Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Incredible eats at the Wooden Monkey

I've been to the Wooden Monkey a few times, but it's just been for lunch or an early supper - I've never been for dinner.  A few weeks ago I met some friends for a late dinner where I was wowed by my meal.  Since we were going out later, I didn't want to eat too big of a meal.

If I only knew what I was getting into!  Since 'eating light' was the name of the game, I decided to go with the Nova Scotian seafood chowder.  Of course, that plan was foiled when my friend suggested that we split some nachos as an appetizer.  Well, we were really hungry, so I quickly obliged.  

Our nachos arrived and they were huge - not to mention delicious. And I hoped they would be, since at $17, they're likely the most expensive in the city.  The organic blue corn chips were topped with a mix of jalapenos, black olives, red and green peppers, white cheddar, Mozzarella cheese and served with salsa and sour cream.  Unfortunately, we didn't look at the price tag prior to ordering or else we may not have enjoyed them quite as much!  At this point though, they're my favorite ones in the city.

I can't stop myself from eating these things; they're delicious.  Gooey cheese, salty blue corn tortilla chips with an earthy note from the blue cheese and a fantastic (and likely organic) tomato salsa - we polished the plate in no time flat.  And then, my chowder arrived and I thought to myself, "how the hell am I gonna finish THIS."  But... you know me, I found a way!  The chowder was tomato-based (my favourite kind) and was chock full of fish:  chowder with 5 oz. of haddock, scallops, lobster, mussels, and potatoes.  Served with wedges of spelt baguette, this could easily have been enough to fill me up.

This was a great night filled with great food and good company.  I'm a pretty big fan of the Wooden Monkey for vegetarian fare or otherwise.  It often gets pegged as the vegetarian resto of choice in this town, but this spot has great stuff for meatatarians too!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A few bites at The Bycicle Thief

My first visit to The Bycicle Theif was within the first two weeks of it being open.  We were so excited.  I met my good friend at about 8 pm and the place was blocked.  We had a reservation, but the table wasn't quite ready so we sat at the bar and sipped our cocktails while we waited for our spot to open up.

And what better thing to do while you wait than to sip a cocktail?  My first bevy was a Rosemary Pink Diamond Fizz; a combo of some of my favorite ingredients.  I love a good herb-y drink and this one had flavour in spades. With Hendrick's Gin, grapefruit juice and rosemary as a base, the drink was topped off with Prosecco for a bit of bite and fizz.

There was a bit of a trend with our dinners; we both ordered two first plates:  a seafood appetizer and a salad.  My friend ordered the tuna tartare to start.  A mix of tuna, avocado, cucumber spaghetti and wasabi cream.  It was a lovely dish and the flavours came together nicely; soft, succulent tuna, piquant wasabi, cool and crunchy cucumber and creamy avocado provided great texture contrast.

I went with the crab salad; delicate crab meat with a decadent cream sauce served with dressed greens, two shrimp and a lobster claw.  It was a bit of an odd experience as it took the kitchen a couple tries to produce a good shrimp - the first two were tough and leathery, but once they served them warm and freshly poached, they were delicious.

My friend is one of those odd peopl who love bitter greens and who can never resist a radicchio salad.  This one was radicchio and rucola greens, dressed in a warm garlic pancetta dressing, and tossed with toasted pinenuts and shards of salty, nutty parmigiano. It certainly changed my opinion of a radicchio salad, and might enourage me to try one in the future!

My salad though, was absolutely incredible - and it wasn't even as though the ingredients were gourmet.  They were simple and fresh, but each flavour complimented one another perfectly: peppery Arugula, rich, toasted hazlenut, tangy goat cheese and sweet, tender fig.

Although I was a little miffed about having to send my shrimp dish back, twice, I did really enjoy my meal.  There are some incredible cocktails on The BT's list, and an enomatic machine which offers fresh wines by the glass.  I'm looking forward to another night out at the BT soon, so that I can try an entree...and maybe a little dessert! :0

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sun's out at the Foggy Goggle

And...it's fall.  How quickly did that happen?  I went from frolicking in my flip flops and denim cut-offs to having to resort to my space heater at work to take away the chill.  Yes, autumn is upon us, and that means comfort food; thick soups, hearty stews, red wine and no more patios. :( 

But last week, when my friend and I ate on the patio at the Foggy Goggle, there was nothin' but sunshine-y skies and a warm summer breeze.  It was one of those evenings where beer was $2 off and we had nothin but time.  My friend ordered the Man Salad - and that's exactly what it was: a 6 oz. steak cooked med-rare, served on a bed of organic greens with toasted almonds, sun dried cranberries, crumbled blue cheese and red onion drizzled in a Balsamic vinaigrette.  

It's not often that we share the same food cravings, and I've never, ever seen him order a salad in a resto, but this one turned the tables on the 'usual' salad.  The flavour combos were excellent and the textures intriguing.  The steak was juicy and had tons of flavour; the almonds and red onion provided crunch, while the sweet chewy cranberries and creamy, blue cheese were 'besties' in this dish with the tart flavour playing off the pungent one.
While he dove into his vibrant plate, I had the Marinara mussels; a pound of mussels in a spicy marinara with tomatoes, onion and jalapeno.  They were OK - not the best mussels I've had in this city, but certainly not the worst either.  i think that I was hoping for a thicker sauce; which it wasn't.  Still, I ate the whole dish as the shellfish themselves were plump and moist.
I'm sad to see the summer end and to have to head back indoors to dine; one of my favourite summer activities - like half of the people in this town- is to drink an icy cold beer on a patio.  I suppose that's life though, the seasons come and go, and so too must our eating and drinking habits.  I guess I should look on the bright side: now I can sit at the bar and drink red wine/hot buttered rum/Dark n' Stormys/Bailey's/etc. to my heart's content!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Early dinner at The Bicycle Thief

A few days ago I got one of those texts that brings a smile to my face.  A good friend of mine who used to live in Halifax was back in town for one night only. She always seems to come on a Wednesday too; generally Onyx is our stop of choice.  This time, however, she was interested in trying something new, something “mad tasty”. Since like me, she was a big fan of Bish, I suggested that I introduce her to the Bicycle Thief.

We met at 5:30; she had a flight to catch at 8.  The early bird gets the worm, so we got a nice spot on the patio.  We chatted for 20 minutes or so before even opening our menus, but once the server came by for the 3rd time we decided to stop being so annoying and placed an order: Propeller Bitter for her, and a Montes Alpha Chardonnay since I was planning on the corn and lobster chowder.  My friend went for the Lobster ravioli.

Her ravioli were lovely – two big pieces, stuffed full of lobster in a rich sauce.  There was also a huge lobster claw on the plate.  And, in the grand theme of lobster, my chowder was also delicious.  With a good amount of lobster meat, there were sweet corn kernels, smoked bacon and chunks of potato that absorbed the flavour of the broth.

Handmade Ravioloni stuffed w/ Lobster, mascarpone, chives, 
Parmigiano & crispy breadcrumbs

Lobster and Sweet Corn chowder w/ double smoked bacon 

I was too full for dessert, but my friend has a weakness for lemon, so she chose a slice of the lemon-meringue pie.   I can't quite remember all the details, but I'm pretty sure the crust was made with brown sugar, giving it a deeper flavour that contrasted well with the tart lemon. Ever since a piece about tea came out in a local weekly newspaper, I’ve been a bit of a coffee snob – only going for the best.  Since I was feeling coffee deprived, I ordered a cup of the Bicycle Thief’s Illy coffee and it was just what the doctor ordered, perking me up for a long night of studying French wines.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tasty Indian fare at the Taj Mahal

Last week a TeamBuy ticket was burning a hole in my wallet. We had $35 bucks to the Taj Mahal and we were dying to use it. I love Indian food. There’s just something so satisfying about white rice being soaked up by a warm, earthy sauce flavoured with baking spices like cinnamon and cardamom and with a bit of heat from some chilies. I also love a good piece of naan bread to sop up the often rich and creamy sauces.

At about 6:30pm we made our way down and took a nice spot on the patio. After MUCH consideration my friend finally made his decision. Normally it’s me in this predicament, so I was quite happy to sit back and gloat in my being prepared – for once.

Another thing that I appreciate about Indian cuisine is that, since every dish is so flavourful on it’s own, I don’t feel as though I need any meat. The sauces are generally full of cream or butter, so I sometimes find the meaty flavour overkill.
With that in mind, I ordered a signature vegetarian dish; the Subz Jalfrezi ($15), which consisted of mixed vegetables, cashews and cheese cubes cooked in a Korma sauce with spices and cream.  This was absolutely delicious!  The sauce was incredible in it being both sweet but with a hint of spice. There was a tonne of vegetables and it was topped with parsley and red pepper which made for a lovely presentation.

My friend chose an Indian classic; lamb Rogan Josh.  Here, the lamb is cooked in a thick onion and tomato sauce with spices, fennel, saffron, bay leaves and yogurt.  It was really tasty and provided a good amount of heat.  I knew that Indian food is quite pricey, but he was less than impressed when his $18 dish came with only about 4 chunks of lamb.  The serving dish itself is small; about 5 in. in diameter. Adding salt to the wound, it wasn’t even very good – verging on overcooked.

 I liked the contrast in that my sauce was a heavier, creamy sauce, while his was thinner and more intense.  
We also get two orders of naan bread ($3) which proves to be way too much. I’m a little annoyed as when I checked with the server she motioned that each order was about the size of a side plate, which clearly wasn’t the case – one would have been plenty.

 I have to say that, though the food was delicious, I was kinda turned off by our server and the amount of additional items she was trying to push on us. Up selling is ok, obviously great for a server’s sales and tips, but I found her technique to be way too pushy.  I went home with a decadent doggy bag that night.  As if this meal wasn't filling enough, we topped the evening off with ice cream on the waterfront! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Moveable Feast

Last weekend I was on vacation; this week, I am not.  :-(  However, while the timing was right, I took advantage and loved every minute of it. After a long Friday of trotting around in dt Hali, we decided that the time was right for oyster Happy Hour. The Five Fishermen Grill hosts a HH everyday from 4:30 - 6:30 featuring a variety of delicious oysters and generously-priced drinks.  We settled in at a table on the patio and waited for our meal: an order of grilled fish tacos, a dozen oysters with all the accouterments and two oyster shooters.

The shooters arrived first.  A mini-Cesar in a glass, they were (a touch too) spicy for me and left me reaching for the bread basket - a delicious selection from Julien's Bakery.  The oyster inside though, was delicious and went down just as easily as those in their shells.  While I enjoyed my bubbly and Stutz Hard Cider, my friend chose a draft beer, remarking on how good the HH prices were.

The tacos were lovely.  The rustic tortilla was house-made and made me realize how fabricated store-bought corn tortillas really taste.  The fish was flaky, lightly grilled and served with guacamole and a tangy salsa.  When our oysters arrived we were delighted at the selection of big 'uns and little guys.  I was more partial to the smaller Malpeques, so my friend and I swapped plates.  On the side, 5Fish serves a mix of wasabi mayo, horseradish sauce and a mignonette-type sauce plus the cutest mini bottles of Tabasco you've ever seen!
With a taste for sea-salty goodness, I was on a role with seafood.  I wanted mussels for dinner, so we packed up and headed further dt to Brussels Restaurant and Brasserie on Grafton St.  I ordered a pot of the Provencal, tossed in a mix of tomato, garlic and basil ($8.95),  while my friend ordered the Brussels burger; a AAA burger with aioli, smoked Gouda and caramelized onions ($10.95).  Since he ordered a side garden with his burger, s I clearly had to get an order of fries and mayo ($3.95) to go along with the meal.  

My dish was pretty good; the mussels were a nice size and the tomato sauce was just thick enough to actually stick to the little suckers.  The fries were awesome with a good mix of big, tender fries and the little crispy bits that I've come to love.  My friend's burger good too; juicy and flavourfu, and with tasty toppings.  
Mussels, fries and beer are one of my all-time favorite meals, so you can imagine how I felt when Brussels opened a few years ago.  You can also imagine how I felt when I couldn't eat at least seven mussels because they were damaged or hadn't opened. I've been noticing a trend on that front in Halifax restos lately; I often have to chuck 7-10 mussels out of a 1-pound order.  If chefs/cooks, etc.  would simply throw in an extra 3-4, it might cost them a bit more, yes, but they would have a satisfied customer...as opposed to one that's pissed off about throwing half her meal in the trash...