Monday, June 21, 2010

Devonian Gardens - two trips, one weekend

Neither Charles or I had ever been to Devonian Gardens prior to this weekend. But after enjoying our stroll through the garden Friday evening for Opera al Fresco, we decided to return Sunday for the Rhubarb Festival.

Considering it was the first year for Opera al Fresco, I think they did a great job, managing to work in four performances throughout the evening. There was just a slight breeze which seemed to lend a hand to the natural amphitheatres, and it didn't start getting cool until 9pm (that's also when the mosquitos began to appear en masse) - almost a perfect setting for an outdoor music event.

Some 'Celtic' in the Primula Dell

With people likely arriving straight from work for the 7pm start time, the small bites of food provided by Careit Urban Deli (also the on site food vendor at the gardens) were piled high on people's napkins, and the service staff only made it a few feet before having to turn around to re-fill their trays. But this is something easily fixed for next year...

Wanting to take in more of the gardens, we decided to head back Sunday afternoon for the 2nd annual Rhubarb Festival. Arriving at 2pm, we missed the 1:30pm En Sante Winery info session, but we did make it in time for a rhubarb cooking demonstration by Gail Hall and a few rhubarb inspired goodies being sold in the Pine Pavillion.

Pear and rhubarb clafoutis

Rhubarb Juice

Rhubarb-cinnamon loaf

And now for tourist shots:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Haven and Herbs

We were on our way out to Salisbury Greenhouse last Sunday in search of 20% off plants, and decided a quick stop at Cafe Haven would be the first step.

When we arrived around 11:30 we found a packed patio and a sold out brunch. But no worries, there were a couple nice seats inside receiving perfect light and I found a veggie frittata bagel to enjoy with my first iced latte of the summer. All in all, a very successful stop.

Charles, decked out in site crew regalia which has recently been inviting questions like, "If I'm a senior can I still come without a ticket even if Folk Fest passes are sold out?" (The answer, BTW, is yes. Just bring your photo id for the gate. That includes the Van Morrison concert too.)

That iced latte was lovely, with an excellent espresso to milk ratio. My only complaint was its very large size... I couldn't finish it. I'm patiently waiting right now for Zocalo to begin making their espresso milkshakes again (usually offered in July and August - that's it) - a creamy, rich, cold drink packed into a tidy, small package. It's always the perfect amount.

As for the herb situation, we only found one good rosemary plant, and I ended up grabbing lavender, parsley, mint, basil and thyme from Inspired Market Gardens at the City Centre Market yesterday.

Cafe Haven
9 Sioux Road
Sherwood Park
Hours: M-F (8am - 9pm); Sa (9am - 6pm); Su (10am - 4pm)
Cafe Haven on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A meeting, burgers and beer

We really wanted to go to Indulgence last night, but alas, our very first site meeting happened to fall on the same evening so we were forced to skip the event this year. So while preparing for 100 or so site crew to show up, we decided to grab some High Level Diner for take out...

Veggie burger (minus mayo and tomato plus cheese)

Ural burger (minus tomato)

House condiments (beet relish, corn relish, house ketchup and dijon)

My favourite... the beet relish

After what turned out to be a lengthy meeting, with about 150 people showing up, we decided a beer at Sugarbowl was in order, so we headed over with a few others to indulge. I'm happy to see that they have added a chocolate mousse to the menu. We became quite addicted to their chocolate souffle awhile back, and the mousse seems to be sort of equal chocolate wise, with chunks of chocolate studding the whole thing. I also love that they served it in a Leffe glass. (Our server also said they are currently doing an 'overhaul' of the menu, and will be bringing back some old favourites... she thought the souffle probably wouldn't be returning, though.)

The meeting continues... after we were all full of beer and mousse

Trying to find something unique to attend in lieu of Indulgence, we stumbled onto Opera al Fresco, which will be held at the Devonian Gardens this coming Friday. Three performances in three different gardens, with stops throughout the gardens for hors d'oeuvres and En Sante wines. Sounds a little Indulgence-esque (with some opera thrown in for good measure), so we'll see how it goes and report back.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Bothy

My friend Brenna and I headed over to The Bothy Friday evening for dinner, a whisky and a much needed 'catch up' session. Although I didn't bring my camera, I thought I'd do a quick write up since our visit was fantastic.

We ordered a three item cheese and charcuterie board ($17) that consisted of a one year old smoked cheddar, the aged Sylvan Star gouda and the Berkshire Pork rillette, along with the smoked salmon ($13), served on rye with capers and red onion, with an amazing whisky maple gastrique drizzled over the top. And to round things off, a half sized apple and cucumber salad ($7), with grainy dijon and truffle dressing.

New to whisky, we asked them to pair something with our food, and a glass of Clynelish 14 year was suggested. It was lovely - light, sweet, and full of caramel and vanilla, this whisky was a lovely way to begin the evening, and was amazing with the salmon.

After polishing off our food, we decided one more glass was in order, so Andrew (the 'kilted Scotsman', as the website says) came over to find out what we were looking for. In for something more rich to round out the evening, he thought the Aberlour A'bunadh would be best. At 60% this one was intense, but as he said it would, the alcohol level (after diluting it to ~55% as suggested) cut well through the intense sweetness, and it was great to sip as we gave in to an offer of warm apple pie ($7).

I hope to head back to The Bothy soon. Friendly, helpful service, incredible food, a relaxed and warm atmosphere, lots of laughing people... just great! And pictures next time - I promise.

The Bothy - Wine & Whisky Bar
5482 Calgary Trail
Hours: M (Closed); T-Su (11:30AM until late)
The Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 11, 2010

Louisiana Purchase

After stopping at Wild Earth Thursday evening (and indulging in dessert first...), we decided to head somewhere for dinner. Culina next door was an easy choice, but instead we thought we'd try somewhere that has been on the list for quite some time - Louisiana Purchase.

Arriving around 7:30, the place was quiet except for a couple tables of two. With some great blues playing, I think the place could really come alive with a good crowd, but the quiet atmosphere didn't seem to suit.

We were provided with menus and a special, and left to it for a few minutes. I was happy to find that many of their entrees could be split in half, which meant we could try a few different things. For food, we couldn't resist the Alligator kebab, so despite it's hefty $9.5 price tag, we went with it. Charles opted for the Pasta Catahoula, a combo of blackened chicken, penne, tomato herb butter and parmesan ($18 for the full order). After much deliberation between the catfish and the jambalaya, I went with a half order of the latter ($7.5). I also couldn't pass up an order of hush puppies ($3 for 2) - a deep fried corn fritter with honey for dipping - which I fell in love with while volunteering at Blues Fest a few years ago and haven't had since. Drink wise, both of us pounced on a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade (~$3.5).

As expected our food came out promptly, with the alligator up first. Neither of us had ever had alligator, and I think the consensus was that it tasted like rabbit. Although we both liked the sauce covering the kebab, the chewy texture put us both off - we were happy to have tried it, but it won't be high up on our list to have again.

Our mains, along with the hush puppies, came out quickly after the kebab. Charles plate of pasta was huge, and my '1/2 plate' of jambalaya seemed just as large.

I did really enjoy the jambalaya - it had just enough kick, with a bit extra given via the tequila salsa, a nice balance of spices and the rice was tender without being mushy. That shrimp pictured on top was my favourite part, and I was sad to find that it was the only one, with the rest of the rice being studded mostly with chunks of ham. Charles said he really enjoyed his pasta dish - smoky blackened chicken, well cooked pasta and a flavourful sauce made for a great combo.

Pasta Catahoula


Hush Puppies

The hush puppies fulfilled my craving perfectly. They were exactly what I had remembered from Blues - a crispy exterior and a delicate, fluffy interior studded with green onion, all given a generous coating of honey. Fantastic. Although our server, as well as the owner, tried to talk us into the bread pudding - which did sound fantastic - we had to turn them down, with our sweet tooth filled for the evening.

We enjoyed both the food and service at Louisiana Purchase, and will certainly be back to sample more of the menu, hopefully on a sunny, more lively Friday or Saturday evening to check out their patio:

Louisiana Purchase
10320 111 Avenue
Louisiana Purchase on Urbanspoon

*On Mondays and Tuesdays you can get a plate of Jambalaya for $8.95... an interesting offer on the same days as Dadeo's $8 Po'Boy special.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wild Earth is ready!

Wild Earth (8902 99 Street) is done with renos and the final product is amazing! A nice cozy space with ample seating, a warm fireplace, good coffee and of course, yummy baked goods as per usual. Best of all, they are baking in the house kitchen again (baking was moved a few blocks off site during renos), so the lovely smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns will be returning!

They hosted a preview and celebration of the new space this evening with a packed house full of regulars, and since Wild Earth is almost a daily stop for Charles, we were happy to be included. Here's some pictures of the new space:

Tea and tarts back in their appropriate spot

Cookie tree!

The new coffee setup

Desserts for sampling... I was all for the banana bread with browned butter honey icing

They are back to regular hours beginning tomorrow, and we encourage you to stop by for coffee or tea, a treat, and a relaxing break in the new space.

Wild Earth Cafe and Bakery
8902 99 Street
Hours: M-W (6am - 9pm); Th-F (6am - 10pm); Sa (8am - 10pm); Su (8am - 9pm)

PS. Here are a bunch of pictures we took of the completed 'phase one' a few weeks ago