Dairy Lane Cafe – Calgary, AB


Dairy Lane Cafe
319 19 St NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 283-2497

Nestled on a quiet street situated close to a residential neighborhood (from what I could see behind the parking lot of the building where the car I arrived in was parked), the Dairy Lane Cafe was our choice for an impromptu lunch just ahead of the madness which is the start of Stampede.  As such, I was quite surprised to find a packed inside seating area, as well as all the available spots being taken up on the uncovered tables situated on the sidewalk in front of the building.

It didn’t seem like it was anywhere near any walk up traffic from the office worker crowd, but yet still busy at the noon hour.  Scanning the relaxed attire of those eating already, it was clear to me that this was a casual, homey spot for clean honest grub for those who might more often than not, just live around the corner – some younger ladies who seemed to be out for a bite to eat with their girlfriends, to some guys who obviously fell into the hipster genre given their tight fitting attire and attitude, as well as strangely enough, some rougher dressed fellows who if I were to assume from the paint on their overalls, were some tradesmen on break for something to eat while on the day job.

The spot came recommended by locals and was described to me as a throwback to simpler times and with operators very keen on the whole “produced local” attitude, and knowing where their ingredients came from.   The space was not very large inside and staffed seemingly by just two busy servers.  Some large framed pictures hung on the wall reminded me of a by-gone era in rural Alberta, catching my eye enough to snap a photo myself.  If I were to compare the looks and feel of this place to anywhere in Vancouver, I would say something like Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe & Pie Shop in Kits comes to mind.

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foodography – spot prawn festival


This past Saturday (May 7th), The Chef’s Table Society of B.C. once again hosted their Annual Spot Prawn Festival at False Creek’s Fishermen’s Wharf to kick start the approximately two month long B.C spot prawn season which brings live, locally sourced and sustainable spot prawns right to the city’s citizens.

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La Posta Vecchia – Santa Cruz, CA


La Posta Vecchia
538 Seabright Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
(831) 457-2782

California has a long tradition of Italian immigration beginning in the 19th century.  Although New York is probably more closely associated with this wave of newcomers, in the mid-1800s California had the most Italian immigrants of any state.  In Santa Cruz and elsewhere along the coast, northern Italians quickly became very prominent in the fishing industry.  They also played important roles in developing California’s vegetable, fruit and wine industries.

Even today, one can see the imprint of this immigration (e.g. Del Monte foods, Ghirardelli chocolates).  Perhaps this explains this state’s strong ties to Italian cuisine – indeed, California cuisine in my mind is primarily rooted in Italian sensibilities with French, other European and some Asian techniques and ingredients thrown in for good measure.  Despite this, it’s only been in the last decade or so that authentic regional Italian food has been widely available.

MRKT (Market) Restaurant – Edmonton, AB


MRKT (Market) Restaurant
10542 Jasper Ave NW
Edmonton, AB
(780) 757-6758

My poor camera was dropped at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the lens no longer retracts. I loved that camera – but after extensive research, im back in the game with a new camera! Happy to do my first post with pics from my new baby.

On a rainy dreary day, we head down the “ugly” part of Jasper Avenue to try the new restaurant by Carla Alexander of Soul Soup and Sal Di Maio who owns the gastropub downstairs, Red Star. MRKT Market is simply that – a “fresh market” concept restaurant where the limited menu provides you with a few choices in terms of sandwiches, soups, and specials. 3 sandwiches, 3 soups, one special the day we were there.

The interior feels like a wooden airplane fuselage. I’ve heard canoe,  and upscale log cabin (rather generous i’d say), it is nonetheless hip, while managing some warmth. The most prominent feature of MRKT market is the long table that allows many diners to share a meal.

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Ristorante Avanti – Santa Cruz, CA


Ristorante Avanti
1711 Mission Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 427-0135

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.

I recall that the brilliant food writer Jonathan Gold once wrote that he’s been to Campanile in Los Angeles hundreds of times.  When I read that maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I couldn’t even fathom such a concept.  But now the combination of steady employment and living in one place for a good chunk of time has conspired to generate a small handful of places that I’ve been to so many times and with which I have such a relationship that it’s less a business and more an annex of my own home.  One of them is Ristorante Avanti, owned and run by Cindy and Paul Geise for over twenty years and still going strong.

What leads me and the many other regulars to return so often? I suspect it’s the combination of well-executed food with a menu that has both dishes that I know will be available when I’m in need of something tried, true and delicious, and a rotating list of daily specials that ensures there’s always something new and exciting to try.

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Fremont Diner – Sonoma, CA


Fremont Diner (The Fremont)
2660 Fremont Drive
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-7370

For me, the term “diner” conjures up images of neon, white and black checkered tile, red leather stools, wise cracking waitresses, and greasy spoon food of questionable origin. In reality, these days, good food can be found anywhere. Lunch counters, strip malls, and of course, diners.

Fremont Diner is best described as a “slow food” diner. Ingredients all locally sourced. Time, attention, and care is paid to every aspect of every dish. This is not what you would consider your average “diner”.

Located on Highway 12/121 that cuts through Napa Valley and Sonoma, Fremont Diner is actually easy to miss. You could drive by it every day and barely notice the understated sign, the rusting truck out front, and the gas station diner appearance.

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The Front Room – Portland, ME


The Front Room Restaurant and Bar
73 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101-3661
(207) 773-3366

It never hurts to be friendly. One example of this is striking up a conversation with the people next to you at a restaurant or bar.  You meet some of the most amazing people that way. I find smaller towns especially good for this. People just seem to be more open to conversation with strangers.

However, getting recommendations from people you meet in a restaurant is an interesting proposition. On the one hand, you’re both in the same establishment, enjoying the same food, which implies there are some things in common. On the other hand, you really know nothing else about them, other than maybe they are really nice, very friendly, or seem very knowledgeable. However, it will always be an adventure.

When dining at Fore Street, another Portland establishment, we were given a recommendation by a very friendly couple next to us for brunch. Well, after they inquired about our planned dining excursions, and criticized our breakfast choices :)  They suggested that the Front Room was the best brunch in town. Seeing as i wasn’t totally committed on my choice, we decided to give it a shot.

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Fore Street – Portland, ME


Fore Street
288 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101-4109
(207) 775-2717

The wave of public opinion is an interesting thing. You see it all the time, especially on public forums and boards like chowhound or egullet. Someone posts about a new restaurant – usually it’s very positive, and people get excited. They want to go and experience it for themselves. They all go in a flood, and validate what the original poster stated. “Nice service, great command of ingredients and technique, wonderful meal”. More people visit, and more people enjoy.

After some time, a few negative reviews come up. Natural, since it is hard for any restaurant to maintain their game day in and day out. But with the really popular restaurants, you start to get this negative backlash. A push. The term “overrated” is thrown around a lot. People go in with very high expectations, and come out disappointed. More pushback. More negative reviews.

Has the quality at the restaurant changed that much? Honestly, it’s hard to tell. I’ve been to some universally lauded restaurants that I didn’t like for one reason or another. I’ve been to some restaurants that have been criticized heavily, and found it to be very enjoyable. It’s why I always reiterate to people to “taste what’s in front of you.” Think about what you’re having, and actually taste it. Don’t assume that what I had tastes the same when you have it. Don’t automatically assume something will be good, or bad. Having an open mind is the most important thing when trying to qualify a dining experience.

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Puka Dog – Honolulu, HI


Puka Dog
Waikiki Town Center
2301 Kuhio Avenue #2
Honolulu, HI 96815
Tel: (808) 924-7887
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10AM to 10PM

Refreshing twists to orthodox food or dishes is a delicate balancing act when it comes to yours truly…

For some things, I am a devout traditionalist and really appreciate those who respect the “old way” and cringe at words like fusion, or “east meets west”.  At other times, I am much more lenient with a chef’s creative inspirations and open minded to trying something “different” from the classic interpretation.

I can’t say I have a hard and fast rule to describe where this fine line exists, but it could be that it rests with just how “common” a food item may be.  The more “everyday man” food it is, the greater the probability that I will accept a variation that is above and beyond the standard image I hold of it in my mind.  Dear readers, would you say you hold a similar or contradictory mentality when it comes to “new ways of doing food”?

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It was by just sheer chance that I came across Puka Dog while strolling along Kuhio Avenue.  Previous to me stepping in front of the doors, I had never heard anything about this place and thus was unaware that it had a cult following and had received some press from the likes of the Travel Channel (as the manager of the store keenly mentioned to me when he asked what brought me to his counter).

I responding that the lettering on the glass window facing the street suggested to me it was something unique and thus curiosity got to me.  The influence of Japadog in Vancouver probably got me thinking this way -  another way of presenting and flavouring simple hot dogs?  That’s something I just had to try.

The ordering process is your basic conveyor line approach.  Walk inside and the cashier takes your order.  Step one, choose either the Polish sausage or Veggie dog -  the latter being a much thinner wiener from what I saw (and apparently harder to get cooked right in their grill).  Next, select the heat level of the “garlic lemon secret sauce”: Mild Original, Spicy Jalepeno, Hot Chili Pepper, or Hot Hot Habanero.

Then the flavouring choices diverts into two paths: Tropical Relishes or Traditional (ketchup, mustard, regular relish).  Not sure why you’d want to go with the latter, as that doesn’t really make the whole experience happen, but some in line I heard did.  The Hawaii-influenced relishes include Mango, Pineapple, Papaya, Coconut, Banana, and Star Fruit.   I elected to try the Mango relish and added a side that came in a small cup of the Hawaiian Lilikoi mustard, as recommended to me, and it indeed was a good match when pasted in with the small ice cream cup wooden spoon.

Watching the construction of the dogs is interesting.  As seen from the above image, the buns first of all, are not your regular hot dog type.  The soft texture reminded me of the delicious Filipino bread rolls better known as Pan De Sal.  Each long single bun is wrapped in paper and literally pierced on one side down the middle (with “puka” meaning hole in Hawaiian) by placing it on this rack of hot steel tubes that look like mini missiles that heat and toast the core.  The sausages are placed in a grilling deck that shoots them out once they are fully cooked in a nearby resting tray.  The key here that really surprised me was just how evenly crispy the sausage was, even at both ends.  Taking that first bite, it was like a cap tearing off the tip of the dog – great for crispy food lovers.

Once the bun is ready, some squirts of the garlic lemon sauce (from plastic bottles) and the relish (from the multiple relish taps that line the counter much like beer taps in a bar) is deposited in the bottom of the bun.  Next, the wiener is inserted with some tongs, and then more of the sauces are added in from the top. With multiple orders, I could see how painstaking a process this is, in making sure you are putting in the right type of garlic lemon sauce and relish into each dog.  Nothing worse than expecting a mild tone and finding an erroneous inclusion of hot Habanero sauce!  Eating it feels very much like consuming a donair or Shawarma as you work your way down the bun trying to keep all the insides from dripping out of the paper envelope.

As much as I enjoy your standard fare hotdog with ketchup, mustard and relish, this Puka Dog was so unique not only in its flavoring combinations but the texture and cut of the bun and the all-around crispy wiener, that makes me proclaim that perhaps its my new favourite type of hot dog.  I only wish they had an outlet on the west coast of Canada.  If you are ever on Oahu, or Kauai (their first branch), I recommend you give it a try as the hype is well deserved!  Oh, and don’t forget the fresh squeezed lemonade.

Puka Dog (Waikiki Town Center) on Urbanspoon

Wild Rose Brewery and Taproom – Calgary, AB


Wild Rose Brewery
Bldg AF23,#2 – 4580 Quesnay Wood Drive SW
Calgary, Alberta T3E 7J3
(403) 720-2733

Wild Rose Brewery on Urbanspoon

My personal philosophy puts a premium on balance. I believe that balance is one of the key elements in all aspects of life. This doubly applies to food. and drink. The flavours in a dish, the beer that you drink, people find things that are in balance to be more pleasing, and harmonious. Philosophically though, i’ve always wondered. Can a place that focuses primarily on wine, or beer, still serve great food? Do places excel at both? Or does an establishment that focuses most of their energy on producing great beverages, have a limited amount of energy to spend on the food? Wild Rose Brewery in Calgary is an interesting case study.

Wild Rose Brewery is great at brewing beer. Located in the Currie Barracks complex, they are a craft brewery that produces a variety of beers served across Alberta. They maintain a taproom that fronts their brewery, allowing patrons to sample their current production lineup. With some highly regarded and award winning beers,Wild Rose is doing some exciting things.

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As was pointed out to me in an earlier post, i am certainly no expert on beer. So i will spend very little time discussing Wild Rose Brewery beer. I will say, however, that this is a fantastic brewery. Their philosophy of fresh ingredients, combined with classic brewing techniques results in some excellent interpretations. Rather than dumb down your standard beers, they brew some true interpretations of classic global beers. Their Imperial IPA is phenomenal, and seasonally, the Stout and Pilsner are must tries for me.

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Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company – Canmore, AB


Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company
#1 838 10th Street
Canmore, AB
(403) 609-5508
Wednesday – Sunday, 5.00 pm onwards

I’m not exactly sure when flatbread became synonymous with pizza, but that’s exactly what it is. Generally speaking, thin crust, though i’ve come across all kinds in my travels. Regardless of what you call it, the recipe for success is generally the same. A great crust, appropriate sauce, and the right blend of toppings – for the most part, meats, cheeses, and vegetables. While it seems like a simple formula, very few places get it right. Thankfully, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company is one place that works hard to succeed.


The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company is a Canmore-based company producing good flatbread pizza. Perhaps more admirably, they do so with a mission. Their key philosophy is their belief in community. They believe in contributing to the community they live in, supporting their local producers, and supporting a variety of social and environmental causes. They even charge a optional carbon tax on each meal to offset the carbon emissions used to create your meal. This form of respect for their community certainly comes with a price – slightly higher prices, but I know personally, it is a small price I am willing to pay. In line with their mision, they use only local organic ingredients. No additives, GMO’s, transfats.

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