Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Remedy Cafe - A much needed stop after a Whyte Ave. walk

I finally jumped back on my workout routine this past Saturday, having taken liberal time off to enjoy the holiday festivities. After my stop at Curves, I met Zed on Whyte Ave. where he was perusing the music store. We had decided earlier on in the day to stop at Remedy Cafe on 109th for lunch on our way home, and this turned out to be a good plan after 20 minutes of dodging a massive amount of Boxing Day(s) shoppers.

Since Remedy is attached to our movie store, I constantly end up craving their fantastic homemade Chai. Spicy and slightly sweet, with a sprinkling of cinnamon to finish it off, it is definitely addicting, and I was looking forward to the indulgence.

On arrival, we placed our order which consisted of a Chai latte and Palak Paneer wrap for me, and a cafe latte and Tandori Chicken wrap for Zed. Along with the Chai, the lunch time wraps available at Remedy are another gem. Whoever came up with the idea to put Remedy's Indian and Pakistani style offerings into pita bread, grill the thing, and serve it with a cinnamon syrup concoction, is a genius. These things are amazing, but are sadly only available at lunch time (12-5PM). However the delicious fillings are available on their own (served with pita bread) from 5PM onwards.

Due to its proximity to campus, the movie store, and the Garneau Theatre, Remedy is often packed (mostly with students). But since we ventured there in between the Christmas-New Year stretch, a few tables on the main floor were still available and the loft level was completely open. So, after placing our order, we headed up stairs to sip our drinks and await the call of the readiness of our wraps.

About 10 minutes later, we heard the announcement of our meals (I imagine the calling out of our order would have been hard to hear in the fully packed cafe), and Zed kindly headed off to gather them. As expected, the wraps were fantastic - the filling provided a nice level of spiciness, the pita shell a crunchy crust, and the cinnamon syrup dip melted everything together with a lovely sweetness.

With great food and drinks (and free wireless connection), Remedy is a great place to stop and relax (or study!) - no wonder it is usually bustling.

Remedy Cafe
8631 109 Street NW

Along with the Chai and wraps, Remedy is licensed, and serves up a vast selection of beer. All their food (ie. Palak Paneer, Tandori Chicken, Chana Masala, and much more selection), as well as the Chai mixture, is available in containers to take home.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday Night Flatbread Pizzas

Friday afternoon (aka Boxing Day), Zed and I decided to head up to Sobey's to get something edible for dinner that evening. Pizzas were the first thing that came to mind, and I was eager to return to my old pizza crust recipe, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, that has not seen the light of day for about a year now.

In hindsight, Boxing Day is not the best day to buy groceries - because everything is shut down Christmas, the veggies were not the freshest, and unfortunately they were also out of yeast. Either way, we found a good looking red pepper, a yam, red onion, mushrooms, some Italian style veggie sausage things, two balls of Bocconcini and a jar of tomato sauce. No yeast forced us into the bread section, where we pounced upon one last lonely package of flatbread.

Once home, I put the red pepper in a hot oven to get nice and charred, sautéed the mushrooms and onion, then the slices of yam, and finally the sliced sausage. Later that evening, we assembled our pizzas, topped them with pepper and rosemary (the latter made the condo smell amazing) and placed them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Our pizzas were followed by a cup of spicy hot chocolate, and a Best of George Carlin DVD.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas cheer and the food that goes with it

We have had some good drinks over the holiday (hopefully there's more to come), as well as some food ranging from fair to great to go with them.

My first was at Sherlock Holmes pub on Tuesday the 23rd. A few co-workers and I decided to head over for a lunch time beer, as it was the last work-day before Christmas (and we were the only ones not on holidays). I went with my back-up-favourite available at most bars around the city, Innis and Gunn. A sort of honey coloured beer, it has a strong flavor of oak (their signature, as it is aged in oak barrels) as well as citrus, and finishes with a nice kick of whiskey. I downed this along with a veggie and goat cheese quesadilla that was a little too heavy on the goat cheese, and lacking in veggies.

We decided to stay for a second round, and our server took this opportunity to tell me about a limited edition I&G they just got in. Slighty darker than its original counterpart, the beer was aged in oak barrels originally used to age rum. Before I knew it, most of our table had left their love of Guiness behind for the rum infused treat. Each bottle arrived at our table in its own box, and was quickly poured into the I&G goblet. The beer was clean and smooth, and I was left with the spicy, sweet taste of rum - this was a great discovery.

That same evening, Zed and I headed over to our summertime, after site hangout, the Sugarbowl, to meet up with a few Folkies for a Christmas beer. I quickly opted for the Anchor Steam, an amber beer from San Francisco, and Zed for his old-reliable, Alexandar Keith's. Usually we jump on the soufflé, a warm, melting pudding of chocolatey goodness, but we didn't quite feel like a dessert that evening, so instead we opted for the three bean hummus and pita ($9; I won't post the picture as the light wasn't good enough for it to look as appetizing as it was). After my quesadilla that afternoon, the hummus was heavenly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beer-hummus relationship.

Our next trek was to the Hotel MacDonald's Confederation Lounge on Christmas day, for a warm drink after a rather cold trip to the skating rink at City Hall. The quiet, comfortable lounge and great service often draws us to the Mac for a drink after any outing, and yesterday it was more than appealing. Zed ordered a coffee and Bailey's and I went for a Ginger infused Rum Toddy. On this day we decided to order lunch... maybe it was the Christmas spirit that allowed us to look past the surprising food prices. In the end, I went for the Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Panini with Sweet Potato Fries ($18.50), and Zed for the Chicken Sandwich ($20).

Our drinks arrived quickly, Zed's topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and and a cherry, and mine with a lemon wedge. The ginger added to the rum toddy was delicious, and was the perfect warmer on the cold afternoon. When our food arrived we were slightly less than impressed, especially for the price we knew we were paying. While the sandwiches both tasted good, we have definitely found better ones for half the price. In the end though, we will always return for the drinks.

I suppose our drinks were more about the company than the drink itself, but during all our gatherings they provided everything from a pleasing sipping experience that faded into the background, to a fantastic conversation piece.

Sherlock Holmes Pub
10012 101A Avenue NW

10922 88 Avenue

The Confederation Lounge
10065 100th Street

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend gatherings: more chocolate, Tourtière and Sunday brunch

This past weekend was the busiest of the season for Zed and I - Friday night was the Warehouse Party, early Saturday afternoon was a chocolate tasting/customer appreciation event at The Cocoa Room, mid afternoon and evening the "Zed" family baking/cooking/confection day (and combined birthday and anniversary), and Sunday was a short open house which included Zed's sister and her family, and a decided lunch for that afternoon.

Having received the December newsletter from Kerstin's Chocolates, Zed and I quickly claimed our tickets to the customer appreciation event being held Saturday from 12pm - 6pm, that promised to pair chocolate with a selection of Kusmi teas. The event delivered, and we discovered a couple new chocolates of note: Michel Cluizel's 1er Cru de Plantation Mangaro Lait, a 50% dark milk from Madagascar, and the Cardamint Chocophilia bar (which was incredible with a cup of green tea). We also picked up the Amedei Chuao bar (from the Chuao island in Venezuela - it's amazing!), a Patric 70% Madagascar bar, some of the Spicy Drinking Chocolate mix and mocha meltaways to take to the gathering later that afternoon.

After our stopover for chocolate, we headed to Zed's brother's for the festivities. Having a smaller sized family with few to none traditions beyond getting together for Christmas dinner, I was interested in the yearly event featuring recipes that have been with the "Zed" family for years (last year I couldn't make it, but had a yummy selection of treats hand delivered afterwards). The spread included generous amounts of sucre-creme, rice crispy squares, shortbread, pecan squares and Nanaimo bars, as well as freshly made donuts lightly dusted with sugar and cinnamon.

After picking at these delicacies for a couple hours, it was on to the Tourtière (Québécois style meat pies). As Zed's vegetarian sister, her husband and two daughters, as well as I were in attendance, a vegetarian Tourtière made with veggie ground round was created, and it was delicious (luckily I was able to take home the left over veggie pie, which will make a nice main on Christmas day). To end the evening everyone enjoyed angel food cake, layered with lemon custard and topped with meringue (apparently a cross between angel food and lemon meringue pie - both of the birthday boys favourite desserts combined).

Sunday around noon, Zed's sister, her husband and daughters came over to inspect our newly completed renovations. Before they headed back to Calgary, they invited us to lunch, and Zed and I suggested Blue Plate as our destination. Having tried to take them to Blue Plate last year (they were closed for Christmas), we were eager to have them test some of Edmonton's veggie offerings.

We vaguely remembered that Blue Plate has brunch Sundays until 2pm, but it seemed close enough to the end of this time slot for the six of us to squeeze into the full restaurant. We ordered a good selection of brunch style dishes including the maple glazed cornbread, two Florentine Bennies, a stack of pancakes with lots of maple syrup, the tofu scramble and two kids' breakfasts, complete with homemade vegetarian sausages. As always Blue Plate came through - our meals were quickly served, and their goodness was quickly devoured and enjoyed.

All in all, the weekend was a great success, and the wonderful food and company was just what we needed to make it feel like the Holiday Season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A festive Festival gathering

About 40 of us from the Folk Festival's Site Crew gathered at the Festival warehouse this past Friday for some Season's tidings, good food and refreshments.

Having had a good experience with Chianti Cafe and Restaurant this past summer, we opted to order vegetarian and meat lasagnas along with Italian and Caesar salads (~$9.50 per person). We decided on cake for dessert, and La Favorite just off 124th Street seemed to be the ticket. Having passed it a couple times during our jaunts to Urban Diner, Zed and I were eager to try their tasty looking creations. A chocolate sheet cake soaked with rum and topped with a chocolate ganache sounded scrumptious, and a cake big enough to feed 32 (~$65) was quickly ordered.

When Friday night came we split up into teams: Zed with one friend to pick up the mains (and some buffet warmers that he was able to borrow from an undisclosed location), and I with another friend to grab the cake.

Chianti is fairly accommodating when it comes to catering: all the cutlery (minus serving utensils) is included, as well as paper plates, parmasan cheese and butter for the rolls. The only complaint we could have had was that we could not pick-up the food any later than 5:30PM, and since our gathering did not start until 7PM, we were glad to have scored the warming dishes. In the end though, the food was served piping hot and Chianti gave us copius amounts of Caesar and Italian dressings on the side, keeping our salads from turning soggy.

The veggie lasagna combined a good amount of hearty noodles, with veggies, cheese and a slighty spicy tomato sauce layered in between. While I will always prefer the veggie lasagna Zed and I create at home, Chianti's version was completely satisfying in our industrial surroundings. Zed tried both the vegetarian and meat versions, and while he enjoyed the heartiness of the meat lasagna, his vote went to the veggie - the spicy kick made all the difference.

After everyone had their fill of the lasagna and salad, it was time for a sweet ending. The cake was a little on the dryer side, but the rum had thoroughly soaked in, giving a lovely depth to the sponge. The ganache style icing had the perfect amount of sweetness, and its moist stickiness balanced the dryness of the cake well. Although the cake tasted as good as it sounded when we first ordered it, the best part were the decorations - atop the cake were miniature deer, presents and pine trees surrounded by a generous amount of chocolate shavings, that really made it a holiday treat.

Followed by a hot cup of Kahlua and coffee, the evening turned out to be a warm reminder of Folk Festival summers, the perfect pick-me-up during the seemingly never ending cold of winter.

Chianti Cafe and Restaurant
10501 82 Avenue

La Favorite Pastry Shop
12431 102 Avenue

Head office and wedding cakes
11401 95 Street

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Breakfast for dinner

Once again we headed over to Planet Organic this evening after a stopover at Curves. Tonight Zed volunteered to make pancakes for dinner, so we picked up eggs and milk (and a gingerbread man to share... it was very good) and grabbed the bus home.

Zed's pancake recipe always turns out more like crepes. The origins of this recipe are with Zed's mom in Montreal, and she insists they should be fluffy but we are not sure why they repeatedly turn out crepe like when we make them. Either way, they taste great. This evening I topped mine with pomegranate seeds and maple syrup, and Zed with maple syrup only.

The following recipe makes about 6 pancakes.

In a small bowl, mix these ingredients in the following order:

1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Granulated Sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup of flour (whole wheat or white)

Mix the above well, then add:

2/3 cup of milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp of melted butter

Mix the ingredients together until smooth. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet (or other pan of choice... we use a non-stick pan). Drop a spoonful of mixture into the pan. When the top begins to bubble, it's time to flip it over. Serve with Maple Syrup, blueberries, bananas, raspberries, strawberries or whatever tickles your fancy.

Recipe credits go to Zed's Mom.

"Battle" of the Veggie Burgers (but equally good desserts)

Zed and I stopped at High Level Diner Monday night for a quick bite to eat on our way home. There seemed to be a couple larger groups occupying the restaurant, but we were quickly seated by the window.

After Zed ordered a coffee and I an Earl Grey tea (I love how the milk is served in tiny milk bottles; it always makes me happy), we perused our menus. After a brief glance at the menu, Zed chose the Ural Burger, but looking at High Level's menu is a pointless gesture for me, as I cannot seem to leave their Veggie Burger. Made with oats, sunflower seeds, rice and other good things, it is crispy and slightly dryer than any other veggie burger I've had - topped with lettuce and bean sprouts, and encased in a whole wheat bun - it's delicious. Plus it comes with their fun and eternally good condiments, including homemade corn relish, beet relish, Dijon mustard and a home made ketchup with lots of horseradish in it (Zed doesn't appreciate any of these condiments, but that means more for me!).

Although I always enjoy the High Level veggie burger, I can't help but compare it to the Blue Plate Diner's. Full of beets, zucchini, carrots, sunflower seeds and rice, Blue Plate's burger is lovely and moist with a much richer texture than the High Level option. Topped with cheese, a herb mayo, and a very well done pickle and red onion to burger ratio, it holds it own as far as veggie burgers in Edmonton go.

I'm not sure there will ever be a clear winner. When at High Level I will always enjoy their version, and the same goes for Blue Plate. Both are made in house, and to me that means you can never really lose with either... there are far too many restaurants serving frozen, tasteless patties masquerading as veggie burgers (Watch for "Garden Patties/Burgers" or those in the "Healthy" section of menus). So I suppose the battle will rage on... but for now, I think it's a tie.

I also have to mention the desserts at both these establishments. High Level Diner with its bread pudding made of their own cinnamon buns, topped with a brown butter Bourbon sauce, it is, and was, the perfect treat during a really cold evening. Blue Plate has also created their own dessert of homey comfort - the daily crumble. Full of whatever fruit they've decided on that day (usually apple and something... our favourite is apple and sour cherry), then topped with a crispy layer of butter and oats, baked until bubbling and served with a nice scoop of Pinocchio vanilla bean, it is a killer combo. There is really no rivalry here... it all seems to depend what your sweet tooth is up to on a particular day. If you are craving something rich and sweet, head to High Level, but for a more laid back dish full of fruit, Blue Plate is the way to go.

In the end, I suppose there really isn't a "battle". If you are looking for a good veggie burger (or any burger for that matter, as Zed commented he would recommend the beef burgers at either location), and a good satisfying dessert, you really can't go wrong whether you choose High Level or Blue Plate as your destination.

High Level Diner
10912 - 88 Avenue
M-Th (8am-10pm) F (8am-11pm) S (9am-11pm) Su (9am-10pm)

Blue Plate Diner
10145 - 104 Street
M-F (11am-10pm) S (9am-10pm; brunch 9am-1pm) Su (9am-10pm; brunch 9am-2pm)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Open House Goodies

Opting to attempt an eat-at-home weekend (a welcome choice for the budget's sake), Zed and I decided to have some friends over on Sunday evening to celebrate the completion (minus a few touch ups) of our renovations.

We had already decided after our chocolate tasting at The Cocoa Room on Wednesday, that we would have to put out chocolate for everyone. This included some of the Patric and Bonnat Asfarth bars and the bark from Wednesday, as well as a Bonnat Java bar (65%; dark milk), a Domori 70% bar (Madagascar), a Francois Pralus 75% bar (Madagascar) and some Mocha Meltaways that I picked up on Friday. Beyond this, we decided to hunt for the savory bits at the Sobeys on Jasper after our yoga class Sunday afternoon.

Upon arrival, we came stumbling in upon a shelf full of some hefty looking sweet potatoes, and remembering a recipe I had seen on the Foodie Suz blog the other day, we picked up a couple for some sweet potato fries. We grabbed a couple limes, their zest headed for a bowl of popcorn, then made our way over to the bakery side of things. There we picked up a couple baguettes, containers of hummus, baba ganouj and tzatziki (I know its awful not to make these dips, but we were looking for something quick, as we still had a good bit of cleaning to do before everyone's arrival). A jar of salsa, a couple bags of tortilla chips and a bottle of orange and cranberry sparkling water completed the food portion of our trip.

Next we headed over to deVine Wines to satisfy the promise of beer we had made to our guests. Our fridge already stocked with the Anchor Brewing Company's 34th Annual Christmas Ale, we decided to pick up a six pack of Sleeman's Honey Brown (a sure favourite), Zed's choice of Steam Whistle, and Paddock Wood 606, our favourite IPA from Saskatoon. Unfortunately we hadn't planned far enough ahead to arrange a chauffer, and upon deciding we wouldn't be able to walk our packages to their final destination, we were forced to hire a cab for a pricy four minute trip home.

Our first priority at home was to clean. We vaccumed and washed everything, and the fridge was given a good scrub and filled with beer. While Zed put together a newly purchased lamp from Ikea for the bedroom, I peeled and cut the sweet potatoes into wedges, tossed them in rosemary, olive oil and salt and pepper, and got them into the oven to begin their crisping. After the lamp was set up to our liking, Zed popped a bowl of popcorn in the maker and I topped it off with some chili powder, lime zest and a bit of salt, a reference to a snack available at the Sugar Bowl. We cut the baguettes into disks appropriate for dipping, and arranged the chips and salsa.

As our guests began to arrive, I set out the hot and crispy fries with a bowl of mayo with garlic, salt, and Tobasco for dipping, and placed the arrangement of chocolates on the coffee table.

Everything was enjoyed throughout the night, and our friends were duely impressed by our newly finished condo.

After the festivities were over, as we cleaned and went over the evening, we were more than happy to have attempted the at home party, with what we felt was a good mix of take away treats and homemade creations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Cocoa Room - An evening full of tasty chocolate

After calling frantically on Monday to find out if any spots were left, Zed and I headed over to The Cocoa Room yesterday evening for a chocolate tasting.

It turned out Kerstin's husband and business partner would be leading the tasting. So, after 5 others joined us in the tiny store front, we began our evening.

He spoke for about an hour about where the beans come from, and the three different kinds of beans - Forastero (75% of chocolate is made from these beans, grown in Africa, the trees are hardy and can withstand different climate variations), Criollo (About 3% of the world's beans come from these trees in different regions of the world; they are harder to produce, as the slightest change in weather can cause them to die), and Trinitario (Thought to be a mixture of the best atributes of both). Most main stream chocolates (ie. Hershey's) mix all three until they get the guaranteed, consistent flavour of their brand.

He went on to speak about how chocolate goes from the bean to the bar - the fermentation process, the roasting, mixing, conching, and tempering. Check out this link for all the steps: He mentioned that he once saw a list that went over 52 steps to get the bean from tree to bar.

After the history and process information, which did turn out to be extremely necessary, helpful, and interesting, we went on next to what we had all come for - the tasting.

Something similar to wine, the goal is to find different aromas, flavour notes, and textures within the chocolate. The best way to experience these delicate flavours is to taste small pieces of single origin chocolate bars, which Kerstin does import. Because the bean is affected so much by geography, weather, and other environmental fluctuations, single origin bars allow taste-buds to pick up the mild nuances.

So we filled up our water glasses and went on to sample 10 different pieces of chocolate. The first was Hershey's, which everyone found very sugary, not really tasting much else. This was followed by three other milk chocolates with high cocoa content (dark milk chocolate). While I enjoyed one of Kerstin's Chocophilia bars, the Venezuelan 48%, my favourite was the Bonnat chocolate, a French creation with beans from Asfarth (an island in Sumatra), it was a 65% milk chocolate. Although it contained nothing other than milk, cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter, it tasted like a hazelnut truffle and was lovely and silky to the tongue.

The last 6 selections were classified as dark chocolate. The first was from Laura Secord - none of us could taste anything other than a strong flavour of something burnt, and apparently the point was to taste over roasted beans. Zed found his favourite in these selections by Patric, a choclatier in the midwest United States. A 67% chocolate from Madagascar, it smelled wonderful, like dried fruit (prunes), and tasted like fruit, hazelnuts and earthiness. It completely won Zed over.

As we neared the end of our sampling, we were all having a chocolate overload - it is difficult to handle so much well made chocolate at once, he told us, you only need a small piece to enjoy its full effects.

At the end of our tasting he offered us a sample of the stores newest creations, Mocha Meltaways, which I have raved about previously, and then let us peruse the store. Z and I ended up selecting a milk chocolate Santa (a gift for a niece), a milk selection of Christmas bark (with dried fruit and nuts), and a bar of the Bonnat and Patric chocolates we enjoyed so much.

This is a great season to check out the store - with some unique Christmas creations, various imported bars, baking chocolate, and Kerstin's always stocked items (ie. Drinking chocolate and Chocophilia bars), it definitely puts a welcome spin on the time old gift of chocolate.

A new tasting is scheduled each month. Tickets to chocolate tastings (~$20 per person) and making classes (~$65 per person) are available on the website, in store, or by phone.

10139 - 112 Street
T-W (10-5) Th-F (10-7) S (10-5) Su-M (Closed)

If you would like to create your own chocolate tasting event, or to learn more about chocolate in general, check out this link:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Soup Adventures at Home

Last night Z and I travelled over to Planet Organic on 104 Street to find some inspiration for a real home cooked meal. As it was particularly cold and snowy outside, I was craving some nice warm and spicy soup, and I convinced Z he'd like this as well (he really didn't have a choice since I was cooking).

We picked up cabbage, carrots, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, ginger, tofu and some udon noodles and went to town. I threw in a couple cloves of whole garlic, a good size knob of finely chopped ginger, some chili flakes, a bay leaf, a hefty drizzle of Tamari, about four sliced carrots, and some pepper into a pot of water, and proceeded to boil it for about half an hour. After it started to smell nice and savory, I threw in the cabbage, mushrooms and tofu. I let it boil for a little longer, then put in the udon noodles, and left them to cook and stew for another 15 minutes.

For something thrown together in one big pot, I thought this turned out relatively well. Not only that, but it was our first home cooked meal in days. Z didn't really appreciate all the cabbage (he doesn't care much for cooked veggies... the man eats potatoes raw), but he got through it alright.

Tonights meal of leftovers will definitely be interesting - now they've had a night to mix and mingle, the garlic and ginger will have definitely settled in.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Blue Plate Diner - One of many frequent visits

Z and I caved once again last Friday evening on our way home from work - our intention was to stop at Sobey's to pick up ingredients for a fabulous dinner, but something beckoned us to the other side of the street where the Blue Plate Diner happened to be.

Upon entering, we are always greeted with a "Hey, Guys! How's it going? It's been so long!" Although the staff don't know our names, we are there enough to have been deemed "regulars" by some of the servers. Our menus are rarely opened anymore... we have our favourites and stick by them. However, Fridays are always a good day to go for us, as the "Friday Night Dinner" meat or veggie special presents a new choice.

Despite new offerings, we were in a groove that neither of us were anxious to leave, so Z ordered an Alexander Keith's and I an Aprikat. We opted to skip appetizers (I wanted to get to Curves to work off my beer!), however if you have never been, get the Maple Glazed Grilled Cornbread ($4.50)... you will melt. The homemade veggie burger still fresh in my mind from a couple weeks ago, I opted for the Vegetarian Pozole Enchilades ($14.50) and Z for the Pozole and Chicken Enchilades ($17).

Blue Plate really is a diner... while the food has been updated, everything still arrives promptly after ordering (sometimes too much so). Furthermore, the dishes are never fancy, but comforting and homey. This being said, our Enchilades arrived hot and steaming. As always, they tasted great and were perfectly satisfying. And I love the re-fried beans served alongside (and because Z doesn't do beans I get his too!), as well as the roasted veggies served with all their plates.

When asked if we would like dessert, our first question is always, "What's the crumble?" On Friday night it was something with mango (Z doesn't do peaches or mangoes), so we opted out. However our server mentioned to us that a new gluten free dessert had just been added to the menu, and as soon as he said chocolate mousse and raspberry, we were in. This arrived in good time as well. We both enjoyed the cake, the mousse was a change from most flour-less, gluten free, chocolate desserts usually found... while I do enjoy the density of the latter, the mousse was lovely and light after our meal.

Once again we were happy and satisfied with our meals and service - this is what continually beckons us to the restaurant.

I will give some cautionary advice if you are on your way to Blue Plate though - for weekday lunches: make a reservation, it is very busy; because of the mixture of conversation and music, it is always loud at lunch, so don't be surprised. Weekend brunch: I would advise reserving a table for this as well, and like weekday lunches, it gets pretty noisy. If it is your first visit, it would probably be best to head over for dinner any evening or for a late lunch on the weekend - you are almost always guaranteed a table if you are dining in a group of four or less, and it is far quieter, with great music in the background.

Whenever you make it to Blue Plate, hopefully you find it as comforting and satisfying as Z and I always do. It really is a beautiful updated diner in the middle of the hustle and bustle of down town Edmonton.

Blue Plate Diner
10145 - 104 Street
M - F (11am-10pm) S (9am-10pm; Brunch 9-1) Su (9am-10pm; Brunch 9-2)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Syphay Restaurant - Beautiful on the inside

I've read a couple good reviews about Syphay on Calgary Trail (most notably, one by Sharon Yeo of Only Here for the Food, posted on Bazaar), and like every other Edmontonian, I have probably passed by it a hundred times in my travels, disregarding it because of its drab and dated exterior. However on Thursday night, during a trip back from the Folk Fest's warehouse, Z and I, along with a few others, decided to stop and scope out the situation.

Because ETS has limited our mobility, Z and I rarely make it too far down Calgary Trail, and I was curious about any other undiscovered eats near by. However the only other place we immediately noticed was Tropika, a Malaysian restaurant situated in the strip mall next door... it looked a little more lively than our destination, but we continued to make our way over to the old converted house next door.

Upon arrival we found ourselves in a very small room with four tables, and a view into the kitchen. A server greeted us and took us around a wall to the other side of the restaurant. This room was twice the size, easily housing seven tables. We gladly settled into the cozy space, a happy reprieve from the snowy outdoors. We ordered a pot of green tea (Zed a can of Coke... his favourite!), and waters, and proceeded to sort out our approaching meal. Eventually we settled on an order of Vegetable Spring Rolls (8 rolls; $7.95), the Tohm Yum Seafood soup ($10.95), the Matsa-Man Curry with tofu ($12.95), the Pad Ped Goong ($12.95), and an order of Coconut Rice ($3.50).

The spring rolls appeared in no time. Crispy and hot, full of veggies, and served with a spicy dipping sauce, these were the perfect start to our meal. Next came the fish soup. Z, not a shellfish fan, opted out of this one, but the rest of us dove in. The spicy broth provided a lovely kick to each spoonful, and small treasures of squid, mussels and scallops were hidden throughout. In seemingly perfect timing, just as we had finished our soup, our last two dishes (and rice) arrived. The dishes were presented in beautiful white and blue pedestal vessels, and everything possessed a wonderful aroma of coconut. The potato, carrot and tofu curry reminded me of the Veggie Chicken Curry we recently had at Padmanadi - the veggies were nicely cooked and the yellow and red sauce was just spicy enough. The Pad Ped Goong was just as good - full of shrimp, veggies and basil, it was fresh and satisfying.

Dessert was a choice between Sticky Coconut Rice Pudding or ice cream, and we decided on two orders of the rice pudding. The pudding was a nice finish, capitalizing on the coconut throughout the meal. Z ate the scoop of ice cream that arrived with the dessert, while I happily horded the rice and chunks of sweet mango for myself.

We drained our pot of tea, pleasantly surprised to have finally ventured into the restaurant, passed by and unnoticed for so long. So, if you are passing by, Z and I both suggest you stop by the colourful and aromatic Syphay for some spicy and satisfying Thai and Lao cuisine.

Syphay Restaurant (Thai and Lao)
6010-104 Street
M - F (11:30-2:30; 5-9) S (5-9) Su (Closed)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Goodbye Cafe Select, hello Original Joe's Restaurant and Bar

Walking down 109 Street this evening, I noticed a sign up on the corner of 109 and 84 Avenue (the old location of Cafe Select Southside) belonging to Original Joe's. Original Joe's is a Calgary based chain with locations throughout Western Canada, owned by the Franworks Franchise Corporation. I didn't get close enough to see if there was an opening date on the door, and nothing is mentioned on their website.

While the menus of their other locations don't look too inspiring (I'm guessing they are the same or at least similar from location to location for the brand's sake), they do have very admirable on tap beer lists that include Wild Rose, Aprikat, Yukon, and their own Original Joe's brew.

Langano Skies - Hopefully healthy Ethiopian

When Z and I decided to call our blog "Loosen Your Belt," we really weren't kidding... both of us have gained a bit of weight since our eating adventures began. So after my Curves circuit last night, we decided to head to Langano Skies for some good Ethiopian fare (full of healthy veggies to accompany my new workout routine!).

We entered the restaurant around 7PM, and were quickly seated and provided with menus and glasses of water. Previous excursions to the restaurant have taught us to expect slower paced service... there is generally one server and one person in the kitchen preparing food. However the quality and portion of the food always makes up for this, and the place is comfy enough to sit, relax and enjoy a pot of Ethiopian tea or coffee while you wait for your meal.

In accordance Z ordered a pot of coffee ($6; enough for two people) and I ordered a pot of tea ($3.50). The coffee always takes a bit longer to make, so you have to be patient, but the thick, black liquid that eventually arrives is fantastic. Not big on coffee, I love their pots of Ethiopian tea - the aroma is wonderful, something like cinnamon or cloves, and it is a warm and lovely accompaniment to any meal there.

Because the dishes at Langano Skies are presented in such a way that is designed for sharing, we ended up ordering three dishes (or types of Wot): Z chose the Kaey Wot ($11.50; beef cubes cooked with onion and spices), I chose the Gomen Wot ($9.50; Spinach cooked with onions and garlic and served with Ethiopian cottage cheese), and we both selected the Atekilt Aletcha Wot ($9.50; carrots, potatoes and cabbage cooked with onions, garlic and curry).

About half an hour passed before our food arrived, however we weren't really amiss, as I previously mentioned. Three generous heaps of Wot were served on a plate over a layer of Injera (like a sour-dough crepe), along with a plate of about 8 rolls of Injera (the utensils used to enjoy the tasty food in front of you!). They kindly kept the meat seperate from the veggie offerings, and Z happily ate up the tasty Kaey Wot - slightly spicy, a beautiful and rich red-brown colour, this is Z's standard whenever there. The Gomen Wot is always filling - great heaps of wilted spinach and a generous portion of cheese, not really spicy, but good and hearty. The Atekilt Aletcha Wot reminded me of a good plate of roasted veggies. However the spices had taken them to a different place, and the curry added a beautiful golden colour to everything.

After we had gobbled up our tasty meal, we decided to share a dessert (Afterall, I did stop at Curves on the way!). I read somewhere, probably in one of many Anthro textbooks, that dessert is not customary after your meal in Ethiopia, but Langano Skies has kindly come up with a dessert menu to satisfy our sweet teeth. We settled on the Lazy Daisy Cake ($6) - a recipe from the 20th century, it consists of a vanilla cake batter, with milk poured over just before baking, and a topping of bruleed coconut and brown sugar. The warm cake with its freshly bruleed topping was perfect on our first really cold evening in Edmonton, and the smell of the coconut, brown-sugar and vanilla melting together was heavenly.

Once again, Z and I had a lovely meal at Langano Skies and will most definitely be back. The portions are a great size, and if you can get away with one order of Wot per person, it is easy to leave for under $15 each (The communal style of dining makes this more than accessible.).

If you have never tried Ethiopian food, I would suggest going with a couple friends and each choosing a dish for some variety, or heading over for lunch when they offer Combo Platters (a variety of four smaller portions of Wot with a bit of salad; ~ $14). However you make your way to Langano Skies, you won't be disappointed.

Langano Skies: Ethiopian Restaurant
9920 Whyte (82) Avenue780.432.3334
T-W(4:30-10) Th (11-2:30; 4:30-10) F (11-2:30; 4:30-11) S (12-2:30; 4:30-11) Su (12-9)