A little cheese with that wine…

Divino
113 – 8th Avenue SW, Calgary
403.410.5555

 

Because I’ve been eating in a lot more these days I haven’t been to Divino in a long time…although it used to be one of my go tos in downtown cow town. Recently I visited again, and I will say this. Divino has delicious Tempura Haricot Vert and Onion Soup Gratinee. I love French onion soup! They also have an excellent selection of wine and assortment of cheese. The cheese plates are good, but I actually enjoy Farm’s cheese plate a bit more because each cheese (or meat) is paired with an accompaniment, where as at Divino all the cheeses are only accompanied by fig jam. And while their main courses are solid, I’ve not once found myself in love with one of them. The atmosphere in the restaurant is fitting for its offerings and the menu is on point with no Calgary confusion fusion. For wine bar I’m giving Divino a Very Good…If I were rating it on food only it would likely only be a Very Okay.

 

If you have been to Divino share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Kitsch and Comfort

Diner Deluxe
804 Edmonton Trail NE, Calgary
403.276.5499

 

Diner Deluxe brought to us by the owners and operators of Big Fish and Open Range is a lovely mix of comfort food with a bold splash of retro diner. From the music to the tables you’ll think you’ve stepped back in time. They serve an all day breakfast, which makes deciding at dinner very difficult, because on the other side of the menu you will be tempted by Macaroni and Cheese and Turkey with stuffing. The turkey was served on a sliced loaf of stuffing, which was a modern twist to this classic. The Mac and Cheese has a touch of pesto, which is one step too modern for me, but it is still quite good. I’d love to go back for breakfast, but the line up is so long I’ve got to go on a day when I’m not starving. I’m going to give Diner Deluxe a Very Okay (but it is very nearly a Very Good) and it probably has one of the best price points in cow town!

 

If you have been to Diner Deluxe share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)
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Forget about caviar dreams…Pizza dreams, but I’ve still got champagne wishes!

Ristorante Pulcinella Inc.
1147 Kensington Crescent NW, Calgary
403.283.1166
 

I seriously woke up one morning dreaming about the ripieno calzone (sans salami). The ricotta cheese melts in your mouth and is contrasted perfectly by the texture of the Neapolitan style pizza dough. The wood-burning hearth kisses the pizzas with a charcoal flavor and serves as the primary centerpiece of the dining room. The white walls and decor seem modern yet reminiscent of the Mediterranean to me, perfectly suited for the style of the food. The strength of the food relies heavily on quality of the ingredients presently simply. Nothing too complex or flavors in competition or contradiction to each other. There is good balance in the food, in the menu, and restaurant presentation. Service can be a bit slow, but it always professional. They have a good wine selection. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding good pizza both in Calgary in Vancouver, but Pulcinella is something special, and I’m going to give it a Very Good, but the calzone and their signature pizza both get Very Goods from me. The restaurant is busy and can be a bit noisy when busy, so it is best suited for meeting friends or a date where you aren’t looking for a lot of romance.

 

If you have been to Pulcinella share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Saddle up on the other side of the tracks

The Palomino
109 – 7th Avenue SW, Calgary
403.532.1911

 

You may think you’ve walked into a smokehouse on the wrong side of the tracks when you cross the 7th avenue train tracks and enter The Palomino. From the street you’d never know you were about to have some of the most mouthwatering beef ribs you’ve ever had with a side of Jack Daniels apples and sweet potato mash. I’ve heard the pork ribs can be a bit dry, just another reason not to eat swine….but the beef ribs are divine ;) The lighting is dark, the furniture is mismatched, and the walls are covered in a tormented looking collage of stickers and objects. We found the service a bit slow and the atmosphere is definitely edgy…but I’d go back for the meat and I’d really like to try their Jack Daniels wings. They also have a breakfast menu, and live music some nights, but I don’t have a point of reference on either… I’m giving The Palomino as Very Good.

 

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No parking

River Café
200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, Alberta
403.261.7670

 

The River Café is my most beloved restaurant in Calgary. After being to Rouge, I’m challenged to say it is the best, but for overall the River Café still has my vote. The food quality is reliable, the food philosophy is admirable, and the service is good. The smell of the wood burning oven and wood fired grill permeate the air bringing the rustic details of the cabin ambiance to life. To add to the mystique there is no valet parking (a shock for downtown Calgary), in fact you have to walk through Prince’s Island Park to get there, and I’ve done so happily on rainy, snowy, and sunshiny days alike. Breakfasts are divine, and you must try the smoked trout flatbread (featured in the photo here)…melt in your mouth. I’ve heard two less than positive reviews on their bison as a main course, but I’ve always had good fish and vegetarian meals. My favourite appetizer was the mushroom perogies, I love perogies! The menu changes seasonally so don’t get attached to any one specific dish, but try new things. Sal Howell owner and founder together with Chef Scott Pohorelic have given us an epicurean oasis in downtown cowtown.

 

If you have been to the River Cafe share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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“Hung the cat up by it’s tail…but there’s one place in the world…”

A little thinking out loud on the subject of the economy and drinking…While enjoying a glass of wine this past weekend at Lucy Mae Brown the bartender interrupted our conversation when he overhead my friend say “I’m interested in buying a car” because he thought he heard “I’m interested in buying a bar”. This bartender told us he had important business advice to share with us. He told us that there are a lot of bars for sale in Vancouver (of this I’m not sure, but I’ll believe it), and that his point of view is that regardless of the economy people drink and that having a successful bar is more about location and concept so the successful ones will survive and the losing ones will fail regardless of economy. And ultimately his advice to us was to go out and buy a bar while the price is good, but a good one…though logic would serve (based on his argument) that those one’s aren’t suffering. While our discussion was about Ferraris, not Pubs it got me thinking about people’s drinking habits in times of economic downturn, and I’m afraid the numbers don’t really support our local bartender’s story. According to the LA Times those that drink are all still drinking, but more of us are doing it at home. Which while bad for the bar business has its upsdies for example statistics show it actually reduces drunk driving incidents. However, it isn’t as clear cut as that though, because the same article says that hard drinkers cut back, while social drinkers increase their drinking during tough times. Catherine Rampell has a couple interesting blogs related to this subject including “Wine as an Economic Indicator” and “Vices and Economic Slowdown”. Her piece on wine as economic indicator brings up an interesting point which is “the recession is forcing middle-market consumers to move down-market.” Anecdotally I would say for me that as I’m staying in more and drinking out less ‘the spend’ has stayed relatively constant (or reduced), but the quality has improved because I’m not paying the same mark up as I would in a restaurant or bar. Now I know that the Friday night of this story I had less drinks than usual but that was more about the 10 miles we were running in the morning, than the economy…The short of it is I need to do a bit more research to get to the bottom of this pint…if you’ve read anything on the subject let me know.

No formal rating on Lucy Mae, but I’ll give it a Very Ok…and I will note business looked slow for a Friday night.

Bowl licking good…

Rouge
1240 8th Avenue S.E. Calgary, Alberta
403.531.2767

 

If you are going to venture out in minus 20 degrees Celsius it is best that it be to a place as inviting as Rouge. A quaint red house on a corner in Inglewood’s is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, or celebratory dinner with friends. If the best hits menu that we ordered from is any indication, Rouge’s kitchen will not disappoint. The amouse-bouche from the kitchen was yummy spiced pumpkin soup with pecans and chives. A selection of starters all proved to be delicious, with the Rabbit Fois Gras Tourtiere as my favourite. The mains were rich in flavour but well portioned. The details and presentation are excellent, and the service is both amusing and attentive. Our server made excellent and strikingly honest suggestions the most notable of which was to order the sticky toffee pudding, which is among the best desserts I have ever had. It was so good the birthday girl coined it ‘bowl licking good’. One the selections from the enRoute feature which has proven to be helpful, but keep in mind among Calgary’s best restaurants it meets the criteria for a high price point as well. Dinner is likely to be in the 100$ range per person, more depending on courses and beverages.

 

If you have been to Rouge share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Using your noodle…

Sha Lin Noodle House
548 W Broadway, Vancouver
604.873.1816

 

Some time ago I wrote a post on Sha Lin (http://www.gayledishes.com/?p=513), my new favourite noodle joint. This past weekend I returned with a friend who avidly reads restaurant reviews and her reading brought to light a delightful treat there, that I had not tried. The sliced rolls…these morsels of bread loveliness are fried or steamed (we tried fried, and I’m glad we did) and are served with a little bowl of condensed milk. Might sound weird…but it is so delightful I’d make the trip just for these. Also this time I got noodles in sauce and went for vegetarian which a little more my speed and enjoyed both the noodles and the sauce.

If you have been to Sha Lin share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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blue screen dreams…

The past month has been a busy one.  Major work milestones, establishing myself as a subject matter expert, and travelling extensively.  On top of that a major computer meltdown…I’m not a fan of PC’s, but the good news is my hard drive has finally been recovered, and computer will be returned soon.  So the void of posts will soon be fixed and gayle will be dishing again :)

“Gunga Din is not a, a swatch kind of movie”

Terramia Ristorante
98 Salem St., North End, Boston, MA, 02113
617.523.3112

 

Do you know that feeling when you are at a good restaurant with a close friend enjoying a bottle of fine wine with the vibrance and bustle of the restaurant around you yet the lighting is dim enough you feels like you could be the only people there? You’ll talk about anything and not worry that anyone might be listening, and the food experience is heightened by the ambiance. Terramia Ristorante is one of those places, nestled on a cobblestone street in the heart of Boston’s North End. I’d say the food was a solid 8. Rumor has it that it used to be even better, but that it has a new chef, although it is still quite good. My mushroom soup starter was something special, and the lobster fritters were yummy as well. The second course was a tomato tarte that was too heavy on the onions and too sweet for my palate. My veal was ginormous and very good. They don’t usually serve dessert, but offered us Tiramisu (reminds me of one of Tom Hanks’ jokes in sleepless in Seattle…. “Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is!”), however we had to pass because we were so full. I’m going to give it a Very Good.

 

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