Thursday, June 25, 2009

Finally: Ruth's Chris Amazing Steakhouse

I've been wanting to try the oh-so-amazing food from what's been voted as one of Toronto's best steakhouses for a long, long time, and finally had the chance to do so on the weekend of my convocation.

We were having trouble with ordering right from the beginning. Every item in the appetizer section looked delicious and not-to-be-missed. After scrutinizing every item, we finally decided to started off with the Oyster Rockefellers ($19.95) with 6 plump, cooked oysters topped with chunks of soft onions, finely chopped spinach, all mixed in with a creamy, but not heavy, hollandaise sauce. We practically licked the shells clean.

For entree, since we wanted a filet mignon and a new york strip, we decided to order a Porterhouse for two ($99.95) to get the best of both worlds. The massive piece of meat came as 8 mini steaks severed from the bone. The waiter placed a burning dinner plate sizzling with hot butter in front me, and served me a piece of steak from the tender, filet side and another firmer one from the strip side to sear on my plate.

Our first steak turned out too be medium cooked rather than the medium rare we asked for. The waiter returned it to the kitchen and brought out another one in less than 5 min because he "pulled some favours in the kitchen". Can't complain about the service......nor the food.

Steak was just how a great steak should taste like. No fancy flavours to dress it up, just pure juicy, tender, flavourful meat, lightly dressed with butter, satisfying our carniverous needs.

We had Potatoe Au Gratin and Sauteed Mushrooms ($8,95 ea.) as sides. The potatoes were tasty, probably because I'm a cheese fanatic, but the mushrooms really amazed me. Again, in this very simple and au naturel dish, you can really taste that distinctive mushroom flavour in these big, meaty caps.

Finally, to celebrate my WAAAY early birthday, we received a slice of dark chocolate cake topped with a lit candle. (Does making a wish on a super early birthday work as well??)

I love dark chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, and I probably could've ate the entire cake if it had been sitting in front of me. It was smooth, dense, but not sugary (like those cakes from supermarkets), and you can taste the cocoa with every bite. Writing this right now makes me want to run back and devour a piece.

Overall, it was superb food and great service, but too bad I'm still a poor student. The whole meal, with a bottle of wine that was around $47, rounded up to $210 not including tips. Thank fully I had the anniversary gift cards that I bought for half price.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Calgarylicious: Tommy Burger & Bar

This is a small bar & restaurant off of Macleod Trail in Calgary with several flat screen TVs above its stylish-lit bar to keep sports fans entertained. We arrived there famished, so we dove straight into the menu drooling over all the different burger options. They offer sandwiches and other fares too, but we came here to get a taste of their specialty gourmet burgers, which were about $12.75 each, topped with half a pickle and accompanied by a salad, soup, or generous serving of fries. Bun choices include multigrain and sesame.

You can create your own burger too for $10.50 with tomatoe, lettuce, red onions, chipotle ketchup and tommy burger sauce. Adding an extra topping brings the total to $11.50, and one more for $ get the idea. Toppings are categorized as dairy (camembert, blue cheese, swiss, etc.), Veggies (sprouts, avocado, etc), Meat (extra patty, bacon, etc).

My two topping customized burger came with a half inch thick patty topped with melted smoked Gouda and lots of sauteed mushrooms, sandwiched in a multigrain bun. Upon seeing the burger tower, my angry, growling stomach smiled.

Initially I couldn't taste anything other than the juicy patty because the chipotle ketchup (tasted like ketchup mixed with smoked bbq sauce) monopolized my tastebuds. After I scraped off a thick layer of the sauce, I could appreciate the slight hint of smoked gouda playing off of the meaty mushrooms, with the crunchy lettuce and tomato to add texture and a sense of freshness to the bite. The salad was served in a separate bowl in a very satisfying portion, considering it's only a side dish.
Edwin had the Tommy Burger with blue cheese, fried onions. and bacon. It had a much stronger taste than mine, half of it was because of the generous layer of blue cheese that was squeezed in there.
As with any burger joint, they also served milkshakes but we weren't in the mood for it at that time.
Overall, I felt that he burgers were slightly overpriced, but the ingredients were fresh, portions are generous and taste is acceptable. However, a much better deal can be found at Moose McGuire in the North end of the city, where the Coyote Burger, a delicious patty with Cheddar cheese and thick layer of guacamole, served with your choice of salad, fries, soup or rice for only $7.50. (I would've blogged about this but the camera was out of battery...).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Calgarylicious: Gaucho Brazillian BBQ - meat lovers' happy place

Had our new friend Ray not led us to this place, we would never have found this hidden jewel behind Best Western hotel on 3605 Manchester Rd SE off of Macleod Trail in Calgary.

The restaurant is small, but cozy and casual with handwritten chalk boards that explain to you how their Rodizio - their $35 ($28 for lunch) buffet works. The chef comes around with skewers of meat, and he won't stop until you flip your cow-shaped card from green to red.

They first start you off with a couple of delicious appetizers, including two flavours of fried manioc roots, which tasted like big, crispy fries with a more meaty, starchy filling.
There was also garlic bread and a very refreshing, tangy salsa of peppers, onions and olive oil. The buffet also includes the 4 appetizers offered on their menu: Fried jasmine rice, chunky potato salad with green beans and corn, tomato salad with a chunk of bamboo shoot, and braised beef with black beans, which I though was very flavourful and tender.
Regrettably, I ate two bowls worth of trailmix before coming to dinner so I couldn't participate in the all-you-can-eatathon, so I orderd the 1 grill item + 1 side combo ($13). I picked the rump steak, which turned out to be a little dry, with a generous serving of the potato salad. The side salad was sitting on a pool of dressing that was so acidic that it hurt my throat on the first bite.

For Rodizio, I snuck a few sampling bites of a couple of of the items (the ones I comment on), just out of curiosity. They had grilled banana, pineapple, lamb (very flavourful, very juicy), chicken wings, chicken heart (may sound gross to some, but it was actually the best tasting piece of meat among all others), pork, bbq ribs, sausages, and different cuts of beef that were juicy and tender.

Overall, this place is worth the visit for hungry carnivores who want to spoil their tastebuds with a diversed selection of well bbqed meats.

Goodness at home: The Non-Dieter's Mega Salad

President's Choice has been coming up with a lot of new products that are pretty great, one of which is this newly discovered crumbled Tomato and Basil Goat Cheese for $4.99. Equally exciting is the Kraft's Signature Roasted Pepper Salad Dressing ($3.29ish, tastes like an upgraded version of the Italian dressing but has the smoky taste of roasted peppers and is less acidic) and you've got the ingredients to an awesome salad. Best of all, the dressing is only 20 calories per tablespoon.

Armed with these two magical ingredients I've managed to fill myself up on some satisfying salads that dieters may find a little too caloric.

This was a deep bowl filled with baby romaine, diced apple, sliced roasted chicken from Costco (a huge one for $6.99, the white meat parts that are too dry go perfectly in salads and pastas), carrots, tomatoes, and quarter cup of oily, sugary trail mix with dried kiwi, papaya, strawberries, peanuts, almonds and walnuts. Complete it with a sprinkle of goat cheese and a dash of the Kraft dressing, and a salad better than any store-bought one is created in less than 5 min.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Calgalicious: Crave Cookies & Cakes Inc

Crave is a cute cupcake boutique in downtown Calgary on 1107 Kensington Road NW. Judging by the long lineup on a lazy Sunday afternoon when all other shops are either closed or deserted, this place probably fits into the landmark category.

Once you walk inside the brightly lit store, you will realize why it's called Crave.

The clusters of plump cupcakes topped with flawless twirls of colorful icing and delicate little sprinkles can draw the sweet tooth craving out of any one. I'm not a cupcake person, but I was like a restless monkey being teased by endless bunches of bananas outside my cage. Look at all the flavours!Luckily, in addition to the big cupcakes ($2.95 each, $16.95 for half a dozen), they also sell mini cupcakes for ($1.75 each or $16.95 for a dozen, which is what we got).

As you can see, they need to elevate the price because half the cost went into the labour and materials of the packaging. Oops, I mean, they are very attentive with the presentation. They even pack two big cupcakes in a whole casing with a bowtie.

I couldn't wait to dive into them right after walking out the store, and went on to try three flavours: Cravolicious (blue vanilla buttercream icing with chocolate sprinkles), Chocolate, and Red devil (red cupcake with cream cheese buttercream topping).

The cupcakes generally taste the same with two base variations: vanilla and chocolate. Not sure what the red one was, but it didn't have a distinctive taste. If you like extremely sugary, creamy icing that melts even when you just breathe on it, then you will fall in love with these cupcakes. I really enjoyed the cake part because it's very soft, moist, and barely sugary, which would pair perfectly with a touch of the icing. So personally, I thought the mini bites would've been an A+ if there were half the icing there just to flavour up the cakes. But then again, I'm not an icing cupcake person, so I'm sure those of you who are will find yourself a piece of heaven in these pretty little things.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Costco Cheeseburger Combo kicks McD's Big Mac's Butt

Costco's new meal deal: $5.99 Cheeseburger with lots of fries and a 20 oz drink beats McD's Big Mac Meal, or any other fast food combo by a long shot.

Unfortunately, I ate it all too fast before I could take a picture, half because I was starving and half because it was actually really delicious. Costco's famous thick cut, crispy fries are one of the best I've tried, because a) you can actually taste the potatoes and feel the texture and b) you can get a huge bowl for only $2.19, or something.

Now add a big, juicy burger to it and you've got a double bonus combo. Inside a pair of warm burger buns lies the standard tomatoe slice, lettuce leaf, a slice of processed cheese, and a half inch, 1/2 pound grilled Angus beef pattie that is meaty, juic juicy and completely satisfying. You can top it off with as much onion, relish, pickled radish, jalapeno, ketchup and mustard as you like at the self-serve station. Don't forget you also have the 20 oz soft drink to quench your thirst from downing all the fries and meat. Since it's also a self-serve station, you can always get more watered-down pop if needed.

Overall, if I were to get a fast-food combo, Costco would be the top choice any day.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Foodgasmic - Brie Apricot Cresent Rolls

Foodgasms - yes they exist and their frequency of occurrence depends on how high or low the standards of your taste buds are. Mine are medium so I'm lucky enough to be able to enjoy "mind-blastingly" good food once in awhile, and I've discovered one a few days ago that I'm gonna share with all you lucky people.

So Chef Aaron offered to make dinner and bought enough food to feed a small country...which was me. There was the risotto and roasted garlic and vegetables, and a beautiful red and green salad with strawberries, candied pecans, baby spinach and red peppers (I ruined the color theme by forcing diced mangoes in there). Of all his creations, I want to feature this tomato and cranberry goat cheese tower he designed, layered with baby spinach, coriander and chives with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I believe he purposely made it this high so that I can butcher it with my knife and make a complete cutting fail.

This crappy picture is not doing it justice but you get the idea. The acidity in the vinegar complemented the sweetness in the cranberry goat cheese really well, and the tomatoes met both of these flavours half way and the coriander adds a good zing to the whole taste.

However, the Foodgasmic part of the evening was the Brie Apricot Rolls. It was the simplest dish on the menu and it was so good I wish Wal-Mart sold second stomachs so I could keep stuffing my face with them.

It may look very ordinary, but imagine: a hot, buttery, slightly salty, crispy crust wrapped around a ball of warm, soft melted brie blended in with a touch of sweet apricot jam.........ahh....
He made 8 of those, and since he was allergic to cheese and could only risk eating one of them, I felt "obligated" to fulfill my duty, and downed three of those heavenly bites in one night.

Now here's the good part - The RECIPE

You only need these three ingredients: Pillsbury Crescents dough, Apricot Jam (1/2 the calorie, double the fruit, what can be better?), and a block of brie cheese.

1. Unroll the dough and split them into 8 portions
2. Put a block of cheese, about 2 cubic cms, in the middle of the dough
3. Add half a tablespoon of jam to each piece
4. Get creative and somehow wrap each one up so none of the fillings will leak out
5. Bake at 375 F for 10-15 min until golden brown.
6. Eat and go "mmmmmm".

Like any thing else that tastes superly good in life, this little thing is not easy on the calories for those of you who are counting. It's about 220 cals per piece but on the bright side, think about all the calcium and vitamins you are getting!

Anyways, they taste great fresh out of the oven. If you want to enjoy them for later, just rebake them in alittle bit in a toaster oven. If you don't have a toaster oven.....go get one! They are just about one of the most useful gadgets to have in the kitchen. I honestly think you can cook almost any dish with a microwave and a toaster oven.