Restaurant Review: Cardinale

>> Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dinner reservations has taken on a whole new meaning in the last year or two. All of a sudden instead of just 6 people the number has doubled…mainly due to everybody having kids. I guess we’re at that age and it’s amazing how many restaurants in Calgary are accommodating to kids! I understand that often times when people dine out they would rather leave the kids at home, but we enjoy brining ours because for the most part, they’re well behaved and we typically try not to bring them to a 5 star establishment. Let’s be honest those are best enjoyed between my husband and I. As I was saying, there are so many great restaurants out there are will accommodate kids and one of them is Cardinale, which was perfect because I’ve been wanting to try it out since they changed over from La Vita e Bella.

Atmosphere: Cozy warm setting where the dining area is split in to several intimate rooms perfect if you have a larger group or just want to be hidden away.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food & Cocktails: We are a larger group that evening which gave us an opportunity to share a bunch of appetizers to start. I’m really glad that we decided on the shared plates because all the appetizers were incredible! The Polpette, meatballs made with a combination of brisket and shortrib were succulent served with a chunky Sunday gravy and topped with parmesan. They were a good size and there were about 5 to the plate making them great for sharing. The Bocconcini, which are deep fried fresh mozzarella balls with a gremolata crust served with an arrabiata (spicy tomato sauce) and yogurt sauce. I enjoyed the crust on the bocconcini, it’s like grown up cheese sticks.

Another fried favorite that night was the Suppli aka fried risotto balls with veal Bolognese, mozzarella, marinara sauce. They were light and didn’t feel greasy or heavy even though they were deep fried, overall a nice take on the arancini. Our favorite appetizer of the night was definitely the Gamberi. The salt baked prawns with jalapeno, pickled fennel, basil and garlic aioli were divine. Even though they were salt baked, that actually brought out the sweetness of the shrimp even more and I really enjoyed the accompaniment of the garlic aioli. It was so good, we ordered another one.

We were craving pasta so I ordered the Gnocchi which came in with a combination of spicy fennel chicken sausage, Tuscan kale, cannellini beans and topped with parmesan. The gnocchi was pillowy soft and the perfect vessel for all the chunky toppings. The hubby, who loves anything seafood, gravitated towards the Linguine which comes with prawns, scallops, mussels, squid with anchovies and Calabrian chile. All of the seafood was treated extremely well and the pasta was nicely al dente. Needless to say he was pleased with his pasta of choice.

For dessert I was looking for something a bit lighter and the Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with blueberry compote was exactly what I needed. The use of the greek yogurt instead of traditional cream lifted what could have been a heavier dessert. Plus, the added tang from the yogurt was a nice palette cleanser. One of the kids loved it so much after having a taste that he wanted one for himself!

We had the opportunity to sample a few different cocktails that night throughout our meal. The Organ Grinder made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, amaro nonino, dates, aromatic bitters and orange peel was sort of a play on old fashioned. It wasn’t too sweet and would definitely be perfect for someone who loves their bourbon cocktails. The complete opposite was the Wait Until Spring Bandini. A combination of red wine, Campari, lemon, carpano vermouth and orange peel reminded me of a more concentrated sangria, which would be perfect for a wine lover looking to try something different.

My Pick(s): Gamberi, Suppli

Overall: We had a lovely evening and really enjoyed the fact that they put us in a separate room (since their dining area is segregated), which worked well for the kiddos. It allowed them to get out of their seat for a bit and walk around after dinner within the room. One thing to note is they don’t have high chairs at Cardinale but if your kids are good with a booth then it’s perfect. Couple that with some delicious Italian fare and I feel like the new Cardinale is a great choice for anybody who does or doesn’t have kids. You’re guaranteed to have an amazing Italian meal!

401 12 Ave SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 264-6046


Celebrating Shokunin's 2nd Year Anniversary

>> Friday, March 2, 2018

Voted one of Canada’s Top 50 restaurants and one of Calgary’s Top 25 Restaurants in Avenue Magazine, Shokunin recently celebrated their second anniversary and I couldn’t believe they’ve been open for 2 years already! Coinciding with this momentous event, they’ve decided to launch a new menu that incorporates a bit of Calgary in to the mix with dishes like Bison Tataki, Brandt Lake Wagyu Beef Tendon and all day Ramen (which used to only be available after 9pm).

To celebrate we were lucky enough to be invited to attend their special event where so many amazing dishes were highlighted, it was hard to pick one favorite dish. Some of the definite highlights of the evening included the fresh Sushi and Sashimi that was flown straight from Osaka that day. I haven’t tasted sushi that fresh since Japan.

Talking about sushi, they were also serving their Aburi sushi, which is sushi that has been lightly seared with a torch to give it that charred flavor without cooking the fish. Aburi sushi is one of my favorite ways of eating nigiri sushi and I’m so glad that it’s available at Shokunin!

Some of the appetizers that were served included a few of their new menu items and their key favorites. The Bison Tataki with yuzu kosho pickled onions, garlic chips and radish sprouts was a hit amongst everyone. All the flavours worked very well together and the bison itself was tender and was a great choice for a tataki preparation. The Spicy Fried Tofu made with garlic miso marinated tofu and served with a black vinegar ginger sauce was an interesting play on the traditional agadashi tofu, which is one of my favorite izakaya dishes. The tofu was crispy and because it wasn’t sitting in the sauce as it’s typically served, the tofu held on to the crunch which creates a nice texture.

Other dishes we tried were the Okonomiyaki, a traditional Japanese savory style pancake which originated in Hiroshima, but you can now find them throughout Japan since they’re so popular. It’s a unique dish made with various toppings that change depending on the region but typically you can find egg, meat and veggies cooked to look like a pancake. There was Chicken Karaage, deep fried marinated chicken dark meat with a side of yuzu mayo for dipping. The infamous Squid Tempura served with a spicy mayo, lime and nori powder. Those who dined at DTF (Downtownfood) will remember this offering!

Shokunin is also known for their used of traditional binchotan charcoal in preparing their Yakitori and Kushiyaki skewers. Binchotan charcoal is the purest charcoal available and gives the skewers an amazing charred grilled flavor. I was estatic when I found out that they were serving Beef Tendon skewers. For those who haven’t had tendon before, it’s a must! The chew coupled with the charred outer layer makes this super addictive. Forget beer and wings, go for beer and tendon! Talking about beer, Shokunin serves their own house beer which is similar to a light lager, perfect accompaniment to the items on their menu without overpowering any of the dishes.

The main stars of the evening was the Wagyu Beef that was seared over binchotan charcoal and served with some shaved green onions and just enough salt to bring out the sweetness in the beef itself. Chef Darren gave everyone a preview of the beef and how it’s cooked over the charcoal just enough to get a bit of char without losing the unctuous fattiness of the wagyu, which is what it’s known for. A bit of the grill melted just enough of the fat to really set your tastebuds on fire. They were already aging more wagyu beef as we speak so be sure to look for it on your next visit.


With some of cutting edge items on their menu (chicken butt anyone?), it’s no wonder that Shokunin is noted among some of the top restaurants in both the city and country. Chef Darren constantly pushes the envelope to bring new exciting flavours and plates to his restaurant and isn’t afraid to try new approaches. Calgarians are responding by requesting for more and most recently Shokunin started offering their ramen all day opposed to just at nights like before. Keep asking Calgary and they’ll keep delivering, constantly reminding us why they deserve to be in the top!


Load Up on Vitamin C with Jugo Juice's Cali Crush

>> Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I can’t believe how many times our family has gotten sick so far this winter. It all roots back to my kid starting daycare and things have never been the same. It’s amazing how often they can catch a cold at that place! I can’t even remember the last time I was sick let alone sick more than once during the winter season. So as you can imagine, we’ve been downing orange juice and vitamin C like crazy in the hopes that we could prevent the next impending cold.

Luckily for me, I found an alternative to having just plain ol orange juice. Jugo Juice recently just released a new smoothie called the Cali Crush. Made with a combination of grapefruit, oranges, lemons and flavoured with a hint of strawberries and cooling cucumber. I was surprised how well the blend came together. Its very easy to make a drink too sweet with that combination but I thought the Cali Crush had a nice balance between sweet and sour to make it all come together. Plus with 349% of your daily vitamin C, what better way to make sure you’re fighting off your colds in a delicious way!

For those that are also looking for something savoury and healthy to go along with their smoothies, Jugo Juice is not offering Avocado Toasts. I personally love avocado toasts, there’s something so wonderful about the butteriness of smash avocados on crunchy toasted bread. It sounds so simple yet it packs a powerful punch of flavour. Not to mention that Jugo Juice also adds on toppings such as Chipotle Corn and Black Beans, Sriracha Honey Hemp Hearts or Olive Tapenade with Fresh Basil to kick it up another notch. It was hard to choose my favorite of the three, but I did enjoy the sweet and spicy combo from the honey sriracha. If you’re not certain that you want to stick to those, you can also create your own with a selection of toppings that they have beyond what I’ve listed above.

If you’re grabbing something on the go, they’re also still serving their Cranberry Chia Pudding, which is perfect for breakfast for even a hearty snack. I love that they use coconut milk as a base and topped the pudding with crunch terra bread granola and a berry compote.

I’m really hoping that they decide to keep these items on their menu for the long haul because as with all their limited time smoothie flavours it’s only supposed to be around for a while. However, I was told that it’ll be here till at least March, thank goodness because I know I’ll probably be needing a couple more shots of them before the cold season ends this year!


A Weekend at YYC Airport Marriott

>> Friday, February 2, 2018

It’s been a long winter so far. Normally we’d be traveling to try and escape the cold or at least make it a little shorter and more bearable but this year between the craziness of work and the fact that we’re expecting a little one soon. Traveling wasn’t in the cards. However, we did have a bit of a reprieve when we were invited to the new airport Marriott for a fun weekend event! I thought it was brilliant! A nice little staycation to make us forget that we’re still in the city without the hassle of actually flying.

When we checked in to our room we were greeted with fun instructions for a Rocky Mountain cocktail featuring park distillery vodka. The concept was that we would mix the cocktail ourselves with locally sourced ingredients and paired with some sourdough with fixings from Marriott’s own Yakima restaurant. I thought it was a fun way to introduce people to Calgary, a nice little welcome gift for those who just want to kick back a little when they enter their rooms and just take in the surrounding scenery of YYC airport and view of the incoming and outgoing flights.

The itinerary was packed from the start with a tour of the facility followed by a welcome reception with their bourbon suppliers, Maker’s Mark. As part of the evening we got to try and make our own bourbon cocktail. Sadly for me I am a gin girl and negronis are my go to. Not to mention that I’m pregnant and drinking was pretty much beyond my control. None the less it was a ton of fun playing around with the flavors in my head to see what might work out. Needless to say, we didn’t win the friendly competition but it did make me miss a good drink! Afterwards we were treated to an amazing spread of appetizers from their Yakima restaurant which included sliders, charcuterie like housemate beef jerky, pickled veggies, smoked chicken wings and more. To accompany the food, they served up some all-time bourbon cocktail favorites like the old fashioned, manhattans & whiskey sours. People also got to try the barrel select bourbon along with other vintages to really get a feel for the differences that age makes. We decided to make a night of it!

The next day, we woke up and headed downstairs to Yakima for their buffet breakfast. As parents, it was nice to be able to wake up whenever we wanted opposed to having a child alarm clock. At our leisure, we strolled down and grabbed a bite. I went straight over to the pastry table and enjoyed that there was a nice selection of various pastries to accompany the savory portion of my meal. Who doesn’t need a nice pastry or two or three in the morning? If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, they also offer a nice select of breakfast items to get your started like bacon and eggs or even oatmeal. For those wanting something a bit more substantial, you can order off their breakfast menu which includes Eggs Benedict, Lemongrass Salmon or an Alberta 5 Egg Omelet.

Afterwards, we all gathered awaiting our ride out to Cochrane to visit the Half Hitch Brewery, another local partner (Marriott carries their beers on tap, so you can try it in the city without having to venture out to Cochrane). Once there, we were taken around on a tour of their facilities to learn a bit more about their brewing process. It’s always nice seeing a microbrewery compared to their large counterparts, you can see the heart that goes in to every step of the process and the care that’s given to their product. After the brewery tour, we were treated to some amazing drinks, appetizers and mains at the restaurant. My favorite was definitely the chicharrons, those deep-fried pork rinds were nothing short of amazing. Topped with togarashi spice, they had just the right amount of spice and a good amount of crunch. I’ll definitely be heading back for those! Next our mains were served and I got to try their housemade burger with thick cut fries. I thought they went very nicely with their Fire N Fury beer. The caramel notes matched well with the charbroiled flavor of the burger, but one thing I couldn’t stop eating were the crispy thick cut fries.

After lunch we were trekked back in to the city with our bellies full and happy. To work off some of that food, everyone was to meet up for a scavenger hunt that sent people in all directions across YYC airport. Unfortunately at this time we had to call it a weekend and go pick up our child who had gotten sick over the past day. Parental duties calls! But the rest of the party got treated to a surreal dining experience that evening at Yakima starting with a cocktail reception and ending with a night cap in their lounge. The menu itself was definitely outside the box and I’d love to see some of that on their regular menu as well…foie roche anyone? Just think foie gras packaged as a Ferrero roche chocolate. Who doesn’t love foie? Who doesn’t love chocolate? Perfect pairing. There was a huge selection of dishes so definitely something for everyone. Not to mention that dessert was something straight out of a Michelin star restaurant. As I mentioned, I hope that they start hosting events with a similar theme or chef’s tasting menu that really bring the experience to the next level like what was showcased that evening!

It truly was a little getaway for everyone and it helped me forget how bitterly cold our weather was that weekend. It reminded me that we could simply “getaway” by going to a new location and trying something different. So if you’re looking to switch up your routine and get away from the winter blues why not head up to the airport but not actually fly out. Instead just hang around, check out the new Marriott and what they have to offer. Try a staycation for yourselves!

*Hotel photos provided by the Marriot YYC


Restaurant Review: Donna Mac

>> Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hello 2018. You came a lot quicker than I anticipated but I feel like this happens every year. January comes and I’m floored that it’s a new year. There’s going to be quite a lot of changes coming in 2018 and we’re excited. However, we have a couple people that we know moving away and we’re sad to see them go. With that we needed a place to celebrate their last days in town and I was surprised that there were so many great news choices that happened to have popped up in 2017. One of those places is Donna Mac, offering up amazing gluten free and vegan options that don’t taste like what you think! I was lucky enough to have a chance to sample some of those dishes and I was blown away.

Atmosphere: Large open concept dining room with a beautiful interior that feels airy and bright.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food & Wine: What a way to kick off the night. The Fingerling Potatoes, one of my favorite dishes of the night or ever! The standout was definitely due to the use of porcini mayo. The earthiness of the mushrooms coupled with the sea lettuce, potatoes and topped with more king oyster mushrooms was a winner. I am still talking about this dish, so I really hope they don’t ever remove it from the menu!

Next was the Scallop Tartare with kholrabi, cucumber, herbs, horseradish and poppy seed. It was a nice contrast to the potatoes since it was a bit lighter and refreshing. I enjoyed the use of the cucumbers and kohlrabi to give it a bit more texture since scallops themselves could be mushy to some.

Last of the small share plates we tried was the Grilled Endive served over a buttermilk soubise topped with trout roe and dill. It bitterness (which I enjoy) coupled was mellowed by the buttermilk and use of dill. I liked how the endives themselves were charred adding that smokiness that elevated the flavours.

With a brief pause to catch our breaths we then moved on to the main dishes of the evening starting with the Duck Breast, perfectly seared with red kuri squash, pears and chili. Everybody around the table was quite impressed with the succulent cook on the duck itself and the flavours melded perfectly with the accompaniments.

The Short Rib was the quintessential comfort dish that night. Served with jalapeno and cheddar potatoes, it was melt in your mouth tender. The use of cheddar in the potatoes, which were amazing smooth, did not compete with the short ribs but rather made it even more decadent. I could see myself eating this all winter long.

For those that want something delicious but without protein, the Wild Mushroom Risotto would be a good option. The risotto itself is creamy and rich, so you would feel the need for added protein. Plus, its topped with lots of radicchio and apples to provide some texture and crunch. I thought it would even be enjoyable as an addition to other dishes on the menu.

Our last main dish was the Pork Belly and its unlike any other pork belly dish I’ve had in the past. This one is served with sake steamed clams, seaweed salad with fermented rice in a lovely flavourful broth. Pork belly and broth you say? Yes! And it works! The fusion of Asian flavours is amazing and really makes you wanting more. Another standout dish!

To end the evening, we were served two desserts, a take on the smore and a play on a pumpkin pie. Both were not overly sweet and for those that are gluten free, the smore is made with an in house rice paper that emulates the cracker! It was a nice way to wind down our sumptuous meal.

My Picks: Fingerling Potatoes, Pork Belly

Overall: Even if you’re not vegan or gluten free, you’d still enjoy the tasty cuisine offered at Donna Mac. They have something for everybody on their menu. Maybe some of their comfort dishes can help you forget the cold outside and focus on all the great new things 2018 will bring!

They also have an amazing selection of cocktails ranging from delectable before dinner selections such as DMGT (Donna Mac Gin and Tonic) to after dinner selections such as For the Kids made with henessey, yellow chartreuse and st. Germain. Don't be afraid to be adventurous!

Donna Mac
1002 9 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 719-3622

Donna Mac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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