Nice Packaging, Small Portion: d’Lish

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

A little over a month ago, Sharon and I were in need of a relatively quick dinner before heading out into the cold for the Winter Light 2009 opening ceremonies. Fortunately she’s a better planner than I am and had picked up a prepared meal from d’Lish, Edmonton’s newest meal assembly studio (Sharon wrote about them in Vue Weekly). We decided to give it a shot.

Our meal was called “Don’t You Wanna Enchilada” – enchiladas with Cumin Crème fraiche ($19). All of the items on the menu have clever names. My favorite this month is “Fantabulous Flatbread Pizza – BBQ Beef-tastic”. I thought the plastic bag and ribbon was a nice touch on the packaging.

After preheating the oven to 375 F, we stuck them in for the prescribed 20-25 minutes and waited. Though they came out nice and hot, I have to admit the enchiladas didn’t look incredibly appetizing.

The enchiladas, which contained potato, beans, and corn, tasted pretty good even without the cumin crème sauce (Sharon liked it more than I did). They weren’t as crisp as I’d have liked however, and that made them quite messy to eat.

I think my least favorite part about the meal was the portion size. I wasn’t really full after eating my half of the dinner. Perhaps it’s not a fair comparison, but I kept thinking about Mucho Burrito – much more food for about the same price. Buying local and organic (which d’Lish prides itself on) has its price, I guess (and probably the packaging too).

I’d be willing to give d’Lish another shot, but I think I’d go the meal assembly route instead of trying another prepared meal.

d’Lish
10418 124 Street NW
(780) 482-2242

Short but Sweet: The Bison Restaurant & Lounge

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

A little over a month ago, I was in Banff, AB for CanUX 2008. I had a great time and learned a lot. One of the best parts about the event was that all expenses were included – registration, lodging, and meals. We ate our meals at the restaurant at The Banff Centre except dinner on the last day, which was not included. I decided to take advantage of that and stopped The Bison Restaurant & Lounge on my way out of town. Sharon had recommended it to me in case I had time to visit a local establishment.

The restaurant is located on the second floor of the building, with the Mountain Bistro General Store underneath. Much of the building was closed for renovations at the time, but fortunately the restaurant was still open. I climbed the wooden staircase and was warmly greeted and immediately seated in the nearly empty restaurant (there were a handful of people in the lounge).

My waiter was attentive during my short stay, but not overly so. He answered all of my questions, but mostly left me to scope out the coppered kitchen and surf on my iPod touch (there was open wireless nearby). I would describe the interior of the dining room as sophisticated, with dark wooden tables and chairs, wine glasses at every table, and funky dim lighting.

I looked through the menu, including the “local for locals” insert, and eventually decided upon one of the wood fired pizzas. I chose the Smoked Bison, Caramelized Onions, Edamame, and Fresh Mozzarella pizza for $17. I wasn’t overly hungry, but the waiter assured me that the pizza was a good size for one person. He was right.

I didn’t have to wait long for my pizza to arrive. It tasted just as good as it looked! I thought the smoked bison together with the fresh mozzarella was the best part. The caramelized onions seemed to disappear in comparison, and the firm edamame beans didn’t quite fit with the rest of the pizza though they tasted fine. I thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

I’d love to take Sharon to The Bison to try one of their more interesting dishes next time! I think she’d really like it. If you’re looking for something unique in Banff, give The Bison a try.

Bison Restaurant & Lounge
The Bison Courtyard 213
211 Bear Street, Banff, AB
(403) 762-5550
Monday-Friday, 5pm-10pm, Saturday-Sunday, 10am-10pm

More Than Just Cocktails: Devlin’s

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

Edmonton’s third tweetup, an event for local Twitter users to get together in person, was held on Thursday evening. The tweetups aren’t terribly hard to organize, all I need to do is pick a date, time and location. I asked Sharon to help me choose the venue this time, and she suggested Devlin’s Cocktail Lounge (10507 82 Avenue). I had enjoyed our visit in August, and agreed that it would be a good choice. I was keen to try the new fall menu that Sharon had written about in her Vue Weekly article. I called a couple of weeks in advance to ensure they could accommodate a group of 15 to 30 people, and they assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. A few days before the event, they called me back to confirm, which I thought was a nice touch.

When I arrived at the restaurant just before 6pm, I found it locked. After a moment of panic, I peered through the window and caught the attention of Executive Chef Sebastian Lysz who came to unlock the door for me. Fortunately, that was the only hiccup of the evening! My fellow Twitterers started streaming in, and soon we filled up the entire right side of the restaurant. We had around 25 people come and go by the time the evening was finished, and although not everyone ordered food, Sebastian was kept sufficiently busy in the kitchen.

Mack & Sharon
Mack & Sharon, photo courtesy Bruce Clarke

I was occupied chatting with people, so I was more than happy to let Sharon order for me. The first dish that arrived was the Wild Mushroom & Chicken flatbread ($9). Though it didn’t look incredibly appetizing being almost completely devoid of color, it tasted very good. The chicken (from a local producer in Ardrossan) was moist and the bread itself was nicely warm and chewy. I found the mushrooms flavorful, but not overpowering.

Flat bread

The second dish we ordered was also the one I was most looking forward to: the Surf & Turf ($15). Reminiscent of the sliders in its presentation, the dish was definitely easy on the eyes. Unfortunately the portion size was also similar to the sliders, and I found myself wanting more when the plate was empty. The tri-tip steak from Spring Creek Ranch was absolutely delicious, and I enjoyed the roasted potatoes too (though Sharon didn’t). We both agreed that the prawns were fairly average.

Surf and Turf

Usually we’re too full after dinner to have dessert, but that wasn’t a problem thanks to the small size of the dishes at Devlin’s. We decided to give the Dessert Sampler ($15) a try, as it sounded more interesting than the Creme Brulee. Though I couldn’t have the Peanut Butter Bombe (due to my mild peanut allergy), I was able to try the other items. I liked the warm Fruit Crumble in an over-sized shot glass, but my favorite was easily the Bacardi Rum Pumpkin Pie. I love both rum and pumpkin pie, so it was a match made in heaven for me! The Chai Voyant Nitro Ice Cream (with “nutella” powder) was interesting, but it didn’t evoke the familiar flavor of chai.

Dessert Platter

We received great service all night, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food and ambience. A number of people remarked that they were pleasantly surprised with the lounge, and said they’d probably be back. Devlin’s is not the place to go if you’re starving (or feeling the pinch in your wallet), but if all you’re looking for is something tasty to go along with conversation, I can safely say it’s a great choice for small and large groups alike.

The key thing to know about Twitter is that entries are restricted to 140 characters. With that in mind, here’s my mini-review of Devlin’s:

More than just a cocktail lounge, Devlin’s has unique, tasty food and adds something special to Whyte Avenue. Just don’t arrive too hungry!

Devlin’s Cocktail Lounge
10507 82 Avenue
(780) 437-7489

Clever Name but Rather Lame: Wild Flour Bakery

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

On Sunday morning I decided to skip the conference-provided breakfast in favor of making a stop at Wild Flour Bakery, located at 211 Bear Street. I had asked Sharon for a couple of restaurant recommendations before making my way to Banff, and Wild Flour was one of the two she gave me. I think the name was probably 80% of the reason she suggested it, but I figured I’d give it a shot anyway.

Wild Flour Bakery

I arrived at Wild Flour just after 8 AM. They are open every day throughout the summer months from 7 AM until 6 PM. There was a couple ordering some of Wild Flour’s artisan breads ahead of me, so I had time to look around and take some photos. The space is very modern looking, and fairly open with seating for about 40 patrons.

The menu is broken into four sections: drinks, breakfast, sweets & treats, and lunch. I decided to order a medium Organic Fair Trade Coffee ($1.75 – they serve Kicking Horse) and the Toasted Breakfast Sandwich ($5.50, also available with two slices of Valbella ham for an addition $1.50).

At this point, things started to go downhill (that didn’t take long did it?). Maybe I’ve been spoiled at Starbucks where a barista always hands you a full cup of coffee, but I thought it was odd that I was given a cup to fill on my own. At the end of the counter were three coffee butlers, two bold roast and one medium roast. I set about filling my cup with the medium, only to find that it wouldn’t stop coming out! I started to say "It’s not stopping!" and when one of the employees finally noticed, she remarked "oh no not again!" Apparently they jam open quite frequently. Anyway, when I eventually got my cup full of bold roast I nearly burned my hand! The coffee was ridiculously hot, and there were no sleeves.

I took a seat in the corner and started reading some of the free newspapers they had available. Wild Flour prides itself on cooking with organic and local ingredients, and on making everything from scratch. With that in mind, I didn’t expect my breakfast sandwich to be ready immediately, but after about fifteen minutes of waiting I started to wonder. I took my order slip (my order number was the normally lucky 88…not so lucky this time) up to the counter to inquire. I was informed that they had "lost" my order, and that they’d make it right away. At this point I thought to myself – epic fail! It’s never acceptable for a restaurant to lose an order, especially when it isn’t that busy.

My breakfast sandwich arrived about five minutes later. The menu describes it as: "Our herbed egg frittata & three year old Quebec cheddar on sourdough." Unfortunately, the description is a lot tastier than the sandwich itself. I found the egg kind of spongy and far too thick. I think there should have been more cheese too!

On the whole, my experience at Wild Flour was a negative one. Even without the coffee incident and lost order, the breakfast sandwich wasn’t worth the money and the employees were probably the least friendly of any I encountered in Banff. I could probably be persuaded to give their lunch menu a shot, but I definitely won’t be rushing back to Wild Flour the next time I’m in Banff.

Wild Flour Bakery

Inside Wild Flour Bakery

Wild Flour Bakery

Seating

Toasted Breakfast Sandwich

Toasted Breakfast Sandwich

Italian in Banff: Timbers Food Company

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

I’m in Banff this weekend for the nextMEDIA conference, and despite not having my restaurant buddy here with me (that would be Sharon, of course) I’ve checked out a couple of local establishments. Last night I did two things that I pretty much never do: I ate somewhere chosen at random, and I ate alone.

While wandering around downtown Banff, I came across Timbers Food Company, located just off Banff Avenue at 204 Wolf Street. From the outside you might think that Timbers sells logs or camping equipment, but it’s actually an Italian restaurant inside a converted house. The log deck outside seats 60 patrons during the summer months, while the inside has room for 50.

I walked in to find the restaurant about half full, a good sign in my book. I opted to sit at the bar near the front of the restaurant, so that I could watch both the restaurant inside and the busy street outside. The waiter brought water and fresh bread as I got settled in.

After a quick look at the menu, I decided on the Beef Tortellini with Cream of Tomato sauce ($14.95). My first impression after it arrived was that the portion size was quite small, but I was deceived. The tasty dish was really quite filling! I wouldn’t go so far as to call it the best tortellini I’ve ever had, but it definitely hit the spot.

I’m not sure if my waiter was just really friendly or if he guessed that I was some sort of food reviewer (maybe because I was taking photos), but he was very attentive, friendly, and seemed genuinely concerned about whether or not I enjoyed the food. It made my “eating alone” experience much more enjoyable than it would otherwise have been.

If you’re in Banff and and in need of a hearty meal, give Timbers a try.

Timbers

Outside

Inside Timbers

Inside

Beef Tortellini with Cream of Tomato Sauce

Beef Tortellini