Birthday Month: Ampersand 27

Seven months ago I got married and at that moment I went from having three wonderful parents to having eight! Blended families are pretty much the norm these days, but I think my husband and I take this to a whole new level. I didn’t know it yet, but at that moment birthdays went from a weekend event to a month long celebration. All I can say is – I am not complaining!

Last night I celebrated my birthday for the third time this month at Ampersand 27. I tend to be the most adventurous family member when it comes to food, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was told to put together a charcuterie board for the table to start. I wanted to choose items that I knew everyone would enjoy and this is what we ended up with:

  • Prosciutto de Parma
  • Bison Smokies
  • Appenzeller
  • Pecorino
  • Pickled Asparagus Spears
  • Hummus
  • In House Bavarian Pretzel
  • Blueberry & Port Chutney
  • Maple Grainy Mustard

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I think it’s safe to say I chose well, because the food disappeared in about 2.5 minutes flat. My personal favorites were the appenzeller cheese (perfectly firm and creamy swiss style cow cheese), the bison smokies, and the pretzel with honey mustard (plus it was in the shape of an ampersand – how cute is that??). It was clear that the asparagus had been pickled using fennel, which is kind of unfortunate, as most of the table really dislikes the black licorice flavor it gives. But, overall a huge win.

The “Butcher’s Pride” feature was a meatloaf made with 90% bison and 10% beef, served with tricolor baby potatoes and kale. The “Captain’s Catch” feature was a seafoood green curry with scallops, shrimp, mussels and salmon over coconut rice. I instantly knew what I was going to order – I am a sucker for green curry! Between the five of us, we ordered two of the “Captain’s Catch”, two of the “Butcher’s Pride” and one Organic Free Range Chicken (Apple Hickory Smoke, Honey, Herbs, Little Gems and Vegetables).IMG_3941IMG_3944IMG_3943

Everything was delicious and we all left absolutely STUFFED. It was brought up that we were charged $1 per person for water, but when I saw this on the menu I was totally on board:

“Proudly Serving Q Water – In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint & support charity all are welcome to our unlimited filtered still or sparkling water at the cost of $1 per guest. Partial proceeds of Q Water sales will be donated to Mealshare. Thank You”
Mealshare is an organization that partners with restaurants to raise money for individuals in need. If you want to learn more about what Mealshare is all about check out their website: http://www.mealshare.ca/
I would definitely recommend Ampersand 27 as a place to meet friends for cocktails and charcuterie or to go for dinner on a special occasion. The service was amazing and the decor is absolutely beautiful. Check it out!
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North 53

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Dietitians of Canada continuing education event at North 53. I have been meaning to check out this spot for months, with an extra push since making the top 10 list in Enroute Magazine’s – Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014. After receiving an email from a colleague about the Pure Prairie Eating Plan hosted at North 53 I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to check out a new restaurant, network with other dietitians, and learn more about the work that Dr. Chan and Dr. Bell have been doing on translating the recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide and applying them to whole foods that are commonly grown and consumed in the prairie provinces.

When I arrived the room was set up as one long communal table, which worked really well for meeting others who were attending the event. I was eager to find out what we would be eating that night (as it was a five course meal!!) and I was happy to see a menu printed for each guest that outlined the evening. The first course was cream of broccoli soup and Avonlea cheddar biscuits. The second course was sous vide short ribs with charred onion, red pepper sauce, and aligot potato. The third course was a homemade yeasted doughnut with maple ice cream. The fourth course was sunflower seed caramel, apple crab pate de fruit, and rum spiked baby brioche. WOW. They definitely did not feel the need to lighten things up for the room full of dietitians. I’m all for indulging once in a while but this was over the top!

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The broccoli soup tasted as if the broccoli had been charred prior to being incorporated into the soup creating an extremely smoky flavour. The soup was served with the biscuits, which were baked fresh and brought directly to the table. When you broke apart that biscuit all you could see was melty delicious cheese. I don’t think I’ve ever had a biscuit that felt like it was half flour and half cheese before, but it was unbelievable. I love cheese. Needless to say, I could have probably stopped eating after the first course and been satisfied for the rest of the evening.

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Next up was the short ribs. Does a charred onion count as a vegetable with dinner? Maybe the broccoli pureed with cream was the vegetable..whatever, I’m over it. The meat was tasty and not overly fatty (which I was kind of expecting with short ribs) and served with the most decadent mashed potatoes ever. I’m guessing they were 30% butter, 30% cheese, and 30 % potato. This place must have a HUGE dairy budget. I don’t think I had any red pepper sauce on my place like it said in the menu but maybe it was just a glaze on the short ribs?

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After a bit of a break the doughnuts came out. They were freshly fried, coated in sugar and paired with maple ice cream. At this point I was surprised that I was even considering eating one more bit. But fresh doughnuts? Come on. You can’t pass that up. I’m a sucker for ice cream and this one was no exception. It was SUPER creamy. I wonder if they make it in house or get it from a local supplier like Pinocchio’s? Either way it was delicious. The doughnut on the other hand didn’t really float my boat. They were quite hard on the outside, hard to cut through, and less fluffy than I was expecting from a yeast doughnut. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t do a better job myself but at this point it just wasn’t worth the calories, so I only ate a few bites.

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Dessert number two! They servers brought out beautiful wood platters full of treats. At this point I snuck away to the washroom and asked for a to-go box on my way out. There was no way I could fit those little sugar bombs in my tummy. I ended up offering them up to my fiancé when I got home but boy did they look great!

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I had an awesome time at North 53 and I would definitely go back to try out their regular menu. I also saw that they had a second grand opening with a new menu and new chef! It’s great to see the strong focus on local ingredients and creative flavours!

Canteen

Over the past week I have had the opportunity to celebrate a very important milestone in my life…Convocation! And as we all know, no celebration is complete without food and drink to indulge in with friends and family. I called Canteen the day of and they were able to fit in my table of three at 5:30 pm. To our surprise, we were seated at the chef’s table at the back of the quaint restaurant. After browsing over the menu (even though I’ve looked it up a million times online) we decided to share a few of the small plates. Chickpea fries with romesco and chorizo stuffed, bacon wrapped dates with red pepper sauce were at the top of my wish list and my mom and Alex agreed.

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The fries were quite neutral in flavour but they had a great texture and crunch. As for the dates….I just love dates… especially wrapped in bacon and stuffed with sausage. Enough said.

We ended up getting a range of entrees so we could have the opportunity to taste as many things as possible. My mom went for the feature of the day, duck breast served with a risotto cake, grilled pear, braised red cabbage, asparagus, and sour cherry jus of some sort, Alex had the pork chop with crispy pork belly with a roasted beet BBQ sauce and gnudi succotash, and I chose the halibut topped with preserved lemons and tempura sea beans (one of my FAV ingredients) served with white beans, ham hock, and escarole in a smoky broth. There was not one unsatisfied person at the table, in fact we were all blown away. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was served with an adorable retro bottle of diet coke!

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The whole experience was exceptional – from the server to the decor to the unique menu. Our night was finished off with a personalized explanation of the desert menu which led to a full belly of chocolate terrine with creme anglaise and chocolate, orange, almond bread pudding.

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I would absolutely recommend Canteen for any occasion or a spontaneous night out. The prices are reasonable (compared to their sister restaurant The Red Ox Inn) and the food is interesting and tasty.

The Dish Bistro

In the past couple of weeks I have experienced more life altering milestones than any sane person should ever submit themselves to. My dietetic internship and 5 long years of post secondary education came to a close, I packed up my life and moved from Grande Prairie back to Edmonton after living in the snowy north for four months, I moved in with my boyfriend, Alex and therefore adopted a puppy by default, and I started my first “real” job with NAIT Food Services. Needless to say I was in need of a serious catch up with my best friend, Janelle, and a soon-to-expire groupon led us to The Dish and The Runaway Spoon (which we have both lived across from for a whole year without ever making it in to). I was pleasantly surprised to see a “You’ve Gotta Eat Here” poster, as John Catucci came for a visit last May to film an episode for Season 2 of his series. It MUST be good if it’s on the food network!?

I was the first of my twosome to arrive and I was seated at a quaint table within the 40 seat bistro.

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After a lot of chatting and very little focus spent on the menu, we decided to share the Curried Turkey Burger and the Sticky Orange Chicken. The service was quite casual which worked well for the intense gossip that was going on at our table but may not be ideal for all circumstances.

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This curried turkey burger came with a citrus fennel and apple slaw which had the perfect balance of acidity, richness, and crisp and a side of fresh root vegetable chips that gave me the kick of salt that I look for in any meal. The burger itself was extremely flavorful and moist, but the bun seemed soggy to me (likely from the aoili). I would definitely order this again and I may have even been upset that I didn’t get to eat the whole thing by myself!

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The chicken came with chive and garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables and it looked amazing! I’m not sure if it’s the dietitian in me but I was a tad disappointed to see chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts..I just can’t stand a soggy, fatty chicken skin. I was expecting a punch of citrus from the chicken and it left me wanting.

Still looking forward to their appearance on the next season of “You’ve Gotta Eat Here” and wouldn’t be opposed to giving it another shot, but my socks were not knocked off.