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