Tag Archive for calgary

Leftovers III

One of the awesome things I got to do this summer was appear on Breakfast Television and judge some of the city’s food trucks. For three mornings (four, if you include the day when I announced the winner), I got up extra early and — before most people had their first coffee — chowed down on smoked meat sandwiches, burgers, donuts, French Fries and gelato.

Yes, sometimes my life is pretty amazing.
I mean, this is my kind of breakfast.
One tall burger

I had the pleasure of judging with John Gilchrist and Calgary Farmers’ Market’s Amanda Bonner. (The Best Of segment tied in with the Sundown Chowdown event at the market that weekend. I judged some of those dishes too. Oooof.)
Here we are preparing to try the Whole Truck Burgers and Poutines from Alley Burger.
Judging Alley Burger for BTV

This is The Special from Red Wagon Diner. Although not a huge smoked meat fan, I really loved this sandwich.
Red Wagon Diner's The Special

There were even ice cream sandwiches from Fiasco Gelato.
Fiasco Gelato ice cream sandwich

In the end, the winner was the Naaco Truck. But I have to give shout outs to Cheezy Bizness, which does fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches. I particularly loved The Big Cheese, which has a mix of cheddar and gruyere, pimento cheese, dill pickles and shaved red onion. And one of these days I am going to try a Mac Melt, which is grilled cheese with mac and cheese. Oh, yes! (I also love that owner Nicole is a huge proponent of local and runs her truck as close to waste-free as possible.) And another shout out to Los Compadres. They dished up some truly Mexican fare and the best mole sauce I’ve ever tried.

The folks from Teatro opened a new spot on Stephen Avenue this fall. Cucina is rustic and charming in decor, but the food is impeccably done.
Cucina place setting

Chef John Michael MacNeil has created a menu of bistro-style dishes with a Teatro influence. Rosemary roasted porchetta is tender and deeply flavoured. On the sandwich, the rich meat is contrasted with an apple-celery slaw.
Behold:
Porchetta sandwich from Cucina

The Chicken Liver Parfait is also fantastic.
Chicken liver parfait from Cucina

A couple of weeks after having lunch there, I was back having brunch. Loved that instead of hashbrowns, you can get servings of pan-fried gnocchi hash. I was glad to get back because I really wanted to try the BBT (Bacon Basil Tomato) sandwich, which isn’t on the lunch menu.
BBT sandwich from Cucina

We may have had eyes bigger than our stomachs.
Breakfast at Cucina
But it was worth it.

CRMR has added to its stable by opening Bar C on 17th Avenue. May I recommend the Sazerac? Because I do.
Sazerac from Bar C

Leftovers Part II

So much eating lately.

Oof.

And lots of eating while traveling, but I’m going to do separate posts for those. Soon. I promise.

Until then, here are some shots from the last couple of months.

Bon Appetit.

First up, I have to say that I highly recommend the burgers at National. No surprise considering they were created by Justin Leboe, who is the chef behind the ones at Clive Burger and the one at Model Milk. This chef knows his burgers.

Order this one with fries and then take this tip from my little sister, turn your plate so the delicious burger juices drip on to the fries. Oh yes, that’s good stuff.

Oh, and order a beer.
Afternoon Beers

Don’t tell me this doesn’t look fantastic.
Burger from National

Drippings on fries. Mmmmmmm.
Fries and burger drippings

His fried chicken over at Model Milk is pretty damn good. Not the best photo, but it was a great night on the patio with the girls. The cup off to the right contains creamy grits and a fried egg.
Fried Chicken from Model Milk

And, speaking of Clive Burger. . . .
Love the decor.
Clive Burger decor

And the burgers.
Clive Burger

A burger from Clive was the first thing I ate after returning to Calgary from almost a month away in Italy, France and Morocco. It satisfied my burger craving in a big way.

In the summer I did a story about Village Ice Cream and am now absolutely addicted to their salted caramel. (Though cardamom is a close second.)
This is exactly how it should be eaten.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Village

I finally made it to Las Tortillas (warning link goes to site with autoplay music) up in Marlborough. This little store/taqueria is located in a strip mall and is one of those great secrets that Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours shared with me. I went back later with another friend and we had some tacos, which were very tasty.

Tacos from Las Tortillas in the northeast

On a night out at Catch with an old friend from high school, chef Kyle Groves gave us a little sampling of white salmon. I had no idea such a thing existed. But I’m glad I do know. This was incredibly tasty, especially with the lightly cooked peas and mushrooms.
White salmon from Catch

Over at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, they’ve started offering pickles. They are spice and mouth puckeringly delicious. If you spy them when you stop by, I definitely recommend picking some up.
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery pickles

I did cook at home this summer, I swear.

My favourite cold remedy is homemade hot and sour soup. I like mine jammed with carrots, wood ear, shiitakes and green onions.
Hot and Sour Soup

 

I have my friend Suzi to thank for teaching me a bastardized version of the Zuni Roast Chicken Bread Salad, which is now one of my favourite indulgences. Don’t think of it like a salad; it’s more like stuffing with a bit of vinegary dressing.
Salting the chicken pieces and leaving it to air dry for a day or two gives it a super crisp skin, but the meat stays incredibly tender. The roast chicken goes on top of toasted chunks of raggedly ripped bread, with some cranberries and pine nuts and a few greens.
Zuni roasted chicken and bread salad
One day I hope to post Suzi’s version. Future weekend project.
Until then, Smitten Kitchen has her own version.

Leftovers

In the last few months, I’ve shot photos for meals and food adventures here and there that haven’t made it in to any posts. Julie and I were joking that we should just do posts of these leftovers with no real preamble, just letting the photos speak for themselves.

So, yup, that’s what this is.

Enjoy!

Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara. (Recipe over here)

Pasta with tomatoes, peppers and wilted spinach

Penne with cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers and wilted spinach in a cream sauce.

Japa Dog

Oroshi dog, topped with freshly grated daikon from Japa Dog in Vancouver. My favourite part was chatting with the staff in Japanese.

Shio Ramen

Shio ramen from Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Check out Andree’s review for more.

Charcuterie

Charcuterie from Cassis.

Steak and potatoes

Steak and potatoes from Cassis.

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry tart from Cassis.

Shrimp Po' Boy

Shrimp po’ boy from Big & Little’s in Chicago.

Lights at the Publican

Lights at Publican in Chicago.

Cinnamon Bun

Pecan sticky bun from Publican in Chicago.

Digging in

Digging in to the Pecan sticky bun at Publican in Chicago.

Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi fried rice for brunch at the Publican in Chicago.

In search of the perfect burger

In the moments that followed the first bite, as the flavour of beef and bacon and cheese filled our mouths, we knew this was one of our more brilliant plans.

Mmmmm

Of course, it didn’t start out that way.

It started out as a tongue-in-cheek joke, a nod to our mutual love of burgers. But as my sister’s trip from the coast to Cowtown neared, it morphed into a serious scheme.

The burger tour of southern Alberta was born.

You see, a truly great burger is more than the sum of its parts.

A solid, but not too filling, bun provides the backbone. It needs to hold the burger together, soak up the juices from beef and sauce, but not be too tall, too bread-y or so flimsy it becomes an annoyance.

Sauces–relish, mustard, ketchup, special or otherwise– should add to the flavour and not overpower the patty taste.

Lettuce and tomato are optional. Onion is not.

The burger should just fit into your hands and be bitten through without feeling you have to dislocate your jaw.

It should be messy. Bonus points for burgers that cause juices to trickle down your hands.

(The trick, I would come to learn, is to turn your plate so the burger drippings fall onto your french fries.)

Establishing a plan took several e-mail exchanges and thorough research.

A cruise through the Chowhound online forums, suggestions from friends and even a photo posted on Flickr¬† — a photo-sharing website — gave us our plan of attack: five burger joints in four days.

There were tentative discussions about beef detox after that point.

And so, to the journey. From Calgary International Airport, we made our way to the first tour stop: Boogie’s Burgers on Edmonton Trail.

The little sister was off to the races with a double patty burger, adorned with cheese, bacon and pickles. (And a bacon, banana, peanut butter milkshake to wash it all down; if I hadn’t been around when she was born, I would swear she was adopted.)I wanted a slower pace and went with a single with bacon and cheese.

The burgers were the size of my outstretched hand, with a tangy red sauce. The buns were fresh-tasting, with a slightly crisp crust that gave nicely when bitten into. Thick slices of bacon and melted cheddar cheese rounded out the burgers. And they passed the requisite messy test with me having to go through several paper napkins.

Boogie's Burger

The aftermath

We were off to a good start. Day 2 took us down Highway 22 to Turner Valley for a stop at the Chuckwagon Cafe. Charmed by the red barn exterior and the slightly kitschy decor inside, we were eager to see what this little restaurant had to offer.

Chuckwagon Cafe

We both ordered the House Burger, minus the mushrooms, featuring a six-ounce patty of beef raised on a Longview farm with no hormones or steroids, topped with fried onions, bacon and marble cheese.

Chuckwagon Cafe's House Burger

Chuckwagon Cafe Burger

After the plates were set down, the first five minutes were punctuated solely with the sounds of beef contentment, echoed by little more than groans of acknowledgment.

Mmmm. Uh-huh. Mmmm. Seriously.

The thick patty was juicy and flavourful, had nice charred bits and was well-spiced and complemented by the homemade relish.

Charred bits

For the next hour as we drove further south on Cowboy Trail–she marvelled at the expansive Prairie sky while we sang along with bubble gum pop songs –there were moments when we stopped to talk about those burgers again.

In High River, we pulled up to a little red-roofed burger shack whose reputation is well known. The Hitchin’ Post is a local favourite and the steady line of traffic in and out of the dirt parking lot surrounding the tiny takeout restaurant spoke volumes.

Hitchin' Post

Cheeseburgers topped with a full slice of onion and sitting atop yellow mustard and relish were ordered up and washed down with orange soda. The burgers were about the size of my palm and tasty, but more akin to a burger from a fair. It filled the burger need, but not in the way that would keep us talking about them for days after.

Hitchin' Post cheeseburger

By 11 a. m. the next morning, we were ready for round four: Rocky’s Burger Bus –literally, an old red bus jammed into the city’s southeast industrial area just off Blackfoot Trail, with a few picnic tables in behind.

Rocky's Burger Bus

The cheeseburgers were adorned with little more than a generous helping of mustard and relish and a piece of processed cheese. But the thick wedge of beef was the star attraction of this meat-centric burger. It was juicy and tender, likely because the patties are shaped by hand. And it was hot off the grill, which was deliciously unexpected.

Burger Bus I

Rocky's fries

The final stop on the tour was at downtown steak house Saltlik, where friends joined us to try the double-fisted bacon cheeseburger. This was not just a turn of phrase. A thick patty topped with bacon, cheddar, a healthy tomato slice, lettuce and red onion, all jammed into a tall bun–two hands were definitely necessary.

But, as we entered a virtual beef coma at the end of day four, there was no debate about who served the best burger. Even now, weeks later, I think about the Chuckwagon Cafe and how easy it would be to climb into my car and head south.

The sister has already marked it as a must-do for the next tour.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.