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Thursday, 26 September 2013

Je n'oublierai pas - Cafe Bicyclette

I didn't learn to ride a bicycle until I was 10. I didn't quite trust that contraption - something about balancing on two wheels that were each an inch wide defied physics. My younger brothers, on the other hand, swooped up and down the street, training wheels off, by the time they reached kindergarten. Neither gravel driveways, curbs, nor black ice patches could shake their confidence. One fateful afternoon, embarrassed that I had reached double-digit age without acquiring this locomotory skill, I took my mom's bike and coasted from one end of the yard to the other. Eventually, I pedaled and, lo, could ride a bicycle like any other kid in town.

One you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget.

One is also unlikely to forget a visit to the newly-hatched Cafe Bicyclette. Cafe Bicyclette has set up shop in Bistro La Persaud's former digs, at the bottom of a spotless staircase in the city's French Quarter. French language fills the air and blends easily with the cafe's Parisian soundtrack. Even the menu is en francais, though servers are happy to translate.

Supper commences with spicy tiger prawns. The aroma alone is intoxicating. A complex sauce of scallions, dill, garlic, and multiple sources of heat wrap around each prawn like an edible overcoat. Slices of fresh baguette were made for sopping up the drippings.

Tarte au Champignons avec Salade Maison is somehow reminiscent of a forest in summer: vibrant greens rub shoulders with meaty mushrooms, all in the company of rich butter pastry and the occasional surprise of a piquant, black olive.

Bouillabaisse is France in a kettle. A delicate broth, scented with fennel, saffron, and garlic, is home to mussels, shrimp, salmon, potatoes, and carrots. A graciously toasted slice of bread is a happy accomplice.

Dessert, though there's scarcely room, features a deconstructed lemon tartlet. Here is a ray of sunlight that bursts through the now-darkened room and sings of lemon groves along the Mediterranean. A duo of shortbread biscuits and a dollop of chantilly cream complete this creation.

Magnifique. Much like learning to ride a bicycle, one is unlikely to forget a visit to Cafe Bicyclette anytime soon. Je n'oublierai pas.

Café Bicyclette on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Orbit Street Food - Houston, We Have Lift-Off

Fall is in the air. Shades of yellow and orange are slowly replacing summer's greens and mornings bring a bracing chill. The now-past summer witnessed an unprecedented explosion of food trucks in downtown Edmonton - and in other areas, for good measure. Though the great majority of these restaurants on wheels enjoyed their maiden voyages in the spring, Orbit Street Food & Catering launched on the cusp of autumn.

Orbit's universe is one of tacos. The recipes are not strictly Latin American per se, but comprise a fusion of flavours that draw upon multiple interpretations of these portable provisions. Here, on this brisk September afternoon, the nippy air has an unexpected advantage: the aromas that emanate from Orbit's windows are sharpened to a Pavlovian drool-worthy level.

Shrimp tacos (pictured at left) present a quartet of plump prawns nestled cozily into a bed of greens and lusciously-textured guacamole. An unexpected whisper of habanero heat creeps up at the end of each bite - unexpected, but most welcome. Sweet morsels of mango provide a cool counterpoint to the chilies. Braised beef (pictured at right) tacos are laced with the dark and rich nuances of espresso and chocolate. Corn and pepper relish is toothsome and gently sunny but, temperature-wise, is rather cold. The full spectrum of flavour from these ingredients would benefit from a bit of warmth. Zippy red onions ease their way into the beef's languid essence; their acidity nicely complements the richness of the meat.

Bravo, Orbit. Cruising altitude has been reached.

Orbit Food Truck on Urbanspoon


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