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Monday, 27 February 2012

Press'd - Food Court Salvation

My rule of thumb for dining out is: if I can make it at home, I do not dine out for it. Really, it isn't very exciting to go out for lasagna (for example) if one makes a wicked killer awesome lasagna at home. Now, I love a good sandwich and, at the risk of sounding pompous, like to think I make a fairly decent one. However, if one abides too strictly to this aforementioned rule, one misses out on some pretty tasty things, even if one makes them at home. Case in point, Press'd The Sandwich Company.

I've walked by Press'd in the basement food court of City Centre Mall on numerous occasions. I finally, finally sampled their fare in the form of a "Golden Bear" (named so because the proprietors of this cafe are U of A Golden Bear alumni and a sports road trip ignited their love of good sandwiches). I dig into smoked chicken blanketed in gooey baked brie, a smattering of roasted apples, fresh leaves of spinach, and tangy fig jam. The chicken is ample, though the apples are unevenly distributed so one does not get a bite of fruit in each mouthful. The brie and fig jam make this sandwich special and provide a nifty tug of war of rich versus zesty.

Press'd is certainly a high point of this food court. My conclusions are limited at this point, since a basic tenet of science is that one cannot drawn broad conclusions based on a single sample, but I was pleased enough to anticipate future visits, even if I like making sandwiches at home. Press'd - The Sandwich Company on Urbanspoon

Monday, 13 February 2012

Sittin' on the Dock of the Tau Bay

So much has been made of Tau Bay's cult status among the Capital City's pho-fans. Unpredictable hours. Off the beaten track location. Brief menu. And pho - serious pho. I ventured there on a dark and chilly January evening with steadfast dining companions Marlow Moo and Adventures of a Saskatchewan Girl - we are quickly greeted by a fairly utilitarian room enlivened by an aquarium of ostentatiously quirky plastic fish. It takes several double-takes to realize that these piscine entertainers are not real.

Tau Bay's menu is divided into two categories: pho and beverages. Various cuts of beef comprise the majority of soups here; these cuts range from approachable ones like steak and brisket to obscure ones like tendon and tripe. A chicken option is also available but is sold out this evening.

Feeling brave, I order the full monty of steak, brisket, flank, tripe and tendon. It arrives as a generous bowl of bracing broth laced with tender noodles and an ample helping of beef. The steak, flank and brisket are exceedingly tender, though the tripe is ridiculously creepy to look at. It resembles small fuzzy tentacles, but if one gets past the aesthetic aspect, it is quite delicious and adds an unusual crunch. Search as I might, I cannot find any tendon in my soup. Either it looks too much like noodles for me to tell the difference or it has been omitted. Fresh mint leaves, chili paste and lemon wedges allow me to add small doses of heat and acidity to the broth until it sings with flavour.

Our beverages beget bravery, for we order salted plum and soda and egg yolk and soda. They are both the surprise hit and shocking disappointment of the evening. Bad news first: salted plum is exactly that - a minced up salted plum swimming in club soda. It is so salty that drinking sea water would be preferable. I can only suppose that it is an acquired taste. The egg yolk and soda, however, is amazingly tasty. It arrives as two whole yolks in the bottom of a tall glass. Proper procedure is to mix it with club soda and pour it over ice. The result is frothy, mild, and tastes of custard. Our meal concludes abruptly when the owners start noisily stacking chairs on tables - this is clearly our signal to leave. Tau Bay lacks subtlety and predictability, but its fabulous pho (and mean egg soda) are delicious antidotes. Just remember to bring an extra helping of bravery if you're in the mood for tendons and salted plums. Tau Bay Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Cafe Tiramisu - You Raise Me Up... I can stand on mountains!

Well, a good espresso always raises me up and Cafe Tiramisu pulls a mighty fine espresso. They even roast their own beans, so I cannot draw a legitimate comparison between their espresso and that of others.

Cafe Tiramisu occupies a sunlit space on quirky 124th Street and gracefully melds a cafe atmosphere with a yoga studio and a play area for children. I do not speak as a parent, but am deeply impressed at how beautifully children's needs are incorporated into this space. Far too often, dining establishments (unintentionally or otherwise) have surroundings most unwelcome to these smallest of patrons.

Our dining commences with a bowl of piping hot minestrone soup. It is riddled with beans and other veggies, and handily chases away the vestiges of winter cold that have attached themselves to our socks and ears. A toasted slice of focaccia bread is an agreeable complement to this dish.

I nosh on Pizza Calabrese, which is a "white pizza" (i.e., no tomato sauce) covered with cheese, proscuitto, and fresh arugula. I am satiated after several slices, for even though the crust is thin, the rich toppings are fragrant and filling. The remaining slices reheat beautifully for supper. I am not convinced, however, that these ingredients are indicative of Calabria (and, foolishly, do not think to ask my dining companion of Calabrian extraction).

Co-diner digs into Pasta al Pesto. We both agree that the pasta is done nicely al dente, but that the dish must be served at a much hotter temperature. The pesto flavour is fresh but could stand to be a few notches more vibrant. The scatter of whole pine nuts provides a welcome textural surprise. We are, overall, impressed with Cafe Tiramisu's food and atmosphere. I am too full to order its eponymous dessert and look forward to a subsequent visit.

Cafe Tiramisu on Urbanspoon


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