News and links

And lastly, if you live in the Edmonton area you should check out the local Chowhound board. I took over moderating the Edmonton Restaurant Review of the Month (RROTM) a couple of months ago, and we need more people participating! Here’s some info for you:

The Edmonton Restaurant Review of the Month (RROTM) is an event where chowhounds nominate local restaurantsto review for the month (similar to a book club). The moderator of RROTM will use a randomizer to choose the restaurant for the upcoming month. Chowhounds try to eat there at least once during that month, and post their opinion in a RROTM specific thread. There are two monthly threads for RROTM – the discussion thread to choose the restaurant and the thread for the reviews.

June discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/710328?tag=main_body;topic-710328
June review thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711446
May review thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705743

St. John, London, England

“If you’re going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”
-Fergus Henderson

The first stop on my Magical Mystery Vacation Tour ™ was a few days spent in London, England. As soon as I knew that would be on the itinerary, I put a visit to the St. John restaurant as #1 on my to-do list in London. I’ve been to London before, but this was a place that I was not able to visit due to time, lack of funds, and the lack of desire of my travelling companion to eat there. This time, I vowed, I would eat there solo if I had to. Luckily, my two friends were interested in sampling the food too! For some odd reason, I didn’t write down any notes – during or after the dinner. But I’ve got notes on every other place I ate at during the month so I’m not quite sure what happened. Please bear with me if my memory is a little hazy on details.

St. John restaurant

St. John restaurant

Founded by English chef Fergus Henderson, there are actually two St. John restaurants in London – the original, which is the one I went to, and St. John Bread and Wine, which has a few different menu items and a bakery. The original restaurant won a Michelin star in 2009 and maintained its star for the 2010 guide. Their specialty is nose to tail eating, where they serve offal among other things.

The restaurant is rather nondescript from the outside and was almost easy to miss, especially because it is located in Smithfield, a neighbourhood full of restaurants and bars, as well as the centuries-old Smithfield meat market.

St. John exterior

St. John exterior

The inside of the restaurant is very simple too – white walls, white paper tablecloths… even the waiters were dressed in almost all white. The first thing you see when you enter the building is the bar area which is a little more casual and has a number of tables and chairs for dining. The restaurant itself is up a small staircase.

St. John interior

St. John interior

St. John interior with view of bar side

St. John interior with view of bar side

The kitchen was open to the dining room and I was able to take a slightly blurry photo. If you look closely you can see the whole pig that someone pre-ordered for a party that evening!

St. John kitchen

St. John kitchen

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News and links

I’ve been reading a lot more Twitter feeds lately and along with my regular website surfing, I have a bunch of various links saved from @Atlantic_Food, @foodtvdotca and @CBCfoodbytes.

Ernest’s (NAIT School of Hospitality), Edmonton

If you want a high class meal at discount prices, one sure way is to try out the local chef school. In my case, that would be Ernest’s, NAIT’s School of Hospitality restaurant where second year culinary arts students get to test out their skills.

The evening I was there, you could choose from their regular menu or from a special set menu designed by a group of students. The special menu was tempting, but the entree was a Peking-style duck with noodles. I’d rather go eat that in Chinatown. So instead my table chose their items from the menu.

First off, apologies for the dark photos. We were in a dark section of the restaurant and I really didn’t want to use my flash. I did a tiny bit of adjustment in Photoshop, but I didn’t want to change the photos too much.

To start, we shared a plate of crab cakes (creole mustard, arugula & lemon, red pepper oil). The flavours were great; the crab cake was creamy inside and the dipping sauces complimented the crab very well, although I think I prefered the mustard to the red pepper oil. My one complaint was that, although it looked perfectly cooked, as soon as you picked up a crab cake it fell apart into soft pieces. Maybe thicker, but not necessarily crispier, crust would have made this dish more complete.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

For entrées, we ordered a chili-maple glazed filet of salmon (cilantro lime yogurt),

Chili-maple glazed filet of salmon

Chili-maple glazed filet of salmon

and a Lamb shank osso buco (wheatberry mash and aged balsamic gastrique).

Lamb shank osso buco

Lamb shank osso buco

The salmon was one of the most flavourful salmons that I’ve had in a long time. The glaze seemed to have penetrated through the flesh completely, and the fish was perfectly cooked. Usually you only get some flavouring on top of the fish, not throughout it, so we were fairly impressed.

The lamb had a hearty flavour, perfect for a cold day. The cooking of the meat was a bit uneven as some pieces were cooked perfectly and practically melted in your mouth, while others seemed a bit tough to chew. The wheatberry mash (underneath the lamb and not visible in the photo) was a nice change from the regular mashed potatoes that you usually end up with. My big peeve was that this dish was served in a rather deep bowl, and without a spoon it was quite hard to eat all the last bits of the mash.

We were horribly full but I really wanted to test out one of their desserts, so we finally settled on a gingerbread ice cream. It arrived in a molasses-flavoured edible bowl that was interesting to look at but hard to eat as ripping off bits of the bowl was like pulling taffy instead of it breaking off like a cracker. The ice cream had a very deep ginger and spice taste, but the dish only really tasted like gingerbread once you ate a bit of the bowl together with a bite of the ice cream.

Gingerbread ice cream

Gingerbread ice cream

The service at the restaurant was relatively quick and efficient, a rarity that has been missing from many places thanks to the Alberta economy. All in all, I have to say that I’m quite impressed by the student chefs and servers.  I’ll definitely be back at some point in the future.

Ernest’s (NAIT School of Hospitality)
11762-106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
N.B. The restaurant is only open during the school year. Additional photos and menus with pricing can be viewed at www.nait.ca/schoolofhospitality/ernests.htm.

Ernest's on Urbanspoon

Kabsa the Divine Dish, Edmonton

hot sauce and cucumber and yogurt

Lamb kabsa with two sides: hot sauce and cucumber and yogurt

Kabsa the Divine Dish is a small downtown restaurant that serves a specific kind of Middle Eastern food called, well, kabsa. Kabsa is a dish consisting of basmati rice, vegetables, and meat (chicken, beef, lamb or fish).

When you first walk into Kabsa, you might feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone or maybe a large Ikea shower. The interior is covered with white tile, and all the tables and chairs are white. The chairs are these plastic bucket seats that look like curvy ice cream scoops, and I’m fairly sure I’ve seen them at Ikea. You can eat in the actual restaurant, but there aren’t very many tables and I’ve always found the place quite warm as I don’t think they have air conditioning. My guess is that people usually order take out.
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Nellie’s Kitchen, Calgary

Back in July a friend took me to Nellie’s Kitchen for brunch, one of the many Nellie’s restaurants in Calgary. I’ve seen mixed reviews of the various Nellie’s locations on Chowhound, so I was wary but was still willing to go for it. The place was almost full, but we managed to snag a seat in their back garden. Normally, I imagine this place is full to the brim with people, but I was in Calgary during the Stampede and I had a feeling that a lot of people hadn’t woken up to their hangovers quite yet. The menu was a fairly standard breakfast menu, and I opted for something that was kind of healthy but also cheese-laden.

Huevos Rancheros from Nellies Kitchen

Huevos Rancheros from Nellie's Kitchen

My meal was a fairly large huevos rancheros brimming with veggies, and served with salsa, sour cream and fresh fruit on the side.  I was so full I was ready to roll out the door.

Nellie’s Kitchen
738B – 17 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta
(403) 244-4616

Nellie's on Urbanspoon