Holy Smoke, Calgary AB

Last stop in Cowtown before heading back to Oil City. A quick yelp search by fellow travel buddy @alyssahindle yielded not many options, and so again, to the rescue, another recommendation by @karbuthnot24.  I really sought to satisfy a serious ‘cue craving, appropriate, given that the Calgary Stampede was in town, and well… when it comes to beef, apparently you can’t beat Alberta Beef.ImageAfter a bit of navigational confusion, turns out that Holy Smoke BBQ, @karbuthnot24′s hole in the wall grail, was only a few blocks from our mapped route hope. With no line outside, or inside, I was a little bit apprehensive, as I’m used to the 2-hour wait of Phil’s BBQ in San Diego, CA. 

Entering, I was half expecting either a bearded summer-santa with a gruff voice named Bubba, or perhaps a rough-around-the-edges Paula Deen type restauranteur. Image Surprisingly, I was greeted by a few, friendly Filipino faces, who, on cue, fired up the Tagalog. Yes, I get that a lot, and no, I don’t speak Tagalog. 

ImageThe place, like the menu, is quite small, a bit like a sandwich shop or deli. The wonderful smell of hickory smoked meat, mopped with any number of spicy barbecue sauces, and unmistakable smell of burnt sugar/tomato of the charred ends was a welcomed bouquet of aroma. 

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Without hesitation, I asked what the house-favorite was. Between the two of us were ravenously hungry, yet eager to get on the road. So we went with a Chopped beef Brisket ($8.99) and a Smoked chicken ($8.99), with sides of coleslaw and potato salad. Washed down with some sweet tea ($1.99) and homemade lemonade ($2.49)

ImageAs we awaited our order, we were directed to the massive line-up of various sauces. Yes, I wanted to try them all, but we settled on about half a dozen varieties to sample.

ImageIn a word, delectable! The brisket, while oft overdone in any place not-Texas, was nice and moist, with a few burnt ends thrown in for measure, and topped with tangy coleslaw that wasn’t overwhelmingly mayo’d. Great texture, wonderful smoke penetration, and just enough fat to keep it interesting.

Even the kaiser rolls had a nice, slightly crusty exterior, beautifully spongy interior yet still held it’s integrity to perform it’s meat-delivering duties. Lightly buttered, it yielded a perfect meat-to-bun ratio; something that is overlooked in a good sandwich.

The smoked chicken, again, one of those dishes generally overcooked to dryness, truly delivered. If the chicken is brined properly, it will tend to absorb and retain the juices that keep the meat succulent, even to the last bite. What’s the problem, not saucy enough? Pile on one of the 17 custom made sauces, ranging from cloyingly sweet molasses mop juice, or the lip smacking, throat-burning-in-the-best-way spicy mama sauce.

 

This…. This place is true-blue-BBQ. Not to be missed if you’re in the aptly named Cow Town, AB. Seriously. Don’t. Miss. This. Place. Please….

 

One of the highest honors I can give a place, and not many on this blog for these discerning palates. 

 

A+, my good lads!

Holy Smoke BBQ on Urbanspoon 

V

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co.

Summer is here! A gorgeous camping trip to Banff, AB.  with @karbuthnot24 and @matdowling, few days spent in the woods, nothing but smiles here!ImageImage

Amazing mountain biking through the gorgeous landscape, rolling terrain, perfect berms, technical features, rock gardens galore. Check out the pano view of Lake Minnewanka. Sweet eh?

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Stopping in at Canmore on the way home to fit some more riding in, at the world renowned Nordic Centre, riding EKG Loop, a lung busting, leg jello-ing challenge that leaves you satisfied, but still wanting more.

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After such a trekking, a refuel is needed. Being the pizza aficionado I am, I executed Ms. Arbuthnot’s recommendation of Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. in downtown Canmore.

Cute little place, and eating alone I expected to be served quickly. I wasn’t in a hurry though, as the sun was shining and the day was perfect. Nice view outside!

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Needed a little liquid libation, and opted for a Grizzly Paw Grumpy Bear ($4.75), a local brewery favorite.

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Paired nicely with the daily special, a pizza adorned with yellow onion, roasted red peppers, dried apricots, smoked garlic, moroccan spiced lamb sausage, baby spinach and fresh thyme ($12).

First criticism will always be the crust. I enjoy a light, crispy crust, but strong enough to pass the tip-sag-test, akin to the NYC style pies.Image

Well, crust is a bit stale, not in the nice chewy, heavily developed gluten that I like, either. If they were aiming for a true flat bread, they certainly nailed it. A bit bland however.

The toppings did deliver, though, with the fresh ingredients being the real star of this show. Nicely balanced herbage, not over crowded, visually appealing. Image

Would I come back? Sure. But I wouldn’t make a trip of it. Wait time was especially long, given a table of 1, and no lunch rush. Beer was nice, and I am always glad to see local establishments promoting other local offerings, and sustainability of local organic produce. Free Wi-Fi is a plus, and friendly staff, and clean facilities cajole me to rate this establishment:

Grade: B-

Check em out!

http://www.rockymountainflatbread.ca/

838 – 10th St.

Canmore, AB

 
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. on Urbanspoon

twitter: @flatbreadCo

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Mercer Tavern

The return of the prodigal daughter: co-foodie extraordinaire (code named: The Blonde, who apparently isn’t naturally blond) called for a visit to an establishment I’ve driven by numerous times, but never previously patronized: Mercer Tavern.

Finding a primo parking spot, after 6pm, and now quite warm, spirits were as high as my expectations for this place. Nice open area, wood accents and olive drab, amber lighting in mason jars gave this place a tavern-y feel, with a slight hipster vibe but lacking the attitude, thankfully.

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The Blonde states she’s never eaten here, but frequents here to let men buy her drinks. Pure class. Thursdays: $13 Charcuterie plate and half off wine by the glass and by the bottle. Great daily specials, written in chalk above the bar. I dig it.

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Opted for a draft of Granville Island Honey ($5.25) to start things off, and somewhere along the night The blonde downed a pair of Caesars… the Canadian equivalent to ‘merca’s Bloody Mary. Menu seemed, pubby, the usual offering of sandwiches, burgers, salads alike. After hearing our waiter rattle off some of her favorites, I settled on a Reuben Sandwich ($13.5) and my compatriot, dual Mahi Fish Tacos ($12.5).

While our hunger mounted, the Charcuterie plate came, and boy, it did NOT disappoint. Goat cheese, gorgonzola, and some aged grueyere (?) alongside prosciutto, some sort of soppresata or spicy salumi, and some other cured meat that currently escapes my recollection. (I’m not an expect on cured meats, I just play one on TV). Condiments were two types of onion chutney/marmalade, balsamic tossed arugula, and some of the most delicious Guinness Mustard I’ve ever tasted. Image

This plate scores an A+, and I’d gladly pay full price for it on non-Thursdays.

Our entrees finally came, with much anticipation. Unfortunately I didn’t catch a picture before eating it, but our collective response to the first few bites were just, meh. My Ruben was reminiscent of some Hormel canned corned beef iteration that my mother served to us as kids, but perhaps it’s unfair to judge what is supposed to be a mastercraft of the Jewish Deli community, ala 5th St. Deli and/or Katz deli in NYC, but I digress. And the Mahi tacos were quite bland, just passing as tolerable. Again, nothing beats a real fish taco (GO TO SOUTH BEACH BAR AND GRILLE in OB, San Diego). Yes critics, I hear you, we’re in Edmonton, blah blah blah. What salvaged the second course was my beer pairing in Hopworks Organic IPA ($14), sure made me homesick.

The plusses: Beer, ambiance (although music was just a touch too loud for dinner service), the charcuterie plate was superb, and a smiling dinner date.

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The minuses: Entrees were short on flavor, and lacking any panache, too bad.

Overall: B-/C+ The charcuterie plate saves it.

Check it out for yourself:

10363 104th Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 5G5
http://www.mercertavern.com/

 

Mercer Tavern on Urbanspoon
@mercertavern

V

@bigvinnyab

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Taste of Edmonton 2012

3 Months is too long without a post. But I do have a back log of reviews with lots of pics to keep you, the reader, interested. Anyways, after the hoo-hah on the blogosphere and twitterverse about the big food festival downtown, I took the LRT down to Churchill station to have a look-see

The Taste of Edmonton is an annual summer event, in downtown Edmonton (Churchill Square) lasting 12 glorious days (this year held July 19-28th) and highlights the cities’ (presumably) finest purveyors of international cuisine. 42 restaurants and about a half-dozen food trucks, composing the “Curb Your Hunger” program of the annual festival.

Live country music for those inclined.

Armed with a sheet of 20-1$ festival tickets, I sought out the longest lines, because naturally, people are lazy. So you should trust the cost-benefit analysis of the general masses, so if it’s worth waiting in line for, then a crowd ensues.  The concept of the festival is fairly straight forward. Snack-sized portions offered up at 4, 5, or 6 ticket prices.

Tied – First place: Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Sauce: Hoang Long Family Restaurant

Starting from the top, and tied for first for my favorite dish on the grounds, from Hoang Long Family restaurant, the Grilled Quail with Pomegranate sauce. I found this quail to be absolutely delicious,  and though I often choose to skip quail because of it’s labor intensive requirements to eat (read: small and plentiful bones), this was a task I happily endured. Although, my chief complaint is the lack of seating outside of the beer/wine gardens, and the mob crowds that quickly occupied curb space, I felt like a caveman, munching on bones, leaning on a tree and groaning in delight. To me, quail seems to taste completely of dark meat, but not lean by any means. Nice sweet-garlic marinade, perfectly charred on the outside and chin-dripping juicy on the inside. Bravo! (5 ticket item)

Tied- First place, Deep Fried Wonton with Crab meat and Cream Cheese – Panda Hut Express

This is home-cooked comfort food for me. My mother used to make these delicious, blood pressure elevating, cardiac disease risk increasing gifts from above. Apparently voted #1 dish by the festival, or so says the sign, it exceeded the high standard of my  maternal benchmark. Crispy throughout, artfully but simply crafted, each bite rewards a gratifying crunch followed by a creamy and slightly chewy texture afforded by what is probably imitation crab. Nonetheless, a nicely executed first course to any meal. Can you tell I liked it? (4 ticket item)

Third place- (and best dessert) – Strawberries in Grand Marnier with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce – Bistro Praha

I feel a little guilty praising this because it’s so insanely simple to imitate this and impress folks at home after an excellent home cooked meal.  Easy on the booze, fresh, plump strawberries, hand-whipped cream. Delightful. For home, I might switch out the chocolate sauce with reduced balsamic vinegar, or aged (at least 50yr) balsamic. Not much else to say other than, I wish the portions were larger! (4 ticket item).

Without being long winded, here are some other dishes I tried, or wanted to try. A must-attend annual event!

One last thought. Apparently there is a food-blogger event type cook off, and was judged by a panel of blogger-peers. Where was my invite! Foodmonton will be the newcomer chef to beat in 2013! Look out!

Vince

Lemongrass Beef Skewer from Hoang Long

Lemongrass Beef Skewer from Hoang Long

Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Place Banquets

Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Place Banquets

Green Onion Cakes from Hong Kong Bakery

Green Onion Cakes from Hong Kong Bakery

Spanakopita from It's All Greek To Me

Spanakopita from It’s All Greek To Me

Butter Chicken and Veg from New Asian Village

Butter Chicken and Veg from New Asian Village

Jodie enjoying the Quail and Spinach Pie

Jodie enjoying the Quail and Spinach Pie

Charlie Flint Beer

Charlie Flint Beer

Art Gallery of Alberta

Art Gallery of Alberta

Smokehousebbq.ca "Truckin' good BBQ" food truck

Smokehousebbq.ca “Truckin’ good BBQ” food truck

Fresh Young Coconut Drink from Coconut Jungle

Fresh Young Coconut Drink from Coconut Jungle

Review: Next Act Pub

I had heard many about “Theater Sports” down at the Varscona Theater, and though it sounded like a fun new thing to try. I bought some tickets online for their weekly show, Friday at 11:00. 11:00 is kind of an awkward time for anything to begin, so I thought, what can we do for an hour or two before a show. Obviously good eats and good drinks was the most obvious option. So, in the spirit of the Theater, and the inspiration to try a new place, we went to the Next Act Pub on the corner of 104 Street and 83 Ave. The pub was small, but luckily we found seats. It was Friday night, so unfortunately it was a little loud for regular, sober communication. Good thing I always speak above proper room volume. The clientele was something I also noticed. Everyone was a little older, and looked more refined than the usual Whyte Avenue Friday night crowd. This I liked, mostly because I can appreciate a pub that’s devote to food, drink and good conversation.

The Menu, both food and drink, looked amazing. Diverse, yet comfortable choices, and most importantly, burgers. I will definitely return again to explore the other components of the menu, however, that night I chose the “Class Act” burger, very fitting if I do say so myself. Mr. D order the Macaroni and Cheese with the additional bits of bacon and jalapeno’s. To drink, we ordered a pitcher of Steam whistle. Probably not worth it as it was just less than 3 pints, and a single pint cost 6$. There were some really  nice beer choices, however, not as deep and diverse as you’ll find at Sugarbowl.

The Burger included cheddar cheese, bacon, and an overeasy egg. The egg was cooked perfectly which allowed the delicious yolk to flow throughout. mmmmm. The Patty though, was seasoned so perfectly. The meat was juicy and cooked very nicely. I consider myself someone who knows a good burger as it’s my favorite food and I’ve consumed far too many in my lifetime, and I can easily say, this was one of the best I have ever had, ANYWHERE! damn. I’m craving it right now.

Mr. D ordered the Mac and Cheese which was baked and steaming hot as it arrived at the table. It was creamy and not overly rich, and the bacon bits were, well, bacon bits so delicious. The Jalapeno’s were a nice touch, however, they were really hot and overpowered a lot of the other components in the dish. If you can handle them, they’re great, but next time we’ll sans the Jalapeno’s.

Overall the meal was delicious, hot, and fresh. The ambiance was great, the menu tantalizing, and the servers friendly. I would absolutely recommend the Next Act to everyone! Whatsmore, they have a foodtruck on the way this summer people! Here’s the website if you want more info,  http://www.nextactpub.com/.

The Next Act on Urbanspoon

The Creperie

The Creperie, Downtown Edmonton.

From the website verbatim, typos and all:

The Creperie is a unique affordable French Style Restaurant. Voted “Most Romantic Restaurant”, the Creperie’s atmosphere is cozy and warm with its small intimate rooms and flickering candlelighT.

The Creperie is a perfect destination for all your “celebrations of life” whether it be just for 2 or 20 and more.

Enter 4 Highly esteemed University faculty members of discerning academic and culinary opinion, 2 Professorial candidates, and 1 mild-mannered American PhD student.

Rule #1 of blogging: Know your audience. Company shall remain nameless, save for an honorable mention below. On to the review. Sorry for the lack of pictures: an obvious failed attempt in discreet snobbery.

The ambiance of The Creperie, designed with the intent on achieving the self-proclaimed title of Edmonton’s Most Romantic Restaurant,  falls short of wooing it’s clientele. The experience would likely be different for an actual couple dining out, but the illusion of intimacy is unfortunately mistaken for cramped spaces. Yet, I hardly think dining in a closet qualifies as romantic, but oddly reminiscent of teen trashy romance novels in the 90′s. Customer service note: Don’t cram 7 adults into a booth when the remainder of the restaurant is completely empty.

However, what The Creperie lacked in environment, (read: space) it made up for in the culinary aspect. A surprisingly limited wine list (for a romantic french style restaurant) forced our resident sommelier/teen-heart-throb/mad scientist Dr. Michael Kennedy to make quick work in selecting a fine ‘middling’ wine for the evening; an Argentinian Malbec that was tasty, yet not impressionable enough for any of us to remember the label.

My first entrée selection was Escargots a la Chef ($12.5), narrowly edging out the steak Tartare (although after having such stellar Tartare at Accent, (see review), I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment. The Escargots were nicely done, set in the traditional 6-shooter terrine, and prepared with garlic, onions, spinach, cream, on mushroom caps baked with hollandaise. Accompanied by French Bread with herb butter, it was a nice lead-in to the Main Course. Of course I much prefer Escargots de Bourgogne- Burgundy Snails, (A specialty I discovered at Tapenade in La Jolla, CA).

My main entrée was the Breast of Duck ($29) cooked medium, with reduced pomme granite-blackberry juice compote, with rice and steamed vegetables. The meat was cooked nicely, I would prefer it to be cooked slightly more rare, but was too hungry to send it back. Loved the strong fruit of the compote, and the salty-crispy skin of the duck made it a delightful meal.

Around the table,  my compatriots had probably ordered equally enjoyable food, as the conversation tends to die down when the food is exceptional, in my experience. (One fellow diner was thoroughly enjoying her Virgin California Salad.) I was too consumed with my own culinary descent to notice. Of note was their gluten-free menu which Docteur Kennedy took full advantage of, ordering a Creep Jambalaya that clearly did not disappoint. (no, not a typo).

Third and final course was the Crepe Caribbean ($7.5), holding dark-rum soaked bananas topped with chocolate sauce, fresh whipped heavy cream, and toasted coconut. A fitting end to the meal.

While I applaud the execution of the food, service and environment left much to be desired. If I were to judge a restaurant by food alone, this would receive an A. However, the apparent lack of serving experience, haphazard waitstaff, and mis-timed serving (tip: serve everyone at the table at once, even if it takes a bus-boy or two. Making hungry people wait for others to get their food makes for an uncomfortable situation). One could argue that I’m nit picking here, but good French restaurants take pride in their cuisine, and the back manager should trickle down this lesson for future parties.

Overall grade: B-

Bigvinnysd

http://www.thecreperie.com

111, 10220 103rd Street NW

Edmonton, AB T5J OY8

 

The Creperie on Urbanspoon

PS: If you’re looking for a nice crepe, quick and friendly customer service, go see Gill at Crepe Symphony on 101A. Ask for the Chicken-Mushroom Crepe ($7). Literally steps from the Central LRT station. Don’t worry, full review soon.

Langano Skies

Any of you regular readers know that I have a real passion for authentic Ethiopian food. First time was on New Years Eve in Downtown San Jose a number of years back with some close friends- wonderful atmosphere, and you know if you’re the only non-Ethiopians in the joint, and not playing cards or dominos or smoking cigarettes, you’re in the right place.

Since then, I’ve attempted to find the really great hole-in-the-wall type places, in San Diego: Muzita Abyssinian Bistro (definitely not hole in the wall, on Park Ave in Uni Heights) is a jazzier, very clean varietal of these restaurants, site of one of the first non-date date that I had with Claireadaire back in the day. (other great Ethiopian places: Awash, Red Sea, etc… look it up, this is an Edmonton blog, after all!)

But I digress: Langano Skies, I believe one of the highest rated places on Yelp and Urbanspoon for the Edmonton area. Pretty conveniently located on the corner of Whyte Ave and 99th St, you might miss it if you drive too fast, and certainly will have a little trouble finding parking. PS from the University, the 7 bus will take you right to 99th (along with other Bonnie Doon and Capilano bound buses, the 4)

Ok: Jumping right into the review: A very ravenously hungry pair of international students go to an Ethiopian restaurant. Sorry Matheus, I forgot to tell you that this food, and generally the wait, is longer than normal.

No such qualms when the food came out though. We ordered Yemisir Kik Wot (bottom right, lentils), on suggestion from our waiter, Yegbeg Wot (lamb, top right), Siga Tibs (steak cooked in butter and jalapenos, bottom right)

Immediately what strikes you about Ethiopian food: the scent is powerfully seductive. Now once you regain the other senses you realize, wow this is a ton of food. Also, where are our utensils?

Don’t be silly. The staple of Ethiopian food is Injera, a fermented flat bread (my best estimation is a sourdough crepe) Cut into strips and rolled up. You rip off a piece and you pick up the pieces of meat or vegetable from a family style plate (which is also served on a huge piece of injera).

Close up of Siga Tibs. I wish they had made it spicier, but upon Matheus’ request, a little milder taste made all his enjoyment. Can you tell he liked it? In a word, Delicioso!

In My quasi-expert opinion? I’m really disappointed they don’t offer Tej (Ethiopian honey wine) which is really the best part. Other than that, great flavors, I really wanted to try the Kitfo, especially since I was still on antibiotics so little chance of food poisoning (Kitfo is steak tartare in berebe, spiced butter). So, barring from the fact that they didn’t have Tej, and the less than stellar lentils, I think that this place does quite well in the meats. If this was in SD, it wouldn’t break my top 5, but considering it is Edmonton:

Grade B+

Take the plunge! Go a little out of your comfort zone, eat with your hands, connect with your food! This type of cuisine is SO much fun to interact with friends, great conversation. If you have a few hours, go with some good friends and enjoy the experience.

Bigvinnysd

@LanganoSkies

http://www.langanoskies.com/

Langano Skies on Urbanspoon

Da Capo

Da Capo Cafe:

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, still itching to find the best pizza in town. I’d heard 2 recommendations echoed- One, Fomoso’s, I’ve reviewed earlier. The other Neapolitan style pizza in town is found across from Sugarbowl and Highlevel Diner.

Here we go: Decor seems to be picked straight out of an Ikea catalogue, down to the tiles on the wall. Not really a bad thing. Clean, nice concept. However a common, but unvoiced complaint, is the layout of the restaurant lacks flow- if the restaurant is even half full, you’ll have to navigate a maze of people, chairs, and barstools.

Nice selection of beers, still on medication so have to forgo specific libations. No restriction on caffeine though. I went with the standard double americano, as is my usual test for coffee houses. Not bad, bold, certainly the perfect accompaniment to a icky day outside.

 

Nina ordered a latte… Which came in a tumbler? Can anyone explain this? The latte, apparently, was ok. But wasn’t hot for very long. Still defies logic why this was preferred over ceramic.

Order up: Nice selection of items on their menus, good variety in appetizers and pizza toppings. I opted for the goat cheese stuffed dates and roasted almond with balsamic vinaigrette reduction (~$7). Should have opted for the proscuitto wrapped variety:

Nina went for a little lighter fare: Prosciutto Crudo Di Parma e Mozzarella ($8), which was simple in preparation. Nice flavor, well aged proscuitto, but would have appreciated a little olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, or balsamic, none of which were offerred.

I was starved. So I ate the whole pizza. Almost. Pizza Di Rocco: ($14)tomato, mozzarella, house made spicy Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, fresh rosemary. The last slice:

Certainly like the crust better than Fomoso’s, at least it isn’t soggy in the middle. Decent pie, I’d say. Underwhelmed by the toppings, slightly too acidic sauce, but nice herbal flavors, especially with the fresh rosemary.

Too early to tell, as I’ve only eaten at both places once now, but I prefer Fomoso’s for their enthusiastic customer service, and overall experience. The service here was surprisingly slow for being fully staffed and not at customer capacity: My friend Pierre waited 30 minutes to get the same thing Nina ordered. They actually forgot his order, unapologetically.

Somewhat lacking attention to detail,potential problems parking, serving lattes in glass (???, unless that is some italian tradition that I’m not aware of). Nice location, as it’s quite walkable from the university (109th St). If you are craving a great cup of coffee, skip this place and go 2 blocks South to Transcend (review coming). Don’t come here (Da Capo) if you’re in a rush, but at least give this place a try. And as always, when you do, please drop me a line.

Overall grade:  B-

 

Bigvinnysd

http://dacapocaffe.com/

@DaCapoCaffe

Da Capo Lifestyle Caffè on Urbanspoon

Accent

First time seeing sunlight in a few days. Not only because it’s been overcast and snowing, but because I’ve been confined to the sickbay that is my apartment. Beautiful day, +7C, not a cloud in sight. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a nice day out: the result, a busy busy day on the sidewalks of Whyte Ave.

On our walk, I spotted a restaurant I had visited in Feb 2011 when I came to check out the U of A. Of course many would argue that such a cold day (-20c) should have deterred me from coming to Edmonton. Oh well. I didn’t know the name, but I knew it was next to a Chili’s. Well, Chili’s closed down, but by pure chance we found it! 104th St, about 3 doors North of Whyte ave…

Inside was a very tavern-y feel, wood and copper fixtures. Pretty quiet for dinner time, and the crowd was pretty varied. I guess Nina and I consider ourselves to be snobby, and wondered why so few people actually dress properly for dinner. I digress. Hang on though, the most comprehensive review yet!

Accent is flagged as a European Lounge, but nothing really stood out as decidedly European. Here’s the menu:

However, the menu did have some eyebrow raising and mouth watering options. Of course I ask the waitress for her recommendation, and she very enthusiastically recommends the Steak Tartare as a starter, and also offers that the Wiener Schnitzel is why people come to Accent.

As with most hands-on dishes, this came with instructions. Cut a clove of garlic in half, rub it all over the toasted crostini, making sure the parsley gets nice and muddled, and slather the neolithic meat paste all over the toast, munch, swallow, repeat. Miss Nina not looking super enthused, nor impressed that her much anticipated smoked salmon had yet to arrive. Keep sipping, dear. :)

Ok. By far, this dish (Steak Tartare, $14), is the best thing I have eaten since I’ve arrived in Edmonton, and I’ve eaten some fantastic food, if you’re a regular reader of Foodmonton. I was a little hesitant to eat raw beef, but I thought: “Hey, eat raw fish in San Diego, eat raw beef in Alberta.” It was a logical conclusion. I eat my steak rare, anyway. Add the fact that I’m on crazy strong antibiotics for whatever respiratory infection I have, I’m good to go as far as bacterial poisoning.

A myriad of flavors, wonderfully and traditionally seasoned! Absolutely shows it’s freshness, obviously ground right before it was served. Raw onions in the tartare bring an unmistakable spice  compounding with the fresh cracked pepper, hints of Worcestershire perfectly balanced, a touch of sweetness, I think from Cognac. The raw garlic brings on it’s muscle as you crunch through the impeccably toasted bread, and savor the silky texture of the finely minced steak.  The level of detail-orientation… I mean they must have refrigerated their grinder as to not heat up the meat. Drawing on our cave-dwelling mammoth-hunting ancestry, this was truly a delightful, yet surprising treat, a reward for those gastronomically adventurous. Come to Accent JUST FOR THIS DISH. Serious. :-)

Expectations for the rest of the meal were then set impossibly high, which was fine, because it didn’t disappoint. 

Nina’s Smoked Salmon was perfectly executed: I always look for traces of artificial coloring in smoked salmon, indicating that it was really heavily processed, and this was not. The best I’ve had was Connemara Smoked Salmon in Roundstone, Galway Bay, in Ireland. This came very very close! Served with roasted asparagus wrapped in proscuitto, dill-cream cheese, fresh red onions and lemon. Nina was a fan!

I opted for something a little more sinful, and went with the Large portion of the Wiener Schnitzel ($19), and they truly weren’t kidding about the portion:

If the full sized steak knife doesn’t give it away… Damn it’s huge. Sorry for the shadow. Paired with extra lemons, and a side of tartar sauce, this is a serious dish that delivers on flavor and heft, and will channel your inner German Lumberjack. Of course it’s tough to pound a pork fillet thin AND expect it to be still juicy, but this came very close.

It’s not often that I give a perfect score to a restaurant, but Bravo, Accent. Your attentive, honest staff, attention to detail, and truly skillful Chef have earned you Foodmonton’s highest honor. Nice wine list, and a decent Scotch selection to boot!

Grade: A+

Absolutely DO NOT miss this restaurant… Please come back and comment after you eat here. Get the tartare if you can handle eating raw meat :).

Nina: “If you took me here on a first date, expect to get a second date. “

I knew there was a reason I came back to this city.

bigvinnysd
Twitter: @accentlounge

http://www.accentlounge.com/

Accent European Lounge on Urbanspoon

Press’d

On a cold-ish day after doing back to back to back VO2max tests  at the Lung Centre at Edmonton General:

Nina and I need to grab late lunch. I’m not overly familiar with the downtown area just yet, so we just go to the first thing we see: Press’d

Press’d is a panini-press style sandwich shop. It’s certainly a few steps up from Subway. We’re the only ones in the place, and we’re greeted by an overly enthusiastic staff member. I always ask them what their favorite thing to eat in the restaurant is. After all, they work often, and probably have had everything on the menu.

Anyways, I really feel like a sandwich and a soup. And so the recommendation was that I got the tomato bisque and the turkey pesto sandwich.

Not a bad sandwich! Fresh ingredients, a little cold for a pressed panini though. Wish they had upped the filling to bread ratio, but the focaccia was crispy, good flavor from the rosemary, and certainly tasted like it was baked that day. The soup was actually a hit- I like that they put a decent amount of creme in it.

Overall, this place isn’t a slam dunk, but a very good place to get a sandwich. If I am downtown I’ll certainly stop in (Jasper Ave), but I don’t think I would have a craving that would send me out there just for this sandwich.

Solid performance, very clean restaurant. Helpful staff, but no WOW factor for me.

Grade: B

bigvinnysd

 

http://pressdsandwiches.ca/ Twitter: @pressdsandwich

Press'd - The Sandwich Company on Urbanspoon

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