Thursday, December 30, 2010

Corso 32

With a couple coworkers and friends raving about the recently opened Corso 32 last week, I couldn't wait to give it a try. Only open for about two weeks, Charles and I were expecting a few of the bumps that seem to come with new restaurants. But from start to finish we found the food to be fantastic and service friendly, casual and professional, so here's a bit of a recount.

On our way to a movie Monday evening, we arrived around 5pm with no reservation and a few back up choices in case things didn't pan out. As we waited for a moment so the reservation book could be checked, we took in the space - crisp and clean, it was like stepping outside Edmonton for a moment, with light sparkling off the glasses and white walls. Upon arrival we were also greeted by a busy though quiet open kitchen, an addition to the space we both loved. Happily most of the reservations that evening were made for 7pm, which gave us ample time to sit down at a table for two.

Though the menu is small, with maybe a dozen items and one dessert, it changes almost daily (save a few regular items like the arancini) depending on the ingredients available, with one or two specials always making an appearance. The thought that we could have gone back the very next day to new items and possibly a different menu was exciting and refreshing, and as we decided on that evening's dishes we already knew we would be back soon.

Hearing most about the arancini ($9) from others, the dish was certainly on the list to share. Charles quickly decided on the braised meatballs ($22), while I zoomed in on the milk braised rabbit sausage ragù pasta ($18). We also ordered a side of 'wild' arugula ($7) to share.

The arancini were up first. Smoked with soft, warm cheese at the centre, flecks of ham throughout the creamy risotto and a crispy exterior, we probably could have continued eating the arancini alone all evening, and we found this dish easily lived up to the raves from others.

There were actually five of these, but by the time we broke out the camera, two had been consumed.

Our mains were just as memorable. The braised meatballs were moist, perfectly seasoned and topped with a rich tomato sauce and peppery arugula, and I waisted no time stealing a couple bites from Charles. The rabbit sausage ragù was also enjoyable, with comforting, rich, flavourful sausage and silky smooth sheets of fresh pasta, Charles couldn't resist stealing a few bites from my plate too.

Braised meatballs

Milk braised rabbit sausage ragù pasta

We gave an immediate 'yes' to dessert - chocolate torta with salted, roasted hazelnuts ($9). This was one special chocolate dessert. Silky smooth, ultra rich chocolate ganache topped with still warm salted hazelnuts; it was like eating a bar of Amedei's Gianduja, but somehow so much better. Definitely a great way to end an excellent meal.

There was no time for picture taking at the beginning of this one

With the combination of a beautiful space of wood, glass, concrete and crisp white walls, friendly, knowledgeable staff and fantastic food, we can't wait to head back to Corso 32. After a couple recent outings that were good but not great, this place provided us with one of the most fantastic evenings out in awhile after being open for only two weeks. Definitely can't wait to see where they go from here.

Corso 32
10345 Jasper Avenue
Corso 32 on Urbanspoon

Also check out Mimi's thoughts (plus more pictures) over at Cute Pig. Plus some professional pictures of the space and food on Urban Spoon.

*Just as a mention, we went to see The King's Speech, which was really enjoyable. And best of all, no popcorn required.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day!

Okay, I'm behind with posting. I've got a post on d'Lish in the works, as well as one for Moriarty's, so hopefully I can get them up in the next couple days. At any rate, I hope you've been consuming lots of good food over the last couple days, weeks, etc.

The past two days were a bit of a whirlwind for us. Conquering turkey this past Thanksgiving, we decided to do a ham for my family on Christmas Eve. We had ordered and paid for a ham via Serben's website at the beginning of the month and arranged to pick it up at the Downtown market last Saturday. This worked incredibly well - firstly, we didn't have to worry about rushing to the market early in the morning, and secondly, it gave us lots of time to make room in our freezer.

Deciding to forgo any glazes we just studded the exterior of the ham with cloves, which ended up giving our apartment a beautiful fragrance once the fat of the ham began to melt. Amongst the ham cooking, I also made a mint chocolate ice cream that would be my brother's Christmas gift. It turned out well, though I wish more of the emerald green would have made its way into the custard mixture. Once everything was complete, it was packed up and taken to my Nanny's for the evening.

Although we were bagged after a day of cooking, everything was enjoyed. The ham was excellent - nicely smoked and moist, the entire family was pleased, and leftovers were further enjoyed Christmas morning. Accompaniments included orange glazed beets, butternut squash mashed potatoes, cabbage and leeks that I just sautéed a bit, and devilled eggs. Dessert was Valerie's pavlova served with what I think was the best whipped cream ever (orange zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, a bit of sugar and cognac) and a glass of eggnog.

 The ham

 The eggs

 Beets. Sadly, these are a difficult sell in my family, so my Mum and I are slowly working our way through the leftovers.


Potatoes and Squash 


We also changed things up this year, opening gifts Christmas Eve. I received a gift certificate to support an ongoing shoe addiction, while Charles' received an addition to his rather large stuffy collection. We also received gift certificates to da Capo as well as Credo, so lots of coffee for us in the new year.

With my Aunt taking on Christmas dinner, she said carte-blanche when I asked if there was anything I could bring. So I ended up grabbing some chocolate from work - the milk chocolate trio (Fleur de Sel toffee, chai granola and orange gingerbread bark), along with pink champagne truffles and cinnamon and mocha melt-a-ways. Otherwise, we spent most of 'the day' itself baking cookies that I planned to give as gifts.

It was a last minute cookie takeover of our apartment, and really, I should have done more than just make the dough earlier in the week to avoid the rush. There were three kinds - Valerie's Grandma Maude's gingerbread, chocolate-mint sandwiches and peanut butter with salted peanut caramel - and happily they all turned out well. The peanut butter seemed to be the big hit with the testers (my Dad and brother), although the soft gingerbread was the favourite for my Nanny and I.

Peanut butter with salted caramel 

Gingerbread with squished icing

 Chocolate-mint sandwiches

So the ham is all gone, as is the stuffing and gravy from last night, and I'm off to my Nanny's to bake off the rest of the gingerbread dough. Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Luminaria at Devonian Gardens

Just a small post while I procrastinate on my essay a bit. We went to Luminaria this evening with some friends, and though it was busy and not quite as contemplative or relaxing as we had hoped, there was excellent hot apple cider, a capella singers, bonfires, funky Snow Sprites and tons of candles. It continues tomorrow evening as well, from 5-9pm. You can find more details here.

Our pictures were sort of blurry and out of focus, but there's something about them we love. So here are some of our favourites.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Almost there

It's the final stretch. The fall semester will be done next Friday, hopefully no later than 3:30pm. In anticipation of that study free Friday evening, we've made a reservation at d'Lish Urban Kitchen & Wine Bar. It looks like they've just changed their menu to something a little more wintery, so hopefully it will be a tasty, relaxing evening.

In general we haven't been eating all that well lately. Lots of snacky dinners on the go, or grabbing of sandwiches, chips and salsa, etc. etc. have made our lives that much more hectic. With three weeks off this holiday season, I've got some big plans. One includes sitting down to make some type of meal plan for January through April so that we don't get into this bind again. I found this blog the other day, and I think it will be an excellent resource.

On Monday night we finally managed to sit down to a meal of stuffed peppers around 9pm. Charles cracked open our copy of Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything to find a recipe of corn stuffed peppers with spicy tomato sauce. Unfortunately it was a bit of a let down. It needed a little more oomph, and clearly, we both decided, something essential was missing. Thankfully stuffed peppers are an easily adaptable recipe, so we are on the hunt for a new stuffing. If you've got any delectable ideas, please leave'm below.

And on a non-food note, I was sad to receive an e-mail from Nokomis Clothing Wednesday to say they will be closing their doors at the end of January. I've been shopping there since I started at U of A, and after re-discovering a love of dresses due to the Shop's excellent selection this past summer, it's become a dependable spot that will be dearly missed.

See you in a week with thoughts on d'Lish!

Packrat Louie

Walking down Whyte a couple Saturdays ago to take some shots for a presentation, Charles and I decided to stop by Packrat Louie for lunch. I've lost count of the number of times we've passed this place on our way down Whyte, and I'm not totally sure why we've never stopped... mixed reviews maybe?

After perusing the menu posted at the entrance, we decided to give it a shot. Thankfully we arrived just before noon (almost the entire place filled up just fifteen minutes later) and were seated at a table for two towards the back of the house.

There were many things on the menu we were drawn towards, and in the end, Charles decided on the Packrat Burger ($15) that would come topped with double smoked bacon, aged cheddar, sauteed mushrooms and onion, dijonnaise and roasted red pepper relish, and served with fries and dill aioli. I decided on the Fresh Catch ($18), which that day included a duo of trout and pesto marinated snapper, along with a warm spinach and potato salad and corn and black bean salsa.

As others have noted, the space is beautiful

As we waited for our mains, we were provided with a basket of focaccia bread that we think was house made. While the bits of rosemary and thyme provided a warm, appealing flavour and aroma, the slices were a little dry, and the airy, whipped butter didn't help much.

After a trip to the bathroom each (that always makes the food come, right?), I was happy to arrive back to plates on the table. Charles' burger looked fantastic, loaded with toppings on a lightly toasted bun. Although slightly greasy, the savouriness of the well-cooked, moist burger far outweighed this, and the combo of toppings worked incredibly well - a little smoky, sweet and savoury.

I also enjoyed my dish, with the warm potato-spinach salad providing a satisfying contrast to the lightness of the fish, and the corn and black bean salsa mingling well with everything on the plate. While the piece of snapper was cooked well - still moist and flaky - the trout faired a bit worse coming out a little dry. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to sample another of their fish selections in either the form of the daily special or as a regular menu item.

After clearing our plates, we were left with a dessert menu to peruse. Lured first by the thought of London Fog Crème brûlée or a Chocolate Pistachio Tart, in the end it was difficult to resist a slice of Lemon and Lime Meringue Pie ($8), with freshly squeezed lemon and lime, a ginger snap crust and torched meringue.

I have to say, we were a little disappointed as our dessert was set in front of us. While the actual custard looked good, the meringue looked sort of under-whipped as a result of the piping, and there was a strange neon green gel underneath that neither of us could figure out; maybe it was supposed to be the lime? Taste followed appearance here, and the slice was a bit of a let down, with the crust not giving off anything gingery, and the meringue being cloyingly sweet, heavy and sticky.

Service: Overall service at Packrat Louie was fine. While we waited a little to long for our server to appear, then a bit for our mains, our water glasses were filled frequently and we were checked on regularly. However, we seemed to have a bit of a personality clash with our server, who was a little too loud and over bearing for our liking. Needless to say, by the end of the meal, we were glad to get our bill and head out. I suppose you can't win 'em all, so next time we stop by, it'll either be at a different time or we will request a different section.

Enjoying our dishes (save dessert), there's no doubt we'll be heading back to Packrat Louie. With plenty of items catching our eye on their menu, hopefully our next stop is for a quiet, relaxing dinner.

Packrat Louie
10335 83 Avenue
Hours: M-Th (11:30am - 10pm); F-Sa (11:30am - 11pm); Closed Sundays
Packrat Louie Kitchen & Bar‎ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A paper writing pot-luck

On Sunday afternoon my 'Anthropology of Health and Healing' group got together to work on our term paper, and this was the sight of our table in the Rutherford South common room at the end of the day:

One of our group members had the great idea to combine paper writing with potluck, which made the four hours spent at the library far more pleasant, although there was a little more procrastination than normal. We had quite a few students walking by giving us strange looks as we chowed down on pork dumplings, spring rolls, spinach dip, turkey loaf, vegetables, potato salad, chocolate (Zotter's Scotch Whisky Highland Harvest bar, to be exact) and cheesecake, but secretly, we knew they would have liked to join in on our library potluck.

**Thanks to Claire for her picture via Blackberry... and the potluck-paper combo.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Duchess - The Holiday Goods

Does anyone else go crazy for the special treats that come out around the holidays? Duchess posted yesterday on Candy Cane Meringues, Pates de Fruits, Croquembouche, Bûche de Noël, and not necessarily a Christmas item, but a weekend macaron flavour of Strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar.

So Charles and I headed over with my parents and Nanny this morning to sample a few goods. It was coffee all around, along with an almond croissant for my dad, a butter tart for my Nanny (she said it was one of the best ones she had ever tried), dark chocolate, strawberry-balsamic and amazing gingerbread macarons to share, an excellent Candy Cane Meringue, also to share, and Charles inhaled the entire maple-pecan pie above all by himself... clearly he's prepping for tourtière, pecan squares, sucre à la crème and similar holiday treats coming up in a couple weeks.

Also, have you checked out the gingerbread Notre Dame de Paris that Garner Beggs built? It's amazing, and requires getting up close and personal to check out the detail... specifically in the evening when the candied windows are lit via christmas lights. And because you made the trek to see this awe inspiring masterpiece of baking and architecture, you of course deserve a treat... gingerbread macaron, anyone?

Duchess Bake Shop
10720 124 Street
Duchess Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Yeah, nope - Rodeo Burger

With me on my way back to the library Monday evening, and Charles meeting up with a friend, we decided to give Rodeo Burger a try. On good days, I pass this place twice on my way to and from class, and on busy days, many times more; and at least once a week we receive a flyer in our mail box.  After thoughts from both Sharon and Chris, I was eager to finally try the place.

Walking into a fairly full space around 6:30pm, we arrived at the counter and began to peruse the menu. Not really sure what to go with, we each ended up with a "Rodeo Burger" with their suggested toppings - tomato, 'Rodeo Sauce', relish, ketchup, lettuce, caramelized onions and pickles. A little surprised when our order came to almost $20 (two burgers with fries and a water for me), we were expecting great things.

What arrived at our table looked pretty good. Golden, crispy (sea salted vs. seasoned) fries spilling out of their containers and a burgers wrapped loosely in brown paper. Unwrapping our burgers, we were met with a lot of lettuce, a thin patty, but with a bun that looked appetizing, and which was given a good layer of their house relish, 'made fresh several times daily with fresh cucumbers'.

I don't think anything here was much of a win. The patty was incredibly thin and didn't provide much flavour. I did enjoy the house made relish - fresh, a little tangy and just pleasant - as well as the topping of caramelized onions. The fries didn't fare well either. Pretty salty, they also tasted like raw potatoes, or maybe those green ones that don't provide that satisfying potato richness.

For us, this spot is simply a pass, but while there, I overheard two patrons tell the person at the counter how much they enjoyed everything... so I guess I would say give this place a try and see if it fits.

Rodeo Burger
8525B 112 Street
Rodeo Burger on Urbanspoon