Friday, April 13, 2018

Killing Time in Forest Lawn.

If I say to you "transparent red plastic cups" and "buffet" does that take you back?  If I add on "uniquely shaped roof" and "catchy slogans" do you form the image of 1990's Pizza Hut?  Okay good, here we go!

I'm at the mercy of the Crystal Glass location in good ol' Forest Lawn, they're fixing a massive rock chip in my windshield, and I have to kill somewhere between one to three hours.  Nearby is BK, McDonalds, Tim's and Arby's.  None of which are conducive to hanging out for hours and none serve beer.  Husband joked yesterday about Pizza Hut and getting the lunch buffet and drinking Pepsi in the red cups.  Well I'm fine with that, except for the Pepsi part of course.  And after dropping off my car I cross the street and fire a quick text to the husband.  "This is such a trip, and we forgot that they serve beer".

I am instantly thrown back in time, something probably close to twenty years. I would assume that almost everyone has a childhood memory of eating at Pizza Hut, and I can't imagine the memories are that different from each other.  Frequently we met here for team dinners, cheerleading, hockey or baseball.  It's a genius place to shove 20 kids and 20 parents and let someone else do all the work.  And for my family it was a treat, a big meal every now and then (I actually think I can hear my moms voice saying how expensive this place is), and to be fair it's not cheap pizza.  For us it was a big deal because all five of us would go.  During the week it was a crap shoot if we'd get to eat together because as growing kids we all had evening sports/activities.   But this was the shit.  We wouldn't miss this.   The loud, fast paced kitchen when you walked in, seeing the delivery drivers getting packed up and sometimes seeing a cook toss a dough in the air.    The big salad bar in the middle, and the little tiny station where they had the dessert pizzas.  This was the only thing I looked forward to.  Still is to this day; even as I'm writing I'm thinking about that sweet cinnamon and apple, drizzled in icing.. mm.

The tables are the same, if I recall correctly, dark wood, big high back booths with red cushioning.  Big enough to fit your family and the towering pizza stand that is so highly anticipated.  I remember my brothers glee when the server would drop it off, and the immediate demands of mom and dad.  DON'T TOUCH.  I also recall at least one brother touching it.   Probably, they both did.

Although it's different nowadays (there is only one dine-in location left in the city I believe), it's still the same.  The clientele here are frequent users, regulars who are known by name to the one lone server.   I walk in and see the office-printed "please wait here sign" tape oddly high up on the wall and as I take off my sunglasses a voice from clear across the restaurant yells out "Hi dear, just for one today?"  Sheepishly, which I'm not ever, I say back "yes, take your time".  This woman is run ragged.  The place isn't full at the moment, but it has the look that it was just busy, and she's trying to catch up.  I let her finish with all the things she's trying to get done,  we all know my love for the industry, and the patience I have for it, and I go to the washroom first.

The brown tiled floor and tiny hallways predate Accessible Friendly laws and the bathroom needs a reno real bad.  That being said, the sink has recently been replaced and it's pimp!   Stands out like a sore thumb in the rest of this 1988 decor though.  I've spoken to Angela, my server, and told her that I'm killing time and I don't want to be a burden.  She kindy seats me at a booth and has a giggle to herself when I order a bottle of beer.  She's been hollering out Pepsi and Iced Tea refills since about 11am so I'm a refreshing change.   She explains the buffet to me, and let's me know it'll be taken down at 1:30pm.  I've got plenty of time so I sit back and people watch for a solid fifteen minutes.

There is a very large table in the back corner and about half the booths are full.  It's a very blue collar area of town, and that is evident during lunch here.  It's a great deal I suppose, all you can eat, 7 bucks, and probably 3 for a pop.  Ten bucks and you're as full as you want to be.  Construction workers at almost every table, some tables are moms with arguably more children than they can handle.   Angela is on it.  She's getting everyones drinks and she's in contact with the kitchen on what's run out and what's coming out next.  She goes out of her way to get some kids a cheese pizza, and someone else is upset that the pasta salad is gone.  It's getting close to cut off time and instead of saying no, she goes back and makes an individual portion of salad for him.  I overhear her tell someone that she's worked here for seven years and hasn't eaten a pizza in the last three years.  I don't blame her.   We have pizza every few weeks, but the 'Hut is a treat.  It's still the exact same recipe as I remember, pan pizza - thick bottom crust, almost overdone edges with crunchy bits of cheese and so greasy.  My keyboard is a bit shiny, much to my husbands chagrin 😉.

An hour later and it's almost empty.  I can't imagine that there will be another rush before dinner time so I'll take my time finishing my beer and waiting for the phone call to go rescue my ride.  I'll probably go over to the GT Boutique and do some shopping.  I hear Angela talking about a table of ladies who left her a $1.15 tip on a fifty-two dollar bill.  She snorts "it's not like they couldn't afford it, she had a wallet full of fifties."  Poor lady, running her ass off to her your fat ass eleven Diet Pepsi refills.  God I hate shitty tippers.  I ask Angela for my bill and I leave her a generous tip.   She thanks me sincerely and I tell her it's no problem.  She says she hopes to see me again soon and I say you will!  In the not too distant future we will come back here, with the child, to start our own memories.  I don't imagine it'll be around until she's old enough to remember so I'd like to get in just one or two visits, red cups and dessert pizza for all of us. 💕

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Treating myself!

Hello stranger!

Oh, wait, that's me, I'm the stranger.  I've been MIA since August of last year according to Blogger and I know why.   It's because my new favourite restaurant is just down the street from us and I've no need to review it.   You've been there, you've seen it, you've ordered it... Boston Pizza.  Where kids rum amok and parents drown themselves in shitty wine and cold beer.   While I'm on the topic I'll just get this off my chest.   I hate this restaurant.  The food is mediocre at best, and that's being generous.  The servers are mostly air-heads (sorry to industry staff that I know used to work there :) ) and it's almost always packed so the wait from the kitchen can be long.   That being said I'm fairly confident most food is microwaved (I'm only being slightly facetious) so when they are ready to bring out your food its steaming hot, but your fries are limp dick.  For us it has a few redeeming qualities: it's close to home, the kids meals are cheap (and being a Kids club member in the summer means they're free) and there is always a beer special.    Now, enough about BP's, on to grown up food!

Just running some quick numbers here, I've lived in Calgary for 14 years; there's about 5000 restaurants according to google.  I've been to 3492 of them give or take.   Odds are that I've been to almost every pub in town (or so it seems) but I've never been to Tipperary's.    It surprises me even, because when I first moved here I only lived a few blocks east which would have been totally walkable on a nice summer night. But alas, here I am on a random Tuesday over a decade later.  I left an allergist appointment down the street and after getting poked and pricked 48 times, and blowing up like a balloon, I decided I was going to treat myself.

Tipperary's is a Calgary icon, a massive building on 16th Ave NW, across from North Hill Mall and probably the only bar in town with its own private, 'underground' parking.  I use that term loosely as the parking is probably only half underground, but it still warrants a low clearance and a sketchy run to the doorway.   Even closing the door and going up the 6 stairs to ground level gave me that "run-so-fast-up-the-basement-stairs-cuz-theres-a-bad-guy-chasing-you" feeling.  I was relieved to see that the ground level opens to a large, sunny interior.   Dark wood and massive booths line the front wall and the pub goes back as far as the eye can see.   On this Tuesday at lunch I did expect it to be a bit busier, as I was only the 3rd table at 1145am, but I was quite okay with relative silence.   The feeling of the neighbourhood pub is not lost, even taking into account its size.   There are a few sections that are closed at this time of day, understandably, so my server is quick to make it over to me.  After going through the specials, domestic bottles and a sweet 'n sour pork over rice, she takes my drink order.   The usual Keith's for myself, and it arrives quickly.  The "Everyday Lunch Special" is the 13 dollar steak sandwich.  How perfect.  Medium Rare with a side of mayo please!  I skipped the gravy, but in hindsight I should have gotten it.  The ketchup and mayo combo I was going for just wasn't doing it for me.   The thick onion ring on top was cooked perfectly, and I ate the whole thing!  That's a big deal for me, the one who calls onions a "yucky" at 36 years of age.   Although if you deep fry things, they usually taste better.  The exception I believe is the deep fried butter from the Stampede, that was just wrong.  And pickles.  No need to eat a hot pickle, they're bad enough cold, and heating them makes them soggy... ohhh.   I know people are gonna be mad at that one!  LOL.  I know a handful of people who love them some deep fried pickles.

My lunch comes out and looks delicious!  I knew I was going to love this place :).

As my food arrives I'm on the phone with someone I know who has gotten herself lost in an alley nearby and I give her step by step directions to unfuck her confusion as I snack on hot, crispy french fries.  *😉 love you*.  The dip that accompanies the dish looks like a chipotle mayo type so I assume it's for the fries and chow down, only to learn at the end of the meal that it actually is supposed to be a sauce for the steak.  I asked my server what was in it, if she knew, and she didn't.  Just said "it's something they created in the back for the steaks and the steak appetizer."   Well.... What?Why?No.  It didn't need any kind of sauce, including the HP that was dropped off.  The steak itself was excellently seasoned, and although it was under done (much closer to a much so that at one point I cut through the middle and it had the look of a seared tuna, if you understand that image) it still was very good.  I'm almost always okay with eating a steak under done than over, so all is forgiven.    Even more so when I learn that kids are allowed until 8pm, every day of the week.    I literally stumbled upon this coming out of the ladies room where tucked in one lone corner is a single highchair and booster seat.    Not wanting to assume, because there have been times where I've needed to be strapped into a highchair in a pub, I confirmed with staff that the munchkins are definitely allowed.   I immediately text M and say "we must come here; kids allowed".  He says okay to me and I start planning the next dinner out we have.  And, I say a little prayer for finding Tipperary's.   The menu and drinks are just right, the layout is toddler friendly for the 'roaming style' kid who won't sit the fuck down and the location is pretty central.  That's it, we're moving to the NW!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

It's just like old times!

Hello again!!  I didn't leave you, I've just been busy.  Raising a baby is rather time consuming and frankly we don't go anywhere cool anymore.  So if any of you need a review on your local Boston Pizza or Montana's let me know, I'm your girl.   But for now we are gonna kick it old school.  Like, before baby was here.  Let's pretend it's a Saturday in 2014 and we are childless. 

For the most part we end up trying new places because M sees them while he's out and about.  Working downtown provides lots of opportunity to see new restaurants open (and a few shut down) and if he doesn't go there for after work drinks he'll save them to take me to on the weekend.  This one he'd been talking about for a week or so telling me to get Grandma to watch the baby, we've got a hot date.  From 4-7 pm.   I try not to ask too many questions, I really do enjoy being surprised by the destination.   He tells me that I should dress nice.  Um, hello?  I'm a mom.   My nice outfits consist of jeans I used to wear before I was pregnant (yay for losing baby weight!) and stretched out tank tops.   You are fucking lucky if said clothing is clean.  That means I should blow dry my hair!  And wear my contacts!   Oh my god - I feel fancy!! 

He did give me a few hints, bless his heart, and advised me that the menu at this place changes so often they don't even post it online.  It's comparable to Cannibale in Bridgeland.  So I know to expect hipster vibes and overpriced cocktails :)   

I was bang on.  Pr%f (pronounced 'proof') is right downtown, where the skinny jeans and man buns run rampant.   We arrived just after 4 (they only open at 4 everyday...must be hard to get up earlier than 2pm for some folk)  and the door was still locked.  Oh shit.   Ah... the beard to the rescue.  I joked to him that we are super eager and he points us to the bar.  The bar that faces a wall of liquor.   I mean a wall.   We settle into the bar and take a peek at the menu.  Oh, happy hour!  Good deal.  I have a "she's a peach"  basically rum, peach something, and lime juice.  And ice.  Me and the ice have an issue.   Mainly because the glass is overflowing full but clever of them because the straw they serve you has a....flat round thing? at the bottom so you can stir and sip your drink without ice going up the straw.  The straw is also metal.  That is a super strange sensation when you clench it between your teeth, because you're expecting it to flatten.  The drink though was pretty tasty, a bit sour for my taste, but I drank it.   In the time it took me to finish mine M had finished an old fashioned, which he really enjoyed.  His first sip was the kind that makes him sit back and go "ohhh, that's really good".   He's not the most outspoken man I know so a full on, out loud, comment like that means its good. 

For his next trick, his drink was smoking.  Literally.  The El Santo started with Beard Man lighting a chunk of wood on fire.  He held it over a blow torch for a few minutes and then set it on a side plate and used the glass to cover it.   The smoke billowed, trapped inside while he made the rest.  It was tequila, and creme de cacao, and other things.  When he served it, he tiled the glass away from M so he could get the scent of the smoke as he poured the drink into the glass.    I couldn't get over the fact that it smelled like campfire, a point that didn't bother M at all.  I kept asking, doesn't it taste like fire?  And no was his answer.   I even asked about the cacao, does it make it taste chocolaty?   No again.   He described it as sweet, and smoky.  A very unique drink, we've never seen anything like this before.  I was a bit irritated at reading the drink descriptions yet still not understanding what was in it, because they use such obscure ingredients and mixes.  I gave up and asked him to make me something.   I said fruity is fine, really sweet.  I ended up with a yellow drink (might have been a boozy lemonade?) and in front of me he poured an ounce of creme de cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur over the top.   It was sweeter than the peach drink but still not quite there.  Didn't matter for the most part because halfway through I put lotion on my hands.  Then I picked up a glass covered in condensation.   That makes the glass slip right out of my hand and tip over spilling half of it.  Conveniently,  I dumped it right into the bar mat over top of the sink.  Good job Tam.  

By this point I'm a bit over the fancy cocktails and would like a pint of beer.   I get one last drink, I've asked the barkeep to think of something.  This guy is new and much more personable.  He chats with us and makes me a cucumber thing with a solid block of ice and a plastic straw.  Oh thank god.  It's sweet, and goes down fast.   I like it.  

While all of this drinking was going down we were looking at the food menu.  I use that term liberally because the only menu is actually a "bar snacks" list consisting of things like Pickled Eggs, Steam Buns and Oysters.    I was super disappointed in the food choices, but I knew that going in I wasn't likely to eat much, if anything.   I agreed to try the steam buns and he had two pickled eggs.   It is pork belly on a steam bun with cilantro, shrimp mayo, peanuts and kimchi.   My only real problem with this was the kimchi.  That's a Korean preparation of cabbage, pickled and spiced.  I've always thought it was more spicy than pickled, but this was the opposite actually.  Still, glad I pushed it off to the side.  M ate it and confirmed that I would have hated it.  But he did say he was proud of me for eating half of this steam bun.  I even confessed that it was tasty, and I'd eat 15 of them, if it was only meat and shrimp mayo on bun.   Leave off the kimchi, the cucumber(? strange julienne'd green veg with no flavour) and cilantro and it would be great.    I was surprised by the pickled egg, to be honest.  I expected a much more pickled taste.  Maybe this one hasn't set long enough?   It truly was a hard boiled egg, with a hint of pickling and splash of paprika.   Glad they weren't expensive I guess? 

By the time we are finished our third round, we were running out of time.  I was in desperate need of food that I enjoy and a pint of beer that doesn't take 8 minutes to create.  We still needed to drive up north to fetch the kidlet (even though Grandma probably wasn't done playing with her).  We had just enough time to go kiddy-corner to the neighbourhood pub.  A pint of Keiths and a beef dip was the perfect ending to our date afternoon.  We've been to this pub before, and they win my "'we'll be back" award.  One of the best beef dips in the city.   Oh, so good.   

As for Pr%f, we'll likely come back.  If not me, then definitely M, for the after work drinks with the hipsters in his office.  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

One last hurrah.

I'm going to miss this.   The dull chatter of other guests; the dim music in the background; the crashing of pots and pans from the kitchen.  Servers yelling “Kitchen, may I?” The clink of cutlery on the dining room tables.     I could be describing any day at work, but I've been off on Maternity Leave for three weeks now and I've gotten used to being at home all day so it’s not work I’m going to miss.  I can cook a damn tasty breakfast but my own kitchen just doesn't have the same atmosphere.

What I'm actually describing is a busy breakfast spot, not the one I work at, but one in my neighborhood.  And what I'm going to miss is the being alone.  I am very excited to start this next chapter and cannot wait to meet Baby H.  But the days of me lounging around writing my blog and eating breakfast are just about up.  I have a week left before I'm due and I'm feeling a little morose.  I don't want this entry to be a bummer, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that it's not only me anymore.     I am going to try to find time to write about being a first-time mom (FTM for you folks that don't 'internet' all day) because I think that will be cathartic for me and humorous for you.  There are so many times lately that M and I say to each other "the last time before the baby comes"  or  "we aren't going to get to do this once baby is here" and so we've filled the last two weeks or so with activities or date nights.  Simple things even like going to the movies, or a drive out to Cochrane for ice cream.  But my favourite has been Valentine's Day.  One last date night before the baby... one last splurge before we hunker down... one last hurrah.

Alloy is... interesting to say the least.  But it currently reigns as my favourite restaurant in the city for so many reasons.   I was first introduced to it about three years ago from an old job.  Boss man had taken us there for a work lunch one day and we didn't have a great experience.  I had mentioned that I'd been there to a friend of mine who happened to know two employees.  She told them about my experience and I was offered a dinner on the house (that's the very short version of the story).   We went back for our dinner a few weeks after that and I had the second best meal of my life.  The short rib entree was to die for.  I'm not going to go into detail other than that because this visit was about Valentine's Day.  I had put my foot down earlier in January and said that I wanted to go out for Valentine's this year.   It's unlikely we'll get to go out next year and the past five years or so I've been working (yay restaurant industry!).  So we're going out!

We had been keeping on top of the website as they only do a fixed menu for this day of the year and they post it online ahead of time.  I had my fingers crossed that I'd eat everything on it and M had his fingers crossed that it wouldn't cost an arm and a leg.   Well, I lucked out, M not so much! Haha.  I said it's my favourite, I never said it’s the cheapest.

When you Google the address you usually assume it's wrong.  They are located northeast of Chinook Mall, but way back in the industrial area.  You could literally drive past it two or three times before you see it.  A tiny sign out front and the building is nondescript and fades into the treed background.  They've done a nice job redecorating the inside, because it was originally built to be an accounting firm, or something white collar, in the 80's.  You know that glass block wall?   Yup, it's got those.  A lot of round, white leather booths, which lend a little to the 80's flair, but this is the kind of restaurant that updated its look just enough that you don't care.  (The patio ranks in the top spots in yearly Calgary reviews, we haven’t tried it yet though).   You're here for the food.   The chef is Colombian we learned and it reflects in his dishes.   This menu shows his roots, his vision and his flare.   It started with an amuse bouche of tuna tarter with chimichurri and marinated tomato and fell right into dinner:

textures of carrots | maple & dijon roasted heirloom carrots . carrot foam. carrot chips . carrot sorbet 
lobster duo | butter poached lobster . potato salad . orange fennel & lemon dressing . lobster crêpe noir . brie cream 
risotto | truffle & cauliflower . basil oil . grana padano . micro basil 
sous vide bison striploin | celeriac purée . brussels sprout . blackberry demi glace 
flourless dark chocolate cake | nutella gelato . pistachio meringue . vanilla anglaise . white chocolate flakes

And I ate every single drop. I promised M that I would eat everything I was served, no bitching, no picking anything out.  I may have picked out like, 3 slices of onion out of the risotto.  That's it.   I am proud of me :).

The amuse bouche was delicious, the tuna prepared perfectly, and the chimichurri gave it some heat, but nothing I couldn't handle.   Ha, this is me we're talking was totally spicy.  But I ate it anyway, and took one small step towards tolerating spice.

The first course, trio of carrots was insane!  The carrot chips were my favourite part, crispy and with a black sesame garnish, and M raved about the carrot sorbet.  Raved!  He still talks about it.   For me, I was less impressed.  Sure you don't usually see carrots in a cold sweet ice cream style, but all I could taste was baby food.   I didn't have the heart to tell him that when we were eating, but yup that's what jarred carrots taste like - you'll experience it soon enough dear ;).

Second course of butter poached lobster was my second favourite dish of the night.  The lobster crepe noir would throw some people off I think, but I knew that it was dyed with cuttlefish ink, which gives colour but no flavour.  It was a striking contrast on the plate, but the inside actually resembled more of a crab cake than a lobster stuffing.  No matter - I still ate all of it.  The potato salad was the best part of this dish for me, it was deconstructed, let’s say, and I could have eaten an entire plate of it.  M didn't like the lobster as much, he felt for ‘butter poached’ it should have been softer and more…uhh…buttery.  I couldn't really say that he was right, or wrong, I'm not sure I’ve ever had a butter poached lobster to compare it to.  So I say it was just fine.

Truffle and cauliflower risotto was next to arrive and I was most excited about this dish.  The first few bites stood out for me.  The buttery texture, the crispy cauliflower- everything was delicious.  But oddly, after five or six bites, I was over it.  I have to admit a few things at this point.   I don't really love risotto, or rice for that matter, so why was I most looking forward to this one?   I also don't like truffles.   And this was a bigger portion than the first two dishes.  In my 37th week of pregnancy, I didn't trust that my stomach would be able to handle this whole bowl plus the next two courses.  I had to call it quits.    And I'm soooo glad I did.

The Bison.  The bison, bison, bison.  If I didn't already have a favourite dish here (the short ribs, remember?) then this would be it.   There wasn't a drop left on my plate when I was finished.  Nor on M's plate either and oddly enough, we loved different things.  I really thought that he would love the bison the best, but he was into the celeriac puree.  This creamy, root vegetable, similar to a turnip, was pureed so fine it was almost a sauce.   He'd have eaten a whole bowl of it had you offered it to him.   I loved it too, a great change of scenery from the usual starch.  But my bison was incredible.  It was cooked perfectly, sous vide - which is very had to screw up - and had minimal seasoning.  I mention that because it’s key.  The meat is so tender and flavourful on its own that a sprinkle of s&p is all it needs.   If you put steak spice on this you should just go jump off a bridge.    The brussels sprouts are crispy and golden.   The blackberry sauce is not overpowering and works well with the protein.  Wow.  I am a happy camper.

Seriously, there’s one more course still?   I'm working at a decreased capacity here people - I don't know if I can do it!?

Of course I did it.  It was painful walking to the car after, but I was not leaving this amazing dinner without eating dessert.    I'm not much of a chocolate fan to be honest, but I gave this my best effort.  We sort of joked about why the cake was flourless, but thinking of the rest of the menu there wasn't any other (obvious) gluten in the dishes.  So maybe the chef did a GF cake so that everyone could eat it?   Or was he just trying to be trendy?  Either way, it was good.  It was more dense and moist than a flour cake.  The Nutella gelato was just fine, tasted like chocolate to me, but we both favoured the pistachio meringue.  The crunchy sweet bits were a great reaction to the softness of the rest of the components. 

Whew.  I did it.  I waddled out of there at a very slow speed, but with a smile on my face.  I know it's not the last fancy dinner we'll have together but it was still symbolic to me.  It's the end of an era, the beginning of a new course in life.  I am grateful for my husband and everything he does for me and our growing family.   I am thankful that he gave in to my demands for one last hurrah.  Maybe next year I'll let him pick the restaurant.  Maybe not though, not when Alloy is still around ;).    

We are now taking applications for who wants to babysit next year?!

Friday, January 15, 2016

I miss your face.

The countdown is on.  Seven weeks until baby's due date and I'm starting to feel the pinch.   Literally.   This baby is resting on my bladder in such away that I'm putting the Charmin kids through college.  I just looked back at my last entry and it was when I was 22 weeks along.  This Sunday coming marks my 33rd week and time is flying by!!    Christmas in our house was a very different experience this year too.  Where we normally would be drinking Chupacabra's on the Las Vegas strip we instead were at home, hunkered down in the snow having family over.   It was a nice time, and we are excited for what next Christmas is going to bring, having an eight month old!

But after Christmas and New Years passed, we settled back down into our routine.  And that means M works during the day and I work nights.  My days are usually spent watching TV, pissing around the house, starting my 'nesting' phase and waiting for 5 pm to go to work.   I talk to M all day long on Skype but 5 out of 7 days we don't see each other.  He's in bed by the time I get home, and even though he should be sleeping, he's not.  Then he bitches about how tired he is at 6am.    Muffin...tell me all about being tired.  I dare you. ;P

So, now that the baby is approaching its exodus I'm reducing my work hours.  My days off aren't Saturday and Sunday every week, but at least I have an extra night off during the week that I can see M.   We were feeling rather absent from each other and we needed to rekindle our Thursday night Date Nights.    A new pub he saw on the way home the other day and a message that simply said "I miss your face" was all I needed to hear.   I put on my stretchiest pair of maternity pants, a low cut top and off we went.   Because damn right I'm gonna take advantage of these new mammaries.

Browns Social House opened back in the summer, on Elbow Drive and 51st Ave SW.  It's a bit off the main roads and the parking situation is absolutely terrible.  But if you can get over that, good.  Walking in, your first impression is that it's a bit small.  Swanky too, very dimly lit and that old school Edison type lighting, but small.  Nine booths, probably the same amount of high top tables and a smaller section of low rise tables.  The space just doesn't feel very large.  But for a Thursday night at dinner time, the restaurant never filled, so maybe it doesn't need to have any extra seating.  It is going for a classy pub/Asian vibe which was pretty intriguing to us.  I am more the poutine and a burger girl whereas M was much more into the Asian influence and enjoyed the fact that he could chose something I normally wouldn't go for.     There's a handful of dishes like Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai, or #28 Dragon Bowl.  There's a lot of nope in that for me, so I'm happy that he gets to eat something ethnic while I get what I want.  Best of both worlds :).

We were in no rush at all so we lingered over our drinks for a long time before even ordering an appetizer.   Poor server probably got tired of asking us if we were ready yet.    We got caught up on our lives, the baby, work and family stuff.  I nursed my Coke (Yes!  They get bonus points for serving Coke) and he enjoyed a Social Ice (a house brand lager and Bellini slush) or two while we people watched.   When I finally decided on some food I went straight for the poutine.  Hey, I didn't really need to compromise with him, he had his own to choose from.  His final decision on a Dynamite Roll proved to be just okay.   The rice was overdone, so it made the roll almost too sticky.   The tempura was well cooked, but it could have used more wasabi.   I don't think he'd order it again but it tied him over until we ordered our entrees.   My poutine on the other hand was delicious.    They call their gravy "Alaska Highway Gravy" and there's a rather large part of me that doesn't want to google that term.  It just doesn't give off vibe.   The fries are HCDC.   I mean, come'on, you all know that term.   I've been saying it for years!    Uhhhh.  Okay, you're right.  What the hell does that mean?  It took us a few minutes to find it on the menu but it means Hand Cut Double Cooked.   Duh.   Fries were done perfectly, the gravy was piping hot, my only tiny complaint was that the cheese curds hadn't melted.   Now, some poutine perfectionists will say they should stay as curds, but i like when they are half melty-half curdy.

Dinner was quite a while later, as we had filled up on our appetizer round, and I struggled with my choice.  I had it narrowed down to a few choices and it was a game time decision.  I went for the steak sandwich in the end, but not after a serious amount of debate.   Normally I'd never fret over this meal but it was a 5 oz cut, so quite tiny, and it was 25 dollars!   Holy Shit!   That's the most expensive sandwich I've ever had.   To be totally fair, I would have been okay with the price, if it was an 8 oz cut of meat, or if it had truffles on it.  But seriously?   Twenty five dollars can get you a whole steak dinner in a lot of restaurants.    Risky gamble this was.   And it kind of paid off.  It was a good cut of meat, very little marbling, and no fat cap or gristly pieces.  But, it was over done... closer even to medium well than the medium rare I'd ordered.   The one onion ring was good, the fries (HCDC don't you remember?) are still good (and yes, I was thisclose to ordering them done up as poutine, but I thought that might be overkill) but the slaw on the side was confusing.   I could visually identify green onions, parsley, maybe some cilantro and white.  That's all, white.   I'm sure it was the cabbage, but there wasn't a hint of colour on it and it had no flavour.    When I ate a bite of it, I tasted grass.    Now, maybe that floats your boat, it doesn't float mine.   They really could do with leaving that off the dish and giving up an extra onion ring or two.   And because I didn't eat my slaw-garnish, I should have had my fries as poutine.  Hindsight :/   But I was saving room for dessert!

M surprised me a bit here at our main course and he chose the chicken meatball spaghetti.  And I'm only surprised because he finally could have had something I consider "weird" and then he went all normal.   No matter the spaghetti was really good.   Noodles were cooked well, the sauce had a faint spice to it so it wasn't bland, and garlic toast points.  So far so good.  The meatballs were a tad bit disappointing.  If you've ever made a chicken meatball you'll know they are tricky.  The protein is so lean that when its cooked it dries out, and here was no exception.   There needed to be another wet, binding ingredient.  I really can't even pinpoint what that should have been, but they were dry.   The sauce from the noodles helped, but chicken just isn't the best route to go with spaghetti.  Now, that dish was on the specials menu, so it's unlikely that we'll see it again, but overall we both had good main courses.  Not great, but enough that we're full and content.

I'd been holding out for dessert for like 2 hours at this point and finally I get to order it!   Sticky Toffee Pudding is my go-to dessert.  I don't even really like dessert, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  Except for STP.   The trouble with this is that my be-all end-all, none will ever taste better than this one, is the one made at the Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill in Las Vegas.    Because we aren't loaded, I only get that one twice a year.  So any of them here are just fillers.   And this one put up a good fight.  Fresh out of the oven (microwave, whichever) and topped with vanilla ice cream and crushed up toffee bits it did a solid job.  It was definitely lacking in a sauce though.   There was a small layer of whipped cream in between the pudding and ice cream that wasn't necessary.  Take that out and do a drizzle of a sweet glaze or sauce and it would have been even better.   Unfortunately the dish is only on that same specials' menu so I'm not sure if it's there permanently, or just right now.

I should have had a poutine as an appetizer, a poutine and a STP as main course, then a STP as dessert.  And I will not tell if that's a pregnancy craving or just me being a bit of a fatty.   You make your own assumption.

We'll be back for sure, it was a lovely date night, and a lovely restaurant.  I hope we can get a few more of these in before baby gets here!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hello again!! It's been a long time since I've written a post and with good reason. My last post was back on May 31st and since then we've had a bit of a change in our lives. That was the day my mom came to stay with us while she got her Alberta roots set up. June was a CRAZY month! Having my mom here cooking us dinner was great. Home-cooked meals almost every night, good company, lots of laughs. At one point M even commented on how we'd stayed home more with Mom here than we had in weeks! Because she was here and we were well fed we even saved money by not being at the pub 4 nights a week! Unbeknownst to us the staying home phase would actually prepare us for the next big change.

On June 31st we found out that we are expecting! No more beer for me :( That's not to say that we didn't go out to eat, because we still do, but my morning sickness took over at dinner time from weeks six through twelve. I was not in any mood to go out for food so home we stayed. A lot. Poor guy, I think M missed our pub nights. Now that I'm further along, 22 weeks (almost 6 months) I'm way past the sickness stage and I'm good for food most any time. Which leads me to our latest date night dinner...

 17th avenue is filled with restaurants. Literally on every corner, in every strip mall, some right out in the open, some tucked away a bit. This Monday evening was a surprise for me as it was M's turn to do date night. As we are walking down 17th ave on a warm October evening we approach a Mexican restaurant and I'm sold. Yup, I could eat tacos. But M steers me away from Mexican to offer me a bit of a fancier meal! 80th & Ivy has been on 17th ave longer than I expected honestly, its towards the west end where its not quite as busy. Its facade is sort of covered by its street facing patio, but its almost hidden by its very large heaters and the Mexican patio almost hides the entrance.

 In we go and it's very different than I imagined. the foyer opens right into a large lounge, high top tables and TV's all around. Not busy at all, clearly Monday is not the money shift. Seems a little strange to me, being on 17th ave and all, but it's okay, I wasn't in the mood for a loud raucous crowd. Up the stairs to the back dining room and its a very different vibe. Low tables, and only 12 of them at that, so a much more relaxed vibe. Its got a great viewing area from the whole dining room of its open concept kitchen. As a restaurant manager (oh yeah, and in the past six months I've left one job and added more hours in the restaurant as a manger) I see the pros and the cons to open kitchen. Pro in this case, as a bit of a foodie I'm always watching the chefs and seeing their systems. Con, I watched the head chef pull out his phone and start texting away, while on line. (Com'on dude, I know it's not a Friday night, but no phones on the floor!). The main reason we were there was they do a weekly special of buck-a-shuck oysters. Since I've been pregnant I'm not supposed to eat them so M has been missing out. Its a bit of a treat in a way because we don't have them often but any time he'd try to suggest somewhere with them my stomach took over with a resounding NOPE. I did't even want to be around seafood for a few weeks. Am I ever glad that's over with!

 As we're seated and waiting for our server we go over any appetizers that catch our eye. Nothing is really grabbing me, the selection is a bit more...Asian/spicy/meaty? That's a terrible way to describe it, but I just can't explain it. Regardless I wasn't into an appetizer. We decided that dinner would be filling enough that we didn't need one anyway. Sorry, correction - I didn't need one. M was still having his oysters, its 95% of the reason we came here. Our server seemed to be new, we'd ask him questions and he wouldn't know or he'd hum and haw. That's cool, I get being new but simple things like if you serve Coke or Pepsi should be learned on day one. So M asked for 10 oysters half and half. (That just means half from the east coast half from the west coast for you non seafood lovers). Johnny boy, because I don't know his actual name, explained that it's served in 6 or 12 and M asked for 6. Twelve came out to the table. Sorry babe, can't help ya eat 'em, you're on your own.

 Once M is done on the oysters we go all out on our main course. We order the Butcher Block for 2. It's literally three different proteins on a huge slab of butcher block. You chose two side dishes and get to stuffin' your face. Steelhead Trout, 1/2 a rotisserie chicken and a 8 oz NY striploin. This kind of dish works perfectly for the two of us because he'll eat more trout, I'll eat more steak and we split the chicken. It was served with broccolini (my choice) and roasted fingerling potatoes (also my choice, don't kid yourself) and a trio of dips. Broccolini was on point. Man that was delicious, I haven't had veg that good in a long time. Potatoes were also delicious, with a ton of butter and herbs, crispy edges and fluffy inside. Mama is a happy lady!

 We've gotten our fingers messy ripping up half a chicken when I cut into the steak and it's almost well done. Now, I'm not the kind of pregnant lady who has changed her diet drastically. I'll still eat a medium rare steak and I still eat hot dogs. So when our steak is super over done we've got to find Johnny Boy. He graciously removes it, shows the chef and then they walk out of our line of sight. I know that trick-you don't want your guest seeing one of two things: 1) you and the chef talking badly about us and mocking me for sending it back or 2) you and chef are going to eat it. Frankly I don't care what you're doing I just want a new one out that isn't overdone. Second time around, chef nailed it. Now truly I hate a NY Striploin. I think the fat cap is too much, there isn't enough marbling in the steak, its tougher than any other steak and usually overcooked because of how thin they are. The second attempt redeemed itself and was cooked perfectly. Good :)

After polishing this platter off we debated on dessert. 3 kinds of gelato sounded right up my alley. But after letting all that food settle I decided I didn't have an ounce of room left. Granted, none of the three flavours sounded all that appealing to me but I passed anyway. If I recall correctly the gelato flavours rotate every so often too. We'll save that for the next visit.

 If you're looking for somewhere new to go and you've put on just enough make up that you're feeling fancier than a pub I'd suggest 80th and Ivy. The food was wonderful, the atmosphere is warm and romantic. A great spot for date night. Once I can eat oysters again we will go back, for buck-a-shuck and gelato :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

We gettin' fancy up in here!

I love surprises. I like being surprised, and surprising others. In this case M surprised me with a new place to try and I was very excited! He had only given me a few hints, things like: it’s a bit classy but not a full dress up type place. Jeans and a nice shirt will be fine. I asked if I’d ever heard of it, or seen it and he was confident that I hadn’t. He learned about it after reading a Reddit post on Calgary’s favourite places to eat. He read some reviews, checked out the website and made the plan. The day we went was beautiful, warm and sunny, and when we arrived the first thing M noticed was the patio.

M: We have to come here in the summer… on a night off when its hot out and just drink on the patio all night.
T: Are you feeling okay? You don’t normally like patios.
M: I do like them if its night time and it’s here.

Here is Cannibale. Newly opened in Bridgeland it’s not that easy to spot actually. We passed it the first time by but found it once we were heading westbound. It’s a small building on the corner lot and the signage outside isn’t obvious. You enter off the street through the patio and it opens up into the bar portion of this restaurant. I use that term loosely though. It’s very small inside. Maybe eight chairs at the bar, three two person tables and then maybe eight more tables on the lower level across from the barber shop. Yup, you heard me right. There is a barber shop as the street-facing store front. I honestly don’t know if I understand why. It gives the vibe of a Mad Men-ish era, the fifties even: get a shave and a haircut then stop over for a tumbler of whiskey. (Is that even a thing? A tumbler seems like that would be a lot of whiskey). Regardless. There’s a barbershop inside, and I find that strange.

Sitting at the bar, we are greeted right away by a young bartender who seems a bit disinterested. Maybe it’s just because we were the first table there for the day (it opens at 4 everyday) and he wasn’t done prepping his lemon wedges and orange twists? Once was had a look through the menu and started asking him questions he opened right up. M’s first drink was a beer (which I thought was cheating) but it was one he hadn’t tried before: CoCoNut Porter, Maui brewing Co. He has raved about this beer since we left that day and sadly, we haven’t’ been able to find it in stores. Which might be a good thing really. He could drink the store dry of their stock!

I really was torn. The drink menu is very large, very cocktail focused and labour intensive. I asked for a recommendation, which I usually regret. Only because I will offer up the suggestion of, let’s say, a gin based drink, not sour, not spicy. Giving free reign to the bartender who will do their best, it’s always a bit tart, or made with a juice I don’t like (pineapple) for example. I certainly don’t blame them though, and frankly typing this out has made me realize that I should be way more specific when I’m ordering. Next time I will say, gin based, sweet flavours, no pulp juice. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up drinking a lot of gin and gingerales :/. Today though I went for the: MALACHI CRUNCH Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Giffard Pamplemousse, Lime. Gin, good. Cachaça, wtf is that? Grapefruit and Lime, sour. Overall, probably not a great choice for me, but granted he did a great job of making it. Half the fun in a place like this is sitting at the bar (which I usually bitch about) and watching the bartender create. The effort and care that goes into each drink is fabulous to see. In our daily pub adventures the most effort we get out of the bar staff is throwing an orange slice on a pint of Shocktop.

My second drink was a Pimmy Gibbler. Pimm’s No. 1, Oloroso Sherry, Lime, Angostura Bitters, Apple Cider. There are a very small group of people that will understand that reference, and if you do then you know the reason why I chose that drink. This drink was better than my first, much less sour. It was good enough that I recall commenting “I should have had this first, it was my gut instinct” and “Are we staying for more because I could keep drinking these”.

The food menu here is…small. And that’s okay, it truly is going for the drinks vibe, not so much a 3 course meal type atmosphere. Once we were happily drinking we browsed the food options. Because it was early in the day, and M had already looked at the menu online, he gave me an out.

M: If you don’t like any of the food here, that’s okay we can just drink and then go on our way.
T: No, no. That’s not fair! You went to the trouble of finding this place so we should try something! It’s fine, there’s quite a few things that I would have.

I settled on the beef carpaccio. I love beef. I love all of these things combined (except the pickles): SILVER SAGE BEEF CARPACCIO Hickory Smoked Tenderloin, Mustard Aioli, Cured Yolk, Garlic Chips, House Pickles, Smoked Salt, Crostini and it was delicious. The best carpaccio I’ve had. And surprisingly, a very large portion. (I suppose I thought for eighteen bucks in a joint like this that it would be tiny). The garlic chips were outstanding. So thinly sliced and just crispy enough. Might be my love of garlic talking there. If I did have one critique it’s the toast serviced with it. Don’t get me wrong, I know what crostini is. This however was not crostini. This was hockey puck sliced up. Could have even been a rock. What it should have been was not served. I have read other reviews that ditto my sentiment. It’s actually inedible. So after cutting the roof of my mouth all open on the bread I gave up on it and just ate slice after slice of the best beef I’ve had in a long time.

M’s appetizer was the PEASANT CHEESE BOARD A Carefully Curated Selection of World Cheeses, Appropriate Accompaniments, Rosebud Honey, Crostini. Oh look, more crostini. My husband loves cheese boards, and I think secretly he’s glad that I don’t, this way he doesn’t have to share with me! As I glance over at his plate of triangles and squares he offers me a bit that I quickly decline. I do appreciate the offer but I know that I’m not into it and I won’t enjoy it. I’d rather him enjoy his and I enjoy mine. (That’s code for me not sharing). His second round drink was the WIL WHEATON Village Wit (10 oz) & Maker’s Mark. A beer and a shot, a very common combination, but in this case he “may” have chosen it due to the Star Trek actors name in the title. Hey, look at that! I didn’t screw up Star Wars & Star Trek! See babe, I pay attention.

Looking at the rest of the menu, nothing else was catching my eye. We contemplated another round of drinks but really, I just wanted a regular pint of beer (there’s no pints of Canadian or anything). I can only drink so many girly fruity drinks before I start wearing fake eyelashes and taking my dog for pedicures.

The more I think about it, the more he’s right. We do need a patio night there. And coming up to the summer months, it’s going to happen sooner than later. I can’t wait to go back!! :)

Cannibale on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The way to my heart is through my stomach.  That should be no surprise to anyone who knows me, and certainly something that M knows well.  I've told you before how much I love breakfast, and also how grumpy I get when I am hungry.  Well imagine my attitude when the plan was to go for breakfast before Costco one morning, but by the time the morning came M only wanted coffee.  I’m sure I was happy.  I mean, I would have suffered through a Costco hot dog and poutine for brunch after shopping, but I really wanted a big breaky.  Much to my chagrin, M turned the opposite way of Costco and my attitude was adjusted real quick.

We arrive at Humpty’s Classic Café and I’m so excited.  Not only is it a true greasy-spoon type spot but I've been wanting to go there for a while. Now this isn't your regular Humpty's restaurant (it's unlikely I'd write a blog about one of those). This location is straight up classic diner style; imagine sock hops and poodle skirts.  This very tiny building is just north of all the retail shopping in the area of Deerfoot Meadows.  It’s in the middle of the parking lot and is styled in the exact fashion of a ‘50s café, from the aluminum/tin outside to the red leather booths and stools along the counter.  When we walk in the first thing we notice is how big it is inside.  Looks are deceiving from the road, it holds a fair number of people.  The second thing I noticed is how at 945 on a Sunday morning the place isn't quite half full.  That to me is worth every penny.  I am always on the hunt for a wicked new spot, but I HATE lining up for breakfast.   The trendy restaurants here always have a 30-45 minute wait on weekends during peak times.  I just can’t get behind that.  The third thing I noticed is that the servers all look like they've been there since the place opened.  I giggled to myself as the two ladies up front instructed us to sit where ever we’d like.  I chose the bar, unusual for me yes, but I feel like it added to the ambiance of it all.  Looking around I see that it’s a lot of families, young parents with young kids or old people.  We are the odd balls out here, DINK’s if you will, but no one is paying attention to us.  There’s no hipster vibe, or ‘I-have-to-dress-up’ for this feeling.  It’s just bacon and eggs and coffee.  And a jukebox at your booth if you want to get really nostalgic.  I feel like that’s a big hit for the kids, and if nothing else it’s entertaining for them. Maybe Mom and Dad can read the paper for a few minutes while Ambrosia or Jaaissonn (yes I made fun of stupid names there) figures out how to use it.

T: Are you even very hungry?
M: Nope, I'll have coffee and toast.
T: Pfft, sure. You're missing out.

Our server came over right away and M ordered his black coffee.  Not this girl.   I love me some chocolate milk.  Love.  It's pretty much a staple in my life, especially at breakfast.  Now the problem I have is when I ask for a large glass I mean a LARGE glass.  Not that mini cup, you know, with the vertical lines and its plastic, and you probably learned to drink on it when you were 2?   Fuck those cups.  I want a substantial glass, something that will last me through the entire meal.  I tell servers this, and I'll gladly pay.  You can charge me for 3 glasses if that's what you think is fair.  Seventy percent of the time I get a small-ish cup no matter my pleading with my server.  But here, different story.  Its like she understood me.  I got a huge glass.  It was probably a whole liter.  It lasted me until I was finished my meal, and it was only 3 bucks.  Amazing.

Oh, right.  Food, that's why I'm here.  I never really branch out too much on breakfast fare, I stick to my usual bacon, eggs, toast and hashbrowns.  At home my repertoire expands greatly, but I really do enjoy the traditional when we are out.  I felt like it took a little while to come out, considering the roughly half full restaurant but that's fine.  I was preoccupied with looking at all the old school features and doing some people watching.  The gentleman at the end of the bar was clearly a regular, and I like to see that.  It bodes well for an establishment to have a loyal guest following.   When breakfast arrived I was perfectly content :).  The eggs were cooked right to over-easy, the bacon was crispy (actually a tad salty) and the hashbrowns are excellent.  Fluffy on the inside, very crispy on the outside, and the seasoning is bang on.  I'm sure M's toast was wonderful as well, but it's toast.  Is it burnt? Send it back. It's not burnt? Good, eat it :).

Leaving Humpty's that morning I was a happy camper; I was filled up on bacon and hasbrowns!  I know for sure we will be back and I'll try something new next time, as long as it comes with a large glass of chocolate milk!

By the time breakfast was over it was almost noon (on a Sunday)...we should have skipped Costco :(.

Humpty's Classic Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Every single Vegas vacation we will go to Caesar's Palace and end up spending most of our time here: Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill.  Chef Ramsay opened this location, dead centre on the casino floor,  about a year and a half ago.  We've been coming since the first week it opened.  Literally.    During our traditional christmas getaway in 2013 we learned that he was opening BurGR in Planet Hollywood and GRPG within just a few days of us arriving.   I was over the moon.  I secretly hoped that Mr. Ramsay was still in town and when we went to his restaurant he'd be there.   I could swoon over his tousled blond hair and striking blue eyes....maybe he'd come over to me and I could introduce myself and then we'd run away to Tahiti together.  Oh.  Sorry M.  Love you!

The Pub was, and still is, packed any time we are there and to be fair we haven't ever sat in the dining room, so I can't speak to any service levels in that regard.  We always head straight for the bar, for a few reasons.   On our first visit we saw three men, jovially working the bar who looked like they were having fun.  That's inviting right there.  On top of that, the restaurant was full and the seats at the bar were available.  We're sold because we want to drink immediately, and eat at our leisure.   Now, we do sit at the bar frequently when we go out, and it not entirely because I love the side of  M's face (I do though, truly).  It just allows us to eat at drink at our own pace.  In Vegas you've got nothing but time to kill and money to burn.  If you're in a servers section she's on a mission to get you in and out as fast as she can, whereas the bartenders don't' mind if you take 2-3 hours.   And its entertaining.   People watching is always a fun pastime for us.  So many walks of life, from thtraveler who might be down on his luck to the business man who'd rather be at home or the couple who believes this is fine dining, its interesting if nothing else.  We will always start dinner with some delicious, yet ludicrously expensive drinks.  Something like the Ramsay Tonic: Tanqueray no. ten gin, st-germain, fever-tree tonic, fresh cucumber & grapefruit juice and then I'll drink 3 of them!  M will usually start with a beer, and after a while we get a little more fancy.  The bartender we see every time, Tom, is great for coming up with drink ideas, or putting together something to "surprise" me.

While we take in the sights we will snack on something. The first time we were there we ordered the Duck Confit Poutine.  It was incredible!  The food runner brought it to our seat and began to describe the dish as he set it down. We joked about being from Canada and it stopped him dead in his tracks.  He said something to the effect of  "okay, well you know how to do poutine right, I hope we don't disappoint you".  And they did not.  The fries were so crispy, and the gravy was perfectly seasoned, the cheese the best kind of melty.   Nailed.  It.   But they've taken it off the menu, so sorry.  We can only reminisce and you can only dream.

The next adventurous item was the deep fried oysters. Staying true to this theme, I'd never had oysters before and I was very skeptical.  It was actually my choice to order them, and I am damn glad I did.  To be totally fair, I'm not entirely sure how much oyster I was actually eating/tasting but it was a bit salty, very crispy and the dip that accompanied them made the whole thing amazing.  Note: that salt on the bottom is not edible.  Trust me, I tested it.  Since then, Chef Ramsay has taken these off the menu as well.  God damnit,  two for two here. 

I will say though, that maybe these were a stepping stone for us. On our next visit to the city we went to see Penn & Teller's show at the Rio and before stopped in at Buzio's Seafood and downed two dozen (non deep fried!) oysters.  Delicious!

As long as you get the right kind, and learn the best technique to eat them, they are delicious.   Who's this guy, Gordon Ramsay, making me like all kinds of new things? Pfft.   

Over the years that Pub & Grill has been open the menu and changed a few times and I feel bad writing to you about all the incredible food that you can't try.  But there is one staple on the menu that better not ever go anywhere.  You hear me Ramsay?  Never!!  

This Sticky Toffee Pudding has changed my life.  And my that I mean that I never was much of a dessert girl; I've always liked salty more than sweet.  Give me a bag of dill pickle chips and I'm yours.  But this dessert has changed me.  If its on a menu in a pub I order it (I never, ever used to order a dessert).  It's sort of like a drug.  I'm always chasing that dragon, trying to find one here in Calgary that stands up to the amazement that is Chef Ramsay's creation.  It is warm, and dense.  The house-made ice cream gives that tiny bit of chill when you take a full bite.  And the caramel drizzle for the top just brings everything together.  I probably could eat one of these as my dinner and then another as my dessert.   And I don't give a shit if you judge me.  

While I am devouring this M has discovered a new drink.  If you drop a shot of Fireball into a cider, preferably the one from Angry Orchard, and give it a stir it's going to taste like apple pie.  That right there is M's favourite dessert and if you can make it into an alcoholic drink then even better.  I shared a bite of my pudding and he offered me a sip of his.  At the end of the meal we are so content.  We leave full, and tipsy.  Quite a bit poorer as GR restaurants are not known to be cheap, but they are well worth it.  I highly, highly recommend this Vegas restaurant.  But please for my sake, sit at the bar, take your time, engage the bartenders (they are great people to chat with) and order a damn dessert!

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Home of Elton John, celebrity chefs and many a Greek statue, Caesar’s Palace is the most iconic property in LV.  It’s huge casino floor and the Forum Shops give plenty of space for eating, drinking, walking-it-off, and shopping.   Gordon Ramsay opened Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill directly off the casino floor, and is probably our favourite restaurant on the Strip, for so many reasons.  But let’s start with the others.  

Staying true to our celebrity chef love we had dinner on my birthday one year at Bobby Flay’s MESA Grill.  This was one of the first celeb-owned restaurants and by that I mean the chef that got famous from being on Food Network (LV has always been home to famous chefs, Flay wasn't the very first).  I did think to check the menu before we left and I thought it sounded good!  Steaks for me, spicier things for M.  Should be good.    We did call ahead to get a reservation, but we probably didn't need one in hindsight.  Because I like to eat dinner at 5pm.  LOL.  Turns out other people, especially in Vegas, don’t usually dine until seven, eight pm.   Not this girl.  I’m 30 years away from a seniors discount but I can’t wait for the early-bird specials.  We had a seat at the bar, because we were early, and had the bartender pour us a drink.  Before he was even finished we were escorted out to the dining room.   Nice view, great for people watching actually with huge open windows.  

Because this was a few years ago, please pardon me as I've forgotten a few things.   I do recall though that I wasn't feeling too hot, so a rye and ginger was trying to settle my stomach.  Once seated we noticed that our section had one gentleman whose sole job was to refill water glasses.   When we sat down he was filling our glasses and we asked him a question about the drink menu; he sort of looked at us like we had four heads, and said your server will be able to answer you.  Whoops.  Our bad.  We then spent the rest of the night following his movement and commenting on how that’s a strange job to have, wondering if he had a second job, or a family, or…anyway, back to dinner.  We had a ‘queso fundido’ appetizer, its cheese, melted, but this was spicy!   I did attempt a few bites and washing it down I was able to get through it.    My meal was a steak, imagine that, and it was okay.  I always feel that when a steak costs $40+ dollars that it should be memorable.  In this case it wasn't.  I usually prefer a sirloin or tenderloin and MESA only serves a NY Strip, a coffee- rubbed filet mignon or a chipotle rib-eye.   Seeing as though I’m not a fan of coffee or chipotle, I was left with the NY.  It was cooked perfectly, and to be totally fair it was a huge cut.  Must have been 14oz, maybe 16 even.   No piddly 8/10 ounces here.   We chose a selection of sides to go along with dinner and nothing stands out as being amazing.  Granted it was a few years ago, but I've remembered other meals.  

What does stand out is M’s side dish, Blue Corn Tamale with Sage Butter, and he was not impressed.   He ate out the good bits but overall felt that it was too strange to finish.  I want to say he thought it tasted like dirt?  (What the heck is a tamale anyway?)  I feel like this wasn't enough detail for ya’ll, and I shouldn't have waited so long to post about this one, because I’m forgetting half of the meal.   Let’s chalk this one up to: Go if you like spicy; go anywhere else if you don’t.  We definitely won’t be going back to MESA.  Not when there are so many other choices in Caesar’s.

If you wander through the mall, more commonly known as the Forum Shops, you’ll see the handful of upscale restaurants alongside the upscale stores like Louis Vuitton, Prada and of course, Burberry.  If you were paying attention you'll remember that Wolfgang Puck's Spago is also in Caesar's Palace.  Great restaurant, highly recommended.   The restaurants range from sushi to Italian and most everything between.  For us one of our favourite stops is the movie themed Planet Hollywood.   The first time we were there we only has some drinks and a plate of nachos.  There isn't too much to say about that really, good drinks, food is decent.  It was probably most memorable for M though.  He’s the movie buff in our family and so he was a bit like a kid in a candy store.   If you are a movie lover you’ll probably be distracted by all of the memorabilia around, pictures, costumes, etc.  Even the drinks are named for movies:  Terminator, Indecent Proposal, The Green Mile etc.  We really enjoyed ourselves the first time, so much so that we went to go back on our next visit to Vegas.  But it was gone! 

Phew, it just moved to a new location in the Shops.   It’s quite a bit more hidden away now, way up on the third floor near the winding escalators.   The decor is still full on movies, but they've updated it a bit, newer costumes, and a cool feature wall right across from the bar.  This visit actually takes place at Christmas a few years ago.  Now, we've been going to Vegas every year over Christmas for 5 years now and even though we boycott the usual traditions, I still want a semblance of the holidays.  And for me that’s a turkey dinner.  We usually find turkey dinner at the Golden Nugget hotel on Freemont.  It’s a good spread, and it’s only like ten or twenty bucks.  It did the trick but once we learned that Planet Hollywood serves a turkey dinner we opted to try that out. It’s a fair bit more expensive than the Golden Nugget, but it’s worth it (and much closer to any strip hotel, as the GN is a 20 dollar cab ride away).  We sat at the bar and were thoroughly entertained by the bartender the whole meal.  Lots of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberries (yuck).  The works.  And it’s pretty fun too when you’re drinking giant slushy drinks in take home glassware (and then you get a little tipsy and pay for shots in the take home shot glasses).  We left hours later, drunk and happy.   We will for sure be back, no matter if it’s for Christmas dinner or just for a post shopping beer. 

I’m going to wrap up right now, as my next entry will go into great detail about our favourite pub on the strip.  Come back next time when I get into all the details about the time I ate Oysters (so what if they were deep fried); the first time I had duck confit (so what if it was on a poutine); the first time I had sticky toffee pudding (Oh. My. God.) and how delicious a cider is with a shot of fireball!  

Mesa Grill on Urbanspoon

Planet Hollywood on Urbanspoon