Top 11 Dishes of 2011
Hi Everyone. Just wanted to wish you all happy holidays and all the best in the upcoming year.
I know I’ve been absent for quite a while, but i thought i’d throw out a small thank you to anyone from Alberta still reading. It may seem like we are a Vancouver-centric blog, but we started with Albertan roots, and it’s a part of the blog that is still very important to me. To be honest, the evolution, or de-evolution of the blog is more because the non-Vancouver based writers have been negligent in their duties. I wish I had more to offer than that, but I don’t.
With changes in my life, i’m not likely to be back in Alberta anytime soon. This snapshot in time reflects how i feel today – and while it may not stand the test of time, I hope it serves you well in the near future. Please consider this a small offering from me to you – for everything you bring to Foodosophy, and to recognize some of the quiet greatness that exists in the city of Calgary today.
Calgary Hot Plate Restaurant
714-5075 Falconridge Blvd NE
“Kebab and naan,” he says, “that’s all I ever get”.
Just that alone got me to agree to having a quick dinner at this little place in the heart of Calgary’s East Indian community. Coming in from the bristling December winter cold, the aromas alone were a much needed welcome. Order at the counter, scan the specials board along with the regular menu sheet. Simple process and setup. Sit down and wait…
Out comes the warm square bowl of Chicken Qorma – with some good sized chunks of breast meat braised slowly in a combination of spices to create a velvety yogurt curry. A definitive spicy kick to this mixture, instantaneously you feel the heat rip across your tongue along with the intoxicating flavors. The accompanying huge plate-sized rounds of freshly made naan at first seem like a little much, but soon you’re ripping them apart and wondering if you might run out.
2310 4 St SW
This is going back a short little while but I was in southern Alberta just as the Royals were visiting and the city was gearing up for the Stampede. Hectic times to be sure and the weather was cooperating (although I’ve heard its become cooler since I was in town). It made for a few social outings, including this visit to a seemingly popular wine spot/lounge/restaurant on busy 4th street called the Vin Room. As it was already around 7pm by the time we arrived, and the 2nd floor patio was full of people aside from a row at the narrow counter directly facing the street until a booth opened up, that’s where our night began. Here’s my view.
In hand was a glass of the 2009 Schug Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma, United States). Whenever I drink wine or beer, I like to start things off light and this variety hit the spot with its bright and lively flavours. I’m no oenophile but I’m sure others would enjoy this refreshing wine as well. The wines-by-the-glass service they had here must have included at least over sixty types, broken up in their listings by various taste profiles, perfect for easy selection. The food menu was noted as being complementary of the wines as well, although by the time we had a few rounds, our minds began wandering elsewhere on this street to get our eat on, and we ended up not ordering a single food dish.
Dairy Lane Cafe
319 19 St NW
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.
Calgary Court Restaurant
119 2 Ave SE
[Note: I had a “brain fart” and posted this incorrectly and prematurely earlier today, sorry folks! Reminder to self not to blog after a night of too much wine.]
With the typical “over a hundred choices” kind of menu booklet you can find in places like this (a Hong Kong cafe), which covers off various subsections such as rice, noodles, beef, chicken, vegetables, etc., its always a chore to decide what to eat. I suggest sharing (if you’re in a group) that way you can sample everything and not be limited to what can end up becoming a single monotonous dish in terms of flavors and textures. Having said that, sadly, I usually end up ordering pretty much the same types of dishes. To change things up this time, I allowed my trusted dining companion to order for us.
Looking to have just a very light meal given the time of night, other than some simple steamed Gai Lan, a dish that I’ve frankly never heard of before, let alone tried, was our main. How do I describe this? Well, I was told it was a baked rice dish with a breaded and deep fried chicken cutlet, and topped with lemons and a thick layer of cheese. A monster of a dish! Almost casserole or baked lasagna in appearance. Frankly, I was shocked. Never had a I really associated Chinese food with such bright color cheese. As I scooped out my first spoonful, I had no idea what to expect…
16604-109 Av NW
Tue-Wed,Sun 11am-6pm; Thu-Sat 11am-9pm
In the west end of Edmonton there’s a strip mall. Next to the Mayfield Inn, long ago, there was a Mexican restaurant out here before Mexican restaurants existed. It was my first experience with Mexican food that wasn’t fast food, and it was delicious. A whole different world of flavours. I loved eating there. Unfortunately, the owner, tired of Edmonton winters, retired, and went back to Mexico.
Years later, word came out that there was a new Mexican restaurant open in the same strip mall. I was hoping some of the magic had rubbed off on the new establisment: Mexico Lindo.
Clean and a bit spartan, there’s a bit of an odd feel about it. However, the service is friendly and warm. I’ll take service over atmosphere any day.
Bairro Flame Grilled Chicken
B1-1919 31 St SW
Calgary, AB T3E 2M8
For me, fried chicken is one of those things im always on the look out for. I love a gooooood fried chicken. Like Gus’s, or Fremont Diner. Even the recipe in Thomas Keller’s Adhoc at Home is pretty good. But i dont want to fry chicken at home – it’s a big pain. Oil, mess, time. I dont eat it enough to warrant cooking it at home. I just want a place i can go to get my fix. In Calgary, Bairro is that place.
One day last fall, I was driving down 17th ave SE and I see a sandwich board that says “Bairro – Flame Grilled Chicken”. I like piri piri chicken, but im not a big fan of Nando’s. It’s been dry, and boring, and lacking in complexity and flavour. I figure they might do it better, so I give it a shot.
As i pull up, it has the look of a chain. Not the most auspicious of starts.