The Hubbs has been on holidays for a week now and has one more week left. We’ve done a whole bunch of stuff and I’ve got thoughts going on but it’s all random.
Last weekend we took a trip to the mountains with The Hubbs’ Brother & Brit-SIL to show them a few places they could drive around to in the fall with Brit-SIL’s sister and her hubby come back for a visit. It would seem that they are not the adventurous type — outdoor activity types, yes. But not fly by the seat of their pants and see where they end up types. It was really nice to be able to spend some time with them. Last Saturday was pretty much an all day trip in the mountains and then Sunday evening we went over for a BBQ. It was nice. I have pics. I have plans at some point of uploading them and perhaps posting a few. There’s even a DECENT photo of me that I actually like! I’m just feeling incredibly lazy.
During The Hubbs’ time off we’ve revisited the “stay at home and try new restaurants” holiday. We did that a few years back and it was kind of fun. A lot of the places we’ve been checking out have actually fallen in the cheap eats category, which I find rather amusing. Last year, I picked up a copy of My Favourite Cheap Eats and we’d only tried a few places here and there out of the book — a sushi place by the NW cemetary, the bakery in Lake Louise, a fish and chip shop — but not much more than that. So for whatever reason, last Monday kicked off me flipping through the book while we’re in the car, where the poor thing has resided for the last year feeling rather useless I’m sure, and us trying out a few more places that we wouldn’t normally visit.
Not all our forays have been found in said little black book, but a few have. In no particular order:
* Jimmy’s A&A Mediterranean Deli & Grocery — Home of the pretty shocking shawarma, amongst other really cool finds. It’s basically just a shop where you buy your pita and eat it elsewhere. They have some outdoor tables and cheap plastic deck chairs but that’s about it. Not knowing how big their shwarmas are, we ordered a medium beef and medium chicken. The size was absolutely ridiculous — for small eaters, at least. This could very well be a doable size for most people, I just don’t know what that is anymore. Anyhow, think of your standard sized pita and put on top of it shredded lettuce, sliced onions, some sliced tomatoes, pickle slices and I would guess a good amount of meat that would be about the size of my hand, topped with a nice garlicky sauce. Fold it up and wrap that baby in some waxed paper baggies and you have something that’s about 3/4 the length and all of the breadth of a footlong Subway sandwich.
This place is awesome, it’s freaking tiny and I had a fantastic time inside. Would we go back? Yes, but probably not for a shawarma to be honest. The beef version was tasty, but my chicken was disappointingly dry. I don’t remember if they even had a lamb option, which is what I would automatically go for. I would go back for the other fun stuff in the blink of an eye: the wall of spices, the deli of salads and marinated surprises, the tiny little housewares section and the pastry counter. They have a full display case of house made baklavas and the like. While we were there, we picked up a clamshell of assorted sweets and brought them for Dad’s birthday dindin on Wednesday night. Not only that but I picked up a bag of saffron. Not the high quality expensive threads, but for a lack of a better description, a bag of broken saffron bits. There was also a small bag of couscous seasoning amongst our purchases that contained allspice, cardamom and cinnamon? I can’t remember.
Anyhow, while we were there I desperately wanted to buy a couscous steamer. That was ixnayed by The Hubbs on the grounds that we dont eat couscous all that much. Not only that, but they also sold hookahs! I wanted one of those too, but yea, I didn’t even have an excuse as to why I’d want one other than it was cool looking. Funny story — when we finally got to paying for our haul, the cashier took a doubletake. Apparently The Hubbs’ doppleganger had just left before us, buying the exact same stuff and we missed it.
* Boogies Burgers — Interesting place. I believe the term for this kind of place is “a dive”. It’s a small little shop with maybe 10 tables scattered throughout the place, plus a bunch of bar stools at the counter. They have old skool video arcade machines! They’re not refurbished either. They’re honking old and abused looking and in pretty darn good shape! The menu is simple and straight forward. The patties aren’t thick, but they’re freaking huge. Their motto is “Size does count. Bigger IS better.” The burger’s the size of the kaiser bun! All burgers are made with 100% AAA Alberta Beef and include “The Fixings” : lettuce, tomato, & onions (raw or fried).
The Hubbs ordered a single patty with cheese, I had a Sam’s Burger, we shared a small order of spicy fries and we each had a coke… in a glass bottle! We dunno what the Red Sauce is that they put on top of all the burgers, but it’s damn tasty. The Hubbs said that he’d order 2 patties next time because a single wasn’t quite enough for him (though he did finish off the last quarter of my burger) and I’d like to try Sam’s again with the addition of bacon.
Price wise, the burgers were decent given their generous sizes. The most expensive and outrageous burger on their menu is Doug’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” Burger at $15, which consisted of Four Patties, 4 Bacon pieces, 2 cheese slices, 1 fried egg, topped with a 100% All-Beef wiener, Boogie’s Signature Red Sauce and all the fixings.
Service was slow to acknowledge us and take our order, and we did feel completely out of our element, but once our order was taken it took 10 minutes for everything to come. I think we’d go back again, but not 100% sure on it cuz we both had a few tummy issues a couple of hours after the excursion.
* Saigon Pearl — Yanno, it’s getting harder and harder to find a decent Vietnamese place. We’re not asking much, really! All we want is a good bowl of noodles that isn’t poorly made and not ridiculously priced. In the last couple of years, NW Calgary has experienced a trend towards expensive, tasteless and generally crappy food in the Vietnamese department. Out of desperation yesterday, we stopped in at Saigon Pearl because it was the only thing that either of us could agree on food wise and we were both headed in a severe hypoglycemic direction. Given that it was 3pm on a Saturday, the place was practically dead with only 3 other tables being served. We walked in, got seated with menus, two minutes later we had drink orders taken and then perhaps another five minutes we had our orders taken.
We each have our own benchmark noodle dish that we gauge places by, plus their execution of salad rolls — The Hubbs gets a bowl of vermicelli with a couple of spring rolls, some grilled shrimp, bbq’d pork and the salad greens on the bottom. I get my bowl of house special pho with the rare beef, tripe, tendon & beef balls. Broth is the key player for me. It’s either pass with flying colours or fail miserably, there is no in between for me. I have to admit, for as long as we’ve been avoiding this place, they did a stellar job. My only complaints were that the pho only comes in one size (large) and the missing lime was a bit of a disappointment, but otherwise, I was pretty content. The Hubbs was pretty happy with his bowl of vermicelli and we were both super pleased about the shrimp salad rolls. It’s amazing how many places can make a crappy salad roll considering how fantastic this simple dish is. The only other thing we ordered differently was we had each gotten a drink other than water/tea. The Hubbs ordered himself a lychee slush and I had a young coconut juice with coconut slices which had a bit of a jelly-like texture. Both were fantastic and incredibly refreshing with the insane heat we had experienced all day.
* Calypso Greek Taverna — This is a new place that just opened up in what was once several different dining options in the past. The menu is pretty small but it’s also somewhat varied. Their offerings include Greek (obviously), Steak and Pasta. As an aside: I’d read somewhere that Calgary’s Greek community is famous for the non-chain pizza places, which I think is kind of cool. Anyhow, they have the usual Greek offerings (no flaming cheese, unfortunately): greek salad, calamari, lamb, moussaka, etc… but they also have a couple of unfamiliar but no less authentic offerings such as stuffed calimari and three different lamb preparations which thrilled The Hubbs into great indecision. I would have to say that even if you weren’t a fan of Greek food you’d probably more than likely find something just as tasty off the rest of the menu even if it’s just a steak (with lobster!) or some pasta.
The most surprising part about this little place? The price. They do offer dinner for two combos in the spendy price point category, but the individual dinner offerings were incredibly affordable. The most expensive item on the menu was a full rack of lamb at the going rate, across the city, of $32. This night, I had a calamari dinner ($15) and The Hubbs had lamb ($18). Each dinner included your choice of greek or caesar salad to begin with and your main came with rice, potatoes and veggies. I have to say, they had the best greek salad that I’ve ever had in my entire life. The veggies were the perfect size, not some obscenely huge chunk that you have to struggle to get into your mouth, the feta was just enough proportionally to the veggies and the olive oil they used was nice and mild but very flavourful. The Hubbs finally decided on the roast lamb shoulder on recommendation of our waiter and though it didn’t look the prettiest coming out on the plate (a rather disturbing grey colour), it was incredibly tasty, moist and pull-apart-with-a-fork-tender. My calamari was as I was expecting (and craving) for a deep fried and breaded option with the requisite tzatziki sauce on the side. What surprised me when our meals came out was the huge amount of food that came on the plate. In my case, half the platter was mounded with calamari, the remaining platter consisted of two halves of a perfectly executed lemony roasted potato, a decent pile of rice and some roasted veg. The Hubbs’ plate was no less full with half of his covered by a bone in piece of lamb shoulder in chop shape and the same starchy accompaniments. This place we are definitely going to hit up again and next time, even if it kills me, I’m going to get the stuffed calamari with champagne sauce.
So what’s up with Week #2 of The Hubbs’ holidays, foodwise?
Dunno. We’ll have to see what thrills us.
Perhaps we’ll make this the expensive restaurant outings week ^_^