Thursday, February 25, 2010

The calm down dinner: Da Capo

This past week was the toughest I have ever encountered at U of A: four mid-terms and two essays spread throughout the week, all with a bit of a head cold that lasted until Tuesday... it was nuts. So we decided on a study free dinner this evening at Da Capo.

Da Capo has really become a regular spot for us... living a ten minute walk away is definitely handy, and this year they have expanded their winter hours until 10pm most evenings (until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays). And while the service was a little rocky tonight with a new trainee, our food was still great, and the coffee was bang on as always.

The Bar

One of my favourite things about Da Capo is the beer case... it is full of beers from all over the world, but their selection of Belgian beers is the best I've encountered in the City.

I had a Trappistes Rochefort 8 this evening, which has been my favourite beer for the past few months. It's lovely and creamy, a little bit sweet, but still a bit tangy... it's an amazing beer, and I encourage you to give it a try.

Here's what we got into food wise:

Truffle Salad with Parmesan and Artichoke ($11.50)

Di Roberto pizza with potato, gorgonzola, rosemary and sausage ($15.50)

Cinnamon gelato (~$4 for one scoop)

We topped the evening off with a latte for Charles, and an espresso for me. This was the perfect way to end a stressful week.

8738 - 109 St
Winter Hours: Mon through Thursday (8:30am - 10pm); Fridays and Saturdays (8:30am - 11pm); Sundays (10am - 5pm)
Da Capo Lifestyle Caffè on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Skinny Legs & Cowgirls... A Sort of Bistro

We ended up at Skinny Legs and Cowgirls (12202 and Jasper Ave) on Wednesday evening instead of Valentine's Day... Finding out after making our February 14th reservation that they would be offering a $200, five course, pre-fixe menu, we thought we'd better test out the place on a regular evening before getting into that sort of indulgence. So we arrived right on time last night for a 7:15pm reservation.

The restaurant just opened in their new location (which used to house Ziveli's) a couple months ago, and while they haven't done much to the exterior (they are planning a patio reno this summer, according to Liane's post on the restaurant's move), the interior is quite rich and lovely, with deep red walls and a sparkling red-orange glass tiled bar, fireplace and north wall. We were seated a few minutes after arriving, and after another small wait, were provided with wine and food menus.

There were three servers working last night - part owner/daughter, Amy, one who was training, and another who seemed newer to the restaurant. Confusion seemed rampant when we arrived (probably a combo of the newer staff, the larger dining room, the open kitchen and a packed house), but as the earlier seating began to vacate, and with the arrival of our bottle of wine - a Michel Torino Cuma Malbec ($30) on recommendation of Amy - everything seemed to settle down a bit.

Bar and east side of dining room

On the food side of things, everything is meant to be shared sort of tapas style. I love this concept... so much more interactive and participatory. Since it was just the two of us, we decided on an appetizer of the Three Cheese Salsa Bake with in-house smoked cheddar, cream, and goat cheese ($14), and the Signature Mixed Grill for two, which included pork ribs, bison rib eye, lamb chops, potatoes au gratin, and lots of grilled and roasted veggies ($90).

West side of the dining room

I had heard both good and bad about wait times during meals (here's a link to Chowhound's latest thread on the restaurant), but I was happy to see our salsa bake arrive about ten minutes after ordering. It was not quite what we expected, but it was fantastic - the salsa was a nice hit of brightness through the rich cheese, and we had no problems cleaning out the bowl.

Three Cheese Salsa Bake

Our main arrived quickly after our salsa bake bowl was removed, and we appropriately dove right in. All the meats were fantastic - the bison was flavourful and moist, the ribs had an amazing sweet and savory sauce and the lamb (my first ever!) was delicious, with a tangy mustard rub lingering on each piece. The abundance and variety of roots and greens made me happy as well - cabbage with a rich tomato sauce, roasted parsnips and carrots, sweet potato mash, grilled zucchini, eggplant, artichoke, fennel, asparagus and broccolini all filled the plate. We got through all the meat selections, but about half the potatoes and veg came home with us (this made a great lunch today though!).

Signature Mixed Grill

For dessert we were offered two options - a bread pudding with Cognac sauce, or a lemon tart with meringue. We chose the lemon, but our server quickly returned to let us know they were out, so of course we opted for the bread pudding ($10), along with a couple coffees ($3.10 each).

Bread Pudding with Cognac sauce

Dessert arrived quickly, and as expected, it was certainly rich after our large main, but enjoyable and delicious all the same. The show stopper for Charles though, was the cream vessel...

Creamer in action

Cozy fireplace at the end of the evening

Our evening at Skinny Legs and Cowgirls was probably one of the stranger restaurant experiences we've had (in a good way!!!) - I think it was the combination of the higher priced food and the incredibly casual service and atmosphere (we were just discussing expectations/assumptions according to the cost of food in Anthro last week... so ironic). While the service side of things wasn't traditionally polished, it was friendly, knowledgeable and personable, and all three servers stopped by our table to answer questions, to remove empty plates, or to fill wine and water glasses when needed. 

The food was amazing, with quirky service and an atmosphere to match, and in the end, we had an enjoyable and relaxed belated Valentine's evening. We will certainly be returning.

12202 Jasper Ave
Online reservations through Open Table
Hours: Mon (5-11pm), Tues through Sunday (Weekday Lunch and Weekend Brunch 11am-2pm; Dinner 5-11pm)
Skinny Legs & Cowgirls Bistro on Urbanspoon

Liane, of the Edmonton Journal's Bistro section, wrote a post on recent brunch at the restaurant on her blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Mystique India on Whyte"... Ooops!

"We were heading down Whyte this evening around 5:30PM, and noticed activity in the old Cargo & James location (10634 - 82 Ave). Equipment and furniture was being loaded in for another Indian restaurant called to "Mystique India". The sign on the windows just said "opening soon," with no date attached." (From January 26, 2010)

I'm not sure why I assumed that Mystique India would be another Indian restaurant... maybe it was the combo of the former occupants and the Indian restaurants already on Whyte. But no excuses, I obviously should have checked into things a bit more.

It turns out Mystique India is a "gift and home decor" shop. I walked by today, noticed they were open, and immediately realized my mistake. They are having a 20% off everything in the store sale today though, to celebrate their grand opening!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bak17 - Decadent Chocolates & Truffles at NAIT

After taking a three evening pastry class at NAIT this past November, I decided to sign up for the next step: chocolate. Although I spend Saturdays at Kerstin's, my knowledge of chocolate work is pretty limited, and this course provided a great intro to the medium.

Brandy-caramels and truffle-truffles

As with the earlier pastry class, the instructor was Curtis, who works at Duchess Bake Shop full time (you can catch him filling up their display case with beautiful pastries on weekday mornings). As with my last class, I enjoyed having an instructor who actually works with the medium regularly - not only did he show us some of the 'classic' chocolate making techniques, but he passed on the more modern stuff too (like acetate work, and unexpected ganache flavours). Best of all, he saved my ganache from the refrigerator on Thursday (after I mistakenly placed it in there), so it wouldn't absorb the funky flavours lurking in the fridge (Thanks again, Curtis!!!).

Shelled truffles

Hand-rolled Kalhua truffles

Day 1 was all about learning how to temper. Chocolate is finicky, so managing the tempering process is key to getting that glowing, matte finish on your truffles.

On Day 2, we graduated to ganache and shell making. Fillings ranged from PB&J, to lavender, and to mine, truffle-truffles (with truffle oil).

And finally, on Day 3, we concentrated on making chocolate boxes (I didn't totally finish mine... the truffle dipping process took over) and dipping our framed and hand rolled truffles.

PB&J truffles

With thirteen of us in the class, there were quite a few truffles to tote home. Everyone was able to take home a few of each flavour, and Charles and I now have a nice assortment sitting on our counter (we are determined to make them last for at least a couple weeks). While this course was just an intro to chocolate work, it was certainly enough to inspire me to continue practicing at home (I'm hoping this is the key to improvement).

Truffle-truffle with gold leaf (thanks to Jonn and Liz for helping with dipping!)

While I didn't completely get the hang of chocolate work over the three classes (I'm a little uncoordinated with the hands on work, which I'm blaming on four years of writing papers and sitting in lectures), I'm certainly glad I went - I met some really great people, broke down some of the mystique around working with the medium, and came home with some fantastic truffles. Well done everyone!

There are still spots for quite a few of NAIT's evening and weekend culinary courses scheduled over the next couple months, and enrolment for courses scheduled for next fall/winter opens June 1st.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Still love Langano Skies... even with the lengthy wait

We stopped by Langano Skies a couple Saturdays ago around 7pm to a packed house and only two servers. They readied the one empty table for us straight away, but once sitting down, it was awhile before we received drinks, placed orders, etc. As far as food went, we waited about an hour to receive our dishes, and everyone else seemed to be in for a similar wait.

 Yemisir Kik Wot (split red lentils; $9.50), Atekilt Aletcha Wot (potatoes, cabbage and carrot; $10) and Kaey Wot (beef and spices; $13)

As one of our regular spots, this one negative experience will not deter us from heading back. While an hour was definitely too long to wait for our meals, we left happy and full of good food.

Langano Skies
9920 Whyte Avenue
Hours: T - W (4:30-10pm), Th (11am-2:30pm and 4:30-10pm), F (11am-2:30pm and 4:30-11pm), S (12-2:30pm and 4:30-11pm), Su (12-9pm); Closed Mondays

More Wild Earth Cafe updates

Wild Earth has updated info on their renovations - they have moved the kitchen 10 blocks aways just for the next 10-12 weeks, while they build their new kitchen in the back.

Fresh baking will still be delivered in the morning, so there should be no shortage of cinnamon buns!