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REVIEW: Leven’s Coffee Company

9 Feb

Leven’s Coffee Company
Sonnenschein Way
Saskatoon, SK

http://www.levenscoffee.com/

As I have posted in previous entries, I am a coffee nut. I am constantly on the search for the perfect bean to brew, best espresso based drink, and the best cup of brewed coffee. I have brewed coffee using many different methods and each have their merits, I guess. This is evident by my coffee brewing gadgets on the counter.

My search for the perfect bean has brought me to Leven’s Coffee Company. I have heard a great deal about this company as of late… they have been on Facebook, Twitter and on the news promoting their fundraiser for a boy named Ozzie. Ozzie has a rare disease called Moebius. You can find out more about Ozzie at http://imsupportingozzie.com

What makes Leven’s unique is that they roast very small quantities of coffee, thus keeping it always fresh. This allows them to offer a fantastic variety of beans and roasts without the risk of massive amounts of waste due to the coffee becoming stale. When you order a press coffee or buy a pound of beans, you are literally enjoying coffee that has been roasted within the last day or two. Some of the coffees offered are Mexican, Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Sumatran, and Dominican, all of which are Cafe Femenino ethical coffees. I tried the Dominican Republic beans.

I choose to brew my coffee using the pour-over method. There are many different techniques and tools for a pour-over, but I choose to use the Melitta method. According to Melitta.com, this method of pour-over was the original drip method of brewing coffee. It was invented by Melitta Bentz in 1908. Her invention permanently changed the way coffee was brewed. It utilizes a cone shaped brewing vessel and a cone shaped paper filter. After adding ground coffee you slowly pour over hot water (just slightly off the boil).  This method, in my honest opinion gives, the perfect cup of coffee. Most coffee officianatos would call me silly and say the coffee press is the only way to truly enjoy coffee. Though I love the coffee press and the results it brings, I personally think that the coffee brewed using the pour-over method is more intense and has a fuller body, rounder mouth feel, and has a more delicious, complex flavour. In future posts I will explore this method (and others) for brewing coffee.

Coffee only stays fresh for up to 14 days after roasting. Since the pound of coffee I purchased was roasted just hours before, it will stay fresh for as long as I am using it. I usually go through a pound of coffee in about a week or two so this is perfect for me.

I visited Leven’s Coffee Company on Saturday to see what all the hype was about. They had just recently opened their new location at the Farmer’s Market on 19th Street. During my visit I asked many questions and they were all answered thoroughly and friendly. I asked about all of their coffees, their roast colours, and the levels of acidity. Since I really don’t like overly tangy coffees, I requested advice on what I should choose. In the end he suggested the Dominican coffee. He knew exactly what to suggest and it was right on the money.

As soon as I got home I ripped open the bag and gave it a big sniff. It was delicious!!! I quickly ground and brewed a cup. As soon as I poured water on the grounds the smell was amazing and the bloom was beautiful. After brewing was complete, I cleaned up, took a picture, and then sat down to enjoy this incredibly fresh cup. It was AWESOME! Honestly, it was the best cup of brewed coffee I have ever had. The flavour was rich, intense, toasty, full-bodied, and had a very balanced acidity. It is as perfect of a balance as I have ever had.

Leven’s Coffee Company roasts simply the best beans in the city. No other roaster can come close to the quality and freshness as Leven’s. As soon as I finish up this pound I am heading to Leven’s once again! I can’t wait to try the other coffees!

Leven's Coffee Company on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Tubby Dog

26 Aug

Tubby Dog
1022 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB

403-244-0694

Tubby Dog is one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten at! I will get back to that in a bit.

My Fiancee and I visited Tubby Dog recently on a trip to Calgary. We were in town to see Weezer at the X-Fest Festival at the historic Fort Calgary. The festival was pretty good and we had a good time. The only two downers were the complete lack of porta-potties (60 or so for 14,000 people) and the incredibly hot sun on my unprotected legs. For most of the afternoon, I sat on the grass with my legs crossed, and I forgot to put sunscreen on my legs. Needless to say my inner leg at my knee was very crispy (later that evening I bought the best sunburn gel with aloe and a numbing agent!)! By the time Weezer came on, the sun was setting and it was getting a little cooler. Weezer put on an excellent show as usual! They played 19 songs and we were very satisfied at the end. We didn’t stay and watch the final band, Jane’s Addiction since we were very tired from the sun. Though I really wanted to see then, it works out we will see them later this fall at another show.

Anyways, back to the subject of this blog entry. We discovered Tubby Dog by browsing Urbanspoon. It had a very high rating and had an extremely creative and interesting menu. We visited Tubby just after we left the festival. It was located in the heart of the trendy 17th Avenue district of Calgary. It was full of restaurants, shops, and bustling night life spots. According to www.uptown17.ca, Uptown 17 is “located in the heart of the city and in one of Calgary’s oldest communities, Uptown 17th Avenue  – the Pulse of Calgary – is a neighbourhood where people come to live, work, dine, shop and to explore one of Canada’s most thriving cosmopolitan areas“.

Again, Tubby Dog is one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten at! We walked into a dim restaurant with bright orange, yellow and red colours. In the back ground was playing uncensored music by the Notorious B.I.G. I knew I would like this place! Tubby Dog serves hotdogs and yummy deep fried goodness. There were no limits on the music and definitely no limits on the dogs they serve!

The menu was large and unique! My fiancee decided to go with the A-Bomb (cheese, bacon, mayo, mustard, ketchup, potato chips) and I ordered the Sumo. The Sumo had so many delicious toppings on it, but I was leery of what it would taste like all together. The Sumo had Japanese Mayo, Wasabi, pickled ginger, seasoned sea weed salad, and sesame seeds.  All hot dogs came on a fresh baked, steamed bun. We also ordered half orders of the Tubby Chips and the T-Rings.

When we got our food my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out of my head! If you can’t tell by the picture, the fries and rings came served on a full sized cafeteria tray! The onion rings were massive and the fries were amazingly fresh, hot and crisp! The dogs were still steaming hot when we got them. I began getting anxious on how I was going to eat this mound of flavour. Should I pick it up and risk it disintegrating in my hand creating a huge mess? Or, do I use the knife and fork provided? My Fiancee picked hers up, so I decided to do the same. Well, the dog stayed together. I have no clue how it did, but it stayed intact the whole way. The Sumo dog was UNREAL! It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. All flavours were in perfect balance… not too much wasabi, just enough mayo, and heaps of seasoned seaweed and pickled ginger. All together it tasted like hotdog sushi! I would eat this over and over and over and over! The A-Bomb was really good too. The flavours of salty pork, cheese, and bacon reminded me of a more traditional hotdog. My Fiancee said she liked hers, but wished she would have ordered the Sumo.

I would urge anyone living in or visiting Calgary to try Tubby Dog! If you want a truly unique food experience, then you must eat here. The old school music, hip vibe, and eclectic space makes their food taste just that much better!

P.S.  Sorry for the complete lack of posts over the last while. We’ve been working hard losing weight since January. Stay tuned for an entry about how healthier eating has changed our lives!

 

 
Tubby Dog on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Collective Coffee

2 Mar

Collective Coffee
220 20th street West
http://collectivecoffee.weebly.com/index.html

Hours
Weekdays – 8am – 5pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday – Closed currently

Friends who live in Riversdale told me that a new coffee shop would be opening in the new Two Twenty building on 20th Street. Not aware that this shop would be an artisan coffee spot, I was not excited, nor was I expecting anything other than the status quo. On Saturday, I found their Facebook page and ‘liked’ them. Their status was promoting a free shot of single origin espresso. I got the feeling that this place might be different than the norm. Since I can’t pass up free high quality coffee, I dragged my Fiancee down with me.

Coffee Collective is a beautiful little spot. The emphasis is on little! Seating is very limited, but don’t let that deter you from trying it out. There is ample room by a very large garage style glass door. I can’t wait until summer when that door will be open spilling the aroma of coffee yum all over 20th! Rich browns dominate the space at Collective Coffee. The bottom third of the walls are covered with an interesting lacquered wood. Looking closer it’s revealed that the wood is plywood.

We both ordered the sample espresso and a cappuccino. I’ll start with the free espresso. First, the smell was really nice! It smelled toasty, rich, and almost chocolaty. Second, it tasted very acidic. The bitterness was surprisingly low, and the texture and mouth feel was good. The tanginess was just too off-putting for me. Generally, excessive acidity is a sign of poor quality beans. I’m sure that low quality isn’t the case here since they use a very reputable product and a tremendous amount of care and experience goes into pulling each shot. I would guess that it was caused by something not quite perfected with the extraction process. I’m very certain that these kinks will be worked out.

This cappuccino was yummy. Made from medium roasted beans, It had a pronounced acidity from the espresso (discussed earlier). In the drink, the milk softened the acidity. The crema was densely rich and the milk foam was airy and creamy. One other issue I would have was the temperature of the drink. It was a little cool. Well, lukewarm is a good descriptor. I know that proper steamed milk isn’t overly hot, but this was a little too cool.


“Our vision is to join the ongoing effort to bring the city of Saskatoon to the next level of Coffee awareness…”

After trying Museo earlier that week, and experiencing Collective Coffee, I am very excited that Saskatoon is becoming more interested in and passionate about coffee! For many years I have longed for a spot where ‘real’ coffee is the focus. Sure, Saskatoon has the Broadway Roastery, Starbucks, and other small coffee shops, but they are all alike. Their espresso is over-roasted and their drinks are pumped out with out any care or cognition. Collective Coffee, Museo, and Cafe Sola seem passionately determined on informing us Prairie folk on the idiosyncrasies of Coffea Arabica. I will definitely be back!

Check them out @
Collective Coffee on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Museo

27 Feb

Museo
950 Spadina Cres E (inside the Mendel Art Gallery)
Saskatoon, SK S7K
(306) 651-3933

http://www.museocoffee.com/

This last week has been great in terms of coffee. I’ve had two of the best cups ever, and I feel like writing about it. First of all, I’m writing this completely jacked on caffeine. My eyes and fingers are uncontrollably dancing all over the place. I’m hitting the backspace button more than letters due to spelling mistakes. I LOVE CAFFEINE!

I’ve wanted to try Museo for quite some time. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about them and their passion for the bean. Located in the Mendel Art Gallery, Museo offers a fine selection of premium coffees, french pressed coffee, and craft made beverages. And to top it off, they roast their own beans! They also offer a variety of tea. My Fiancee ordered a latte and I ordered a cappuccino.

The smell of the drinks were incredible… two cups full of rich and toasty yum! It was unlike any cappuccino I’ve had in Saskatoon. Most espresso drinks here are one dimensional in flavour and made with over-roasted beans. This creates an espresso that is very bitter. By the smells alone of our two fresh cups, I could tell that the beans were roasted medium before grinding. A medium roast is how a bean should be roasted for espresso. It tasted very similar to espresso made from imported Italian coffees. This cappuccino was so toasty, balanced, and sweet. The sweetness was not from sugar but from the natural sugars in the milk and from a properly pulled shot of espresso. The temperature of the beverage was a little cool but it sufficed. The crema and foam was thick and rich and the design from the pour was an added touch.

“Today, a new zeitgeist in coffee is emerging, where craftsmanship and quality is used to promote ethically sourced, high quality coffee selling above fair-trade price… fostering consumer appreciation for quality completes and makes the entire project sustainable”

I’m stoked that there is a place in Saskatoon where I can find an authentic espresso based coffee drink. In true prairie fashion we are behind the rest of the world by about 20 years…we finally have a cafe that rivals ones found in Vancouver and Toronto! We’ll be back many times!

P.S. On a side note, my Fiancee may have become a coffee person thanks to the Museo Latte!

Museo on Urbanspoon

REVIEW – Fixin’s Homestyle Eatery

2 Feb

Fixin’s Homestyle Eatery
106 Circle Drive West
Saskatoon, SK S7L 4L6
Phone: (306) 978-6506

http://www.fixins.ca/

A couple of weeks ago my fiancee stumbled across a link on Facebook. It was a advertisement for Fixin’s Homestyle Eatery located in the Travelodge Hotel. The website was colourful and the pictures of the food looked delicious and high quality. Somewhere on the page had a listing for their different buffets. The only one that caught my eye was the chicken and rib buffet. This is how it is described on their website:

Evening Buffet – $12.95
Fridays & Saturdays, 4:00pm-8:00pm
Saturday, indulge in
“Chicken & Ribs.” Buffet features homemade Soup of the Day,
fresh salads, crisp vegetables and delicious homemade desserts

Saturday comes along and we were out and about in the Circle Drive area at supper time. We decided to try Fixin’s. Ummm, where do I even begin to review this restaurant? While dishing up at the buffet and while eating, I began to compile a list of adjectives that adequately describe the experience. My list included such words as nasty, cheap, gross, disgusting, yucky, abominable, awful, beastly, crappy, cruddy, crummy, detestable, distasteful, foul, grody, gruesome, hideous, icky, loathsome, lousy, nasty, nauseating, odious, offensive, raunchy, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, rotten, sickening, stinking, and vile. The sad part was that not one of them adequately describes how bad this place is. This place makes Saskatoon’s lousiest buffets (Smiley’s and Johnny Boys) seem incredibly appetizing.

First of all, the price of $12.99 listed on the website is not correct. The real price of the buffet is $16.99. It’s too bad we didn’t know until the end of the meal. The first warning sign should have been the lack of people eating. There were only three others in the whole restaurant. Though my gut and common sense told me to run, my fiancee and I decided to stay for some weird reason. It was ribs and chicken night, so I was somewhat interested. I was kinda looking forward for some tasty pork! I got pork, but it sure wasn’t tasty. Though the ribs were slathered in sauce, they didn’t have any seasoning or spices on them. The ribs were covered with chunks of fat that should have been trimmed off before cooking. The ribs were not smoked or grilled. They were steamed in the oven. I can tell this because the meat was flavourless and mushy. Dry baked or smoked ribs are very tender, but still keep their meaty texture. In addition to nasty meat, the BBQ sauce was bland and very low quality… it tasted like Kraft brand bottled sauce. The chicken was just plain gross. It was swimming in oil and a “BBQ sauce” that tasted like cranberry sauce. The chicken pieces were not seasoned or grilled before cooking in the oven. The chicken still had the skin on, and because it was baked in the oven in a pan of sauce, the skin was wiggly and slimy. I’m guessing that the cooks just threw raw chicken into a baking pan, poured sauce on it, and threw it into the oven. This is NOT how you make “BBQ” chicken and ribs.

Other items on the buffet included white rice, mystery yellow rice, corn bathing in a cloudy liquid, and many nasty salads. They looked like they sat out at room temperature for hours and were sopped with bottled dressings. There were pickles, pickled onions, stale cheese, and some jello-salad type substance. The desserts were ok, but they were old, stale tasting, and were NOT homemade like the website said.

I don’t want to seem like a negative nancy about Fixin’s. There is one thing they did very well. The only part of the meal I really liked was the water. It was really cold.

So if you want to eat terrible food while getting ripped off, try Fixin’s!!!

Fixin's Homestyle Eatery on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review – Urban Diner

27 Dec

Urban Diner
12427 102 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB
780-488-7274
www.urbandiner.com

This review has been a long time in the making. At first, I wasn’t going to spend the time reviewing a restaurant in a different province. The more I thought about it, people need to know about this place! There were many delicious looking items on their breakfast menu, but only one deserves any special attention in my opinion… but I digress.

My fiance and I spent a few days in Edmonton this September. Our trip was capped off when we saw Weezer perform at the Sonic Boom festival on the Northlands grounds. Anyone who is a Canadian Weezer fan knows that seeing them live is a rare and cherishable event. We spent time at our downtown hotel, visited the West Edmonton Mall a couple of times, and two fun filled trips to Ikea. Good times! In addition to these fun activities, we also dined at numerous eateries. I must say I was disappointed by the food. We based all of our selections on reviews found on www.urbanspoon.com. The one place that had the highest percent of satisfied customers was Urban Diner. It was rated a 90% by Urbanspoon users. We just had to try it!

Before we dined at Urban Diner, we worked up an appetite shopping at Mountain Equipment Co-Op just a couple of blocks away. We found some sweet backpacks and head warming accessories. The restaurant was VERY busy when we were there. From what I’ve read, it is like that constantly. The interior was clean, modern, and rustic… a very cool little joint that’s for sure! They pride themselves in scratch cooking and locally sourced ingredients.

Enough with the chit-chat, lets talk about what really matters… the food. One thing that struck me as odd was that they serve breakfast exclusively until 2pm. Initially I was disappointed because we had eaten breakfast at the hotel earlier. I was looking forward to the burgers I’ve read about. Since this was not possible, I had to suck it up and order breakfast… again. The breakfast menu looked really good! Most items were old standards, but with twists. Here is a link to their brecky menu. I originally thought I wanted some sort of eggs benedict, but when I saw it was was like… NICE! It was the ‘Breakfast Burger’!!! I ordered it when the server came by.

When it came, my eyes widened! This beautiful sandwich of yum had black forest ham, crispy bacon, meatloaf, fried egg, cheddar, cilantro lime aioli, all on a onion kaiser bun!!! It came with a side of mediocre deep fried hash browns. This burger was one of the greatest things I have ever eaten! All of the toppings were amazing, especially the meatloaf! Mmmmmmm, meatloaf. Each bite was like a back rub. If I kept on about how flippin’ awesome this burger was I would just be repeating myself over, and over again, so I’ll stop.

So, if you are ever in Edmonton, please heed my suggestion and go try the breakfast burger! I’d even drive the 5 or so hour drive just to have it.

Urban Diner - Downtown on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review – Jasmine Restaurant

20 Dec

Jasmine Restaurant
(306) 244-9956
3-510 Circle Dr E
Saskatoon, SK

If I was to use one word to describe Jasmine Restaurant, I think that YUM would suffice. My fiance and I dinned at Jasmine the other day and had an excellent meal! This is our second time dinning here, and I think the best so far.

I love the flavours of Asia! I’ve had a few go-to Vietnamese and Thai restaurants over the years. Each one has gone downhill in the end. For quite some time, Saigon Rose was, I feel, the best Vietnamese in the city. Their soup broths were unreal and the sate dishes were rich, concentrated, and heavenly. As of late it’s been junk since Rose is not involved. Another tasty choice used to be Pho’s Shanghai Kitchen on Idylwyld Drive. Their Pho was excellent! From their sate to tom yum, each soup was perfect. It also included a side of bean sprouts, cilantro, lime, and fresh chili peppers. Rarely do you ever find a restaurant that serves their Pho with traditional sides. Sadly, Pho’s closed a couple of years ago. The last place for guaranteed eats was Saskatoon Asian Restaurant. The last couple of times have been very disappointing. Their spring rolls have changed for the worse, noodle bowls changed, and soup broths taste like the cooks use a packaged MSG powdered broth mix (the ones you pay 25 cents for at the import store). On the search for a new go-to joint, we stumbled across Jasmine.

I have heard nothing but great things about Jasmine over the years. It baffles me why it took so long to try it. I’m glad I did because it is our (at least my) new place for awesome Asian style food! I’m pretty sure my fiance agrees with my Jasmine stance. The restaurant has a very simple, unassuming appearance. There is next to no kitschy wall adornments or ornaments. Their food doesn’t have to hide behind any fancy dancy dress. The building smelled excellent (some places have a fowl, rotten fryer oil smell), and the booths, tables and chairs were very clean. I was also impressed by their fresh and sparkling clean washrooms. They even lacked the common poopy aroma! Also, the staff were very friendly and prompt with service.

My fiance and I have visited Jasmine only two times since friends suggested we try it. It’s one of those places where we seem to forget about when discussing where we should go to eat. It baffles me why we don’t think of it. I usually judge a place by how good their sate noodle soup is. When we first visited Jasmine I was not impressed by their sate pho broth. It was bland, and the bowl lacked vegetables and meat. Since I have heard from so many people how the food is, I thought it was worth giving it a second chance.

For this visit we started with an order of the spring rolls and cold rolls. These were AWESOME!!! Like our first visit, the deep fried rolls were very good. The rice paper was very crispy and the filling was meaty, properly seasoned, and fresh tasting. One thing that struck me was the clean taste of the fryer oil. It’s pretty common, I’ve found, that fryer oil is old, unfiltered, and borderline rancid in many Saskatoon Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants. The cold rolls were very good as wall. The rice paper skin was soft and tender, and the pork inside the rolls was very well seasoned and tender. I recommend both the fried and fresh rolls as an appetizer.

And now the pièce de résistance! The curry chicken soup was very good! It was a mild yellow Thai curry with a rich and creamy broth of coconut milk and accented by fish sauce. Though the soup was super good, the only things that were missing was cilantro and lime. These are traditional ingredients when working with Thai flavours. The richness of the soup broth needed a slight boost of freshness from a lime wedge and a few cilantro leaves to properly balance it out. The soup came with two pieces of slow cooked chicken. The thigh and drumstick were extremely flavourful and tender! It was evident that it was marinaded for a a while before cooking. The inclusion of whole pieces of chicken was impressive and a point scorer. Generally it is rare for whole pieces to be served in Asian style restaurants in Saskatoon. The curry chicken soup is far superior to the sate noodle soup I tried on an earlier visit.

I look forward to visiting Jasmine Restaurant again and again to try their other soups and noodle dishes. If you have not been, you must try. Though it may be a little out of the way for most, it is well worth the trip!

Jasmine Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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