This Sh*t's Delicious

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

Tag Archives: Calgary

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!

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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.

A Cocktail-a-Day #10: Celine Fizz (aka why gin & elderflower are awesome together)

IMG_0020Alright, short post today. It’s been another long in meetings and hanging out with friends. It’s awesome how now stressed out about time I am. Time is the true currency in life.

This one’s by Philip Ward of Death & Co. in Manhattan. Haven’t had time to research into him yet, so don’t know much about him. Here’s the recipe:

2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur

1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice

1/4 oz. simple syrup

1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice

Dash of orange bitters

1 large egg white

Ice

1/2 oz. chilled club soda

1 grapefruit twist for garnish.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, orange bitters, and egg white and shake vigorously without ice. Add ice to shaker and shake again. Strain the cocktail into a chilled fizz glass or flute and top with club soda. Pinch the grapefruit twist over the drink and rub it around the rim of the glass, then discard the twist.

Discussion

Visually, this drink is much cloudier as I accidentally added a bit of egg yolk as well, Compare this with the Boris Karloff which just has egg white and how much more transparent it is. I believe this is called the

Rubbing the grapefruit twist gives an amazing aroma to the drink. To be honest, it dominates the orange bitters, but I am not complaining.

I love how the gin, elderflower liqueur, and grapefruit juice combine together. It seems these three ingredients are very powerful when combined. The drink starts with a sweet tangy note and ends with a nice elderflower liqueur note. The egg white adds a bit of richness/thickness to the drink for sure. I actually forgot to add a bit of soda water like the recipe calls for, and got a big blast of gin. Will have to remember to add it in next time.

Photography

This was another hard drink to photograph. The egg yolk made the drink fairly opaque so no amount of backlight would help. Plus, it was too dark in the foreground. I also was getting too many shadows and I couldn’t figure out why – it’s not like the setup was any different that before. I just don’t have enough room with my setup to move the lights around so they don’t cast crazy shadows. I have to figure out some other setup here.

This is what I ended up doing. I angled the light in the back so it “collided” with the light on the side to eliminate any shadows. It didn’t really work. You can tell the foreground is much darker and needs more light.

I gotta sit down and learn more about studio lighting, white balance correction and all that technical stuff.

Paloma Family Restaurant: Calgary’s Answer to Shitty Latin American Cuisine?

Summary: A great little family restaurant tucked away in a NE strip mall with friendly service and decent food.

DSC01579

Paloma’s been on my hit list for a while. Most people have given up on Mexican food in Calgary, but I have not. In my quest to find that one little Mexican restaurant that can, I continue on. Paloma is not a "true Mexican” restaurant in that they serve up a range of Latin American dishes, but the focus is definitely on Mexican food.

When we finally made it there on that blistery day, Richard and I were pretty bemused to find that the restaurant co-existed with a lounge/bar right next to it. Kinda like Africana Eatery and Cheers Pub which is a full-blown restaurant….with a pub on the side. Things were looking promising…

The interior was pleasing but ultimately typical of authentic restaurant that no longer fall in the "hole in the wall" category.

Paloma Interior

The best word I can use to describe it would be "chintzy". It wasn’t overly gaudy, but at the same time, it wasn’t anything to write home about. It was the like the whole place was designed for short people. You looked up one foot and the decor changed from the typical hacienda to just a black ceiling with piping sticking out. There was also a giant 55" flat screen TV in the corner showing static to simulate that authentic Mexican taqueira feeling. The funny part was that there was TV in the exact opposite corner that was working just fine!

Kiran’s Take

The waitress brought out the standard green salsa with tortilla chips. The salsa was actually quite delicious with a nice spicy kick to it. We ordered guacamole as an appetizer as well, and unlike the one at Fine Diner, this one was actually good. Maybe just as good as the one at Anejo. I found myself licking the bowl clean with my fingers, so that’s usually a good sign. It was the right amount of tangy and salty. Perfect.

salsa, green salsa, authentic mexicanbest mexican, best guacamole, calgary

Paloma actually had a surprisingly large amount of vegetarian dishes. I wanted to try Chilaquiles which is kinda this deep fried goodness of tortilla chips topped with cheese, onion, and salsa, but for some reason, they were "out of it". Which doesn’t make sense…who runs out of tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant? Anyways, I ended up ordered enchiladas for 13.95. At first it seemed pricey, but it was a good sized dish that came with rice and refried beans on the side. It was a hearty meal. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the meal, but at the same time, I was stuffing my mouth with all that delicious salsa goodness. For a shitty -20 deg C Calgary night, it was very satisfying meal.


 

Richard’s Ruminations

For some reason, we have gotten into the habit of going to restaurants shortly before closing hour – in the case of Paloma, we strolled in around 8:30 while a large Spanish-speaking group seemed to be wrapping up a banquet of sorts.  Upon being seated, our Colombian waitress asked us if we spoke Spanish, as she didn’t have much confidence in her English – but it turned out to be passable (certainly orders of magnitude better than our Spanish).  The decor was an odd mix of pseudo-classy and 80’s ethnic restaurant – strangely charming

While we perused the menu, we were served some chips and house salsa – a nice smooth green salsa with a good kick, served severely chilled.  We ordered a guacamole to start, which turned out to be a great decision – garlicy, oniony and bowl-licking good.  I was having a little trouble deciding which main dish to pick out of their vast selection, but in the end decided on the Puntas de Filete a la Mexicana con Tequila – fajita-like dish comprising of sautéed steak tips, peppers and onions.  It was quite the mouthful to say, and as it turned out, many mouthfuls on the plate.  Unsurprisingly, rice and beans came as standard sides – the rice was quite nice, but the beans unremarkable.  The beef for my fajita was sadly mediocre, being overdone and with little flavour – though the peppers and onions were done very well, which helped salvage the dish.

December 4 008

While I wasn’t that impressed with my fajitas, the menu is varied enough to make me want to give it another shot in the future.

Summary

Paloma is like an upgraded version of Rico’s Tacos…if Rico’s Tacos managed to not get shot up in 5 years (we think it’s a front for selling drugs…but hey, the food is good, so who cares, right?). Like most ethnic restaurants, Paloma offers a huge and varied menu, so I wouldn’t mind going back to check out their Chilean dishes. While the food itself was nothing overly exciting, I had a pretty delicious and filling meal. Paloma is no Anejo, but it’s certainly no Julio’s Barrio either. The secret is in the salsa …

Ranking

Criteria

Kiran

Richard

Ambiance 3/5 3.5/5
Service 4/5 4/5
Taste 3.5/5 3.5/5
Originality Authenticity 4/5 4/5
Value 3.5/5 3.5/5
TOTAL 18/25 = 72% 18.5/25 = 73%

Paloma Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Review of Jonas’ Homestyle Hungarian Restaurant

Summary: Jonas’ offers hearty, home-cooked Hungarian meals right in the heart of downtown Calgary.


Does Erős arouse you? Some say spiciness is an aphrodisiac

Nothing warms the body on a cold winter’s night like a hearty Hungarian stew!  Or so we hoped, when we decided to check out Jonas’ Restaurant one chilly evening after work.  Despite being a weekday, they were booked solid – luckily, the hostess was able to squeeze us in before one of their reservations.  The place felt more like a mix between a museum and a grandmother’s house than a restaurant – traditional Hungarian folk dresses were presented along the walls (and even up front on a mannequin!), and kitschy ornaments and Hungarian-language books filled the shelves.  There was even a Hungarian language guide printed on the drink menu!
The basket of bread that came out before the meal came equipped with the rather unusual side of spicy green chilies.  This is a working man’s bread – dense and filling, but not exactly what you’d call flavourful.  We probably could have used more chilies.

  Now my Hungarian friend's addiction to spicy food makes sense

The menu here is pretty basic, with a handful of soups and salads and a double handful of mains, along with a daily special.  There aren’t really any appetizers other than the soups or the salads, but that’s fine – because the entrees here are designed to cure hunger.  The entree portions are generous and they were delivered faster than a typical restaurant would be for just starters – though the fact that we had to be in and out in under an hour might have factored into that. I went with the Marhapörkölt tarhonyával, which I ordered by the English description of "Beef stew with egg drop noodle", since I didn’t have the slightest inkling how it would be pronounced in Hungarian.  I wonder if something was lost in translation – as the "noodles" that came with the dish didn’t resemble any noodles that I’ve ever had in the past, being basically a bunch of dots. They made a pretty good side for the beef stew though, as they held the sauce very well and had a pleasantly springy texture (like a firmer quinoa).  The beef, much like the bread, was strictly utilitarian – not the tenderest or juiciest, but in enough quantity to satisfy your day’s needs for protein and then some.  The sauce, though, had an interesting tanginess to it that saved the dish from being overly flat.

Yes, those round things are the "noodles"

Crepes are the name of the game for dessert – filled with anything from nuts & chocolate to jam to cottage cheese.  For that homemade touch, they put sprinkles on everything!  Even the bill is written up by hand – and touched up with a little whiteout, in our case ;)  At $100 for the 3 of us, it wasn’t terribly inexpensive, but with plenty of leftovers available we at least got our money’s worth in calories.

Felt like it was my birthday

Kiran’s Thoughts

I am ashamed to admit that I have been living no more than two blocks from Jonas for around 10 years but didn’t have the time to check it out. Part of the reason was the "Oh, it’s right there. I can check it out later!" mentality and part of it was their extremely inconvenient opening and closing hours (they close at 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and are not open on Sundays). Indeed, pretty much everytime I have walked by the restaurant, it’s been closed!

Nonetheless, Richard, Kent, and I finally managed to head out there in early January 2012 (we are only 11 months late, but better late than never) to check out this Calgary institution to homestyle Hungarian cuisine. 
As soon as I walked in, I instantly felt like I was transported back to a small Eastern European restaurant that only locals know about.This tiny restaurant reeks of authenticity. It’s almost like you are sitting in an extension of their home that invited you to for a night out. In fact, it’s such a throw back, their webpage is still hosted on Homestead! WTF!

Nothing shows off costumes quite like a mannequinI like the little box container made out of a Big Rock box

The proprietors have also done a nice job setting the ambiance. There’s classical opera playing in the background and the walls are adorned with what I can only assume are Hungarian gypsy clothing. There’s also Hungarian cultural references such as ornaments, toys, and even a language book artfully arranged around the place to give the place a relaxed home feel.

Paprikash isn't just for chicken!

Our waitress expressed a huge surprise when I mentioned that I was a vegetarian…which was immediately followed by skepticism that I would be able to polish off two, TWO pasta dishes. I ended up going with the one that sounded the most enticing in -20C weather: the mushroom paprikash (aka goulash) with dumplings and the cabbage pasta. The former is the national dish of Hungary, the vegetarian version being a stew or soup of veggies (especially potatoes), seasoned with paprika and other spices. It was a good choice: the stew was hearty and warming and the sauce creamy without being too thick. The cabbage pasta was also very hearty and filling without being too plain or boring.

"Not too plain" says Kiran

I also got a chocolate and nut-filled crepe for dessert. This one was a bit of a miss for me. I didn’t like the texture and the not-sweet-enough filling reminded me of Chinese desserts that always leave you wanting for more.

Kent’s 2 Cents

So I ordered the cabbage rolls, because what’s more Eastern European than cabbage rolls?  Perogies perhaps, but this ain’t the Ukraine.  Anyways, when I got the cabbage rolls I thought at first that they didn’t have any meat in them.  Oh wait, turns out they were actually ALL MEAT.  I got absolutely manhandled by that pair of rolls – pretty much could only finish one.  Come to this restaurant if you’ve got something to prove.

Bask in the glory of the Cabbage Roll!

Summary

Jonas’ will make you feel like you have Hungarian grandparents that are set on making sure you put some meat onto those skinny bones.  Don’t expect to find anything too complex here – just wholesome, filling fare.  Beware that beers aren’t cheap here ($8 for a Löwenbräu) – but they go so well with the meal that it’s hard to resist.  If you’re looking for a place that warms the heart along with the stomach, Jonas’ is a solid choice.

-Richard

  Kiran Richard
Ambiance 4.5/5 4/5
Service 3.5/5 3.5/5
Taste 4/5 3/5
Authenticity 5/5 4/5
Value 3/5 3.5/5
Total: 20/25= 80% 18/25 = 72%

Jonas' Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Review of Clive Burger

Summary: Another hip burger joint. 

CLIVE BURGERS CALGARY 17

So. Burgers are all the rage now. They are the new pizza. There’s even an entire food blog dedicated to reviewing just burgers. Clive Burger is the latest addition to the scene that has been dominated so far by places like Rocky’s Burger Bus and Boogie’s Burgers.

Occupying the former space of Wok Box, Clive Burger aims to bring hipster cool to the latest trend in the yyc food scene. The front of the house reminded me of a sushi lounge or ramen noodle house in Japan:

Calgary-20120511-00213

If you are in a group, you can sit in a booth that is adorned with hip burger-joint art (that`s right, I just created my own genre of art):

Calgary-20120511-00214

I loved the interior space – it was bright and inviting – as food for me is a total sensory experience. The ambiance definitely plays a factor in the overall experience.

Calgary-20120511-00218You order your custom burger off a giant “menu” and pick your own toppings too. Kinda like Subway for burgers. I dig it. If you are feeling extra hungry or just want to carbo-load before that big 10k run the next day, you can order a “custard shake” for $5. AND if that wasn’t enough, you can wash it all down with some beer on tap (from Village Brewery; they also have other wine and beer). For the vegetarians and celiacs out there, Clive also serves up any burger 100% vegetarian or gluten-free. I approve.

Once you order, the burger goes through an “assembly line” of line cooks that construct your burger with the love and care a greasy fat guy with a cigarette in his mouth cannot possibly match.

 

Calgary-20120511-00220Calgary-20120511-00221Calgary-20120511-00217

Kiran’s Thoughts

Calgary-20120511-00225I ordered the double cheese burger with the vegetarian patty along with a vanilla custard shake as I was feeling extra frisky that day. For my burger toppings, I went with friend onions, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and Swiss cheese all topped off with hot sauce and Clive sauce.

The custard shake came out right away and it was downright sinful how good it was. Song said it was like drinking liquid egg tarts. Kent said it was like drinking ice cream.

I say it was fucking delicious.

We got our burgers to go and find a spot outside to enjoy a nice sunny spring day in the City. I eagerly bit into my burger expecting to find glory, but alas, I only tasted mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid burger, but there was nothing that stood out. The bun was a bit soggy, and the patty (although well seasoned) wasn’t crispy on the outside that gives one the satisfying crunch of biting into a mean burger. I liked the Clive sauce though, as it was nice and garlicky and had a mild vinegary pucker to it that I wasn’t expecting.

Overall, a pretty solid burger and and shake that satisfied my hunger.     

Richards’s Ruminations

Burgers, beers, Battlestar Galactica.  This is what you can look forward to grabbing at the slick-looking Clive Burger on 17th ave (ok, maybe not Battlestar [That’s only at Dickens pub during Sled Island -Kiran]).  There seems to be a bit of a burger boom going on in Calgary these days, much in the way that thin-crust pizza places have been all the rage in the past few years.  Clive Burger punches in with their own sustainability-focused take on the classic burger joint, proudly touting their organic food sources and offering fully-recyclable or compostable containers and utensils.  Even the straws and stickers are biodegradable apparently. In fact, they don’t even have a "trash" container within the store.  The simple line cartoons and modern minimalistic design make it seem like a place that would fit in nicely in Vancouver.

For some reason, they have an absolutely enormous staff – perhaps this is only apparent due to the open-kitchen layout, but maybe they are also big on the social sustainability and are looking to generate as many jobs as feasible ;)  Even though their staff is substantial, this isn’t exactly a "fast" food joint – burgers are freshly prepared, and they can take quite some time to come out.  Luckily, the cashiers issue you a buzzer that vibrates when your food is ready to pick up, so you can sit and sip your beer with your friends instead of having to huddle around anxiously at the pickup counter.

Visually, the burgers sort of resemble the ones from Shake Shack with soft round buns and nice ruffly lettuce, though unlike Shake Shack the toppings selection is vast, arguably even better than Five Guys.  They offer everything from $6 plain singles up to a $17 monstrosity with 3 patties, bacon and a fried egg to boot. There’s also a good range of hipster beers in tallboys and cans, plus a delicious custard shake which is like drinking a liquid mix of egg-tart and ice cream.

I went with a single cheeseburger and an order of fries to share – and it’s a good thing that I was planning on sharing, because it ended up being a pretty crazy amount of fries! (Be warned that there is only one size of fries offered, so better show up with a friend or a huge appetite if you plan on ordering them).  Deliciously fried in peanut oil, they struck a nice balance, being soft but with a tenderly crisp skin – I could easily eat them on their own, but they also came with ketchup and Clive sauce for dipping.  As for the burger – well, you might want to change out of your dress clothes before eating here because it is MESSY!  Maybe it’s because I ordered every free topping except for sauerkraut, but it was oozing goodness from all sides.  The meat was nice and hefty and the topping fresh, so all-in-all, it was edging on excellence – though given that the burger’s appearance reminded me of Shake Shack, it also made me think that the burgers could be even better if cooked medium-done (these were definitely well-done)

Kent’s 2 Cents

Model Milk’s chef is involved with Clive, so it has to be good.
Well, they definitely didn’t fuck around. The beef is some sort of free range, organic wizardry where the farmers feed the cows caviar and Thai massage it to death, creating a pretty satisfying patty. You are free to add on all sorts of fresh toppings, with no additional cost. And like the fries, I think they use peanut oil on the patties too. Heart attack right? Well not really. I found the single & double patty to be just enough to make you full, but not too much to feel like ass immediately afterwards. Just make sure to share the order of fries with a friend or two, its a big serving.

Clive is also doing their part to slow down the destruction of Earth. Compost and recycling have their separate bins. The forks, knives, and other packaging is biodegradable. So you can head back to your Ford F-350 after the meal and feel great about yourself for at least an hour or two.

Summary

We went back to Clive after a night out at Sled. To our delight, we discovered that they are open till 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays. This is awesome as it’s a sign that Calgary’s finally growing up – any large city worth its salt has late night offerings other than Denny’s and Humpty’s – and has options other than 3$ pizza.

I am ambivalent about this place. It’s pretty hip and cool, and the milkshakes are downright mind-blowing, but I found the burgers alright. Richard and Kent found the burgers delicious, so I guess that evens things out.

At the end of the day, after a hard night of partying, this is a great place to grab a bite and chill out with your friends.

Ranking

Kiran Richard Kent
Ambiance 4/5 4.5/5 5/5
Service 3.5/5 2.5/5 3/5
Taste 3.75/5 4.5/5 4/5
Originality 3/5 4.5/5 4/5
Value 4/5 4/5 4/5
TOTAL 18.25/25 = 73% 20/25 = 80% 20/25 = 80%

Clive Burger 17th on Urbanspoon

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:

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

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(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)

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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.

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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

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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

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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:

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Which essentially seems to be Edo Express on wheels:

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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

Chasing Free-range Chickens at Over Easy Breakfast

Summary: if you can suffer through the wait times, OEB is worth the long line-up and chaotic billing system.

I don’t really understand why Bridgeland is turning into a mecca for breakfast/brunch joints, but every other week I find myself in another long line-up waiting for (what I hope to be) a delicious start to my weekend. As such, I ended up finding myself in Bridgeland once again on a sunny Sunday with Richard.

The insides are pretty tiny and it shows. It was bustling by the time we got to OEB. There isn’t enough room for patrons to line up near the entrance, so we were split up into two groups: one that just got there and the other for those who got there 15 min earlier than you…at the other end of the restaurant by the kitchen.

I really liked the ambiance of the place. Unfortunately, due to a technical snafu, I seem to have accidentally deleted all my photos, so a written description is the best we can do. There’s a very “cafe” vibe to OEB, with large floor-to-ceiling windows facing the street that let plenty of natural light in. There’s a large centre table to share between multiple parties and side tables for those lucky enough to have come early. The kitchen is partially exposed to the seating area so you can kinda see what the cooks are up to…which is always pretty cool in my opinion.

Kiran’s 2 Cents

The coolest thing for me is the fact that OEB’s eggs from free range chickens that they own on the Sparks egg farm (I couldn’t help but think of this sketch when I heard that –Richard). With that in mind, I got the eggs over easy on a toasted bagel with cherry tomatoes and avocado. I also got home-style fries on the side to carbo-load my busy day consisting of sitting on the couch watching TV.

The fries were the highlight of my dish. Perfectly salted and herbed with oregano, I can honestly say these were the best tasting fries I have had in a while. The guacamole was clearly made from fresh avocados and had a great citrus-y tang. Adding a little bit of hot sauce to the whole ensemble really brought out the flavours.

Unfortunately though, I couldn’t really taste any difference between OEB’s free-run, grain-fed eggs vs. regular store bought organic eggs. I suppose they are one and the same thing though.

My only problem with the whole experience was the payment process. For some strange reason, OEB doesn’t believe in wireless payment terminals that have become ubiquitous in every restaurant around town. Instead, you have to pay at the counter where there’s an overflow of people a) waiting to be seated, b) waiting in line to pay, and c) trying to get to the washrooms through a) and b). This whole process pissed me off, especially cause it doesn’t need to be that way. All the proprietor needs to do is build a heated overflow area outside and the problem would be solved (though to be honest, the sidewalk out front is pretty tiny too –Richard).

Richard’s Ruminations

Between Diner Deluxe, Blue Star and Over Easy (or the OEB as they seem to want to be branded as now), Bridgeland is surely the mecca for hipster breakfasts in Calgary.  Waiting times at all of these places are almost guaranteed to top an hour during peak times on weekends these days, so be sure to show up early and put your name on the waiting list!  Despite the cramped interior, waiting isn’t really that bad at OEB – you can get your coffee along with complimentary banana bread to munch on while you wait.  I agree with Kiran that they probably shouldn’t direct people to wait at the back though, as not only is that the cashier’s area, but that’s also where the “condiment bar” is located.  Not a bad place to hang out if you want to get cozy with some strangers, though!

I too liked the clean, simple interior with retro styling, though I wonder if they ever change the “menu” that seems to be scrawled in chalk on the roof.  They manage to squeeze around 10 tables into the place, along with what I like to call the “community bench.”  The staff was super-friendly, which definitely brightened my morning.  Oh yeah, the place is also fully licenced, which means you can order your coffee liquored up or try their very limited selection of beer and wine.

The menu is pretty straightforward, though with a nice amount of customization – pancakes, french toast, and waffles are fully interchangeable!  I went with the threesome of waffles, thinly-sliced ham and their much-touted eggs (ordered over-medium, which is the best way to identify a quality short-order cook in my opinion).  The waitress was eager to point out that the eggs are enhanced with keratin supplements, though amusingly she didn’t know exactly what that meant (we could hear the wait staff talking to the kitchen staff about it later).  No doubt though, the eggs are a thing of beauty, with extremely rich, brightly-colour yolks.  The waffles and ham were decent, but nothing mindblowing.

Prices are comparable to the other breakfast places in Bridgeland – that is to say, not that cheap, but you can probably get your money’s worth in free banana bread if you are feeling especially avaricious.  Between the cheery atmosphere, stellar service and quality food, I think it’s well worth both the price and the wait!

Summary

I had a good time at OEB. If you discount the horrible payment ordeal, the friendly staff, the trust-fund hipster ambiance, and the great food more than make up for the wait times. I would highly encourage everyone to check it out…with one caveat: get there early! If you want to read up on other reviews on OEB, check out Eat Your City’s review.

Ranking

Kiran Richard
Ambiance 4/5 4/5
Service 3.5/5 4.5/5
Taste 4/5 4/5
Originality 4/5 4/5
Value 4/5 4.5/5
Overall 19.5/25 = 78% 21/25 = 84%

OEB Breakfast Co. on Urbanspoon

Boozin’ it up Kiwi-style 1: Pomona Traditional Apple Cider

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Pomona apple cider is second in a series of alcoholic drinks that I bought when I was over in Nz for a holiday. This drink is also brewed by Monkey Wizard, the very same brewery that I blogged about earlier when I reviewed their Wheat Ale.

I was actually more excited about this drink than the wheat ale –which turned out to be quite disappointing – even though I hadn’t tried it out at the brewery (no open bottles). The selling point basically was:

“All mainstream market ciders are shit. You need to try ours.”

Sold.

Here’s the lowdown:

IMG_1953Appearance: golden hue tinged with red. Clear in appearance, although it is supposed to be unfiltered…I didn’t notice any sediments

Aroma: apple-y

Taste: mellow, smooth, tangy with a clean finish. Bottle fermented so there wasn’t any of the sharp, pungent feel of forced-carbonation ciders like Strongbow. If you didn’t know any better, you could be fooled into thinking this was fruit juice. If you want a summary on bottle fermentation, check out out previous post here.

Palate: to be honest, I didn’t really taste much other than apples!

Monkey Wizard claims that the cider is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and fermented using only the wild yeast found on the apples. Riwaka (the town where the brewery is located) was pretty much over run with apple orchards, so I don’t doubt the claim that the cider apples have been cultivated over generations specifically cause they lend themselves well to be turned into cider.

Summary: a refreshing summer drink than can be surreptitiously fed to kids cause they won’t know the difference. Haha.