Sunday, December 17, 2006

A review for Edmonton, of all things...

Last night, Jenn and I went to my office Christmas Party at Gabanna on Jasper Avenue and 111 st, just three doors down from the Sicilian Pasta Kitchen, across the street from "Who Cares" a shop that Jenn advises me is loaded with clothes for young professionals and is not at all trendoid.

Gabanna is what you might call "Asian and Western cuisine" but with an Oliver Square attitude. Upscale young professionals living cheek to jowel in condos call for equally upscale dining and drinking, and they get it in spades at Gabanna. The wine list, for example, includes Opus 1 ($300) and Chateau Muton Rothschild 98 ($450), and even the house red, Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz is passable. For a Thai joint, they did not have my favorite Thai beer - Singa.

For appetizers I sampled grilled portobello mushroom on tofu - wonderful, and green onion cakes - best I've had and came with a sun-dried tomato and goat cheese salsa. Main courses included my Thai Seafood Bowl, which was two huge scallops, two 6-8 count shrimp, a large piece of salmon, crab, deep fried banana fritters, and coconut black sticky rice in a mild red curry sauce, and Jenn's lemon chicken which was a whole breast pounded into a schnitzel-like cutlet with a wonderful lemon sauce seasonal grilled and stir-fried veg, and two "shrimp wontons" which were huge fresh shrimp deep fried in wonton wrappers. Jenn had a pomegranate martini or two, I had a Tiger Lager. Both our entrees, which were enough to choke a horse, came in under $20. The apps were $5-7, I don't have any idea what the desserts ran, but our Chocolate Truffle Cake was wonderful. The best part was that I didn't have to pay for it, which made me very happy. They also served wild boar salads, steak, wiener schnitzel, and a handful of other "western" dishes. If you want authentic Thai, don't go to this place, but if you want trendy upscale "fusion" (or rather an upscale re-interpretation of Chinese and Western cuisine) try this place out. It has great food, good value, and an atmosphere that was inoffensive to the senses. Everyone had a good time, and even the poor hostess who kept getting felt up by all the old guys in expensive suits waiting by the door was in good humor.

Gabbana gets 4 lemongrass martinis. I probably would have gone as high as 4 and a half, but it was too upscale for my tastes, not nearly dive-y enough.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More reviews

Two reviews since the last update. First is the Siam Thai located in the Cossack Inn. This place is in the location of what alledgedly used to be a serious dive. The stench of old cigarette smoke as soon as you walk in confirms it. That's a smell that won't come out without new carpet and a fresh coat of paint, which I don't expect to be forthcoming considering the decor as it stands now.

That decor is kinda groovy, actually. The room is essentially the same as when this was the "quiet bar" of the local dive hotel, decorated with a nautical theme of knots, ships in bottles, a brass diver's helmet, maps, and whatnot. Presiding over all the seafaring knicknackary and bric-a-brac is two portraits (the king and queen of Siam) and a statue (Bhudda). All in all, it makes for a strange atmosphere, but I have always said that you can't judge a restaurant by its tables.

The service is what you might call glacial, if pleasant. Two early middle aged Thai ladies seem to run the place, all smiles and slow movements. What eventually arrived at our table, however, was wonderful. I had the Garlic Pork lunch, which came with rice and two hand-wrapped spring rolls. Debbie had the Chili-Basil chicken with peppers, which was also great, and Dana had what may be the best Pad Thai I have ever had (not that I eat that much Pad Thai). The servings were huge (all the better to justify the $13 a plate for the lunch combos and $9 for what amounted to, essentially, a plate of noodles.

Taking into account the glacial service, odd atmosphere, bad smell, and relatively high price (but good value and very good quality) plus the fact that today I heard an unconfirmed rumour that the place may have an insect issue, I am only inclined to grant three and a half pints of Singha beer. They need to work on speed, smell, and infestation in order to drive that grade up.

Next, Bing's, a Spruce Grove and Stony Plain institution (having locations in both) serving Chinese and wastern cuisine. I had the Combo #3 for $9, which was a large helping of rice, Canadian style chow mien (which is to say chop suey with crunchy noodles on top) sweet&sour spare ribs and pineapple chicken balls. The rice was steamed, but it was good quality and not at all like the dry horrible muck from the Rainbow Palace. The chop suey was tasty, with obviously fresh ingredients, and freshly made. The sweet and sour sauce on the spareribs was not to my taste, but good enough for what it was, but the pineapple chicken was extremely good. Not nearly as good as my mom's, but very good for a restaurant. The service was fast, and we were done in a short time. Debbie's Chicken & Peppers looked good, as did Dana's Wor Wonton Soup.

The room itself could have been a smitty's or any of a hundred different chains that live beside major routes. I give no score on the atmosphere, and then, of course, all the staff are white, but the fact remains that this was an excellent example of "Chinese & Western cuisine" at its best, with good service and quality ingredients well prepared. The general level of busyness was a good indicator to me of good things to come. All in all, I give it Two pints of TsingTao, and Two pints of Great Western Brewing Pilsner. Chinese and Western well executed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

But now that the beer is done exploding...

It seems to have calmed down and now is bubbling away quite happily in my closet. The mess on the floor and in the blow-off jug smelled really good, so I expect this one to be quite drinkable. Another big milestone for me was my first genuine mediation. It clocked in at two and a half hours, and it meant that I didn't get home until after 7, which is kind of unusual, but as far as I could tell from the discussions that occurred and the feedback that I got, it was a success. An assortment of people getting in touch with their inner adults.

I'm still waiting on results for the final three categories I entered in the Gambrinus Challenge at Paddock Wood in Saskatoon, but that should come along soon enough. Those were what you might call small categories, where I would likely be amongst only a handful of competitors. I hold out high hopes for a medal.

In other news, Jenn is only three school days away from her final day of Student Teaching at the current placement. She has learned a great deal, and has really gotten interesting perspectives on teaching, but she is looking forward to student teaching in her major area, where she will feel more at home with the material.

We are both looking forward to Christmas like a couple of little kids. Jenn has apparently gone way overboard on buying me presents, and I am looking forward to getting a few days off to work on my thesis without keeling over from exhaustion. This Friday and Saturday are big Christmas days for me. On Friday there are two meet&greet style parties in the Grove for me to hang out with realtors and bankers and lawyers, and then on Saturday we have the company Christmas Party. Jenn will get to meet all my co-workers and I will get to eat Thai food on the company tab. It's a win win.

That's all for now, I just thought I would give an update since nobody I know who blogs has written anything substantial since the first of the month, and I though I would be part of the solution.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My hobby is messy.

Today I tried something a bit different with my beer. I pitched a yeast starter into my beer. That is to say that instead of putting a little yeast in my beer today, I put a little yeast in some unfermented beer two days ago in a gallon jug on top of my fridge, and put all that in my beer today. Then, because I was in a hurry, I put an airlock on the whole affair and went out to a friend's for supper for a few hours, secure in the knowledge that in the past it had taken at least overnight to get a vigorous fermentation going in my beer.

When we got home, the airlock had been blown completely off the carboy, and there was beer foaming out of the top.

Mopping at midnight is so much fun. On the up side, it seems like this beer will ferment out nicely, it sure is going hard.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What we did on Monday Night

On Monday night, we attended the annual Christmas Potluck of the Edmonton Homebrewer's Guild (my wife is so tolerant). At this meeting, I drank a great deal of very good beer, discovered that I had won a silver medal in at least one category in the Saskatoon Gambrinus Challenge (for the Wheat beer that was, in fact, up.) and We each won a prize in the 50/50.

I won a 650 ml bottle of beer (that is not otherwise available in Canada, thanks to those who hand-imported it) and Jenn won a 2 gig iPod Nano. Needless to say, there was no question that Jenn won the beer and I won the iPod. Why would you even think such a thing? That's dumb.

Speaking of contests, there are still 3 categories that I entered the Gambrinus in which have yet to be judged, so watch this space to see if there is anything else I will be winning.