Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus – Calgary, AB


Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus
2439-54 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 243-7757

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My lack of enthusiasm for breakfast and brunch foods is fairly well documented, and, it seems, there are voices in the wilderness that concur. While i enjoy certain elements that make up breakfast, I just find the overall the entire meal to be unsatisfying. Instead, as i advance in years, I generally take advantage of the meal to get as much healthy stuff out of the way – fibre, fruits and veggies, dairy, so i can concentrate my remaining two meals on things i really like. Like meat. And soup. And meat. However, every once in a while, you’re reminded why breakfast can be so great. An amazing hollandaise on a perfectly poached egg, a nice fatty strip of crisp and soft bacon, bratwurst, crisp and fragrant hash browns, perfectly ripe fruit. Or, you can just have foods that take great elements from lunch and dinner and incorporate them into breakfast! Pfantastic Pannenkoek Haus does a little bit of both.

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Pannenkoek is a Dutch pancake. More like a crepe than a traditional pancake, they come in two types of basic flavours – sweet, and savoury, or often served as a combination of both.  With a wide variety of different toppings, as well as the ability to customize your own, Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus has a little bit of something for everyone. Located in a strip mall off Crowchild Trail in SW Calgary, it is a bit difficult to get to. People heading North on Crowchild Trail have a simple turn into the complex. For people heading south, a roundabout trip through the local side streets is needed.  This small snag aside, clearly enough people know where it is, as weekends have a very very long lineup. I typically show up very early, or very late, otherwise i expect a 45 minute wait out the door.

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IHOP Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV


IHOP Restaurant
7490 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 617 0077

IHOP on Urbanspoon

I recently read that approximately two-thirds of American adults are considered obese. That’s a pretty striking statistic.

I know that Las Vegas cannot seriously be considered an accurate sample of a population, given that a good part of it that you see in public, are visitors from out of state, or out of country. For anyone who’s ever been there, you know that the availability of large quantities (and varying quality) of food in “America’s Playground” is a 24/7 proposition. Being responsible, meaning not overeating, can be a challenge with the never ending temptations from the numerous restaurants and all-you-can-eat buffets especially along Las Vegas Boulevard. And with most people staying awake for longer hours each day, it also leaves the possibility of sneaking in a few more snacks than usual. All a deadly combination for those who want to avoid gaining significant weight during a vacation.

With that in mind, on my recent trip to Sin City, I tried to keep an eye on what I was eating. For some reason, during my whole stay, I didn’t feel like having more than two meals a day – which was probably helped by my getting up a bit later each day than I usually do at home. I had in mind some potential places to eat during the time I was there, but in the end, I completely ignored my list and just ate when I was hungry, someplace close by at the time, and I tried to keep it simple and affordable. I can hear the Foodosopher groaning at me already for passing on some of his suggestions (although the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay was shut down due to lack of power). (SMILE)

The International House of Pancakes (better known as IHOP) has been in business for fifty years and according to their website, they have 1,375 IHOP restaurants located in 49 US states, Canada and Mexico. 14 of those are in Las Vegas, and I was surprised to learn that 12 exist in British Columbia. Until this trip, I have never stepped foot in any of them. In fact my only exposure to it was probably seeing it appear in the feature film staring Sean Penn, “I am Sam”. My breakfast choices, when I even choose to have this morning meal, is usually a combination of some toast and coffee. Not since my high school days have I really had a huge appetite in the morning, and thus this bare bones combination tides me over til lunchtime. Driving up the Strip at the noon hour in search of some caffeine to start my day, I spotted the distinct sign and decided I’d make my virgin visit to the place that boasts serving up “700 million pancakes per year”.

Believing that the crepes at least would be on the lighter side, I chose something off the “international crepes” section of the menu in the Danish Fruit Crepes. I should have stopped it right there, but when asked for what topping I wanted, I looked down and said “cool strawberry”, with the warm blueberry, and the cinnamon apple being left aside. What was a light meal turned into a heavily sugar coated mess, as the strawberry compote just overwhelmed the more delicate crepes. I wish it had come in a separate pouring container rather than lathered on top by the kitchen. Add in the squirts of cream cheese, and the dollop of whipped cream, it was a sucrose bonanza that I would have preferred to have avoided.

Also at our table was the Double Blueberry Pancakes, which I had a taste of and frankly don’t see what the fuss is about. If this place is known for pancakes and this is their offering, I am puzzled by the apparent success of this franchise which uses this as their flagship dish.

Lastly, the simple combination of eggs and hash, was the most comforting dish that I had some bites from. Perhaps its my advancing age, but for breakfast, I am into more savory items rather than anything sweet anymore. And will remind myself of this the next time I am having my morning meal outside. IHOP sure was a popular place though, as the room was packed with people, and with all the other breakfast/brunch places in town, this was pretty surprising. I suppose its capitalizing on its strong name value in America, and the de facto choice in some households for their breakfast fix. With the size of servings, heavy influx of sugar in many of their dishes, I think this is working to contribute to that obesity figure that is plaguing modern day society in this part of the world.

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Top’s Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


Top’s Restaurant
2790 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 437 5610

Word association.  The electrical charges that ignite in one’s brain when a word crosses your lips or an image appears before your eyes, are very intriguing.  For each of us, its different.  Often the result of past experiences, memories, and external influences, many of which that might not have seemed significant at the time.  Much like ghosts, they haunt us.  In the case of food, which relies so heavily on all of our five senses to process, it can be an interesting exercise in examining one’s own psyche.

Take for example, the word pancakes.

What does that conjure up for you?  The warming scent of a buttermilk and flour mixture cooking over a grill?   The sweet taste of a thick drop of maple syrup?  The dreary state of your body as you struggle to wake up on a cold winter Sunday morning?  Or perhaps the sound of your family chattering around a breakfast table?

For me, I associate pancakes with Jason.  Huh?  No, not that white goalie mask wearing psychopath.  Actually, its two Jason’s.  Let me explain.

Growing up, I had a good friend named Jason who I hung around with at his home after school until just before their family dinner on many days.  And every night, his stay-at-home mother would call him from upstairs to inform him that dinner was ready.  So we’d climb up the stairs and he’d see me to the backdoor, passing through the kitchen along the way.  And on many nights, I would glance over at the table that was being set up and see pancakes as the main course.  I found this so odd.  To me, pancakes was something you had for breakfast and certainly not something you would want to eat more than once a week.  But at his house, I can vividly recall that was not the case on many occasions.  I’d ride my bike home, feeling sorry for my friend having to endure another breakfast-like dinner.  A funny ending to this particular anecdote is that as an adult, he ended up becoming a line cook in a restaurant for about ten years.  With him having a disinterested cook for a mother, I found this amused me to no end.

Part II.  Fresh out of school, in my first real job, one of my colleagues was named Jason.  Since the eating quarters of our building were nothing to write home about, and neither of us a big bring-something-from-home-for-lunch person, we’d jump in a car and head out to the surrounding area to have our lunches.  We had a wide array of choices, as we were never afraid to venture farther out and spend more time on our allocated sixty minute break really allowed us, but as two fresh-faced kids out of college, we had no fear, even though our immediate boss was a real dragon lady.  It really was the first time I had a decent amount of cash in my wallet through a full time job, so I think this really was the start of my interest in exploring all there was to eat out in this bold world of ours.  Returning to the narrative, one of this Jason’s favorite choices was a country western-themed joint.  His goal at this place was to eat, you guessed it, the all-day breakfast.  Of course, he would go with the stacks of pancakes here every time.  What is it with Jason’s and their pancakes?

So this past weekend, I’d received word that this second Jason that I knew, had moved recently to where I am currently based most of the time.  I have not seen him in about six years.  We arranged to meet up on a major thoroughfare, to make it easy on him being new to the city.  Driving along, I spotted a big sign that seemed to be for a casual and open 24 hours restaurant.  Immediately, I though diner and all-day breakfast.  Giving him the directions, I waited inside for him, drinking my coffee and reading the day’s newspaper.  Scanning the plastic encased menu booklet at Top’s Restaurant, I knew he’d be happy, seeing all the breakfast items and of course his favorite flapjacks and waffles.

On first glance, Top’s seems to be a popular hangout for locals and/or for those fans of this place who have been coming here for years.  The elderly white haired gentleman who appeared to either be the owner or at least the floor manager, would welcome many people inside and it was clear he knew many of them personally.  It was a fairly big floor space, with comfortable enough looking booths scattered about.  I could see this place being more busy late in the evening and early morning hours, filled with drunken revelers coming back from the downtown bars before heading home to the ‘burbs.  Once my friend arrived, I had already knew what I would try on the menu.  Going right by the pancakes section, I settled on a more hearty egg omelet combination.  There were several standard choices available, but I thought I’d get adventurous and select the corned beef and cheddar cheese omelet.  It came with a good helping of sliced potato hash that was nice and crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside.  Two slices of plain white toast that was buttered completed my plate.

A few bites in and I knew I’d made a bad call with the flavor package in the omelet.  Corned beef I like from time to time in sandwiches, but in egg, its no good.  For some reason, I was picking up some sour hints from the meat, and the cheese as well.  It just didn’t work.  And I could barely finish half of it before resigning myself to just eating all the carbohydrates left on the plate.  The endless refill coffee service was timely and pleasant.  They certainly came around often enough, most times in diners that’s not always the case.  I’d sum up Top’s as just another been-there-seen-that type of greasy spoon.  Perhaps next time I will have the pancakes.  My friend certainly enjoyed them…

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