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Posts tagged ‘Brunch’

Restaurant Review: The Fine Diner

Location: 1420 9 Ave SE
Website: http://www.finedinercalgary.com/

The Fine Diner is another place willing to take reservations for brunch through opentable, which is rare among brunch places. Due to maintenance on the train lines, we decided to take our chances with a walk-in since we didn’t know what time we’d get there. I think that most brunch places don’t take reservations primarily because that without reservations, there is a greater turn over meaning more money. A quick look at the menu showed that there were several intriguing dishes that I wanted to try.

We arrived at around 10:30, grabbing the last available table there. We were promptly seated and a kinda grumpy looking waiter came over to us. He would eventually warm up, but at first I wasn’t particularly thrilled. It took us all a few minutes to decide what it was we wanted. Yulin got a regular coffee and a Mushroom Arugula Eggs Benedict, Valerie got a grapefruit juice and a Steak Hash, and I had the Maple Duck Eggs Benedict with a cappuccino. First off, a cappuccino is not served in a coffee mug, and secondly, it tasted a bit off for a cappuccino. I couldn’t say with certainty what it was about the cappuccino that was wrong, but only that there was something. It seemed as though it took a while for the food to come, but that may have just been me being hungry from not eating breakfast.  The duck was medium rare, which I was wary about initially, but it turned out to be quite good. The eggs must have been organic or something because the yolks were the most beautiful golden-orange. I enjoyed the fact that there was fresh fruit and that the hash medley had tri-coloured potatoes. However, not all was good. Yulin ordered her Benedict with the breakfast poutine, but I guess they didn’t hear her or something because it didn’t happen. Though we were disappointed, at least we weren’t charged for it. And steak…the steak was served in a bowl. The most impractical thing I have ever heard. Besides that, the hash underneath was way too salty, they didn’t give Valerie a steak knife for the steak, and they got the temperature on it wrong.

It’s not horrible, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back. 3/5.

Maple Duck Eggs Benedict

Maple Duck Eggs Benedict

Steak Hash

Steak Hash

Mushroom Arugula Eggs Benedict

Mushroom Arugula Eggs Benedict

Restaurant Review: Vero Bistro Moderne

Location: 209 10th street NW
Website: http://www.verobistro.ca/home

When my cousin first broached the subject of having brunch, Vero was not the first place I had thought of. We decided on this place primarily because they were willing to take reservations, unlike many other brunch places (OEB, Diner Deluxe, Monki, to name a few). I had passed it on several occasions, but this was just one of the places that always slipped my mind. When I arrived, my first impression was how cute the place was. Like almost everything in Kensington, there was a small town feel to it, but this one was a little different from a place like Vendome. Since it’s renovation, Vendome has definitely become more modernized, but still retains it’s uniquely antique feel, where as Vero maintains an air of sophistication in its modernity. And this sophistication is reflected in its menu, both in the fare available as well as the prices.

I’ll admit,  I always take a quick look through their menu to see what they offer before trying the place out. The menu was small, but everything on it looked delicious. Though I’m tempted to try out everything, I’m not sure my wallet would be able to handle it in the long run. When I have a meal, I tend to have more of a savoury inclination. so I stay away from the French Toasts though in actuality, I’d really love to try some…just not the whole thing. After some deliberation, I decided to go with the Forest Mushroom Fricassee Organic Egg Benny while my cousin went for the Vero’s Traditional.

When the dishes came out, they certainly lived up to the classiness of the restaurant. The arrangement of the Egg Benny was unlike any other I had seen, it was so well put together I had to take a few moments just to admire it. The Vero’s Traditional was a little more rustic in its appearance and a little less put together. Too many times I’ve been to restaurants that have dressed up their entrees to compensate for their lack of taste. The same cannot be said of Vero. Besides the portion sizes being perfect, the salinity levels in the dishes were perfectly balanced: no need to reach for the salt shaker or gulp down a gallon of water. The eggs being organic were the most vibrant shade of yellow-orange and the decision to serve them on a warm, buttery, crisped croissant was absolutely brilliant. My initial reaction to having the egg, hollandaise, and mushrooms on the croissant would make it soggy, but it wasn’t and I’ll admit, how they managed that I have no idea, but I’m impressed. I had a taste of the bison sausage from the Vero’s Traditional, bracing myself for the gamy taste that I’ve often associated with bison, elk, and the like, but no such taste ever hit me. It was lean, but not dry, well seasoned, and overall very delicious. The salad looked fresh and appetizing, a good pairing to the buttery warmth of the croissant.

This restaurant clearly caters to people who are a little more affluent, however, the price matches the quality of the ingredients used, the quality of the dishes themselves, and the quality of service. There were times when the staff were a bit harried because of the sheer volume of customers (seeing as the brunch craze has finally hit Calgary). The menu options are very healthy and don’t feel heavy, which is a huge problem for me. I’m glad that such a place with these considerations exist. I would certainly return here again and based on this experience would rate it 4.25/5.

Forest Mushroom Fricassee Organic Egg Benny

Forest Mushroom Fricassee Organic Egg Benny

Vero's Traditional

Vero’s Traditional

Restaurant Review: The Beltliner

Location: 243 12th Ave SW
Website: http://thebeltliner.com/

I first heard about this restaurant on the CBC Calgary Eyeopener with David Gray and Angela Knight. It sounded interesting so that night I came home and checked out the menu. It looked pretty decent so I made plans to go for a birthday brunch with my sister and cousin. Today, we finally got the chance to go.

When we arrived, the place was already pretty packed and I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to get in. However, the hostess took down our phone number on an iPad and said that it should only be another 15-20 minutes before we could get a table. Now, I’ve been to tonnes of restaurants that tell me 10-15 minutes and it’s more like an hour or longer, so I took that with a grain of salt. But true to her word, about fifteen minutes later, she came to outside to call us in and seat us. She was really cheery and upbeat and made me feel welcome and excited to try out this place. We were seated at a table that was clearly meant for two people, so it was a bit tight. I didn’t mind since where we were seated was in the direct path of a cool breeze coming through the open doors of the patio. We sat, perusing the menu, me still caught between ordering the Chicken and Waffles and the Mushroom Benedict and waited for our waitress. It was a while before she showed up and asked what we wanted to drink. She didn’t seem all that happy or excited like our hostess had been, but that was okay. We ordered our drinks and she headed off for a long time. When she returned, one of our party had gone to wash up and the waitress asked if we knew what she wanted, but when we didn’t know exactly how she wanted the eggs, the waitress seemed rather annoyed. She seemed more interested in helping out her other tables than helping us out, which I found to be a bit rude.

I noticed that the table next to us was seated before us but had their order taken after us. And while their order came out first, she delivered the wrong order to him. She asked him if he’d be okay to take it or if she should take it back and have his actual order made. He chose to keep the mixed up ordered item and I mean I would too. There was no point to waste any food.

I was the only person who ordered a hot drink, a mocha. My sister had a blue raspberry soda and my cousin had a veggie smoothie. The veggie smoothie had kale, apple, cucumber, ginger, pineapple, yogurt, but I kept tasting banana. Not sure why, but I kept thinking it was in there. Nothing else was really noticeable in taste, but my sister insisted she could taste the kale overpowering everything.

We started with an appetizer, the molded yolks and caviar. It was unlike anything I had ever tried. The yolks had been sous vide, molded into mango looking cubes, sprinkled with some salt flakes and served with caraway crackers and a small spoon of Canadian sturgeon caviar. The portion size of the caviar was slightly disappointing. It was clear that the caviar’s salinity was meant to be paired with the sous vide yolk because the  yolks were flavourless. Unlike masago or tobiko, sturgeon caviar is much fishier in its taste, so I wasn’t able to really eat all that much. The caraway crackers were really an interesting pairing to the yolk and caviar. The yolky taste wasn’t all that noticeable, but the texture was creamier than usual. For the price of this appetizer, I expected it to be a little bigger and with a little bit more caviar.

For our mains, my cousin ordered the classic 2x2x2, my sister had the steak and eggs, and I myself finally decided on the chicken and waffles. The classic 2x2x2 is the typical breakfast that one would find at home: two eggs, two sausages (or bacon as it was in this case), and two pieces of toast. A small dipper of berry jam was provided on the side if you wanted some jam to go with your buttered toast. In my cousin’s opinion, the jam was too sweet. In my sister’s opinion, it was just right. And in my opinion, it was a bit tart. My sister’s steak and eggs were a bit of a weird one. She asked for her steak to be done medium rare and for the most part it was, except for one section of it, which was rare. Also, scrambled eggs? Yeah, not something that I’d normally request to have with my steak, but it really didn’t look like three eggs had been used. Her dish also came with toast and hash browns. The hash browns were glazed in sugar, giving it a crunchy exterior and they were triangle shaped, but when you cut into them, you could see the individual layers, like when you pile a bunch of scalloped potatoes on top of one another. Then came mine. The Chicken and Waffles. In my opinion, it was huge. I shared the majority of it with my sister and cousin and still couldn’t finish it off. They give you a full buttermilk waffle covered in white gravy and several pieces of crispy fried chicken thighs. At first I thought the pieces were to big not to contain bones, but they had been deboned prior to battering and frying. My biggest complaint about the chicken was how much of each piece of chicken was batter. And the batter was so heavy that dousing it in hot sauce was the best option since the tartness and heat of the hot sauce really helped to cut through the grease. I would have preferred if they had pounded a chicken breast flat, breaded it, and fried it instead of having these hard to eat, hard to cut chunks. I did like the slight sweetness of the waffle that contrasted with the saltiness of the gravy and chicken, but like many of the other dishes here, there was way too much salt in the batter, in the gravy, and on the steak.

To top it all off, when the bills came, they were separated. I was going to ask for her to do that, but she did that for us already. Only problem was, was that she mixed up everything for everyone. My cousin’s bill ended up with my mocha, her main, and the entire appetizer while my sister’s ended up with her drink, my cousin’s drink, and her main and mine was just my main.

Poor service, order and bill mix ups and over salted food have made me think about ever returning to this restaurant. Maybe I’ll give it a couple years before I come back, but based on today’s experience I’d have to rate it a 1.75/5.

The Beltliner Exterior

The Beltliner Exterior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

Molded Yolks and Caviar

Molded Yolks and Caviar

Classic 2x2x2

Classic 2x2x2

Steak and Eggs

Steak and Eggs

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles

Restaurant Review: Red’s Diner

Location: 1415 – 4th St S.W. (Beltline)
Website: http://redsdiner.com/

I’ve passed by Red’s Diner on two occasions, always seeing it packed full. The fact that it was packed is always a good sign, even if I don’t particularly like having to wait, at least I know the food is going to be good. Okay, maybe I don’t, but at least a large majority of people do. It’s true that everyone has different tastes and what may be good to one person is absolutely disgusting to another, but that was not true in this case. In this case, the number of patrons waiting for tables was equivalent to the quality of their food.

It was my first weekday off in a while and I had been dying to get out and have some fun with friends (well my sister and cousin, but who says they can’t also be my friends). We quickly agreed on brunch at Red’s though by the time we reached the place it was nearly noon. Originally I was going to try a mimosa, but I don’t do alcohol well and with the weather warming up, I decided that a milkshake might be better. It was a good decision. I got the vanilla milkshake (not what I would normally have gone with, normally would have gone with chocolate, but I was going to share with my sister, so we compromised since she doesn’t like chocolate and I don’t particularly like strawberry milkshakes). It was a rich sort of vanilla, maybe French Vanilla? I’m not completely sure, but it was very smooth, but not too thick or cold that I had difficulty drinking it. Oftentimes, I find milkshakes really hard to drink because they are so thick. That’s not a bad thing, but if and when I’m thirsty, it’s not such a good idea. My cousin had a regular coffee and my sister the pink grapefruit juice. The coffee was nothing special, a little watered down, but nothing horrible, though it did come in a quaint mug. The grapefruit juice appeared to be freshly squeezed, but the thing with grapefruits are that they can be bitter if the “casing” of the fruit is not removed, which was what happened.

In terms of mains we ordered the Caprese Benedict, Grilled Cheese with the soup of the day, and the braised short rib sandwich with fries. As I’ve mentioned in a previous review, Caprese salads have become somewhat of a weakness for me since my trip to Italy. Initially, I didn’t know what to expect of a Caprese Benedict because hollandaise sauce is typically quite rich and creamy, while balsamic vinegar can be quite tart. I just hoped the flavours wouldn’t clash and they didn’t. The balsamic was well reduced, was slightly tart, but had more of a sweet note on the palate that was enhanced by and enhanced the basil pesto. Of course it would not be a Caprese without tomato and smoked mozzarella, both which were excellent; the tomato wasn’t too wet and the mozzarella stringy (though it was hard to discern a smoked tasted with everything going on in the dish). The only complaint I had was that the poached egg was so small that I ate it in two bites and there was not enough egg for the whole English muffin. However, this does not mean that the portion size was by any means too small. In fact, I was unable to finish, but maybe that was due to the fact I also had a “giant” milkshake (it really wasn’t that giant). My dish came with a side of Red’s potatoes and some fresh fruit. They potatoes were pretty ordinary, but it appeared that my friend and sister thoroughly enjoyed them as they ate the majority of them. My cousin ordered the grilled cheese, which, instead of regular white bread or even whole wheat, was served on cheddar sourdough. For me, sourdough is a weird bread. In my mind, bread just shouldn’t be sour, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy it for what it is. I liked that Red’s decided to use a different type of bread than the usual to make their grilled cheese stand out a little more. The soup of the day turned out to be beef wonton. Yes, you read that correctly. Beef. Wonton. The soup base and vegetables were great, but it was better suited as a chicken noodle (I believe it was chicken stock that was used) instead of a wonton soup. Having grown up in a Chinese family making wontons, it felt odd to eat it for brunch, in a soup that accompanied a grilled cheese; it just felt a little out of place. Besides that, wonton fillings are usually more than just the meat, so it was like a giant meatball wrapped in a a wonton wrapper. My sister, who isn’t much of a breakfast/brunch food type of person, ordered the braised short rib sandwich. I remember my first experience with short rib in a Western restaurant. I had thought they would be like Korean short ribs like the ones from Korean BBQ, nope, definitely wrong. I tried describing to her as she looked at the menu, but didn’t do a good job, so she decided to try it anyways. When it came out, her reaction was the same as mine had been. But that was not the only surprise. The menu stated that there’d be coleslaw…it just didn’t specify where and she was surprised to find the coleslaw inside the sandwich and not side. My sister said, the only problem with the coleslaw being inside the sandwich was that the flavours got lost in the grand scheme of things. Nothing really needs to be said about the fries because they are like any other fries. They were not too salty, that’s all I can say about it.

The waitresses in this place are really friendly and makes you feel welcome immediately. Even the patrons are funny and welcoming. As we went in, a few guys were leaving. One of them said “Welcome.” And his friend added, “I would recommend the stuffed French toast.” As we were about to be seated, one called out and said, “Enjoy.” I couldn’t help but laugh; it’s nice to see the better side, the friendlier side of humanity than the dark, shit I have to deal with on a daily basis (not everyone who comes into my workplace is an asshole, just most of them). Like a lot of small pockets of the city, this diner is quaint and has a homey feel to it. There are still a few menu items I’d like to try out so I will definitely be coming back and I definitely recommend this place for a spot of breakfast, brunch, or whatever floats your boat. I would give it a rating of 4/5 because while it is not as good as Vendome, it’s good enough to keep coming back to.

Red's Diner Interior

Red’s Diner Interior

Vanilla Milkshake

Vanilla Milkshake

Classic Grilled Cheese with Beef Wonton Soup

Classic Grilled Cheese with Beef Wonton Soup

Caprese Benedict

Caprese Benedict

Braised Short Rib Sandwich with Fries

Braised Short Rib Sandwich with Fries

Restaurant Review: Farm

Location: 1006 17 Ave SW
Website: http://www.farm-restaurant.com/

After a long and arduous relay of messages between my best friend, Julia and I, we finally decided on Farm. Originally we were planning to have lunch at The Himalayan, but it turned out to be too far from where we intended to walk and a turn in the weather made us reconsider walking that far for food. Farm was a place that Julia had been to once before and a quick look over of the menu in the morning revealed many menu items to be comfort foods perfectly compatible with the weather today. Farm is not only a farm to table restaurant, but it also has a cheese shop at the back of the restaurant, which we didn’t have a chance to check out, though I didn’t really want to be carrying a chunk of cheese with me around all day.

When we first arrived, the overall impression was that I had stepped into a diner in a small Alberta town. There were paintings and photographs of the prairies and of farms that gave it the ambiance of old fashioned hospitality. We were quickly seated and presented with the brunch and charcuterie & cheese menus on wooden clipboards. Due to the size of the table, we kept hitting the menus against the plates and that got me rather irritated. The brunch menu didn’t have too many options, but there was certainly more than I could handle. I spent a good twenty minutes waffling between three menu items, finally deciding on the Brunch Burger. Julia chose the mac and cheese, which was one of the dishes that i hadn’t been able to decide if I wanted.

I felt as though the wait for my food was pretty long and felt slightly annoyed when a table who had come in after us and ordered after us was served first, but reasoned that they ordered something that took less time to cook and got over my annoyance. But when our dishes came, their presentation fit the image of the homey diner. The Brunch Burger had Silver sage beef on a bed of crispy potato slivers, topped with three year cheddar, onion jam, FARM sauce and a fried egg with a pickle spear and a side muse salad. The beef, when eaten on its own was quite dry, which I hope is because it was fairly lean and therefore dried out more than ground beef laced with fat. However, the beef patty is not meant to be eaten on its own, rather it’s meant to be eaten between two slices of bread that have an amazing FARM sauce spread on them and heavenly onion jam flavouring it. The egg yolk helped to provide some moisture as well, but also made a delicious mess everywhere. The pickle was most certainly not store bought and had been brined in a unique blend of spices. Though I couldn’t discern which spices, it was different with the right balance of acidity to complement the richness of the burger. However, the pickle alone would not have been able to combat the richness of the burger on its own, so I was thankful for the acidity of the vinaigrette on the side muse salad.The side muse salad consisted of a simple mix of refreshing greens, drizzled with a cider vinaigrette and topped with Highwood Crossing Canola seeds that added an additional crunch to the salad. Julia’s mac and cheese was fantastic, beating out the amazing mac and cheese from Good Earth that I had praised so highly. It was not exactly macaroni, more like rigatoni, but the creaminess of the sauce was to die for. I’m not sure if I could have eaten the whole thing on my own, but it’s a possibility since this dish also came with a couple FARM pickle spears. Julia added smoked picnic shoulder to it, but I thought it would have been just as good even without it. Her only complaint about the pork was that the chunks were a bit large and inconvenient to eat. But it cooked enough that the meat easily flaked apart into more manageable bite sized pieces.

Like many places with an open kitchen (like Vendome), every time I come out of the place, I leave with my clothes smelling of oil (and other cooked food smells). It’s a little off-putting, but at the same time I want to eat my clothes. I like to be able to see my food being made, so I guess the trade off is delicious smelling clothes that I want to eat, but wouldn’t be good for if I was going to an interview or meeting afterwards.

In regards to service, the lady who greeted us at the door seemed friendly enough, but something just felt off, like a sense of reluctance. It was almost as though she didn’t want to be there doing what she was doing. Our server on the other hand was an absolute delight. She was quaintly dressed and she made me think of a school mistress, but that’s besides the point. The point is that she didn’t look out of place dressed the way she was dressed. It added to the overall character of the restaurant and I love it. I would definitely come back here, but on a weekday just to try out their lunch menu or later in the evening for their dinner menu. My suggestion if you’d like to try this place out is come for an early brunch (like 11 or 11:30) because a line was beginning to form just as we finished at 12. I would rate this place 4/5 because the food and atmosphere were great, but the greeting at the door was a bit lacking and it affected my whole experience.

Farm Exterior

Farm Exterior

Farm Interior Entrance

Farm Interior Entrance

Farm Interior

Farm Interior

Picture above our table

Picture above our table

Brunch Menu

Brunch Menu

Brunch Burger

Brunch Burger

Mac and Cheese with Smoked Picnic Shoulder

Mac and Cheese with Smoked Picnic Shoulder

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