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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Where's the Beef? At Black Bull Grill.

Alberta's "cowboys and beef" reputation far transcends mere cartographic boundaries. Ask any non-Albertan to list a few of this province's specialties, and beef is invariably in the top five. One must wonder why, in this epoch of food trucks, has Alberta beef made few appearances?

Ah, but it has made appearances - one must look in the right places. A jaunt down 99 Street and about 57 Avenue, for example, reveals the dressed-to-the-nines Black Bull Grill. This addition to Edmonton's expanding-faster-than-a-supernova food truck scene eschews the popular downtown scene to bring colour and enticing aromas to the south side. The menu centers on beef and bison, all incarnated as different versions of Philly cheese steak sandwiches.

The original Philly barely fits inside the take-out container. The baguette veritably groans under its crown of sliced fragrant beef, tender-crisp green peppers, earthy mushrooms, and translucent onions. A generous slather of melted cheese completes the picture.

The Peppercorn features a lavish blanket of melted provolone atop the aforementioned beef, onions, mushrooms and peppers. A few more grinds of pepper would be welcome - pepper and beef are natural-born lovers. There is no need to inquire as to "where's the beef." It's right here.

Black Bull Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Local Omnivore - Please, Sir, I want some more

Matching portion size to price point is art-meets-science and, no matter what the rationale, is apt to incite polarity. I am well-acquainted with the myriad of expenses that lurk just behind the counter. For restaurant or food truck, one must contend with rent or mortgage, insurance (both vehicular and liability), permits, equipment purchases, food costs, staff salaries and any number of unexpected things that require money. Portion size, thus, reflects these costs, but the restaurateur is vexed with sating a public that is used to the mantra of "more is better."

The Local Omnivore food truck epitomizes this conundrum. L.O.'s sandwiches are modestly portioned; this decision has alternately been praised and derided. Debate club fodder aside, what of Local Omnivore's food? The BLT tastes exactly the way a good specimen of this species ought to. The tomatoes taste like tomatoes: juicy, ripe and musky-sweet. Lettuce is crisp and never flaccid. The bacon is not too thick, not too thin, and does justice to the Holy Trinity of ingredients: fat, salt, and sweet. The agreeable bread permits its innards to do the talking.

Inside-Out Grilled cheese, though the combination of cheddar and swiss is tasty, isn't much different than a right-side-out grilled cheese sandwich. The inside-out component derives from the fact that the crusts face in and the fluffy sides face out. There was so much room for creativity here - how about some fried cheese on the outside and bread on the inside?

Two hand-sized sandwiches rang in at a little less than 20 bucks. I understand the ever-present guillotine of restaurant expenses. But, after two sandwiches and a short period of time, I was hungry again. Please, Sir. I want some more.

The Local Omnivore on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Street Eats - Dancing in the Street

Downtown Edmonton, quite literally and within a relatively short time span, has metamorphosed into a food truck hub. The streets veritably hum with food trucks that touch down in the morning and depart as the day wears on, much in the manner of migratory birds that make daily forays from the safety of their roosts to the bounty of their urban foraging grounds.

(Forgive the photo - flip phones take dreadful pictures) One may amble through a quadrant bounded by 105 street to 109th, Jasper south to 99th, and happen upon a good half-dozen trucks. What an age to be alive - and now, newly-hatched Street Eats joins this flock.

Comfort food comprises the manifesto of Street Eats: think grilled cheese sandwiches and pulled pork. Or think of them in the same sandwich. Though I've bemoaned the overblown (and not necessarily deserved popularity) of shredded swine, this meat finds fresh life lovingly pressed between two slices of bread and cheese. The white bread is marbled with tan on the outside, and generously stuffed with cheddar and tangy-sweet pork. The mathematical beauty of combining two delicious dishes is that the result isn't necessarily additive but, rather, multiplicative.

Pulled Pork on its own proves a giving and worthy partner to a tangled crown of subtly acidic coleslaw.  The deftly-shredded pork swoons with gentle smoke and sweet heat, and happily occupies a soft bun. Though the pork-grilled cheese combination was quite magical, this too is a solid contender in a culinary sea rife with pulled pork. Glad to see you on the streets, Street Eats. Welcome to the flock.

Street Eats on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Smashburger - The Chicken and the Egg

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? What happens if they arrive together on the same sandwich? This universal conundrum may remain unresolved, but the latter confirms that they comprise a mighty fine meal - one that may be found at newly-opened Smashburger in Sherwood Park. This American chain literally "smashes" burgers to order; in other words, a large sphere of ground beef is smashed with gusto onto a hot grill, and this procedure renders the burger's exterior gorgeously caramelized and the interior perfectly juicy.

But what of chicken and eggs? The Edmonton Smashchicken Sandwich features a large grilled breast of chicken topped with cheddar, caramelized onions and - yes - a fried egg. How happily these compatriots coexist inside a pillowy roll. The chicken and egg are so large that they dwarf the bun, and many bites are needed before the bun is part of the equation. The juicy chicken, melted cheese, sweet onions, and crispy-creamy egg are quite delectable.

The Bacon and Cheeseburger is laced with tangy-sweet barbecue sauce and crispy onions. Bacon imparts notes of smoke and maple without being greasy. The patty itself is a testament to Smashburger's signature cooking method: juicy all the way through with the right degree of crispness on the exterior. Sweet potato fries are crunchy but would benefit from a few shakes of cayenne or even some lime zest. Smashfries, on the other hand, are ludicrously addicting, as they are laced with rosemary and garlic.

A Saskatoon Berry Shake is nostalgia in a cup. No phony syrups or gelatinous textures besmirch this shake. Rather, macerated berries loll with understated vanilla and conjure up memories of Saskatoon berry picking on hot Saskatchewan summer afternoons. The shake was so thick that the average-sized straw was insufficient; a spoon was warranted.

Though the chicken-egg quandary can never been resolved, confirmed, or rejected, one irrefutable fact of the universe remains. They make a damn fine sandwich and often arrive in the company of smashingly good hamburgers.

Read about Marlow Moo's experience here.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon


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