Monday, 17 February 2014

European Charm at Sabor Divino

A friend of ours chose to have his wedding ceremony and reception at Sabor Divino in downtown Edmonton this winter. We were not entirely sure what to except for this late-afternoon Sunday wedding event. However, knowing my friend, it was absolutely no surprise that the wedding was perfect.

I know I said that this blog is all about food, but I wanted to tell you a little bit about this restaurant as a wedding venue as well. We seem to be in that age group where we are going to weddings constantly, sometimes back-to-back-to-back weekends. But this was the first wedding we have attended that was exclusively in a restaurant!

The restaurant portion upstairs was re-arranged to set up chairs and an aisle for the beautiful bride to walk down. It was intimate and cozy, especially with the wood beams and pillars. The small, lower level bar area was used to serve coffee/tea/hot chocolate before the ceremony to warm everyone up from the cold. It then served as a cocktail area for after the ceremony. 

Following the ceremony, the staff quickly converted the upstairs into 9 (I think) tables plus a head table for the bride and groom, a cake/cupcake table, and a dance floor! It was a relatively small and intimate wedding - I would guess no more than 45ish attendees. So, onto the food!

We started with a salad of mixed greens and tomatoes. It was fine, if slightly overdressed and lacking any sort of texture. The main course was a choice of beef, chicken, or salad. We had the chicken and beef. The chicken was perfectly cooked and juicy, well seasoned in a mustard sauce. The beef was a good temperature, perhaps slightly closer to medium than medium rare. I found the beef could have used a pinch or two of salt. However, the cheesecake we had for dessert was so light and creamy and smooth that it made up for any shortcomings in the previous two courses!

The staff were fantastic and kept the courses moving, everything was served hot from the kitchen, and wine glasses stayed filled. So if you are looking for an interesting and intimate venue for a smaller wedding with good food, check out Sabor Divino! I look forward to trying their regular restaurant menu and tapas bar soon. The food may not have been the star of the show that night, but who can compete with such a perfect happy couple anyway!


Sabor Divino
10220-103 St. Edmonton

Sabor Divino on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bohemian Brunch at Culina Mill Creek

A few weeks ago I told you all how much I love brunch and how that love is largely based on dishes smothered in hollandaise sauce.

But of course the other reason I love brunch so much is because it's such a great opportunity for a leisurely meal to catch up with friends. There's something that sets brunch apart from a lunch or a dinner. Maybe it's the coffee, maybe it's the 11am ish time that brunch usually happens, but it really is perfect for catching up. So, with friends in town from Calgary that we do not see nearly enough of, we headed to Culina Mill Creek on a cold Sunday morning.

Culina Mill Creek professes to be a "friendly neighbourhood bistro. Culina proudly serves ethnic-inspired comfort food from local sources in an intimate, bohemian atmosphere." The restaurant is tiny; reservations are an absolute must! The food is varied and delicious, and the decor certainly embodies bohemia without being over the top or garrish.

I've had many brunches and dinners at Culina, and the food never disappoints. They have an excellent wine selection for dinner, and delicious mimosas for brunch. When I say the menu is varied, I mean it. Perogies and kielbasa share menu space with huevos rancheros and a tofu and chickpea scramble. 

Of course, I went with the eggs benedict (Eggs benedict: choice of smoked bacon or maple sage sausage & two poached eggs on sweet potato toast with hollandaise & brunch potatoes; $17). The eggs were perfectly poached, the bacon was crisp without being overcooked, and the hollandaise was creamy perfection.  Although the sweet potato toast doesn't really add a lot in terms of flavour. But those brunch potatoes! Let's just take a minute to discuss how deliciously seasoned these potatoes were. The skin was crispy, little bits of shredded cheese were studded throughout, and the green onions added tang. I could see how they might be a little too salty for some palates, but for me they were perfect. My friend had the same thing and really enjoyed his benny's, too.

The boyfriend ordered the perogies and kielbasa (Cheddar-scrambled eggs: potato onion perogy, kielbasa, crème fraîche, & Dijon mustard; $15). Sometimes I think he chooses his brunch dishes based on what will have the most pork product on it, whether it is bacon, sausage, or ham. Regardless, he was thrilled with his plate. I sampled one of the perogies and it was wonderful. Between the eggs, perogies, and sausage, he was very satisfied. Of course, it helped that there were some brunch potatoes left on my plate for him as well. 

Finally, our other friend was feeling like plain old eggs and bacon with none of the fancy stuff. He asked for scrambled eggs and a side of bacon (Side of smoked bacon or braised bacon; $8). What he got surprised us all - it was closer to a couple pounds of bacon cooked down and served in a very large bowl. Between the four of us the bacon went unfinished! With the boyfriend around, that really is an impressive feat.

I absolutely adore the lattes at Culina (Latte or cappucino;  $4.5). I don't know what they use for beans, but they are always wonderful. The boyfriend is obsessed with the french press coffee (French press coffee for two;  $7) and always orders it for himself, not to share.

The menu at Culina is super inventive, and the service is always attentive. Next time, I want to try the apple fritters (Whisky-soaked apple fritters w. aged white cheddar, chicken sausage, & ginger maple syrup; $16). How amazing does that sound? Apple pie and cheddar cheese is pretty much the best combination imaginable so add in some whiskey, and I'm down.

This is a fantastic spot for any meal of the day and the prices are fairly consistent with other like-minded restaurants around Edmonton. They have just recently started serving lunch as well! I would highly recommend checking out this cute neighbourhood restaurant serving world-class food.


Culina Mill Creek

9914 89 Avenue, Edmonton

Culina Mill Creek on Urbanspoon 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Delicious Thai Curry at Viphalay

Throughout most of law school, I worked in a nondescript building on the south end of downtown. We watched with moderate interest as a nearby restaurant in an old house went through a couple iterations. Previously a mediocre Indian restaurant, this house is now the home to Viphalay Laos & Thai Restaurant, pronounced Vee-pah-lay (I asked the owner once). You'll recognize it by the yellow awnings on the front of the house.

I have lost count of the number of times I have eaten there in the last few years, whether for a quick lunch, a group dinner, or date night. The food never disappoints and the service is always friendly and efficient.

Clockwise from top left: penang curry with seafood, coconut rice,
drunken noodles with chicken, and pad thai

Lunch is always a speedy affair; they have a shortened menu and make it possible to be in and out in under an hour. Not to worry, the ever-popular pad thai is one of the staple items on the lunch menu. 

Check out the veggies!
Personally, I always gravitate toward the drunken noodles (Sober up your drunken taste buds with an intense blast of spice, pan fried egg noodles and an assortment of broccoli, zuccini, cauliflower and bell peppers, chicken $14). Reminiscent of ichiban  noodles generously seasoned with lots of spicy chili, lots of tender chicken, and fresh, colourful vegetables, this dish is a winner. They use what I would consider to be "real" vegetables (not just filler): red peppers, green peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower. All of which are perfectly cooked to retain their crunch.

The not-dark-enough
Lychee juice and
pinot grigio
I should also add that Viphalay has a fantastic pinot grigio at a good price ($6/glass, $28/bottle). This always makes my choices easy!

The boyfriend's only complaint about Viphalay is that they don't carry a dark enough beer for him. My sister opted for the lychee juice and said it was excellent and refreshing.

We started with an order of the pork spring rolls (nice crispy golden spring rolls, your choice of pork or vegetarian, $8), which I think are some of the best in the city. They arrive at the table steaming hot, fresh out of the fryer. In fact, they are so hot you should probably give them a minute or two to cool down before digging in. The spring rolls are served with a thai chili sauce and the filling includes pork, julienned carrots, and glass noodles. 

Hot and crispy pork spring rolls

On other occasions I have also tried the thai samosas (crispy potato Thai samosa stuffed with chicken, peas, carrots, onions and spiced with Yellow curry, $10), and the Gah Yaw Kaow, also known as salad rolls (fresh rice paper wraps with grilled chicken, shrimp and egg rolled with lettuce, carrots, vermicelli noodles and basil). The salad rolls are fresh and satisfying!

Pad Thai

But I digress - back to our Saturday night dinner! My sister ordered the pad thai (made with Thai rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, egg, tofu, and fresh bean sprouts wok tossed to perfection and sprinkled chopped peanuts, $15). This being her first time at Viphalay, she said this was the best pad thai she has ever had.

The boyfriend and I shared my usual, the drunken noodles with chicken, an order of penang curry with seafood (most popular curry in Thailand made with blends of similar spices from our red curry but with a slightly milder and sweeter taste enhanced with red peppers and shredded lime leaves, seafood $16) and a medium coconut rice (sweet and fragrant coconut cream infused rice, $5 for two). 

Drunken noodles with chicken

The coconut rice is heavenly. It's light and fluffy and just slightly sweet from the subtle coconut. Absolutely perfect to pair with a spicy curry.

Penang curry with seafood and medium coconut rice
(plus the blue hue from the "open sign" in the window
behind our table)
The penang curry is also a delight for the tastebuds. The seafood version full of tender and flaky white fish, perfectly cooked mussels removed from their shells, succulent shrimp, mini scallops, and soft octopus. There really is no way to describe the penang curry other than to say, you gotta try this! It's so well balanced, moderately spicy, and so robust. It's also studded with lots of red peppers that are perfectly cooked to retain their crunch. 

I've also had their red and green curries and they are both excellent.

After making our way through everything, there was lots left to take home. However, we couldn't resist taking a look at the dessert menu. I've had the banana envelopes before and they are amazing. My sister was sorely tempted by the mango sticky rice. We were just too full to do it, so we made the very difficult decision to skip dessert this time around.

If you're looking for delicious thai food in downtown Edmonton, Viphalay is a must! 

We arrived around 8pm with no reservation and the restaurant was packed. If you are able to plan far enough in advance to make a reservation, I definitely recommend doing so. Nothing would be more disappointing than showing up and not being able to get a table for those spring rolls and coconut rice!


Viphalay Laos & Thai Restaurant

10523 99 Ave Edmonton 
(780) 756 - 8188 

Viphalay Laos and Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

I may complain about the weather in Edmonton a lot, and justifiably so as it is currently -27 degrees celsius with the windchill. The forecast is not expected to improve anytime soon. In fact, it's supposed to head down toward -35 degrees celsius with the windchill tonight. So yeah, it's cold.

Check out this forecast for the next 24 hours:

Wed. Overnight
Feels like -33
P.O.P: 10%
Wind SW 10 km/h
Wind gust -
Humidity 70%
Thurs. Morning
Feels like -36
P.O.P: 0%
Wind W 20 km/h
Wind gust 36 km/h
Humidity 83%

However, the one saving grace of the frigid temperatures in this city for nearly 8 months of the year is that I can chill my baking in record time. This is kind of a big deal for me as I am pretty much the world's most impatient person. There's a reason I love online shopping so much; you can avoid standing in line! Of course, then you have to wait for the item to be shipped. But it's kind of like getting a Christmas present delivered to the office every time a new purchase arrives

Anyway, when I was making these brownies, I definitely put them outside to speed up the cooling time so that I could dig into the delicious chocolate/cookie dough combination faster. These brownies are definitely decadent and will satisfy any sugar craving (and then some)! It combines rich, fudgy chocolate brownies with my favorite eggless cookie dough.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies


For the brownie layer...
(adapted from Recipe Girl)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks

For the cookie dough layer....
(from Kevin and Amanda)
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips


Tip: You're going to make your brownies first, allow them to cool, then add your cookie dough layer on top. Meaning you will have to wait a couple hours before you can eat these.

The Brownies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line your best brownie pan with parchment paper, leaving some coming up the sides to make it easy to get your brownies out of the pan later.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate chips together, stirring until smooth. Make sure no moisture gets into the bowl. I’m all about convenience so I actually placed my glass kitchenaid mixer bowl over top of a pot of simmering water. Then I could just take it off the heat and straight into my mixer.

With the whisk attachment (or by hand), whisk in the brown and white sugar. Add your eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

Slowly add in the flour on low speed until just incorporated and add the dark chocolate chunks. Scrape the brownie batter into your pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until cooked through. Allow the brownies to cool before adding the cookie dough layer.

Cookie Dough

Cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the milk and vanilla on low speed until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and salt until just incorporated and stir add the mini chocolate chips. 

Finally... the assembly process!

Scoop the cookie dough onto the top of the brownies and spread onto the brownie layer. I used an offset spatula to spread the cookie dough and sprayed it with non-stick spray so that the cookie dough stayed in place. Spread the cookie dough on top in a nice, even layer. If you care about appearance and can resist shoving these bad boys right into you mouth, sprinkle some additional chocolate chips.

You can make your life easier by chilling the brownies before slicing them. As you can tell from the moisture on top of my brownies, I don’t have that kind of will power to sit and wait. 

I dare you not to eat three of these in one sitting.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Recipe: Braised Pork Ragu with Homemade Pasta

I love online shopping. It is so convenient; you can do it at any time of day. It’s nearly impossible for me to get to a store during regular business hours and my weekends are always jam packed. I am also not a huge fan of crowds at the mall. Plus, online shopping can be done with a glass of wine in hand!

My latest purchase? A pasta roller set for my kitchenaidstand mixer.

Obviously this meant that I needed to make homemade pasta over the weekend.

This was also an excellent excuse for a trip to one of my favourite places in Edmonton, the Italian Centre, so that I could make semolina pasta. I can’t go in there without snagging a couple hundred grams of prosciutto and a cannoli (or two!).

I followed the included recipe for semolina pasta, which only called for (2) tablespoons of liquid. My dough was so incredibly dry that it was unworkable. We slowly added more water to get to the right consistency. Maybe it’s the extreme dryness of our climate but I would say we ended up tripling the amount of liquid in the dough. Regardless, the pasta turned out incredible.

There was a big chunk of pork sitting in my freezer, looking progressively sadder and more freezer burnt by the day. If you’ve read my recipe for French Onion Braised Chicken, you’ll know I’m now addicted to braising everything in my dutch oven. It’s perfect for those sad bits of meat and ideal for a hearty winter dish. And what goes better with homemade pasta than a slow simmered and braised pork ragu sauce?

I opted to cut the pasta by hand into pappardelle for a thicker noodle to go with the hearty sauce. Since this recipe yields so much pasta, I used the cutter to make linguine with half of the pasta for later in the week. Follow the directions to dry the pasta and store in the fridge for a couple days. It turned out just as well a few days later!

Semolina Egg Pasta
(recipe included with Kitchenaid Pasta Roller Set)


  • 3 1/3 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp water, plus more as needed   (I used about 5-6 Tbsp)


Place eggs, water, oil, flour, and salt in mixer bowl with flat beater. Turn on to speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds. Change out the flat beater for your dough hook and turn mixer back onto speed 2. Knead for 2 minutes. 

If your dough mixture looks extremely dry (as mine did at this point), add a little bit more water and knead for another 15-30 seconds.

Remove the dough from bowl and hand knead for 1-2 minutes. Again, keep an eye on your moisture content. The dough should be pliable and come together at this point. 

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and follow your pasta roller's instructions. You want to gradually increase the pasta roller setting to slowly thin the dough. At first, on the lowest setting, knead and fold your dough and put it through the roller a few times before increasing to the next setting. Dust with flour as you are doing this. 

I hand cut about half the pasta dough into pappardelle (thick, rustic noodles) and used the linguine cutter for the other half.

You can either cook your fresh pasta immediately (2-5 minutes in salted, boiling water depending on thickness) or allow it to dry for about an hour and freeze or refrigerate for a couple days in a sealed contained. Dried Pasta will require 5-7 minutes in salted, boiling water depending on thickness.

Braised Pork Ragu

  • 2 pounds boneless pork (chops, roast, whatever)
  • 1 large white onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 large carrot, very finely diced
  • 6 large mushrooms, very finely diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • ½ bottle dry red wine  (I used a Barolo)
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)

Note: if you are not into wine, you could use a stock instead


Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat  and sauté your onions with salt and pepper. Once they are golden and soft, add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add in the carrots and mushrooms and allow them to cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Season with your dried herbs (if using fresh herbs, do not add them now).

While your onions are cooking, slice your pork into approximately 1 inch cubes and trim off most of the excess fat. Heat the other 1 tbsp olive oil in another skillet over medium-high heat and add the pork. Allow the pork to brown and develop a crust on both sides before removing from the pan.

Pour about ½ cup of the red wine into the pork skillet to deglaze your pan. Allow it to simmer as you scrape up all the yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the can of tomatoes to the sautéed veggies and about 1 cup of red wine. Mix in the red wine from the pork and add 1 tbsp butter. Simmer and taste for seasoning. Add in your pork and cover the dutch oven.

Place the dutch oven in your preheated oven and allow it to braise for approximately 4 ½ hours. Check the liquid level periodically as it will evaporate and add some more wine (or stock). The pork should literally fall apart into beautiful little shredded bites. Add the fresh herbs in the last half hour of cooking.

Toss with fresh pasta and serve with a green salad, glass of red wine, and enjoy!