A Ladybug Bakery and Cafe – Breakfast in the West

TC and I went to Ladybug for breakfast this morning.  Ladybug is a consistently great little cafe that I’ve been to many times.  This morning TC went for the Eggs Benedict with bacon and I went for the Croque-Monsieur, each with a coffee.

The Eggs Benedict comes in a variety of choices (salmon, crab, bacon) with the option of eggs being firm or easy.  They are served with a side of crispy potato cakes.  From past experience I know these to be excellent, with a fresh and very tasty Hollandaise sauce.

I tried Ladybug’s Croque-Monsieur (essentially grilled ham and cheese on bread) for the first time and found it to be a great combination with a perfect portion size.  On the side was a couple of small lettuce leaves and a cherry tomato, effectively as a garnish.

The cafe is busy, even at 9:30 when we arrived.  The layout is very clean and comfortable.  The service is pretty quick, including getting a bottle of water and a couple of glasses to the table very promptly.

In addition to excellent breakfasts and brunches, before you leave I recommend picking up some of their pâté as it is fantastic.  Add some spelt flour sourdough bread for a great snack.

Definitely recommended.

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Diner Deluxe – Sunday Morning Breakfast

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TC and I decided to try somewhere new for breakfast.  Research by TC provided two places in Calgary that we should try but hadn’t and Diner Deluxe was one of them.  It had been noted in other blogs as similar to Galaxie, which we both like.

After a short drive up to Edmonton Trail, we found street parking just around the corner on 7 Ave NE and went into the diner.  Arriving at about 08:30 it was about half full and we had our pick of tables. Shortly after being seated a couple decided to relocate next to us, with their young child.  This always makes me a little worried as the child screamed randomly and I was constantly worried it was going to throw or cough in my general direction.  Such are the dangers of eating out.  The diner itself is decorated with a surf/vintage theme, it was clean and respectable with comfortable bench seating against the wall and reasonable looking seats that didn’t elicit any complaints from TC.

The coffee was average, fairly typical of a diner and not overly strong.  I also had a pineapple juice that helped me to rehydrate.  The prompt and courteous waitress offered a special of eggs benedict with roma tomatoes and avocado that I decided to try and TC went with eggs benedict with spinach and chorizo.  Both came with hash browns and instead of english muffins the eggs were served on home-style biscuit.

Diner Deluxe - Eggs Benedict with tomoto and avocadoThe food was pretty good and the coffee as noted above was average diner coffee.  The location is easily accessible, so I would definitely come back here.  The cost including tax and tips was $40.

As a nice bonus, next to the diner is the Urban Baker.  TC picked up a loaf of their ‘Tuscan’ Bread which is a sour dough.  I haven’t yet heard what it was like.

Kensington Brasserie – The Pub Upstairs

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Last Saturday, after a leisurely walk from The Mission to Kensington whilst avoiding the opening of the Peace Bridge, TC and I ended up looking for something to eat. Having wanted to try the place several times we went upstairs to the Kensington Brasserie.

The restaurant/pub/cafe was strange, because it didn’t quite fit any of the aforementioned descriptions. I think it was going for pub, but with the large modern glass windows overlooking the street it never quite felt that way for me. Although the Flames/Stars ice hockey game on the big screen behind the bar did help with the pub feel. The beer list was impressive with a wide range of imports from Europe and a few locals. The menu looked pretty good, with a wide selection of pub style food.

To drink I had a Duvel Belgian beer and TC had Magner’s cider. TC requested a glass of ice, to enjoy Magners in the traditional Irish manner, but the waiter decided instead to provide a glass of ice on the side and pour the cider into a glass without ice. The Duvel was poured into a traditional glass with the Duvel logo on the side.

The lamb burger was calling my name and TC, with a steak in the fridge for dinner, went with the cod sandwich. Both were served with french fries. The lamb was ground lamb made into a buger patty and then served with a mint pesto, lettuce and tomato on a bun. The lamb was not bad, nothing to write home about (New Zealanders knows their lamb!) but they cooked it about right. The condiments and salad were very tasty. The fries were shoestring and I felt were perhaps the end of the bag because they all seemed quite small. TC was unimpressed when the cod sandwich arrived and the cod turned out to be three fish fingers. The sandwich, with a different sauce, followed the lamb burger with very tasty lettuce and tomato.

The food here was alright and I would not object to eating here again. That said I will stay away from the cod sandwich as it was somewhat underwhelming. The overall cost including tax and tip was just over $60.

The Coup – A Vegetarian Breakfast

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Last Friday night TC asked about breakfast for the morning, so we decided to meet up at my place about 8:30am. As usual he turned up a little early, so we went for a walk around the Mission and Beltline neighbourhoods. The Coup on 17th Avenue SW opens at 9am on Saturday and Sunday, so we thought we’d give it a go. I haven’t been to The Coup since FB was in Calgary back in January of 2011 when we went for lunch.

Along with another group we were waiting at the door for the cafe to open, and it duly did so on time. The waitress was bright and friendly, and in keeping with the vegetarian theme of the place checking that things like dairy would be acceptable.

The smoothie of the day was an interesting mix, the three B’s (3B) of banana, blueberry and basil. As TC is trying not to drink coffee at the moment the smoothie was selected, while I went for a latte. I did have to ask for sugar, but the coffee was good and they’d just opened so I won’t hold that against them. The 3B was apparently pretty good and the basil gave a nice subtle after taste that made the whole experience very enjoyable for TC.

We both went for the grilled treehouse sandwich, me with avocado and a side of ketchup and TC trying the homemade roasted jalapeno hot sauce. The sandwich itself is an open sandwich with omlette style egg, lettuce, tomato and onion on a sunflower-rye bread with a pesto aioli spread. Accompanying the sandwich was nicely cooked potato hash browns.

Both of us enjoyed the breakfast with total cost including tax and tip of about $55. I can highly recommend this cafe for breakfast or lunch, even if you aren’t a vegetarian.

Bistro 2210 – 4th Street SW

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Last Thursday TC and I were on the lookout for some dinner. Walking along 4th Street we decided to try Bistro 2210, a place where we have had excellent breakfasts in the past. We were able to walk in and get a table without a reservation, the restaurant was maybe half full.

The wine list here is stocked with an excellent selection of french wine. I decided that a 2000 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Champans, Volnay Premier Cru would go down nicely with supper. This of course is a red Burgundy and as such a Pinot Noir. The wine had a good berry fruit taste with a slight mineral aftertaste, very pleasant indeed.

D'Angerville CorkAppetizers were in order, TC went with the crab croquettes and I decided to try the soup du jour, which was carrot. The crab croquettes were great and bode very well for the rest of the evening. The soup was tasty and refreshing, but it didn’t distinguish itself in the same way the crab did.

The special for the day, and according to the menu every Thursday was duck. If ever there was dish that a french restaurant should get right, it is duck. TC being a fan of duck decided to test it out, and was expecting a duck breast (although to be fair it was never stated). In this case it was a duck leg with a potato and herb croquette and some carrots. Not being a carrot eater he left those alone and ate the leg and croquette. He was unfortunately very disappointed by both, the duck was bland and the croquette appeared to be prepared, frozen and then thawed and cooked for his meal.

I decided to go with the white veal sausages (boudin blanc) and mashed potato. The sausages matched the potato in that they were both very bland.

Dessert was either a traditional crème brûlée or chocolate cake. We both went for the crème brûlée and were disturbed that it made it to our table in less than 2 minutes. They were served in traditional ramekin with a chocolate coated biscuit stick embedded vertically poking out from the hard caramel layer at the top. The vanilla custard was indifferent and I think this is the first time I haven’t finished a crème brûlée.

Overall the cost including tip was just about $240, although it should be noted that $120 of this was the bottle of wine. I would not come back for dinner, however for brunch on the other hand I will definitely go back.

The Big Cheese – 17th Avenue SW

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I’ve been to The Big Cheese a number of times, and two Sundays ago TC got a chance to try the poutinerie.  There are over 20 poutines on the menu split out into subcategories such as traditional, vegetarian, chicken, pork and beef.  Poutine of course being a traditional Canadian dish of curds and poutine sauce (a type of brown sauce/gravy) over fries.

TC went with a large Notorious P.I.G. and I settled on a small Philly cheese steak poutine.  The P.I.G. has bacon, sausage, mushrooms and onions while the Philly cheese steak has shaved beef, cheese sauce, peppers, mushrooms and onions.  In both cases the mushrooms have been sautéed and the onions are caramelized.

Both meals eaten in short order and hit the spot nicely.  The Yukon gold potato fries are cooked nicely, not to soft but not undercooked either.  Washing down the poutine was a bottle of water for TC and a Pop Shoppe Lime Rickey for myself.  The total cost was just under $25 and I will certainly be going back.

Chop Steakhouse & Bar – Chinook

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Back on a Wednesday night in late February I went with TC to the Chop Steakhouse & Bar located at the southeast corner of the Chinook Centre.  We had tried a sample of the food from the Calgary stop of the Gold Medal Plates, 2011, so figured it would be worth a shot for a full meal.

Without reservations there was no room in the main restaurant so we went by elevator to the lounge on the second floor.  All the booths were taken so we sat at a long curved, communal table set at a bar height where we were separated from other groups by a few chairs.  The chairs themselves were odd as the upper part rotated, presumably to allow easier entry and exit.  TC was not that happy with the chairs.

Our waitress was pleasant enough, although she wasn’t going to win any awards with the service. In anticipation of ordering steak we had a bottle of the Wolf Blass Premium Selection Shiraz, a tipple that I’ve enjoyed many times and this was no exception.  We split an appetizer of the Fresh Ahi Tuna Pillars, reasonable but not great.

TC had the 12 oz New York striploin medium and I had the Filet Mignon medium rare.  For sides TC decided upon the sautéed mushrooms and I went with the aged white cheddar mac and cheese.  At a steakhouse I expect quite a lot from my steak, unfortunately neither TC nor I felt that our meals met the challenge.  The mushrooms were good, the steaks passable and I didn’t finish the mac and cheese (this is not a good sign for those that know how much I love a good mac and cheese).  For steak I believe Ruth’s Chris Steak House, whilst more expensive and a little more pretentious, offers a much better choice.

Wanting to have the whole experience, and looking to find some redeeming features we decided to try dessert as well.  TC had the fallen chocolate soufflé and I had the Caribbean rum cake.  It turns out the soufflé cake was more of a cheese cake, which we couldn’t quite figure out and the rum cake was just bland.  The vanilla bean gelato with mine being tasty, but not enough to salvage a disappointing dessert.

The overall ambiance was a little strange as it felt split between a bar and a restaurant.  Most of the groups were eating with a few only there for drinks and appetizers, however the relatively loud electronic music didn’t really fit with the goings on of the room.  Perhaps this would be better and make sense on a Friday or Saturday night.

Total including tip was just over $180, and I can’t say that I would look at returning to this restaurant.

botaniCa Restaurant at Radisson Hotel Calgary Airport

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To get 50,000 Club Carlson points I needed to stay at a Radisson Hotel, but I didn’t have any immediate travel plans.  So a stay at the Radisson in Calgary was in order, which I did last night.  The main restaurant is called botaniCa (their use of capitals) which is accessed from the hotel lobby.  I was in at 06:30 on a Sunday morning, apparently the first person they’d had in that morning, but they’re open from 05:00 everyday.

The restaurant is clean and tidy, with a partially open kitchen.  The seating and tables are contemporary, nothing too fancy just well laid out and didn’t feel at all cramped or difficult to navigate around other tables.  Windows along the southern side of the restaurant look out onto the carpark and the Trans Canada Highway, but in this area you’re not likely to find anything better.  It was snowing and not yet light, so everything looked clean and crisp outside.

Service was good, with prompt attention and an offer of a newspaper as soon as I sat down.  Coffee was of the brewed variety, using Starbucks beans.  With sugar and cream this is not a bad cup of coffee, and tastes a lot better than when places without a decent barista tries to make espresso coffee.  The stainless steel insulated pot was left on the table, along with the cream jug to allow me to top up at my own convenience.  The only thing that would have been nice is if a glass of water had been offered or provided, but no big deal that it wasn’t.

With my coffee I had the traditional Eggs Benedict.  The hollandaise tasted freshly made, thick and tasty.  No sour note was to be detected in this sauce, which is how I believe it should be.  The poached eggs had a very slight vinegar taste on the first bite, but was gone after that.  I’m guessing a little too much was used to keep them nice and firm during poaching. To my mind the dish wasn’t quite traditional as it came with bacon rather than ham (yes I am that fussy), but it was cooked such that it was soft and not dis-similar to ham in texture.  The hash browns were large cut and very warm, very nicely done.  On the side was a couple of pieces of melon, a strawberry and a shot of their berry smoothie.

botaniCa Eggs BenedictTotal cost for the breakfast, including tip and tax was $20.  I enjoyed this breakfast and would happily return if I ever find myself up in this part of Calgary again.

 

Steeps the Urban Tea House- 17th Avenue SW

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Yesterday TC and I had finished up at a wings night at Original Joe’s with a few other people.  It was one of those nights where we both felt like something more to eat, so we went in search of coffee and cake.  First stop was Kawa on 8th Street, but having a live jazz band meant there was not a spare seat in the house.  So we decided to move on and went to Steeps a couple of blocks away on 17th Avenue just east of 8th Street.

It was the first time TC had been to Steeps, and he was happy with the choice.  The staff are excellent and the tea first rate.  They brew the tea for each person in a french press, I’m not super keen on this method but it’s okay (I prefer a proper tea pot).  They have a broad selection of loose leaf tea from which to choose.  I believe that you can also buy loose leaf tea to use at home, but I haven’t tried that.

I had English Breakfast and TC had Earl Grey.  They didn’t have any of black tea Earl Grey in stock so he ended up with the Rooibos variant, apparently this was tasty.  They provide the small Chinese style porcelain tea cups, but there are also cups and saucers available to the side.  I opted for the cup and saucer, while TC went with the Chinese option.  Not having milk immediately available was a little disappointing, but as it was close to 21:00 I’ll forgive them.

With tea TC had a piece of biscotti and I went for the carrot cake.  The cake size was generous without being overly large, and it was very moist.  It seemed to me that they used a lot of butter to make it, which is just the way I like it.  So all in all a good variation on a cafe if you feel like a tea rather than coffee.