Cravings: Advent Calendars

Until I knew about the existence of the tea advent calendar created by one of my favourite local tea vendors, The Tea Girl, I had never felt so excited about the holiday season. I absolutely love my tea, and any excuse to try a different kind of tea for 24 consecutive days is a good one. A few days before December started, I tweeted about how excited I was.

Minutes later, while scrolling my feed, another tweet caught my eye. Dinner with Julie had come up with the ingenious idea of turning a couple of recycled wine boxes into a "reverse advent calendar". Truly inspired, I created one of my own, only, it wasn't made from recycled wine boxes, because I didn't have any. However, I did have some boxes from my recent move that were still lingering in my apartment, so I dolled one up in Christmas box attire.

Please enjoy this combination post featuring my 2 advent calendars for this holiday season. I assure you that while it is a bit lengthy, it is a worthwhile read.

Things I learned this month about advent calendars, tea, and food banks:
- Advent calendars can actually start anywhere from November 27th to December 3rd, but I like starting clean at the first day of December.
- Advent calendars used to be marking days off with chalk or lighting candles, but more commonly reveal 24 chocolates. (via Mental Floss)
- Tea doesn't always have leaves. Sometimes, it's just pieces of dried fruit, which I am not the hugest fan of. But regardless, I still love tea.
- Tea can keep you up all night, especially black tea, especially if you drink it in the evening.
- Powdered infant formula is most often a most needed item for food banks, and it's freaking expensive. Even the "cheap" ones are expensive!
- Many users of food banks are families, hence the strong need for kid- and infant-related items.
- Summer is always a time of low donations for food banks. Unfortunately, it's mostly when people get into their "holiday spirit" campaigns, that the food banks receive large amount of generosity. While it's great that there's a time every year, when this generosity happens, people use food banks year-round, and it becomes quite difficult during the summer, when there's still a need, but not a complementing supply.

The Tea Girl Advent Calendar
The Tea Girl (12411 Stony Plain Road) is this lovely little shop just off the corner of 124 Street and Stony Plain Road. (By the way, they have dairy-free mac 'n' cheese!) It has a very homey feel, alike the wide selection of teas offered. You also get to choose your own cup and saucer to drink from! As soon as I saw the advent calendar on Twitter, I knew I had to get one, so on impulse, I dashed down right after work and committed myself to 24 days of mystery tea. The process was a lot harder than I thought though. The adrenaline seemed to keep pumping for the first 14 days, but then I started to slip because life happens, and sometimes you don't get home until it's way past tea time and you have work the next day. However, I managed to catch up by Day 23, and was ready for the final cup on Day 24!
  1. Market Spice - Warm and cozy in the stomach, which is wonderful for complimenting a long hard day of work. Cinnamon is the strong player, something that I don't have a problem with at all. Leaves a slight sweet note on your tongue after each sip.
  2. Walnut Truffle - An enveloping sweet, creamy aroma with a lighter, more subtle taste.
  3. Dreamy Time - Had this one before the advent calendar happened, and still love it. One of my favourites, and a pleasant surprise. Very soothing and refreshing mix of lavender, peppermint, and chamomile. I tend not to enjoy those 3 things separately when it comes to tea, but all together? Magic.
  4. Champagne Raspberry - Smelled and tasted like raspberry candy. Was not my sort of jam, but I can see why some people would enjoy it.
  5. Keemun Mao Feng - A smooth Chinese black tea with some fruity notes. I hoped that I drank it early enough to still be able to sleep at a decent hour, but I was so wrong. Would drink again, but maybe not the best evening tea.
  6. Gingerbread Spice - A warm, sweet scent and taste, but it doesn't taste like gingerbread. It tasted a lot like chicory and sugar. Still undecided.
  7. Crantastic 4 - Probably my favourite tea that was new to me, but could be slight bias due to the awesomeness of the name. It was well-balanced between being fruity, light, and a little bit sweet. Also one of my favourite colours. A++
  8. Himalayan Chai - Chai and ginger. No way to lose. So good.
  9. Frozen Summit - A smooth, delicious oolong. Can't go wrong.
  10. "I can't believe it's not #YEGnog!" - I don't think it really tasted like eggnog, but I haven't actually had eggnog in a while, so maybe it does? It did taste like Christmas, if Christmas came in a tea form. Super cozy, and very December.
  11. Tropical Temple - Basically smelled and tasted like paradise in a cup. Very floral and fruity, which very much contrasted with the weather that day.
  12. Cream Earl Grey - Like a London Fog that doesn't even need milk, which is great for me, because my dairy intake has to be restricted a bit. So vanilla-y.
  13. Bombay Cider - Drank this when I had a cold, and it was magically delicious. Ginger and earthy, throat tingly goodness.
  14. Caramel Cup - Tasted like subtle caramel in a cup, which was not a bad thing, but the tiny bits of rooibos were not wanting to stay even in my fine mesh strainer.
  15. Queen's Blend - Lavender, rose, and vanilla. Yes. 
  16. Supreme Sencha - Rich, earthy green tea. Love.
  17. Mint Medley - Refreshing, as mint tends to be. It would be interesting to make cookies or chocolates with a reduced syrup made with this tea. Or if it was chilled and some fresh fruits were added. Something to consider for the summer, which is oh so far away.
  18. Nutcracker Oolong - Not the oolong I'm used to, but ooo...not bad!
  19. Kyoto Cherry Rose - I have to say this was pretty accurately named. It tastes like the beautiful marriage of green tea, cherries, and rose buds. This was a winner.
  20. Organic Vanilla Bourbon - I was kind of hoping it'd be like the bottle of bourbon vanilla that P got me a while back. The smell is very reminiscent of its vanilla-ness. However, I was slightly disappointed that the vanilla was so subtle, even after being steeped for a while.
  21. Casablanca - A whole lot of dried fruit. A bit too light for my taste, and not my sort of taste. May be better over ice?
  22. Kashmir Chai - Smells like a spice market, which I love. Tastes like a spice market, which I love. If a few other things were added, it could possibly resemble Remedy Cafe's Kashmiri Chai's cousin or something?
  23. Raspberry Passion - Subtler than it looks, and smells like a lot of dried fruit. I understand that some like that, but I am not a fan.
  24. After Seven - Chocolatey minty goodness first thing in the morning. What better way to start the holidays?
When all the fun began...
Best thing about having enough tea in each sample tin for 2 cups, is now I can have them all over again! Also, this box came with a 10% off coupon at The Tea Girl!
I was so happy to try out The Tea Girl's tea advent calendar! It was a great way to sample a whole bunch of teas from the shop, while also keeping myself hydrated pretty regularly. But next year, I really want to find an advent calendar with food items, but not of the chocolate variety. If anyone knows where I can get one of that type, let me know! :)

Reverse advent calendar for the Edmonton Food Bank
Rather than just throwing 24 cans of beans into my food bank reverse advent calendar, I wanted to use the opportunity to raise awareness of the diverse most needed items at food banks. Here are 24 solid options for donating to the food bank compiled from various "most needed items" lists (Edmonton Food Bank, Food Banks Canada, Airdrie Food Bank, Okotoks Food Bank AssociationCBC Calgary):
  1. Granola Bars - A great source of fibre and protein, easy to carry, and stay good for a long time. Ideal for parents to send as snacks with their kids for school. This box was on sale for only $1.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  2. Canned Fish - A good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Last a long time when sealed, and ready to eat on the go. This particular can was only $1.00 at Dollarama.
  3. Dry Pasta - A good source of fibre. Keeps for an incredibly long time and is relatively easy and quick to cook. This package was $1.25 at Dollarama.
  4. Canned Beans - A good source of fibre, protein, calcium, and iron, and last longer for storage and in the stomach. Aim for the ones with less salt. This can was $0.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart. 
  5. Oatmeal - Quick cooking oats are a great source of fibre and are easy and fast to prepare. This package was $2 at Dollarama.
  6. Juice Boxes - A good source of vitamin C and easy to carry and pack, especially for kids going to school. Opt for ones of the 100% juice variety. This pack was $4 at Safeway.
  7. Fruit Cups - A good source of vitamin C and ideal for kids to bring to school for snacks. This pack was $2.50 at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  8. Power Infant Formula - Essential for mothers, but quite expensive. This was my most expensive item at $22.
  9. Canned Vegetables - Good sources of fibre and vitamins, but be wary of sodium content. Most canned vegetables have been processed and are ready to use. This can was $1.50 at Superstore.
  10. Peanut Butter - A good, filling alternative to meat, and is a high demand for many food banks. This jar was only $2 at Dollarama.
  11. Soup - A good source of nourishment, warmth, and hydration all in one. This can has a tab for easier opening, which is also something to look for when picking canned goods. Remember to check sodium levels. This can was $2 at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  12. Baby Food - An important way for babies to get their nutrients, but can be financially difficult for mothers. While this jar was just under $1 at Safeway, those jars can add up very quickly.
  13. Vegetable Oil - Both olive oil and safflower oil are most needed items for food preparation, and are sources of healthy fats. This bottle was on sale for $5.50 at Superstore. 
  14. Popcorn - A filling, healthier alternative snack food that is high in fibre, and one handful of popping corn goes a lot way because it expands when cooked. This bag was $3.50 at Superstore. 
  15. Powdered Milk - An important source of calcium, especially because fresh dairy products will turn bad quite quickly. This bag makes 5L of skim milk, and was $7 at Superstore.
  16. Pasta Sauce - If you're donating dry pasta, you may as well donate pasta sauce along with it. The sauce will offer more flavour to the pasta, but also additional nutritional elements including vitamin C and fibre, especially tomato-based sauces. This jar was on sale for $1.50 at Superstore. 
  17. Brown Rice - Uncooked rice can last years. It also offers a great amount of fibre, iron, and keeps you full for longer. Note that regular brown or multigrain rice takes about the same amount of time to cook as the Uncle Ben's brown or multigrain rice, so you're better off buying non-instant rice if you can. This bag was on sale for $5. 
  18. Canned Fruit - A non-perisable alternative to fresh fruit, while still offering a source of fibre and Vitamin C. Try to look for those with less sugar, which means stepping away from the maraschino cherries might be a good plan. This can was $1.50 at Dollarama.
  19. Macaroni and Cheese Dinners - A classic food bank donation item, which is relatively inexpensive and is easy to make. While it was a bit cheaper, the No Name brand boxes had more sodium than KD. This box was $1.50 at Superstore.
  20. Canned Stew - A solid, ready-to-eat meal that lasts a long time if sealed, but often comes with loads of sodium. I opted for Campbell's Chunky To-Go Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, which had 27% of your daily value of sodium, compared to the ones with beef, which were closer to 35-37%. This can was on sale for under $2 at Superstore.
  21. Cereal - A potentially great source of fibre, if not half consisting of marshmallows and sugar. Make sure you check for lower sugar and higher fibre content. This box was just under $4 at Superstore. 
  22. Trail Mix/Unsalted Nuts - A reliable source of energy for hikers, campers, and bikers, and many homeless and lower income individuals are all of the above. Choose trail mix that has no added salt or candy pieces. Keep in mind again that lower income usually means much less access to regular dental care. This package was $2 at Dollarama.
  23. Canned Meat - A long-lasting, ready-to-eat meal that is high in protein, but often also higher in salt. I opted for low-sodium turkey, seeing as many of us will be dining on turkey during teh holidays. This can was on sale for just under $2 at Superstore.
  24. Monetary Donation - Monetary donations, big or small, are always accepted by the food bank. It allows the organization to purchase supplies and items on their own, according to what they know they need.

I had a lot of fun decorating each item with some sort of gift wrapping supply. I am a hoarder of stationery and gift wrappery.
I actually took everything out just to repack it, to try and fit it into the box, but decided to also take a picture of all 24 items too.
The finished product. It kind of closes...sort of?
Food bank tetris in a Banker's Box!
Partly because I need to be budget-conscious but also to show how easy it is to make a donation to the food bank, I opted for items that were on sale, and hopefully $5 or under. There were a couple of exceptions - the big one being the infant formula. I picked the no name brand one, and it was still $22, which was ridiculous. I really learned a lot from this little project, and I hope you did too!

Please remember that even though the holidays may be over at the end of the month, but the need for donations at food banks never ends. Unfortunately, hunger and homelessness are ongoing issues that some suffer from on a regular basis. Please consider donating to your local food bank during the "off-season" too.

Happy Holidays!



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