Saturday, July 24, 2010

Urban Diner - the patio

With the afternoon off today, Charles and I decided to head over to High Street with hopes of grabbing a spot on the patio of Manor Bistro. But with the popular spot full, we decided to make our way around the corner to check out the Urban Diner's outdoor seating.

Just switching over from brunch to lunch, service and food orders were a bit slow, but everything picked up rapidly after placing our drink orders - for Charles, cranberry and soda, and for me, a chai milk shake. Food wise, Charles opted for the lunch special, a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries ($12), and I went for the veggie burger with fries (~$12).

Charles plate arrived looking pretty brown, but he did enjoy the tender, flavorful pork loaded onto the bun. On my side of things, I have to say the veggie burger was just alright. This was my second experience with their version, and although it was enjoyable, I once again found that it just doesn't have the same oomph as either the High Level or Blue Plate versions.

Pulled Pork Sandwich (with a mound of fries)

Veggie Burger

Although we still hope to head back to Manor Bistro to check out the patio, Urban Diner turned out to be a favorable alternate, and we will certainly head back... and next time a slice of pie will definitely make it to our table.

Urban Diner
12427 102 Avenue
Hours: M-F (11- 9); Sa (9 - 9) Su (9 - 3)
Urban Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Neapolean and 1488

On our last evening before heading down to site, we ended up sitting out on the balcony eating the remaining perishables from our fridge and enjoying a couple beer I had picked up at Sherbrooke Liquor earlier in the day.

For Charles, a huge I & G fan, I picked up a whisky beer from Tullibardine Distillery's 1488 line that I fell in love with last year. It's crisp and clean, with a warm, smooth whisky finish, and Charles really enjoyed it.

I decided to go with Neapolean Neapolitan Stout, one of the newer brews from the Sherbrooke and Alley Kat pairing. There was a little write up on it and the chocolate cherry stout in the most recent edition of the The Tomato, and although I was a little weary of ice cream flavoured beer, I couldn't resist picking up a six pack to test out.

Like the other Alley Kat/Sherbrooke editions, the label is a complete win - can you really resist an aging Napoleon with a cup of ice cream in his hand? Well, I couldn't. The little guy is just too appealing.

The flavours of chocolate and strawberry were certainly there both scent and taste wise, with the vanilla lingering in the background. As promised, it was truly neapolitan ice cream + beer, and I am happily enjoying the remainder of the six pack.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fork Fest: Jack's Grill

We've been eating well on site for the past few days, but this evening we decided to put our work boots and plastic plates aside to head over to Jack's Grill for Fork Fest.

Arriving a bit early for our 7:30 reservation, we were surprised to find the place fairly empty. We were immediately seated in a lovely quiet corner next to the window, with a great view of their garden/patio and plenty of crayons to keep us occupied.

We were both glad to find that the Fork Fest menu was simply their regular menu, which meant we were getting what we would on any evening. After some deliberation, Charles decided on an appetizer of the Heritage Greens Salad and an entree of the Chicken Supreme. I went for the Hearts of Romaine salad and surprisingly, the 'Spring Creek' Beef Tenderloin (that Saskatoon infused veal reduction sounded too good to pass up).

Our server was excellent, (and is very excited for Van Morrison on the 4th) and ended up suggesting a great bottle of wine that went well with all our plates, and was easily drinkable in between. As with our visit to Parkallen a couple weeks ago, we didn't end up finishing our bottle and the remainder was bagged for us to tote home.

Appetizers arrived in no time as we enjoyed our first pour of wine and a slice of bread. Charles enjoyed his salad - I think it was mostly the sharp red onion that won him over. I suppose in the end, my salad was sort of a twist on a caesar, with a creamy green peppercorn dressing, romaine and crispy pancetta. But whatever its label, I really enjoyed the combo of the slightly spiced dressing, crispy romaine and warm, house cured, pancetta.

Heritage Greens Salad with aged white cheddar, red onion, pan fried croutons, and sherry vinaigrette

Hearts of Romaine salad with arugula, house cured pancetta, and creamy green peppercorn sauce

Mains arrived in good time once our appetizer plates were cleared. Charles chicken looked great, with what seemed to be a great crispy skin. He was also happy to see that his accompanying vegetables were Brussels sprouts, one of his favourites. The report was excellent - the chicken had a lovely crisp exterior with a moist, tender interior, and the spiced sauce was great. I also enjoyed my plate, and the Saskatoons didn't let me down, providing a welcome sweet/tart combo. The tenderloin was nicely done to my requested medium rare, however I found some parts of it far better than others. With the tenderloin was a tidy pile of crispy green beans, and a blue cheese potato pave that was creamy and rich throughout, with a nice crispy layer on the bottom.

Chicken supreme rubbed with sweet paprika paired to parmesan, herb polenta with natural pan jus

Grilled filet of 'Spring Creek' beef tenderloin with Stilton blue cheese potato pave and Saskatoon berry infused veal reduction

Unlike trying to decide on our mains, dessert was easy. Charles was all for the chocolate medley, while I was immediately sold on their dessert feature - a pear and goat cheese tart with house made vanilla ice cream.

The dessert menu

Charles thought his chocolate tart was alright, but the hit of the plate was definitely the Jack Daniels chocolate ice cream and the flavourful caramel lining the plate. Sadly my tart was not all that successful - the pears were sort of lack lustre, while the goat cheese was missing the recognizable tang. The vanilla ice cream though was fantastic - creamy and rich, with lovely specks of vanilla throughout.

We were both glad we took some time off to check out Jack's Grill - tonight, the quiet relaxed space was exactly what was in order, along with a menu of familiar, comfortable classics. The Fork Fest deal at Jack's was pretty amazing, with the three courses priced at $45. Although the dessert portion of our meal was not so successful, as we wandered home through Garneau, we both agreed we would likely return to try again.

Jack's Grill
5842 111 Street
Hours: M-Sa (5-11:45pm)
Jack's Grill on Urbanspoon
Fork Fest: July 18-22 and 25-29, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Taste of Summer

A friend and I decided to head out to St. Albert last Sunday for the '7th Annual Taste of Summer' at the St. Albert Botanic Gardens. We ordered our tickets online via the Edmonton Countryside website the day before the event, and arrived at the will call desk promptly at 4pm.

The event was set up like Taste of Edmonton, however it was pleasantly quiet, the local was beautiful, and there was live acoustic music set up in the garden.

There were about half a dozen different tents set up (including one offering Alley Kat and En Sante wines to enjoy with the food). Here's what we chose:

Rhubarb Soda (from Prairie Gardens)

Roasted Beet Salad (from Prairie Gardens)

Watermelon and Feta salad with Balsamic (Bambouche World Cuisine)

Mushroom, Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach spreads (Bambouche World Cuisine)

Alpaca Burger with Saskatoon compote (Dinner Factory/Belle Valley Farms)

Cran-apple sausage roll with jalapeno and rhubarb jelly (Irving's Farm Fresh/Cook's Corner)

Raspberry rhubarb crisp (Dinner Factory/Belle Valley Farms)

There was a mixture of vendors taking tickets, as well as those offering goods to sell. I was glad to find Jaqueline Jacek of Jacek Chocolate Couture there. I still had not sampled her confections, so after chatting for a bit and learning that she would be selling her collection at Kerstin's this coming fall, I purchased a box of six for Charles and I to enjoy at home.

Departing full of food a couple hours later, we both agreed we would certainly return to the event next year. Although the description on the website led us to believe the event would pair up local farmers and chefs in an Indulgence like fashion, we were happy to bump into both recognizable farmer's market vendors as well as local businesses in such a fantastic space.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sugarbowl stuff

We stopped by Sugarbowl yesterday evening after tearing down the stage at SOS Fest and found an overhauled menu both food and beer wise.

Unfortunately the kitchen was closed so we couldn't sample any of the newer menu items, however the beer list was completely available. Charles went for an Innis & Gunn Blonde, Ilya for an Old Rasputin Imperial Stout (I stole a sip and it was lovely and rich, heavy on the coffee and malty flavours), and I went for a Mc Chouffe. Mine was incredibly fruity... too fruity actually, so I'll know at least to steer clear of this one next time.

I also wanted to mention that Sugarbowl will be hosting a beer education evening with Jason Foster (beer columnist at CBC and Vue Weekly) Tuesday evening from 6-8pm. Tasting samples will be of an Unibroue variety (availability will determine which one). The third cask night is also coming up this Thursday (July 15th), where a brand new cask-beer from Alley Kat will be cracked at 5pm.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Parkallen Restaurant

Both arriving home late Wednesday evening, Charles and I decided to take the fifteen minute walk over to Parkallen Restaurant for dinner.

We had never been to the restaurant before (despite its closeness to our apartment), so I'm not sure about previous set up and decor, but walking into their freshly renovated space is quite amazing...

A stunning glass wine case is at the centre of the room

It's set up like this on the north and south sides of the wine case. Towards the back of the room there are tables to seat larger groups.

(Yes, the hookah pipes are functional)

After being seated next to the amazing wine display, we thought a glass or half bottle was in order. While they were out of many of their half bottle selections, our server recommended what ended up being a very pleasant full bottle that we were able to drink half of and carry home in a bag (while we couldn't believe this, we both loved this idea, since a full bottle of wine usually isn't in the cards for us).

Skipping appetizers, we went straight to mains, with Charles ordering a New York steak with potatoes and steamed veggies ($24), and I the Lahem Mishwee platter (cubed beef) with Lebanese rice and veggies ($21).

Our food came out in a pretty timely manner, and we dove in. Charles steak was grilled to his requested medium rare which made him quite happy, and the accompanying sides were equally enjoyable. Although I enjoyed my plate, I found the beef a little bland, however it was grilled just as well as Charles' steak, leaving it moist and tender. The rather large portion of Lebanese rice was really lovely, with lots of cinnamon and toasted almonds.

After polishing off mains, we caved and ordered dessert (after all, we were going to walk it off, right?). First attempting to order a slice of ginger cake, we were told they were sold out, so we decided to move on to a slice of chocolate mousse cake. We polished the whole thing off in no time at all - it was light yet rich, and perfectly chocolatey.

We both enjoyed our visit to Parkallen, but despite it's closeness, I'm not sure it will become a regular destination. With so many spots around 109th St. just minutes away, the temptation to head north versus south towards a more varied selection of cafes and eateries is incredibly enticing.

Parkallen Restaurant
7018 109 St.
Parkallen Restaurant on Urbanspoon