Sunday, August 12, 2012

Old Blog New Blog

The Open Banana is officially finished. This was a test blog for my limited time in Calgary and to learn about blogging.

My new and improved and very exciting blog is called: Eat This Town

If you have enjoyed this blog, please redirect there. It is Halifax-based but will feature foods from various regions (there will be more on Calgary!).

Thanks for reading,


Monday, December 12, 2011

Broken City

For some reason I thought Broken City had a good hamburger. I've eaten three hamburgers at this bar across the span of 3 years. The first time, my burger resembled more of a meatloaf burger. It was tasty, but not what I want when I crave a hamburger. The second time I went, I ordered their "poutine burger". Cool idea: waffle-cut fries and cheese curds on a burger. The burger is cut in half to make it easier to dip it in the provided ramiken of gravy.

The concept was cool and I was particularly impressed with how they abandoned the "meat loaf" recipe and provided a nice thick solid burger.

Alas, I went to Broken City recently and ordered a basic burger. It was kinda over-cooked and black tasting on the outside, and a little dry on the inside. Check it out. It looks nothing like the burger pictured above:

The meat also looks more processed. This was a very disappointing burger. So I don't know what to say about Broken City's burgers. That poutine burger was excellent, but until this place shows some sort of consistency I can't recommend it. It's still a cool place to drink though.

Broken City
613 11 Ave SW
Calgary, AB

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Buchanan's Chop House & Whiskey Bar

My Calgary hamburger research kept leading me to a downtown neighbourhood restaurant called Buchanan's. Apparently they are known for their selection of fine whiskeys, and also for their hamburgers. Notable, of their hamburgers, is that you can order them rare to well done, and anything in between. A typical Canadian, and a daughter to my mother, I was brought up to avoid undercooked hamburger meat like the plague. In dimly lit restaurants I have been known to send back a hamburger if I even suspected the faintest hue of pink. But much reading on the issue has informed me that true hamburger snobs prefer their hamburgers as they prefer their steaks: mooing and bleeding.

Of course, it isn't always safe to eat undercooked ground beef, particularly in these days of industrial farming and slaughter. For a kitchen to serve its ground beef rare, it has to trust the source of its meat as well as the kitchen who prepares it. After my first meal at Buchanan's, a lady came over who I assume is the owner or manager, and she asked us how we liked our meals. She informed us that she has red seal chefs in the kitchen, grinding the sirloin for burgers. It was obvious that a lot of care had gone into our meals, and that the restaurant management is receptive to customer feedback (we were also asked how we had heard about Buchanan's. The answer, FYI, is Chowhound).

Usually the burger platters here are a whopping $18. But to my delight I discovered that Buchanan's has a happy hour bar menu between 3pm-6pm when you can get the burgers for $10, an excellent deal.  You can get a Deluxe Bacon Cheeseburger, Blackened Hot & Spicy Onion-Jalapeno Jackcheese Burger, or a Roasted Veggie Burger with papaya-avocado salsa. These come with fries and coleslaw.

At first you may think that the fry portion is small, as they come in a little ramekin. However, they are quite filling; thick and poofy on the inside, with a crispy outside. I found myself happily eating the coleslaw, which sometimes gets abandoned on my plate. I think there were little slivers of hot peppers in it, giving it just the slightest kick.

My "Blackened Hot & Spicy" Burger, on the other hand, had no real kick to speak of. However, it was very tasty, as was the Cheeseburger, which I ordered on a previous occasion, sans bacon:

As you can see, this is a really thick baseball of a burger. When I bit into it, reddish coloured juices streamed onto my plate. Yet the burger itself wasn't too greasy or too bloody (I ordered it medium and it had just a pinkish hue in the middle). The burgers are reportedly Alberta AAA 100% Extra Lean Sirloin. The buns they use are also neat, and just barely hold it all together, whilst soaking up some of the juices.

When I eat a burger like this I sorta feel like I am eating a steak. It is evident that it is ground sirloin because I am conscious of what would be little chewy bits of steak, that have been ground down to being almost unnoticeable. The patty is also very dense. I'm not sure if this is my favourite type of burger, but it definitely blows away most of the burgers I've eaten in my lifetime. 

One thing did confuse me, during my second visit to Buchanan's. The bartender was so friendly and came right away to my table to offer me a beverage, but he never offered me a menu. I sat around for some time with my beer wondering if a server was going to take care of me, but nobody even looked my way. I eventually had to go up to the bar to request a menu. Once I did this, the service was again very friendly and prompt but I am confused as to why I was not offered a menu. After my meal, I asked if I could wrap up a tea biscuit I had not eaten. My server, who had apparently taken over the responsibility for me, wasn't exactly very warm, but she showed her kindness by supplying me with not just one tea biscuit, but three! That was a nice touch.

I think there is a good reason why Buchanan's is considered by some to have the best burgers in Calgary. There is definitely no shortage of meat or quality here. There is also a nice English pub atmosphere, and a large selection of spirits, which the staff can access with a little ladder behind the bar. I'm glad I live close to this place, as I'm sure it won't be too long before I'm craving one of these juicy meaty baseball burgers! 

Buchanan's Chop House & Whiskey Bar
738 3rd Ave SW
Calgary, AB

Friday, November 25, 2011

Below Deck Tavern

This will be a very picture intensive blog, since I have frequented this pub numerous times. It was brand new when I first noticed it. The kitchen has had its share of growing pains, and I've watched it grow, and I think I'm finally ready to blog about it.

The reason I am so interested in this pub is obvious. It's theme, of all things, is the Atlantic Provinces. With so many flashy bars and pubs in Calgary, it is really nice for me to get a little taste of home. I walk down the stairs and I hear east coast music playing, I see casually dressed and very friendly staff, I see east coast ex-pats sitting along the bar, and I see the flags of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The lobster traps may be a bit much...

The best part about this pub, though, is that when I am homesick I know I can come here and get some of my east coast comfort foods. 

Deep Fried Pepperoni
I didn't realize, until I moved away, that deep fried pepperoni is an east coast thing. It's actually really good, and Below Deck does a good rendition of it, actually importing their pepperoni from Chris Brothers in Halifax. My only complaint is that they serve it with a "beer honey mustard sauce" that is actually more of a mayo based sauce than the traditional honey mustard.

East Coast Spud Skins. All skins, no potato. This reinforces my hypothesis that potato skins in the east coast are, by nature, drastically different than in the rest of Canada. Instead of carving out a whole potato and putting toppings on it, the peeled skins are actually arranged on a platter like nachos, with the cheese, bacon and green onions spread out on top. You really can't go wrong with this one. Well, I guess the onions could be chopped up finer and distributed more evenly....

Potato Skins
Fried Balogna on White

This here above was actually a nice lunch, served with a side of seafood bisque. They say bologna is "newfie steak", so I guess this may be more of a shout out to Newfoundland. The soup of the day changes, but it is always a chowder or bisque. Last time I checked, they have all-you-can-eat balogna sandwiches on Mondays. Epic.

Garlic Fingers
Here is a real east coast classic. These are just as popular as pizza back home, and they are indeed structurally similar to pizza but also a separate entity. Cheese. Garlic. Bacon. The sauce sitting on top is DONAIR SAUCE and garlic fingers MUST be dipped into this for the full effect. Sooooo good!

Scallop Roll.
This was just okay. I love scallops. I love scallops deep fried in a roll. But I noticed on a couple of occasions that the deep fried goods at Below Deck were over-cooked. I complained on one occasion that the scallop batter was black-ish, and I was informed that the cooks have to deep fry them for a specific amount of time. I responded that it was too long, that you can't really under-cook a scallop, and to try it for less time. My next plate of scallops came out still looking over-cooked, so maybe the problem was the fryer fat? I'm not sure. This is certainly edible but it's not the best thing on the menu.

Beach Bag Bake
This was new on the menu the last time I went to Below Deck, and the waitress assured me it was one of the best things on the menu. It is red potatoes, leaks, onions, scallops, shrimp and mussels simmered in a buttery broth (so... not baked?). I accidently consumed the scallops before taking a picture. Truth be told, the mussels were eaten as well and I just re-arranged the shells back on the dish for aesthetic purposes. This was good! Very humble east coast flavours, perfectly cooked potatoes, and garlic bread to dip in the broth. The leeks were a nice touch. The seafood could have been more fresh, but hey... this is Alberta.

Now... for what we've all been waiting for! Here is the Halifax Donair. Apparently it is the owner or chefs own recipe and he is very proud of it. I had never eaten anything like this before, which immediately demands the question: is this authentic? The answer is tricky. No, as my friend Jeremy says, this is not like any donair you will see in the Maritimes (he went on to say it was shit, but I beg to differ). But yes, in terms of the spices, sauce and toppings, this IS authentic. It is what I am choosing to refer to as  "pub-style donair". The meat is homemade-homestyle, and a thick pita is used to hold everything in. Miraculously, everything is wrapped in tinfoil and held in place, making it possible to pick up and eat like a hamburger. 

Speaking of the hamburger, I've tried that too. It's kind of lackluster. The meat is spiced... almost like a donair?? 

But back to the donair. Look at this! Tomatoes, onions, lettuce, meat! Last time I had to ask for extra sauce. A donair can't have enough sweet sauce on it. Also, you can add pepperoni and cheese for $4 which I would recommend. 

Lastly, you should soak it all up with one of these! Or you can get a bottled craft beer from Garrison, Pumphouse or Quidi Vidi.

Also on the menu, but as of yet untried by me, are the Fish 'n' Chips, Steamer clams or Mussels, Tuna Melt, Tavern Smoked Meat, Garden Burger, French Quarter Tourtiere, Flat Iron Steak Sandwich, Hot Turkey Sandwich, and a few other things falling into the category of typical pub fare (except you can get donair meat on your poutine or nachos!... but of course!)

Below Deck Tavern
221 8 Ave SW
Calgary, AB