It’s a funny thing when you go home for the holidays. I’ve been away from Calgary for over a year and am still infatuated by London (if we were a relationship, I’d be the one who loves it “too much”). Because of this, I had forgotten what’s awesome about Calgary.
First, its proximity to the majestic Rockies – what a major breath of fresh mountain air:
Next, I was reminded of Calgary’s diverse, quality eating options. Oh my, how I fantasize about Alberta beef. In my two-week visit, I went to my very favourite restaurant Safari Grill, twice. I could eat heaps of their barbecued short beef ribs (nyama ya mbavu, $12.50) seasoned with a zingy and savoury blend of African spices. Also love their deep fried cassava (masala mogo, $7.50) with its crispy and chewy texture and drenched in crushed tomatoes…I wish owner Ali did transatlantic deliveries. Suffice it to say, if you haven’t been to Safari Grill yet, go, go, go.
Eating in Calgary makes me think of the time I went to an actual bingo hall for my 22nd birthday with bingo dauber in hand, sans lucky troll. Now I can play it online without inhaling decades of stale smoke. But I digress. Like a game of bingo based on random luck, you could make your way around the restaurants in town, be quite entertained by the process, and perhaps even win a few jackpots.
I also made sure to pick up about a dozen packages of Sweet Georgia Browns ($4.00/package of 2) to take back to London. From Vancouver-based Purdy’s Chocolates, these accessible yet gourmet treats are the definition of instant gratification. Comprised of salty, roasted Georgia pecans encased in a gob of sticky caramel topped with milk chocolate, SGBs are good enough to cause an embarrassing foodgasm in the middle of an English pub during open mic night (also true, happened last week).
Moral of this post – if you know what you like and you’re across the world from it, overindulge when the opportunity arises, otherwise you’ll be in a sad state of longing (and salivation) like I currently am.
Happy eating, wherever you are!
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5. FOOD: 5 / 5. VALUE: 4.5 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4 / 5
One of my biggest foodie friends, Chris, goes on and on about one thing at London’s famous Borough Market: raclette. As annoying as Chris can be, he is hardly ever wrong about anything food-related.
By definition, raclette can mean, a) a semi-firm cheese meant for melting, or, b) the brilliant Swiss and French invention of “roasted” cheese that is scraped atop some boiled potatoes or vegetables. Raclette comes from racler, the French word for to scrape.
The raclette at Kappacasein in Borough Market is made from Ogleshield, a non-pasteurised cheese made from the fatty milk of Jersey cows which is usually reserved for milk or cream. Ogleshield is the brainchild of Jamie Montgomery of cheddar fame, Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy, and William Oglethorpe, Neal Yard’s affineur.
At Kappacasein, the queue is at least 20-deep. For £5, you get a small plate of boiled baby potatoes and tiny gherkins topped with melted Ogleshield cheese. Check out the video.
While the plate is small, it is surprisingly heavy. The melted cheese is simultaneously gooey and chewy from the burnt crust, pairing nicely with the soft potatoes. While the pickles are neither crunchy nor sour enough for my taste, they do a fine job of cutting into the fat.
That description doesn’t do justice to the orgasmic experience you’ll feel in your entire being. Kappacasein is a must-have, at least once. I’d recommend going for a jog or four after eating this raclette. Or if you’re a glutton like me, you’ll be going back at least once a week to have some scraped cheese. Nom nom.
Kappacasein, which also does a mean grilled cheese, has a stall at Borough Market.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London.
Thursday 11 am to 5 pm, Friday 12 pm to 6 pm and Saturday 8 am to 5 pm.
Closest tube station: London Bridge.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 out of 5. VALUE: 5 out of 5. AMBIANCE: 3 out of 5
Do not come here on a hungry stomach or you’ll leave 10 pounds more buttery. As soon as you walk into Eclair de Lune, you experience strong wafts of butter along with memories of daily stops at the local Parisian bakery around the corner of your hostel when you were 23. Moving on…
Read my Lunch Rush column in Metro Calgary, or continue for the expanded version…
My companion and I were surprised to see a lunch combo for just $6.50, which includes your choice of a savoury pastry (turnovers, croissant, quiches), dessert (mini fruit tarts, cookies, meringues) and drink (ginger ale, water, tea, coffee). It’s a three-course meal for less than what you’d pay for one sub-par dessert at a restaurant.
My combo included two turnovers; one filled with spinach and feta cheese and the other with mushroom and cream cheese.
What they lacked in size was made up for in taste and excellent filling-to-pastry-ratio. I horked (see def #1) these down like little clouds of heaven. That said, I probably could have eaten about six of these and still had room for dessert. Dessert was a pitch-perfect mini lemon meringue tart.
My friend tried the combo with a salmon and asparagus quiche which featured a thin, flaky crust with big chunks of fish and veg. The volume of salmon and asparagus chunks caused plate envy on my part. Her dessert was a mini tart with whipped lemon topping. Yeah, I got dessert envy too! Read More
Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 out of 5. VALUE: 5 out of 5. AMBIANCE: 2.5 out of 5
Just a few minutes off International Avenue (17th Ave. S.E.) is Song Huong, a tucked away restaurant serving specialties from central Vietnam, especially from former imperial city Hue, along with more familiar Vietnamese cuisine like beef noodle soup (pho). Read my Lunch Rush column in Metro Calgary, or continue on for the expanded version.
We started with steamed pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings ($6.25).
The earthy minced pork and shrimp filling was nicely balanced by the gelatinous dough and infused with banana leaf. There are 9, count ‘em, 9 dumplings! For those who eat dim sum, the texture is reminiscent of the a mushier version of har gow, those clear shrimp dumplings you must eat with hot sauce.
We continued with bun bo hue ($6.95), a special noodle soup dish with rounded rice noodles and an orangey broth, typically made with beef bones, lemongrass and chili. The version here is topped with Vietnamese sausage, beef shank and cubes of pig blood jelly (mmm, blood-flavoured jello).
Unlike pho, the bun bo hue comes with shredded iceberg lettuce and purple cabbage (or banana blossom). The sweet and complex broth had overtones that reminded me of lotus root and was mild spice-wise compared to other versions of bun bo hue that can get quite spicy. Read More
Basil Ultimate Pho & Fine Vietnamese Cuisine is a casual and spacious restaurant with modern decor. Although the shiny interior makes it seem too polished (read: not “real”), the food is quite authentic, as it should be — Basil is the creation of Pho Dau Bo’s (on International Avenue) former owners.
The restaurant was nearly full but we arrived at the tail-end of the lunch hour and were seated right away. Anybody else notice that Calgarians like to eat lunch right at noon? No other city seems so dedicated to eating on the clock, everyday. Knowing this, I always try to time my lunches for right before noon, or 12:45 p.m.
We started with delicious grilled beef summer rolls: vermicelli noodles, lettuce and grilled beef wrapped in rice paper (3 for $6.25). When I was a teenager, we’d go to my friend’s house to roll our own version of these. I always meant to keep track of how many of these I could stuff my face with, but would invariably forget midway through the bliss. Basil’s beef salad rolls remind me of those times.
Basil is well-known for their Mekong-style beef sate noodle soup (Pho sate, Ph.1 $9.50). The spicy and creamy broth with peanut overtones is the best I’ve had in Calgary. Read More
The Dairy Lane Cafe has been nestled in the community of West Hillhurst since 1950 and sources local and organic ingredients where possible. Admitted burger “junkie” Michael Noble (of NOtaBLE) called Dairy Lane’s burger one of the best things he ate in Calgary last year. “It’s a nice, high burger that looks very appealing—all the juices are running out. It makes you want to eat it,” he said. What an endorsement.
I ate the Dairy Lane Burger ($11) adding smoked bacon ($2), peppered Gouda ($2.50) and gazpacho ($1).
The thick burger patty — 28-day aged Angus beef from Crystal Creek — was beefy and juicy without being greasy. The grilled bun was soft and yielding yet held the burger together nicely. The bacon’s thick, crispy slices were appealingly obtrusive. Meanwhile the gazpacho was uber fresh, with the right amount of zing to render it memorable.
My friend Vivian’s turkey and basil burger with basil pesto, sundried tomato jam and roasted red pepper ($15) was well-balanced: savoury and moist with the perfect amount of charred flavour.
Normally she abhors sundried tomatoes because the flavour reminds her of the dried up goo around the neck of a ketchup bottle. In this case, even her tomato nemesis could do no wrong.
Even the single-source bottomless coffee was spot on ($2.95).
The menu also features numerous tempting breakfast items and gluten-free options. This is the type of restaurant where you ogle other diners’ plates while you’re waiting for a table. The other diners will automatically think you’re drooling because they are so gorgeous, or, you are a dog, hunger and perversion-wise. Let them be fooled.
The service is efficient once you are seated, but the cozy and bustling diner (seats 20 inside, 12 on patio) doesn’t take reservations for lunch. If you have time to wait for a table, it’s well worth it.
Dairy Lane Cafe, 319 19th Street N.W., Calgary, 403-283-2497
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am to 3:00 pm; Weekends: 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Jughead crowns
Price range: ($8.75 – $15.00)
Double Zero’s basement location is across the street from Holt Renfrew in the downtown core (reservations are recommended). The pizza here is so good that I’m willing to sit in the basement on summer’s day to eat it. Really.
We started off with a refreshing marinated beet salad with goat cheese, grapefruit, basil and pistachio ($12). The appetizers, like Grandma’s meatballs and roasted cauliflower, are tempting and there’s a good selection.
There is a handful of entrees too, featuring local producers. There’s pork chop from Spragg Farms and steak from Spring Creek ranch. But pizza is the specialty. All pizzas are made with San Marzano tomatoes and Alberta mozzarella.
We tried the “pepperoni” pizza made with spicy Calabrese sausage ($16), and the sausage pizza with house made Italian sausage, green onion and artichoke ($16). Click for my Metro Calgary Lunch Rush review or continue reading for the all-important crust-to-topping ratio and why I’m addicted… Read More
Orders are placed at the deli counter where the sandwich options are gourmet and don’t cost extra. It can be a little bit confusing as there’s no official queue, so make sure you pay attention to your turn, in order to catch any potential “budgers” (it’s a good excuse to do a finger snap and be all “Nuh-uh, I was here FIRST, lady/man/senior citizen”).
Handcrafted European breads are baked fresh daily (choose from rye, sourdough, pita, buns etc.). Fresh-sliced deli meats include turkey, salami, smoked chicken and more. The cheese—havarti, provolone, gouda—is real and unprocessed. Read More
Because it’s Friday, I bring you a magical treat all the way from Japan.
If you’re like most people, you love cheese and you love chocolate. If I could only have one for the rest of my life, I’d pick cheese, but only because it’s worse for you calorie-wise. For you, the choice might be as easy as whether you’re in the mood for something savoury or something sweet.
Now you don’t have to make that decision. Cheese and chocolate have coalesced into one, in a brilliant creation called Kit Kat Cheese.
When my friend Chris whipped out the Kit Kat Cheese, we were more curious than a horror movie protagonist in a dark basement. Read More
When I’m travelling for an extended period of time, I’m likely to try and capture a piece of home, via food or drink. It makes sense that many of us have eaten at a McDonald’s all over the world. I’ve visited the golden arches in more cities than I’d like to admit. Part of it is the novelty aspect (Tokyo has a shrimp burger). It’s definitely not about quality. Mostly, McD’s represents a sense of the familiar, a potent reminder of where we came from. It’s about our childhoods, our birthplace, our homes. Powerful stuff.