7 Essential eats and drinks on a trip home to YYC

7 Essential eats and drinks on a trip home to YYC

charred cabbage from Pigeonhole

Montreal has a great food scene but this is what I really crave when I head back west to Calgary. Rest assured there will be plenty of ice cream, tofu, chocolate, and an abundance of other delicious eats and drinks.

  1. Village Beer

Specifically Village Blacksmith. It’s a dark beer like no others; light enough to be sessionable, but not so light that it’s no longer dark. Easy drinking stuff. Plus the bottle fits really nicely in my tiny hands (maybe Trump would be a fan?).

  1. Village Ice Cream

Apparently there’s a village theme here. Man if Village Chocolate existed I would be all over it. Anyways, back to the topic at hand, Village Ice Cream. Their salted caramel is what dreams are made of, and their seasonal vegan coconut milk-based varieties are off the hook. Yup, I just said “off the hook.”

  1. Crispy Tofu at Anju

I realize as I write this that I’ve never had the true version of crispy tofu. It comes with pork belly and in my previous life as a vegetarian, I always ordered it sans piggy. Now I’m scared. Is it going to be the same? Will all of my expectations be violated? Who knows?! Heck it’s pork belly, how can adding that be a bad thing?

  1. Charred Cabbage at Pigeonhole

Charred cabbage is one of Pigeonhole’s signature dishes for a reason. Elevating the humble brassica is no simple feat but the smoky, blackened exterior contrasted with the melty mimolette and spicy salad cream is pretty incredible for what is essentially a three component dish. The reservation has been made and we will be ordering several plates of this.

  1. Smoked Salmon Pappardelle at Villa Firenze

No restaurant encompasses my childhood like Villa Firenze. I could rave about pretty much anything on the menu but my go-to for the past several years has been their smoked salmon pappardelle. The fish is hot smoked and blended into a rich cream sauce that envelops the perfectly cooked, homemade pappardelle. Leftovers the next day are just as good.

  1. Milkshake (preferably vanilla or chocolate) at Peter’s

If tongue workouts were a thing, Peter’s would have already banked their millions from their milkshakes and moved on. Thankfully (to my knowledge), they’re not. That doesn’t make Peter’s milkshakes any less jaw-achingly delicious. No spoons allowed, straws are the only way to go. And yes, you can get about 5 bagillion different flavour combinations but for me, simple chocolate or vanilla shall suffice.

  1. Cococo Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut’s Sea Salt Habanero bar (milk or dark)

I’ve had a lot of chocolate that claims to be spicy, but none of them can leave you in a coughing fit quite like this bad boy (and I mean that in the best of ways). It delivers on both the salt and the spice, and the two of them together make it about as addictive as chocolate gets.

gin and tonic container bar

Other favourites:

The Coup

The Coup Generally when I go out for dinner I know exactly what I am going to order. Why? Because it is the only thing I can eat. Life as a vegetarian does not afford you many options when dining out (not that I am complaining, my diet is a personal choice and something I feel quite strongly about, plus it always ensures extra room for dessert), so it is nice to experience some more diversity. Usually there is one vegetarian entree, if that, and after awhile you really want to see something more creative than a veggie pasta or Mediterranean grilled vegetable flatbread. Thankfully that isn’t the case at The Coup, Calgary’s go-to exclusively vegetarian restaurant. This time it’s the meat-eaters that are left out of the party, unless they want to come over to the dark side and taste the wonderful world of vegetables. I was really excited to check out The Coup again, as they recently reopened following a renovation that meant a complete overhaul of the old space. It is much more open and airy, with plenty of seating, both inside and on the patio. They also have a living plant wall, filled with herbs from mint, to chives, all of which are watered daily and used in a number of their dishes. It’s aesthetically pleasing and practical too! The Coup - plant wall The Coup - bar

We started off the evening with a pitcher of sangria. It should be mandated that white wine, citrus, fruit juices, apricot brandy and gingerale be together at all times (and a glass of the aforementioned mixture also be in my hand at all times). Needless to say that was guzzled down fairly quickly. The Coup - Sangria

Falafel quesadillas have always been a staple at The Coup so I wanted to step outside of my box and try the little nuggets of chickpea goodness in a different application; their club med salad. At first glance, it seems like the salad contains so many random ingredients but they all serve a purpose. Sundried tomatoes and banana peppers, with chopped pickles? And then tahini dressing? Stop analyzing it, just shut up and eat it. That’s all I have to say about that. Other than the fact that I will be adding chopped pickles to every salad I make from now until the end of time. I’m not pregnant, I swear. The Coup - club med The Coup - Club med My friend had been experiencing tempeh shwarma withdrawal throughout the duration of The Coup’s closure so it was an obvious choice for her. She likened the feature black bean and fennel soup it was paired with to “a blended vegetarian chili of sorts”. It sure looked pretty darn hearty and satisfying to me. The Coup - Tempeh shwarma The Coup - tempeh shwarma

Dessert was the one part of the meal that left me, well, confused, shall we say. I am still trying to wrap my head around it days later. Maybe creme brûlée is something that simply is not meant to be veganized but I give them props for trying. According to our server, they whip coconut cream and then add in flax eggs and agar agar to help set it. The texture ended up just a tad more gelatinous than I would have liked but it’s the flavour that had us both stumped. The flax left a very savoury aftertaste – not unpleasant per se, but not what you would associate with dessert. Then the brûléed cane sugar on top, well it just didn’t taste the same as regular burnt sugar. I don’t know what to say, I am just kind of baffled by it all. Yet I would probably order it again, so what does that mean? I guess it sums up The Coup quite eloquently, they leave you guessing but you always end up coming back for more. The Coup - coconut creme brûlée
The Coup on Urbanspoon

Dinner at 80th and Ivy

Do you know that feeling when you get home from vacation and then never want to eat out again in your life? That was September for me. I needed a break from 3 course cruise ship dinners every night! I know, what a hard life right? But I’m telling you, travel, it makes you learn to appreciate salads!
I broke the streak last Sunday by going for a birthday dinner at 80th and Ivy.
We started with some house-made focaccia bread. I love when the crust is nice and salty (which it was). My sister also tried the potato leek soup.
Soup at 80th and Ivy
Lights at 80th and Ivy
For my main at 80th and Ivy, I chose the pear and gorgonzola pizza. They didn’t have a ton of vegetarian options but this was right up my alley so I didn’t mind. The crust was more flatbread-y but I liked the addition of kale. It was also drizzled with balsamic reduction which really emphasized the sweet/salty balance going on.
Pizza at 80th and Ivy
My sister ordered the “mac n’ cheese” as her main. I put that it quotations because it was unlike any mac n’ cheese I have ever seen (or tasted). First off, it was made with orecchiette pasta which isn’t the best for holding a thick, creamy sauce. But this was kind of a non-issue because there was more “mac” than “cheese” if you get what I’m saying. AKA it was a bit dry. And then to top it all off, it was flavoured (heavily) with rosemary. At the end of the day, I won’t say I dislike the dish, per se, but it definitely wasn’t mac n’ cheese. For that reason, I think my sister was a bit disappointed because she didn’t get what she thought she ordered.
Pasta at 80th and Ivy
Both my parents ordered the mini butcher boards (which were only $12 each on Sundays at 80th and Ivy). It was a crazy amount of food for the price. There was steak, chicken and a choice of side. My mom couldn’t stop raving about the bacon brussel sprouts. They were quite maple-y.
Butcher's Board at 80th and Ivy
It was my birthday so naturally dessert was in order. We had three choices; cheesecake, chocolate mousse or sticky toffee pudding. Which one do you think I opted for? If you chose chocolate mousse, you are correct, ding, ding ding!! It was topped with an orange gelee and then enrobed in dark chocolate and garnished with sesame seed brittle. My one criticism is that I don’t think the gelee really added anything, but otherwise, it was my kind of dessert. I mean, it had chocolate and I ate it…because I like chocolate.
Dessert at 80th and Ivy
My sister had the berry cheesecake which she appreciated for it’s in-your-face cream cheese flavour. There was no hiding the richness here.
Cheesecake at 80th and Ivy
Last but not least, the sticky toffee pudding. My mom refused to say whether or not it was better than my pumpkin sticky toffee pudding that we ate the night before but apparently it was less “sticky”.
Sticky Toffee Pudding at 80th and Ivy
Overall it was a great debut back into the restaurant scene at 80th and Ivy. 2 thumbs up!

80th & Ivy Wine Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Model Milk

For a place that made the #2 spot on enRoute magazine’s Best New Restaurants 2012, #7 on the Vacay.ca 50 Best Places to Eat list and was one of Maclean’s 50 Best Restaurants, what the heck took me so long to finally eat at Model Milk? I’ve been to every other new restaurant in the city but until last week, I had neglected Model Milk. And it’s not even that new. Not to mention, the place even has FREE!!! parking so there truly is no reason, no excuse not to make a trip down to 17th Ave. to try it out. Take note of this my friends – I drove around the block 3 times looking for street parking so that you don’t have to. That’s not true, it was only twice until we noticed the parking lot, but still!
Now I could provide you with a bunch of funky pictures of the interior of the restaurant but all you have to do is Google “Model Milk” in order to find a plethora of shots of the hipster decorations, photographed much more professionally than I am capable of. And frankly, you feel like enough of a weirdo just taking pictures of your plates, let alone getting up on the table to capture the chandeliers from the perfect angle. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty funky space. Although I could see it getting pretty loud late on a Friday night. Luckily we showed up unannounced for a table at 5PM on a Monday. Eating like grannies, oh yeah (try to make a reservation if you plan on going at any other time though).
Let’s cut to the chase already. Enough, let’s talk about the food! This was probably one of the best vegetarian dishes I have ever had at a restaurant. Sure you see a lot of mushroom-based veg entrees but do you ever see braised hen-of-the-woods mushrooms? I didn’t think so. Combat that with some kale, gremolata and crazy awesome carrot creme fraiche and you have yourself a “winner-minus-the-chicken-dinner”. It was also super well-seasoned, perhaps bordering on salty for some, but I thought it was perfect.
Model Milk
Model Milk

While I was chowing down on that, my dinner date Cassidy made it her mission to conquer the Model Milk burger. It’s pretty famous around these parts, I would say. You’ve got yourself some cheese curds, mushrooms and ham hock, all on a homemade sesame seed bun. She looks pretty happy about the situation, I’d say.

Model Milk
Now things really started to get ridiculous when we ordered dessert. Both of us have a sweet tooth so we had no intention of sharing. Which in the case of the “Fat Kid Cake”, was probably not the most intelligent decision I have ever made. You should have seen the look on our waiter’s face when we said that we wanted not one, but two slices of “Fat Kid Cake” – there was definitely some hard-core judging going on. Seriously though, how big could it possibly be? Let’s just say I did eat the whole thing and in doing so, put all of the real fat kids in this world to shame.
Model Milk
Look at those layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter cheesecake, raspberry (or perhaps cherry?) buttercream, crispy corn flake brittle and pretzels of all things!
Didn’t get a good enough glimpse from that angle? Look again.
Model Milk

That cake sums up my experience at Model Milk in a nutshell. What a dummy I was for depriving myself so long.

Model Milk on Urbanspoon

Market Madness (and I mean that in a good way)

Ask any sane person and they were probably tell you not to go to a restaurant within a week of it first opening it’s doors. The thing is, Market Calgary was just too tempting to avoid. Yep their style is consistent with the whole “local, seasonal, sustainable” bandwagon that everyone has jumped on lately. But they don’t just talk the talk, they actually walk the walk. If you don’t believe me, check out their Urban Cultivator, a little garden right there in the restaurant, supplying all of the herbs. Well it’s not smack dab in the middle of the restaurant but you get my drift.
Before we get to the food, let’s talk a little bit about the space itself. I loved the design, LOVED it. There’s a stark contrast between the bar (which is all black) and the dining room (which is whiter than white). The clean lines make it super modern. My favorite parts were definitely the chalkboard walls covered in pictures of different vegetables (I was told that all of the drawings were done by customers) and the plants in little glass teardrops hanging from the ceiling. Kudos to the designer!

Market Calgary

Ok enough of that, the most important part is always the food of course. My dad ordered the burger on a homemade brioche bun with bacon and beer cheese. Beer cheese? What is that you might ask? Well apparently it was made using Granville Island Pale Ale. A neat idea I thought. As you might suspect the burger meat itself was all ground in-house using a combination of short rib, chuck and some other part of the cow that I now cannot remember. Because of this they were able to cook it med-rare (which in my opinion, even as a vegetarian, is the only temperature that beef should be cooked to…but what credibility do I have?). Overall, it was a winner.
Market Calgary
As for myself, I had to be a bit difficult. The menu is pretty short and simple to begin with, which didn’t leave me with too many vegetarian options. Soup and salad perhaps? Maybe some perogies?  But having baked in kitchens in the past I am always curious to try out homemade bread wherever I go. When I asked if the kitchen could make me some sort of vegetarian sandwich I did cringe a bit inside (knowing that their response, regardless of whether they would admit it or not would be “damn you vegetarian” – I’m sorry!) but they were more than accommodating. Not that I blame them though, one bad review gone viral from someone like me and it would definitely turn away other potential veggie customers.
The sandwich that they whipped up was delicious. Funny how fresh bread and veggies can taste so good. Roasted pepper, cucumber pickles, sunchokes and wheatgrass all piled onto a brioche bun slathered in a mustardy spread of sorts. I’m pretty sure it would sell if they put it on the menu. I’d order it again that’s for sure. The salad was also worth mentioning. Beets, greens and a honeycomb vinaigrette. But it was really the little details that made it stand out. Like the celery leaves or the sunchokes (why don’t more people cook with these things!?!?!).
Market Calgary

We opted against dessert but right now their menu includes items like chocolate cake with beet icecream or “liquid cheesecake” with pink lady gelato. Apparently it changes every 3 weeks though so be sure to keep updated.

So what’s the verdict? I loved the space, loved the food and I have no complaints about the service either. I had high hopes going in and they didn’t let me down. Market will be seeing me again in the future, no doubt about it!

MARKET on Urbanspoon