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Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Olympic Liege Team

I am a breakfast person. Without some fuel in the tank first thing in the morning, I'm cranky and quite honestly not that much fun to be around. Monday - Friday it's an easy ritual: lattes from my beloved Oscar and a bowl of whatever cereal is in the pantry. Fruit often makes an appearance.

Weekends, however, are a different story.

I have the blessed fortune of having to work the occasional Saturday. Besides allowing me the opportunity to drink excessive amounts of coffee while trying to catch up on drawings, it allows me to seek out some of the better breakfast places in town before I open the showroom.

I am a huge fan of places like Helens Grill, Berts and the late Melriches in Yaletown. Figmint makes one of the best hash-n-eggs anywhere and Provence Marinaside is my go to place for al fresco brekkies in the summer.

This morning, after an obscenely huge king crab dinner the night before, I was looking for something a little less ... heavy. The folks that run Chambar have opened Medina, a beautiful little cafe that specializes in coffee and liege (Belgian style waffles). 


The menu is simple enough; the usual suspects in the coffee world paired with a waffle, topped (or not) in one of 10 or so toppings. $6. A liege on its own is $3, and the toppings are $1. They've also got fruit, granola and smoooooothies for the tree-huggers.

Its important to understand that these are not IHOP waffles, in that they have flavour. They're also not gargantuan, nor are they smothered in whipped topping. A light dusting of powdered sugar and a dish of your topping of choice is all that is required. I selected the blueberry-vanilla compote, and my wife picked the fig-orange marmalade.

In liege toppings, as in husbands, Janine made the best choice. The blueberries were fine, although I didn't get much vanilla flavour. But the marmalade was perfectly tart. It also, strangely, went better with the cappuccinos. Who knew?

My only complaint? The liege aren't very big. Which isn't really a complaint as it is an indication of how lazy I was that morning. I could have easily ordered another, but with Janine sitting there and us both trying to save calories for an upcoming trip to San Francisco ... well the guilt would have killed me. So, if you're really hungry, order two.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chowdown in Cowtown - Part 2

Saturday morning was not good. Not only had the Knuckleheads blown a lead at home against Columbus, but we were all nursing prairie sized hangovers. Several bottles littered the kitchen counter, including a Beaucastle Chateauneuf-de-Pape, which I trust we enjoyed earlier rather than later! Unfortunately, according the Parm and Janine, the best cure for a Calgary hangover was shopping therapy in the Kensington district.

We started at Mike's place of work: Kensington Wine Market. A really top notch store ... the beer selection alone is worth the visit. The condition I was in that morning however made sampling an impossibility, and purchasing unlikely. Okay ... I did manage to bring home a couple bottles of single malt, but nothing else. If you're in the area, check it out.

A couple furniture stores and an "accessory" shop or two later we felt up to lunch. Parm had pre-selected Pulcinella, home to "authentic Napoletana pizza." The subject of pizza is oft discussed amongst my dining friends, most often as to how much it sucks in Vancouver. The site and smell of a real wood burning oven in Pulcinella gave me real hope for a rare treat.

We started with Fungi Fritti ... deep fried oyster mushrooms with a Gorgonzola cream sauce. This would prove to be the best dish of the trip for me. At first, the mushrooms seemed tough and lacking of flavour. But soon it became apparent I couldn't stop eat it! The cream sauce added another depth of flavour to the mushrooms, and seemed to soften some of the tougher bits.

Napoletana pizza, to me, is all about the crust. Sauce is equally important, but the crust takes centre stage. Pulcinella nailed the crust ... nicely chewy with a little bit of char.

However, the toppings fell far short of what they could have been. We ordered the Quatro Stagioni (Four Seasons) and were treated to canned mushrooms and processed ham. Spring and summer were just fine ... nice buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil and artichokes. But canned mushrooms? Especially when they have oyster mushrooms in the kitchen! So close ...

Dessert? Why not? It's not like we were dieting or anything. I just may have discovered an equal to the Hamilton Street Grill's Gingerbread Pudding ... the Pulcinella Tiramisu. Their take on this classic dessert involves panatone rather than ladyfinger cookies. Awesome!

A little bit of prosciutto and some nice mushrooms on that pizza would go a long way to pushing this place over the top.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chowdown in Cowtown - Part 1

I hate Calgary.

Not the city, but the hockey team. Granted, in this hockey-crazed country we live in, that is often feels like one and the same. So when Janine said we were going to visit our friends Parm and Mike in Calgary, I wanted to put on my Stan Smyl jersey, my Trevor Linden cap and listen to my tape of Jim Robson calling game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.

Actually, I was really looking forward to the trip. Parm and Mike are both food lovers so I knew we'd be able to enjoy some of Calgary's finest dining. I'd not been to Calgary in a long time ... 20 years in fact ... and the only dining I did then was at McD's while the Trans-Canadian made a brief stop. My usual source of food info (eGullet.org) had very little Calgary advice, so Janine and I were left to our own devices until our hosts were done with work.

Snooping out food is something we do quite well. And so it was we found ourselves walking down Stephen Avenue (8th Ave SW), a Calgarian version of Robson Street. Lots of bars, restaurants, shopping ... and no cars! After asking the advice of the staff at The Cellar we settled in for an afternoon at The Tribune.

This is a long beautiful room with high tinned ceilings, brick walls, and an amazing onyx bar at the far end. As it was the middle of the afternoon, the full dinner menu was not available but the smaller appetizer menu was more than serviceable. Some cured Alberta beef, some tapenade, and a couple glasses of grape helped pass the time nicely. Other items were of the charcuterie - cheese plate variety. Had we not already had dinner plans more would have been sampled. The lesson learned? Always trust the wine people.
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