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.

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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.

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LOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZALOVEPIZZA

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

The Next Act (and an amazing local pig farm)

Review

Since I’m still a little bitter about SugarBowl’s shit-tastic eggs benedict and I’m too lazy to make some myself, let’s go out for brunch again.


I stopped by The Next Act while on a bacon procurement trip to the Strathcona Farmers Market.

Side note: There’s this little stand (booth? stall??) that sells the most amazing bacon I have ever had. They’re local, free-range, and use Berkshire pigs (which are a 300 year old breed dating back to the pig herd of the British House of Windsor). Currently, the breed is incredibly rare, but is known for its “juiciness, flavour and tenderness”. It’s priced competitively with supermarket pork and is better in every way imaginable. Oh, and the shoulder steaks are fucking delicious on the grill with just some salt and pepper. If you’re in the area and like pig, check them out.

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This delicious fucker.

As you would suspect, The Next Act is half a block away from Whyte Ave and the farmers market, which makes it a great stop after you’re tired from walking down the one interesting street in the entire goddamned city.

The restaurant is pretty unremarkable aside from a few tiny outdoor tables, and the line-up outside before they open.

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I should probably cover his face but this picture is pretty good..

Service was decent enough. Orders were taken promptly and food was brought out in under 10 minutes which was quite impressive. The only issue I had was getting my drink refilled but we can chalk that up to a busy restaurant.


We ordered the Eggs Benedict and Huevos Rancheros (rancher’s eggs), which both came with house made hashbrowns.

If I’m being honest, the hashbrowns were mediocre. Hard on the outside, a little bit dry and a bit too salty. Sort of like something you would expect out of a small town breakfast buffet. But hey, at least they weren’t soggy.

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Eggs n’ beans n’ salsa n’ guac

The huevos rancheros were pretty good, although just a bit too cold and wet. The eggs were the only thing that was heated, as the beans, tortilla, salsa, guacamole and feta all felt like they came straight out of the refrigerator. Once again, this isn’t entirely a bad thing as the flavours were all there and it would no doubt be refreshing on a really hot day.

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Looks a bit plain, but tastes so damn good.

The eggs benedict, however, were absolutely on point. Crisp, toasted and buttered english muffins, perfectly poached eggs, Canadian bacon (still not entirely a fan), and a magnificent zesty hollandaise sauce. I would think there’s close to three tablespoons of butter in the dish, but the tartness of the lemon in the sauce cuts down on the grease, making for an incredibly satisfying yet non-cloying dish.


Not much to say here.

The Next Act knows its eggs.

I have yet to find a place in Edmonton that knows how to properly cook a fucking potato.

Next Act Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunch at SugarBowl

Review

I’m pretty sure everyone in Edmonton under the age of 30 has either been to, or heard of Sugarbowl.

Hailed as ‘the one good brunch place’ in Edmonton, Sugarbowl is known for its chicken and waffles as well as its expansive beer selection.

The problem with places like this is that everyone succumbs to groupthink and it’s hard to get an honest opinion of the food without getting sucked into the endless ‘MUH CHICKN’ WAFFLES’ circlejerk.

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Relevant, mildly offensive picture.

So let’s try some of the other brunch items (dinner/bar will be reviewed in another post) and see what happens.


If you’ve never been, Sugarbowl is located off 109th street and 88th avenue, right next to the Garneau theatre and within walking distance of the University.

It’s a small restaurant, and seemingly always packed. There isn’t a reservation policy for brunch, so if you’re going during the weekend, be ready for a short line-up.

The interior is hard to describe. A curved wooden bar with numerous taps takes up a third of the restaurant, while dented wooden tables and chairs are squeezed into the remaining floor space. Terrible local art by shitty local artists adorn the walls. While the “art” itself is of poor quality and questionable artistic value, they add to the bohemian feel of the restaurant.

Service is generally responsive, however due to the hectic nature of service and the crowded restaurant, may seem a bit rushed at times. Regardless of the crowd, it does seem like the servers genuinely care about your experience, and will accommodate your needs and/or complaints. The only issue is spending 5 minutes attempting to make eye contact with someone trying to avoid your gaze like it’s the fucking plague..


Because brunch is essentially replacing both breakfast and lunch, you’re allowed to order way too much food.

We started with the face-sized cinnamon rolls, which were pretty fucking delicious. They were soft, warm, chewy, completely covered in cinnamon sugar and awesome with a slab of butter.

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Shapeless, yet delicious.

Next up were the poached eggs with potatoes and béchamel sauce. Presentation wise, it was acceptable, with nice usage of colors and nicely poached eggs, but it was lacking in the taste and texture department. The eggs themselves were adequately poached, with a runny yolk and smooth white, but the sauce just didn’t work. Poached eggs are traditionally served with a more acidic hollandaise sauce to cut through the richness of the yolk and butter. The béchamel in this case was too bland and unnecessarily creamy. Oh, and they used cornbread instead of English muffins and back bacon instead of normal fucking bacon. There is no possible explanation for this besides the urge to be a special little snowflake, and the ‘SugarBowl Benny’ ends up tasting worse in every way compared to a ‘NormalFucking Benny’. The bread is dense and greasy, the bacon is bland and the sauce is flat out wrong.

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Home-made ketchup, which is in every way worse than Heinz.

Fuck.

The potatoes were almost inedible. I generally expect hash browns to be crispy, but our spuds turned out completely soft and drenched in grease. To make matters worse, there was almost no seasoning. Per my discussion with the waitress, SugarBowl cannot serve crispy hash browns as they’re cooked in a batch at the beginning of service and left in a vat until needed. It would just be far too impractical to fry up a new order.

To their credit, I was offered another side, but it doesn’t really make up for cutting so many corners on their fucking potatoes.

My lovely companion had the fruit and waffles, which were, sure enough, fruity and waffle-y. Jokes aside, it was a pretty mean waffle and the grapes were kinda kick-ass.

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Fruit..and Waffles! Who woulda thunk?

Oh, and I had a cappuccino.

It was pretty.

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Tasted nice too 🙂


All things considered, stick to the safe bets at Sugar Bowl. The only adventurous item we ordered tasted like a limp, greasy sock, while the cinnamon bun and waffles were predictably delicious.

So does this place live up to the hype?

No.

In terms of brunch, there are better, more well rounded restaurants in Edmonton. Admittedly, the chicken, waffles and cinnamon buns are solid, but not special enough for me to return time and time again.

I could order a bucket of KFC and toss some batter into my waffle iron and I wouldn’t need to deal with the crowd, blasphemous eggs benedict, squelchy potatoes, and the weeping sores they’ve nailed to the walls in support of local artists.

 

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

The Prairie Noodle Shop

Review

 

It has been a strange time in my culinary journey. Most of the restaurants I’ve visited recently have been decent, and to be honest, it’s tough to write about restaurants that were just ‘alright’.

There’s only so many synonyms for unremarkable, and I don’t think anyone really cares to read about mediocrity.

Thank god the Prairie Noodle Shop is here to shake things up.

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This place.

 


 

After a few successful appearances as a pop-up restaurant, the Prairie Noodle Shop has officially opened its doors to the hordes of ramen deprived Edmontonians.

I went last night and was greeted by ten or so patrons-to-be crowding the tiny entrance, waiting for a seat. As I had a party of 5, we were looking at a wait of roughly 40 minutes. Considering the diminutive size of the restaurant and the hype from the grand opening, this wasn’t unreasonable.

While I stood in line, I had a chance to observe the machinations and efforts of the staff (not like I had anything better to do). Four or five convict-looking types run the open-concept kitchen behind the bar… You know, so you can watch people assemble a bowl of fucking noodles.

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Skilled noodle artisans.

I also had the chance to admire the furnishings in the restaurant. Prairie themed wood cut-outs of grain silos and barns line the walls, while the ceiling was exposed to show support beams and aluminum ventilation. Combined with the mild paint job, incandescent lighting and bits of cowhide glued to the wall, the restaurant felt warm and inviting, especially on a cold winter night.

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I wasn’t kidding about the cowhide

 

We ordered at 6pm and it turns out that they had ran out of most of their appetizers, including the pork buns and drumettes (they only had one order left). Batter for the cornbread was also running low, so we stuck with one order of ‘smoked lollipop drumettes’ and the ‘charcoal salted edamame’.

What came out actually made me feel some remorse towards the chickens that died so we could try the dish.

Here, I’ll post the description on the menu and we can go through it item by item.

“Six smoked confit chicken drumettes marinated and served in our house honey and barley tare sauce”

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Whatever you say…

First of all, the chicken was just cooked poorly. Disregarding the ‘confit’ for now, the drumsticks were bone dry and absolutely flavorless (besides some minor charring). How did this happen? I don’t have a fucking clue. The drumstick is probably one of the easiest cuts to cook, but they somehow fucked it up.

 

Sigh.

What else.

Uhhh, it’s also really, really bland. Like ‘completely forgot salt and any form of seasoning’ bland.

Judging from the menu description, the only seasoning is the honey and barley tare sauce. There was a faint hint of sweetness, and the barley effectively did nothing. Honestly, what did you expect from using cereal as a condiment.

Hell, I’ve probably tasted better dorm room shake-n-bake disasters than the crap they served us.

The edamame wasn’t bad, but you get the same thing with a bag of frozen edamame from T&T and a lemon. If I were to gripe, I could complain about how the seasoning wasn’t distributed evenly and how the pods at the top were over-seasoned and the bits at the bottom were flavourless, but why would I ever do that?

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Delightful

But at the end of the day, you go to a noodle shop for their noodles.

I had the prairie pork ramen (blah blah locally sourced blah blah I don’t care).

Surprisingly, the pork was actually really well done. The pork shoulder was moist, flavorful and rich, and the belly managed to maintain a level of firmness while still rendering the fat on top with a bit of light charring.

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Nnggghhhhh…

Unfortunately that’s just about everything that went well with the dish. My first taste of the broth brought up mental imagery of boiled, slightly-rancid shrimp shells. The menu says the base is made from home-made pork broth and “prairie dashi”, but I couldn’t detect any of the lingering umami you would normally associate with pork bone, and the dashi only tasted of slightly-off crustaceans. To top it off, the soup was about as bland as the chicken drumsticks.

The noodles came out glued to each other, and each bowl would have three to four gigantic clumps of noodles that had fused together. Besides the obvious unpleasantness of biting into a giant lump of undercooked dough, this only accentuated the underlying theme of blandness.

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Instant noodles don’t even clump like this…

I tried some of the chicken broth as well, and had a similar impression. Little to no chicken flavour combined with slightly-off seafood and a complete lack of salt.

To top it all off, both orders of chicken ramen were missing the fried kale. Not like that would add much, taste-wise, but it still blows when you order something and part of it just isn’t included.

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Pink things are pickled onions

The umeboshi egg (preserved plum boiled egg) was cooked nicely, with a rich, soft yolk and firm white, but the boiling liquor may have been too strong, as the egg was very salty.


 

The Good

  • Warm and inviting space
  • Friendly staff
  • Boiled frozen edamame?
  • 2/4 of the ramen toppings

The Bad

  • Wait times (although this will change when the hype dies down)
  • Unimaginative twist on the classics

The Awful

  • The ramen
  • The chicken
  • That awkward moment when the waitress comes to ask you how your meal is, and the only words that come to mind are ‘repulsive and fundamentally flawed’, but you know that there’s nothing she can do to make the meal better short of changing the recipe and boiling up a new batch of stock, so you say ‘it’s fine’ and make some ‘mmmm’ sounds to get her off your case.
  • Why would you ever want to use a fucking grain to flavor something?
  • When you taste the broth and the only flavor that sticks out is that of decaying shellfish
  • The fact that people (myself included) were excited that Edmonton was finally going to have a decent ramen shop, and the ensuing disappointment.

 

I understand that there’s a dinner rush and the restaurant is new, but if you have four fucking cooks in a restaurant that seats 40, there’s no excuse for sloppy cooking, technical errors, and running out of ingredients by 6pm.

In the end, the Prairie Noodle Shop lives up to its name. It’s exactly what you expect out of an independent, locally-sourced ramen restaurant in the middle of fucking nowhere. Like the eponymous farmland, the Prairie Noodle Shop is boring, bland, overpriced and takes itself far too seriously.

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Nice cut-out’s though!

Prairie Noodle Shop 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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

Sober Review: The Sherlock Holmes Pub

Review

A good pub is like an old leather jacket.

Comfortable.

Familiar.

A little bit worn down, but and warm and safe.

Somewhere you can laugh and reminisce and complain and wallow and deal with whatever trials and tribulations life throws your way.

I’ve been trying to find a good pub here for a while now and my latest adventures have brought me to a quaint little place right in the heart of down-town Edmonton.


Sherlock Holmes is, for the lack of a better term, adorable.

The building takes stylistic cues from the traditional Middle-German house, with exposed brown beams, white walls, and a barn-like appearance. If you go when there’s snow on the ground, the front area even looks like a lawn with a tiny little picket fence.

Pretty much this.

Pretty much this.

The inside is pretty much what you would expect.

Dented, mismatched tables and chairs fill up the floor space next to barstools and the odd booth. Exposed rafters are plastered with logos, posters and license plates and anything vaguely British. The floor is old and wooden, and there’s a somewhat cozy upstairs level for when things really get busy.

Now I normally complain about how restaurants and bars are all decorated the same and lack personality, but I think Sherlock Holmes takes it too far in the opposite direction. Everything screams “LOOK AT ME I’M A SPECIAL FUCKING SNOWFLAKE”. Personality isn’t something that you ham-fistedly slap onto every available surface.

Complete with decorative bald dude.

Complete with decorative bald dude.

Service was unreasonably slow. There was almost a half hour wait between sitting down and placing orders. Much time was spent trying to catch the waitress’ attention without being too obnoxious. This mainly involved trying to make eye contact with her as she looked anywhere but our table.

When we finally did get our order taken, it didn’t take too long for our food to come out. The honey garlic wings, pretzels and beer cheese came out first.

Wings n' cheese

Wings n’ cheese

The wings were typical pub fare and were pleasantly crispy and sticky. Nothing to write home about, but nothing glaringly wrong either.

The pretzels were soft, warm and chewy and were absolutely delicious with the Dijon-horseradish dip. They tasted like they were home-made, and if not, well it’s a damn good re-heated pretzel.

Actually delicious

Actually delicious

Beer Cheese.

This one actually came with a warning from the waitress when we ordered it, which is always nice. It was described as a “cold, hard, salty cheese-string”. Fortunately for me, cheese strings were an integral part of my childhood.

To be honest, the cheese was actually pretty good. Once you get past the bizarre texture (like a harder, stringier, cheese string…), you realize it actually tastes quite good. Somewhat like an old cheddar with less kick.

The pizza was alright. Note that I’m writing this nearly a month after my visit, so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but let’s just say I wasn’t blown away. The veggies seemed fresh, the thin crust was a bit soggy, the sauce tasted canned and they didn’t skimp on toppings.

!!!

!!!


Sherlock Holmes, more so than most restaurants in town, sells an experience. With a drink or four, the tacky decorations don’t seem as tacky any more. You find that there’s always something to look at and talk about, be it the clientèle or the decorations. The alcohol softens the edges on the scarred tables and chairs, and suddenly they’re not ugly, they’re quaint. It’s not claustrophobic, it’s cozy.

It goes without saying that the food would be significantly improved too.

With that being said, I fear that my sobriety affected my ability to experience the Sherlock Holmes the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

Guess I’ll need to go back and have a few drinks.

You know, for science.

Sherlock Holmes 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

Don’t S’wich

Review

For some, sandwiches are an art form.

Care is taken in selecting fine artisanal breads, fresh produce, and choice fillings to create a balanced amalgamation of flavour that transcends the sum of its parts.

This isn’t the case with S’wich.

S’wich is awful.


Ok.

Maybe not completely awful, but pretty damn bad for what you’re spending and the amount of time and effort expended waiting in line on a hot day.

I ordered the Root Beer Brisket sandwich and was rewarded with a soggy, bland sandwich with room-temperature ingredients.

Nothing like biting into a sandwich that feels like it’s been sitting outside for a few hours.

Doesn't look terrible though

Doesn’t look terrible though

The root beer sounded like an exciting twist on your normal braised meat, but honestly it added nothing and nobody would have noticed it was made with root beer if they weren’t told so. The braise seemed a bit off as well. While the meat was definitely dripping in juice, the braising didn’t seem to soften the beef in the slightest. Regardless of whether this was due to low quality beef or shitty braising, the end effect was the same. The beef tasted like tiny wires of cardboard soaked in juice. The bread is apparently made from scratch, but is an unappetizing combination of spongy and chewy.

Sadly, the common theme of moist and chewy applied to the sandwiches that everyone else ordered as well.

Seriously, who gets "chickpea masala" from a sandwich trailer?

Seriously, who gets “chickpea masala” from a sandwich trailer?


On a slight tangent, one of my greatest (possibly irrational) pet peeves when eating anywhere is when the establishment doesn’t actually have any heating implements.

I peeked inside the S’wich food truck and was somewhat surprised to see that the entire operation comprised of a few coolers, some stainless steel vats and a work surface. Nary a panini press, flat top or even a toaster in sight.

Personally, this cheapens the experience. I mean, you can go to Subway and the smiling immigrants behind the counter will happily toast or (god forbid) microwave your sandwich to your desired temperature. With S’wich, this isn’t even an option. You can have your sandwich at either room temperature or slightly above room temperature, depending on how long they’ve held it for.

It even looks damp.

Mmmm, wet.

The Good

  • No food poisoning!

The Bad

  • Sandwiches were bland, wet and chewy
  • Everything is lukewarm
  • Questionable safety standards in serving room temperature food
  • Lack of options to heat your fucking sandwich
  • Sandwiches are $9

The Ugly

  • I accidentally tipped 20% for some idiot to make me a sandwich…

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