Buttercream Bake Shoppe, Balzac (Calgary)

Just outside of Calgary sits a small town called Balzac. And in this town, right on the highway leading to and from Calgary, is a relatively new giant shopping mall called CrossIron Mills. I met up with a friend there, and I also went because I wanted to walk around (was hoping to find a lot of good outlet stores, but came away relatively disappointed because this place is mostly just a regular shopping mall).

Inside the mall, in the middle of a hallway, is an outlet of Calgary’s Buttercream Bake Shoppe. There were plenty of mouth-watering displays of cupcakes and cookies.

Buttercream Bake Shoppe

Buttercream Bake Shoppe

I didn’t want a whole cupcake, so my friend and I opted for two mini cupcakes. One was a vanilla cupcake with a passion fruit frosting, and the other was a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. The cupcake itself was just ok – the cake was moist but not as flavourful as I’d like. I think I prefer the cake from Crave. The frosting on the passion fruit frosting was very fruity, and both it and the vanilla frosting were almost too sweet. (I think this is why I don’t eat cupcakes very often. They’re just too darned sweet for me!) The texture of the frosting was excellent though. Creamy, but not so rich that you feel like you’re sticking a piece of fat in your mouth. I think I like their frosting better than Crave’s.

mini cupcake

mini cupcake

Buttercream Bake Shoppe
CrossIron Mills Mall, Balzac – just outside of Calgary next to Highway 2
Two other locations in Calgary
www.buttercreambakeshoppe.com

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More Anthony Bourdain

Some photos that I took of the talk. You can read about the event over here.

Anthony Bourdain's podium notes

Anthony Bourdain's podium notes

 Anthony Bourdain and Julie Van Rosendaal

Anthony Bourdain and Julie Van Rosendaal

The excited crowd

The excited crowd

Anthony Bourdain – slightly crude and infinitely entertaining

Yes I drove over 3 hours so I could watch Anthony Bourdain talk. Yes I am slightly crazy.

In my defence, I did use the time to visit with some friends as well, and to go on a mini-food vacation in Calgary (more posts to come).

Julie van Rosendaal introduced Bourdain and recently wrote about the experience on her blog. She’s gotten some flack for the way she introduced him and for the clothes she was wearing. All I have to say about that is grow up people. Julie did a fine job – albeit not with the practiced prattle of most hosts. She was nervous, slightly awkward, self-deprecating, and charmingly REAL. And I thought she did a really great job helping direct the Q&A at the end. I will take her kind of hosting over a plastic person’s hosting efforts any day.

The talk went longer than I thought it would. According to Julie, he spoke for an extra half an hour and extended the Q&A from 20 minutes to 50.

Anthony Bourdain was everything that I expected him to be. Funny, well-spoken and passionate. He did swear, but if you know anything about Anthony Bourdain then you expect that. Apparently there was some grumbling afterwards about the swearing that he did, but to be honest I frankly expected him to swear a lot more than he did.

He had a lot of nervous energy and hardly stood still the whole time he was on stage. There was a lot of pacing back and forth. And unfortunately for me, he spent quite a bit of time facing stage right, and I was sitting stage left. But it was still worth it.

The VIP reception was held after the talk, and I unfortunately didn’t have tickets to that as well or I would have gotten my books signed. There was a nice treat for all of the attendees though – free fancy cheese and wine from Janice Beaton Fine Cheese and Willow Park Wines & Spirits! Everyone was surprised because we had thought that it was only supposed to be served at the VIP reception.

There might be more food talks coming soon so keep an eye out for more announcements. There was a survey at the event that asked people who they’d like to see next. The names on the list ranged from Jamie Oliver and Rachael Ray, to Ruth Reichl and Ferran Adrià. When Julie asked the crowd who they’d like to see, many people yelled out Thomas Keller’s name, which was not on the survey.

I took a bunch of photos of the event (but most of them were blurry because the man wouldn’t stand still). So instead, please enjoy these couple of videos. (At least until some lawyer sends me a notice to take them down.)

Anthony Bourdain talks about Sandra Lee

Anthony Bourdain talks about Top Chef

Edited to add: found another blog with a short entry about the evening

Why Montreal bagels are the bestest

I’ve been to Montreal twice, and both times the top things on my to do list wasn’t about poutine. No, I needed to grab me some Montreal smoked meat (Schwartz’s) and some Montreal bagels (St-Viateur’s).

Unlike New York bagels (which I’ve also had) or bagels from anywhere else, Montreal bagels have this magical and mystical quality about them that can be a bit hard to explain. I’ve found that people only truly understand after they’ve tasted some.  Montreal bagels are smaller than most other bagels. They’re also quite dense, have a slightly sweeter taste, and are baked in wood-fired ovens. I’ve known people to specifically ask travelling friends to bring back bags of bagels, and then promptly hoard them in their freezers. The taste is quite unique and is hard to find in the West.

So imagine my glee when I saw a sign at the City Market downtown farmer’s market declaring “Montreal Style Bagels” for sale! Unfortunately, they were sold out that day, but I made sure to go back another week in the early morning to make sure I could grab some.

Montreal style poppy seed bagels from the City Market

Montreal style poppy seed bagels from the City Market

So how were they?

Visually they looked quite good. The holes on some of them probably could have been a little bigger, but I figured that was just being too picky. The texture was great – dense and chewy, although a touch dry. The smell was definitely there – smoky and a little sweet. But the taste. Oh the taste. It was SO close, but not quite. The bagels were slightly sweet like they were supposed to be, but these ones are not baked in a wood-fired oven and instead are flavoured with liquid smoke.

I personally didn’t care for the liquid smoke taste, so have ultimately decided to do without rather than settle for something not quite right. But if you’re craving Montreal bagels and can’t afford to have them shipped from Montreal, this is probably your best bet in Edmonton.

Montreal Style Bagels
City Market, downtown Edmonton, Saturdays

P.S. I have heard of a place in Calgary called Montreal Bagels that I’m dying to try. Apparently the baker used to work for either Fairmount or St-Viateur’s in Montreal, and they’re baked in a wood-burning oven.

Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro, Calgary

This post is about an October 2008 visit to Calgary.

I needed a restaurant on or near Stephen Avenue for a dinner with friends. A few years ago I went to Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro for dinner and throughly enjoyed myself, so I decided it was time for a return visit. The decor of the restaurant is contemporary with lots of brick; a perfect place for the young professionals in the area to unwind after a hard day at work. Not to say that you have to dress up to eat here – there were quite a few people in sports jerseys and jeans, grabbing a meal before a football game.

Some of us ended up ordering some of the same dishes, so there are actually only three photos. I also have to apologize for the blurriness of the photos; it was pretty dark in there and after taking numerous photos I gave in to my hunger instead of my need for perfect photos.

One dish ordered was the Mussels & Frites with vine ripened tomato, garlic, white wine, parsley & caper broth. The mussels were large, fresh and perfectly cooked. The accompanying broth had a strong tomato base that complimented the mussels very well. The fries were served with an addicting lemon aioli and Parmesan shavings on top.

mussels

mussels

frites

frites

Continue reading

Crave, Calgary – a second visit

Last October, during a visit to Calgary, I stopped at Crave for the second time to buy some cupcakes. (First visit documented here.)

There were 3 of us; I really didn’t eat them all. Really. And they all weren’t eaten on the same day either. These mini cupcakes were for one friend to take home.

Assorted mini cupcakes

Assorted mini cupcakes

These ones were for us to devour:
green = lemon lime cupcakes
white = red velvet cupcake
blue = chocolate cupcake

regular sized cupcakes

regular sized cupcakes

All were tasty except that I was a little disappointed with the red velvet cupcake; the cream cheese topping was tangy and creamy, but the cake itself was actually kind of flavourless. My friend raves about the lemon lime cupcakes but I think I like the chocolate ones the best.

Red velvet cupcake with cream cheese

Red velvet cupcake with cream cheese

Crave
#120, 815-17th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
Also, other locations in Calgary.
www.cravecupcakes.ca

Crave Cookies and Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Sushi BBQ Inn, Calgary

Back in July, I made a visit to Calgary where a friend took me to the Sushi BBQ Inn, an all-you-can-eat Korean and Japanese restaurant. Located in a strip mall on an extremely busy major street in the city, the restaurant is decorated with a vaguely Japanese look made up of Asian decorations and screens. Each table has a built-in gas grill where you cook your own food. Menu items are a mixed of cooked and raw foods, including Korean BBQ seasoned meats, vegetables, soup, dessert, sushi and sashimi.

My friend does not like raw fish so I, being greedy for all things sushi and sashimi, ate most of that. The fish quality was fine, but cut thinly and was not memorable. The sushi were typical rolls and I would probably not order them again. My memory is a bit hazy but I believe there were only cooked items inside the rolls. The meat was sliced thinly, probably for fast cooking but possibly also so that you didn’t use up so much meat. It was seasoned well, but it didn’t taste like the Korean BBQ that I am used to. Something in the flavour was missing, and I’m not sure what it was.

Food on the grill

Food on the grill

I ordered some salmon to grill, and was a little disappointed but not surprised to receive a plate of those bits of salmon that they couldn’t use for sashimi.

Salmon ready for the grill

Salmon ready for the grill

I was interested to see a few desserts  included on the all-you-can-eat menu, and we ordered a plate of red bean spring rolls. They looked great, but were ultimately too greasy.

Red bean spring rolls

Red bean spring rolls

Like most all-you-can-eat restaurants, you get what you pay for. Some places are a better value than others. In this case, I would say some menu items are definitely better than others. My suggestion is to stick to the food items that you cook for yourself, as well as maybe the miso soup and sashimi. Forget about the desserts and fill up on fish and meat.

Sushi BBQ Inn
1226 16 Avenue NW
Calgary, Alberta

Sushi BBQ Inn on Urbanspoon