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Cafe Review: Wise and Wright

Location: 163-317 7 Ave SW
Website: http://www.wiseandwright.com/

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a cafe. I’ll admit, since I’ve been in this relationship, I’ve been a bit spoiled. Typically, we’re more of the take out and enjoy the food at home kind of people and since he has a car, I’ve gotten accustomed to being driven everywhere.

At my cousin, Yulin’s suggestion, we decided to try this place out. Based on her recommendations and experiences, I’d have to say she’s my cafe consultant. Like most of Calgary, the brunch craze is starting to hit and this cafe is no exception. My first impression based on the menu was that everything was very healthy and promoted a healthy lifestyle via food (like post- or pre-workout foods).

We arrived at around 10:30/10:45 and found the place to be relatively empty. It was clean and welcoming and although I had previously perused the menu, I still had no idea what I wanted. With most restaurants and cafes I’ve been to, they have a brunch menu on weekends in addition to their regular menu. However, this is not how Wise and Wright chose to do it. On the weekend, they only allow patrons to order off of the brunch menu. I was slightly disappointed because I wanted to try their mushroom flatbread and sweet potato and roasted garlic soup, but was told I couldn’t order those things. So I went for my go to dish: an eggs benny. Originally I was going to get a Rancheros Bowl -Wise Style, but as Yulin was getting it, I didn’t want to get the same thing. I got the house oven ham eggs benny, which comes with two soft poached eggs atop a toasted sprouted bun, topped with a yogurt hollandaise and a side of wise sweet potato hash and salad. Yulin’s Rancheros Bowl -Wise Style consisted of refried beans, brown rice, stone bread, crushed avocado, poached egg, cilantro, spicy salsa, arugula, and rancheros sauce. In terms of drinks, I decided to try the philosopher’s brew and Yulin had an Americano. As the waitress brought the Americano, I was removing my jacket and bumped her, spilling coffee everywhere on the floor. I felt terrible as she said she was going to make a new one. I felt as though she was saying that it was okay, but it was a situation where that’s what you say, but not how you feel. Even after I helped to clean it up, I still felt bad. The philosopher’s brew was fairly light, but because of the ginger, it really warms you up from the inside out. I probably wouldn’t order it again unless I was sick or really cold.

The eggs benny was the biggest disappointment. The ham and sprouted bun were dry, the hollandaise was essentially non-existant, the salad incredibly under-dressed, and the temperature on one of my eggs was wrong. The Rancheros Bowl on the other hand was the complete opposite, a complete delight. If you had not expected it, the heat of the salsa hits you like a ton of bricks. I wouldn’t exactly call it a salsa as much as a thick sauce, but it was amazing. As I sit here and write this, remembering the depth of flavour, I am salivating. I appreciated that it wasn’t spicy for spicy’s sake. That bowl was just perfection, it wasn’t over-salted, and next time I visit, if I can’t get the flatbread, I will definitely have this one.

Overall, the staff were really friendly and accommodating given the aforementioned incident. I would return to give this place a second chance with brunch and would return to try out the regular menu. However, based on today’s experience and judging it based on the dish I did order, I’d have to give it a 2/5.

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Background: Rancheros Bowl and Americano  Foreground: Oven

 

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Cafe Review: Corbeaux Bakehouse

Location: 730-17th Avenue SW (Beltline)
Website: http://www.corbeaux.com/#about

A few months back, when Corbeaux had only been open for a few months, I wanted to try it out. Firstly, because I love independent coffee shops and the uniqueness they bring and secondly, because the pictures of their food posted on their instagram and on Julie Van Rosendaal’s instagram accounts looked amazing. Typically, I’m a savory person who loves to bake, but coffee and bakehouses are an exception. The only time I can stand eating something sweet is if it paired with a rich, dark roast coffee or espresso. Going in at noon is probably one of the worst ideas in the world. Wait times at noon are roughly an hour. So, in other words, the first time we went, we did not get in because we were starving and didn’t want to wait an hour in the freezing Calgary cold. Today, at the suggestion of my cousin, we went later in the afternoon, which was a good idea. We got there around two and it was pretty empty. By pretty empty it meant about 20 or so patrons, but not packed so we were able to get a seat right away. The first thing I felt when I entered Corbeaux was a sense of intimidation and disorientation. I felt like it was a bit elitist, especially with the price; like it was a place I couldn’t afford to eat at, but also, the setup of the restaurant left me confused as to where I was supposed to go and order. We eventually figured out that some tables were reserved for patrons who wanted to order off their menu while other areas were for people who just wanted to get some pastries from the displays.

By this time in the day, it was so hot outside, like 26 degrees hot, so everyone with the exception of me, had an iced drink. My cousin had an iced chai, my sister had a iced latte, and I had a macchiato. The iced chai was the sweetest and the macchiato the bitterest. The chai was too sweet for my cousin and the latte too bitter for my sister so they switched. After drinking the macchiato, one tasted like water and spices and the other tasted like water and milk :/

The pastries we got to share were Charlotte something or another (sorry I can’t remember the name to save my life, it was French…I think), 2 macarons, a pistachio eclair, and a berry tart. Later I purchased a pistachio eclair and traditional eclair to take home with me to share with my family. The Charlotte something was like a raspberry cake with layers of cake and mousse, topped with 2 raspberries and a blueberry. It was slightly tart, but not exactly to my liking. The two macarons we got were raspberry and rose. The raspberry one suited me fine; the tartness of the filing helped to combat the sweetness of the “cookie” part. Of course, being a heavy handed bull, I crushed the thing by trying to take a bite (kinda squished and cracked it as I tried to bite into it). The rose macaron was good in the first bite, but quickly overwhelmed me with sweetness and the fragrance that is typical to flowers and the perfumes made from them. The pistachio eclair was actually ordered by my cousin and was quite delicious except for the fact that it made quite a mess due to the filling shooting out of the holes made in the eclair to pipe in the filing. The filing was phenomenal! At the time I found it a little too sweet, but again, that’s why it’s being paired with a macchiato, not an iced latte or chai. The final one, the berry tart was by far my favourite. In recent years, fruit tarts have become my favourite dessert because of their lightness. This tart consisted solely of blueberries glazed and accented with small balls of white chocolate on a bed of creamy custard (another favourite thing of mine). The berries were fresh and the glaze was really sticky. I touched it with my fork and the berries stuck, refusing to let go. The tart shell was so incredibly hard I had to stab it with the intent to kill in order to break it. Though I was annoyed that I required that much force to break it, I can understand why I would need to. If it had been softer, it would not have been able to support the weight of the berries and would have become a soggy mess under the custard filling. I have yet to try the traditional eclair, but having tasted the pistachio one, I’m pretty sure I won’t be disappointed. The traditional eclair is topped with gold leaf!

The service was okay. The waitresses/staff didn’t really try to help us out when we were bumbling around like confused idiots, but probably because that’s not their jobs anyway. I did feel bad for the lady who rang through our order the first time because we were so scattered and distracted by everything that was going on that I didn’t really pay too much attention to her when she asked me questions in regards to my order. Also, staying out of people’s way…that can be quite a challenge. Next time I’ll just flatten myself against the wall and stay there until my order is ready.

Though expensive, I would most certainly return to Corbeaux. Of course I could not afford to come back everyday, but  will return in the near future to try out their lemon tart at the suggestion of an acquaintance. Next time I’d also like to try some of the food off their breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu. But for now, I’ll give it a rating of 4.25/5.

Corbeaux Panorama

Corbeaux Panorama

Pastry display

Pastry display

Macchiato

Macchiato

Iced Latte

Iced Latte

Iced Chai

Iced Chai

Charlotte something or another

Charlotte something 

Berry Tart, Raspberry and Rose Macarons

Berry Tart, Raspberry and Rose Macarons

Pistachio Eclair and Raspberry Macaron

Pistachio Eclair and Raspberry Macaron

Pistachio and Tradition Eclair

Pistachio and Tradition Eclair

Cafe Review: Boxwood Cafe

Location: 340 13 Ave SW Calgary, AB (Central Memorial Park)
Website: http://www.boxwoodcafe.ca/

After putting it off three times, I finally got a chance to try out this amazing cafe. Originally when my cousin suggested that we go I was reluctant after perusing the menu as there really wasn’t much choice in terms of food. However, I decided that I should at least give it a chance and I’m glad I did because it exceeded my expectations.

Today we started with the Sweet Onion and Agria Potato Pakoras served with a tamarind chutney. The presentation was a bit messy: five pakoras laid out on a mess of mixed greens with some sort of spicy creamy sauce drizzled on them. This was the first time I’ve had a pakora, but I looked up the origins of the dish and deduced that they’d be similar to samosas in terms of flavour profile. In terms of the spices and considering the choice of chutney, I turned out to be generally on the right track. The price on the other hand was a little out of hand; it cost the same as the main version and as much as the sandwiches that we order. But all in all, they were delicious and the tartness of the chutney left me wanting more. I couldn’t wait for the mains to arrive.

We got three mains: the Heritage Greens Salad with seared tuna, the Mountain View Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich, and the Spragg Farm Porchetta Sandwich. The Heritage Greens Salad was the smallest of the three. It looked about the size of a side salad at most other restaurants. As I am used to seeing Ahi Tuna garnish salads, the seared tuna looked a little pale, but it was in fact supposed to be like that. The salad was well dressed with a hint of sweetness that wasn’t overbearing. My only complain about this dish was how expensive it was to add the tuna to the salad. The Mountain View Rotisserie Chicken and Spragg Farm Porchetta Sandwiches were a decent size for their respective prices. The presence of the thyme aioli in the Chicken Sandwich helped offset the dryness of the chicken and due to an uneven distribution, one half tasted less dry than the other. I’m not sure what kind of bread they used, but I loved the slightly chewy texture it had. The Porchetta Sandwich tasted a lot like Chinese Crispy Skinned Pork Belly, in other words REALLY FANTASTICALLY DELICIOUS! However, the decision to cut them into cubes and put them into the sandwich was a bad idea. Each bite resulted in an avalanche of meat chunks everywhere. Apples and pork are a classic combination and the apple mostarda was the perfect choice to highlight the savoury heavenly taste of the pork.

In terms of drinks, we ordered a wild berry iced tea, a black French pressed coffee, and flowery Earl Grey. The thing is, is that the options we were offered for the tea and coffee were cream or milk. I’m used to waiters asking if I want cream and sugar so I said both without realizing that one of those options was not sugar. I realized after the fact and felt really stupid about it. The coffee was particularly acidic. Normally coffee is more bitter than sour, but not in this case and for that reason I didn’t like it as much. The Earl Grey was really fragrant, but I couldn’t really find the “flowery” in the tea. And the wild berry iced tea was made with real tea and no added sugar.

The thing I really love about this place is how healthy all the food options are. Drinks do not have added sugar and there aren’t the typical things like fries; it’s mostly salads, which is great since I’m currently trying to watch my weight and caloric consumption. Another thing that is both good and bad are the portion sizes and its correlation to the price. From a health perspective, the small portion sizes are good for keeping my weight in check while allowing me to try many different dishes, but for my wallet, the portion sizes are much too small for the price I’m paying for them.

Unless this restaurant has an ever changing menu, it is unlikely that I will be returning any time soon. As good and healthy as the food is, the limited options don’t give me much choice in terms of things to try out for the next time I go. I must say though that our waiter had to put up with my inability to speak and he was super quick to attend to our needs which I really appreciated. The restaurant interior is really unique and has a kinda indie restaurant feel to it and it’s really cool (sorry I have no idea how else to describe it). It wasn’t too busy, which I like because I hate having to wait for hours to get into a restaurant and to have to yell to be heard by the person next to me. I also like the open concept: we can see the chefs cooking and putting up food in the pass. I just had great timing when I took a picture of the place, everyone ducked.

Taking everything into consideration, I would rate this restaurant 3/5.

Restaurant Interior

Restaurant Interior

Sweet Onion and Agria Potato Pakoras

Sweet Onion and Agria Potato Pakoras

Heritage Greens Salad with Seared Tuna

Heritage Greens Salad with Seared Tuna

Mountain View Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich

Mountain View Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich

Spragg Farm Porchetta Sandwich

Spragg Farm Porchetta Sandwich

Cafe Review: Higher Ground

Location: 1126 Kensington Rd NW
Website: http://highergroundcafe.ca/

The first time I went to Higher Ground I was drawn in by their atmosphere and extensive menu. Though I didn’t order any food, the pot of lucky dragon green tea was cheap and great for sharing, but I can’t say that it was my one of my favourite teas. This cafe is very cozy and makes me feel right at home as a writer. I could spend hours just sitting there drinking tea and coffee and working away at my novel. And that is what I did today.

Today I returned there with my sister and cousin for lunch. I’ve, for some reason, taken it upon myself to try every caprese panini in the world. Although it isn’t called a caprese panini here, the mozzarella panini is essentially that: ball mozzarella, thick cut tomatoes, basil pesto and a balsamic dressing. This is one of the better paninis I’ve had and I think it’s absolutely brilliant that they decided to use pesto rather than whole basil leaves because the most frustrating thing is biting into the sandwich and having the entire leaf of basil come out into your mouth. It sounded so good that my sister ordered the exact same thing. The only thing that differed was our sides. Mine came with a butternut squash soup and hers came with a B.L.A.T. salad. Now you may think B.L.A.T., what’s that? Or what the heck is a B.L.A.T.?! But it is honest to goodness the best tasting salad ever! I would go back just to have that salad. Now everyone knows what a B.L.T. is, just add avocado to that. It is heaven paired with the lemon black pepper aioli. On the flip side, the butternut squash soup was a bit of a disappointment for me. I’ve had butternut squash soup at Vendome’s and that one is amazing. I enjoy that at Vendome’s there is a bit of cream added to increase the smoothness and richness of the soup, where as at Higher Ground there is a bit more acidity and unfortunately I had lumps of squash floating around in my soup. After the sandwiches we got two desserts. The first was a strawberry rhubarb pie. The piece was fairly large, but we had to ask them to warm it up twice and even then the pie wasn’t even warm. The second dessert looked somewhat like a tuxedo cake, but I’m not entirely sure, since I wasn’t the one who ordered it. That one was much better, though there really was a lot of cream. It was rich as chocolate cake should be and it left me wanting more.

In terms of drinks, we went through a lot in the five hours we were there (or at least that’s how it felt). We started with a Kyoto Cherry Green Tea. It was more fragrant than it tasted. Though it was very mild, it was a very good tea. Perhaps I’m not seasoned enough to discern the subtle notes of the tea, but it was hard to taste the cherry, in fact it was even hard to taste the green tea. After that we got an Irish Breakfast. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to taste so much like English Breakfast. We had about three pots of that before the tea became to diluted. My cousin got a cappuccino after that. It was pretty bitter and had a lot of foam. After she added in some honey I found it to be just right, while she thought it was way too sweet and my sister still found it too bitter.

I will definitely be returning here with friends or even just with my cousin again to work on my novel. It is just the perfect environment to get my creativity flowing.

The drinks are cheap as we can constantly get the teapot refilled, but food, especially the desserts are a bit on the expensive side. However, taking everything into consideration, I would not consider it a turn off.

I would rate it 4.5/5, vying for the top position of my favourite cafe with Vendome.

soup and sandwich

Mozzarella Panini with Butternut Squash Soup

sandwich and salad

Mozzarella Panini with B.L.A.T. Salad and Lemon Pepper Aioli on the side

Cake

Tuxedo cake?

Cafe Review: Vendome Cafe

Location: 940 2 Ave NW, Sunnyside/Kensington, Calgary, Alberta

Website: http://vendomecafe.com/

I was first introduced to this cafe back in 2011 and immediately fell in love with the small town coziness of the place. The cafe itself is small and in peak times, it’s hard to find a seat, but every visit is worth it. The decor of the cafe makes me think that I’m in a whole different city, maybe even a city in Europe, if one doesn’t look outside, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine it was summer in a Paris cafe…well okay, maybe that is a stretch…I like that this cafe gives me a vacation from the busyness of life. It provides a quick retreat from the mind-numbing turmoil of the working and academic world and isn’t outrageously unaffordable. Keep in mind that this is Kensington and in my biased opinion, one of the best places to eat.

Over the years I’ve brought many friends and family members to share in the joy of this treasure nestled in the quiet community of Kensington. Their amazing food has brought be back again and again and today I was back enjoying a lovely breakfast with my sister for her birthday. In the past, their Duck Confit paired with their creamy, yet sweet butternut squash soup have been my usual, but today I decided to try something new, their sumptuous whole wheat blueberry waffles (see picture below). Considering their portion sizes for their paninis I was a little underwhelmed by the smallness of the portion; I had expected two waffles at the very least, but no…one waffle, cut into quarters, topped with vanilla bean whip cream that was sorta watery and deflated, blueberry jam was concealed under the waffles and there was an odd drizzle of what I expect to be maple syrup (as the menu specified only syrup, maybe it was an unrealistic expectation to think it might be maple syrup), but tasted more like table syrup (coloured glucose water). As delicious as the waffles were, it was not worth $12.

Below are a few pictures highlighting some of the dishes I have enjoyed at this cafe over the years. Besides the Duck Confit, the Mushroom Eggs Benedict is another favourite of mine, unfortunately it is a bit on the salty side. The dish that caught me off guard was the open faced tuna melt sandwich. Typically, I’m not a tuna kind of girl, but this tuna melt has converted me. I have to say, it is one of the best ways I have seen a tuna melt prepared (unfortunately too yummy for any pictures). Perhaps the most memorable dish I had was for Mother’s Day in 2011. It was the first time my mom had been out and about in Calgary and I was pretty new to it myself, so I decided to treat myself and mom to the most decadent Chocolate Ganache, which, to this day I still dream about. One bite and I was in heaven. The chocolate was not overpowering sweet and was perfectly balanced against the acidity of the strawberry coulis. I could have eaten ten of them if I wasn’t worried about gaining 200 pounds.

My final complaint is the way I smell after I leave the place, saturated with oil and as though I had been dipped in butter and confited. Occasionally I smell so good that I want to eat myself, but most of the time the lingering smell of oil is off-putting and difficult to get out of my clothes.

However, despite these minor issues, I still highly recommend this cafe and would give it 4.5/5 stars in taste and atmosphere.

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Duck Confit

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Butternut squash soup with caesar salad

 

Half Chicken Club, Half Duck Confit with Apple Sauce and Coleslaw; Mocha; and a Mushroom Eggs Benedict with Hash Browns

Half Chicken Club, Half Duck Confit with Apple Sauce and Coleslaw; Mocha; and a Mushroom Eggs Benedict with Hash Browns

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Butternut squash soup with marinated beet salad

 

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Chocolate Ganache Cake with Strawberry Coulis

Half duck confit, half chicken club at top of image with a chai tea latte. Bottom half of image is the whole wheat blueberry waffles and a cappuccino.

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