This Sh*t's Delicious

Exploring the world through cocktails, shit hole restaurants, and UrbanAg

Tag Archives: calgary food blogs

The Best Veggie Burger Recipe Ever (and no, it doesn’t involve tofu) @songsonglol

Alright, I am back after a long hiatus. The whole A-Cocktail-A-Day didn’t really pan out once I got back from Vancouver. I had several epiphanies during my storm chasing trip, the big one being about blogging more, so I jumped on to the the first thing that popped into my head, which was cocktails.

I really like cocktails. But I like blogging about other things too. There’s so many hole-in-wall restaurants that I would like to review. So many people to interview. A single-minded focus on cocktails would be great, but it isn’t the only thing I want to blog about.

Cocktails are still going to be the focus, but just not everyday. I am going to aim to blog everyday, just not only about cocktails.

With that in mind, here’s the first blog post of the week. I organized a BBQ with some friends on Sunday. The weather was a bit shitty, but the food was really good. Song, one of my long-time friends from Engineering was kind enough to make me (?) some veggie burgers. Song’s one of those gifted home chefs that makes her own recipes from scratch. She would be the one “thing” I would bring to a deserted island so I could have gourmet food everyday while waiting to be rescued.

Veggie Burgers (unedited – makes approx. 8 burgers)

Ingredients:

2 cans lentils, rinsed (green or yellow)
1 can six bean blend, rinsed
1.5 cups fresh herbs (loosely packed; mostly basil, carrot top, and a bit of cilantro, but parsley is good in it too!)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 egg
2 cups shredded vegetables (I used one carrot and like 4 tiny beets and a small jalapeno, but whatever’s around works. I’ve made them with apples and zucchini before.)

Bread crumbs (I think it was nearly 2 cups I needed)
Oil (as needed)

Instructions:

1. Combine 1 can of lentils and 1/2 can of beans into a food processor with the herbs, garlic, cumin, and egg. Blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

2. Transfer the paste into a large bowl. Add the remaining lentils and beans along with the shredded vegetables and 1/3 cup bread crumbs. Stir until well combined.

3. Form into patties.  Pour additional bread crumbs on a plate or shallow dish. Take patties and press them into the crumbs to coat.

4. Fry them on the stove top over medium heat until golden on both sides.  Use oil in the pan liberally.

5. You can eat them after you fry them or store them in the fridge / freezer for a BBQ later!!

———

That’s it! The best thing about these burgers is the sheer amount of protein you consume. I am not really a big fan of those tofu veggie burgers as they often taste rubbery or quite frankly, are pretty bland and tasteless.

Song also likes the chunky texture you get by combining whole beans along with the pureed stuff, but if that’s not your thing, you could puree everything, I suppose.

A great compliment to the burgers was the sweet, tangy Carolina sauce that Song made from the original recipe. The only difference was she didn’t add any white pepper and switched olive oil for butter.

I ended up mixing the Carolina sauce with a little bit of Mango Fire hot sauce and it was absolutely gorgeous.

Let me know how you like this recipe!

Get a Spade, Plant Some Shit: A Candid & Oft-Hilarious Conversation with @downtownfood Chef Darren MacLean on Modernist Cuisine, Life & Urban Agriculture

There is no king or queen of urban agriculture in Calgary, but if there’s one guy who’s making waves, it’s Chef Darren McLean who recently converted a barren and life-less rooftop above his restaurant downtownfood into a full-blown permaculture ecosystem. The urbanag project, while not the first of it’s kind (Rouge has one), is intended to educate and start a conversation about our food systems.

I finally found some time to sit down with MacLean and dig a bit deeper into his story. Warning: MacLean is a fast-talking, passionate, no-holds barred kind of guy. He’s an interesting blend of humility, charisma, and the “let’s get shit done” attitude that Calgary is famous for.

I have tried to capture his essence as much as I can. So, if you are easily offended, then well, in MacLean’s own words, you can go fuck yourself.

————————————-

Tell me a little bit about yourself

I am just a cook who’s trying get by (laughs).

I have been cooking professionally for about 7 years but started at Ricky’s when I was 13 as a line cook. I grew up in Calgary mainly but have always been around farms and rural cultures around Innisfail and Alberta.

I went to university for Finance, realized didn’t like too much, so switched my focus back to cooking.

What is your inspiration behind downtownfood?

We wanted to bring something new and exciting to the city. We keep our menu small and very interesting. There are no super-safe items. I try to bring out the natural flavours in the ingredients we use.

The vision behind downtownfood is that it is an amalgamation of food that occurs downtown. The heartbeat of any city is the food downtown – we are trying to encapsulate the essence or soul of what downtown food should be.

Our lunch menu is very street food-esque. For instance, our burger comes with a free strawberry milkshake – we don’t tell you it’s coming with one, we just surprise you with one. If you want chocolate or strawberry, then quite frankly, you can go fuck yourself cause it’s only strawberry for me.

What is your definition of “interesting”?

That’s a very interesting question. I want to do things that are new and different, something that you haven’t seen before. I like to challenge conventional notion of what certain foods are and get people talking about food in terms of where it came from, and so on.

Sounds like you are integrating a little bit of molecular gastronomy into your food.

We do. We cure our own bacon; we spherify and foam ingredients when it makes sense. Absolutely.

But technique for technique’s sake is a waste of time. If the technique works and adds to the plate, then I am all for it. But I don’t want to put a bunch of fucking spheres and foams on a plate just cause it’s cool to do.

If it doesn’t taste good, who cares what it looks like. It’s the flavours that preserve memories.

So you prefer the term “modernist cuisine” to “molecular gastronomy”?

imageFood should have soul. You have these chefs who are very technical and their dishes look beautiful. But if it tastes like a fucking paper bag, who cares? Molecular gastronomy has developed into modernist cuisine. Everybody can spherify – it’s not a secret – we can take it now and apply it to modern cuisine as it makes sense.

Modernist cuisine essentially is a portrait of the latest and greatest techniques of the 20th century. It is still rooted in classical cuisine and if you don’t understand the latter, then the modernist cuisine is a waste of time.

It’s cool. It’s really cool. But man, nature did it best. Why mess with it?

Give me a brief description of the urban agriculture project you started at downtownfood.

It’s a 2000 sq. ft. roof top space that we have converted into a permaculture ecosystem. We partnered up with REAP (Respect for Earth & All People), Greengate Garden Center & Alberta Beekeepers Association to create this ecosystem in a barren dead zone.

We have two beehives, solar drip irrigation, a rain catch and 36 pots amongst many other things. There are no artificial pesticides in use – it’s all natural compost.

This isn’t just a bunch of hippies getting together to plant some seeds and grow food. We have meticulously thought about it as a system all they way down to plant spacing and the plant arrangement.

That’s quite a massive undertaking. What inspired this?

You know, growing vegetables has become so foreign to us. Sixty years ago, there were no supermarkets. If you told someone you were growing veggies in your backyard, they would give you this wtf look. In a whole generation, we have managed to entirely disconnect ourselves from the food system. That’s not right.

I am an activist. I want to change the food system from the inside by leading the conversation and getting people to understand where our food comes from.

What kind of reactions have you gotten from people?

The groundswell of support has been amazing. I have random people living in skyscrapers above the garden who love seeing things grown in a barren dead space. Random people tweet me or drop off their plants for the rooftop garden.

Did you envision this as a community project from the start?

I am just an ideas guy who gets shit done. Quite frankly, I don’t understand the fundamentals of growing food. I just called up Greengate and started chatting with them. They got so excited, they donated everything.

People wanna eat real stuff man. Get a strawberry from Broxburn Farms and compare them with the California shit that is artificially ripened. You will know what real strawberries taste like.

How does one get started, especially if you live downtown and don’t have a backyard?

Get a planter, fill a box, and plant some shit.

If you get stuck, go to Greengate Garden Centers, tell them what you want, and they will know what to do. Start small with one thing at a time.

So what’s your long-term vision for this project?

I want to become a node in the community. My vision is to help people understand the culture of food and where food comes from.

In 6-7 years from now, I want to spearhead a food stop in the inner city. It’s essentially like a food bank, but instead of getting canned food, the needy get hot, freshly prepared meals from locally sourced ingredients.

I want to take half an acre out somewhere in the inner city and feed people. I grew up poor. My mother worked two jobs to support us. I ate a lot of canned food growing up.

Food is a fundamental human right.

———————————

MacLean was kind enough to provide me a sample of his watermelon salad. I am not going to into the details of what was in it – you can go to his restaurant and find out yourself – but suffice to say, I *got* his philosophy and passion. The entire dish tasted like watermelon – that was the singular focus of the dish and it was executed well.

Watermelon is so fucking delicious – why would you want to change it and make it taste like anything else?

Brilliant.

Food Truck Weekend Overload (Part 2)!!

Richard and I headed up to Lilac Fest a couple of weekends ago to kick-start the summer festivals circuit. Although I personally find most of these street festivals a bit blasé, they are an awesome opportunity to make lots of food-related discoveries.

After the initial successful pilot, food trucks are now here to stay, with their numbers reportedly rising up to 30 by the end of summer. It seems like food truck frenzy has taken over the city, with a new one popping up every week. Lilac fest had a plethora of food trucks so it was the perfect opportunity to review a few more trucks from the day before

Snoberry: Shaved Ice-Cream

The first one that caught my eye was the latest offering from the folks over at The Noodle Bus, which explains the following photo:

DSC00080_thumb18

But no one can beat the one Asian gang sign to rule them all:

IMG_0065-1_thumb4

(Kiran’s so jealous of my style Winking smile -Richard)

(I am. Sad smile –Kiran)

But, I digress…

Snoberry serves up shaved ice treats and allows up to two toppings per cup. The toppings range from the classics like blueberries, to the more exotic like “mochi” and “lychee burst”.

What is shaved ice, you ask? The “formal” Wikipedia definition describes it as a “large family” of ice-based dessert made of fine ice shavings or finely crushed ice and sweet condiments or syrups.”

Basically, it’s a fuckin’ snow-cone…aka kala khatta in India or Ais kachang in Southeast Asia

And not a good one at one. The texture of this shaved ice was that of shredded wheat. The texture basically turned me off the dessert completely. Plus, a real shaved-ice treat would actually be dripping with syrup and other condiments (like red beans or peanuts) that you can scoop or suck on. Instead, Snoberry’s version just blurs the line between a frozen yogurt and snow cone, and unfortunately, the end result isn’t very good. (I tried it and was rather ambivalent to it – it’s not really much like a snow cone, as the flavour is imbedded in it rather than in syrup form like the types that Kiran is familiar with. It’s more like those ice crystals that you get on the lid of an ice cream container when you over freeze it – vaguely milky-flavoured, but a relatively dilute taste. Sure it’s a bit overpriced, but the main thing that made it shitty was the horrible combination of flavours that Kiran picked – sorry, peanuts and chocolate don’t go with mango ice and lychee bursts. –Richard).

(It was a fuckin’ delicious combo. –Kiran)

DSC00081_thumb11

The Happy Truck

We were looking for a solid meal, and the bright and cheery Happy Truck caught our eyes and stomachs. We were also intrigued by their po’boy offerings with decidedly non-traditional po’ boy ingredients like satay sauce, tempeh, and beef.

I decided to get the temphee (sic) po’boy (that was pretty much my only option) which was a cornucopia of ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily see often but nonetheless excited me somewhat in my loins. The big “mystery” ingredient for me was tempeh (deep fried fermented soybeans) which turns is something that has been consumed in Indonesia for centuries. The tempeh was supplemented with a generous (and I mean fuckin’ generous) load of shredded/marinated cabbage, pineapple chunks (?!?!), carrots, and cucumber, all topped off with satay sauce and dollops of sambal.

DSC00096

The above ingredients sound delicious on paper, but unfortunately, where the po’boy failed was in delivery and execution. I didn’t know how to eat the fuckin’ thing. The bread was cut through on both sides so there was no way to hold the sandwich without ingredients oozing out and dripping onto your lap. The above would be forgivable if the sandwich was mind-blowing, but it wasn’t, thus exacerbating my dislike for the po’boy.

Richard’s Thoughts

The Happy Truck, eh? The name certainly appealed to me, and the people running it inside seemed happy enough. Ok, worth a try, right? Their off-beat offerings were a strange mix of Asian-inspired flavours (from samosas to Southeast-Asian satay) centered around a “Po’ boy” that was the Southern-States standard in name only. It was more like a Viet/Thai style sub (though the bread was certainly po’boy-like), filled with satay beef, cabbage, seemingly cooked cucumber, pineapple pieces, hoisin sauce, and slathered with a generous helping of peanut-y satay sauce.

DSC00097It was certainly an adventurous combination, but I can’t say that I was a fan of it. The sweetness of the pineapple and hoisin sauce combined with the strong peanut flavour of the satay made it taste like I was eating a PBJ sandwich – that happened to also have beef and cabbage in it Sick smile. Seems like it might appeal to people who like the PBJ hotdog at tubby dog though Winking smile. I also had a spring roll, which was almost like an Asian-style sausage roll – unlike many spring rolls, there was no vermicelli or vegetable fillers – only pure, pot-sticker-style meat. On the plus side, the Happy Truck accepts credit cards, which was rather welcome.

Purple Pastry Chef

DSC00107

The set of cupcakes that were on display in front of the little van caught my eye as we were walking by, and the cheerful ladies manning the little van seemed pretty down-to-earth, so I figured it would be a good place to grab some dessert. The flavour selection was very unique (cinammon, rosewater, and mojito were among the offerings that day), and each cupcake was exquisitely decorated and packaged in individual windowed boxes. We were informed that everything on the cupcakes was edible (including the well-crafted butterflies that adorned several cupcakes) – except for the straw that adorned the mojito cupcake (which was what I ended up ordering).

The cupcakes were almost too adorable to eat – but eat, we did. Unfortunately, I’d say they made better decorations than desserts – the cake itself was nice, if unremarkable, but the icing was too viscous for my liking (almost like marzipan) and the flavour was mostly one-dimensional – sugary (there were wisps of rum/mojito mix but it was pretty muted). Luckily, it came with a slice of key-lime that I bit into in between bites of cupcake that helped cut the sweetness and added some zing. The sugar mint leaf on top was actually also really good, but it wasn’t really big enough for me to get a piece of it with every bite of the cupcake. They weren’t that cheap either ($3.50 or $3.75, I think?), but I don’t doubt that a lot of care went into each and every cupcake so the price was somewhat understandable. –Richard

DSC00108

I went with the white chocolate and rose water cupcake, which like Richard’s selection, was absolutely gorgeous to look at. However, like his, mine was also better admired than eaten. The icing was too thick and sweet for my liking and the cake wasn’t really all that special. I attempted to eat the rose petals, but ended up just coughing them out.

It was pretty disappointing to have something that delicious looking turn out to be not that delicious, but such is life. #firstworldproblems. -Kiran

Other Trucks

4th Street was lined all the way with food trucks and amongst the new and interesting ones we saw were:

DSC00086

Which essentially seems to be Edo Express on wheels:

DSC00087

Then there are other trucks like The Naaco Truck that weren’t at the Lilac Fest, but which I am SUPER-excited about as white people need to know there’s more to Indian food than butter-chicken (which 95% of India Indians won’t be able to afford anyways):

Summary

Food truck mania is definitely taking over the city. I can’t thank Nenshi’s office enough in pushing this concept through City Hall. Calgary’s a pretty cool place, and although it will take us a while to be as trendy, hip or cool as Montreal, we will get there (in a couple of decades or so!). I personally think Calgary’s main problem is how young of a city it is. A lot of people don’t realize that we have grown to a million in the span of only 60 years, whereas a lot of the major cities around the world have two or three CENTURIES worth of history.

As the food truck scene explodes, there will be an increased scrutiny on the quality and price of the offerings. BUT, ultimately, regardless of the food quality, the concept of street food is only going to help revitalize our City.

Looking forward to what summer brings in our local food scene.

-Kiran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Pastry Chef (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

Changes to the This Sh*t’s Delicious Ranking Methodology

The nice thing about holidays (apart from the sun, sand, and relaxation) is that it gives you time to think about sh*t other than work. This time round, it gave me time to think about our Ranking Methodology. So far, we have been rating restaurants on:

– Ambiance

– Service

– Plating

– Taste

– Originality/Authenticity

– Value

Each category was ranked from 1-6, with 6 being the best in any category. For future reviews, the “Plating” category will no longer be applied and each category will only be rated on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best. For more details on why I decided to change the methodology, check out the NEW Ranking Methodology page.

The above changes won’t really matter too much but will make it easier on our end when assigning numerical values to each restaurant review. At the end of the day, we are about exploring the food scene in yyc, and more importantly, discovering the hidden gems where the locals dine are.

Stay tuned for more upcoming reviews!

-Kiran

Review of Raj Palace – Authentic South Indian Cuisine

Summary: an authentic line-up of traditional South Indian cuisine and the reasonable prices make Raj Palace a worthwhile addition to the nascent South Indian food scene in Calgary.

alt

Raj Palace is one of those places that’s 5 min. away from my place but for one reason or the other, has never been very high up on my priority list. I promised a friend dinner after bitching out on him at the last minute at an unrelated event. James, who is also of South Indian descent, had mentioned that Raj Palace had a full on South Indian lunch buffets ($12.99) on Sundays, so this was the natural choice to visit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Indian cuisine is very diverse, just like its geography and culture. Most non-Indians are only familiar with North Indian cooking, typified by the most-famous-of-them-all: butter chicken. I myself am a big fan of North Indian fare. However, the latter tends to be fairly rich and heavy and isn’t something you want to have everyday. South Indian food tends to be lighter, easier on the heart cholesterol-wise, and doesn’t put you to sleep after every meal. That said, a large part of the cuisine is rice-based, so it’s not any lighter on the calories.

Funnily enough, Raj Palace used to be Mysore Palace. However, the interior is almost exactly the same as before. Frankly, the only visible difference is the “Raj Palace” banner that sits on the exterior in place of where “Mysore Palace” used to be. In fact, the serving plates still say “Mysore Palace” on them…hahaha. So brown… 

IMG_0437

The interior was a bit dark for a Sunday afternoon, but very spacious, clean, and inviting. You could sit in a booth for a more intimate affair or at one of the tables if you didn’t care about privacy. The impression I was left with was that management and staff put a lot of time and effort to make this place clean and spotless…almost like you could eat off the floor.

We jumped into the buffet right away, which like J. promised, offered almost exclusively all South Indian items. Raj Palace had all the traditional South Indian offerings ranging from items such as the more traditional idli (rice cakes), dosa (rice crepes), and vada (doughnut shaped lentil-based fritters), to the lesser known items such as tomato bath and uppama (seasoned cream of wheat porridge). In addition, the buffet offered other staples such as sambar (spicy lentil broth). All in all, I was pretty impressed by line of vegetarian South Indian offerings.

IMG_0438

There were also a bunch on non-veg dishes which I didn’t pay any attention to. Typically Richard or Kent would cover this aspect, so I usually don’t pay attention to the meat offerings. I guess it’s my way of saying f-you to all the non-vegetarians out there.

Like Southern Spice, Raj Palace also offered unlimited dosas as part of the buffet. The dosas were fresh, warm, crispy, and went well with the sambar. However, they paled in comparison to the ones offered at Southern Spice – those just transported me back to the motherland!

IMG_0440

IMG_0441

Idli/dosa/vada are typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack, so the buffet also included some main courses such as potato fry and other items. They were also tasty, but nothing to get too excited about.

The service level was also very good. Our server was very attentive, refilling our glasses constantly, or taking away used dishes. The only thing that irritated me a little was the lack of little cups (shown in the pic above) to hold the sambar or other chutneys. Those seemed to be in a constant short supply.

Summary

AFAIK, including Raj Palace, Calgary has three restaurants offering distinct South Indian cuisine. The other two are: Southern Spice and Canada Dosa Corner. Of these, Canada Dosa Corner is the hands-down winner. That said, Raj Palace is a great alternative to get your South Indian fix and offers a very authentic range of dishes at a very reasonable price. They also apparently now offer a limited selection of hakka cuisine, which is another plus (although I haven’t tried it out).

Ranking

Kiran
Ambiance 4/6
Service 4/6
Plating N/A
Taste 4/6
Originality Authenticity 5.5/6
Value 5/6
Overall 22.5/30 = 75%

[COCKTAILS] Corpse Reviver #2: My new favourite cocktail

Corpse Reviver #2

I am a big cocktail fan, so I am always on the lookout for my next favourite cocktail. I recently stumbled upon gojee.com, which is essentially a food blog aggregator. However, unlike simply focusing on food, the site also aggregates drinks, which is pretty unique (not to mention much needed). What’s even better is the ability to customize your search by inputting all the ingredients you have in your home bar. The site then brings up a list of drinks that pertain to your specific list of ingredients. Just what I need!

It was through gojee that I stumbled upon cocktailhacker.com, who seems to specialize in “hacking” cocktails. In this case, the recipe is originally from Harry Cradock’s “Savoy Cocktail Book” and listed here in the form shown in “The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan.

Corpse Reviver #2
3/4 oz. Gin
3/4 oz. Triple Sec
3/4 oz. Lillet Blonde
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Absinthe (substitute) to taste (Go Easy)
1) Combine over ice.
2) Shake until chilled.
3) Strain into a cocktail glass.

The only advice I have is to go easy on the Absinthe like the recipe recommends. Absinthe has the tendency to overpower any drink even in minute amounts, so you don’t really need more than 1/4 oz. to taste and smell the liqueur.

Cocktail Hacker seems to have experimented with this recipe as well and recommends adding about 3 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters. I didn’t have the latter, so I just tried out the original recipe, which is obviously delicious in its own right.

Happy drinking!