Friday, March 27, 2009

Margaritas and Mole at Mexico Lindo

Last Thursday about 10 of us from Folk Fest traveled to Mexico Lindo in the West End for some authentic Mexican - after learning that the chef and her husband had just moved here awhile back from Mexico, authenticity was promising.

We arrived to the restaurant and found our table set up for our larger group at the side of the room, which left the restaurant with 4 other tables for 2 that would fill up during the evening. We started off with drinks - while some people played it safe with Corona, I went for the Negro Modelo as did a few others, and some went for Margaritas, available in lime or another flavor that has escaped me, and can be either blended or served on ice.

Zed with a Lime Margarita

I had looked up the menu on the restaurant's blog prior to our visit, but there were options in restaurant that weren't posted, so like everyone else I poured over the menu for awhile. To accompany our search, we ordered some guacomole and salsa. Both were fantastic, but the salsa was better than any I've encountered before; it was sweet and rich with a slight spicy flavor, and many of us liked it enough to purchase a jar on our way out.

Entree orders didn't vary too much around the table: about four of us chose the enchiladas with chicken and mole, one ordered the same but with feta cheese instead of chicken, and another ordered chicken enchiladas with green salsa instead of the mole. Zed went for some soft tortillas topped with the in house made Chorizo, and other orders included the Chile Relleno, Flautas with lamb and the Chilaquiles Montados (corn chips topped with mole, AB beef and cheese).

Our mains came out surprisingly quick consdering the size of our group. The mole dominated the table with a perfume of cinammon and chocolate, but everything looked great, artfully presented on clean white plates or in shallow bowls. My chicken enchilades were great - they were lovely and tender, full of chicken and sitting in a pool of the mole that had an array of flavours including the cinammon, nuts and chocolate smelled earlier, as well as a slightly spicy ending. Zed enjoyed his chorizo and tortillas, and after a bite of the flavoful, rich and slightly spicy chorizo, I did too. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their various dishes, reporting that they had just the right amount of spice (except for one hot sauce addicted friend who ordered hot sauce and received a mixture of minced chile that she spooned copiously onto her Chilaquiles Montados... she was surprised when she took her next bite, "You never get real hot sauce in restaurants!"), while still offering plently of complex flavors.

Chicken Enchiladas with Mole

Four Tortillas with Mexican Chorizo

Enchiladas with Green Salsa

Chile Relleno

Dessert orders were placed quickly after our entrees. Zed and I decided to share the 3 Leches cake, a couple of the group went for the Flan Napolitano, and dessert rounded out with two friends both ordering Churros with Mexican hot chocolate, and one of them obviously craving more, adding deep fried ice cream to his order of churros.

3 Leches Cake

Our 3 Leches cake was moist and rich, soaked in the different milks then topped generously with a whipped cream mixture. The favourite at the table though, were the churro desserts - warm and topped with cinammon and sugar they were a lovely way to end the meal, and the hot chocolate ended the evening in a nice, comforting, "ready for bed" sort of way.

Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate

We were all impressed with Mexico Lindo's offerings, and although we left with an assortment of their products for sale (enchiladas, salsas, corn chips, flour tortillas, etc.), we all agreed we would be back for more.

I can defitely see why it was on the list of the 25 Best Things to Eat in Edmonton from Avenue Magazine. That is one of the eats on the list I definitely agree with.

Mexico Lindo
16604 109 Avenue*
Tues - Wed, Sun: 11am - 6pm; Thur - Sat: 11am - 9pm; closed Mondays

(*The location in the west end is the only one affiliated with the Borbolla family)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Loose in Le Gnome and midnight Choux

Yesterday Zed and I made the trek to West Ed where I was set slightly loose in Le Gnome and the kitchen wares department at the Bay in celebration of my birthday today.

I ended up with two medium sized stainless steel mixing bowls, an instant read thermometer for new adventures with meat, a Salter Aquatronic baking scale (to go with my new Peter Reinhardt, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" book), a dough cutter/scraper, a piping bag complete with various tips, many of which I will probably never use, and some longing looks at stand mixers and Le Creuset dutch ovens that I'm hoping to acquire in my non-student future.

I had been thinking about making Laura Calder's Choux Pastry recipe for quite awhile, so last night at 10pm, now equipped with the new piping bag and mixing bowls, Zed and I began to make cream puffs. We finished the "puff" part and the pastry cream will come later tonight. All in all it went well for our first Choux attempt, but the dough was a little too heavy and we quickly realized while piping the puffs that we didn't use enough of the eggs.

But Zed managed to eat several of the puffs on their own despite their slight heaviness, and at midnight I filled a few with ice cream as a birthday treat.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Almost Downtown Dining Week at The Copper Pot

Zed and I were debating about whether or not to participate in the Downtown Dining Week put on by the Downtown Business Association - the event was poorly planned and advertised, and at $50 a head the evening could get expensive. However, seeing that The Copper Pot was on the list of participants, we decided to give it a try last Saturday evening.

We arrived at the restaurant slightly after our 7:30pm reservation, as we had forgotten to take into account the LRT testing going on that evening as well as the Oiler's Fans heading to the game. At any rate the host greeted us at the entrance, hung our jackets, and seated us at a semi-circular booth facing Ezio Farone Park and the River Valley, with views of the Legislature still available to our left. We were provided with both the Downtown Dining Week menu (as they had noted from our online reservation) as well as the regular menu.

Our server quickly appeared with water, bread and information about the evening's feature - duck two ways: confit and a seared breast, served with risotto and Swiss chard - then left us for a few moments with the wine list. We both ended up with a glass of white, Zed with one from France, and me with one from the Okanagan.

As we compared the DDW menu with the regular one, we began to feel slightly limited, and unlike Original Fare's Fork Fest deal of $35 for a three course dinner, we both agreed the $50 offer would not put us any further ahead. So in the end we decided to share an appetizer of the calamari, Zed ordered the NY steak and I went for the featured duck dish.

Our wait in between placing our order and receiving our food was slightly lengthy, but we appreciated the server stopping in between to let us know what was happening (this occured between each of our courses). Either way, our calamari arrived crispy and hot, served with some home made tzatiki. While we agreed it wasn't quite as good a Culina's version with the coconut curry sauce, it was still an enjoyable way to begin the meal.

After a bit of a delay, our mains arrived - Zed's steak looked great, perched upon some mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus. A "good steak" seems to be Zed's staple when it's available, and he found this one to be better than many he's had in the City, cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare. Although the steak looked great, the smell of the duck confit dominated the table - this was my first experience with duck, and I was glad that the taste lived up to the wonderful smell. The accompanying risotto was smooth and creamy, although I found it slightly salty; the Swiss chard was the perfect pairing, still slightly bitter with a bit of crunch.

Zed's Steak (taken with the flash by mistake)

The featured "Duck Two Ways"

We were especially glad once arriving at the dessert menu that we had foregone our plans of Downtown Dining Week... as soon as our server said Maple Syrup crème brûlée, Zed was hooked, and so we ended up with a trio of crème brûlée that included vanilla and Earl Grey as well as the maple syrup. Dessert was as good as it sounded. I ended up enjoying the Earl Grey the most (the tea was a nice strong flavor through the custard), while Zed, as expected, went straight to the maple syrup.

Trio of crème brûlée

Our trip to The Copper Pot was definitely a success - the host and server were great, stopping by to re-fill water and inquiring about our food just the right amount, and although we had to wait a bit between each course, in the end, we didn't feel it had affected the evening in any negative way. Mostly though, we were both relieved to find that the food lived up to the view... two for one is far better.

The Copper Pot Restaurant
Capital Place
101, 9707 110 Street

**I'm sorry the pictures are so strange - I forgot to turn the flash off when taking the photo of Zed's plate, and after that I hurried to put the camera away. The others didn't turn out... I'm blaming the mood lighting...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Groceries and espresso are the best mix

Zed and I have recently been making a weekly trip to the Italian Centre on the south side for groceries. There are several reasons we chose this versus the downtown location, but the two main reasons are:

1. We only need to take one bus there and one bus back, which means no lugging of groceries around at any transit stations or transferring of buses.

2. The south side store has a nice caffè with really good espresso, which has now become essential after our tour of the store.

Yesterday though, I decided to make the trek to the downtown location instead (I took the sketchy number 5 alone... I wouldn't suggest it) to better fit within our evening plans.

When we were last there a couple months ago, construction had taken over the south side of the store, but we had neglected to ask what for... Yesterday though, all was revealed, and the downtown location now has a lovely caffè, sleekly decorated and equipped with an Elektra espresso machine, a gelati cooler (unfilled for now), panini presses and a tempting dessert case.

Zed's latte and our partially consumed cinnamon bun with pecans

Yesterday was the first day of business for the caffè, and it was obvious they were still working out some of the kinks, but they still made a pretty good espresso.

My "short" espresso

Italian Centre Shop Ltd.

10878 95 Street NW ("Downtown")

5028 104A Street NW ("South side")

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New York Bagel Cafe - good food in the name of research

Zed and I are hoping to open a Montreal style bagel shop/cafe in the next few years. The business plan is in the works, and part of this means checking out what is already out there. So, last Saturday night we stopped by the New York Bagel Cafe for a bite to eat.

It was freezing on Saturday evening, and for some reason we decided to walk down instead of waiting for the bus. Walking into the Cafe was a cozy, warm retreat after our cold, windy walk. The Cafe is small, but still filled wonderfully to the brim with antiques and lots of rich, dark woods. The server informed us upon arrival that we could select our own seat, so we chose a table by the window... I love watching the snow and wind outside while you're sitting all warm, sipping coffee inside.

Our server brought us menus and a bottle filled with water and I also ordered a cafe au lait and Zed a latte to drink. Food was a choice of about 25 different toppings on their home made bagels (including caviar for $95), or a few other selections that included a veggie burger and vegetarian chili. Zed went for the Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich on a plain bagel ($14) and I went for the veggie burger on a plain bagel ($12).

Our drinks were made in no time by our server and our food arrived soon after. The veggie burger was huge, complete with lots of pickles, onions, sprouts and avocado, and there were some thick potato wedges on the side that smelled (and tasted) fantastic. While I can't say I enjoyed the burger quite as much as the one at High Level Diner or Blue Plate, it was definitely a great, homemade burger and I loved the addition of the avocado on top (the burger itself was made of soy rather than seeds and veggies as the other two I mentioned). Zed's bagel was piled high with thinly sliced meat... this was the first clue that it was pastrami rather than Montreal style meat, and after the first bite this was confirmed. Although it wasn't the real thing, Zed still found it enjoyable with a few of the many condiments that inhabit the Cafe's tables.

The Veggie Burger

Smoked Meat Sandwich

As for the research part... the bagels were good, but they still had the chewy exterior that we plan to make nice and crispy with the aid of a wood burning brick oven (I'm still waiting for a call back from the Bylaw office though for that one...). It was a good bagel, but as the name of the Cafe implies, it was definitely a New York bagel, not a Montreal one. Zed and I are also hoping to either smoke some of our own brisket for a few sandwiches (ie. Beef and Bison), or preferably find a butcher to smoke some for us, so finding out that their sandwich was more pastrami style was also helpful.

We skipped dessert as we had just been for a cupcake prior to our visit, but the list our server reeled off to us sounded good.

We were definitely impressed with the small cafe - the service was friendly, the atmosphere was warm and relaxed, and the food was perfectly enjoyable with a good portion to price ratio.

New York Bagel Cafe
8430 Gateway Boulevard NW

Naming our bagel place - Zed and I have been talking for awhile about what to call the place, and right now we've settled on the "Hot and Seedy Bagel"... any feedback on the name would be greatly appreciated...

Culinary Q & A... with us

Zed and I just finished a Culinary Q & A sent to us by Sharon from Only Here for the Food. You can find our answers here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Da Capo and the amazing espresso

Zed and I had not been to Da Capo since this past summer, but a few weeks ago we decided to stop in for a quick espresso before they closed.


I should start with a bit of detail about last summer - throughout June/July/August we had been walking through the Ledge grounds and across the High Level bridge to get ice cream cones full of Da Capo's homemade gelati (I really recommend the Baci and Zed the Caffè... it's fantastic!). We never really chose to stay, as the summer clientele could be intimidating (lots of suits and stilettos). But we were happy to wander around the Ledge with the addition of some good ice cream.

Cornetti with Nutella

After our successful stop over a month ago, we've been going for espresso a couple times a week for the last while (now that we're on the other side of the river), and I have to say they make the smoothest, creamiest, most wonderful lattes and cappuccino we've found in the area (plus, the well polished clientele have been replaced with chatting friends, students and off season bicyclists... much more comforting).

Caffè Latte

The staff we've encountered have always been great and know their stuff, and although the Caffè is full of clean lines and well polished tables, they have managed to create a warm, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

Da Capo is a lifestyle caffè... I still don't entirely understand the concept (it must be my North American mind set), but at any rate, their winter hours reflect the idea - Monday through Friday from 8am - 5pm, Saturday from 9am - 5pm, and Sunday from 10am - 4pm. Because of hours, we alternate fairly frequently between Leva and Da Capo - if we make it to Da Capo during the day, that's great, but if we need something equally great in the evening, it's off to Leva.

If you can make it to Da Capo during the day, you're in for a fantastic espresso. But if not, summertime will bring increased hours and great gelati.

Da Capo lifestyle caffè
8738 109 Street NW

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flirt Cupcakes: The improved second round

Zed and I were looking for a coffee late yesterday afternoon. Da Capo, our favorite during the past month or so closed at five, and walking past Leva we saw they were closing at 6PM for a "private function". Not knowing where we were heading, we ended up hiking down/up Whyte.

We had been meaning to go back to Flirt Cupcakes to give them another try... Isabelle from The Little Red Kitchen as well as her co-workers found them delicious and I've only encountered positive media feedback (although none of them seemed to discuss the taste of the cakes, but more about the cupcake business in general). I had also heard that Flirt was now serving St. City coffee, so this made the destination fit within our goals (we never did end up getting a coffee because they were closing, but...).

Again, it was late in the day, and when we arrived at 5:55PM (they closed at 6PM), there were only three cupcakes left of the same flavours we had sampled on the previous visit. We were about to leave, opting to come back earlier another day, but the owner commented that they had a few fresh trays in the back, and they would frost them with whatever flavors we would like... we both found this a very nice gesture and agreed.

I went for lemon-coconut butter cream ("Fantasy Island") on a vanilla cupcake, and Zed for the milk chocolate butter cream ("The Flirt") on a chocolate cupcake (the flavor choices as far as frosting goes have increased to the promised eight, while cupcakes are a choice between vanilla or chocolate, and Red Velvet on select days).

We were definitely more impressed this time: the cupcakes didn't seem quite as oily and they were slightly larger in size, making us feel that we got a bit more bang for our buck (however much than can be at $2.95/cake plus tax). I enjoyed the tart lemon flavor of the frosting, and a bite of Zed's chocolate cupcake confirmed this... the chocolate frosting was too sweet for me.

I'm glad we had a more positive experience with the "cupcake boutique" this time round. While I still don't think the cupcakes are the best we've found in the area (Upper Crust does some great ones and making my own is probably the best option both taste wise and economically), I do enjoy the novelty of the shop and the fact that we were able to walk in for a single cupcake then head back out to continue our Whyte Ave stroll.

Flirt Cupcakes
10158 82 Avenue

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We ate him... the Chicken: Part 2 of 2

Zed and I roasted the Chicken and had a mini-feast this evening... I think we are both ready for after dinner naps.

I ended up doing something simple - lemon, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil marinated with the chicken over night, then we roasted it for a couple hours this afternoon. Not only was the marinade easy (just throw everything together in a Ziploc bag), but lemon-rosemary chicken was the last bit of chicken I had a few years ago before I stopped eating it, so it seemed like a good place to start.

After three years of fish once in awhile and nothing else, getting back into meat eating will definitely be a slow process, but I'm looking forward to discovering some great new dishes.

The bones and other good stuff are simmering away in a big pot right now for some chicken stock, so we will brave the next "cold-snap" with the knowledge of a good bowl of soup in the very near future.