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Monday, 7 July 2014

I Love Lusitania - An evening at A Taverna

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Indeed, good restaurant real estate is a limiting factor in most cities. When Cafe Amore - a treasured Italian eatery - vacated its Delton digs, another Italian cafe rushed in to fill the void. Alas, it was not to be. Several months thereafter, A Taverna assumed this cozy nook, a half-block off an elm tree-lined street that is just far away enough from downtown's din to be considered cozy and intimate.


A Taverna might be as close as one might get to Portugal without actually hopping on a plane. Indeed, little to no English will be heard on any given night (though don't, by any means, let that dissuade you from going), and the menu makes no excuses for North American palates. A sampler plate of "Petiscos" - the nearest recognizable analogue being tapas - is a crash course in all things Lusitanian. For example, a simple stew of chicken gizzards rumbles with tomatoes and unobtrusive spices. Superfluous garlic toast wouldn't be missed, but the toothsome flesh rouses even the most stubborn of appetites.


Velvety, unctuous tuna pate (pictured at front) lends itself nicely to crunchy rounds of bread. Cured pigs' ears (pictured at rear) are more texture than flavour; a soft outer stratum reminiscent of pork belly gives way to a chewy, yet crunchy, interior not dissimilar to tripe, and are not for the faint of heart.


Flagship Bacalhao is salty and satisfying. Myomeres of pale codflesh fall away at a fork's touch. Tumbles of caramelized onions and discs of fried spud (think scalloped potatoes minus the scalloping) are happy, savoury companions.


White Pudding sends the evening out in style, shining over the surrounding symphony of animated chatter and soccer news. Somewhere between jello and creme brulee in texture, this berry-crowned creation beguiles with simple notes of milk and vanilla.

Comparisons between Cafe Amore and A Taverna would be futile and specious. The sizzles and sounds of life emanate from this Delton corner and, really, if Portuguese is the primary language spoken within, this can only mean good things.



A Taverna on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 June 2014

Meat for Dinner and dinner the next day and the day after

By the third day, I was feeling like this cat below.

Leopard (Panthera pardus) feeding off a cached kill (photo from Wikipedia)

Indeed, multiple visits to the oversized take-out box in the refrigerator produced successive meals of meat that lasted for nearly a week after a visit to Old Strathcona's neophyte meatery, Meat For Dinner.


Meat's space is wide open and somewhat institutional; the din and the long communal tables evoke jarringly fresh memories of university cafeterias. The room's smoky aroma, however, elicits a contradictory serenity that helps to block out the surrounding uproar of feasting and drinking.

The menu reads more like a dare than a bill of fare. Protein, the likes of which include pulled pork, chicken, sausage and brisket are sold by the pound and half-pound. A lone, meatless sandwich almost feels like a token nod to the vegetarian crowd. Pickles, inexplicably, are a dollar each. Food and labour costs are indeed no trifling matter in this economy, but thusly pricing these pickled gourds raises more than a few eyebrows.

(from front to back) Chicken, pulled pork, and beef brisket
 Nonetheless, a sturdy tray sporting at least three pounds of flesh appears in short order and veritably sighs with acrid wisps that bespeak a recent voyage through the smoker. Apple-glazed smoked chicken tastes more of smoke than of apple, but the delicate bird-flesh underneath is lightly sweet and woodsy. Pulled pork is drier than one might like and benefits from the addition of house-made cherry barbecue sauce. Fortunately, redemption arrives in bovine form: smoked brisket boasts enviable ribbons of luscious fat and commendable dimensions of savoury and sweet.

(front) Baked beans and (rear) creamed corn

Side dishes are not meant to hog the spotlight (pardon the pun), but every last scrap of creamed corn - with a delightful hint of dill - is scraped from the bottom of the bowl. Baked beans are spicy, mealy, and satisfying unto themselves.

In spite of a valiant effort, most of the meat ends up divided between two take-home containers and five days later, my inner leopard is still scavenging from the kill. That's not a bad thing either...


Meat on Urbanspoon

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Farrow's Bounty


Farrow ("far-oh")
1. noun
   a litter of pigs
2. verb (used with object)
   (of swine) to bring forth young
3. verb (used without object)
   to produce a litter of pigs
 
Origin: before 900; Midde English farwen, to give birth to a little of pigs, derivative of Old English fearh, pig (cognate with Latin porcus); akin to German Ferkel (young pig). (Definition from dictionary.com)
 
So there you have it. I must profess that I'd erroneously swapped it for the word "harrow" (which is an agricultural action that is preceding by plowing/cultivating). Either way, the name makes sense. Both have connotations of fertility and creativity, the chief difference being that one refers to the proliferation of mammalian young, whilst the latter heralds the growth of greenery.
 
Farrow Sandwiches heralds the proliferation of sandwiches. Damn fine sandwiches.
 
 
 
 
Farrow opens early. Bright and early at 7 a.m. Shadows are cast long from the nascent sun creeping over the treetops and casting exploratory beams across the already warm pavement. Farrow thusly brews a strong, self-assured cup of coffee. Though I foolishly neglected to inquire as to this roast's homeland, it is multifarious, zippy, sunny, and and altogether welcome addition to this ante merediem experience.
 

This sunny morning's breakfast sandwiches include "Crick Middle." Here, a soft yet crusty roll lovingly cradles a fried egg enraptured by smoked cheddar and piquant ketchup. Tarragon aioli imparts earthy, licorice-like notes that weave together the surrounding ingredients with ease. A good handful of arugula keeps things peppery and light.
 

BLT 3 Rise of the Pig - and yes, this is its full name - amps up the breakfast factor with enviably crisp-and-fat-ribboned bacon, a smooth and melty layer of Swiss, and a few slices of mercifully ripe tomatoes. Lemon mayo, though a non-intuitive addition to this feast, works on multiple levels, starting with a creamy overture and going out with a citrusy bang.

And so, Farrow Sandwiches proliferates and brings forth bounty that spans both the Animal and Plant Kingdoms.
 
 


Farrow Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Small Bites - Delicious Pho and New Way Pizza

Extraneous verbosity eschews exactitude and circumvents precision.

No, really.

Vividly descriptive recollections of dining experiences are grand, but summations served with an extra helping of brevity are rare. And so, tonight: Delicious Pho and New Way Pizza. Served short and sweet.


Delicious Pho, based on its name, gives itself big shoes to fill. Much of the interior appears to have been carried forward from the spot's predecessor, The Makk on 124. Arrival of steaming - and positively enormous - bowls of pho heralds a worthy successor. Gorgeous, thin, pink slices of beef are happily tangled with noodles, onions, and crunchy white tripe. Multifarious broth boasts layers of secrets and spices, all of which confirms that this broth could not have been made in a hurry. Pinches of basil, a swirl of hoisin, and a dollop of chili paste complete the picture. Liane Faulder's meatball pho looks pretty darn enticing too.


Delicious PHO' on Urbanspoon




New Way Pizza, an unassuming joint on 66 Street north of Fort Road, is another welcome addition to one's dining repertoire. Ordering in is the way to go, for seating is minimal. Whole wheat crust is commendably fluffy - I didn't realize it was whole wheat until reading the take-out menu after the fact. Generous lashings of marinara, slices of ham, triangles of pineapple and a crowning achievement of cheese embody a thoroughly satisfying pie, the leftovers of which do not end up lasting long in the fridge.


New Way Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Sabor Divino on my mind

It is so easy and, admittedly, great fun to be swept up in the summer flurry of restaurant openings. So easy, in fact, that one tends to neglect time-tested stalwarts. Case in point: Lusito-Iberian powerhouse Sabor Divino. On this particular evening, Sabor's vintage warehouse digs are hopping. Flames dance at the back of an open kitchen, serves weave among tables balancing bottles of wine, and sensuous piano notes linger among the rafters.


Supper commences with strata of Grilled Eggplant. These parcels progress from a molten inner core of goat cheese, to a toothsome but not mushy tomato mantle and, finally, a dense and smoky eggplant crust. A scatter of pine nuts doesn't stray too far from the mother ship, and the entire entity is one of strong flavours vulcanized with gentle heat.


Bocconcini Salad combines tiny mozzarella snowballs with multi-hued tomato wedges. Aromatic strips of basil and impressively innocuous red onion wedges play along, but defer attention to the salad's titular ingredients. An herbaceous red wine vinaigrette is a welcome break from the traditional lashings of oil and vinegar.


Bacalhau Cakes - the salted cod easily Portugal's flagship foodstuff - rest patiently on a peppery bed of arugula. A russet smear of red pepper puree lends itself nicely to the pair of piping-hot fishcakes, which are crunchy and not too salty, but it's a wee bit difficult to tell where the salt-cod ends and the potatoes begin.


Jamon Iberico owns the evening. Iberian cousin to prosciutto, these glistening, supple whispers of cured Cerdo Iberico pig are richly marbled and darkly nuanced with top notes of sweet fat and undertones of sun-ripened acorns.


Tiramisu wraps up the evening with a succinct, boozy-sweet high note, replete with an avalanche of whipped cream. Little hints of cinnamon and caramel set this particular tiramisu apart from other contenders.

At the end of the night, Sabor's owner serenades the entire house with an impressive rendition of "Georgia on my Mind." Sabor's secret recipe for staying power is clearly no secret. Excellent service, gorgeous surroundings, and bang-on food constitute a triumvirate of satiety. A good serenade doesn't hurt either.


Sabor Divino on Urbanspoon

Monday, 19 May 2014

Ticket Give-Away for Host Edmonton...

Eat. Drink. Think.

These three concepts will be shaken, stirred and perpetuated at Host Edmonton, an upcoming three day conference on...well, eating, drinking and thinking. I'm going and you should be too.

Hence, I have tickets to give away. Just tweet me or email me to let me know which ones you'd like. I have:

  • Two conference passes (Claimed!)
      and

  •  Ten tickets for the Kick-Off, which features The Sheepdogs (among others).

It's going to be quite the three day spread. Don't miss out.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Lost and Found at Iconoclast Koffiehuis

Architectural fixtures lead non-linear lives. Prospective lifespans differ greatly; a treasured cutting board might be bequeathed to one's progeny, but a twenty year old (translation: obsolete) toaster oven might be, at best, relegated to goodwill or, at worst, tossed out with yesterday's trash.  The latter fate is far more common.

Indeed, restaurateurs are too often moon-blinked by North American's obsessive need for the shiny and new. Outmoded appliances, dishes and cutlery - and in that same breath, chairs, tables, shelves and virtually anything that can be set, sat on, or hung from a wall - are condemned to an inevitable purgatory of dumpsters and rummage sales.

The lucky ones experience rebirth at Iconoclast Koffiehuis.


So much at Iconoclast has a rich past. Church pews along one wall benefit from the addition of multicoloured cushions - a cushy respite long denied to the pious. Deconstructed, and then reconstructed, packing crates frame the central coffee bar. Ex-government mail boxes do double-duty as display cases for in-house roasted coffee, bagged simply in brown paper and stamped with approval. A ping-pong table, chess set, and antler-framed mirror round out this motley, yet thrillingly stylish, crew.


An Espresso Macchiato renders a litmus test for Iconoclast's chatoyant espresso machine, an auspicious catch sourced from recently defunct Roast Coffeehouse downtown. The resultant brew is cheery and bright, opening with songs of torrid Columbian evenings and winding down with a crisp disjuncture between seasons that can only be found at precisely 53 degrees north, preferably on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River.


Aptly-named Power Cookies are a sparrow's ransom of seeds and dried fruit. The summation of coconut, sesame seeds and garnet-hued cranberries, among other things, creates a toothsome and lightly sweet snack. Rustic and nuanced, just like their surroundings.


So much at Iconoclast has been lost and found. Chairs and cups have new purpose. Obsolete mailboxes (pictured above) patiently cradle special deliveries for those with taste for finely-crafted coffee. And yes, a twenty year-old toaster oven - complete with wood paneling - enjoys the seat of honour at the coffee bar.


Iconoclast Koffiehuis on Urbanspoon

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