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Featured/ Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review: Favourite Calgary Food Spots

Hey guys! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything! I’ve just been enjoying the summer weather and the last few months of my maternity leave. I spend every waking moment outside with my baby, either going for walks or lounging in our front yard or back deck. Suppers have been simple affairs since I hate to spend much time in the kitchen when the weather is so gorgeous out.

If some of you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen that I spent a week in Calgary in June. I love that city. If for some reason I had to move from Regina, I would probably move to Calgary. My sister lives in Calgary and she and her husband are huge foodies, so we always end up trying new restaurants and revisiting some old faves. I thought I’d share some of our new finds and and old favourites in this blog post!

Noodle World

Okay, so I obviously have to share our favourite Vietnamese place in Calgary. It’s a place called Noodle World and it’s on 17th Ave SE. It has authentic Vietnamese dishes and great pho. It also has these dinner options on the menu called “Family Dinners” and you can order them for 4 or 6 people. The “Family Dinners” are meant to be like traditional big Vietnamese family dinners where there are several different plates and a soup course, all eaten with generous servings of white rice. We always order the Family Dinners when we go to Noodle World and we all leave full and happy. The family dinners consist of a fish soup (my favourite!), a tofu and bean sprout stirfry (my sister’s favourite), a braised fish dish (my husband’s favourite) and a beef and broccoli stirfry. And you know how you know it’s good? The customers are mostly Vietnamese families!

Noodle World family dinner

Bocce Pizza

For pizza and pasta lovers, I recommend Bocce Pizza in Calgary. It is located on 4th Street SW and it offers amazing authentic Italian favourites.

To start, I highly recommend the Tallegio Friti salad. This salad is fresh, with amazing flavours and the honey truffle vinaigrette is to die for. Also, eating this salad is going to make you feel healthier and less guilty when you indulge in a couple of their delicious pizzas!

Tallegio Friti salad…yes, that is a breaded and deep fried hunk of cheese!

For pizzas, we love the Calabrese pizza with spicy fennel sausage, olives, peppers and mozzarella; the Isola with italian ham, roasted pineapples and pancetta, and the Finocchio with the chopped fennel, fennel salami and ricotta.

Wurst

There was one day where my sister volunteered to stay home and watch Baby E while she napped, so the husband and I took a stroll down 4th Street SW to have some drinks. You know you are new parents anxious for some alone time and some drinks when you’re lingering outside the pub at 10:50AM, waiting for it to open at 11AM lol! I can’t speak to the food at Wurst but they have a great drink selection and a great atmosphere to enjoy some casual drinks. My husband’s favourite beer on this trip was the Project 9 Beer by the Fernie Brewing Company. Has anyone seen this beer in Regina?

My husband loved the Project 9 beer by Fernie Brewing Co. and my delicious drink was Elderflower liquer and Prosecco! So refreshing!

Wurst – love the atmosphere!

La Boulangerie

So also on 4th Street SW is a little coffee and pastry shop called La Boulangerie. The coffee selection isn’t huge and isn’t spectacular in any way, but the pastries are to die for! My sister recommended that I order this pastry called Kouign-Amann (pronounced ‘Queen Aman’) and oh my goodness, it was divine. It’s like a puff pastry croissant with layers of butter and sugar (I know, right? How can you go wrong with layers of butter and sugar?) I’ve been here several times before and I’ve never had a bad pastry. Another favourite of mine is their chocolate croissant. Unfortunately, I devour the pastries so fast that I’ve never had a chance to take a picture!

La Boulangerie

Native Tongues Taqueria

For all you Mexican food lovers, you have to try Native Tongues Taqueria on 12 Ave SW. We went here for lunch one day and ordered a variety of tacos – confit pork, roast chicken chicken and beef brisket. They are simple, traditional tacos and are served with house made salsa verde and salsa rosa. For dessert, I recommend ordering the donas!, which are these little glazed donuts that are made in house.

 

I just love the food scene in Calgary! I can’t wait to go back in a couple months and try out some new places. Do I have any Calgary readers? What are some restaurants that I should try?

 

 

Featured/ Life & Motherhood

Top 5 Christmas Gifts for the Amateur Chef in Your Life

I know what you’re thinking – isn’t it a little too early to think about buying Christmas gifts? No, it is definitely not! I like to think of Christmas in terms of paycheques – for example, for me, it is 5 paycheques until Christmas. I usually start my Christmas shopping in October and set aside a certain portion of my 5 or 6 paycheques for Christmas shopping. I find that this way, I avoid the rush of running around in December navigating infuriating crowds at stores and malls, and I avoid putting all my purchases on a credit card and being surprised by the bill in January.

This year, in addition to starting my shopping early and avoiding Christmas debt, I have also added another goal of trying to shop local as much as I can to support our local merchants and small businesses. One of the local businesses that I admire and have a long history with is Mortise and Tenon located at 2421 11th Avenue in downtown Regina. You’ve all probably noticed some of my blog posts and social media posts over the past month, highlighting some of the kitchen gear that I love from this shop. Mortise and Tenon also carries home decor, clothing, furniture and other giftware, but in this post I will share the top 5 items from this local business that would make the perfect Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for the amateur chef in your life! Also, keep reading until the end, as we have a special offer for Culinary Cents readers to help you stay within budget for your Christmas shopping! 

#1 – A handmade wooden cutting board

 

Mortise and Tenon cutting board

Locally made wooden cutting board, made by Mortise and Tenon

Solid wood cutting boards are an essential tool in the kitchen for every amateur home chef. On any Food Network show, you’ll see that all the chefs use solid wood cutting boards. These beautiful, locally made, handcrafted cutting boards will seriously up your game in the kitchen. The one pictured above is the one that I have and it is made of cherry, walnut and rock maple. Not only is it a functional and essential tool that I use every day, it is also a stunning feature in my kitchen. I also bought one for my sister last year for Christmas, and hers is pictured below.

cutting-board-close-up

#2 – Natural soy candles from Burlap Bag

Baked Bread candle, available at Mortise and Tenon

A Baked Bread scented candle by The Burlap Bag, available at Mortise and Tenon

Now you’re probably thinking, how are candles considered kitchen gear? Well, in my kitchen, candles are essential! Our house perpetually smells like bacon or the heavy aromas of Vietnamese food (the smell of fish sauce can be overwhelming!), and no matter how high I turn on the ventilation or air exchanger, those smells just linger. Food aromas are delicious as you’re cooking and can serve to whet your appetite, but a few hours later, those aromas lose their appeal. I often need to burn candles in the kitchen or dining room after a meal to combat the food aromas, but I find that most candles smell too perfume-y and give me a headache.

These Burlap Bag candles however, are made from 100% natural soy beans and the scents are clean and fresh. Their subtle scents do not give me headaches, but they do an amazing job of filling the kitchen with a natural clean scent. I am currently burning the Baked Bread scented candle, and it literally smells like a loaf of freshly baked white bread! There many other food-related scents available such as Jazz Hands (a blueberry scent), The Bee’s Knees (oatmeal and honey) and Pumpkin Addict (the most natural pumpkin spice ever).

Another reason I love these candles is the unique packaging. These candles can easily be matched to any home decor, and are manly enough that I can display them on my husband’s liquor cart without him complaining!

Baked Bread candle, available at Mortise and Tenon

Baked Bread candle, available at Mortise and Tenon

#3 – Kitsch’n Glam Ceramic Measuring Cups

Kitsch'n Glam measuring cups, available at Mortise and Tenon

Kitsch’n Glam measuring cups, available at Mortise and Tenon

These Kitsch’n Glam measuring cups would make an excellent gift for someone who likes whimsical tools in their kitchen! I mean, stainless steel measuring cups are just so boring! I like these measuring cups because they are more stackable than my stainless steel measuring cups, making it easier for storage. Also, they match my teal kitchen backsplash!

Kitsch'n Glam measuring cups, available at Mortise and Tenon

Kitsch’n Glam measuring cups, available at Mortise and Tenon

#4 – Kitsch’n Glam Ceramic Stacking Bowls

Kitsch'n Glam stacking bowls, available at Mortise and Tenon

Kitsch’n Glam stacking bowls, available at Mortise and Tenon

Also made by Kitsch’n Glam, and just as whimsical as the measuring cups, are these ceramic stacking bowls. My favourite way to use these bowls is when I’m having an Asian meal with multiple sides. One bowl will hold kim chi, one will hold picked Asian greens, etc. They also make for cute little rice bowls as well!

#5 – Kitsch’n Glam Tea Towels

Kitsch'n Glam tea towels, available at Mortise and Tenon

Kitsch’n Glam tea towels, available at Mortise and Tenon

There is nothing I like more in my kitchen than crisp and clean tea towels. However, I don’t know if it’s just the frugal side of me, but I will hold on to old tea towels even though they are frayed and faded. I just can’t bear to throw them away and buy new ones. I only buy new tea towels when my old ones are stained beyond repair (and even then, I hate throwing them away and will keep them ‘just in case I need some rags’).

If you have anyone in your life like me, do them a favour and buy them these Kitsch’n Glam tea towels. These tea towels will instantly refresh the look in any kitchen!

#6 – BONUS! – Custom furniture

Okay, I couldn’t stop at just the top 5, I had to add a bonus sixth item. Mortise and Tenon also makes custom furniture, and if there is someone in your life special enough who you really want to splurge on, I would recommend ordering a custom piece of furniture for them!

We moved into our house exactly 3 years ago, and one of the items that we splurged on was a custom made dining room table, specially ordered from Mortise and Tenon. Obviously food is a big deal in our family, and my husband and I both wanted a big, rustic, solid wood dining room table where our family could make memories for years to come. This dining room table is a showpiece in our home, and I can’t wait to grow our family and have big family dinners around this table. We’ve already had some great Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners around this table, not to mention some serious board game nights as well!

dining-room-table

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All right, now that I’ve highlighted my favourite items from Mortise and Tenon, let me share a special offer with you guys. Between October 21 (today!) and November 30, if you show this post on your phone or mention that you were referred by Culinary Cents, you will receive 10% off your purchase at Mortise and Tenon! 

What are you waiting for? Get out there and do some early frugal Christmas shopping and support local businesses!

 

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Well, that was a rainy and dreary weekend in Regina! Thank god for good books and new episodes of Law & Order: SVU on Netflix.  And thank god for beef stews! You’ve all seen my post on the Irish beef stew, but this time around I decided to make a Vietnamese beef stew (or “bo kho” in Vietnamese).

I remember my mom making this when I was younger and I’ve always loved the heartiness and warmth of it. My mom always used fattier cuts of beef, but as you all know, I like leaner cuts of meat so I used 2 lbs of stewing beef bought at Sobeys (on sale this week!).

Now, there are a couple key differences between Vietnamese beef stews and the beef stews of other cultures (other than seasoning):  1) Vietnamese beef stews aren’t as thick as other stews. If you remember, in the Irish beef stew recipe, the stew is thickened near the end with a butter and flour mixture. Vietnamese beef stews are a little more soupy. 2) European beef stews are served over mashed potatoes. Vietnamese people did not mash their potatoes. Instead, Vietnamese beef stews are served with a thick, crusty loaf of French bread. France ruled Vietnam as a colony for hundreds of years, and you can see lots of French influence in Vietnamese cuisine. For example, Vietnamese “banh mi” (a sandwich served on a baguette), and desserts such as flan and pate a choux pastries. The French introduced bread to the Vietnamese people and this hearty beef stew is only completed by a nice loaf of French bread.

Now, this version of Vietnamese beef stew is a little spicy as I used two red chili peppers. My husband and I both like spicy foods, so this was fine for us, but if you don’t like things too spicy, just use one red chili pepper. There are a couple of spices in this recipe that some of you may not be familiar with and that’s Chinese five spice and star anise. These are common spices in Vietnamese cuisine and when you smell them, it will definitely remind you of Vietnamese broths and soups. You can find them at an Asian food store or grocery stores with well-stocked Asian aisles, like Superstore. I have never found them at Sobeys or Co-op.

Also, although this recipe requires some prep time, I love the fact that there are ‘breaks’ in there where the stew simmers and I can rest. First, I marinated the beef and set it aside. While it is marinating, I prep all the vegetables and gather all the ingredients. I like having all the ingredients prepped and gathered by the stove, as it’s not practical for me to waddle back and forth between the stove and the pantry multiple times anymore! Things could burn or overcook by the time I find the ingredient and make it back to the stove! So the prepping and gathering of ingredients took me about 20-30 minutes. It might be faster for you guys, as I’m moving pretty slow lately, but the beef doesn’t need to marinate for that long. After everything is prepped, the next stage is to brown the meat and throw most of the other ingredients in and let it simmer for 1 hour. That’s enough time to watch one episode of Law & Order or have a decent nap. After that hour is up, you throw in the potatoes and then there’s another 45 minutes of simmer time. That’s another episode or nap!

This was the perfect comfort meal for a rainy weekend! What is your favourite comfort meal for rainy days?

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 2.5 - 3 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 2 red chili peppers, deseeded and finely minced
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into thick 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef stock
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and quartered (or cubed into 2-3 inch pieces)

Instructions

1

Combine the beef, flour, Chinese five spice, pepper, garlic, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prep all the other vegetables and gather all the other ingredients.

2

Put the oil in a large dutch oven or pot and heat over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, lower the temperature to medium and brown the beef cubes.

3

Add the shallots and red chili peppers and fry for a couple of minutes.

4

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, cinnamon stick, star anise and beef stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer on the low heat for one hour.

5

After an hour, add the potatoes, give the stew a stir, cover again, and continue to simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

6

Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed, remove the cinnamon stick and star anise, and serve with a nice crusty loaf of French bread.