklava was great. It wasn't too heavy on the honey or the pastry, which meant it was nice and crisp. The coffee was also really nice - a bit sandy at first sip, but smooth and rich afterwards. Finally, instead of mints at the end of our meal, we were given two cubes of Turkish delight, which we both agreed was a nice touch.

Turkish Delight

Although the location is a bit out of our way, we will definitely be heading back... I won't be able to resist that bread for too long.

Sofra Turkish Cuisine
108-10345 106 Street(780) 423-3044
Hours: Tues through Sunday from 5PM until close

Sofra on Urbanspoon

BTW: We ended up making the "risotto" on Thursday and it turned out well. We added the mushrooms just after the onion to brown them a bit, and we used some left over shallot instead of onion, and it was fine. We just had a bit of salad with the vinaigrette David Lebovitz posted and a bit of Parmesan, and it was a lovely dinner to round out my first week back in class.

Dessert - Domori Porcelana

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anthropology 372 and a couple other things

I'm still planning on culinary school after completing my BA, and luckily the Anthropology department at U of A offers a couple "Food classes" that will hopefully satisfy both my curiosity around the culture of food as well as credit requirements towards my Anthro major.

The first day of class is never that exciting, but you do get to find out what types of assignments, papers, and exams you'll be up against. Unlike some of my other classes, I'm really looking forward to the ones for this class:

First, three short papers due at the end of January, February and March.

1. "You Are What You Eat - record your food and drink consumption for one week, and analyze your diet in comparison with the Canadian Food Guide recommendations. Do you agree with the ideal of a "good diet"? What does food and your diet mean to you?"

2. "Celebratory Meals - Valentines Day - A reflection of how food consumption events connect us with one another, in this case, our loved ones. Describe your practices on the day, their socio-cultural relevance, and what they mean to you."

Charles and I are heading off to Skinny Legs and Cow Girls for a Valentines' Day dinner, and I will likely be heading back to Kerstin's for a couple shifts around the 14th, so I should have no shortage of material!

3. "Food Markets - Analyze how food is sold to us via two food markets - one farmer's market and a supermarket - to experience the participant-observation method often used in Anthro."

Then we have a rather large and daunting partner research project and presentation on a topic of our choice. I'm still unsure of what I might do... maybe the formalization of food education or the dominance of French cuisine in North America or something. But our Professor promised a brain storming session next class to get us on the right track.

Finally, although this was only more of an attendance check, she hit us with a whopper of a question right off the bat that we had five minutes to answer before handing in:

What does food mean to you?

I wish I could say that I started scribbling down a response right away, but I couldn't. All I did was sit there for a minute watching my classmates fill half a page with their responses. I did manage to get down a few sentences to hand in, but it definitely took the rest of the day to reflect on the question and come up with an answer that satisfied me.

One of the great things about the class is the actual food we get to munch on each lecture. Everyone had to sign up for a day when they will bring in a food of their choice that they have either purchased or prepared. A lecture on food plus the actual thing... so unexpected and so great.

And not completely unrelated to this, Original Fare's Fork Fest is coming up in a couple weeks and we are heading off to The Blue Pear in the first week and to Culina Highlands the next. These are two places we have been wanting to check out for awhile, so we are definitely taking advantage of the Fork Fest prices.

Also, I picked up a copy of "We Eat Together" by Julianna Mimande and Gabe Wong, at Kerstin's just before Christmas. We've made almost half a dozen recipes including the Red Wine Braised Leek Sausage, Bill and Mona's BBQ Sauce with short ribs (next time we are going to try some stewing Bison cubes), the Potato and "Turnip" (we used parsnip) mash with horseradish, Hot Chocolate with Honey and Cinnamon, and tonight we are going to try the Pearled Barley Risotto recipe.

So far everything has turned out great and very tasty. What I love most is that since the recipes were prepared here in Edmonton using locally available ingredients, I don't have to search the City to find something incredibly rare. Audrey's still had three in stock as of this afternoon, and I know Kerstin's had a couple on Boxing Day, but they are certainly selling fast!