Browsing: Restaurant Features

Deer + Almond – Sister #3’s First Visit

April30

You know that friend? Talking to them makes you feel like you just put on your favorite, cozy, old cardigan sweater. Well this was a night out with THAT friend.  And stepping into Deer + Almond felt equally as comfortable and familiar, even though it was my first visit.  The atmosphere is casual, yet funky enough to be special. The service was attentive but left my friend and I lots of room for our intense conversation. And the food, well, let me tell you about the food!

The fixed menu is on the small side, something that I appreciate as I have a tough time narrowing down my selection.  I also prefer to see a restaurant do less, but do it really well. There are also a number of featured items that are not on the menu.  This coincides with chef owner Mandel Hitzer’s philosophy of serving local, fresh food.  The menu is made up of small plates, meant for sharing.  My very favorite way to eat!

Deer & Almod's Arancin

We started out with the arancini. Yummy little balls of risotto, breaded and deep fried, served on a pool of perfect tomato sauce.  You can tell a lot about a chef by how tasty their tomato sauce is.

Deer & Almond's Yams

Next were the yams.  They were grilled with fresh springs of thyme, drizzled with balsamic and topped with creamy little blobs of chevre.

Deer & Almond's Sultry Prawns

On to the sultry prawns! Nice juicy prawns with olives, capers, tomatoes and cilantro on a delicious sauce, so good!

Deer & Almond's Flatbread

The featured flatbread, pizza really, was fantastic; crispy bacon, shrimp, feta and arugula on a crisp crust with more of their perfect tomato sauce.

We were celebrating my friend’s birthday, so we just had to indulge in dessert to end the evening. There were a few options to select from and we settled on the peanut butter ice cream, served with chocolate mousse and a caramel sauce.  What can I say, it was the perfect evening.

Deer + Almond on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “If you don’t mind smelling like peanut butter for two or three days, peanut butter is darn good shaving cream.”-Barry Goldwater

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Love-that is all.

Spring Has Arrived at Earl’s -Guest Blogger, Sister #3

April26

D and I were out of town this week, with a road trip to Minneapolis. We did a little bit of resting, a little bit of shopping and a lot of eating.  “No surprise”,  you say.  Details of our eating adventures will follow ina  blog post to come.  In the meantime, Sister #3 was available to sub-in for me to an invitation from Earl’s to taste their spring menu.

“To say that spring is slow in arriving this year would be an understatement.  It is almost the end of April and there is still snow and ice in our yards. But we got a taste of spring last night as Earl’s unveiled their new spring menu at a chef’s table event at their Winnipeg Flagship store -191 Main Street.

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For our introductory course we sampled the new Whiskey Smash cocktail.  A classic Whiskey Sour with honey and fresh mint served in a silver mint julep cup.  Talk about refreshing!

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Leroy’s ribs are back by popular demand, or as the staff will tell you, more like a customer revolt when they disappeared off the menu recently to make room for newer items.  My companion was one of the disappointed customers who is thrilled to see their return.  I find them a bit salty but must say they do make you want to slam back your Whiskey Smash like a good bar snack should.

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Next course featured a Moscow Mule; a vodka Collins with a ginger bite served in a copper cup to keep it icy cold.

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These came out with the beef Carpaccio.  The best rendition of this dish I have ever tasted.  The thinly sliced tenderloin melted in your mouth and the sriracha mayo, capers and pickled red onion gave it the punch that carpaccio is often missing.  Served with toasted ciabatta, a little arugula tossed in a light lemon dressing and the most delicious deviled egg.  I’ll be back for more of that!

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Next item to appear at our table was the Lobster + Prawn Roll.  An upscale version of this east coast classic, the Earl’s version is served on a buttered griddled brioche that is made in house; a step up from the typical hot dog bun.  It overflowed with seafood salad with just the right amount of mayo.

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Our main was a big strip loin steak that featured their new steak rub.  Chef Matt Frost commented that while they are not trying to be a steak house they feel it is important to have an excellent steak available on their menu.  He is excited that they are now offering a 16 ounce, bone-in rib eye.  Aged a minimum of 28 days (standard for a good quality steak) our steaks were cooked to the perfect doneness. The new wet rub contains tamari (gluten free soy sauce) garlic, lemon, and basil, rosemary and porcini powder and we each went home with a sample to test on our own B.B.Q.  Our main was accompanied by garlic mashed potato and really good succotash. All enjoyed with a glass of Whatchamacallit, Earl’s house red which is a pleasant merlot blend.

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For dessert, yes after all that food we managed a few bites of dessert, we enjoyed a scrumptious strawberry rhubarb crumble with vanilla gelato.

 

Chef Matt Frost

Chef Matt Frost

It was a lovely evening getting to know the Earl’s on Main team.  Their pride in the product is evident.  I was impressed to hear that Earl’s has their own mixologist. You can see that they put as much attention to detail in their cocktails as they do the food.  Unlike most restaurants that depend on prepackaged bar mixes, Earl’s juices their own lemons and limes daily as well as making their syrups from scratch.

Well the upcoming weekend promises to bring temperatures in the double digits and the staff is itching to assemble the new patio furniture and move the party outdoors.

One last bit of news that has the Earl’s team looking forward to the future, the construction of a new building to house their Main street location.  Watch for more great things from this dynamic crew in a new and improved setting.”

Earl's on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”-Robin Williams

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Love-that is all.

 

Unburger Revisited

April23

Do you recall the feeling of writing your last university exam in the spring?  Perhaps, for you, the sensation is still very fresh.  For me, in spite of the number of years that have past, I remember the perception vividly.  Recently, I picked Daughter #2 up after her last exam of the semester.  In fact, with an overseas practicum trip planned for this fall, she won’t be back at school until January 2014.  Having completed a paper during the week and written two exams the day previous, she was giddy with relief.  Contributing to her levity, may have been the exhaustion of studying most of the night.  By the time I fetched her, she was also very, very hungry. The Osborne Village restaurant is on our route home and my husband has been encouraging me to pay the Unburger guys a repeat visit.

Since I once worked upstairs in the building that Unburger -Healthy Gourmet Burgers is located in, I knew that there was parking behind the premises.  I should have read the signs that the place was hopping, as there was not a spot available.  When we arrived at the entrance, we had to wedge in between the door itself and the back of the line.  It was obvious that there was not an empty seat in the restaurant but what was not apparent, was the number of large orders that had been placed for pick up.  Needless to say, once we put in our order, until the time that our bag of food was handed off to us, a considerable amount of time had passed.  No worries.  We watched others arrive and try to shoe-horn themselves inside, including Jets captain-Andrew Ladd.  I had been to the game the night before, when Ladd had gotten a overtime assist on the winning goal.  Ladd has always been my favourite Jet, and his recent performance has certainly solidified that.  What I am saying in a long-winded way, is that time seemed to pass relatively quickly.

Unburger

Daughter #2 knew exactly what she was having-a Blueberry Yum-Yum beef burger and a side of sweet potato fries with rosemary garlic aioli.  I had a hankering for the Bella (I suppose I am already preparing my palette for an upcoming trip to Tuscany).  Unburger marks the Bella as “A (Damn Good) Healthier Burger” and I should have continued in that vein with an “8 Grain Energy Salad” which I am crazy about, but I couldn’t resist their freshly cut fries.

Unburger

The “Sweet, Sweet Yam Fries” did not survive the drive home and missed the photo shoot.  I asked Daughter #2 what she appreciated about the burger as she took her first bite.  She replied: “Well, it includes all my favourite foods in one place-the blueberries have a bit of a spicy punch.  There is a creamy goat cheese and balsamic onions.” I can attest to this appeal, as I see these items on our family grocery list on a regular basis.  She so loves the balsamic bite with meat, that I just place the bottle on the dining room table in front of her when I serve pork chops.

Unburger

I am an avid beef eater but knew that I was going to be noshing on a beef lasagna for dinner that evening and that is why I chose the Bella with its “meaty” grilled portabella mushroom innards.  The non-pulsed order taker and cashier, cheerfully replaced the blue cheese with goat cheese, even though I totally messed up by not remembering until after we had placed and paid for our order.  Balsamic onions also adorned the daily baked, whole wheat bun.

Unburger

The tastes were balanced and bold at the same time, even when I went back to finish the second half of my burger a couple of hours later.  Unburger knows their local ingredients and how to assemble a great tasting, “guilt-free” burger.  They also know how to help a Mom revive and refresh her diligent daughter.

Unburger on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “It does not matter where you go and what you study, what matters most is what you share with yourself and the world.”-Santosh Kalwar

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Love-that is all.

 

Tom’s Pizza-Thompson

April17

Tom's

I am eating pizza that is so amazing that I have not finished my first piece and I have to write about it. The crust is firm, crispy and perfectly cooked.  The sauce, as indicated on the take out menu is Tom’s “own authentic”.  I cannot really work up a full analysis on the sauce as the tastes are over-taken by the toppings and the cheese.  This is not a complaint.

Tom's

The “Miner’s Special” toppings are a thick wedge of pepperoni and julienne salami. The combination is appropriately spicy and because of the abundance, I am very thirsty from the salt.  But not the kind of salty taste that you get when a bad cook tries to disquise their inferiority with the salt shaker, but a deep and rich, saltiness. If I had any complaint, it is that I would have loved more mushrooms to offset the richness of the deli meats.  Mozzarella is liberally layered over top and then hunks of bacon crown it all.

Tom's

I do not use the term “hunks” in a derogatory manner.  These are lean and meaty pieces, similar to when I was growing up and my Dad would bring home the bacon.  He would purchase a slab of bacon and would slice it up himself.  He would use his big freshly sharpened butcher knife, on the wooden cutting board, that used to slide out of the cupboard.  Tom’s bacon retains a husky, smoky taste and comes closer to what I imagine “real” bacon is supposed to taste like.

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I have to fess up on a couple of points: I have now finished my pizza supper and it is only 5 pm.  I really want to watch the Jets game but I have to participate in a twitter party this evening.  The front desk agent at my hotel has called over to Boston Pizza which is within walking distance, to ensure that they have Wi-Fi.  Therefore, I can sit up at the bar, watch the game AND fulfil my tweeting commitments.  But, I couldn’t bear to pay Boston’s prices for a pizza when I knew that their pies could not hold a candle to the local version, that I have heard so much about.  Last year when I was teaching in Thompson, I tasted pizza from Santa Maria and when I commented to locals that I wanted to go again, many advised me that the chef from Santa Maria’s had moved over to Tom’s (or perhaps he even IS Tom).  At any rate, I wanted to give a place that I had never eaten at, a try.

Just before game time, I plan to walk over to BP and order myself a frosty beer or a glass of wine and then get my tweeting fingers warmed up.  Hopefully I will be all done by the end of the first period, when I can then sit back and enjoy the rest of the game.  Which I can now report was won in a shoot out!

Tom's Pizza & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I talked to a calzone for fifteen minutes last night before I realized it was just an introverted pizza. I wish all my acquaintances were so tasty.
”-  Jarod Kintz

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Love-that is all.

 

Popeyes-Thompson

April9

When spring arrives, you know it on the Canadian prairies-the food trucks and hot dog carts start to line Broadway in Winnipeg and the parking lots of the burger joints are lined up with weather-worn vehicles.  The mercury is predicted to dip mighty low again tonight so even though the calendar says it is spring, we are all waiting for the sun and earth to follow suit.  Well at least the spring food offerings will sustain us until summer picnics can commence.

In Thompson, where I am teaching for a couple of weeks, April means that Popeye’s is open again!  I understand that Allison, the owner, has a green thumb and in the summer months, the gardens are overflowing with blossoms.  Right now the snow banks still cover the flower beds and the bubbling fountain.  But the snow is melting on the front path and we had the choice of a couple of inside tables or dining in the car.  We chose the former.  Many other vehicles were pulling in and picking up their “to-go” orders, including one in front of us that drove away with literally bags of burgers.

No wonder so many people make the drive out of town to this tasty little spot.  The burger is made with a hand-formed seasoned patty and even though I ordered mine “loaded” the quality and deep taste of the beef, shone through.  I understand that the recipe for the patty is a trade secret along with the oil blend that the amazing French fries are cooked in.

This overflowing boxful provided two people, two helpings.  I can’t imagine anyone order a large order.

We were able to peak over the counter to see that the cut potatoes are plunged in oil twice.  I know that the best chips are made in this manner.  Have you ever wondered why?  Me, too and this is what I found out.  The answer was on a blog site that I have visited many times before, entitled Serious Eats.  “The key lies in the fact that not all water in a potato is equal. Some of it is bound within the potato’s structure more tightly then the rest, requiring more energy to expel it. During the first fry, some of the water present in the potato evaporates and exits, allowing the oil to enter the space it was taking, and come in direct contact with the potato’s cells. Meanwhile, water that is more tightly bound in the potato’s structure remains. Soon, individual molecules of starch break free from larger granules with the help of the energy provided by hot oil. These starch molecules then come in contact with the water still present in the potatoes, hydrating and forming a gel that acts as a kind of glue, reinforcing the structure of the cells around it. Over time, as the oil works its way into the potato, a relatively thick layer of starch-reinforced cells can build up around the exterior of the potato. This is the paper-like sheath you see around a potato that has been fried once at low temperature.”

Popeye's on Urbanspoon

I fly in and out of Thompson and so you may wonder how I was able to make this out-of-town jaunt.  No, I didn’t take a cab.  I was escorted by the Front Desk Agent from my hotel.  I am in town teaching a course in exactly this subject area.  The staff at the Lakeview take hospitality to an entirely new level.

Kath’s quote: “I would gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today.” Wimpy

Love-that is all.

 

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