I've been stuck near the university in the early evenings for over a week now, and am now into repeats as far as dining experiences go.
I headed back to Rodeo Burgers for one of their prefixed burgers: The Aussie. It has Rodeo Sauce (a white, garlic mayo), ketchup, picked beets, carmelized onions, lettuce, tomato (always centre cut), and a fried egg.
To be different, I opted for a veggie patty instead of the beef. It was a mushroom-based patty that reminded me of Money's veggie burger, but a bit more kicked up. Note: it was definitely not vegan, as I think some cheese was used in the binding. Then again, a burger with an egg on it is not vegan anyways.
The egg was fried hard, and was actually my favourite part of the burger. Loved the pickled beets also - now that is a different burger topping. Like last time, I adored the fries.
I am not exactly sure what made this burger "Aussie," but it was definitely the most unique burger I have ever had.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I've been stuck near the university in the early evenings for over a week now, and am now into repeats as far as dining experiences go.
The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is a place of decadence. For me, it is a place to revist a number of memories while enjoying the beautiful view of the River Valley on the patio.
The latte at the Hotel Macdonald is as decadent as its $6 price tag. It is a tall, frothy, layered beverage of espresso and steamed milk, served with a small biscotti and sugar on a stick. Oh, how I love to stir that sugar stick and lick the latte from its crystals. I think I feel a song coming on.
But I digress. I know it is a lot more expensive than lattes in regular cafes, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself. It's worth it. You're worth it. After all, you only live once. And that was what I was commemorating and celebrating with a visit to the Hotel Macdonald.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
So, as if I had not already consumed enough fat and calories, I had dessert at Tony Roma's. Most of their desserts are mini-sized, which I found to be adequate after a meaty meal.
The raspberry brownie was rich and delicious - chocolate brownie slices, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry coulee. You can't really go wrong with that. The ice cream was a bit too frozen - it had ice particles on it - but otherwise the textures blended together well.
When treating someone to supper after a hard day of volunteer work, I usually let the volunteer choose the location. Tonight, he chose Tony Roma's.
I decided to go for the beef short rib. It was a huge bone covered in tender meat that was falling off of it and so soft that I did not even need to use a knife. The roasted vegetables added some colour and tasted nicely done. I opted for fries instead of mashed potatoes.
This was a decadent meal full of fat and flavour.
After my sub-par meal at Gaya yesterday, I went nearby to The Greenhouse to have a frozen yogurt for dessert. This regular size cost about $5.50 and came with three toppings. I went for granola, cranberries, and blueberries.
The yogurt itself was strawberry - I thought it would be plain. The blueberries were on the bottom and in syrup. I don't think they were all that fresh. The cranberries were actually craisins, and I wish they had specified this as it may have affected my desire to order them. They stuck to my teeth, taking icy cold yogurt with them, causing me a lot of temperature-induced pain. The granold was so-so, and looked it it was mostly crumbs from the bottom of a package.
I find Tutti Frutti on Whyte Avenue and Kiwi Kiss in City Centre Mall to be much better value and quality.
Gaya Korean Restaurant (11147 87 Avenue) has been there forever, or so it seems. It is small, and often full. I decided to have supper there last night.
Bulgogi is the main Korean dish with which I am familiar, so that is what I went with. It was a large portion of seasoned beef, rice, and vegetables. Spicy kimchi and a bean sprout salad were on the side.
The beef was tender and flavourful. I wish I could say the same things for the vegetables, which mostly consisted of cabbage. Very, very bland.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Oh, Earl's. We used to be so close. Then, your menu became way over the top, and had few things I could afford, let alone eat.
Well, last night, I decided to give us another try at your campus location. I felt like living it up a bit, and so had the roast chicken, which was one of your featured items. I enjoyed the white wine sauce with mushrooms, except I could not find any mushrooms. I guess they were pureed into the sauce. Your chicken breasts were juicy, but I wish they had no skin - it was soft and unpleasant to eat, and much of the lovely sauce was piled on top and wasted as a result because I had to scrape the skin off.
Your carrots were tasy but not fork tender and were a struggle to eat at times. Your fingerling potatoes are very cute, and were lovely in the sauce, but had somewhat of an oily taste on their own.
I had a lime margharita on the rocks with my meal, which was on special. It was sour, but satisfying.
Oh Earl's, I fear this will be the end of our relationship. The fact that I did not enjoy the crowded, noisy, dark atmosphere only added to my resolve. In that respect, don't fret too much - after all, it's not you, it's me.
The Greenhouse has gourmet salads that are both from a fixed menu and customizable. I opted for an appetizer-sized salad, as I was in need of a mid-afternoon snack and wanted a healthier option than coffee and a muffin.
I picked "Running Wild," which is a colourful mix of grilled chicken breast, spinach, carrots, chickpeas, trail mix, boiled egg, quinoa, and sweet potato in a balsamic vinagrette. The price was a bit hard on the wallet, but it tasted great and as extremely fresh.
I found the quinoa was more for texture than flavour, while the hunk of sweet potato was perfectly grilled along with the chicken. Expensive, but good.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Mexican is not usually my first choice for fast food. I find most of the choices available to be greasy and heavy, resulting in unpleasant side effects for myself and those around me.
So, it was with some reservations that I entered Burrito Libre. Not reservations in the traditional restaurant sense, as it operates as a fast food place, but I digress. Burrito Libre lets you pick your choice of burrito/bowl/salad, size, protein, fillings, sauces, and pretty much everything else.
I had a large chicken burrito bowl with black beans, corn, rice, roasted potatoes, mild salsa, chipotle sauce, lettuce, and guacamole (which cost a bit extra but was well worth it. Veggie burritos come with guacamole).
The photo here does not do the finished result justice. The mixture was colourful, flavourful, and filling without being too heavy. I added a pop and side of tortilla chips and salsa, which made up for the lack of a burrito wrap (which honestly, I did not miss).
Fresh food that is reasonably priced - I like it!
Pizza at Avenue Pizza (85 Avenue and 112 Street) was everything I was told it would be: thick, cheesy, greasy, and loaded with toppings. The barbecue chicken pizza is one of their specialty pizzas, and it did not disappoint. It was definitely a bit on the rich side, and went well with beer. Avenue Pizza is a dive joint all right, but has some character. I can see why it is a regular hangout for some.
I was craving eggs. Fried eggs. Over-easy. Nothing makes me hungry like singing at a rally, so afterwards we headed over to nearby Denny's.
I had a choose-my-own Grand Slam, where I was able to pick four items: two eggs, hash browns, and English muffine (dry, of course), and two pieces of turkey bacon. For an additonal charge, I had another two pieces of turkey bacon added.
The turkey bacon had my friend intrigued, and when I gave him a taste, he was surprised at how much it actually tasted like the real thing. Except, in my case, it is a healthier, religiously-permissible option.
The English muffin was slightly toasted and absorbed the egg yolks perfectly. Ah, eggs - they made my day.
Friday, September 23, 2011
I tried out Yokozuna this evening (85 Avenue and 112 Street) and found a much more limited menu than I expected. When it comes to sushi, I primarily eat the vegetarian variety so I opted for a teppan dish instead.
Served sizzling, the chicken teriyaki teppan tasted great, but was nothing special. In fact, the stir-fried vegetables tasted exactly like their fast-food counterpart (cough cough Edo cough cough). While the chicken was delicious and well prepared, the price was a total sticker shock - $17.50.
I think I will stick to Japanese restaurants that have better variety in their menus and prices that are more reasonable.
Rodeo Burger (8525B 112 Street) was where I went for supper yesterday evening. I wanted a burger, but not the everyday fast food variety.
The place was filled with students, which is no surprise since it is located a stone's throw away from the U of A campus. Burgers come in singles or doubles, and you get to choose your toppings. Some of the toppings are basics, like tomato and lettuce, while others are ones that anywhere else you would have to pay extra for, like sauteed mushrooms and carmelized onions. Of course, there are a few premium toppings that you do have to pay for, like cheese. The carmelized onions and mushrooms, plus mayo, are what I chose to adorn my patty.
The patty itself is nothing special. It is quite thin and has a spice that dominates the flavour (I think it is black pepper). If I knew how thin the patty would be, I would have ordered a double. There was a decent amount of toppings.
The best part of the meal for me was the fries. They were crispy and perfectly seasoned (you have a choice of seasoned or sea salt).
Rodeo Burger has one veggie burger plus several burgers that come in pre-determined configurations as far as toppings go. My combo, with a pop, cost less than $10 so it was quite economical. I was not blown away by Rodeo Burger, but I would go here again, if only for the fries.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Panda Hut Express (10879 23 Avenue): Fast, economical, large menu selection, Alberta's first Chinese drive-through window.
Vegetarian Combo: Huge portion of fried tofu, vegetables, chow mein, spring rolls, and plain white rice.
The Verdict: Filling, mostly due to its size. Flavour is very bland - the veggies and chow mein had the most taste. Copious amounts of soy sauce and sweet and sour sauce needed. Vegetables got cold quickly and the sauce on them became gelatinous.
The Lesson: At around $10, the portion was certainly excellent. However, next time I will go for the lemon chicken combo, which is equally filling but a bit more exciting flavour-wise.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Cafe Mosaics (10844 82 Avenue) is one of my favourite places to eat, with their eclectic selection of vegetarian fare. Their tofu scramble is amongst the best in the city - a large portion of seasoned, crumbled tofu with onions and peppers, served with hash browns and toast. I added three strips of veggie bacon to make this a full meal worthy of supper. Some of the potatoes were a bit hard, which is my only criticism of the meal.
Frozen yogurt is a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up, especially on an unseasonably warm September afternoon. I was on Whyte Avenue and Tutti Frutti (10420 82 Avenue) caught my eye. I had heard a lot about this place, particularly the fact it is self-serve.
Upon arrival, I grabbed a bucket - I mean, a small cup - and started to fill it with several of the ten-ish available flavours. Chocolate, green tea, and taro made a colourful arrangement. Then, I topped it off with cashews, granola, and Smarties. I paid by the weight (it was just under $5) and sat down at one of the many tables in the open, bright space.
The green tea flavour was rather subtle, but the taro and chocolate really packed a kick. The taro tasted like bubble tea (when it is made from powder, not fresh taro) and the chocolate was as rich as ice cream (well, almost).
I was so overwhelmed by the selections at first, but making my own fro-yo creation was a lot of fun.
Pho was my lunch of choice on a cool, breezy September afternoon. I was in the Kingsway area, so headed to Pho Hoan Pasteur (11443 Kingsway Avenue) for a small serving of Pho Tai (rare steak).
Outside of Chinatown, Pho Hoan Pasteur is probably my favourite place to get pho. The broth is wonderfully flavourful, the meat tender, and the noodles plentiful. Combined with onion cakes (which took a bit longer to arrive than the pho), this is my ideal lunch.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
I've been wanting to try IHOP ever since it came to Edmonton in December. However, I heard horror stories about waiting times both for seats and food. I finally decided to brave it on Saturday.
There was a moderate crowd, but the supepr rush was in full swing by the time I left. I opted to try a breakfast item, since pancakes and other carb-loaded items is supposedly what the American chain does best. Sirloin Tips and Eggs is certainly a unique take on steak and eggs: a mountain of juicy steak tips sauteed with onions and mushrooms in a tangy gravy, alongside two eggs, hashbrowns, and two pancakes. The pancakes and hasbrowns were perfect to absorb the egg yolks, which also mixed in with the gravy a bit - I almost wish the steak was served on a different plate as opposed to the pancakes.
Everything was cooked perfectly and tasted great. I came away full. I would definitely come here again for a breakfast meal at any time of day, although I think Iw ill probably stick with something a bit more traditional.
I was in northeast Edmonton yesterday in the midst of numerous photo shoots, and decided to head back to Battista's to try another one of their fabulous calzones.
Mama Mia was once again sold out, so I went for the Pesto Presto, an expertly layered sandwich of pesto, sliced chicken, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. The pesto totally came out on top here, mixing perfectly with the other ingredients. The chicken had a very subtle taste and blended in.
I also was thrilled to try the Nutella calzone, the one dessert item on the menu. Nuttella tastes good to me no matter how you spread it, and on the warm dough with fresh strawberries, I was almost licking the drippings off my fingers.
I come for the food and the people - next time, it is Mama Mia or bust!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Taipan Cafe (10627 97 Street) is one of my favourite places for Chinese food. Portions are huge, prices are low, and service is generally fast.
Taipan's dinners for one are only $12.50 and include three or four different selections. My choice of "A" included ginger beef, beef and vegetables, chicken balls, chicken fried rice, and a spring roll. I could not finish it all. In fact, I often share one of these plates with someone else - it makes for a fun and inexpensive supper.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Pagolac (97 Street and 106 Avenue) is one of the first Chinatown restaurants to which I was introduced. It also remains one of my favourites. I especially like their vermicelli bowls, as I find them loaded with meat and bursting with flavour. This is the lemongrass chicken vermicelli bowl with vegetarian spring rolls that I had for lunch today. The chicken has an incredible taste and the spring rolls were a bit unique in that they were filled with taro or some other kind of root vegetable other than the typical cabbage. Prices ate Pagolac recently went up, but are still competitive for this part of town.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Oh, Zocalo, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Located on 108 Avenue and 95 Street in Little Italy, Zocalo sells wares for the home and garden, as well as beautiful flowers. The shop is also known for its espresso bar, featuring handcrafted lattes, mochas, and Americanos. Lovely atmosphere, great coffee. Of course, I am slightly biased (my office is below) but I insist Zocalo is a necessary coffee destination.
This used to be the Jasmine Noodle House on 9645-101A Avenue. First, they need to change the signage. Second, they should focus on barbecue, because the pho was not great at all. We had high hopes since our appetizers were excellent (shrimp and pork salad rolls for my co-worker, and green onion cakes for me).
However, the pho was disappointing. The broth had no flavour. We were served no herbs alongside to even try to make up for it, and even when my co-worker poured salt and soy sauce into hers it remained bland. She commented that it was boiled water, meat, and noodles. My rare beef pho was served well done and had maybe six slices of meat in it. Her chicken was in little slivers and tasted processed.
Apparently, the menu shifts to barbecue for supper. I sincerely hope it is better than the pho served for lunch. We will likely never know, because it is doubtful we will return.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Ricky's All Day Grill in the west end was chosen for lunch today, and their breakfast/lunch menu was still available. I opted for one of their Big Breakfasts. Perogies and Eggs is a force to be reckoned with - seven perogies, two pieces of toast, three eggs, and sausage. I opted for an order of hash browns instead of the meat.
It was big. It was really big. I was full for the rest of the day. Enough said.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I was attending the Kaleido Festival on Alberta Avenue this past weekend, and when it was time for lunch I decided to make the trek over to Battista's Calzones on 84 Street and 118 Avenue. I have heard so many things about Battista and Liv and their menu of calzones that it has been on my "try" list for months.
The trek was well worth it. Battista's has a small menu of different kinds of calzones (it's like a pizza, but folded over into a baked sandwich), including one dessert option (Nutella, for which I have a weakness). The Mama Mia, Battista's signature emeatball calzone, was sold out, so I had a veggie instead.
The whole garden showed up within an oozing filling of mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. Extra marinara sauce was provided on the side for dipping the perfectly baked crust.
Not all calzones are created equal. Battista's are a cut above the rest.
I find it difficult to eat when I am dealing with personal issues, and this past week has been very challenging on a number of levels. Despite my lack of appetite, I went to Santo's (108 Avenue and 95 Street) and instead of pizza or pasta, decided to try one of their burgers.
I have been a fan of their crispy fries for some time now. The burger itself was large and juicy, with a generous amount of sauce (sort of like a Thousand Island dressing), lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. It was very filling and very obviously a homemade patty.
Santo's is more than Italian food - the burgers are great!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Pho King is located on Alberta Avenue (91 Street and 118 Avenue). In an area which has a plethora of multicultural restaurants, Pho King stands out. First, it is the only Vietnamese restaurant. Second, the name. Come on. You get it, don't you? (Bear also in mind that pho, when pronounced the traditional way, sounds like "fuh").
Name aside, the pho here is excellent. Lots of scallions and herbs are floating around in the rich, meaty broth, and as far as the meat goes, there is a lot of it - and it is tender. I ran out of noodles and still had meat hiding away at the bottom of the bowl, something which rarely happens. My only criticism is that there was perhaps a touch too much salt in the broth - I had a few overly salty mouthfuls.
The small bowl is a bit smaller than other pho portions with which I am familiar, but it is also cheaper. In fact, much of the menu is very low in price. I had an order of spring rolls for only $3 to start things off. They were quite ordinary vegetarian spring rolls, but for that price I should not complain.
Breakfast for lunch is something I do often. A basic dish of eggs, potatoes, and toast is usually inexpensive, filling, and tasty. Today I headed to Humpty's on 111 Avenue and 101 Street, and for $7 had two eggs done any stype, with toast and their signature potato fritters (it comes with savoury diced potatoes, but I prefer the fritters). With coffee added, it was the perfect midday pick me up.
A day of hard work builds an appetite, and when my co-newspaper delivery helper requested a substantial dinner of roast beef, I thought of Ricky's All Day Grill. There are several locations in the city - we went to the one on 170 Street. and 99 Avenue.
He was quite happy with his large plate full of meat, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding covered in gravy, while I opted for the turkey dinner. I love turkey, even when it is not holiday time.
I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised by the portion size and quality of the dinner. There was so much turkey (thinly sliced white breast meat, to be exact) that I still had some on my plate when I had finished most of the trimmings. The meat was juicy, while the vegetables almost stole the show. It was a stir-fry mix and was fresh, not frozen, and roasted in seasonings that enhanced their flavour instead of overpowering it.
The mashed garlic potatoes were ordinary and tasted like they came from a mix, but went well with the overall meal which also included stuffing, cranberry sauce (fresh - not jelly), and gravy. I had my gravy to the side, as I find I prefer to control the amount I eat. I am glad I did, as it was served lukewarm.
Our meals were only around $14 (a smaller size is available for about $12) and overall we found Ricky's to be a great choice.
Vietnamese food is a staple of my diet. When I don't go for pho, I usually go for bun, which is a vermicelli (rice noodle) bowl. Yesterday for lunch, before heading out to deliver community newspapers to the inner city, I enjoyed a beef vermicelli bowl at Ninh Kieu on 98 Street and 109 Avenue. The amount of beef was plentiful and grilled to perfection.