Spring Tasting at JOEY Chinook – Calgary, AB

JOEY Restaurants recently launched their new menu items for spring which included some new twists on their classics as well as some fresh flavours for the new season. I was lucky enough to be invited in for a sneak peek at their JOEY Chinook location.

We started off the tasting sampling some light and crispy Calamari Fritti – tempura battered calamari with fennel and vegetables drizzled with a house made spicy aioli.

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Next up was the flavourful Tandoori Flatbread with Tandoori spiced chicken and brinjal chutney on a hand pulled flatbread topped with fresh green peppers, red onions, cilantro and a creamy yogurt.

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One of my favourites at the tasting was this Korean Fried Cauliflower which consisted of bite sized cauliflower tossed in Gochujang ( a sweet & spicy Korean chili sauce) and miso. I thought this dish was a brilliant twist to the classic Korean fried chicken wings and it is vegan/vegetarian-friendly as well.

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To celebrate the coming of spring/summer, JOEY has introduced the Market Salad, with fresh corn, roasted golden beets, avocado, aged white cheddar, juicy hourly roasted rotisserie chicken along with kale and mixed greens tossed in a French vinaigrette. It’s perfect for those hot summer days!

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One of my all-time favourite sandwiches is the classic beef dip. JOEY’s new Butcher’s Sandwich is a twist on the classic beef dip with tender slow roasted beef, thinly shaved atop a toasted ciabatta baguette along with hot mustard, rosemary sea salt, crispy onions and a side of smoky jus. This Butcher’s Sandwich was easily one of my favorites at the tasting. That smoky jus really makes the dish!

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Another dish that really impressed me at the tasting was the Ramen. With JOEY Executive Chef Chris Mills’ culinary background filled with Japanese influence (he studied there as well as competed in Iron Chef Japan), it was no surprise that the flavours in this ramen noodle bowl were spot on. The miso, chicken and pork broth was rich and flavourful and is served authentic noodles, sweet corn, bamboo shoots, tender grilled chicken breast, a 65 degree egg and a hint of chili oil for spice.

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We also got to try the Rotisserie Chicken with Vindaloo Curry Sauce from JOEY’s Rotating Rotisserie Chicken Program. As part of this rotating rotisserie chicken program, JOEY features their succulent signature spit roasted chicken in a different flavor every day. The rotating flavours include ‘The Angry Bird’ with Korean chili sauce, Cider BBQ Sauce (a house made mix containing red wine vinegar, molasses and chipotle peppers), Hoisin Ginger Glaze (with sambal Oelek, hoisin sauce and fermented black beans),  Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce (with mushrooms, white wine, cream and miso), Peri Peri Glaze ( with Habanero sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, sambal Oelek and a house made preserved lemon puree) and Vindaloo Curry Sauce (with garlic, ginger, turmeric, curry powder and cayenne). I was really impressed at how tender, juicy and flavourful the chicken was.

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To go along with the spring/summer menu items, JOEY has brought back many of their popular seasonal cocktails. Made with blueberry vodka, fresh blueberries, lime juice, organic cane syrup and mint, the Blueberry Mojito is a huge seasonal favourite along with their Summer Sangria, which contains a mix of red and white wine, brandy, fresh juices and fruit. I was surprised to learn JOEY’s has a hand pressed juice program where the juices for the cocktails are made fresh daily. I can really taste the difference the fresh juice makes in a cocktail.

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My favourite was the Tequila Sour which was made with a combination of tequila, fresh lemon juice, organic cane syrup, lime zest and egg whites. It was smooth, perfectly balanced, and not too sweet.

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We ended the tasting with Made to Order Ice Cream. Liquid nitrogen at -321 degrees F is combined with a house made ice cream base to form some of the creamiest and smoothest ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I loved the salted caramel, double chocolate and strawberry flavours. It is also available in maple and Tahitian vanilla.

 

JOEY Chinook
Chinook Mall
100A – 6455 Macleod Trail SW
Calgary, AB
403 692 6626

joeyrestaurants.com

 

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Finca La Primavera Nano Lot Coffee at Cafe Blanca – Calgary, AB

Earlier this month, I was invited by Cafe Blanca to try their first Nano Lot specialty coffee, Finca La Primavera. Finca La Primavera is grown in the Planadas Municipality, Talima Department of Colombia, a region with a long history of award-winning coffees.What makes Finca La Primavera so unique is that this varietal coffee is available is very limited quantities. Only 130 pounds of green (raw) coffee bean are grown each year to be exact and all the beans comes from the same coffee plot, known as a “Nano Lot”.

Cafe Blanca is serving this Finca La Primavera Nano Lot Coffee on 2 brewing methods – as Drip coffee and Siphon coffee. Currently, Cafe Blanca is the only specialty coffee-house in Calgary that serves Siphon coffee.

Since this was my very first Siphon coffee experience, I got a quick lesson from owner, Derek Ho, on this unique brewing process. Hot water is first added to the bottom chamber before the top chamber is inserted into the bottom chamber. The water is then heated over a halogen heater to 185 degrees which pushes the water into the top chamber due to the increased vapour pressure from the heat. The coffee grounds are then slowly and gently introduced into the boiling water.

The coffee is extracted over the course of about one minute as it is being gently stirred. After the coffee is fully brewed, it is ready to be removed from the heat. Once removed from the heat, the vapor pressure in the bottom chamber drops as it begins to cool causing the brewed coffee to be pulled through the filter into the bottom chamber leaving a dome of grounds at the top of the filter. The coffee is then decanted into a carafe and is ready for serving.

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I had the opportunity to taste the Finca La Primavera brewed by both methods – the Siphon brewing process vs Drip coffee. Tasting them side by side, you would never guess that they were both brewed from the same lot of beans. The Siphon method produced a lighter, smoother, cleaner & crisper cup of coffee and really brought out the ruby grapefruit notes of the Finca La Primavera. The Drip method produced a more robust cup of coffee with dark chocolate notes.

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Though Cafe Blanca managed to purchase the whole lot of the Finca La Primavera this year, it won’t last long given that it was only 130 pounds of raw beans. Hence, the Finca La Primavera will be available at Cafe Blanca only until the end of June. If you’re looking for a really unique coffee experience, I’d definitely recommend trying out this Finca La Primavera as a Siphon coffee.

Cafe Blanca
240 Riverfront Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 460-2002

www.cafeblanca.ca

 

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[Giveaway] Win a $25 Edo Japan Gift Certificate

Earlier this month, Alberta-based Edo Japan opened its 26th Calgary location in CF Market Mall. Known for its signature Teriyaki sauce and delicious food prepared in a traditional Teppan-style, Edo made its first appearance on the Canadian food scene over 35 years ago and is a favourite with amongst customers looking for healthy, fresh and nutritious meals.

I have been a huge fan of Edo Japan since my university days when I was living away from home on my own, before I became a foodie and learned how to cook. I used to eat at the Edo Japan on campus a couple of times a week because the meals were healthy and affordable. Unlike other fast food, I never feel guilty eating at Edo Japan. There was always a good balance of vegetables and meat with every meal. And most important of all, their food always tasted “real” to me. Truth be known, I have never been a fan of processed foods and I shudder at the thought of what’s in a hot dog or chicken nugget.

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Edo Japan, known for its signature dishes, including Teriyaki Chicken and Sukiyaki Beef, prides itself in providing delicious, affordable and ‘Simply Better’ meals to customers. The new CF Market Mall location, which showcases a brand new storefront design, will continue to cater to the appetites of Edo-lovers with a growing list of menu items, from the classic Edo dishes to the limited edition customizable Bento Box combos, to their most recent addition of Edamame beans which are steamed to perfection with sea salt or sesame chili.

To celebrate their opening at CF Market Mall location, Edo Japan generously treated their customers to a choice of Teriyaki Chicken and Sukiyaki Beef meals from open to close that opening day. I stopped in after work with a friend to check out the new Market Mall location and was pretty impressed at how quickly we received our free meals, given how popular this generous promotion was.

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Don’t worry if you missed out on the grand opening. Thanks to Brookline Public Relations and Edo Japan, I have one (1) $25 Gift Card from Edo Japan to giveaway. The lucky winner will have an opportunity to go and check out the new Edo Japan location at CF Market Mall.

To enter into this draw for the $25 Edo Japan Gift Card, simply leave a comment in the section below telling me “Which is your favorite menu item at Edo Japan?”You will need to put a valid email address in the appropriate box when telling me about the menu item (not to worry, your email address will not be published), so that I can contact you if your name is drawn. This giveaway contest will close on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 11:59PM MST. I will hold a random draw and one winner will be chosen. I will contact the winner via e-mail as well as post the name of the winner here.

Good Luck!

Edo Japan
CF Market Mall, Food Court
3625 Shaganappi Trail NW
Calgary, Alberta

www.edojapan.com

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#PZAPARLOURPARTY at PZA Parlour – Calgary, AB

pza_parlour.jpgA couple of weeks ago, I was invited by Michelle MacPherson of Maven and Mention to attend a #PZAPARLOURPARTY at the new PZA Parlour, located just off MacLeod Trail and Southland Drive SE. I was really excited to check out PZA Parlour after learning that this was new restaurant concept is being launched by Tony Nicastro, current owner of Villa Firenze, who is a third-generation restaurateur in Calgary.

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We started off the #PZAPARLOURPARTY sampling crispy Calamari, which was served with a smoked lemon aioli and marinara sauce.

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Next up, we tried the delicious Salsiccia, which consisted of roasted pork sausage with red pepper-onion marmalade and balsamic reduction and was served with bread sticks. This turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

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For our third course, we tried the flavourful Caprino Salad  with tomato, goat cheese and black olive salad with fresh arugula and  a balsamic dressing.

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I loved their Spinaci Salad, which consisted of baby spinach lightly dressed in oil and balsamic, topped with all my favourites – honey candied bacon, gorgonzola cheese and toasted pine nuts.

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Another dish that impressed me was their Pesto Gnocchi, with housemade potato gnocchi in a fresh basil pesto cream.

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At the #PZAPARLOURPARTY, I tried this Belgian style farmhouse ale from Goose Island Beer Co. called Sofie for the first time and totally fell in love with it. It paired perfectly with the salads and gnocchi.

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We also had an opportunity to sample a few of the pizzas. For the bruschetta lovers out there, you got to try the Nonna Teresa. Topped with delicious homemade bruschetta, green peppers and mozzarella cheese sprinkled with parmesan, I really enjoyed how well-balanced the flavours were.

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For our second pizza, we tried the Johnny G. Named after our local celebrity, Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, this pizza was topped with salami, pepperoni, house made sausage, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

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Lastly we tried the Gio, which was topped with pear slices, gorgonzola and mozzarella cheese. I loved the perfect balance of salty and sweet flavours.

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We finished off the #PZAPARLOURPARTY with some delectable desserts – a luscious Tiramisu with house made espresso soaked sponge cake with whipped mascarpone and some amazing Ciambelle, which were fluffy and light Italian donuts topped with Nutella.

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PZA Parlour is definitely a welcome addition to south Calgary. In addition to their extensive pizza menu, they offer a great selection of appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees as well as desserts. They are family friendly and even have a kids menu.

PZA Parlour
#297 – 9737 Macleod Trail SW,
Calgary, Alberta
(403) 455-2033

pzaparlour.com

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ONE18 EMPIRE – Calgary, AB

I started off the holiday season with an epic feast at ONE18 EMPIRE, a whiskey bar and restaurant, located in the Calgary Marriott. Since they had invited me to try out some of Chef Eric Larcom’s seasonal creations, I left it to the team at ONE18 EMPIRE to decide what we should have for the evening.

Bartender Jenny started us off with a delicious Maple Citrus Old Fashioned which was made with maple syrup, Spanish bitters and Maker’s Mark.

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Next Sous Chef Eliott brought us the giant Charcuterie Board, which isn’t usually available on the regular menu but is available for order for large groups and private events. The Charcuterie Board consisted of house made duck prosciutto, pancetta and capicola along with Casey blue cheese from Ontario, creamy Saint-Andre and Oka served on crispy house made lavash. I was really impressed with the house made condiments – blueberry preserve, sweet pickles and especially the sweet grainy mustard which went perfectly with the cured meats. Everything on the Charcuterie Board was so delicious that we couldn’t stop ourselves from eating it, not knowing what Sous Chef Eliott had in store for us for the remainder of the evening.

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For appetizers, Sous Chef Eliott brought out another huge board for my friend and I to share. This time it was filled with ONE18 EMPIRE’s famous Maple Bacon Wrapped Dates, Honey Bourbon Wings, Bourbon Short Ribs, Duck Salad, and Weathervane Scallops.

The Maple Bacon Wrapped Dates ($6) were stuffed with Gorgonzola and finished with a delicious whiskey syrup. They are hugely addictive and the perfect balance of salty and sweet. I could snack on these all night long while sipping cocktails. The Honey Bourbon Wings ($13) with a house made Bulleit Bourbon glaze and served with a blue cheese dip were finger-licking good.

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The Bourbon Short Ribs ($13), which consisted of 4-hour braised melt-in-your-mouth tender chuck flat, were stuffed in herbed Yorkshire pudding and topped with smashed peas, goat cheese, pancetta and mint. They are definitely the perfect comfort food for the winter season.

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The Duck Salad ($14), which consisted of a 3 hour confit duck leg with a rye whiskey burnt orange marmalade, was served with arugula, currants, and toasted pine nuts.  I loved how tender and flavourful the duck was. This would be the perfect salad for a light dinner.

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The star of the appetizer round without a doubt were these gigantic Weathervane Scallops ($15 each). These perfectly cooked sustainable scallops were served with 4-hour braised melt-in-your-mouth tender pork belly atop a bed of creamy polenta and finished with a grainy mustard jus and beef demi-glaze. There were simply AMAZING and easily one of the top bites I had in 2015!

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After the epic round of appetizers, we needed a short break so our bellies could make room for the entrees. Our hostess took this opportunity to tell us a little history about how ONE18 EMPIRE got its name.  Did you know that 9th Avenue used to be called Atlantic Avenue back in the late 1800s and Centre Street used to be called McTavish Street? ONE18 EMPIRE is named in honor of the Empire Hotel, which used to be roughly in the spot where the Marriott (and within it, ONE18 EMPIRE) is today and 118 Atlantic Avenue was the address for the Empire Hotel. Many of the cocktails here have a story to tell related to the history of the Empire Hotel, such as the “Near Miss“.

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For our second cocktail of the evening, Bartender Jenny prepared one of their most popular cocktails for us to try. The Temperance ($14), which consisted of whiskey, strawberry infused syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice and Steller Jay’s sparkling wine, was delicious!  It was perfectly balanced and not too sweet. This is easily one of my favourites on the ONE18 EMPIRE cocktail list.

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For our mains, Sous Chef Eliott prepared three of the entrees for us to try – the Alberta AAA Ribeye, the Cedar Plank Salmon, and the Grilled Duck Breast.  First up was the beautiful Alberta AAA Ribeye ($34), which was served with spicy Brussel sprouts topped with house made pancetta and creamy tarragon smashed potatoes. The rib eye steak was well-seasoned and perfectly cooked to a medium rare.

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I was quite impressed with the perfectly cooked whiskey-glazed Cedar Plank Salmon ($27), which was served on a bed of yummy broco-cauliflower slaw. It was moist, juicy, flavourful and fork-tender with a medium rare center. This was a stark contrast to the bland and chewy salmon I had as part of a Grilled Seafood Salad from an eatery down the block the week before.

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My favourite out of the three entrees was the Grilled Duck Breast ($26), which consisted of a Fraser Valley duck breast grilled to perfection and was served with a flavourful root vegetable hash with bacon lardons and a side of grilled fig jus.

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For our final cocktail of the evening, Bartender Jenny gave us a demo of how the Black Walnut Old Fashioned ($12) is made, which included charring the whiskey barrel and capturing the smoky aromatics to coat the glass before pouring in the mixture of bourbon, water, sugar, angostura & black walnut bitters.

Though we were so full, we couldn’t resist dessert.  Sous Chef Eliott brought us three epic desserts to try –  Sticky Toffee Pudding, Triple Chocolate Bourbon Cake, and Goat Cheese Cheesecake. The decadent warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with a hazelnut praline topping was served with a side of Calvados ice cream.  This is the perfect comfort dessert for the chilly winter night!

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Next up was the  Triple Chocolate Bourbon Cake topped with a mirror finish ganache. Let’s be honest here, who can resist this beautifully presented Triple Chocolate Cake? I know I couldn’t. We tried our best to finish every last bite.

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The star of the dessert round for me was by far this AMAZING Goat Cheese Cheesecake topped with bourbon caramel. This was seriously one of the most memorable cheesecakes I’ve had to date! The goat cheese flavor was surprisingly not too strong. It was perfectly balanced, light, and not too sweet. This cheesecake is a MUST HAVE if you go to ONE18 EMPIRE. I can’t wait to be back to have this cheesecake again!

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ONE18 EMPIRE
820 Centre St S,
Calgary, AB
(403)269-0299

one18empire.com

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