Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Mid-week view at La Ronde

We were hoping to avoid the rush of multiple seatings and slightly overpriced menus of New Year's Eve this year, so instead we decided to check out La Ronde a couple Thursdays ago. I had read this review in Vue Magazine a couple months ago, and we were both looking forward to an evening of good food and great views.

In the end our evening started out really well then went a bit down hill. Our starters of rabbit for me and a Caesar for Charles were great, but then our server forgot to bring our sorbet course and went straight to mains, which we decided to just go along with.

Sage and Walnut-Rolled Rabbit Loin ($17)

100 Avenue

The entrees were just alright - Charles enjoyed his prime rib, but he thought he could get it pretty much any where else in the City. I thought I'd try the chicken supreme crusted in Parmesan. The actual chicken portion was lovely and moist, and I loved the crunchy, salty Parmesan exterior. But the accompanying vegetables swimming in cream sauce were heavy, and with all the cheese already on the chicken, I barely touched them.

Prime Rib with buttermilk mash and seasonal veg ($34)

Chicken Supreme on root vegetable fricassee ($30)

101 Street

Our server offered us dessert menus, and took our order of a latte for Charles and shot of espresso for me at the same time. The espresso was actually really nice... not too bitter or smoky, but smooth, light and perfect after a heavy meal. We decided to share the Madagascar Milk Chocolate Cream with Mocha Brulee Centre for dessert. While the cream itself didn't really taste like Madagascar chocolate to me, the fudgy cookie underneath was definitely citrusy and fruity which I liked. And we both enjoyed the smooth centre of mocha brulee, which also gave a little extra boost to the chocolate.

Madagascar Chocolate Cream ($12)

Since the view is so great on the 24th floor of the Crowne (and you do pay a premium for it), we would have liked to stay for another coffee or drink after dessert, but instead of asking if we would like anything else, our server just dropped off our bill and bid us a good evening before we had a chance to say anything.

South East

So instead of spending an extra $20 on drinks there, we ended up at The Confederation Lounge at the Mac, which has a great list of "Mixology Cocktails", plus their seasonal winter warmer type drinks (I'm a sucker for a Hot Rum Toddy, and they always add something interesting to it).

Elderflower and Champagne at the Mac

Although the entree section of La Ronde's menu is a bit lack luster, we both appreciated the effort to highlight Alberta based products like the Highwood Crossing's flour used in the bread, Fairwinds Farm Goat Cheese, and Peace Hills chicken, just to name a few.
Despite the underwhelming service, I think we will likely be back to La Ronde. The view is just to great to pass up, and it seemed to serve as a little reminder of some of the reasons we stick with this City, even in -40 weather. Next time though, I'm going to make sure the Saskatoon Berry and Basil sorbet makes it to our table.

Final point of rotation

La Ronde (in the Chateau Lacombe)
10111 Bellamy Hill
La Ronde Revolving Restaurant‎ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brunch at The Manor Bistro

I'm working at Kerstin's Chocolates this month to help out with the retail end of things during the busy holiday season. One of my co-workers, Liz, used to work at The Manor Bistro and she still thinks they have the best brunch in town. So when we decided to meet up with a few friends for brunch to celebrate the end of the fall semester and a couple weeks of holidays, I had an easy time persuading everyone to try The Manor with us.

We arrived a little late for our 12:30 reservation for six, but were sat down immediately in the private dining room at the front of the converted house. Our server arrived immediately to offer drinks, and two of us decided to share a 1/2 liter of mimosa ($14), while Charles went for a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice ($5.50), and everyone else stuck with coffee or water.

The snowy view of High Street

Liz had recommended any of the four versions of eggs Benedict, as their hollandaise sauce was supposed to be amazing. So in accordance, I ordered the traditional eggs Benedict with soft poached eggs. Charles decided on the fritatta, while the rest of our party went with sweet crepes, the quiche special, Denver crepes and the Florentine eggs benedict. Our food took a little too long to come out, but we were enjoying coffee and mimosas and our little private room, so we didn't mind at all.

Everyone seemed to enjoy their dishes, and Liz was right, the hollandaise was amazing, with a nice balance of lemony tartness and richness from the eggs and butter. There were also little piles of couscous filled with berries and fruit on everyone's plates, which I thought was a nice, different touch.

The traditional eggs Benedict ($14)

Quiche special (salmon, roasted red pepper and goat cheese)

Sweet crepe ($13)

Denver crepe ($13)

Florentine Benedict with spinach Mornay sauce ($15)

Chorizo Fritatta ($13)

Our server asked if we had room for dessert, and of course we couldn't turn it down. Expecting a menu he instead brought out a leaf shaped plate full of their five dessert selections - their "award winning tiramisu", a fruit crumble, cheesecake rounds filled with a chocolate nut mixture then dipped in chocolate, a lavender creme brulee and lemon souffle served warm with lemon sorbet. One of our party had a severe nut allergy (which our server and the kitchen did well working around), so opted out, but the rest of us decided to share the tiramisu and the creme brulee.


Creme brulee (sorry it's so blurry)

The creme brulee was done really well, in a wide, shallow dish with lots of caramelized sugar, and the tiramisu was lovely and rich, and definitely full of some nice, dark rum. The Manor was a great way to celebrate, and whether we have an occasion or not, we will definitely be back.

The Manor Casual Bistro
10109 125 Street
Manor Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday - Thursday:

11am - 10pm

Friday & Saturday:
11am - midnight

Brunch: 11am - 2pm
Dinner: 5pm - 9pm

Saturday, December 12, 2009


A few weeks ago we went to Unforgettable on Calgary Trail to meet up with a friend for Sunday evening Dim sum.

The only other place I've been in Edmonton for Dim sum is the New Tan Tan downtown, but I prefer Unforgettable for a couple of reasons - first of all, it's in our neighborhood and we can get there via walking if it's a nice enough day. I also prefer their food and selections, and the staff is always really helpful and patient when it comes to explaining dishes, and they are always checking the teapot to see if you need more hot water. And finally, Unforgettable always has interesting specials to offer - this time it was steamed oysters with black bean and garlic sauce, while it was black chicken last time we were there.

They only do baked buns (BBQ pork and coconut) on the weekends, although the steamed ones are really great too. By the time we got there on Sunday around 6:30PM, they had sold out, so keep that in mind if it is one of your Dim sum musts. Also, the space is pretty small, so if you are heading over with a group, be sure to call ahead.

Wonton Soup (off of their non-dim sum menu; mostly for Charles)

The necessary spring rolls

Steamed beef balls

Curried squid (my favourite)

Pork short ribs

Steamed oysters

Shrimp dumplings

Stuffed peppers

Stuffed eggplant

Unforgettable Chinese Restaurant
7219 104 Street
(780) 431-0220
Mondays and Wednesday through Sunday: 11am - 3pm for lunch; 5pm - 11pm for dinner; closed Tuesdays
Unforgettable Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tea and Chocolate

We stopped at Cally's Teas this evening for the preview of their Christmas blends. They have about a half-dozen or so new teas that they've blended right there in the shop for the holidays and they all smell amazing!

Cally gave us a cup of the Tea Affair Chocolate Cream to try (along with some of Tree Stone's stollen - also great) so we left with 50g of that ($6), and I couldn't leave without some of the Vienna Winter Green, which also has the most amazing aroma (50g for $7). The preview of Cally's holiday teas and Tree Stone's holiday breads will continue tomorrow, and everything in the shop will be 15% off.

Vienna Winter Green

Tea Affair Chocolate Cream

Cup of the Chocolate Cream

On Monday we also stopped at Sweet Lollapalooza to give some of their confections a try. Our experience was similar to Sharon's, although instead of the buttercrunch, we left with 9 bonbons ($20) and a pack of milk chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies ($12 for 6). Our favourite bonbon was the 'burnt butter caramel', and I also think it had the best design of them all - very deco. We both agreed we could have left the cookies though, as we didn't care for the combo of the thick, milk chocolate bottom with the cookie - just too much of a good thing in one large size.

The assortment

The burnt butter caramel bonbon

The milk chocolate chip cookies

Cally's Teas
8610 99 Street

Sweet Lollapalooza Confections
Lower level, Commerce Place
10155 - 102 Street

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A decadent chocolate stop at Kerstin's Chocolates

For the feast we attended last Saturday I intended to take a chocolate cake in addition to the croquembouche. I used this Chocolate Cream Cake recipe from Laura Calder and it didn't turn out. I think I over mixed the batter, so it didn't rise properly and turned into this fudgy thing that I decided not to take to the party (I'm not sure why I keep using Laura Calder recipes - they are seemingly easy but never turn out for me. This was failed recipe number three, so I think I've learned my lesson).

The poor cake

Before the cake fell though, I needed to find two pounds of baking chocolate without soy lecithin in it so that the host, who has a soy allergy, could partake. The only place I could think of that would keep this type of chocolate in stock was Kerstin's Chocolates, so we headed over last Thursday evening.

We hadn't been into the store since the re-opening and dropping of the Cocoa Room name in September, but except for the new addition of a "Kerstin's Chocolates" awning over the front door, the interior remains unchanged.

Although she didn't have any soy free baking chocolate on the shelf, Kerstin went in the back and found a bag of soy lecithin free Valrhona baking coins that were about 74% (I think), and measured out the amount I needed.

We also picked up some Valrhona Pearls - chocolate covered pieces of rice cereal that are made here in Edmonton at Kerstin's. We were looking for something other than chocolate chips to put in some "chocolate chip" cookies, and these fit well. They gave a pleasant, although unusal, light crunch that was nice with the chewy cookie dough.

And of course, we couldn't leave without picking up some eating chocolate while there. They have some really great stock in right now, so definitely stop by if you are looking for a yummy treat (check out their blog for their Christmas line-up and a "Name that Origin" contest).

We picked up a 70% Madécasse bar which is really nice and fruity... everything I love about Madagascar beans. What's great about this bar though, is that while most companies' processing facilities are located outside of Africa, this company keeps the manufacturing process near the beans. Along with Claudio Corallo (also available at Kerstin's), Madécasse is one of the few bean to bar companies operating in Africa.

I also picked up a small version of the Michel Cluizel Grand Lait 45%. This is a really rich, nutty milk chocolate that I almost always keep around... this small 30 g bar is perfect to keep me from munching too much.

And finally, the shop had a nice, tidy stack of 50 g Amedei Porcelana bars that we could not resist. Porcelana chocolate is made from the Criollo bean, which is thought to be the origin of all cocoa beans and therefore the purist form.

This bar is amazing with lots of complex flavours like vanilla, dried fruit and caramel cycling through each bite. Best of all it has a really aromatic and long lasting finish, so there is no need to pop another piece in your mouth straight away (good, because at $18.95 per bar, eating this stuff too quickly could get pretty pricy).

In their recent newsletter, the Shop also reported that they will be getting in a new supply of Domori soon. Apparently their version of the Porcelana bar is the most coveted in the world, so we're waiting anxiously for them to come in... I think we can justify the purchase of one of these bars as a holiday gift to ourselves.

So although the cake didn't work out, the trip to Kerstin's was well worth it and definitely decadent. Plus, I purchased some extra baking chocolate so that I can forge ahead to chocolate meringues (not a Laura Calder recipe, btw).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Smokey Joe's "Hickory" Smokehouse

I've heard various things about Smokey Joe's - namely that the quality of their food seems to have slowly trickled down after so many stops and starts around the City (check out this thread on Chowhound). There is also this article from a past Avenue Magazine that details a couple changes made by the new owners once Joe left the business (ex. changing the wood from hickory to apple wood). At any rate I've been wanting to check it out for myself for some time, so last Wednesday Zed and I headed over to Stony Plain Road for lunch with a friend, to check it out.

It was mid afternoon when we arrived, and the large space was empty. We chose a booth to sit down in, and after placing our drink orders, decided to pass the time by colouring on the brown paper place mats, hoping our art would be added to the others hanging on the wall at the entrance.

Artists at work

In between our colouring we browsed the menu. It seemed a little confused, with nachos, Casear salad and other items I wouldn't expect to see on a BBQ menu... but I suppose these menu items are fairly standard in Edmonton and they are trying to appeal to a larger audience. I decided on a Reuben with smoked corned beef with fresh cut fries ($9), while Zed went for the Beef Dinner, choosing sides of in house made curly fries and garlic toast ($18) and our third ordered the turkey dinner with sides of corn bread and coleslaw ($14; with dinners, you are able to select 2 sides out of the given 8 or so).

Our food seemed to arrive in no time at all, maybe 10 minutes after ordering. Zed's plate with two large beef ribs and a pile of curly fries was the most noticeable, so we all tried a bit of this first. The ribs were nicely caramelized on the outside but still lovely and tender on the inside, falling off the bone as soon as you prodded at the meat with a fork. In addition to a couple bottles of BBQ sauce, they also brought us a small bowl of warmed BBQ sauce for dipping, which was great for the ribs.

Beef Dinner

My Reuben was pretty good. The corned beef was lovely and rich, and I appreciated the generous toppings of sauerkraut, grainy mustard and Swiss cheese. My only complaint was that they seemed to have grilled the sandwich using a little too much oil, and so the bread on the outside was a little greasy. The fries though were great (both mine and Zed's)! Nice and crispy and not overly seasoned, they were a great accompaniment, although the three of us didn't actually make it through both piles of fries in the end.

Smoked Corned Beef Reuben (with the Turkey Dinner in the background)

Our third was a little disappointed in his turkey dinner, which turned out to be smoked turkey served on a bun with BBQ sauce. The turkey was also a little too dry, but a good dunking in sauce definitely provided a quick fix. Although the coleslaw was just average, we all had piece of the cornbread muffin which was very nice and light.

Smokey Joe's will definitely not be a regular spot (partially location but also the heaviness of the food), although I would like to head over for dinner on a Friday or Saturday evening to see if they draw more of a crowd. Though, if we have a ride again and someone willing to help us eat all those fries, I think we will likely be back for more of those ribs, no matter what day it is.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Health Fare - Downtown

When we decided to stop for lunch today at Health Fare on Jasper and 102 Ave, I didn't realize that there was already an established flagship location down on 108 and 23 Avenue. I guess they are just beginning the franchising process now, so more will likely appear around Edmonton soon.

We arrived just after noon, and managed to get in line right before it began to grow with hungry office workers. Everyone (both customers and staff) appeared to be handling the rush well, with only one customer complaining to a staff member about his wait.

As we waited to place our order, we got to take in the surroundings - it is definitely light and refreshing, with large windows and a colour scheme of bright greens, natural browns and whites. The interior definitely provides a nice midday oasis (despite the noise level), but between the Kirei board and reclaimed wood table tops, sustainable flooring and "green" take out containers, they have also used the decor to remind customers of their eco-friendliness. The decor is completed with an interactive "nutrition centre" in the corner, where you can look up the nutritional contents of your meal on the computer.

Zed decided to skip food as none of the "healthy" options were really appealing to him but thought he would try a latte (~$4 for a large). After passing over a couple sandwiches, salads and the four available soup options, I decided to try the Orange Beef Rice Bowl with Alberta strip loin, Asian greens, brown organic rice, citrus and a ginger soy sauce (~$9.50). I was intrigued by their freshly squeezed orange and kiwi juice, but our cashier let us know it wasn't available yet, so I went for a cup of loose leaf organic Rooibos tea (~$2.25).

We found a couple seats along the wall and waited for my name to be called to pick up our order. I realize they are still working out the kinks, but between the conversation of diners eating in and those coming for take out, it was pretty difficult to hear your name being called... hopefully they will come up with a new system soon. About ten minutes after placing our order we heard them call "Marianne", and I went to grab our drinks and my rice bowl.

Large latte and Rooibos tea

Orange Beef Rice Bowl

The dish definitely looked "healthy" - lots of brown rice and a good amount of veggies and beef all contained in a neat little portion. Unfortunately between the rice and the beef, the dish was a little dry for my liking and neither the orange or the citrus came through... hopefully this is another one of those kinks they will work out with time. Zed's latte was pretty good, with 2% milk their standard, it was definitely lighter than the whole milk beverages found elsewhere.

Although the food wasn't quite up our alley, the restaurant seemed to be an instant hit with downtown workers. Though after today's rice bowl, I'm not convinced that Health Fare delivered on their "...nutritious, mouth watering delicious..." motto. In terms of healthy food options, I was expecting something that went beyond the obvious of goat cheese and veggie sandwiches, tomato soup, salads and rice bowls; with all these lunchtime basics available elsewhere downtown, I hope Health Fare will work out some of their kinks in the next couple weeks to provide an experience beyond the impressive decor.