Calgary Culinary Adventures

First foodie blog post ever – I look forward to sharing my culinary adventures with you all. As a brief intro, my job brings me to various parts of North America, allowing me to experience new tastes, and share those experiences with you, canuck foodie.

Caffé Artigiano

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Being new to the Calgary area, I did what any coffee addict would do – I searched across all sorts of blogs to find the city’s best coffee place. This led to find all sorts of glowing reviews about new found favorite coffee shop in Calgary, Caffe Artigiano. As soon as you walk into the place located along 6th Ave, you’re greeted by the beautiful aroma of fresh ground coffee beans – definitely a great way to start the day. Being my first time I decided to play it safe and go for staples items such as their regular latte, walnut muffin and veggie breakfast wrap. After ordering I joined the queue of suit clad drones waiting for their fix and after a few minutes I got my fix. Their lattes were quite good, with a good mix of espresso and foam, blending together for some beautiful latte art – the barista did it with such ease!

The breakfast wrap was also quite good, however about 10 minutes to prepare – and if you visit the other location on 4th St. and 6th Ave., you may be greeted by a wait time of over 20 mins – enough time to finish your latte and probably walk to work and back. They do serve the wraps with sour cream and salsa, which added a bit of flavor to an otherwise average breakfast.

Upon a second trip, I tried their Spanish latte which was a pleasant surprise – it’s basically a latte made with condensed milk providing for a more creamy and slightly sweeter taste although not overbearing. Just stopped by a couple days ago wanting some good tasting coffee – not lattes, not espressos, just coffee. I tried out their clover coffee maker where I got to choose whatever beans I wanted (I chose Guatemalan), which were freshly ground and brewed into a great cup of coffee (for a premium of course). The beans provided for a very fruity and flavorful coffee, much better than the typical drip coffee which is usually out there for hours on end.

All in all, great coffee place, and I’ve yet to find a better one in Calgary – although I look forward to finding a worthy competitor! Now if I could just find a coffee shop that does pour-overs…

 
Caffe Artigiano on Urbanspoon
 

Not So Awe-Struck at Awestruck Food Truck Fest

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This was the scene at this weekend’s Day 2 of Awestruck Food Truck Festival 2014 held at Wellington and Portland this year. Now it may be because there were also about 10 other events in Toronto including the CNE and Fan Expo just next door, but this is just low attendance. It was so low that by 6:30 PM, the food trucks started leaving the premises for an event that was supposed to go on until 8PM. But when there’s more staff in your truck than there are people buying, business should be taken somewhere else.

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What: Frankie’s Fettuccine
Where: Frankie Fettuccine Food Truck Co.
Pointers: Rather disappointed with such a large serving of pasta for $12. It was very bland even with sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and mozzarella cheese on it. The peas added a bit of weirdness as a whole to this “Italian-fusion” dish. We’re not sure what the attempt was with the peas but it didn’t do anything overall. If there were salt and pepper around, we would have salted that thing just add a flavour to it. Rather disappointing so we threw most of it away.

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What: Nachos
Where: Curbalicious Food Truck
Pointers: This one is a new discovery for us and glad to have found it! Curbalicious offers a rotating menu but today was an Indian-inspired dish that had a lot of flavour in every bite. Served with the same concept as a nacho, Curbalicious offered a base of crispy-fried naan bread topped with cheese curds, shredded chicken, tamarind sauce and mayo. So it was more Poutine than nachos, if you ask me. The different flavours complimented each other and perfect for the crispy naan bread. We’d love to check out this food truck again and try the other dishes.

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What: Fish Tacos
Where: Rancho Relaxo
Pointers: I referred to them as fish sticks on a taco. But it’s not all that bad. For $10, you get three small taco with a deep fried breaded fish stick topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc. The toppings themselves had a “refreshing” taste similar to one you would on the streets of Mexico, so I give these guys chops for that. But we weren’t fans of the fish stick idea. For us that would be more of a Po’Boy approach.

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What: Jerk Chicken Wrap
Where: Caribbean Provisions on Da Go
Pointers: We thoroughly enjoyed Caribbean Provisions on Da Go Jerk Chicken wrap. It was mildly spicy with tender chicken on a bed of Caribbean rice. It was meant to be enjoyed by the masses so we enjoyed that it’s not overpowering like traditional jerk chicken. We would prefer more chicken next time.

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What: Barbequed King Cole Duck Cakes w/ Spicy Corn Relish
Where: Localista
Pointers: Thoroughly enjoyed the duck cakes from Localista. The corn relish bed was a perfect pairing for this crispy on the outside, moist on the inside duck cake. We would have preferred some kind of tangy drizzle of sauce over the cakes just to bring it another flavour profile. Don’t get us wrong, it was still good, just felt it needed something tangy to balance out flavour.

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What: Chocolate
Where: Chimney Stax Baking Co.
Pointers: After an onslaught of savoury dishes, we needed some sweetness to balance the palate. There were 3 food trucks offering desserts but we decided to go with Chimney Stax. We had both the Classic Sugar Stax and the Chocolate Stax. It’s a hallowed-out baked good dressed on the outside with sugar, sprinkles, and so on. It has a nice crunchy crust yet soft and chewy underside. For more adventurous patrons, you can stuff the hollow portion with ice cream. It’ll likely hold the ice cream. We certainly thought of it!

Other food trucks that need no mention on our blog in this event were Me.N.U, Fidel Gastro’s and Buster’s Sea Cove. All of which haven been blogged on previous events.

Overall, a pretty disappointing turn out and nothing really exciting at this year’s event. Our hope is that next week’s ticketed event for the awards night at Celebration Square in Mississauga has a better turn out for these food trucks.

Taste Of Manila, A Tale of an Epic Fail

The first Taste of Manila in Toronto opened today to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of mostly Filipinos seeking to reminisce laid back life “back home” with samplings of Filipino food. The unfortunate part is, although the use of the word “taste” hints food, Taste of Manila offered little for the foodie at heart.

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There were about ten food stalls, if not less, all serving Filipino cuisine. Taking up about two blocks worth, limiting Bathurst Street to one lane for each direction of traffic, Taste of Manila is a hodge-podge of real estate vendors, insurance agencies, discount clothing, satellite TV offerings and the like. There was also an entertainment stage setup on one end where performers took turns strutting their stuff whether it be dancing, singing or a fashion show. The two day event even promised a visit from a celebrity from the Philippines.

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Going back to the food, we strategized a divide and conquer seeing how the lines are really long for the food vendors. One by one, upon reaching, or at least close to the ordering, two food stalls we lined up for has ran out of food. We lucked out in one but can only order fish balls (pictured above) and shumai (pictured below). Other than these two, we couldn’t be bothered to try anything else. People at the lines were getting aggressive in that they jump the lines by pretending to be looking at what’s available. Even the Colonial mindset (in this day in age) from food vendors was practiced in the event; white man gets served first. It was utter chaos and a total turn off.

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As much as we like Filipino food, this event was an epic fail as a food event. It failed in that it didn’t showcase savoury, and often considered delicacy, that is Filipino streetfood. Instead it was a collection of existing local Filipino restaurants in the area bringing their menu to a tent. We felt it was a missed opportunity here to highlight what Philippine street food is all about. The food vendors offered combos (often rice with 1 or 2 side dishes) like the ones they offer in their restaurants instead of a sampling of authentic dishes that is more conducive to these types of events. There was no opportunity for legit food event goer to get a sampling of dishes. Instead, the food vendors banked on monopolizing the business by offering a slew of dishes in a combo. One to note is the Kabalen Restaurant’s food tent, which offered a buffet table style service. You get a serving of rice and 2 sides of your choice for $9. In fact, Kabalen was such a turn off for us with just overall bad servers (one decided to be mute to patrons but not to fellow staff) and food running out, that we left the queue. Another one to note was Bella’s Lechon, who wasted an opportunity to advertise their lechon (roast pork) by not serving any at all. Just as bad was Grill Heaven, which has ran out of their own specialty (Filipino style skewered pork and chicken) just as the crowd was gathering. We just don’t think the food vendors and organizers get what a “taste” festival means. If this is the Filipino community’s translation of the word, it is an epic fail.

Overall, Taste of Manila was a big disappointment. Even though attendance was in droves, it just wasn’t up to par with other cultural events in the city. We think the organization missed the boat here on possibly highlighting food from the Philippines. Our hope is, should this continue next year, is a thought out plan that will satisfy the foodie in all of us.

TD Night It Up 2014

The annual TD Night It Up at the Markham Civic Centre was another success this year. Sticking to the traditional night markets in Asia, food vendors offered a wide range of street food that some may consider delicacy. But if you are Torontonian, this is normal grub. Below are the ones we got to try before calling it “we’re full!”

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What: Oolong Tea Creama
Where: Sharetea
– Sharetea added a twist to the bubble tea movement with their Oolong Tea Creama. It’s basically iced oolong tea but with a heavy sweet milk cream on top. It has a fluffy cream cheese like texture that you can either eat by itself of try to mix it in with the oolong tea at the bottom. It was interesting alone but it made the oolong tea bland if you ate the cream first. Eventually, I mixed mine in. That resulted in a refreshingly sweet drink. Check out Sharetea at Northtown Way in North York!

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What: Spicy Chicken (left) and Rice Squares (right)
Where: Roy’s BBQ
– I think Roy’s BBQ is a pop-up food tent for now. They served us up spicy but mild chicken skin and tendon balls (they were more like chicken popcorn than BBQ) and a cooling rice squares. Both were very nice.

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What: One Up, Porkzilla and Angry Birds
Where: Me.n.u
– Me.n.u started as food tent vendors in events like the TD Night Market. I think we first saw them at TO Food Fest about two years ago. Now they have a food truck added to their roster but continue to do food tents. We were able to try all three. We liked the Angry Bird the most interestingly enough since we are fans of pork. But for some reason, the One Up and Porkzilla wasn’t as savoury as we remembered them. They also used to have more meat in it and moist, but they were a little dry today and maybe a little over fried. Overall, it was still good eats. Just need to be mindful of the texture next time.

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What: Pork, Beef and Chicken Satay Skewers
Where: Mamak Satay
– If you go to any night market this season and you see these guys, go! You can’t go wrong between the three satay skewers they serve up. Each has an explosion of flavours that is just wonderful. We liked all three with or without the sauce. Check them out if you see their pop-up food tent.

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What: Mango Ice Cream
Where: Ice Volcano
– One of our favourite stops in these food events is Ice Volcano’s 100% Canadian milk liquid nitrogen ice cream. It’s always a blast watching these guys create their ice cream right in front of you. It’s an edible science experiment! They added dry ice to the presentation so your ice cream cup is not only fancy to look at but also keeps the ice cream stay frozen a little longer. Check these guys out when you see then at food events!

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What: Assorted stuffed chicken wings
Where: Stuffed and Co.
– Stuffed and Co. is a catering company that is serving up stuffed chicken wings. Yes, they stuff the chicken wings with things like Mac’n’Cheese (Cheesy Mac), dumpling (Wonton Bomb), and jambalaya (Yaya Wing)! We liked all three, but our fave was the Yaya Wing. It had an Asian yet Southern comfort zing with jambalaya in sriaracha aioli and creole seasoning stuffed in a chicken wing then fried. It had an explosion of flavours that is unique to Stuffed and Co. Very good indeed!

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What: Oyster Omelets
Where: Oyster Omelet
– The Toronto Star raved about this food stand as a must check out in this season’s food events so we decided to check it out. Sad to say we were not impressed by the dish at all and decided to throw most of it away after a bite or two. It just wasn’t good and we actually blame it for perhaps causing stomach upsets later on. Just not a fan of oysters that way. Give fresh oysters with a bit of lemon and garlic butter and I’m good. Cooked this way? Not so much. We say, skip this one unless you are heading home soon to be near a bathroom.

Overall, another successful TD Night It Up event at the Markham Civic Centre. We love getting invited to this event every year and look forward to it. See you next year TD Night It Up!

Hawkers Market – Vancouver

Second foodie event of the summer! Hawkers market is a cool event that aims to bring local food businesses together for foodies like us to experience new and innovative food creations. This year, the event was held in East Vancouver, near Kingsway with the majority of vendors inside but also a few food trucks lined up outside.

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Our first stop was the table selling Chicken Waffles. The sandwich was made of free range chicken (really nicely fried), organic kale slaw (which they ran out of), chipotle maple aioli (super creamy), and watermelon gastrique (we had no idea where this component was). Overall, not bad for $9 and it was really filling!

We then tried some blueberry lavender marshmallows toasted with a blow torch, followed by a blackcurrant, raspberry and cream popsicle which was my favorite dessert of the night :)

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The beautifully designed bottles of Taiwanese cold tea were from Oolloo Tea, the founder has a long family history of growing tea leaves and I love the simplicity and chicness of her designs and packaging! The chocolates were made by a lady who infused lavender and roses into the cocoa and cream, which makes the chocolate very rich and flavorful without being sweet at all. Probably the healthiest chocolate I’ve ever had. Another drink stand was called Kombucha, which is a different way of brewing tea with sugar. I got to try the pumpkin flavored one, which reminded me a bit like gingerale. Definitely a new foodie creation and seems very interesting!

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Overall, it was a fun event although I wish there were more food vendors! A lot of the vendors didn’t prepare enough portions so my advice would be to arrive early next time! Thanks for inviting us Hawkers Market – hope to see you at the next event!