Cravings: Jambalaya

Over the past few days, I have had this absurdly strong desire to try my hand at making jambalaya. It coincided with how I needed to use up the rest of the garlic bison sausage that I had purchased last weekend from Medicine Man Bison at Edmonton's own City Market. I had used it to make some ravioli and other pasta dishes, but after that, I wanted something a bit different.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the hideous ravioli I ended up making, when I typically have the habit of snapping the failures too. My apologies, but this was the dough! P made a delicious filling with chopped bison sausage and cream cheese and another with cremini mushrooms and grana padano to make up for it. Take my word for it - they looked pretty crappy, but tasted decent! I'll document my next trial more carefully!
Tuesday's lunch! Penne with cremini mushrooms, bison sausage slices, and homemade basil pesto!
And thus, my intense craving for jambalaya began to take its course...

What I learned today about jambalaya:
- It's freaking delicious. Somehow I've never had jambalaya before, and I'm sure there are better renditions out there than the one I made, but my goodness, is it good or what?
- Jambalaya is a well-known rice dish from Louisiana Creole cuisine. It's similar in concept to Spanish paella, which I have had before and love (I'll have to do a post about paella - it's one of P's favourite foods!), and French jambalala, but I have yet to try this. But the flavours are completely different.
- Even in Creole cuisine, there are different varieties of jambalaya. The more common one (which I made) is the urban Creole red version where it is tomato-based, and the meat (chicken, andouille sausage, and seafood), vegetables, and rice are all cooked together for up to an hour. The second-most common is the southern Creole rural brown version, which contains no tomatoes, and simmers together for at least an hour. The third one is the Cajun white version takes the shortest cook time, where the rice is cooked separately from the other ingredients, and the two parts are added together to serve.

Jambalaya! Not too typical given that it has bison sausage, gochujang, and lime juice in it, but it's good stuff, I swear.
The skull and crossbones on my water glass seems to imply that this jambalaya is extremely spicy, but I don't think it was. If it was, water would have been the wrong beverage to pick~ 
Unconventional Jambalaya (Adapted from The Food Network)
*Makes 3-4 servings*
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. garlic bison sausage
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/2 green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
3 cups unsalted chicken broth
2 Tbsp canned tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1/4 cup frozen baby shrimp
2 green onions
1 lime

1. Measure the rice into a medium bowl and wash 2-3 times so that the water is no longer cloudy, drain, and set aside.
2. Dice the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Slice the sausage into thin ovals.
3. Add olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
4. Add the sausage to the pot to brown it a bit. Then add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until they are tender.
5. Add chicken broth, tomato paste, gochujang, oregano, thyme, paprika, and chili powder, and bring to a rolling boil.
6. Add the rice and stir to combine. Once it is back up to a boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes.
7. In the meantime, chop the green onions. Roll the lime on the counter while pressing lightly a few times, and cut the lime in half.
8. Once the rice has finished cooking, add the baby shrimp and half of the green onions. Squeeze the juice over top from both halves of the lime. Stir a few times, and allow to cook with the lid on over low heat for another 10-15 minutes. Make sure that all the shrimp are cooked through.
9. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the remaining green onions on top, and serve!

Devour, but beware that your bowl/plate might feel heavy from even a single serving...



Love for the Locals: Zocalo

After another long hiatus, I am back! A lot of changes have happened over the past several months - after bouncing around between contract jobs, I eventually landed permanent position and moved into my own apartment, closer to Edmonton's great food scene, of course! I hope to update more often as my furnishing and decor becomes more complete.

Last weekend, P and I visited a cafe in Little Italy for breakfast called Zocalo (10826-95 Street). It's a quaint, little cafe situated inside a culinary-themed gift shop married with a greenhouse. You order in the shop, and can enjoy your sips and noms in the shop or the greenhouse!

Zocalo from the outside of the gift shop!
Zocalo from outside of the greenhouse! You can see the long wooden table and some bistro tables inside!
The cafe situated inside the gift shop!
Our breakfast spread! P's latte, my rooibos tea, a mocha almond tart, bagel with lox, and cranberry scone! It was a perfect balance, especially with the bite of dark chocolate for a finish :)
Despite the rain outside, the greenhouse was so bright and open, so that was where we sat to enjoy our breakfast. Not to mention, the light was great for photos, even with my phone!

Earlier on, I had said to P that I was feeling peckish, but not in the mood for a full-on breakfast complete with toast, eggs, and hashbrowns. Our choices at Zocalo just hit the spot. The tea was typical of the Mighty Leaf (which P said lost a good opportunity for a punny name, claiming that "the Mightea Leaf" would have been better), but smooth and enjoyable nonetheless. The bagel with lox, capers, and cream cheese offered the perfect savoury note for our meal, with just enough but not too much cream cheese, and a good amount of lox. The scone was a bit denser than I am used to, and seemed more like a cake in scone form to me, but the sweetness was well-balanced. The same goes for the mocha almond tart. Marzipan or almond paste tends to be rather sugary, but the mocha and dark chocolate were a great offset, not to mention it went great with my tea.

I have a pretty good feeling that we'll be back!

If you do decide to visit Zocalo, which you most definitely should, you also ought to visit the Spinelli Italian Centre Shop just a block away! I have to say that it has one of my preferred delicatessens in the city. I got some corned beef pastrami and a few slices of Gruyere Swiss to go with the loaf of fresh rye that P brought me - yum!


Zocalo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


What the Truck?! 2015

Yesterday was the kick-off event of What the Truck?! this year, where 25 food trucks lined Churchill Square for the evening, and P and I decided to check it out!

Both P and I felt that there may have been more people at this event than our annual Taste of Edmonton festival that takes place in the same location! Although, I like to use Taste of Edmonton as my chance to sample delicious things from the slightly pricier restaurants that I may not otherwise dine in for financial reasons.

Before heading out, P and I made sure to bring our own water, so that we could save our cash for the food items rather than the cans of pop and bottles of water that we could get elsewhere. It was extra handy that the map and menus for the event were made available as a PDF, which I downloaded to my phone. That way, we could use our waiting time in lines to decide on where to go next! We also took the bus downtown knowing that parking would be quite a feat to achieve.

Once we got to Churchill Square, people were lined up everywhere! I wish I could have gotten a better picture of exactly how many people were on the Square, but alas, I am a bit vertically-challenged.
Our first choice was also the first business that P took photos for in his magazine shoot - One Cool Cookie! I was thinking along the lines of "dessert before dinner". I crossed my fingers while waiting, wishing and hoping that they wouldn't run out of ice cream before we got to the order window! Once we placed our order, we were advised that it was going to be a 40 minute wait, so rather than waste time standing around for 40 minutes, we took the chance to browse around at other trucks.
We decided to join the queue for Jimmy Poblano's after noticing that their line was a bit shorter, and seeing some great-looking chimichangas pass by. Unfortunately, by the time we got to place an order, they had run out of everything aside from cheesecake, lemonade, and water. That's what we get for coming to the event so late! We will have to wait until next time!
Another shorter and quicker line was spotted at the Spice Rickshaw, so we decided to go for it!
We were glad we did, because it resulted in some tasty food! P and I opted for the Chaat Papdi or "Indian Nachos". There were peas, green onions, cilantro, chili powder, yogurt, and whole bunch of other flavours going on and it was nice to have on a hot day like yesterday!
When we returned to One Cool Cookie, we got a pretty stuffed ice-cream sandwich! Our choice was the Skor-bacon cookie with salted caramel ice cream, and it was absolutely delicious! The cookie was perfectly chewy, and the ice cream - well, how can you go wrong with Pinocchio ice cream?
When we went to What the Truck?!, I was expecting there to be a lot of people, especially because we came around 6:00 (i.e. the dinner rush time), so waiting in line wasn't too troubling to me, although I know that there were other people who felt otherwise. A downside to all of the hype of a food truck event was that so many people attended the event, and the orders ended up being quite backed up, but honestly, it shouldn't be too unexpected. Sometimes, people don't realize that if they *really* didn't want to wait in line for their food, they didn't have to. They could have chosen not to attend the event, and eaten at a sit-down restaurant or eaten at home, but they chose to come. The What the Truck?! organizers even put together a helpful "tips and tricks" webpage for non-frequent food truck diners, which some people in the lines with us obviously didn't read over. It's worthwhile to appreciate all the effort that these 2-6 person teams inside those food trucks have to put in for the thousands of attendees. You can't exactly fit too many more people inside of a truck that's stocked with ingredients and kitchen appliances, so patience really is a virtue :)

A great, big kudos to the organizers and food truck vendors who worked to make this event a success! It was really something to see so many people excited about great food, while taking advantage of the giant checkers and chess games in Churchill Square, and dancing to the DJ's music! 

Even at 8:00pm, the scheduled closing time of the event, lineups were still going pretty strong!
I'm looking forward to see all of the photos that P took during What the Truck?! :) They should be featured on his website and/or Twitter in the near future, so be sure to check those out!

I'm also pretty excited about the vegetables and fruits available in the markets now! I hope to try a few new things out this summer!



Downtown Dining Week: A Hit and A Miss

How was everyone's Downtown Dining Week? I always look forward to this food festival in Edmonton, but I don't always get to take advantage of it, so I made sure to do so this time around.

On Thursday, I was on my own for dinner, and decided to grab dinner at Pazzo Pazzo Italian Cuisine (10016-103 Avenue). It was my first time to the place, and I actually had an expired Groupon that I needed to use up. Unfortunately, because Downtown Dining Week is already a promotion, I wasn't able to use my Groupon, but from the quality of food and service I received, I don't mind coming back at all!
Pazzo Pazzo is tucked into one of the small streets across from Churchill Square, so if you weren't actively looking for it, it'd be easy to miss.
Pazzo Pazzo is a fine dining restaurant just a couple of blocks away from the Edmonton City Centre, . The interior had your typical fine dining ambiance with slightly dimmed lighting and various areas for seating. I had my dinner a bit earlier that night, so there weren't too many people dining at the same time as me, but it was kind of nice how quiet it was.
Even though I was dining alone, I got my own mini loaf of bread, and it was delicious. I only had a couple of slices before my other courses started arriving, and I'm glad.
The first course was a salad, and you had a choice between a Caesar salad or Mista. I opted for the Mista, and the dish is quite deceiving. The portion of salad could probably have been the size of 2 starter salads, but I quite enjoy my veggies, so I didn't mind. The salad had Romaine lettuce, Roma tomato, celery, onion, and cucumber, topped with a Mista vinaigrette dressing and some shaved Parmesan. The only thing I didn't like was that there was probably an entire Roma tomato in it, but it's more of a personal preference thing. It was light, refreshing, and delicious.
For the entree, you had a choice between Penne Pazzo (chicken, broccoli, tomato cream sauce) or Stuffed Pasta Shells (ricotta, spinach, "Gigi" sauce - I don't know what Gigi sauce is though). I opted for the Penne Pazzo, and this dish is even more deceiving than the salad. There was enough pasta to serve 3 people, I swear. The thing is that while there was a lot, it was consistently good throughout - the pasta was cooked perfectly (al dente), the broccoli and chicken were cooked perfectly, and the tomato cream sauce was divine. The chili flakes and black pepper that you see on top is all my doing. While it tasted delicious, I have a hard time tasting the same thing over and over when there is a lot of food to be had, so I had those added for later on.
The service was excellent - it was neither overly or under attentive. My server was just attentive enough to meet my needs, without interrupting my meal too much. The food was great too, although the portion was quite large. I feel like I had read something about that in a review somewhere, but took it too lightly. The third course of the meal is a dessert, which for Downtown Dining Week was tiramisu. Unfortunately, seeing as I was so full from the bread, salad, and maybe 1/3 of my pasta entree, I couldn't even make it to the dessert. My server kindly offered to pack my tiramisu in a box, as well as the remaining 2/3 of my main dish, and even the bread!
When I came back from my dinner, it looked practically like I had gotten take-out!
A few hours after I had digested my dinner, I was able to share the tiramisu with P. The whipped cream deflated in the fridge over time, but it tasted pretty good. The additions of strawberries and rolled up chocolate were a nice touch.
This is how much was leftover from my dinner - 2 whole lunch tupperware containers stuffed to the brims with pasta! P and I enjoyed our lunches of pasta and bread the next day. 
Needless to say, my overall experience at Pazzo Pazzo was excellent! I will definitely go back, especially if I want to have a really good lunch for work the next day ;)

Unfortunately, my second Downtown Dining Week experience was quite far from being as enjoyable as the first. P and I spent the last day of Downtown Dining Week at Chop Steakhouse & Bar (10235-101 Street) for lunch. I had skimmed through the Downtown Dining Week menus beforehand, and Chop had the most options for entrees, 6, in fact, and I also had two amazing experiences at the location in Ellerslie with my parents.
Chop Steakhouse & Bar is located on the main and second levels of Sutton Place Hotel. This is the upstairs entrance.
We decided to sit in the lounge area, because most other customers were sitting there and the place is huge.
P and I waited 20 minutes before being provided with menus after being seated. While I understand that restaurants may be lower on staff for Sunday lunches, there were maybe 3-4 other tables of customers in the restaurant, yet another 15 minutes after ordering, we finally received our glasses of water. At the same time that we were served the water, our server indicated that she had forgotten what P ordered, and had also forgotten to place our order. As a result, a table of customers who arrived a while after we did, got their meals first. From what we noticed, the bartender frequently needed to leave the bar to run up to the kitchen and serve orders that were ready.
The first course was Watermelon and Feta Spring Salad - the salad was actually quite tasty. It wasn't overdressed, there was a nice play of flavours between the greens and fennel, and the watermelon and feta. However, half of the bowl's underside felt kind of crusty, and P mentioned that his case was the same.
Of the 6 sandwich options, P picked the Beef Short Rib. It looked quite good. P said that the bun was nicely toasted, and levels of flavour and moisture in the sandwich's filling were good, however, it wasn't very hot, temperature-wise. I stole a couple of bites, and agreed with his comments.
Seeing as the name is Chop Steakhouse & Bar, I opted for the Steak Sandwich. Unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. I asked to have my steak prepared medium-rare, but the steak was more or less between being medium and well-done. There were only a couple of bites of steak where the red/pink was actually visible. Even so, a well-done steak can still be moist, but mine was not. It was difficult for me to get through the steak, so distracting my palette with the fries and a couple bites of P's sandwich certainly helped. The fries were actually quite good, and P thought so too. They were nice and crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside, which is how I believe fries ought to be. It made up for the fact that they had run out of mashed potatoes, hence the fries. 
Overall, the food was decent, but my dry and overcooked steak demoted my rating quite a bit. The service, however, was rather dreadful. I normally feel much more reluctant to mention my disappointments, but I feel as though this was an exception to that feeling. I regret not consulting Urbanspoon, and solely relying on my previous experiences at another location, as most of the reviews reveal that service has been consistently unimpressive. I think that if I do want to go to Chop Steakhouse & Bar, I will steer clear of the downtown location, and re-visit the one in Ellerslie where they seemed more familiar with the concept of proper customer service.

I hate to end Downtown Dining Week on such a sour note, but I am definitely looking forward to more food festivals coming up this summer in Edmonton!


Pazzo Pazzo on Urbanspoon Chop Steakhouse & Bar on Urbanspoon


Love for the Locals: YEG Coffee Week

Hello readers (if you're still out there)! It's been too long! But, I had to come back for Pi Day, obviously. I've been quite busy lately because life happens, but things have hopefully settled down for the next little while. I hope to put out new posts at least on a monthly basis from this point on :)

As many of you know, YEG Coffee Week has been all the craze! The mission of YEG Coffee Week is as follows:
"Yeg Coffee works to connect and build a vibrant community, that works to motivate, educate and support both coffee professionals and enthusiasts as well as our local community."
Basically, between March 7-15, anyone can grab a coffee stamp card, and get $1 off their coffee at any of 25 participating local cafes in Edmonton, 1 in St. Albert, and 1 in Sherwood Park.
The participants of YEG Coffee Week!
Even though I'm strictly a tea drinker, I tagged along with P who has been having too much fun with YEG Coffee Week. You'll see what I mean if you check out his tweets over the course of the week. As a result, I managed to drink tea and have some nibbles at 3 local cafes I hadn't been to before, which is awesome.

Since it was Pi Day, I wanted to have a tart or pie of some sort, and what better place to look than the quaint little French Quarter in Edmonton? P and I made our way over to Cafe Bicyclette (004 - La Cité Francophone, 8627 rue Marie-Anne-Gaboury/91 St. NW), right by Campus Sainte-Jean for brunch. The cafe is in a building called "La Cite Francophone", which is a cultural centre that houses some studios, offices, and shops, as well as a farmer's market on Sundays. It really is a cute place, and I decided upon walking in that I would be back again. I also wanted to go there because in addition to being a part of YEG Coffee Week, Cafe Bicyclette is a participant in the mini festival dubbed the "Farewell to Winter Patio Party", and so, out on the patio, we sat.

I don't know what's gotten into Edmonton this year, but it was a absolutely gorgeous day.
The sign for Cafe Bicyclette.
The patio!
I have a thing for blackboard menus. I really do.
A slice of banana cream pie and my chai latte with soy milk. Both delicious and wonderfully textured. The tea was so smooth, and you know that it's good foam when it stays around until you get to the bottom of your cup. The pie was beautifully balanced with a perfect ratio of pastry to banana cream filling, while not being too sweet.
P opted for a classic latte. Oh, and the dark chocolate croissant. The thing I love about French patisserie is that they're decadent, but still light, and the sweetness is always more on the milder side. The croissant itself was just how it should be - golden, crispy, and flaky on the outside, and fluffy, moist, and soft on the inside. And imho, dark chocolate is the only way chocolate should be.
We also shared this lovely little crepe with a Saskatoon berry-cream cheese filling, lightly drizzled with maple syrup. The great thing was that there wasn't too much cream cheese, so not only did it play well with the Saskatoon berries, but I didn't have to worry as much about my lactose intolerance. Comfort is nice.
Overall, a lovely little place! As I said before, I knew when I walked in that I would want to come back. The food and service were wonderful, and they're open every day of the week! I would love to come back and try more of their savouries the next time around <3

After we finished, P and I decided to grab another cup of coffee (and tea for me), but thought we'd try another place on the list. P chose Credo, the acclaimed #1 place for coffee in the city. It has shown up in numerous foodie posts, and I was curious to see it for myself as well! Credo currently has 2 locations in the city, strategically placed on 2 particularly artsy/trendy streets - one on 124 Street (10350-124 Street) and one on the (10)4th Street Promenade (10134-104 Street).
Inside Credo. (Outside of Credo, we/I got distracted by this adorable golden retriever named "Blue", who sat on my right shoe to be petted.)
(Look at P's coffee card! All of the little coffee cup icons on there are stamps. That's how many places he visited for coffee this week, and YEG Coffee Week still has one more day!) P's Finca Takesi Typica - apparently it's from the highest coffee farm in the world??
P's coffee after he added cream, and my London Fog Rooibos with soy milk. Yes, London Fog Rooibos. At Credo, you can choose between having the classic Earl Grey or Rooibos in your London Fog! For the sake of having something a little bit different, I opted for the latter. It was a bit of an acquired taste on the first sip, but by the second, it was pretty good!
The foam was perfect. The bubbles were incredibly fine, and this spoonful sat there without diminishing at all while P took this photo. Yum.
I have somehow become a hand model for P, but I don't think my career is particularly promising since I still bite my nails...
It was definitely worth the visit to Credo! I know that I'm not much of a judge since I'm not a fan of coffee - not even good coffee (for shame, I know) - but P said that it was very good. I feel that I will be back, even if just for the foam...

Last Sunday, closer to the start of YEG Coffee Week, P and I stopped by Farrow (8422-109 Street), a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop that's open every day of the week except Tuesday, but only for lunch time. The guys running the place give off a very chill, laidback vibe, while offering great service and delicious food. Farrow is actually run by the same people behind Three Boars Eatery, but that's a story for another day, when I manage to visit them as well.
In front of Farrow. The area with the wooden wall is already the start of the patio for the Three Boars Eatery. Farrow is tiny!
What you see in the picture is essentially the size of the place, but somehow, it doesn't feel crammed inside. 
There was a cactus in the corner with a toque and sunglasses like a G, so I asked P to take its picture.
P's pour-over coffee getting poured over. In the afternoon that day, Farrow actually held a little session on pour-over coffee.
Farrow's kitchen busy at work, constantly putting out sandwiches. These guys are sandwich machines!
Our sandwiches and P's pour-over coffee! I love that they wrap the sandwiches in meat-packing paper. And their stickers. It's all just awesome. From the looks of it, they have 3-4 sandwiches every day, all cleverly named - 1 is brekkie-inspired, 1-2 are for meat-eaters, and 1 is veggie-friendly. On that note, the veggie one for last Sunday was "Romaine Calm". Yup.
My sandwich, the "Grick Middle". It had thick-cut bacon, a fried egg, smoked cheddar, arugula, tomato jam, and rosemary aioli, all on a soft, but toasty bun. It was just right. The savoury overpowered the sweet but in a really good way.
Hole-in-the-walls have these crazy magnetic forces on me, so I will be back. I can't get over how they pass orders to each other on a clothes line. I also need more Grick Middle in my belly!

All 3 of these stops for YEG Coffee Week were absolutely worthwhile. I recommend visiting all of them - not necessarily all 3 in one day, but maybe...

Thanks again to P for his amazing photography! Please check out his website for more of his work!

Café Bicyclette on Urbanspoon Credo Coffee on Urbanspoon Farrow Sandwiches on Urbanspoon