Our wave of new restaurants in Calgary has seemed to slow down a bit over the past few months, which has been great. Just gives our city’s foodies some time to catch up on their dining out. Whether it’s a new brunch spot in Mission or National’s second location on 10th Avenue, here’s a few of the restaurant features I’ve done recently for Avenue Magazine.
Calgarians seem to have an undying love for the brunching hour. From greasy spoons to some of the finest restaurants in the city, if there’s an eggs Benedict being whipped up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, people will — and do — line up for it. Blondes Diner is the newest addition to our city’s ever-growing list of breakfast hot spots, dishing out some interesting takes on the standard breakfast in a casual setting.
Located in Mission, this a.m. eatery opened its doors in the early spring. While the decor is rather minimal, the seating is generously spaced out, with a small patio out front for the (hopefully) many sunny days Calgary may be graced with this summer. As with most of the city’s diners, Blondes has a first-come, first-served set-up, which means you may be waiting a little while for a table if you sleep in on a Saturday.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit San Diego twice in the past little while. Back in November, I spent some time there with friends, checking out the zoo, soaking up some sun in La Jolla and just enjoying the city in general.
My most recent jaunt there was just prior to flying out to Australia from L.A. My friend, Chez, and I took an early morning train (notice my tired, coffee-loving face pictured above) down from San Juan Capistrano for a quick overnight trip where we basically ate, strolled around, ate again and strolled around some more.
I’ve, more or less, fallen in love with San Diego. It’s a beautiful, vibrant city, extremely walkable and boasts some wicked food. I’ve had some great cocktails and small bites in the Gaslamp district at Searsucker (probably the best calamari I’ve ever tasted). The Hopping Pig is a great pub to stop by for lunch with some unique microbrews and quality menu, but out of all meal times of the day, my heart belongs to brunch.
Well, did the world end today? No, it did not…not yet anyway…If it does, I would actually be slightly relieved. Finally, all of those deadlines I’ve been stressing over, all of those marriage proposals I’ve been putting off, all of it. Gone in a flash. Ah, finally that feeling of serenity I’ve been searching for all year.
So, in no particular order, here are ten things (list restrained to Calgary and Vancouver due to travel limitations should we only have a few more hours left on earth) I would make sure to eat before the world exploded today, or became overridden with zombies, or whatever…
There is a whole ton of things I can’t get enough on Justin Laboe’s menu at Model Milk, but the shaved rabbit mortadella with pistachios is a little slice of tasty, bunny heaven.
Honestly, I’m pretty surprised that a liver dish snuck onto this list, but, nonetheless, this beauty of an appetizer, created by chef John Michael Macneil, served with a sour cherry preserve could make any liver naysayer change their minds.
This new restaurant in Gastown, Vancouver stole away one of Calgary’s most talented pastry chefs, Kira Desmond, to lead the dessert team in their kitchen. She makes some of the most beautiful desserts I’ve ever seen, but this cheesecake takes the, uh, cake (for lack of a better word). If it really is the end of the world then I’ll take two plates please!
My friends love going out for sushi. When it’s decided that we’re heading out for some rolls, t’s always a little bit of a discussion picking out which restaurant to dine at. Like most people in Calgary, everyone has their favourite sushi place. Some people love Globefish, some like Wa’s (I love Wa’s), or Zipang in Bridgeland…this list can go on and on…No matter which place I truly love at the moment, I’m always up for trying out a new establishment.
Sho Sushi opened up recently on Macleod Trail, just south of Chinook Mall (it’s right beside Campers Village, everyone seems to know where that store is, but never goes in it…). As far as sushi restaurants go, this place is massive. It’s two floors and even has a small patio on the upper level. My friends and I popped in a couple weeks ago for lunch and were pleasantly surprised by the nice interior and their extensive menu. The price point here is amazingly low, with appetizers ranging from $3 to $7.50 and sushi rolls going for $3.50 to $9.90.
Finally, it’s open! I feel like I (and many other people) had been waiting for MONTHS for this new restaurant on 4th St to open its doors. Candela is owned by the gentlemen from Alloy, so it was pretty much guaranteed that the food here would be fantastic.
On a mildly unrelated note, I often wonder why such lovely ladies go for lunch with me. It’s a mystery, but I never ponder on that thought for too long…Anyway, my friend and actress extradonaire, Ksenia Thurgood, met me at Candela for some tapas and a catch-up. We laughed, we cried, we ate. All that good stuff.
The menu here is purely tapas, all dishes that meant to be shared. The items that are available during the lunch hour are exactly the same that are available in the evening. So, regardless if you’re lunching or dinner-ing (is that a word?), you won’t miss out on any of the plates.
There are around forty different tapas options to choose from, ranging from $6-$14 in cost. Depending on how hungry you are, anywhere from 2-3 small plates per person should fill you up no problem. We started off lunch with the scallop ceviche. A bright, zesty dish. The chunks of tomatillo gave the mellow flavour of the scallops a nice, refreshing boost.
We moved swiftly along to their seared quail dish. The bird came deboned (aside from the protruding leg bone), and the meat was moist. The brush of sweet and sour Asian-inspired sauce underneath the bird was a great compliment to the meat. I debated asking for another order of this one.
The hummus was rich, with a slight sweetness coming from the carrots. There was touch of star anise in dip, which was completely unexpected, but added an amazing exotic taste to it. I would never have thought to add star anise to hummus. Very interesting! I am now going to try this at home!
Last, but not least, we couldn’t leave Candela without having something sweet to finish off with. The bunuelos seemed like the perfect dessert to try. The best way to describe what these little cinnamon-sugar coated dough balls tasted like would be to compare them to mini churros. They came with a side of dulce de leche for dipping. I’m not a huge dessert fan, but I could have eaten 30 of these.
Alright, so five dishes down, thirty five to go. I can’t wait to head back to Candela again soon for another great meal!
Isn’t it always crazy how quickly the summer goes by? Now, I know that it’s not over yet, but I think we’re all starting to gear up for fall; whether that means heading back to school, burning up your last few summer vacation days or just plain weening yourself off all the gorgeous patios you can enjoy a cold drink on around town.
My cooking program, Start From Scratch, has begun accepting applications for our fall session, complete with a new chapter in Saskatoon, so my mind is already slowly transitioning to back-to-(cooking)-school mode. Not only has the summer sailed swiftly along, but this entire past twelve months in general. Ox & Angela just had their one year anniversary over the weekend. It seems like only yesterday I wrote this post about attending one of their very first services for friends and family last August. Crazy!
Anyway, I snagged a table on their sunny little patio this past Friday to have lunch with a good friend (just in case you didn’t know, Ox is now open for lunch service seven days a week). The menu here primarily focuses on tapas offerings, so many choices, only so much room in one’s stomach…
We ordered a handful of dishes, starting of with the Shaved Zucchini Salad. A generous amount of chilled zucchini was served with manchego cheese, mint, chunks of almond and lemon juice. It was very refreshing.
The calamari was absolutely delicious, as I am a sucker for grilled squid when it’s done right. The orange gave the dish a nice sweetness, with a saltyy intensity from the sun dried olives balancing it all out.
The toast was equally tasty, with a nice variety of sautéed mushrooms, a hint of truffle oil and a poached egg perched on top to add some fresh, yolk-y goodness into the mix. Our waiter told us this was definitely one of menu favourites and I can definitely see why.
The broth sweet and tangy, made with sherry, sliced garlic, chili and a bit of lemon. We used all of the grilled bread served on the side to soak it all up. After all of this, there was no room for dessert. Sad, but true. Oh well, next time, next time…
- Bird’s Eye Chili and Apple Vinaigrette
- Watermelon Rind Chutney
- Roasted Asparagus and Bulgur Wheat Salad with Maple Olive Vinaigrette
- Spicy Olive and Sea Asparagus “Relish”
- Tabbouleh Soup
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