#YEGNoodleSoups

#YEGNoodleSoups: Build Your Own @ Tao Garden

January 27, 2015

Edmonton is warming up and puddles lakes are forming all over the city, but the balmy weather hasn't stopped me from craving hot noodle soup. I recently heard about a restaurant in Chinatown offering bowls of noodle soup where you are in control of the soup base, noodles and ingredients that end up in your bowl.

Tao Garden - 9642 107 Avenue - Edmonton AB

Tao Garden is located right behind the Chinatown Lucky 97 Supermarket, somewhat hidden away from the busy traffic on 97 Street. I remember eating at the restaurant that previously occupied this space many years ago, but I have no recollection whatsoever of the food or overall experience. Regardless, the interior of Tao Garden is bright, clean, and televisions feature Chinese TV shows to watch as you sit and enjoy your meal.


Flat rice noodles with bamboo shoots and basa fillets in satay soup

The menu features hot pots, rice pots, and other smaller snack items like congee, dumplings, and curry fish balls, but what I was most interested in was the option to build your own bowl of noodle soup. When I'm in Hong Kong I love going to the hole-in-the-wall noodle shops that allow you to customize bowls to your own liking, so I'm glad that Tao Garden offers this type of dining.


Thick rice noodles with sliced beef brisket and tofu puffs in Little Sheep broth

For $9.50 you get to create your own bowl, which you customize to your liking on an individualized order sheet. The price includes your choice of one soup base, two toppings, your choice of noodles, and either hot coffee or milk tea. Each bowl also comes with green onion, cilantro, suey choy, sliced mushrooms, and bean curd skin, but if you're not a fan of any of those there's the option to exclude them from your bowl too. The menu is extensive and the combinations are endless! You can choose from 12 different soup bases, 35 different toppings, 8 types of noodles, and you can opt for additional toppings at $1.25 each. If you're looking for a cold drink, it's an additional $1.

Diane, Teresa and I stopped by for a late lunch last Saturday and we all enjoyed our bowls and agreed we would return in the future. The Little Sheep broth was full of flavour, and the satay soup came with an unexpected, but delicious, kick of heat. Toppings were fresh and the portion was very generous. At $9.50 a bowl with a drink included, you leave with a full tummy at an unbeatable price. The restaurant isn't anything fancy, but that's not why you should come to Tao Garden. Come for the fun build-your-own noodle adventure and to warm up with a bowl of noodle soup.

Tao Garden Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Edmonton is a cold, snowy city for the majority of the year. During the winter months I'm always looking for ways to warm up from the cold, and nothing is more comforting to me than a bowl of steaming noodle soup. I'm going to be highlighting some of my favourite noodle soups in the city, and I'd love for you to share yours with me so I can try them too. Follow along with #YEGNoodleSoups and let the fun begin!

Eyeliner

Makeup Monday: Draw the Line - Make Up For Ever Graphic Liner

January 19, 2015

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great weekend to just relax and recharge. Life has been crazy busy lately and it's been pretty difficult to find the time to just sit and unwind, but I'm hoping to be back into the swing of regular postings soon. :)

For the first Makeup Monday of 2015 I've got a brand new product from Make Up For Ever to share. If there's one thing in my daily makeup routine I can't live without, it's a good eyeliner. As a follow up to the release of the Artist Liner last year, Make Up For Ever has released two new jet black liners for you to add to your collection. Ink Liner is a matte black liquid liner designed for precision, while Graphic Liner delivers ultra-fine lines with ease using a felt pen tip.

In my makeup routine I typically alternate between gel and fine-tipped pen liners depending on the type of look I want to create. I love pen liners primarily due to their ease of use and precision, so I was immediately drawn to the Graphic Liner. Just look at that sharp tip!

Like other pen liners, the Graphic Liner is light and easy to grip. What's different about it though, is that you do not need to shake the pen in order to distribute the formula onto the felt tip. This makes it feel much lighter in your hand compared to other pen liners. The felt tip is also very stiff, unlike many other felt liners that feature a flexible tip.

After testing the formula for a couple weeks I have to say I have a love-hate relationship with the Graphic Liner. For an eyeliner, I love how pigmented and precise the lines can be. The liner doesn't run during or after application and can last a full day of wear without smudging. It's got a nice semi-gloss finish and the pen itself is lightweight and easy to use. What's there not to like? I'm not the biggest fan of the stiff felt tip which can be a bit irritating during application at specific angles. I personally like my pen liners to have a flexible tip so as to give a smooth application without feeling the pen drag across the eyelid. When the dragging occurs I find the lines are less precise and have the tendency to allow the ink to spread a bit outside of the drawn lines.

Aside from the stiff applicator, the Graphic Liner is a solid eyeliner I would definitely recommend. It's available through Make Up For Ever boutiques and Sephora across Canada for $29 CAD, which can seem pricey, but the wear time and pigment intensity is worth the investment in my books. I'm considering giving the Ink Liner a try, just because it does feature a flexible tip and a matte black finish. Has anyone tried the Ink Liner? Let me know if you have and your thoughts in the comments below!

*Disclosure: This product was sent for consideration of a review.

cooking

Sorrentinos: Back to Basics

January 18, 2015

After numerous meals over the holiday season my body needs to take a break from the heavy eating. Eating lighter meals without sacrificing flavour is what I aim for, and for me it usually involves getting pretty creative with salads. A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Sorrentino's to see what their solution was for post-holiday meals.

For the month of January the different restaurants under the Sorrentino's Restaurant Group offer what they call the 'Back to Basics' menu. Simple, traditional Italian recipes handed down from the Rago & Saccomano families are highlighted in this menu.


Chef Claudio Tentenni & Twyla Campbell working on pasta

Alongside a handful of food writers and bloggers I was given a preview of the Back to Basics menu inside of the Sorrentino's cooking class kitchen, but not without first putting in some effort. Under the watchful eyes of Chef Chris Hrynyk and Chef Claudio Tentenni, the group of us spent the afternoon practicing our kitchen skills to make fresh pasta, veal meatballs in cream sauce, and chicken piccata.


Veal meatballs

If there's one thing I learned during the cooking class, it's that quality of ingredients is paramount. In the Sorrentino's restaurants, almost everything is made from scratch and it is so important to use the freshest, highest-quality ingredients.


Pastas: Pappardelle, Tagliatelle, Tagliolini


Chef Chris Hrynyk

The hours flew by while everyone had an enjoyable afternoon in the kitchen. With a little sip of wine here, and a taste of cream sauce there, I gained some valuable skills in the kitchen and a greater appreciation for the amount of effort chefs put into their finished plates. While simple, the food we cooked was flavourful. It was refreshing to have a fresh meal compared to the rich, heavy meals of the holidays.

I never knew that Sorrentino's offered public cooking classes, so the afternoon spent cooking simple, traditional dishes was a pleasant surprise. The chefs were so patient and willing to share their knowledge, and of course eating the food we cooked ourselves was very rewarding. I had a wonderful time in the cooking class and would definitely return again in the future. If Italian food isn't up your alley, Sorrentino's offers many other themes to their cooking classes as well. February is focusing on Spanish cuisine, while March will feature Greek food. At $85 per person per class (or cheaper if you buy a multi package!), the cooking classes are very affordable compared to some of the options in the city. I've got my eye on their Friday date nights, where couples can register for a class at $170. Corporate team building classes are available as well, so they're able to accommodate a variety of groups. Classes sell out quick, so book soon!

If you're interested in tasting some dishes off the Back to Basics menu it will be available until January 31, 2015, in addition to the regular menu.

*Disclosure: as this was a media event, views expressed in this post are solely mine. I was not expected to feature this cooking class on my blog, nor obligated to do so. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

outfit

Bundle Up: Faux Fur Parka

January 11, 2015


Zara Parka (on sale!) | F21 Sweater | American Apparel Leggings | Massimo Booties (similar)
Joe Fresh Beanie (similar)| Aritzia Fulton Mittens | Coach & Delilah K Rings

I often get asked this question: How do you stay warm in the Edmonton winter?! The answer: layers & my trusty parka. During the holiday season I came across this parka from Zara and it was basically love at first sight! I loved the army style it had and how it contrasted against the luxe gold details. It's also not your typical puffy parka either, making it stand out against the rest of the options in store. The fur on the hood is fluffy and full, and the material is water resistant. As a bonus, there's an inner lining that can unzip so that it can easily be transitioned into a lighter jacket for Spring & Fall. Dear designers at Zara: thanks for being geniuses. Love, Andrea.

Edmonton food

Dogs & KFC: IT' DOG

January 09, 2015

Back in December the spot previously occupied by Badass Jack's in the university area got new signage promising hot dogs and deep fried chicken. With hopes for a new Korean fried chicken (KFC) place, I eagerly awaited their opening.

IT' DOG - 8621 109 Street - Edmonton AB

Edmonton's solution to the lack of Asian-inspired hot dogs has finally arrived, and they're serving up some crispy deep fried chicken too! IT' DOG opened up this past Tuesday and every time I've driven by, the little fast-food spot has been fairly busy. I stopped by on Wednesday evening for a quick bite and was greeted by a friendly cashier, the sizzling sounds from the deep fryer, and the cooks chatting to one another in Korean. The restaurant is small, accommodating 15 at most, but sitting down for a meal is quick, and many orders are taken to go.

The menu is easy to read and split into four different sections: hot dogs, chicken, poutine and drinks. The hot dogs here are 100% beef, and there are 11 different variations of a Korean-style hot dog served on a pretzel bun. If you're not the adventurous type, they offer a plain hot dog too. I chose to try the IT' hot dog ($10), where the grilled beef sausage was topped with bulgogi, tempura shrimp, mushrooms, caramelized onions, green onion, mozzarella and sweet wasabi mayo. The toppings were generous, as each bite allowed me to taste a bit of everything. I found that most of the toppings gave off sweet flavours (bulgogi, onions, mayo), while the saltiness came from the hot dog itself. Every topping had a different texture to it and I actually quite enjoyed the combination. The pretzel bun was soft and warm which, combined with the abundance of ingredients, made the hot dog very filling.

The chicken menu has four choices: plain fried chicken, sweet and spicy, sweet mustard or soy garlic in 5 or 10 piece sizes. We ordered 5 pieces of the Sweet & Spicy Chicken ($13) with the sauce on the side to avoid having to eat soggy chicken, and the kitchen had no problem with the request. The chicken came out piping hot (seriously, I just about burned myself!), and the golden skin looked promising. The KFC here is the real deal! Biting through the thin, crispy skin revealed tender and moist chicken beneath. The chicken by itself was seasoned well enough for my liking, but the sweet and spicy was a great addition too. The sauce isn't overly thick and is more sweet than spicy. I would have enjoyed more heat from the sauce, but overall IT' DOG has some pretty delicious KFC.

If you've got a hankering for some fun Korean style hot dogs or some juicy deep fried chicken, get yourself to IT' DOG soon! They're open at 11:00 AM daily and are available late night Sunday - Thursday until 12:00 AM, and until 3:00 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Order a nice cold beer to go with your chicken, or order some chicken to sober up, depending on the time that you visit. Full menu & details available on their Facebook page.

It' Dog on Urbanspoon

brunch

First of 2015: Brunch at Cafe Blackbird

January 07, 2015

The new year started with a bang for me in terms of food! After a late night of ringing in the new year with friends, my boyfriend and I did not want to have to make our own food the morning after. There aren't too many brunch spots in Edmonton, and most of the ones in Edmonton weren't open on New Years Day. Luckily one of the newest cafes came to our rescue.

Cafe Blackbird - 9640 142 Street - Edmonton AB

Cafe Blackbird opened its doors at the beginning of October and is located conveniently along 142 Street in the heart of Crestwood right by Delux Burger Bar, Cobs Bread and Careit Urban Deli. I stopped by once before for drink to go, and knew I had to return to try out their brunch and lunch options. Their New Years 'All Day Hangover Brunch' fit the bill, so off we were on Thursday morning to meet a friend for brunch.

My morning started off with a Vanilla Latte ($4.50) made with beans roasted by Edmonton's own Iconoclast Coffee. The latte had great flavour and definitely woke me up. It was nice to know that high quality, locally roasted coffee is the choice at Cafe Blackbird, since it's so important to support local producers! (On a side note - YEG Coffee Week is coming March 7th-15th, and Cafe Blackbird is participating! Details to come.)

The main feature on the Hangover Brunch menu was a Loaded Waffle Panini ($17) which featured two waffles with eggs, bacon and cheese, served with maple syrup, brunch potatoes and fruit. My boyfriend and I are known to visit District Coffee Co. on the weekends for their breakfast waffle sandwiches, so this waffle panini was calling our names. When the dish arrived at the table we couldn't wait to dig in. The waffle panini tasted just like we would have imagined, savoury from the gooey cheese and bacon, and slightly sweet with the addition of maple syrup. The portion size was very generous (read: TWO whole giant waffles!) and I feel two people could have shared this one.

For myself I wanted to try the Eggs Benedict ($16) which is my typical go-to on brunch menus. The version at Blackbird is two poached eggs on ham, with hollandaise and served on top of Cobs Bread sourdough with a side of brunch potatoes. The eggs were poached beautifully with soft whites and an oozing yolk, and I liked the kick of heat to the hollandaise. The use of sourdough as the base for the dish was novel choice, but I found it was very difficult to cut through. With a bit of effort I was able to cut through and the payoff was some fresh, chewy sourdough, but I would prefer the traditional English muffin. The brunch potatoes served with our dishes were fluffy and flavourful, making them a filling side for both plates.

Cafe Blackbird is a great spot in the Crestwood community and I'm sure the local residents are loving it! They offer comforting cafe fare, and support local producers at the same time. Brunch is available on weekends, and tapas are available in the evenings from 5pm til close. They even have some wines for you to indulge in! I'd love to have a locally owned cafe like this near my home - those of you in the west end are lucky.

Café Blackbird on Urbanspoon

#YEGNoodleSoups

#YEGNoodleSoups: Pho Tau Bay

January 03, 2015

In all the years that I've had this blog I've never once featured my go-to spot for pho here in Edmonton. Shocking, right? There's no better time than now with the #YEGNoodleSoups series! And since Edmonton is in the middle of a deep freeze, a hot bowl of pho is the perfect remedy for cold hands and feet!

Tau Bay Restaurant - 10660 98 Street NW - Edmonton AB

When I've got a hankering for a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup Tau Bay is the spot that I head to first. My first visit was back in my junior high days when a girlfriend of mine introduced me to it, and memories of that meal still come back to me each time I visit. When you walk into the restaurant the first thing that hits you is the smell of the fragrant broth used in each bowl of their noodle soup. Tau Bay Restaurant serves only variations of pho noodle soup (and drinks) and nothing else - they've focused on their one specialty and execute it well every time.

Tau Bay Restaurant has a huge following in this city, and I remember the days when www.istaubayopen.com was a real website started by a local Tau Bay enthusiast. The site was made because Tau Bay is known to close randomly from time to time for family vacations back to Vietnam or just breaks for the whole restaurant staff. They don't run during the typical restaurant hours either, so you may anticipate a bowl of their noodle soup and become disappointed when you show up to a closed restaurant.

The pho here comes in twenty different variations, all different depending on combinations of meat in the bowl. Each bowl comes in a medium ($7.50) or large ($8.50) size garnished with cilantro, green onion and onion slices, served with a plate of bean sprouts, lime wedges, Thai basil and Thai red chilies. It's the standard fixins you get with your pho, and the pricing is on par with other Vietnamese restaurants in Chinatown.

What I find sets Tau Bay apart from the rest is the broth. The broth is fragrant, has a meaty depth to it and has just the right amount of fat that makes it smooth but not overly oily. There is a delicate sweetness to the broth that I really enjoy and the combination of herbs they use just suits my palate. The rice noodles are cooked to a nice al dente consistency and every bite is great down to the very last drop of soup. The staff are friendly, and like many other restaurants, you don't get much service. But for a restaurant where I just want to stop by to warm up quick with a bowl of noodle soup, Tau Bay Restaurant fits the bill.

King Noodle House is another Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown loved by Edmontonians, and their pho is a close second for me. Where is your go-to pho place? Let me know and I would love to try it out!

Tau Bay Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Edmonton is a cold, snowy city for the majority of the year. During the winter months I'm always looking for ways to warm up from the cold, and nothing is more comforting to me than a bowl of steaming noodle soup. I'm going to be highlighting some of my favourite noodle soups in the city, and I'd love for you to share yours with me so I can try them too. Follow along with #YEGNoodleSoups and let the fun begin!

Year in Review

2014: Looking Back & Thinking Ahead

January 01, 2015

As 2014 has come to a close, I wanted to take a look back on this past year to reflect and see how far I've come, not only in my life as a blogger but as a person as a whole.

2014 was a really fun year in blogging for me. I wrote 43 restaurant reviews, met some pretty incredible people, had fun promoting local food events, and was nominated a second time for a Yeggie award. Without my readers these opportunities would not exist for me, and I only have you to thank! According to my blog statistics, my top 5 posts of 2014 were as follows:
  1. Kenko Japanese Cuisine Review
  2. Abstract Prints on the Promenade
  3. Square One Wye Road Review
  4. Tieless Tuesdays at La Ronde
  5. Host Edmonton 2014 Preview
This tells me two things: you guys love food, and love that I take on the calories for you! Jokes aside, it has been a year where the food scene has seen significant growth in support of local producers, and sustainability has become an important factor that influences where people choose to eat. I can't wait to see how things progress in the upcoming year.

On a more personal note, you may have noticed that I have been posting less frequently - largely due to the fact that this past year has been incredibly busy for me. This summer I completed my final practicum, attained my second university degree, wrote and passed my licensing exam, and scored my dream job in the healthcare field. Adjusting to a new job (not to mention new lifestyle!) while juggling family, relationships, and blogging has been challenging to say the least.

I've learned to become more responsible and (try to) manage my time better, and I hope to work towards posting as frequently as I used to. I will be doing my best to remain on a consistent posting schedule, and you can hold me to it! Thanks for sticking it out with me on this journey and for your continued support and readership. I couldn't be where I am today without you!

Here's to continued personal growth and gaining more calories from delicious eats in the year ahead.
Hope your 2015 is full of joy, good health and happiness.
May it be your best year yet!

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