Tipperary’s Pub (Calgary) – So many wing flavours!

•April 13, 2012 • 1 Comment

I love wings. They are my favourite food. I’ve searched and searched for the best wing place in Calgary… and all pubs have come up short except for 2: Tipperary’s and Reagle Beagle. The Reagle Beagle has really huge, juicy, nicely fried wings but they are expensive. And you have to drink a lot to get a lot of wings. 1 drink = 10 wings at a cost of $0.35. Not a great deal.

Tipperary’s, on the other hand, is an awesome deal. My friend frequently goes (not by himself of course) and just gets a water. Kind of a mean thing to do. And the wings are $0.25. And there is no obligation to buy drinks. Yup. I’ve had 1 beer, 1 coke, and 30 wings before. Makes for a cheap night!

As you can see, there are a ton of flavours.

This is our first round. I can’t remember all the flavours.

Tipperary’s wings themselves aren’t anything special. They are deep fried and then tossed in a sauce. The chicken can be a bit dry and tough. Sometimes the wings are a bit on the cool side. But their sauces are quite nice. This is the honey hot sauce. A nice sweet and spicy mixture that makes your mouth water. My other favourites are Apple BBQ and Jack Daniels BBQ.

They also have a dry rub which isn’t quite as good. I’d avoid all of their wings which are dry because they just aren’t as tasty. In the end, it just tastes like fried chicken with a bit of salt rub on it.

Overall, I love the wings at Tipperary’s. They aren’t the best in the city but there is a lot of variety and the price is right.

Tipperary’s Pub, 2002 16 Avenue NW, Calgary, (403) 289-5566, www.tipperaryspub.com
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Boxwood (Calgary) – A nice spin-off of River Cafe

•March 25, 2012 • 1 Comment

We got a nice gift certificate over the holidays from my sis C to Boxwood. We’d been before but every time I could get there, I would forget my camera. It is beautifully located inside Central Memorial Park. It seems to me that the River Cafe people must really like to make people take a small walk in order to get to their restaurants. It isn’t quite as nice as River Cafe, with the atmospheric walk across the bridge and through the start of Princess Island Park… but it still adds to the experience. I am a bit surprised with how clean the park is considering how close the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre is. I always find areas close to hospital/urgent care centres are a bit dodgy.

Like River Cafe, the ideology appears to be local ingredients and simple preparations. They really focus on sandwiches during lunch hour. I haven’t been during dinner but the menu looks really tasty. They also have board games… I wonder what happens at night! They are pretty busy and don’t take reservations unfortunately. You have to mark your name on the wall with chalk when you get in… just FYI. Sometimes they are so busy that no one reminds you to do that and you stand there awkwardly for a while.

This is the Vietnamese Style Driview Farm Lamb with chilies, cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumber for $10. The bread was nice and doughy but not the baguette I was expecting considering this was “Vietnamese” style. The lamb meatballs were savory and slightly sweet. There was just enough lamb flavour without punching you in the nose. The pickeled carrots and cucumbers really added a lot of freshness to the dish.

This is the roasted tomato and white bean stew with swiss chard, sage, arugula and almond pistou for $7. Warm, salty, and clear, this was a nice complement to the sandwiches. When your mouth was starchy from bread… this would wash it all down. I love swiss chard. It is wonderfully bitter.

This is the Faro salad with red wine vinaigrette, red cabbage, celery, beets, and radishes for $8. This was a massive salad for the price. It was so healthy tasting too. I usually hate this kind of food but it was well seasoned and fresh. It had some nice crunch and acid too.

This is the Bowden Farm naturally raised roast chicken with fresh apple, preserved lemon, and basil aioli for $10. I was sad that this was a cold chicken dish but the meat had so much chicken flavour. You know when you eat good chicken, where it tastes deliciously of the chicken fat… and not of brine or of salt or of herbs, just wonderful chicken fat? This sandwich captures that. This was delicious, I just wish it was warm.

Overall, Boxwood really lives up to its expectations as the spin-off restaurant from River Cafe. Fresh ingredients with really simple production. No fuss. No muss. Just delicious flavours. I’ll come here again.

Boxwood, Central Memorial Park, 340 13th Avenue SW, Calgary, (403) 265-4006, www.boxwoodcafe.ca

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Boogie’s Burgers (Calgary) – I can’t believe it took me so long to get here.

•March 24, 2012 • 1 Comment

Now that J is in the industry, she is more in the know. She hears of restaurants popping up, she talks about which chef moves where. She also knows lots about burgers now. So one lazy Sunday afternoon, after a relatively brief session at the gym, we made it to Boogie’s Burgers. I can’t believe it took me so long to get here. This place was fantastic. The worst part about it: it isn’t a new place…. it is a Calgary staple. It just goes to show that you can live in a city for 25 years and there are still classic places you’ve never been to. Apparently, the original owners, who bought the place from the guys that started Peter’s Drive in, sold the place in 2000 to the present owners. It is pretty cool that there is such a burger lineage in Calgary.

I love the colour theme in this place. It just visually jumps at you. Then add some classic video games (including Pac Man and Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition) and you have a place that reminds me of where I used to go for lunch when I was in junior high. Ahh the Pac Man machine in particular really brings me back. I can recall eating pizza and dropping pepporoni pieces on the Pac Man screen. Gross.

These spicy fries are delicious. Cheap too at $2.5. They remind me of the fries you get at Arby’s… but they aren’t curly. The seasoning is delicious and there is a nice crispiness to them.

This is the Shawn’s Burger with 3 patties, 2 slices of bacon, cheddar, a fried egg, Boogie’s signature red sauce and all the fixings for $10. This thing is massive. And delicious.

Here is the cross-sectional view. It is amazing. The beef is nicely seasoned without being too oily. Don’t kid yourself, you are eating a ton of oil here… but at least it doesn’t feel that oily. The egg is a nice touch but I wish it was a bit gooier. The cheese is sharp and the bacon very nicely crunch and salty. This burger destroys Rocky’s Burger Bus.

This is the Keith’s burger (two patties, four slices of bacon, mozza, cheddar, fried mushrooms, fried onions, mushroom sauce, pizza sauce and all the fixings) for $10. This was also delicious but the pizza sauce was a bit overpowering. I thought it would be a good idea… but in the end… if I felt like pizza, I would have gotten pizza. The pizza/burger combo doesn’t synergize as well as I thought it would.

Overall, I am embarrassed to say that I have been in the dark about Boogie’s Burgers for years. That is going to change. I am coming here weekly. If my gut can afford it.

Boogie’s Burgers, 908 Edmonton Trail Northeast Calgary, AB T2E 3K1, (403) 230-7070, boogiesburgers.com
Boogie's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA) – Big hype, decent food.

•March 24, 2012 • 1 Comment

On our way back from our epic day of wine tasting in Santa Rosa, we made a reservation at Chez Panisse as it was apparently one of the meccas of modern fine dining, with focus on local foods and Californian cuisine. It wasn’t too hard to make this reservation for some reason, even though it was quite famous. We also tried to get into the French Laundry in Napa Valley but 200 phone calls later… it was a no go – they were fully booked.

This is the Lenil and cannellini bean soup with bacon and hot pepper for $9. It was warm, clear, and nicely seasoned. It simple and tasty where  vegetables really shone through. It was a nice start.

This is the roasted cauliflower toasts with pine nuts, currants, marjoram, and hot pepper for $9. A really fresh and wonderful dish. The cauliflower was nicely seasoned with the pine nuts adding a nicely rich crunch. My only gripe: $4.5 per piece. Yikes…

This is the ricotta ravioli with black trumpet mushroom and gremolata for $20. This was really tasty. The noodle was cooked nice and crunchy with the ricotta warming up your mouth with cheesy and sorta sweet goodness. The mushrooms were delicate and oozing with flavour.

These are the Clams cooked in the wood oven with sorrel, cream, leeks, green garlic and flatbread for $19. I really wished that these were hot and steaming. Unfortunately, they were served lukewarm. Room temperature seafood is a big turn off. We were in a big rush to get to our Alcatraz tour so we didn’t make a big deal about it. Despite being lukewarm, the clams had a ton of flavour. Sigh. If only they were warm.

This is the Liberty Farm duck leg confit with chicories salad, fig vinaigrette, and rosemary for $22. The skin was sweet, salty, and crispy. The duck had a lot of flavour and fell of the bone. The fat melted in your mouth. A nice duck leg overall.

Overall, Chez Panisse was a good meal. It wasn’t the best one I had in the San Francisco Bay Area but I understand the mentality of the restaurant. Each dish was simple, really showcasing each of the elements on the dish. The price of some of the dishes was a bit crazy but overall, it wasn’t unaffordable. I’m glad I went… but I probably wouldn’t go back. None of the dishes jumped out at me enough unfortunately.

Chez Pannise, 1517 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA, 94709,
(510) 548-5525, www.chezpanisse.com
Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center (Fulton, CA) – The best food I had on my San Francisco Trip

•March 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

J was treated to a wine tasting tour by her colleagues in Calgary. It was very generous of them to offer this to both of us on our visit to San Francisco recently. We started at Mantanzas Creek Winery which was enjoyable. We were expecting a day of touring wineries and getting lightly inebriated. But the Kendall-Jackon Wine Center was something else entirely.

As you can see, the estate is beautiful. It reminds me very much of Mission Hill, in Kelowna, BC. Mission Hill has nicer architecture though.

This is the interior. You can do a wine tasting by itself, a wine-cheese pairing, or a wine-food pairing, or both. Of course… we had all 3. Kendall-Jackson was very good to us. In the end, we had a total of 14 wines. It was ridiculous.

We opted to eat outside. It was February when we went so we were surprised to get any sun at all. J actually got a burn out there! These are the 5 wines that we started with. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day to enjoy wine in the outdoors.

We started with the Lobster-Pumpkin Bisque which was served with the Buckwheat Crepe with Prosciutto, House-made Apple-Pear Butter and Bellwether Farms Carmody Cheese. This was just delicious. The bisque was hearty and satisfying with some sweetness. The Buckwheat Crepe was so tasty that I wish it was way bigger. It was hot, crispy, light, gently salted, with some intense richness from the butter and cheese.

This was the Seared Trumpet Royale Mushrooms with Fried-Shallots. Just a beautifully made dish. Again, I wish there was more but I suppose that is the point of tastings… just enough to make you want more. The mushroom was beautifully seared, tender, meaty and rich. I loved the earthiness of the rice combined with the mushrooms. I basically devoured this thing.

This was the Sweet Tea Brined Niman Ranch Pork Belly Slider with Syrah BBQ Sauce. This was a perfectly cooked pork belly. Crispy, tender, juicy, with the fat just melting in your mouth. They even made the bread perfect, nicely crunchy with a lot of give. And their housemade BBQ sauce was tangy and sweet. God this was good. I am salivating just writing about it.

This was the Cabernet Braised Short Ribs (braised low and slow in Trace Ridge Cabernet until they fall off the bone and create a succulent sauce). It was served with grits from Old Mill of Guilford, North Carolina. Again, such a perfect dish. Hearty grits served with the rich and sweet braised short rib. Just bite after bite of delicious fattiness.

This is a photo of our next pairing: the wine and cheese! 5 new wines. 5 cheeses. I was getting drunker and drunker under the sun. Each cheese was served with an accompaniment that really clensed the palate so you could move onto the next cheese.

We finished with this wonderfully light and sweet popcorn. All in all, a really wonderful dish. Apparently, this won a food competition. It really goes to show how Kendall-Jackson takes something simple and is able to elevate it.

Overall, our experience at Kendall-Jackson was amazing. I am not a wine snob by any means but after 14 different wines, I was finally getting to understand the different grapes. But it was the food that really impressed me. They don’t really have a restaurant so these little bites were really meant to complement wine. But that didn’t mean that they didn’t take their food seriously. This was some of the best food that we had on our trip to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center, 5007 Fulton Rd, Fulton, CA 95439, (707) 571-8100, www.kj.com
Kendall-Jackson Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

The Dessert House/B-Tsai (Calgary) – Solid late night desserts in Calgary for 10 years +

•March 6, 2012 • 1 Comment

I’ve been coming to B-Tsai or Dessert House as it is known in English since I was in Grade 11. Prior to being able to imbibe, we were always looking for a place to eat, drink, and just socialize. We hit up Dairy Queen a lot… but there is only so much DQ you can eat. And it closes at 10pm. It is funny. From Diana Krall’s album The Girl in the Other Room, one song has a phrase: “…going to the Diary Queen at dusk”. I guess my experience with DQ was a shared cultural phenomenon?

Dessert House has served simple dessert and snacks for many years but their specialty has been bubble-tea. If you don’t really know what that is… I invite you to the year 2000 when people were listening to ‘N sync and all the Asian kids were drinking brightly coloured drinks with black “pearls” out of really thick straws at the local arcade. Dessert House moved locations in Chinatown a few years ago and now they have much more seating. They also have expanded their menu substantially.

These are the Shanghai Style Steam Dumplings off their new menu for $8.95. These are some of the best I’ve had in Calgary. The noodle is thin, there is a lot of juice, and it just bursts in your mouth when you bite it. There is a ton of pork flavour in the juice in the dumpling. They are a bit expensive though… almost $2 per dumpling. I recommend putting the entire dumpling in your mouth. This is not a two bite dumpling.

This is the Steam Sticky Rice for $3.95. Basically glutinous rice wrapped around some pork and dried pork shavings. Very tasty, salty, slightly sweet, and satisfying.

This is the Stewed Egg with Fresh Milk (hot) for $5.50. Basically a gently baked egg so that it is really smooth and slippery. A good dun-dan (as it is called) is judged on the consistency of the egg. This one was velvety smooth and delicious. Not too sweet either!

This is the Stewed Egg White with Fresh Milk and Black Sesame (hot) for $6.25. Basically the same idea as above. Again velvety smooth and delicious. A nice dessert after a heavy meal. It satisfies a sweet craving without being sedating.

This is the large Fresh Fruit Drink (Fresh Watermelon with Mango Star Jelly) for $4.95 + $0.75 for the jelly. Dessert House makes some of the best bubbletea I’ve had. This is attributed to great ingredients and their careful consideration of the sugar content. They tend to make their drinks just sweet enough without being too sweet. Other places I’ve gone to tend to go overboard with sugar and it hurts your teeth! The mango star jelly is really interesting as a change but I still prefer the plain ol’ bubbles made of tapioca.

Overall, Dessert House is the only real option for late night dessert in Calgary. They close at midnight on the weekend. Fortunately, their drinks are great and their snacks are delicious. Be prepared to wait though… service can be a bit slow. Usually it isn’t a problem because you come here after another meal and need some time to digest anyway.

The Dessert House (B-Tsai), 111 – 2 Ave SE, (403) 263-7789, no website.
The Dessert House (B-Tsai) on Urbanspoon

Catch Restaurant (Calgary) – The upstairs restaurant serves some great appetizers!

•February 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I haven’t been to Catch since I left for Kingston but it always held a fond place in my heart. It is where J and I really started to get to know one another. Ahhh memories. They’ve changed chefs and gone through a major renovation so we had to check it out. I was struck with how modern it had become. The old Catch had a classic feel, warm but never stuffy. The reno made the space feel more modern, a little edgier, with some interesting design details on the floor and the lighting fixtures. It wasn’t quite as cozy as before unfortunately.

We had a few “culinary apertifs” to start with. They were basically little bites, a bit larger than an amuse bouche. This is the Organic Ocean’s Trap Caught BC Spot Prawns (poached in foie gras oil with Alberta shiso leaf) for $8. Nicely poached, really flavourful prawns, and served beautifully.

This is the Qualicum beach Scallop Ceviche (finger lime caviar, confit mayer lemon) for $8. A really nice texture on these scallops and they were nicely seasoned. A really simple dish but quite tasty.

This is the Pura Vida Farms Beef Tataki (ginger and soy emulsion, sesame seed tuiles) for $9. Really beautifully presented with a lot of beef flavour coming through!

This is the BC Kusshi Oyster (hickory smoked at the table) for $6. This was the most interesting thing I ate during the entire night. They had a shucked Kusshi Oyster (which I love because of the saltiness and the small size). Then they lit up a piece of hickory wood, put it beside the oyster, then put a glass on top of both so that the smoke would be contained. They let it sit for maybe 30 seconds to a minute. Then they served it. It was salty, smokey, and delicious.

I liked the apertif prawns so much that I ordered the appetizer prawn too. This is the Poached BC Spot Prawns (cucumber and pickled watermelon rind salad, pinot gris sauce) for $15. It tasted a little different, with the cumcumber and pickled watermelon rind adding a lot of zest and acid to the prawns. I gobbled these up.

This is the BC Seafood Terrine (pumpernickel toast, creme fraiche, ikura caviar) for $14. A very interesting dish. The terrine was so nicely prepared with layers of prawn, lobster, crab, and salmon. It separated nicely with just your fork. It was light and really sweet with a lot of  flavour. The caviar just made me salivate and want more. The saltiness really complimented the terrine.

This is the Whole Roasted Nova Scotia Lobster (house made pomme frites, saffron aioli and creamed spinach) for $45. We had never had a roasted lobster before so we had to try it. It was sweet, bouncy, and juicy. Served really simply with some lemon and butter. Overall, I still prefer the Asian methods of preparing lobster, where they chop it up, fry it up, and add a lot of sauce. It does mask the essential lobster flavour but it is oh so delicious. This was a bit too simple for my liking.

This is the Wild BC Ling Cod (corn risotto, golden Saskatchewan chanterelles, and watercress pistou) for $28. The corn risotto was sweet and satisfying. The chanterelles were wonderfully chewy. Unfortunately, the fish was a bit underseasoned. The sear was nice and crispy but it overcooked the fish just a little.

I forgot to write down the name of this dessert but it was a chocolate torte. Really nice chocolate flavours but texturally challenging. Each layer was quite dense. You really had to chew and salivate to get each bite down. Would have been nice with some milk. Just too heavy a dessert for me.

These were the chocolate profiteroles. These were pretty bad. I’ve had superstore profiteroles that were better. The pastry was dry and chalky. The chocolate sauce was really pasty and gritty. And there was far too little cream in each piece. This was the disappointment of the night.

Catch Restaurant (upstairs) served some great food, especially their appertifs and appetizers. The mains were solid but not exciting. The desserts were disappointing. Catch will always have some sentimental value for me. Fortunately, they also serve some great food. I’d go back again and again for the oyster and the terrine.

Catch Oyster Bar, 100 Stephen Ave. SE, Calgary, (403) 206-0000,  www.catchrestaurant.ca

Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon