The Block Kitchen and Lounge

Happy third anniversary to The Block Kitchen and Lounge tonight! I was so lucky to be invited to celebrate thanks to Parker PR! Did you know that they’ve survived three floods? But don’t worry, all plumbing issues have been fixed so hopefully they won’t have to go through a fourth!

There were many delicious bites tonight from their fall menu. It kinda saddens me to think that summer is almost over and cooler days are ahead. We’ve been quite spoiled this year with all the spectacular weather! These delicious meatballs have a mixture of pork and beef and tossed in their house sauce and topped with Parmesan. So moist and tasty!

These house made potato chips are so light and crispy! Nothing beats freshly fried chips!

The beef tartare was such a tasty bite made with Alberta beef tenderloin and local mustard served on top of potato chips.

A very nice selection of antipasto and prosciutto! The house made bruschetta is delicious!

The wild boar penne bolognese truly hit the spot! It reminds me of the best comfort food!

They also have a large selection of pizzas! All done well and on a fine thin crust-just the way I like it!

The Block Kitchen and Lounge is a lovely spot to hit up with family and friends. They’re kid friendly which is a huge bonus in my books! Check out their harvest dinner coming up on September 28th for $55!


Instant Pot Beef Pho Recipe

I decided to jump on the Instant Pot bandwagon recently. I just couldn’t resist the Amazon prime day deal. One of the things I really wanted to try making in it was pho. Considering that I usually start my pho broth the day before I plan to eat it when I cook it on the stovetop; I was ecstatic at the fact that I’d be able to enjoy it the same day and with oxtail cooked within 45 minutes. So let’s see how it’s done.

You need to char your onions and ginger. If you have a gas stove top then you can easily do it over that. I don’t, so I opt to broil them in my toaster oven. Peel and slice an onion in half and peel about a 2″ piece of ginger in half. Broil for about 10-15 minutes until charred.

Meanwhile, toast your spices. I have a black cardamom pod, a cinnamon stick, 4 star anise, 6 cloves and small pinch of coriander seeds. Toast until fragrant. Once fragrant, smash open the cardamom pod. Allow spices to cool down and put into a spice bag.

Do not skip the extra step of parboiling your bones. It makes for a clear broth and you won’t eat all that scum. Heat up a pot of water on your stove top and once it comes to a boil, add the bones and allow to boil on high for about 5 minutes until the impurities are released from the bones. You’ll see the water turn grey. Drain the bones and rinse under cold water gently rubbing away any scum attached to the bones. Here I used oxtail and marrow bones.

Add the bones, onion, ginger, spice bag, frozen whole beef tendon and daikon pieces (optional) to the instant pot. Add enough water to reach max line. Secure the lid and ensure it’s set to sealing. Select manual high pressure for 45 minutes and NPR (natural pressure release). I left it on warm mode and it took a good 2 hours for it to natural release. If you turned the machine off it would definitely go faster.

This is what the broth looks like when it’s done cooking. The broth is very clear. Gently use a ladle to skim off the layer of fat on the top produced from the oxtail. Remove the onion pieces, ginger and spice bag. Remove the tendon and slice into pieces or leave whole if you prefer to eat it in large chunks. Set the machine to sauté mode, normal, and season with salt, sugar and fish sauce to taste. Add in your beef balls and allow to come to a boil.

Boil your noodles, top with rare sliced beef, and steaming hot broth along with the tendon, beef balls and oxtail. Garnish with bean sprouts, Thai basil, green onions, finely slices sawtooth herb (ngo gai) and a squeeze of lime. Slurp up the noodles and enjoy!

So how did the instant pot pho compare to he stove top version? Well, for my first try I would say it turned out well but the flavor was not as rich or flavorful as the stovetop version. Next time I will double the amount of bones and oxtail to see if that helps to produce a more flavorful stock. It’s definitely a huge time saver using the instant pot. My silicone ring still smells like pho though so be warned. I soaked it in a mixture of dish soap and vinegar but it didn’t seem to do too much.

So what are your favorite instant pot recipes? Any tips to share?

Ten Foot Henry

The Calgary dining scene like any other is forever changing. For quite some time now I’ve noticed a shift towards small/big plate and shared family style dining. Honestly, for a foodie like myself I love it. It means that I get to try multiple items on a menu and it fulfills the “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” syndrome. If that’s even a thing.

But seriously, is there anything better than sharing food? Not in my books. Friendships are made and laughs shared over food. I love it.

We celebrated a friend’s birthday at Ten Foot Henry and I’m so glad she picked this place because it has easily become one of my favorite restaurants in the city now. We started off with this lovely Roasted Carrot dish with avocado, pea shoots and pistachios. The dish was excellent with a nice combination of flavors and textures.

I’m not gonna lie. Whenever I see Asian ingredients incorporated in a menu I start to get worried. Most of the time it’s either a hit or a miss for me. This Pan Roasted Gai Lan dish was amazing though and my worries faded away. The tahini miso sauce paired perfectly with the slight bitterness of the gai lan while the fried shiitake mushrooms added a nice textural contrast and even more umaminess to the dish. This dish is a must try in my books.

The Whole Roasted Beets were done well and the dill added an interesting element to the dish. It was cooked well but not my favorite.

I always have a special place in my heart (or is it stomach, ha!) for pasta. Probably because it resembles Asian noodles so much and it’s the ultimate comfort food for me. The Caico e Pepe Bucatini was impeccable. The al dente pasta was perfectly coated with pecorino and black pepper. I’m afraid I might have been able to polish off the entire dish myself if we weren’t sharing. So good!

The Spaghetti Pomodoro was another splendid dish. Light tomato sauce with a hint of spice. It provided a nice contrast to the creamy and cheesiness of the Cacio e Pepe.

The Adobo Chicken was incredibly flavorful and  tender, literally fall of the bone. Oh, and the sauce…sublime. This is a dish that you want to eat with a bowl of rice to mop up all that sauce. Delicious!

Now that’s a beautiful dish there with the pink steak against those bright greens. The Chargrilled Hanger Steak was another well executed dish. I like my steak rare and this was perfect. The truffle Dijon sauce helped to cut the richness of the meat. The real winner of this dish for me were the grilled mustard greens. I’ve never had mustard greens grilled before and it blew my mind. Growing up, my mom always just stir fried it or put it in soup. I love that slight bitterness of mustard greens. Let me tell you, I’m going to start grilling my mustard greens from now on. Utterly amazing and superb!

We were beyond stuffed at this point but it was a birthday celebration after all and you really can’t go without dessert. We decided to share the Avocado Chocolate Torte. The avocado chocolate filling was smooth and not too sweet. The raw crust wasn’t really to my liking however. It reminded me of an eat more chocolate bar crossed with a larabar. I guess this dessert was just too “healthy” for my liking. I think next time I’ll try the coconut cake or the butterscotch pudding.

We really enjoyed our meal here and it was thumbs up all around. If there’s one thing Ten Foot Henry does well is cook vegetables and showcase them in new and unique ways. This is an excellent place to bring vegetarians. I’m already counting down the days to my next visit. For any parents out there, kids are welcomed here and they have at least one high chair. However, they cannot accommodate parties larger than eight.

Dutchmen Dairy Chocolate Milk 

I’m not a huge dairy milk drinker. I’ll have it in my coffee and tea but by itself I don’t even think I drink a glass of it a year. However, that all changes when it comes to the stuff from Dutchmen Dairy. Their chocolate milk is unlike any other. It’s so creamy, silky and not overly sweet. There’s just enough chocolate flavor to round it out. I just can’t get enough of this stuff. Simply amazing and delicious! Seriously, what do they feed their cows?

Lobster Meal Ideas

Every year around Father’s Day there’s a fellow in Calgary that ships in fresh Alantic lobsters for sale with proceeds going towards a charity. This year, proceeds went towards The Calgary Humane Society. I’m always on the lookout for different ways to serve lobsters aside from eating them boiled and dipped in butter. Last year, I made lobster rolls and two types of Chinese style dishes. One was lobster stir fried with green onion and ginger and the other was lobster in a creamy sauce served over noodles. It was great but I was looking for something different this year. 

This year, I used them in three different dishes again. The first was your typical surf and turf meal. Pan seared rib eye with roasted asparagus, buttered lobster and lobster tomalley toast. Do you eat the tomalley in the lobster? I love it but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s definitely quite high in cholesterol. I toasted some french bread, buttered it and spreaded on the cooked tomalley. Yum! This dish was hubbys favorite. 

The second was lobster eggs benedict and it was my favorite out of the three. It was really good and I think my favorite variation on eggs benedict that I’ve made between crab cake, smoked duck breast and prosciutto. The sweet and buttery lobster was fantastic with the poached eggs and lemony hollandaise sauce. I served with a lightly dressed arugula salad to cut the richness of the eggs benedict. 

Lastly, I made sushi with the lobster meat. Lobster, crab meat salad, masago, cucumber and avocado. It was excellent and a favorite with my son. He scarfed it down. 

So what are your favorite lobster dishes? I’d love to hear from you! 

Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Ale 

I’m not a huge soda person as I find them too sweet for my liking. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with making my own flavored syrups to mix with club soda or carbonated spring water. So far my strawberry rhubarb and ginger syups have turned out fantastic and I’m looking forward to trying more flavor combinations throughout the summer. 

My friend recommended Fever-Tree’s Ginger Ale to me claiming that it was really good despite the higher price tag. I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. It was truly excellent. Refreshing, bright, clean flavors and unlike the mass marketed ginger ales out there. It’s no wonder considering there’s no artificial flavors, sweeteners and preservatives in it. I’m a huge fan of ginger and thankfully this has a distinctive ginger taste. Absolutely delicious! 

Blue Star Diner 

As much as I love taking my time in the mornings and lazily making my way downstairs and cooking breakfast, there’s something to be said about going out for breakfast and having someone else serve you. As my hubby says, “it’s nice to have someone else serve you coffee once in a while.” We don’t go out for breakfast very often compared to lunch or dinner. Simply because on the weekends the waits to get into some of the breakfast places around Calgary can be downright frightful. With two kids, the last thing I want to do is wait 45 minutes to an hour for a table. I often wished more places took reservations just to make things easier on families.

The only time I really get a chance to hit up a breakfast place around town is when hubby and I both happen to be off during the weekday. Our go-to place is usually OEB on Edmonton Trail. However, we wanted to try something different this time and after browsing through various menus I settled on Blue Star Diner. We’ve been here before for dinner and tried their burgers, which are fantastic but we’ve never tried their breakfast. We walked in around 10:30am on a weekday and easily got a table. No wait!

I usually veer towards eggs benedicts cause let’s face it. If I’m going out to eat I might as well go all out and get some hollandaise sauce in me. However, this time their was a corned lamb dish that caught my eye. The Corned Lamb Hash with cornbread sounded amazing! Slow cooked lamb, red potato hash browns, zucchini, roasted peppers, mushrooms, kale, caramelized onions, chilis, 2 poached eggs, goat feta and hollandaise. How can you say no to that? So I didn’t. And, wow! Was it ever satisfying! The lamb paired perfectly with all those vegetables and the chilis provided a nice kick to the dish.

Their eggs Benedict didn’t disappoint either. The Brisket and Caramelized Onion Benny with red potato hash was filling and another great choice. The slow cooked brisket was tender and flavorful with the caramelized onions adding a hint of sweetness to cut through the richness.

We had a fantastic breakfast here and I would love to return. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed with both dishes. Perhaps this will be our new go-to breakfast place from now on. It’s always nice to take a stroll around Bridgeland after and burn off some calories too.

Blue Star Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato