Reader. Writer. Romantic.

Location: 10, 316 – 3 St SE
Website: https://bookersbbq.com/

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we’ve driven past this place and I’ve wanted to go in and try it. Well, today, I got to as part of the YYC Food and Drink Experience.

Sitting at work, we thought perhaps we wouldn’t be able to go with our original plan of ordering the prix fixe menu, but upon sitting down, it was clear that that’s what three of the four us were going to do.

With the prix fixe menu, there were three courses: starter, main, and dessert. We would start with a soup – smoked brisket and barley, followed by a BBQ plate, and finish off with pecan tart.

I must admit, the soup was the one I was least sure of and was admittedly the best of the three course. When the dish was presented it didn’t look like much, but sometimes simplicity is the best way to showcase the natural flavours of the ingredients making it somewhat reminiscent of a well-made home cooked meal. That is to say, it had a very homey, hearty quality that I would normally reserve more for chowders than a soup like this, but this soup earned that qualification. It was well seasoned (not too salty and not bland either), with the flavours adding to and balancing one another. I always say that I can drink lava and I might as well have been. It was served (very) hot, but I personally like my soup more on the hot side. That combined with the fact that it was very cold outside, it was a great way to start off the meal.

In the presence of good company, it did not feel like it took the next course very long to appear. The BBQ plate consisted of half a rack of ribs, coleslaw, baked beans, and pulled pork. An issue I generally have with ribs at restaurants is that the meat is overcooked and loses its tenderness. There were parts that were overcooked and charred, but for the most part, they were tender and fell off the bone easily. My only complaint was that the seasoning on the ribs was not prominent enough. That is to say, it felt as though I was eating blackened ribs with no discernable seasoning, especially when contrasted with the pulled pork, which was moist, well-seasoned and vastly superior. The coleslaw could’ve used with a little more dressing. I could tell there was a dressing, but honestly, like the one at Owens Landing (though not nearly as bad), it felt like it was just cabbage and carrot. It could’ve done with some acidity. The third side, the baked beans, weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special. At least they were seasoned. The fourth in our party, who opted not to order the prix fixe menu had the pulled pork sandwich sans cajun mayo and pickles, the latter of which I took. Based on my conception of the flavours, the sweetness of the pickle (as they were bread and butter pickles) and the cajun mayo would’ve been a perfect complement to the savoury pulled pork, and to top it all off, was a fried pickle spear giving the dish a much needed deep fried element. I would absolutely have ordered this if I wasn’t so “afraid” to get my hands dirty. More and more, I dislike getting my hands dirty and given the whole coronavirus situation, probably eating with utensils would be better for the time being. The pulled pork sandwich was served with a side of caesar salad.

We finished the meal off with a pecan tart. I absolutely love pecan tarts and was looking forward to this course the most. My friend Alex’s comment about it being a lot like a tarte au sucre was not inaccurate. I felt that it was more of that than a pecan tart other than the obvious fact that there were pecans on it. For me, if you’re going to serve a tart with ice cream, the tart should at least be warm. I really enjoy meals with contrast: hot and cold, sweet and savoury, as well as a variety of textures. I felt like this was a missed opportunity. That is not to say that the tart was not delicious, but it was not exactly what I was hoping for. The tart with drizzled with bourbon caramel and chocolate, but I didn’t feel like it added much to the overall dessert and I’m a huge proponent of only using that which is necessary in a dish.

Overall, I was not hugely impressed with the food we got. Perhaps they are not exactly the things on the menu I normally would’ve gone for, which is fine, as I am one who loves to try out new things, but the flavours just didn’t work for me. I would like to come back to try some of their seafood (crab cakes and calamari) as well as their fried shrimp po’boy (I have a weakness for these). However, unfortunately, I must base it on my experience today and it was not the best (though service was good). I would rate this place 2.75/5. I hope I will have the chance to come back and reassess that.

I apologize for the quality of the photos below as the restaurant was quite dark.

Restaurant Interior
Restaurant Interior
Soup: Brisket and Barley
BBQ Plate: Half rack of ribs, Pulled Pork, Baked Beans, and Coleslaw
Pecan Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream

Imposter

There she stands
Prim and proper
Poised and perfect

To the untrained eye
She is a god
Flitting about
Accomplishing things beyond mere human skill

She is truly incredible
A master in her element

But as time moves forth
You begin to see
She is not all she seems

From between the cracks
Of her picture perfect facade
Wisps of uncertainty like smoke escapes

But she is careful
For when she is asked
Her reply will always be
“I’m okay”

Beneath the surface
Lies a beast
Not one to destroy her
In the way you’d think

She will never seek help
For that is weakness
She will push herself
To breaking limits
Striving to the ends of the earth
Just to make the world a better place
For those she loves

But for herself
There’s no such love
For herself
There is only fault

A cycle
A chain
An unending loop
A course she treads
Alone in darkness

If only she could see
How brilliant she really is
That she could chase away the shadows
Who have haunted her
Since time immemorial

Forgotten

From across the room
You see her smile
With a face that could launch a thousand ships
Some would say she was beautiful

But not you
Deep inside
You know
You knew
A secret
Eating you up
A gnawing hunger

But you trust him
Don’t you?

Then you hear him laugh
As he leans into her
Sharing in a private moment
In a private joke

In a room filled with friends
You’ve never been more alone
An outsider
Trapped in glass
Screaming, but no one can hear you

And in this moment
This singularity in time
You crave nothing
Nothing more
Than
His attention
But he can’t see you
He can’t hear you

She has become his whole world
She is all he sees

You tremble
Searching for strength
In place you know you’ll never find it
Trying hard
Hiding your fear
Promising not to let it get to you

But you can’t

Because you know
Because you see
Through your heart
That though he has always been true
Always been yours
You have never seen him so happy
Never heard his laugh more melodic

For the first time
You doubt the words

“I love you…always.”

For he now keeps
What he once freely shared
Secrets and darkness
You never knew

The beautiful lies
Automatic now
Poison
Like the taste of her honeyed lips on his

And when offered the fruit
Forbidden and distant
He reaches out
And chooses her

Location: 308 4 Ave SW (Jamieson Place)
Website: http://www.owenslanding.ca/

I had, have and always will consider myself a foodie, but I have to admit, my list of restaurants, cafes, eateries, pubs, etc. is very limited compared to some of the other foodies out there. Heck, the places I’ve tried compared to the ones I follow on instagram don’t even compare. Recently, the additions to my list have been informed by the numerous places I’ve booked my lawyers in for lunch at in and around downtown Calgary. I always take a peek at the menus of the places I’m booking in for and I would say that our tastes in restaurants are pretty similar.

A couple restaurants that I’ve recently added to my list include Cucina, Workshop Kitchen, Bridgette Bar, Cardinale, Hy’s, and, of course, Owens Landing. The ultimate restaurant on my list that I really hope that I can go to one day is Hy’s Steakhouse. Sure, it’s on the high end, but I think that it would be an experience of a lifetime and completely worth every cent and when I do finally get to go, you can be sure that I will be writing a full analysis of my experience.

Of the recently added restaurants, I’ve only tried Cucina and Owens Landing, which I am currently reviewing. Cucina is owned by the Teatro group and I’ve always had a good experience with them. In fact, I will be returning here on Friday. Over the course of the next couple of months, I will be checking off at least four more restaurants from my list. I can’t wait to share them all with you.

Originally, I had planned on booking in the reservation at 5 pm since I got off at 4 pm. However, at my friend’s request, we decided on 5:30 pm. I am very glad that we ended up on deciding to push the time back because I ended up having to work late and didn’t get out of the office until almost 5 pm. Owens Landing isn’t that far from my work, so it only took about 10 minutes for me to walk, making me extremely early for the reservation. As it was a Monday, the restaurant wasn’t packed and the hostess ended up seating me instead of making me wait in the lobby until my reservation.

I wasn’t seated long before our server approached me for a drink order and I indicated that I would wait until my friend’s arrival before ordering one, if that was in fact what I wanted. Our server came back an additional two times to check and make sure that I hadn’t changed my mind. While I appreciated that she was checking in frequently, I was a little more annoyed that she kept checking in so frequently. As soon as my friend arrived, barely with her coat off, the server approached again. My first thought was, “Could you not let her get settled first before you come to ambush us?” It took a few minutes for my friend to get settled before the server returned yet again. She had barely even had a chance to look at the menu, so my friend ordered a hot water with lemon and asked a few more minutes for the menu. The server acquiesced and walked away. The next time she returned was with my friend’s drink, less than a minute later and again she asked if we were ready. Again, we were not and she left for a more reasonable amount of time before returning for our order.

Since we had made it before 6pm, we still could order from the Happy Hour menu. For Happy Hour, select appetizers are only $10. We decided to only go with one, the Tuna Poke. We had previously asked our server if the items on the Happy Hour appetizer menu were of shareable size and she had indicated that the Tuna Poke was quite small and that we could each probably have our own. We decided, given the amount of food we had planned to order, that one Poke was enough.

We rounded out our meal with two entrees, the Naan Chicken Club, which I had been eyeing for a very long time, and their signature dish, a Fish and Chips. Since the Fish and Chips already came with fries, we opted for sweet potato fries for the Chicken Club.

We requested that the appetizers and mains be brought out at the same time since we were sharing everything. As we were busy catching up, I didn’t feel like the amount of time it took for our food to arrive was especially long. The Poke was not what I had expected, visually. It was be a while longer when I tried it that I realized that it was not what I expected gustatorily either.

I started with the Fish and Chips as they were right in front of me. The fish had a good crunch, the batter to fish ratio was balanced, and well cooked. However, I was not impressed that when I bit into it, a little bit of oil gushed out and dribbled down my chin. The dish was presented with a grilled lemon, which I squeezed over the fish, but as that wasn’t enough, I supplemented with malt vinegar. It was also accompanied by a tartar sauce, but the sauce was a disappointment. Growing up in a household where your dad was a chef at one point and made my favourite version of a tartar sauce, this one didn’t even come close to comparison. The best way I could describe it is that it’s simply mayonnaise. My friend went so far as to say that she preferred the tartar sauce that is served on McDonald’s Filet O’ Fish and that’s saying something. I found that the fries were over-salted and the oil used tasted like gone bad or like stale or was like reused old oil. It was more apparent with some of the fries than others. The only thing I liked were that some of the fries had really crisped up, which I like. My friend hadn’t started with the Fish and Chips and said that by the time she had, the batter on the fish was no longer crisp and was rather soggy. In fact, when she removed the fish from the bed of fries it was sitting on, I could see puddles of grease, some of which had been soaked into the fries below. That was unpleasant. For those who know me, I’m obsessed with coleslaw. This could not be called a coleslaw. It was carrots and cabbage in a bowl. The dressing was practically negligible and completely flavourless. If this was their signature dish, the best on their menu, I was honestly scared of what was to come.

I decided that I would dig into the Tuna Poke. I was confused at first. The menu described the dish as being sushi grade tuna, cucumber, scallions, pickled ginger, chilies and avocado crema. In my experience, the avocado crema has been drizzled over or a thin layer spread across the bottom of the plate. Often times I find that I am left craving more. That was not the case here. It looked more like a dip more than anything. The wonton chip did not have the strength or integrity to be able to pick up the tuna let alone the crema. Besides that, the wontons were extremely oily. I did not detect any ginger or chilies in the dish and the tuna could’ve used with some seasoning from something like soy sauce (although there might’ve been some of that…at least that’s what we figured the pooling brown stuff was, but it didn’t have much flavour so we weren’t sure). The crema had a strange aftertaste and really tasted more like a smoothie than anything else. To top it all off, we found a hair in the dish. Neither of us are really that queasy so we just removed it and kinda just ate around it. I mean, I’m not usually the type to complain, so I don’t know if I would’ve said anything in the first place, but this was the first time I actually considered mentioning it to our server. The only other reason we decided not to say anything was that our server was nowhere to be found.

The last dish, the Naan Chicken Club, was the one I was most excited about. I’ve always been the type to save the best for last. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The chicken was overcooked, dry, and underseasoned. The raita did very little to help the situation. Most of it had settled to the bottom of the sandwich (the folded part of the naan). Since we had fries with the fish and chips, we opted to go with sweet potato fries. Like the fries in the fish and chips, the sweet potato fries were also oversalted. However, it was a little less noticeable as the sweetness helped to counteract the saltiness and provide a nice sweet-savoury balance. The chipotle dipping sauce was as you might expect anywhere. There was nothing special about it and tasted like every chipotle aioli out there (so it was most likely commercially purchased rather than made in house).

As I hadn’t seen this friend in a while and I knew I was doing a review, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do dessert as well. I always say I’ll just look, but when I’m doing a review, I like to have the full experience. We chose the Chocolate Lava Cake, which was another one of their signature dishes. I am so used to lava cakes being served with ice cream or a sour fruit compote of some sort. This was not that, so I was pretty excited about it. Given my love for cherries, I was actually looking forward to this despite my earlier disappointments. Unfortunately, the cassis spiced cherries weren’t exactly what I had expected. They didn’t have the “spice” as promised and the cherries, having been soaked in the cassis had lost much of its integrity and natural cherry flavour. When eaten with the lava cake, it didn’t provide the contrast of flavour that I had expected from it. It simply got lost on the plate and made me wonder if it even had a point of being there at all. I am also the sort of person who enjoys an espresso or macchiato with my desserts. The bitterness is often a great contrast to the sweetness of the dessert, providing a balance when there isn’t an acidic element on the plate to provide that contrast. The lava cake itself left me feeling divided. On the one hand, I was glad that it did not have crispy edges, but I would’ve liked the cake to be more lava-y than it was. I suppose there are worse things than a flatter and bigger than usual lava cake not oozing enough chocolate from the centre.

As our server had disappeared, the other servers picked up the slack and helped to clear away our dishes and fill up our glasses. This last server even helped to take our dessert order. However, as soon as we had ordered the dessert, she walked away in the middle of me about to order an espresso. We had to get her attention again and have her come back, which I must say, leaves me less than impressed.

I came here because my lawyer had been here on more than one occasion so I figured that it couldn’t be all that bad if he kept coming back. Perhaps it was simply who he was that resulted in a different experience. This is why I like going to restaurants as me rather than as a food blogger or restaurant reviewer. I don’t want that special treatment because I don’t get a real experience of what the restaurant is like. Nothing is worse than me saying how great a restaurant is only to have someone go in and have the worst experience in the world because the restaurant decided that I was a marketing opportunity and therefore, they had to make a better impression on me.

I always give restaurants more than one chance, but I think it will have to be some time before I ever return here. I was very disappointed by the food and the service. Don’t get me wrong, there were some redeeming qualities about this place (sorta): the atmosphere, the fact that the food was edible, and the restaurant interior was beautiful, but truth be told, if I’m going to spend my hard earned money eating out, you better make it worth my while. Based on this experience, I’d give this place a 2/5.

Restaurant Interior
Our table
Restaurant Interior
Pretty lights (I swear I’m not a moth)
Fish and Chips
Naan Chicken Club with Sweet Potato Fries
Espresso
Chocolate Lava Cake

Restaurant Review: The Nash

Location: 925 11 St SE
Website: https://thenashyyc.com/

I had first heard about this place from one of my cousins who had suggested this place for brunch. Ever since she put the idea in my head, some four years ago, this place has been on my list. I would still love to try their brunch, but this evening, we came for their dinner.

The Nash is built in a historic building that was once a hotel and saloon. Over the years, it evolved into the place it is now. My first impression upon entering was that it was a lovely, cozy place for friends to gather after work for drinks, but it was clearly a place that catered to the more affluent members of society. As we didn’t have a reservation, we were seated under the condition that we would have to leave by 8:30. Given that it was around 5:30 pm, we figured it would be plenty of time. By the time we finished, it was actually a little past 7 pm.

We were quickly seated and handed menus that were bound in what appeared to be soft leather. I couldn’t really tell if it was real or not (probably not). Having not known that we would be coming here, I had no idea what I wanted to get. Some of the items I wanted to order were outrageously expensive. I ended up settling on the entree size of one of the appetizers, the Confit Chicken Ravioli, while my sister settled on the Charcoal-Roasted BC Salmon and my dad had the Braised Alberta Lamb Shank.

Even for the entree size, I thought the ravioli was quite small. I had chosen to have my ravioli with their wood-fired garlic focaccia. There is something about wood-firing that enhances the flavour of the dish for me. It adds a complexity to the dish that would not be present otherwise. Despite its size, I was very happy with the ravioli. It’s probably one of the better ones I’ve had. I enjoyed the pairing with the peas that gave it both a fresh pop of colour and flavour. I strongly believe that everything on the plate should be there for a reason. Its purpose on the plate should not be purely ornamental. The overall flavours of the dish were well balanced, the pasta was not overcooked or too doughy, and in the end, the small portion size was just perfect. The salmon on the other hand got some mixed reviews. The Nash cooks their salmon to medium, which Val was fine with, and it was accompanied by wild rice, swiss chard, and a microgreen salad. Unfortunately, the swiss chard was far too salty for her and prevented her from finishing her meal. My dad’s lamb shank was the biggest surprise. Normally, I shy away from lamb because of its gamey flavour, but it was virtually undetectable. I loved that it had been braised until it was melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. It was well seasoned and not overly salty like a portion of Val’s dish had been. I think if the microgreens had been slightly more acidic, it might’ve helped, but there is nothing more unpleasant than a dish ruined by over-salting one element. The lamb shank came with andouille sausage and smoked cheddar grits. I’m not sure if they made the sausage in house, but it was delicious! The side I had been most excited for were the grits and when it was presented in the form it was in, a giant block, it completely threw me off and I failed to recognize what it was, even when I was eating it. I didn’t clue in until Val had mentioned that that was what the menu had listed as a side. The grits were good, but I had never had it in this way before and I’m not sure if I would again.

A meal is not complete without dessert. For dessert we ordered the Dark Chocolate Pâté. First off, I love dark chocolate. I’ve had chocolate pâtés before and have always loved them. They’re the perfect level of richness and the bitterness of the dark chocolate provides the perfect counterbalance to the richness of the pâté. It was paired with a sour cherry sauce, amaretti, and salted caramel gelato. Let me tell you, that sour cherry sauce is no joke. It certainly lives up to its name. While the sauce does add another level of complexity and balance to the richness of the chocolate, I think it was too much for me. I generally don’t do that well with sour. However, Val absolutely loved it and didn’t find it to be too sour, but then again, Val eats lemons, so what do I know. I honestly think that salted caramel is totally overrated. I love sweet and savoury pairings, but I don’t think that salted caramel is the best thing in the world. I prefer so many other pairings over that one. That is not to say that a well made salted caramel dessert is not delicious, but it doesn’t deserve all the fanfare it’s getting. That said, this is one of the better salted caramel gelatos I’ve had. It isn’t too overpowering which makes it a nice accompaniment to the chocolate. The amaretti tasted a little off to me, but if it hadn’t, I might’ve enjoyed it more as it provided the much needed crunch. Overall, this dessert was very satisfying from both a flavour and texture perspective.

The dinner menu is not cheap. I would definitely still want to come back and try a full three course meal sometime and of course, come back for their brunch, but only on very special occasions. This type of food is definitely my kind of food.

In terms of service, our server was very friendly, if not a little scattered when reading out the specials for the evening. Had I been able to afford it, I probably would’ve wanted to go with the dinner for two (or as he said it, dinner for three as it was a 40 oz bone-in cut of prime rib).

Based on this experience, I would give this restaurant a 4.25/5.

Restaurant Interior
Embossed and debossed newspaper page in the washroom
Washroom
Confit Chicken Ravioli with Wood-fired garlic focaccia
Braised Alberta Lamb Shank with Cheddar Grits and Broccolini
Charcoal-Roasted BC Salmon
Dark Chocolate Pâté

Location: 3340 26 Street NE (Royal Oak)
Website: http://www.cattlebaroncalgary.com

This restaurant has been around for a while, but the Royal Oak location is new. My dad has been talking about this restaurant for god knows how long so I’m glad to finally have the chance to try this place out.

I must admit, I do love a well cooked steak. Depending on the day, I prefer my steak anywhere from well done (no this does not mean over cooked charcoal) to medium rare.

We were promptly seated and as we perused the menu, I noticed that they had turned the lights down for ambience. Now, I have mixed feelings about this. I get that they need to establish a particular mood, but I don’t appreciate the restaurants who turn the lights down so low that I can no longer read the menu. Thankfully, Cattle Baron did not do that.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love appetizers and everything on their appetizer portion of their menu looks fantastic. This evening Val chose the appetizer of the evening, the short dry ribs, as it was listed as a house specialty. These dry ribs are like nothing I’ve ever had before. Sure, they were a little tough and messy and hot (burned my fingers a couple times) to eat, but they are absolutely the most delicious dry ribs I’ve had to date. It didn’t take us long to demolish them all. I’m not entirely certain what the seasoning/sauce mix was for them, but I’m pretty sure that it was soy based. The addition of the provided lemon wedge added a lovely overall freshness and acidity to the dish that it would have sorely lacked without.

For our mains, Val and my dad had the prime rib, I had the Steak Neptune, and my mom had the Fresh Salmon Filet. Val chose to have a double baked potato while my dad had the regular baked potato. I chose to go with their Caesar salad. The salmon came with rice and all the mains came with steamed fresh vegetables.  The prime rib was probably the largest of the three dishes (it was a lot of meat, definitely more than enough for me, but would be great for a carnivore).  The double baked potato, a Cattle Baron specialty, was probably one of the best sides I’ve ever had.  I mean, what’s not to love about a potato that has been baked, taken out, its contents mashed and topped with cheese and baked again.  If I have the chance to come back, I would love to have a whole thing to myself instead of just one bite.  That’s not to say I regret my choice in getting the Caesar salad because that was one of the better Caesars I’ve eaten.  It is a bit more garlicky than most other Caesars I’ve had, but that’s what makes it so good.  I come for the garlic!  The salmon came with a plentiful helping of rice.  It wasn’t anything special, but it was well seasoned and not overcooked; the perfect accompaniment to the salmon.  I think any of the other sides they have on their menu would’ve overpowered the delicate salmon, which was topped with a lemon butter sauce.  My Steak Neptune consisted of a cut of filet mignon topped with asparagus and shrimp dressed with hollandaise.  This has got to be one of the best Steak Neptunes I’ve ever had.  If I could afford to only eat filet mignons, I would.  All the dishes came with a side of steamed seasonal vegetables.  In the context of this review, where I’m saying that everything was great, sometimes it feels like the meaning of “great” is lost, but honestly, I had little to no complaints about the food or service.

Of course, the end to a perfect meal comes in the form of a crème brûlée.  I have to say, this is the only part of the meal I was disappointed by.  We order the Irish Créme Brûlée which sounded amazing and had the potential to be amazing, but unfortunately, it was ruined by the prevalent bitterness of burnt sugar.  After having that on my palate, it was very hard to taste, let alone enjoy the flavours of the dessert.  I mean, these things happen, so I’m not terribly upset and I do hope that this was just a one off.  Next time I want to try Chocolate Utopia. 

Overall, I was very impressed with this meal.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant and would return without question.  After all, I haven’t tried all their items on their appetizer menu yet! Based on this experience I would give this place a 4.5/5.

Short Dry Ribs
Fresh Salmon Filet
Prime Rib with Double Baked Potato
Steak Neptune
Irish Crème Brûlée

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