DON DAY

Review

Korean for ‘pay day’ (or at least according to my Korean coworker), Don Day is a tiny hole in the wall on 9th street and 7th ave, in downtown Calgary.

DSC_1234

Literally a hole in a wall.

The restaurant is TINY, furniture is made from empty storage containers, and most of the signs in the store are in Korean so foreigners are shit out of luck (the waitress understands numbers and furious pointing).

But…

Something I look out for when going to ethnic restaurants is the clientele. As a rule of thumb, if a Chinese restaurant is filled with Chinese people, they probably have more authentic Chinese food.

In our case, my companion and I were the only non-Koreans in the restaurant.

Lets see if my hypothesis holds true.


We ordered what the other restaurant patrons ordered, and ended up with an enormous metal wok brimming with bright red soup and a mountain of pork bones (creatively named spicy pork bone soup).

It’s placed on top of a propane stove on your table, you stir the soup to mix the spices and make sure the (pre-stewed) bones are mostly submerged, and then you wait.

DSC_1236

Hngghh….

And wait…

And wait……

Luckily, we ordered a plate of spicy pork and that came out while the soup was coming to a boil.

The pork was nicely seasoned, and tasted very…Korean. I’m not just tossing words around here either. Korean red pepper, red pepper paste, onions, sesame seeds, sugar and onions make up the majority of the seasoning for the sliced pork. Mostly sweet, with a bit of spicy. Together with the slightly fatty pork, I can’t think of a better way to eat onions (which there were a lot of).

DSC_1239

It’s mostly onions though.

While we were distracted by the k-pop videos, creative furniture, bone disposal can, and clouds of soup fumes, our pork bone soup came to a boil.

DSC_1238

Bone disposal can and ladle.

And it was wonderful.

Looking at the color of the soup and the flecks of pepper, you would expect the dish to be spicy, but you’d also be wrong.

While it has a bit of a heat, it’s entirely tolerable and not at all overpowering.

The spices and flavoring in the soup are similar to the pork dish with the addition of scallions (cut into convenient 3-inch sections) and a ton of extra red and black pepper.

The cut of meat was from the spine of the animal, and the tiny muscles, tendons and ligaments had been stewed to the consistency of meat butter. Getting at the meat is a very hands-on process, as you need to separate vertebrae to tease out delicious morsels. My one complaint would be that the pork bones were somewhat bland (aside from the richness of the meat itself), but this is easily remedied by eating the pork with the flavorful broth.

For those looking for carbs, there’s half a potato floating somewhere in the bottom of the broth too. If you were wondering, it tastes like a boiled potato.


This place has character and it knows it.

The location is kinda sketchy, the restaurant is tiny, you’re going to end up smelling like spicy bone soup regardless of what you order, communication with the staff is going to be minimal, air conditioning is nonexistent, and the tables are all different degrees of stickiness.

DSC_1235

Good luck stupid gaijin

But none of that really matters.

The pricing is very reasonable, the people are friendly enough, and most importantly, the spicy pork bone soup is absolutely fucking delicious.

Don Day Korean Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LOVE PIZZA

Review

New-ish pizza joint opened up downtown.

Trendy (and impractical website), strong social media presence, ‘original’ pizza, modern decor.

Let’s go check it out.


First impressions:

  • Smell of smoke and thick smog.

According to a sign on the wall, the ventilation system is broken and is currently being replaced. I appreciate that they’re apologetic, but you’re most likely going to leave smelling like cheese, tomato sauce and smoke.

DSC_1143

What’s this place called again?

  • Cute stories and house rules written on the walls.

Borrowing the idea from Burgers Priest, most of the white space in the restaurant is filled with tidbits from the website and the “House Rules”. Call me jaded but it seems forced.

DSC_1144

LOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZA

 

DSC_1142

Cheaper than an art installation I guess.


Ordering is done through a Subway-esque production line, with three or four dishevelled employees taking your order, selecting and baking your crust/toppings, adding your ‘finishes’ and ringing you through.

To their credit, this is all done very efficiently, and you get your food within 3-4 minutes from when you order.


Pricing is reasonable and consistent, with all of the pizzas costing $11.95, with the exception of the ‘plain jane’ pizza margherita (basil and mozzarella).

DSC_1139

Doesn’t look bad at all.

You also get the choice to add as many ‘finishes’ as you would like, although anything past 4 is overkill.

Visually, all the pizzas (besides mine) were amazing. The colors were vibrant and the fresh produce/ingredients were a nice contrast against the processed bits of god knows what thrown on pizzas from large chains.

DSC_1140

No idea what this is.

The pizza margherita tasted surprisingly good considering the unceremonious assembly and cooking process, with a pleasantly chewy crust, tangy sauce and actual mozzarella (cow milk, not buffalo). My only gripe was with the tiny little quadrants of basil on top.

DSC_1141

I think they drizzled olive oil on top.

My companions ordered far fancier pizzas, and offered no opinions beyond “eh, it’s ok”.

Thanks, assholes.


So there you have it.

Decent tasting, great looking single-serving pizzas with room for customisation, coupled with speedy service and an artificially ‘personal’ atmosphere.

If you’re not bothered by the feeling that they’re trying too hard, LovePizza makes for a passable lunch alternative to the other restaurants in the area.

LOVEPIZZA Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CHARCUT

Review

Get it?

Char?

Cut?

Charcuterie?

All relevant, meat-related words.

You so clever, random restaurateur.


I was in Calgary a few weeks ago for work and finally got to catch up with an old friend from my fraternity days.

Since she works as an audit-grunt for a large accounting firm and needed to be back at work before her overseer notices that she slipped out of her shackles, we went to the restaurant right across the street.

DSC_1078.jpg

This place.

As the CHARCUT is in the heart of downtown Calgary, the clientèle were stereotypical, suited, middle aged, Caucasian men with the occasional schmuck going for the more casual plaid shirt and lumberjack beard combo. The restaurant is themed and decorated with its patrons in mind.

Glossy black surfaces, faux-vintage coca cola machines, long, phallic beer taps and exposed bricks and ventilation all served to remind the average customer of dank man-caves and corporate boardrooms.

DSC_1077.jpg

I should really blur out his face.

 


We ordered the CHARCUT board to start, with the duck poutine and bison brisket.

The CHARCUT board was generously piled with homemade mortadella, capicollo, cured jerky sticks and asiago. To be fair, I’m not often impressed by a board of cold cuts and mustard, but the novelty of house-made meats really set the charcuterie board apart from others. The mortadella was soft and buttery while the capicollo was adequately spicy. I thought the jerky sticks were a bit too salty, but that’s a low blow when describing salted/dried meat..

DSC_1080.jpg

Who actually eats deli meat and mustard on their own?

Oh, and the mustard remained completely unused, and pickles would have been a better choice as they would add a bit more texture to an otherwise homogenous dish.

On paper, it the poutine seemed like a winning combination.

Duck fat fries, gravy layered in between, with generous lumps of cheese curds scattered throughout.

In reality, the sodden pile of potatoes and salty grease were barely palatable. The fries were as limp as a whiskey chugging fratboy, and the only adjective I can think of for the gravy is …gloopy?

DSC_1083.jpg

Glooooop.

On the bright side, the little cast iron pan they served the poutine was positively adorable.

To finish it all off, we had the bison brisket with beech mushrooms and boar bacon.

DSC_1082.jpg

I like the use of brown.

The boar bacon was extra crispy and very good. Mushrooms were excellent. Potatoes had the consistency of watery tapioca pudding, and eating the brisket was like sticking my mouth on the ass end of a woodchipper.

04-disc-style-woodchipper.jpg

So. Fucking. Dry.

Verdict?

As you could see above, the plating, creativity and focus of the restaurant were all excellent, but for a restaurant focused on meat, I expected, well… better meat…

Question is, should you go?

To make this easier, I’ve graciously provided a checklist to help you decide.

Do you:

  • Idolize 60’s advertising executives
  • Use the phrase ‘touch base’ more than once a day
  • Drive a BMW
  • Have no sense of taste
  • Torture small animals in your spare time

If you answered yes to 3 or more of the above, you’d probably enjoy your visit.

 

Charcut Roast House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blue Plate Diner and High Expectations

Review

The ability to set aside expectations and experience something the way it was meant to be experienced allows for unbiased and fresh insights.

‘Oh yeah, how hard can that be?’

Well.

Pretty hard.

green-cat-varna-bulgaria-5.jpg

Oh look, a green cat.

The stimuli around you, the information that you obtain through personal experiences or opinions all lead to subconscious (or conscious) bias.

Numerous studies point towards the importance of pre-conceptions and first impressions. Why do we pay more attention to our appearance on an interview or first date? Why do we care less after years of familiarity?

525666-176016.jpg

Because ‘Murica

Because first impressions are important, and people subconsciously catalogue and analyze facts about people and things around them to determine how they want to feel towards that person or thing.

We are familiar with the concept of ‘poisoning the well’, where adverse information is given, and causes the recipient to form negative pre-conceptions against something. Obviously, this is terrible for forming an impartial judgement, but we rarely think of the other side of the issue.

Giving someone a glowing recommendation for something is just as, if not, more harmful. In our society, we often exaggerate and embellish positive experiences. If you left a restaurant without any complaints, and someone asked you how it went, you’d generally say something positive.

‘Oh yeah, it was pretty good’

It’s just a product of the cautiously polite, over-coddling culture that we live in. God forbid if anything was actually good. We’ve all seen the gaggles of basic bitches shrieking accolades about their venti vanilla bean half fat half sweet soy frappuccinos.

11427321_1479492252370832_1036053655_n.jpg

It’s like staring into a bottomless pit.

I digress.

I’ve always heard good things about Blue Plate Diner. Starting from about two years ago, it’s been mentioned in passing, or been flat out suggested to me. It’s quirky, unique, and tries to put an original spin on comfort food classics.


First impressions were mixed.

The interior of the restaurant was a bit confused. Classic diner-style tables with grooved aluminium edges were paired with simple wooden chairs and flat primary colors.

DSC_0804.JPG

I was bored, ok?

I would’ve liked to see more diner inspiration. You know, a jukebox, some retro Coke vending machines, maybe a chrome bar stool or two? With the tables being the only diner-themed decor, it seems like they either ran out of budget or just didn’t care.

DSC_0802.JPG

Looks like the set of a 90’s Nickelodeon show.

The service, however, was very good. The wait staff were very fast, friendly and just a bit boisterous. It also took about 5 minutes for our food to come out (on a Friday night), which is probably the fastest at any restaurant I’ve been in.

But there’s a caveat.

The food is all pre-prepared. Now don’t get me wrong, you need to have things prepped in advance in a restaurant because there’s no way you’re putting together a meatloaf and baking it in 20 minutes. But at the same time, you lose a bit of the rustic feel you associate with diner food.

I ordered the meatloaf with dijon mashed potatoes (apparently a crowd-pleaser), while my coworker got the special of the day, a “ghoulish goulash” (their pun, not mine) and gnocchi. The goulash and gnocchi tasted OK. There was nothing offensive about it, but nothing really special either. The meat was tender, sauce was brown, and everything was piping hot. We were informed the gnocchi were not made in-house, but purchased from a supplier in the city. Once again, you can’t fault a restaurant for saving on preparation time, but you also can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment.

DSC_0810.JPG

Either goulash or someone had an accident on the gnocchi

The meatloaf was very filling and tasted of nothing.

But that’s just about it. No noticeable herbs or spices, no umami from the meat, just a uniform meat/breadcrumb slab. You would expect an inch and a half thick slab of ground meat and starch to be filling, so that’s nothing special. The gravy was also on the tasteless side. In hindsight, everything on the plate was just bland as fuck. There were a few grains of dijon in the mashed potatoes, but they failed to impart any of the astringency you associate with mustard. On top of that, everything that I tried was…soft. This usually isn’t a bad thing, but all the food had sort of the same texture.

DSC_0809.JPG

Guess what this is

Dessert was a home-made beet cake, which was surprisingly awesome. Think carrot cake, but not disgusting. The beets made the cake incredibly moist, while not really affecting the flavor profile at all. I’m also pretty sure the cake was homemade, because honestly, just look at it…

DSC_0811.JPG

Tasty? Yes. Pretty? No.


 

The Good

  • Lightning quick service
  • Friendly and attentive wait staff
  • Drinks of the alcoholic variety
  • Food was hot..?

The Bad

  • Doesn’t look like a diner
  • Don’t serve diner food

The Awful

  • Everything I ate was bland
  • Non-homemade gnocchi is a disappointment
  • They don’t actually have blue plates…

 

The one lasting impression that Blue Plate Diner made on me was that everything they served was horribly bland.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t be as disappointed as I am now if I hadn’t heard all the rave reviews beforehand, but it’s hard to get past the fact that everything I ate was fucking tasteless.

I wouldn’t go back, but if you have difficulties with food that requires chewing, or want to cut back on sodium for health purposes, this is the place for you.

Blue Plate Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Magic Feel-Good Cheese Crystals and The Cavern

Review

If you’ve ever had a particularly well-aged cheese like a Parmigiano Reggiano or an old Gruyère, you may have noticed tiny crunchy bits or little white spots inside the cheese. Like me, you may have dismissed the phenomena as salt crystals or a production defect.

The truth is much more interesting (or boring as hell if cheese science isn’t your thing).

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of crystals found in old cheeses (not including salt deposits).

We can have calcium lactate crystals or tyrosine crystals.

D-Tyrosine

D-Tyrosine

For brevity’s sake, I’ll just discuss the tyrosine crystals, as they are (in my opinion) much more interesting.

Tyrosine is one of 22 amino acids (protein building blocks). This amino acid is found in high concentrations in casein (related phosphoproteins found in mammalian milk). Once we take that into account, it’s not hard to understand why we would have crystals of the stuff forming in old cheese.

However, the issue is that tyrosine is very insoluble in solutions (0.45 mg/mL). So how do natural deposits of tyrosine form within a cheese?

Who the fuck cares?

Who the fuck cares?

Well the current theory is that the development of tyrosine crystals is tied closely to the metabolic behavior of Lactobacillus helveticus (literally “Swiss milk bacteria). This bacteria cannot produce tyrosine with its own biological processes, and instead must rely on a food source that contains this amino acid. Luckily for L. helveticus, the rennet used in cheese production breaks down the casein into large peptide chains. This allows L. helveticus to utilize its strong peptidase functions to break down the peptides into its component amino acids.

It has been hypothesized that the bacteria are so active in breaking down peptides that they produce much more casein than they would ever need. The excess tyrosine then accumulates, exceeds the limit of solubility, and crystals develop (Johnson et. al. 2014).

This shit.

This shit.

Why does this matter to us?

Well besides the interesting textures the crystals bring, tyrosine is known to have noticeable effects on your mood. Some studies have found tyrosine to be useful during conditions of “stress, cold, fatigue, prolonged work and sleep deprivation”. As tyrosine increases plasma neurotransmitter levels (particularly dopamine and norepinephrine), one can see slight reductions in stress hormone levels and stress-induced weight loss as well as improvements in cognitive and physical performance.

Who knew old cheese could subtly fuck with your brain chemistry to make you a little more awesome.


I was recently introduced into the world of nice(r) cheeses by a good friend of mine, and I was pleasantly surprised by the existence of a wine and cheese shop off of 104th street.

The Cavern is a small, independently owned cheese-monger that specializes in old, obscure and generally excellent cheeses. It also happens to double as a small “restaurant”.

Now I put restaurant in quotations because…

Well…

The Cavern really isn’t a restaurant.

Pictured: Not really a restaurant

Pictured: Not really a restaurant.

There are a few small tables and a tiny little bar, but that’s it. There’s nothing involving heat in the prep area and nothing on the menu requires any sort of cooking.

As such, you can expect sandwiches, salads, coffee, and various cheese and charcuterie boards.

We went for wine and cheese, and that was exactly what we got.

Upon entering the establishment, your eyes are drawn towards the shiny things. The gigantic Enomatic wine dispensing system, the espresso machine, and the cheese display/cooler dominate the small space, and lend an air of space-age sophistication.

Fancy wine machine.

Fancy wine machine.

The rest of the café/bar maintains some of the same glossy, stainless-steel veneer as the three machines. The floor is polished white tile and the furniture is sleek and modern, but instead of giving off class, you get a feeling that the budget was blown on the wine machine and they needed to make emergency trips to Ikea.

Fancy cheese display

Fancy cheese display.

The table wobbled and the chairs were rickety. But to be honest, you really don’t notice too much. The rest of the experience is very well polished. The staff are attentive and seem to be knowledgeable about their wine and cheese pairings.

I'm sure you can read the menu, you just need to squint

I’m sure you can read the menu, you just need to squint.

I say “seem to be”, as I know next to nothing about both cheese and wine, so they could be purposely fucking with me all I know.

Oh, and the music sucked.

It was a mix between 90’s pop and soft rock. Not that I don’t like either of those genres, it just seemed a bit out of place.

Get your shit together, Cavern, I expect nothing but Bon Iver and Rachmaninoff the next time I visit.


Our board came with a some baguette, a small pile of nuts, dried and fresh figs, pear slices, dried apricots, hot pepper preserve, and earl grey jam.

Of course, there was also the cheese.

DSC_0743

Complete with tiny cheese cleaver.

Comté – Probably the worst tasting of the bunch, this was bland, slightly earthy, and had the consistency of brittle plastic. Instead of melting at all, it turned into tiny little granules of cheese, which was downright unpleasant. This may work better with heat, who knows.

Sardo – Similar to the Comté but much more palatable. Sardo is a traditional Argentinian cheese, and had a noticeable sharpness. The flavor also stuck around for a little bit on your palate as it dissolved/melted much easier. Worked well with the wine.

Le Cendré des Prés – A Canadian cheese, tastes like a lighter, slightly sweeter camembert with less mushroom flavor. The line in the middle is maple wood ash, and really adds very little in terms of flavor. This was a very mild, and generally pleasant cheese.

Beemster Classic – We added this one due to a suggestion from a friend and we were not disappointed. Besides the aforementioned tyrosine crystals, this cheese was sharp, salty, and had a mouth-feel consistent with dark chocolate. It starts off somewhat crumbly, but turns velvety and smooth, with strong tones of toasted nuts and caramel.

Florid language aside, Beemster is fucking delicious.

One more, because I actually took pictures this time.

One more, because I actually took pictures this time.


And the wine?

I honestly don’t have a clue. They could’ve served me prison hooch in a fancy bottle for all I know.

Didn’t taste like vinegar.

Only a little bitter.

Got the job done.

...I think it's some sort of...alcoholic grape drink?

…I think it’s some sort of…alcoholic grape drink?


At the end of the day, besides a few cosmetic flaws, The Cavern delivers on what it set out to do.

It provides a quiet, quaint, and cozy environment where you can explore new flavors and learn a bit about wine and cheese.

Hey, and if you feel like it, you can bring home a 400 dollar wheel of gouda.


Works Cited

Johnson, M. “Crystallization in Cheese” Dairy Pipeline Volume 26.3. 2014

WIKIPEDIA.

SUE ME.

Cavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

ROSTIZADO

Review

One of the newer restaurants in the Edmonton scene, Rostizado is owned and managed by the same people that opened Tres Carnales.

I feel that it’s important to mention this, as I’ve had generally positive experiences at Tres Carnales. The food, service and ambiance are on-point, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t.


Purdy

Purdy

So what happens when experienced restaurateurs attempt to move up-market?

Well, apparently things work out pretty well.


For the sake of my blood pressure, we’ll ignore the incredibly presumptuous Rostizado reservation app in this review.

Just know that it’s possibly the stupidest thing I have ever encountered.

Besides that, if you show up during non-rush hours (avoid Friday/Saturdays from 7-9), you’re seated immediately.

The staff are very knowledgeable, and you get a sense of professionalism through all of your interactions. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but it’s definitely there. I’d like to say it’s one of those things that you only notice when it’s missing. A fine balance was struck in the sense that the staff were constantly catering to us, but at the same time, they were never intrusive. Water was refilled without us noticing and our waitress was available for questions/tortilla refills without us ever really noticing. Combined with the general ambiance and hands-on food, the restaurant proves to be an excellent catalyst for conversation and you can’t help but feel comfortable.

They went with

They went with “burnt newspaper” as a color scheme

Enough gushing.

Rostizado has the same open-concept, exposed kitchen, wooden rafters and black furniture look as literally every other ‘trendy’ restaurant in North America. As you would expect, the restaurant is also dim as fuck.

I guess this is good, I’ve read studies about how restricting your other senses allocates more brain-power to the ones that aren’t handicapped. You should technically have a slightly sharper palate with the dim lighting, but somehow I don’t think that was their intent.


We ordered the ‘platter of 2’, which ended up being half of a rotisserie chicken and some barbequed pork. The platter came with three sauces, a stack of tortillas and various other garnishes. You would expect the rotisserie roasted meats to be juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender, but they were a little disappointing in that aspect. The pork wasn’t bad at all (higher fat content), but the chicken seemed to have been cooked a bit too long.

Looks nice though

Looks nice though

This didn’t detract much from the meal, and the seasoning of the meat was spot on. As strange as it may seem, the sauces and tortillas shone much brighter than the meats. The tortillas are the same used at Tres Carnales, and have the same substantial, slightly al dente mouthfeel.

Three sauces were served with the platter. A spicy pumpkin based sauce, tomatillo salsa verde, and another green salsa-like sauce that I promptly forgot the name of. The pumpkin sauce was superb and had just enough heat to be noticeable, while the salsa verde was fragrant and fresh.

Because you needed a picture of pork in your life

Because you needed a picture of pork in your life

Having to carve your own bird got stale after the first few cuts, but if things are getting really dull at the dinner table, then I guess it gives you something to do?

Oh, and the platter included potatoes as well. Lightly seasoned, dried-yet-not-really-crispy skin. The insides were perfectly tender so we can’t really complain. The tiny cast iron skillet they were served in made the platter a bit prettier, but the spuds didn’t add much in terms of taste. To be honest, just give us more tortillas and forget the potatoes.

I want the skillet

I want the skillet


The Good

  • Attentive yet non-intrusive service
  • The food (honest)
  • Tastefully decorated restaurant
  • Mellow atmosphere

The Bad

  • The platter was $65, which is fairly pricey for what you get

The Ugly

  • Transparent hipster glasses, scraggly beards and gauges look out of place on a serious restaurateur (I’m shallow, sue me)

I was sceptical at first when Rostizado opened, but I’m happy to report that I had a generally pleasant dining experience. True to the spirit of Tres Carnales, the food was fresh, uncomplicated, and uniquely Mexican.

Rostizado - By Tres Carnales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pampa and the Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest

Review

Haven’t posted in a while.

Let’s fix that.


Brazil is currently the largest global exporter of beef.

This is great. Beef is love, beef is life.

The Brazilian people love beef, North Americans love beef. Naturally  there would be trade and all the benefits that arise from it.

We get our McDonalds dollar menu items, and the money from the sale of cattle drives a strong agricultural industry in Brazil, which in turn is translated into millions in tax revenue to be squandered on incomplete world cup stadiums.

Responsible and efficient use of taxpayer money.

Responsible and efficient use of taxpayer money.

Clearly a case where all parties benefit, right?

Well if you were paying attention in grade 8 social studies, the answer is no.

See, the main biomes in Brazil are the Amazon basin rainforest (5 million square km) to the northwest, the Caatinga (barren desert) to the northeast, Mata Atlantica (Atlantic forest) near the Atlantic coast, and the Cerrado (savanna type grasslands) in central Brazil. At the very south, a tiny amount of natural grassland exists, this is the Pampa region.

LEARNING

LEARNING

Of course, other ecosystems exist as Brazil is an enormous and ecologically diverse country, but these are the only relevant regions to our discussion.

Out of the regions listed above, only the Cerrado and Pampa regions are anywhere close to being grazing lands. As a result of this, 79.7% of the Cerrado has been converted to human use, and 70% of the beef cattle production occurs in this region. Similarly, the Pampa biome has been almost entirely converted into farmland.

But this isn’t enough to feed the global appetite for delicious, delicious cow.

This thing.

This thing.

Total Brazilian beef exports have risen from 1.01 million tonnes to 1.57 million tonnes between 2011 and 2014 and this doesn’t show any sign of stopping.

So my question to you, dear reader, is:

At what point do we give up delicious cow for sustainable farming and a healthy environment?

Fuck if I know.


On a slightly less depressing note.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse has been a lunchtime go-to for when my co-workers feel like lying comatose in a puddle of meat-grease and sweat in the afternoon.

Before I go on any further, I must clarify that Pampa receives two types of customers. Those who want to enjoy a pleasant meal in an “up-scale” restaurant with unique Brazilian touches, and those who want to wage war on the Amazon rainforest.

Fuck youuuuuu

Fuck youuuuuu

For those who have never been, the restaurant functions on an all-you-can-eat basis. Ambiguously ethnic waiters bearing skewers of meat stop by your table to slice bits onto your plate.

Of course, there’s a well-stocked salad bar with a veritable cornucopia of vegetables, breads, and sauces, but visiting the salad bar for anything more than sauce is a rookie mistake.

I regret the feta.

I regret the feta.

At the table, you are presented with a small round card. It’s green on one side and red on the other. When the green side is showing, the meat-bearers know to approach your table with offerings of protein. The red side signals surrender to the servers.

Being the first to quit and flip the card firmly cements your status as a ‘little sissy bitch’.

You know who you are.

You know who you are.

And the food?

To be honest, it’s not bad, but it’s gradually getting worse.

When I first visited Pampa nearly two years ago, I was impressed. The variety was great, service prompt, the idea was novel, and the meat was seasoned and cooked well.

While the concept, cuts and service haven’t changed at all, it seems that some shortcuts are being taken and general quality has decreased.

The main draw to a Brazilian style barbeque is that cuts are returned to the broiler after the seared outside layers are served. This allows for a higher proportion of seared ‘crust’ per bite. Recently, it seems that the meats are not being broiled for long enough after the initial serving, and you’re left with a soft, flavorless cut.

Case in point. This is the rump steak.

Case in point. This is the rump steak.

To be fair, this is only applicable to the rump steak and top sirloin.

The other lunchtime cuts include chicken drumstick, parmesan pork, and pork sausage.

My favourite cut would have to be the rump steak. When cooked well, it’s fatty, crispy, and tastes overwhelmingly of cow. The fat is wonderfully rendered and you’re left with a rich umami flavour.

A close second would be the chicken drumsticks, which have been consistently tender, juicy, well seasoned and piping hot.

I get three at a time because I'm disgusting

I get three at a time because I’m disgusting

The pork sausage is inconsistent, sometimes it’s fragrant, spicy and juicy, and other times it falls flat.

Not so great

Not so great

Finally, the parmesan pork is almost always dry and salty. This is due to the restaurant using a very lean cut on the barbeque and grilling the pork until it’s well done.

So bad, it un-focused the camera

So bad, it un-focused the camera

Shame on you.

As for the rest of the dining experience?

The service is exactly what you would expect out of a restaurant in Pampa’s price range, and the atmosphere of the restaurant is very mellow and professional.


The Good

  • Little to no judgement from the wait staff as you shamelessly stuff your face
  • Service is prompt, and the staff ask which cuts you would like more of
  • Rump steak and chicken are almost always on point
  • Salad bar is fresh and varied, if you want to go to a steakhouse and eat salad

The Bad

  • The novelty wears off fast
  • Inconsistency in seasoning and quality of cooking turn lunchtime trips into a gamble

The Ugly

  • Smiling at the waitress as she offers you lukewarm ‘filtered’ tap-water for $3

And the conclusion?

I would say it’s worth a try.

The novelty of the concept will make dinner a bit more interesting, and I’m willing to bet you won’t leave hungry.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Tastes of Edmonton

Review

So, Taste of Edmonton was a few weeks ago, and I think it’s about time I wrote something about it.

Deviating from the normal restaurant review template, I’ve decided on a free flowing photo documentary in order to provide you with ground-zero coverage on “the largest food festival in Canada.


For those of you unfamiliar with local events, Taste of Edmonton is a food festival where Michelin-star restaurants and celebrity chefs present the best that Edmonton has to offer in an open-air, ticket-based marketplace.

Off to a good start...

Off to a good start…

We stopped off at the Melting Pot tent as they were the first stand that didn’t serve a slider or burger or some sort.

Instead, they served their signature fondue mix on what appeared to be a Costco hamburger bun. Surprisingly, despite the shitty bread, this was probably one of the tastier items. The cheese mixture looks a little pre-digested, but tasted how a fondue should: rich, creamy, and sharp.

Looks like a paper towel but isn't

Mmmm edible paper towel.

Next stop is the “Lagano Skies Special Tibs-Beef Stir-Fry & Injera”, courtesy of Lagano Skies Ethiopian Restaurant.

The beef had the consistency of shoe leather, the vegetables were fresh out of the freezer and the bread tastes the way tetanus feels.

I know you were expecting some sort of tasteless joke about Ethiopian food (or lack thereof), but I’m above all that.

Really.

Right next to the Burger King tent.

Right next to the Burger King tent.

I don’t have much to say about this beside the fact that it makes me a little sad.

???

???

Roughly an hour in, I stumbled upon an Indian food truck. I assumed it was part of the festival and purchased some sort of saucy onion dish on rice.

Upon closer inspection, I realized the dish also contained little flecks of chicken.

I looked up the menu on the Taste of Edmonton website, but there was no such item.

The plot thickens.

The mayo squirt bothers me.

The mayo squirt bothers me.

If I recall correctly, these were the “Chicken Masala Perogies with Caramelized Onion and Tamarind Sour Cream”.

My memory may have been somewhat distorted by the pre-festival beverages, but I think I remember this tasting mostly like mayonnaise and perogy wrapper.

Haute cuisine.

Haute cuisine.

Slice of Bread.

Really?

Get your shit together Kimon and Andrea, I know you can do better.

You ain't foolin' nobody with that sign..

You ain’t foolin’ nobody with that sign..

What surprises me here is that people are actually lining up for an Old Spaghetti Factory food stand.

2015-07-16 18.54.33

I like the lettuce on the side.

Fresh out of The Underground Tap and Grill comes the “Buckin’ Bison Slider with Gorgonzola Blue Cheese”.

Heavy on the onions, and the patty was a bit dry, but otherwise unoffensive.

That’s all I’m really asking for at this point.

2015-07-16 19.05.59

Chef John Cohen has seen some shit..

We stopped off at the Frenson Brothers Markets stand for some “Rotisserie Roasted Pig”.

2015-07-16 19.06.52

Slaw n’ pig.

Hats off to the genius that decided to pair bland, dry pork with bland, moist cabbage.

2015-07-16 19.16.50

One hand on camera, one hand on plate, where to put fork? 😦

Surprisingly, one of the better tasting items at the festival this year came out of Zinc.

This was a “Banana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce, Brulee’d Banana and Whipped Cream”.

The pudding was dense, moist and not cloyingly sweet, which allowed the caramel, cream and brulee’d banana to play a more important role on your palate.

The only detail missing would be two greasy idiots in suits loudly shilling banana bread.

Buy 10 and save 2 shekels on the 11th!

Buy 10 and save 2 shekels on the 11th!

Zinc never ceases to amaze.

2015-07-16 19.23.21

This could be anything really..

“Marvelous Stuffed Mushrooms” from The Cheesecake Cafe.

They tasted like mushrooms, grease and batter.

2015-07-16 19.45.27

I don’t even know what this is

I forgot what this was.

The food vendor menu on the Taste of Edmonton menu comes up with a “Bacon Bomb Slider” from Smokehouse BBQ, but it doesn’t quite look right.

No matter.

What’s important is that it wasn’t memorable in the slightest and tasted mostly of bread and cabbage.

Mmmm fried vegetable protein.

Mmmm fried vegetable protein.

I typically respond to meeting new vegetarians by consuming double the amount of animal products that I would normally eat that day.

Needless to say, I don’t consider myself a fan of vegetarian food.

This sort of changed after I tried the Padmanadi Vegetarian “Chicken” Satay Skewers.

For those unfamiliar with vegetable meat substitutes, they often mess up on the texture of the meat fibres, and you get the taste equivalent of dry tofu. Padmanadi, however, has greatly improved on the mainstream recipe, and has formulated a veggie protein mix with a slightly chewy, fibrous mouth-feel. It also fries fairly well, and you get crispy brown edges on the ‘meat’.

The satay sauce was a bit heavy on the peanut, but otherwise the skewers were one of the best items at the festival.

If you haven’t before, definitely go try Padmanadi, even if it’s just for the novelty of space age fake meat.

Squiggle game on point.

Squiggle game on point.

This is the “Nehiyaw (Native ) Taco” (no really, that’s what they call it), from Native Delights.

This consists of normal taco ingredients on top of bannock.

I like to think this is the passive-aggressive aboriginal way of getting revenge for the residential school cultural genocide committed by the Canadian government.

10/10 drizzle.

10/10 drizzle.

Pictured above is the “Smoked Bison Carpaccio”, from Normand’s Bistro.

Think pseudo-bison jerky with vinaigrette and wilted salad.

The bison honestly wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t really carpaccio either.

I think it needs more jam.

I think it needs more jam.

Another pleasant surprise came from the Hotel Fairmont stand and the “MAC scone with whipped cream and berry compote”.

While technically uncomplicated, the flavors are tried and true and it didn’t pretend to be more than what it was.

The cream was fresh, berries tart, and the scone tasted like a scone.

Only the best.

Only the best.

I didn’t get anything from La Pasta because I don’t hate myself.

Are we even trying any more..

Are we even trying any more..

Now I didn’t actually try the “Pork Tacos with Kimchi Slaw and Lemon Thyme Aioli” from the Fairmont, but a few choice quotes from a friend include:

“Oh it was shit”

“…some kind of chlorine-y sauerkraut”

“…what I would imagine dirty dishwater would taste like”

Nuff’ said.


All said and done, the food from Taste of Edmonton was largely a disappointment, but the food is only part of the reason you go out to festivals like these.

The atmosphere is fun, the weather is generally nice, and it’s refreshing to see Churchill Square not packed with homeless people for once.

50 bucks well spent.

Drift and Natural Selection

Review

Once in a while, I find myself thinking of the native flora and fauna that live in and around the Edmonton area. Through my childhood exploration of the river valley, I have discovered beavers, frogs, deer, and various waterfowl.

Back then, I didn’t contemplate what these animals did throughout the winter, as they were instantly out of mind when I left the river valley.

But what actually happens?

This happens.

This happens.

This wonderful land on which I live, transforms into a frozen, inhospitable wasteland for 7 months of winter, and it beggars the imagination that anything can find sustenance to see it through to spring.

More mobile creatures such as the Canada goose can migrate to the mid and southern United States to over-winter, but land based animals such as caribou must brave a harsh winter by grazing on lichen. Smaller herbivores can dig through the snow for dried grasses, and carnivores such as martens and wolves must track these creatures down amidst a wintry desert.

Damn nature, you is scary.

Nature is metal.

It’s a lean, pitiful existence for most Albertan wildlife, which finds parallels to the food trucks that call Alberta home.

Adopting a strategies akin to that of bears and geese, the food trucks must either hibernate through the winter, or move south to better business.

Acting as an agent of natural selection, only the most successful, fittest, and popular food trucks can survive as a business.

Drift is apparently one of them.


DRIFT

Like a wandering prostitute, Drift can be found at different downtown street corners, shilling its sweet, porky wares.

We encountered the food-mobile off of 108th and Jasper, right around the lunch rush and we milled around the sidewalk after our while confused pedestrians tried to navigate the human maze.

Service was acceptable considering the fact that they’re cooking out of a fucking truck.

To be specific, this fucking truck.

To be specific, this fucking truck.

I ordered the braised pork belly sandwich and my coworkers ordered the rest of the menu.

Evidenced by the handy print-outs on the glass of the truck, Drift was deemed to be the best food truck in Edmonton by Avenue magazine, and the pork belly sandwich was among the 25 best things to eat in this city.

Although Edmonton may not be the food capital of the universe, having some sort of magazine acknowledge your food for not being crap is always a good thing, and I have been only slightly disappointed by Avenue’s other choices.

How was the sandwich?

Well it was good.

Paper bag grease stain good.

Paper bag grease stain good.

Think “bánh mì” but with pork belly instead of loin. The pickled carrots, daikon and cilantro were identical to that of Vietnamese sandwiches, although the Drift sandwich did choose to use a Portuguese roll as opposed to a crispy, Vietnamese baguette. While this wasn’t a bad choice per se, I don’t feel like the sandwich was improved much by the change.

Taste wise, it was spot-on. The belly was soft and well caramelized, while still maintaining a thoroughly substantial and meaty mouth-feel combined with the slightly chewy bread. The fat from the mayonnaise and pork were far from cloying, and were paired well with the slightly sweet carrot and daikon pickle.

Isn't she photogenic?

Photogenic too!

The “fresh cut fries, Seasoned with our house made drift spice & served with our house made drift ketchup” were a bit more of a letdown.

Not to say that it wasn’t good. It’s more that I was expecting it to be better.

The fries were a little bit soft and tasted mainly of fennel and cumin. They left the skin on too, which was a pet peeve, but I’ve known people who enjoy un-skinned fries, so we can chalk that up to personal preference.

Less photogenic.

Less photogenic.

The “house made drift ketchup” tasted like cardamom marinara sauce, and was more watery than I had expected. Dipping the slightly limp fries in the non-viscous ketchup proved to me somewhat of a challenge, and often we were left with soggier, slightly-tomato flavored fries.

I can appreciate the east Indian theme they were going with on a theoretical level, but the execution was just a bit off.

The fries could’ve been crispier and the ketchup could’ve been dippier, but that’s all easily fixed.

Falafel, for all you vegetarians.

Falafel, for all you vegetarians.


The Good

  • Sandwich was delicious
  • Food is relatively cheap
  • It’s nice to see international “fusion” not go horribly wrong once in a while

The Bad

  • Fries and ketchup could’ve been executed better
  • They overuse the word “Drift” on the website
  • Waiting on the side walk in a group for your food isn’t fun

The Ugly

  •  Nothing I can think of!

Obligatory puppy picture

Irrelevant yet obligatory puppy picture

The fact that a food truck can survive in such a hostile environment for multiple years should be seen as a testament to the quality of the food and the ingenuity of the owners.

In this case, Drift has managed to thrive in an otherwise barren locale with it’s fresh sandwiches and creative international flair.

If you’re ever downtown in the summer, give them a try, you (probably) won’t be disappointed.

Click to add a blog post for Drift Food Truck on Zomato

Semantic Satiation and The Common

Review

Have you ever read or spoken a word so many times that eventually you question the spelling/pronunciation?

Apparently this is an actual psychological phenomenon called semantic satiation, where repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning. The word is then perceived as a meaningless sound.

The consensus regarding the neurological explanation for this phenomenon is that verbal repetition repeatedly stimulates a particular pattern in the cortex which corresponds to the meaning of the specific word. This repeated stimulation then causes reactive inhibition, which elicits a smaller neurological response after each repetition.

How is this in any way related to food?

Well, it’s not, I just didn’t have a clever title for the post and ended up thinking of the word “common” until it didn’t look like english anymore.

It looks so...unnatural...

It looks so…unnatural…


THE COMMON

I am not a stranger to The Common.

I work in the area and coworkers frequently gather after work for drinks and tapas, or go for lunch when they feel uninspired by other restaurants.

It’s generally a safe bet, and boasts a mellow environment, faux-vintage decor, laid-back service and a quaint little drink menu filled with exotic brews and odd cocktails.

They try so hard...

They try so hard…

You would think that I’d love a place like this.

A week ago, I would’ve agreed with you.


Some coworkers and I went for a quick lunch, and most of us decided to try the lunch special.

This was a mistake.

The special that day was a “tempura battered hot dog with homemade dijon mustard, sauerkraut, goat cheese and apple relish”.

Sounds interesting right?

That’s what we were thinking too…right until the food arrived.

“Food”

The first surprise was the fact that there wasn’t a hot dog to be seen. Instead, the ‘dog’ portion of the sandwich was comprised of two tempura battered breakfast sausages.

But breakfast sausages are delicious, you say.

Normally, yes, but breakfast sausages are meant to be cooked in a pan or griddle where the grease is left to drain off. Here, the tempura batter formed a little cocoon where all of that wonderful pork fat congealed.

Appetizing.

Sadly, it just went downhill from there.

The sauerkraut seemed watered down and was neither sauer nor kraut.

The mustard was also tasteless and watery and did not help to cut through the grease of the sausage.

Keeping with the motif of “stupid and bland”, the goat cheese was also unnoticeable and only added a faint, slightly stinky musk.

And the “apple relish”.

Jesus titty-fucking Christ.

Jesus don't want yo' nasty-ass hot dog

Jesus don’t want yo’ nasty-ass hot dog

It’s almost like someone wanted to make an apple pie, then chickened out last minute and decided to salvage the apples to make HOT DOGS.

What the fuck.

They were in roughly half inch chunks, cooked to a consistency between crisp and mushy, and tasted overwhelmingly like cinnamon.

This made the entire “hot dog” (and I’m using the term loosely here) taste like a bland, porky, raw apple pie.

Pork Apple Pie is a thing...?

Pork apple pie is a thing…?

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the worst thing I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant.


Now I said earlier that I frequent this restaurant, and to be honest, I expected much better.

Although the portions are small, The Common tends to be creative in ingredient usage, cooking methods and plating, which makes me wonder what went wrong here.

The only explanation that I can imagine would be that the chef never actually tasted his own food.

In fact, I’ve convinced myself of this, as there’s no way they would let this exit the kitchen doors if they knew how disgusting it was.

I’ve never done this for a restaurant before, but based on an otherwise positive track record, I’m going to give The Common the benefit of the doubt and just chalk things up to a bad day.

I’ll save the good, the bad and the ugly for the next time I’m there, and hopefully they won’t serve me an apple and pork abortion.

Click to add a blog post for The Common on Zomato