2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review

I’m on a train travelling through rural Ontario as I write this, and staring out the window at the snowy country side is making me increasingly excited for the holidays. It has been quite the year and an admittedly absent one from this space. Mainly because I’ve been writing for other publications, but also because admittedly, I’ve lost my vision for what I want my own site to be about. Maybe that will change in 2018. Frankly, I’m not sure yet. In my other life as a PhD student in psychology, I spend the majority of my time researching, discussing, and trying to elucidate around topics pertaining to emotional eating and weight. I’d like to write about what I do in that field in a more informal way in this space (after all, the name “Because I Like Chocolate” always came from a place of wanting to help people have healthier relationships with food). Now that I actually do that in my day to day, it feels appropriate to have an online outlet to share about it. What do you think? Is that something that would interest you?

Because I like chocolate..I made Sarah Kieffer’s pan bang cookies (multiple times)

I did do a bit of food/psychology writing this year, like this piece for Eat North on emotional eating. Actually I did a lot for Eat North. I was super proud to be a part of this piece in celebration of Canada’s 150. Through the process of putting it together, I got to chat with some pretty cool Canadian figures, which lead to interviews with people like Gail Simmons and Jay Onrait. Interviewing is one of my favourite parts of what I do. I love chatting with people and learning about their stories. It’s fascinating and I only want to do more of it in 2018! You can check out everything I wrote for Eat North here (PS there’s a lot of it, 52 articles to be exact).

Probably my best meal of 2017 at Montreal’s Candide

I also began contributing more regularly to Eater Montreal, mostly putting together maps of local restaurants in certain areas or with specific offerings, like this one showcasing some of the best bakeries for bread in Montreal. Plus I had the opportunity to compile this map of the 18 Essential Calgary restaurants, which allowed me to showcase the ever-expanding food scene in my home town (I’m getting sappy now given that I haven’t been home in awhile and am clearly starting to miss it).

Beautiful bread from boulangerie Merci La Vie in the Laurentians

What else, what else? There was the usual writing for Culinaire (I always love getting to do their “Spice it Up” column, like this one from earlier in the year). And in between that, a trip to Japan happened (still figuring out how to write about that from a food perspective, because boy was there a lot of food), many weekends were spent up at the cottage, I wrote my doctoral comprehensive exam, and before I knew it, the year was almost over.

Japanese whisky tasting – the only sad part is that you can’t find most of it in Canada

Wishing you all the best this holiday season, with plenty of festive food and drink to be shared with those you love of course! I plan on making too many baked goods, roasting a turkey, and drinking all the BC wine I can get my hands on! If I can find a bottle of this, that would be the icing on the cake. Happy holidays!

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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:

Dairy Lane Cafe

Dairy Lane Cafe

Breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day and when made well, I will argue that it is also one of the tastiest. That’s why it is always a good idea to have a few decent, local breakfast joints in your repertoire for when you don’t feel like cooking up a storm first thing in the morning. Dairy Lane Cafe had been on my radar for awhile but after a not-so-stellar experience at their sister-restaurant, Blue Star Diner, I held off for as long as possible. However, the moment arrived and I was finally ready to visit Dairy Lane, crossing my fingers that they would redeem themselves, and thankfully, they did.

I went for the vegan scramble breakfast plate because who doesn’t like red Thai coconut curry tofu for breakfast? Well, I am sure plenty of people, but I have no idea why. This is going to sound like the strangest description but the Asian tofu mixed with some very Italian ingredients like sundried tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms reminded me of some crazy curry/caponata mash-up. Add some creamy avocado into the mix and I am not quite sure where we stand culturally, although the flavours were definitely cohesive. I know, I even surprised myself opting for savoury over sweet to start my day. How I stayed away from the cinnamon cream cheese stuffed french toast, I am still not sure.

Dairy Lane Cafe

My dining partner and Mealshare aficionado, Bre did the right thing and ordered the Mealshare feature. I was debating getting it too but I thought it would be weird if we went for samsies. Anyways, let’s talk about falafel hash for a second. Why aren’t more people replacing potatoes with falafel in their hash recipes? I’m serious, it is so much more flavourful because the falafel are already loaded with herbs and spices. Top it all off with vegetables and a couple poached eggs and it’s almost like a deconstructed falafel wrap on steroids. Plus, if I haven’t already hammered the point home enough, $1 from every Mealshare item ordered (from any participating restaurant) gets donated to feed one hungry person in need. Thus you can make your tummy and your conscience happy all at the same time.

Dairy Lane Cafe

Next time I go back to Dairy Lane I will have to try some of their other veg options; veggie burgers (yes, that’s plural), black bean and corn soup or perhaps whatever other Mealshare item that happens to be on feature. Cold drinks on the patio on a hot summer day don’t sound like a bad idea either. It’s a super quaint little joint but if you can manage to get a table (there are only about 20 seats inside the place), it is definitely worth checking out. I’m glad I finally mustered up the courage to go!
Dairy Lane Cafe on Urbanspoon

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

Lettuce Beet and a Food Truck Frenzy

Food Trucky Frenzy

I was speaking with a friend the other day about the decline of the food truck scene in Calgary. Many of the original trucks like Alley Burger and Fries & Dolls are no longer. Just like cupcakes, macarons and various other food trends, it would seem that food trucks have had their day in the sun (and rain, and snow, and whatever weather Calgary wants to throw at them). People are no longer too keen on standing in line for an hour for a grilled cheese. They would rather head back into a restaurant to sit at an actual table to eat their meal.

Needless to say, this conversation occurred prior to attending the recent Food Truck Frenzy in the East Village. Yes, the line-ups were not quite as long as they used to be and no, an Asian-Mexican-Canadian fusion burrito no longer seems so intriguing, but our city still has quite a number of decent trucks cranking out some quality food. All in the name of a great cause, of course. Remember my interview with Breanne from Mealshare all of those weeks ago now? Well Mealshare made an appearance once again (they are EVERYWHERE lately, which is all good in my eyes), with each food truck at the event having at least one Mealshare item on their menu. If you don’t recall what Mealshare is all about, let me refresh your memory. Essentially, when you purchase a Mealshare item at a participating restaurant (or in this case, food truck), a meal gets donated to someone in need. Considering that people are dining out anyways, it is a brilliant way to ensure that some of the money being spent is going towards a cause. I had the opportunity to chat with Jeremy, one of the founders of Mealshare, over lunch and he was such a likeable guy, it would be impossible not to see the good in all of the work he is doing.

Mealshare - Food Truck Frenzy

My other revelation of the day was the salad I ate from Lettuce Beet. Forget gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting trucks, Kristin is changing “food truck” to “food bike.” The menu might not be extensive, but what food truck menu is? The whole pointing is doing just a few things and doing them well. Having worked in the corporate world until just February of this year, Kristin ditched her office job to bring wholesome and hearty lunches to the business people of downtown Calgary. Lettuce Beet offers three different salads; one vegan, one vegetarian and one for meat-eaters too. She sources all of her ingredients as locally as possible, depending on what is in-season and available, and everything is organic. I had the opportunity to try both the “Flourish” and the “Glow.”

The Flourish was definitely my favourite, complete with roasted broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas and quinoa, and a thick, tahini dressing. Boring salad this was not. It was a little bit spicy, a little bit salty and packed with umami punch from all of the roasted veggies and legumes. The Glow was even lighter, consisting of a variety of lettuces and spiralized vegetables. The Green Goddess dressing was heavy on the basil flavour and reminiscent of pesto, minus the pine nuts and cheese. If Lettuce Beet is any indication of what the future of Calgary’s food truck scene has to offer, I am all in.

Lettuce Beet Lettuce Beet Lettuce Beet Lettuce Beet Lettuce Beet