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Friday, 30 November 2012

De Dutch - The Frying Dutchman

Dutch pancakes have arrived in Edmonton. Finally. Most northern European nations have their own version of same, which bear little resemblance to the thick griddlecakes of North America. The French have crepes. My Dad makes featherlight Danish pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream...but only at Christmas. I've indulged many times in Finnish pancakes. Go to Thunder Bay to Hoito (formerly a Finnish social club, given that the largest Finnish population outside the Motherland resides in the Bay of Thunder) to load up on a plate of heaven. Dutch pancakes are similarly large and thin; at De Dutch, they come with innumerable toppings.

We - the "we" being Marlow Moo and I - settle into De Dutch's modern and colourful space and sample pancakes stuffed with smoked salmon and edam cheese. The salmon is velvety, the surrounding cake is a proper foil to its stuffing, and the edam emerges as a pleasant aftertaste.

A perogy-style pancake stuffed with potato, onion and ham doesn't really compare to the perogies of my progenitors, but I can appreciate the concept. Pancakes with strawberries and cream remind me of Christmas morning at my childhood home.

Bitterballen are a Dutch croquette that consists primarily of finely minced, spiced beef, a breadcrumb mantle, and a dip of grainy mustard. The meat's consistency is remarkably smooth and contrasts nicely with the crisp crumb coating.

Finally, we sample Tosties, which are toasted sandwiches, as the name implies. A Tostie generously stuffed with blueberries, onions and cheese is the evening's standout. The sweet blueberries, tangy onions and smooth cheese gleefully play gustatory tug-of-war on their crispy playing field. I am glad to see De Dutch set up shop downtown, as opposed to far off in some suburban complex. That way, I can visit more often and work my way through the sizable roster of pancakes. Or pannekoek, if you want to be linguistically accurate.

De Dutch on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Part Two - The Chicken Came First

Many of you are aware that Chef Corbin Tomaszeski stopped off in Edmonton for an Excel lozenges promo. His homemade chicken dumpling soup comprised the other half of this tour and I was fortunate enough to partake in said soup. I was developing a cold and I daresay that it is on the mend. I am eager to pick Chef's brain and fired a few quandaries his way.

Q: What is your earliest recollection of eating chicken soup?

Chef Corbin: I had to have been very young. It would have been my mom's chicken soup and I think the recipe was from her mother. She always made it when we were sick.

Q: Is there a type of chicken that makes especially good soup?

Chef Corbin: It's important to know where your food comes from and how it was treated, so I prefer free range chicken. Old chickens can be braised to make excellent soup, but I think younger birds taste better.

Q: What is the strangest cooking advice you've ever been given?

Chef Corbin: My Junior High home ec teacher made us wash eggs with soap before we cracked them because, to quote her, "they come from chicken's bums."

Q: Have you ever read any of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books?

Chef Corbin: Yes, but it's been a while.

Q: Do you prefer a lot of chicken in your soup or do you prefer Chicken Little?

Chef Corbin: I like big chunks of chicken in my soup.... [pause].....laughter.

Q: Who deserves more to be made into soup, Foghorn Leghorn or Robot Chicken?

Chef Corbin: Probably Robot Chicken. It would be oily and you could feed it to people you don't like!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cold Comfort - Part One

I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a cold - that blurry, snotty, nasty feeling that creeps under the covers and taints what had started out as a restful night. This happenstance just so happened to coincide with my opportunity to meet Chef Corbin Tomaszeski, taste some homemade chicken and dumpling soup, and check out some new Excel lozenges.

Now, who would consider it a stroke of luck to wake up with a cold? If it happens on a day for soup and lozenges, this is indeed a good thing.  For those of you who do not know Chef Tomaszeski, he is the Alberta-born, NAIT-trained chef known for his involvement with Food Network shows Dinner Party Wars and Restaurant Makeover.

Cheers to that!

Chef Corbin has also partnered with Wrigley to promote Excel Lozenges; in his words, "it made sense to partner with this product and company because of the philosophy of comfort." Chef Corbin is touring around major Canadian cities to promote the new lozenges and states, "When I get sick, my 'winter survival' kit consists of an electric blanket, tissues, the remote control, hot soup and lozenges." He is more than happy to exclusively use Excel lozenges in his survival kit and explains, "They don't taste too much like candy and are not overly medicinal. In addition, they contain eucalyptus, vitamin C and menthol, all of which are good for sniffles and coughs. There are three flavours - honey lemon, menthol, and cranberry-blueberry." The latter stands out as an especially tasty flavour, for the sweetness of blueberries plays off the tartness of cranberries. I also partook in a flask of Chef Corbin's chicken and dumpling soup. This hearty blend features tender chunks of chicken, red pepper, cilantro, spuds, onions and plump dumplings. This is, without a doubt, the tastiest chicken soup I have ever tasted. The flask was empty too soon. Certainly, a remedy for any cold. I feel better already.

Stay Tuned....Part II, my Q & A with Chef Corbin, will follow within the next 24 hours.

Disclaimer: I did not receive monetary compensation to mention Excel lozenges on Dine & Write, but instead was invited to a press event for the product. Any opinions stated on Dine & Write are my own.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Lan's Asian Grill - What's in a name?

Every name has a meaning. Whether blatantly obvious or puzzlingly obscure, a name is at once a descriptor, an honorific, a term of endearment, and a phylogenetic marker. These interrelated terms colour every name, be that of a person, place or thing. For Lan's Asian Grill, the name Lan refers to the restaurant's matriarch.  It honours the owners' mother, references their family heritage, and rightly acknowledges the indelible and positive influence their mother has had on their lives, not to mention their culinary skills. The name, in this writer's eyes, is also directly synonymous with supremely fresh and delectable Thai victuals.

Lan's Pad Thai is easily Edmonton's best. A tender tangle of noodles luxuriates with crisp bean sprouts, crisp peanuts, velvety tofu and cloud-like shreds of egg. The spice level may be customized and meat may be added if you're in the mood. A serenade of cilantro, fish sauce, chilies and lime whispers through each bite with the even-handed subtlety I've come to expect at Lan's.

Spicy Tofu presents the eponymous bean curd in a manner most delightful. Pillowy (and never rubbery) rectangles of tofu are generously but not excessively bathed in a firey chili sauce. Rice and shredded carrots tame the fire and toasted sesame seeds add crunch. A pair of piping-hot spring rolls are along for the ride and are agreeable dinner companions.

Lan taught her children well. A great air of serenity welcomes all who enter and the quality of food leaves me happy and well-fed. Would this place have the same cache under a different name? Perhaps. But one need not ponder that point too deeply. The multiple meanings of honour, bloodlines and good food are perfectly encapsulated in Lan's name.

Lan's Asian Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Baby Got Makk - A New Addition to 124 Street

It is an exciting time to be alive in Edmonton right now. In a city so deeply rooted with franchised restaurants, it is thrilling to see a good dose of locally-owned eateries germinate and flourish. A disproportionate number of said eateries are making their mark on exponentially-growing-in-the-cool-factor 124 Street. The Makk, which occupies the digs of now-defunct D'Lish, is one of the newest.

The Makk's interior vibe is quasi-industrial shabby-chic and is awash in natural light from multiple, large windows. The Infinite Yums and I settle in for a Sunday brunch (though it must be added that brunch is not their only mean. Not in the least.). A cocktail dyad starts off the afternoon, and includes an unpretentiously fragrant Cinnamon Mint Julep and a decently potent John Collins - the latter being a citrusy half-brother to the better-known Tom Collins.

A colourful interpretation of Eggs Benedict features a plump pair of prawns, a delicately sweet lobster tail and earthy spinach. Appropriately demure potato blini are correct to defer the spotlight to their plate mates. A delightfully runny pair of poached eggs are caressed but not choked by rich Hollandaise sauce.

An orb of frittata is generously laced with fennel-scented Italian sausage, green onions and tomatoes. The menu bills these tomatoes as "Cheery" as opposed to "Cherry" tomatoes. We can only guess that the menu's description of this dish is either an intentional tongue-in-cheek in-joke or an unintentional spelling error. Nothing wrong with that either. I, for one, am happy if my tomatoes are happy to see me. The frittata itself is well-textured and aromatic. The spelling misstep is half the fun.

The Makk thoroughbred is just barely out of the gate. If our brunch is any indication of things to come, this spot will be one to watch in upcoming months. I'm just coming down off the high achieved by Andrew Fung's Nineteen grand opening last week too. What an age to be alive.

The Makk on 124 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Nineteen: Edmonton's Newest Restaurant

The Vancouver Olympics were awesome. I won't even say that we, as a country, got a wee bit carried away with our fervour. Who am I to judge. I was the first person I knew to run out and purchase those maple leaf mittens (and I lost one, curses, last autumn when it fell out of the car). Because of the YVR Olympiad, I heard about Gold Medal Plates, which is a nation-wide culinary competition that also raises money for Canadian Olympic athletes. The entire event is an impressive display of skill. I attended in 2010; Blackhawk Golf Course's Andrew Fung handily snagged the evening's top honours.

Fung is finally - finally - at the helm of his own restaurant. Nineteen, whose name is a sly reference to the so-called "19th" hole that golfers frequent following their game, is a fair trek down in the far reaches of the southwest, but presents an exciting and well-crafted addition to the Capital City's culinary scene.

I am fortunate to attend a sneak preview of Nineteen's menu. A statuesque room greets diners with uncluttered light fixtures and warm wood hues. Duck Sliders open the meal with a wondrous combination of rich duck, unexpected blueberries and pleasantly subtle chipotle aioli. Ahi Tuna Twists are a delightful tangle of chili-kissed Thai noodles, citrusy cilantro and supple, rosy tuna.

Miso-marinated Atlantic Salmon is butter-soft and perfumed with savoury miso. Thai Mussel and Onion Beignets are great fun; these crunchy-soft paradoxes are yang to the salmon's yin. The crispy onion crown provides textural contrast but could be omitted without compromising the dish.

Ahi Tuna and Scallop Ceviche resembles a tropical bird in flight and presents a duality of mild scallop and assertive tuna crowned with a delightful cap of wasabi pea foam. Understated and orange-scented ponzu sauce is a welcome dressing.

Japanese Baby Back Ribs require no fork (and very little chewing). A sake-soy glaze coaxes out the pork's inherent sweetness. A sidecar of greens is a bit too sweet to act as a proper foil; bitter arugula would better fill this niche.

Confit Chicken Waffle is the evening's dark horse. Ludicrously tender chicken is laced with sweet peppers and sits atop a crisp quinoa-potato waffle that compliments the poultry but does not steal its thunder. A snowcap of rich brie is a crowning touch.

A Proscuitto-Wrapped Scallop is a wee bit anachronistic - in the best possible of ways - and harkens back to the plethora of bacon-wrapped scallops that dominated decades past. Proscuitto nicely updates this dish. A truffle perogy is nicely crisp on the outside and a miniature hillock of crunchy cauliflower with grainy mustard rounds out this plate.

A trio of pork features sublimely unctuous pork belly, a crisp pancetta chip, and aromatic roasted pork tenderloin. A vaguely alien king oyster mushroom is peculiar to the eye but wondrous to the palate.

Grainy Dijon-Crusted Halibut is a bit smothered by its companions, which include Manila clams and linguini with French curry sauce. The noodles and sauce alone dance with exotic spices but overwhelm the halibut's gentle essence. A stronger fish would better suit this dish.

Dessert features an elfin Caramel Eclair that delivers just the right amount of sweetness after such an extensive meal. Chef Andrew Fung easily delivers everything that his noble space promises and I look forward to Nineteen's ascension within the ranks of YEG-town eateries.

XIX Nineteen on Urbanspoon


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